The Open Road Ahead has taken its readers to the World’s Largest Light Bulb. The World’s Tallest Grandfather Clock. The World’s Largest Penny. The World’s Largest Model Railroad. My wife and I enjoy finding these hidden gems along the highways and byways of our country. On a beautiful Sunday morning in early September, we set off for another Largest, although this one is slightly more modest: the Largest Sunflower Maze on the East Coast! With over 1.5 million flowers in bloom last year, Liberty Farm’s Sussex County Sunflower Maze runs each year from mid August until mid September. We spent the morning wandering around fields of flowers, taking in the beautiful sights and fragrances of this natural work of art.
Before beginning the trip, however, I first wanted to take a brief detour into some photos from year’s past.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
I spent Saturday afternoon with my mom, going through old photos together. I came cross this shot of one of the cars in which I learned how to drive: my grandmom’s 1978 Ford Pinto, also known as “Rampage.”
A while ago, I had asked my mom if she had any shots of my first car, and yesterday she delivered! This is it – the car that started my lifelong ownership of Hondas: a 1984 Honda Accord hatchback. I may have done a little dance when mom pulled these photos out.
The photos brought back SO MANY memories! Check out the aftermarket Denon AM/FM/Tape stereo system! It had an auxiliary port so I could plug in my Sony Discman and listen to CDs in my car – what luxury in the early 1990s! If you look closely at the gauge cluster, you can see the mileage as well: over 54,000 miles when this shot was taken.
My Dad’s longstanding hobby is hifi audio systems, and he is pretty handy with electronics, so he upgraded the speakers in my car with a pair of JBL speakers in the trunk and Boston Acoustics in the front doors. I may not have had the most expensive car in my high school’s parking lot, but I had an AMAZING sound system. You could hear me coming and going.
So many memories! We had this car in the family since 1984 when it was purchased new at the local Honda dealer. It was my Mom’s car, but she gave it to me my senior year of high school (THANKS MOM!!!) and it was a great ride. Seeing this brings back so many memories of my childhood. The only thing I’m missing is Burgess Meredith’s voice narrating those old Honda commercials in the 80s.
And let’s close this little trip down memory lane with one of those commercials:
Sussex County Sunflower Maze
Located in northern New Jersey, the Sunflower Maze is not far from High Point State Park, which we visited last September.
We left the Accord at home and headed north in my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, as her Jeep would be passing its own milestone on this journey.
After driving for an hour and a half, we left the highway and saw a series of hand-drawn signs pointing us to the Sunflower Maze.
We arrived and were directed to our parking spot in a farmer’s field. Although the ground seemed pretty firm, I was glad to know we had the Jeep’s formidable four-wheel drive system on our side.
The Sussex County Sunflower Maze first opened in 2011. Since then, it has been featured in the New York Times, the New Jersey Herald, NJ Monthly, and the National Geographic website.
The maze stretches across two fields. This year’s maze is in the shape of the words “Imagine Grace” and the peace symbol.
Where to even begin? It was like looking at a sea of sunflowers.
I feel like this could be a motivational poster: “Never be afraid to stand out in a crowd” or “Be you!” Or maybe, once again, my readers can send me caption ideas for that lone white flower in a sea of yellow.
The clouds parted and for the two hours we spent at the farm, we had beautiful sunshine illuminating the flowers.
Butterflies and bees were in abundance throughout the maze, as they go about their business pollinating the flowers.
I must have taken about twenty photos of this one butterfly on the sunflower.
Sunflowers are native to North America, and according to a sign in the maze, the flowers began to be cultivated by Native Americans about 6,000 years ago. They used the flowers and their seeds for food, medicine, paint, and ointment.
The pattern of interconnected spirals within the sunflower form a Fibonacci Pattern (a set in which each number is the sum of the previous two – 1, 1, 2, 3, 5…). Who knew I’d get a math lesson at a sunflower maze!
Sunflowers exhibit heliotropism (that is, they track the sun). As the immature sunflowers open, they will also turn to face east.
The sunflower maze is a photographer’s dream.
We learned on another sign that there are two types of sunflower seeds: black oil, which are used for cooking oil and birdseed and confection, which are eaten as a snack.
Another monarch, hard at work helping to pollinate the flowers.
Everyplace I turned, I spotted new photos to take!
At times, I thought I was looking into a painting. It’s easy to see why Van Gogh chose sunflowers as a subject.
As the clouds rolled back in, we decided it was time to get on the road. Before leaving, I hopped up on a viewing platform. I wanted a photo that would try to convey the size of this sunflower sea.
And of course we had to do THIS photo!
On the way back, we detoured to the Firehouse Bagel Company in Branchville. We went in just to check it out, because the exterior was so striking… and I walked out with my arms filled with bagels. I guess I have breakfast for the rest of the week!
We then decided to stop for lunch… one of the hallmarks of New Jersey is its diners. Other states may have eateries that call themselves “diners,” but a New Jersey Diner is something else entirely. We ate at Yetter’s Diner in Augusta, NJ. One of these days, I’ll do an entire blog post on Jersey Diners.
One of the attributes of a New Jersey Diner: a massive menu that spans several pages, encompasses multiple ethnicities of food, offers breakfast all day, and bonus points for spiral binding (it eases your entree selection process!). My wife enjoyed a gluten-free Greek Wrap, while I had a BBQ Chicken Panini. Filled and satisfied, we got on the road and headed home.
And on the way home, the Jeep passed its own milestone: 40,000 miles!
Liberty Farm’s Sussex County Sunflower Maze runs from August 15 to September 15 of this year, and is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm every day. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 4-12, and children 3 and younger can enter for free. If you have a chance to stop by this unique, and beautiful, attraction in northern New Jersey, you should definitely take the opportunity! While you’re in the area, you can also climb to the top of High Point State Park, walk through a zoo, shop at local farms, and of course… eat at a Jersey diner!
Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.