Begin the Beguine.

After the round trip to Ohio this past week, I had thoughts of perhaps laying low for Memorial Day weekend, staying local, and resting. However, as seems to happen every weekend since I bought DH, an idea came to mind for a place to visit. So a friend and I, still slightly road-weary from our last trip, decided to get on the road once again, and head down to the Jersey shore.

To visit any of the southern shores of my home state, most travelers take the Atlantic City Expressway to the Garden State Parkway. The route is direct, fast moving, and simple. The Garden State Parkway has exits for each of the major shore towns. However, during holiday weekends, these roads tend to get congested quickly. Fortunately, I have a secret advantage: my Dad has been a minister for over 45 years, and his career in and around southern New Jersey has meant he has driven almost every county road, back road, access road, and is-this-even-a-road in the area. I put this knowledge to good use when avoiding summer traffic. The other benefit is that these roads are quiet, showing you a very rural side of New Jersey that most people do not realize exists. Even better is that many local farms have roadside produce stands where they sell their fruits and vegetables directly to the public. We stopped at Myers Farm on Route 47 on our way down, and picked up a delicious basket of fresh strawberries that we finished in less than 24 hours. Yum!

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Forget your stereotypes of New Jersey. This is South Jersey, the place where I grew up.
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Stopping at a roadside farm stand. DH waits patiently in the background while we pick out fresh produce.
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With the owners permission, we even took a little stroll through the farm.

Arriving into Cape May, we headed to dinner at another of my favorite restaurants, The Mad Batter. Established in 1976, The Mad Batter was one of the first upscale restaurants in Cape May. Now a foodie hotspot, for a while Cape May did not have many good eating establishments. The Mad Batter, which operates in a building dating to 1882, started changing people’s perceptions of dining at the Jersey shore. Cape May now has a vibrant dining scene, attracting people for the cuisine as much as for the scenic beach resorts.

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The Victorian architecture of Cape May. The Mad Batter is on the first floor of the left-most  building.
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We started with this apple salad appetizer.
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Crab cake, filet mignon, asparagus, and four-cheese macaroni? Yes please.

Sunday morning, after a quick breakfast at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (yum again!), we headed to one of the best-kept secrets at the Jersey Shore: The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum. Located at the Cape May Airport inside Hanger #1, the location was originally built as a dive-bomber training facility during World War II. It now houses retired military aircraft, propeller and jet engines, and lots of hands-on activities for kids of all ages.

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Pulling into the museum lot.
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Panoramic view of the museum.
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The F-14 Tomcat. If you grew up in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, chances are you had a poster of this on your bedroom wall. Cue the music: Danger Zone Music Video.
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Up close and personal with the Tomcat. I hero-worshipped this plane when I was a kid. I still do today.
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An F-16 Falcon lurking in the shadows.
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F-5 Tiger II. Did you see Top Gun? If so, this very jet was the one that played a Soviet MiG in the film.
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Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone engine. 18 cylinders, this monster produced between 2200-3700 hp. It powered over 32 military and civilian aircraft, including the B-29 Superfortress bombers that delivered the first atomic bombs.

Beyond the Tomcat, Falcon, and the Tiger the museum collection of over 20 aircraft also includes a Cobra attack helicopter, a Soviet MiG-15, and a TBM Avenger. However, today I found myself gravitating more toward the exhibits that reproduced life in the 1940s. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII, and they, along with my grandmothers, would often share with me their experiences of life during this time period. With Memorial Day on Monday, and with my loved ones’ stories on my mind, I focused much of my attention on life in this country seventy years ago. Indeed, the title of this article came from the swing song that was playing while we walked through the exhibit… a song that my maternal grandparents danced to at their wedding shortly after the war ended.

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The 1940s Room shows the home furnishings typical in the 1930s and 1940s.
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Covers of Life Magazine from WWII. In many ways, Life was the voice of America during one of the bloodiest times in human history.
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1941 Ford Super Deluxe. This sedan was used as a staff car for Navy personnel. However, aside from a few minor differences, it was basically identical to the civilian model.
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One such military change: headlight covers to minimize light pollution during wartime, making the vehicle less of a target at night.
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WWII advertisements. The ads from GM, Coca-Cola, and Camel pictured here all focused their message on patriotism and civic duty.
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Copies of love letters sent between service personnel and their significant others.
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The newly-opened Memorial Room is dedicated to the 42 military service personnel who lost their lives during the 36 months the base was in operation.

The Aviation Museum is a great place to visit for those who want to see the history of the brave men and women who fought for the safety of this nation during one of its darkest hours. There are many hands-on exhibits for children, but also a deep and varied collection of military aircraft for enthusiasts. Admission for children ages 3-12 is $10.00 (children under 3 can enter for free) and admission for adults is $12.00 (there is a AAA discount). Active duty service personnel can also enter for free. I highly recommend this museum to anyone visiting the Cape May area.

‘Til next time.

3 thoughts on “Begin the Beguine.

  1. This looks like a great trip. I would love to check out that aviation museum sometime. Very fitting way to spend the Memorial Day weekend. And now you’ve got me craving some strawberries from a fruit stand. Ugh!

    Like

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