Weekend Wanderings.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Greetings from New Jersey! Living in the New York metropolitan area has meant that we are near the epicenter of the current COVID-19 global pandemic. For the past month, New Jersey has issued increasingly tighter restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of this lethal virus. On April 7th, Governor Phil Murphy closed all county and state parks, with many towns following suit to close municipal parks as well. Several weeks later, with the spread of the disease seemingly slowing in our state, the parks were re-opened (via CNBC). While imploring people to follow safe social distancing, outdoor activities once again became possible in my home state. With the green spaces dotting New Jersey now open for visiting, my wife and I decided to do what we do best: wander.

As an addendum to our previous explorations of the parks of Middlesex County, here are some more public spaces we discovered. After that, what follows are a few more automotive updates, a cool story from a new acquaintance, and some sneak previews of future posts.

Let’s begin:

The Parks of Middlesex County, Part II:

Jamesburg Park Conservation Area

Trailhead for Jamesburg Park Conservation Area
Once the parks re-opened, our first stop was to Jamesburg Park Conservation Area, a protected space in Middlesex County. Jamesburg Park is part of the Pine Barrens, a 1.1-million acre swath of the state that is marked by pitch pine trees, nutrient-poor soil, and a unique mixture of plant and animal life. Jamesburg Park represents one of the northernmost boundaries of the Pine Barrens.
Forest trail with wooden log fence on left of trail.
Our hike took us through the sandy paths of this Pine Barrens park. At one point, we momentarily lost our sense of direction, but managed to retrace our steps by following our footprints in the soft, sandy ground. New Jersey sand, deposited by receding ocean waves millions of years ago, is ideal for glassmaking. In the early days of the state, glass blowing was a major industry (as we learned in our trip to Wheaton Village last year). In addition, the acidic soil in the Pine Barrens is ideal for producing cranberries and blueberries, and many farms are found throughout the area that grow these crops.
View of Helmetta Pond.
Our walk took us to Helmetta Pond, a popular local fishing hole. Among the fish you can catch here are bass, pickerel, and bluegill.
2012 Honda Accord coupe parked in empty gravel lot. A sign near the coupe says STAY 6FT APART.
Our fun hike at an end, we headed back through the trails to the parking lot. Only a car nerd like me applies social distancing to parking as well!

Tamarack Hollow Preserve

View of gravel road to parking lot, through windshield of Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Our next stop was a bit off the beaten path… by which I mean following a narrow, one-lane road to an even narrower gravel drive, to Tamarack Hollow Preserve in East Brunswick, NJ.
White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in dirt lot.
More social distance parking… and with temperatures only in the mid 40’s, we had the trails almost entirely to ourselves.
Signage at trail head, including Trail Blaze Key.
The land that is Tamarack Hollow Preserve was slated to be transformed into a residential neighborhood and sewage treatment plant. Instead, local citizens organized to maintain the land as an undeveloped forest, and in 2007 Tamarack Hollow Preserve opened to the public. Unlike many parks I have visited, Tamarack Hollow helpfully has a key by the entrance, informing you of the meaning of the trail blaze markers that are painted on trees (left of image).
White dots painted on tree on right of image, with path following into the background.
Three dots in a triangle… this is the beginning of the trail. We enjoyed our time hiking through several miles of (mostly) well-kept trails.
White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked on grassy area of park
While I’m sure the Accord could have handled the terrain, the Jeep’s ferocious four-wheel drive system was appreciated on this drive!

Mountain View Park

Sign by entrance to Mountain View Park, with park map.
Our most recent outing was to Mountain View Park in Middlesex Borough. A small municipal park in the northwest corner of Middlesex County, this park has athletic fields, picnic areas, a horseshoe pit, a wooded area for hiking, and a model aircraft flying field.
Blue jay, sitting on fallen log in woods.
The wooded area was filled with wildlife – numerous bluejays dotted the woods, a hawk soared above us in the sky, and several deer kept an eye on us from a distance.
Crumbling white and black observation tower.
On the way through the park, we spotted this decaying tower. It looked so out-of-place, we headed closer for a detailed inspection.
Decaying wooden plaque with information for flying club.
We spent our time trying to decipher the plaque. Eventually, we figured out that it is the control tower for the model aircraft flying club. It referenced “U-Reely,” which was a model aircraft control system from the 1950s (you can read more about it here). Clearly, this park has been in the remote control aircraft business for a long time! After we finished our inspection, we headed back to our car to go home.

A Rutgers Walk

Wrought-iron gate, with Old Queens in background.
We also spent some time ambling around the campuses of Rutgers University in the New Brunswick area. This wrought-iron gate stands before Old Queens, the main administrative building for the school. Opened in 1811, it is one of the oldest buildings at Rutgers.
Entrance to football practice fields, with brick gate and fence, and a sign that says RUTGERS FOOTBALL over gate.
We explored the stadium complex of Rutgers University. As I have mentioned in the past, Rutgers has an important role in the history of football…
Shrub-lined brick Scarlet Walk, with statue of football player in background.
On November 6, 1869, Rutgers University and Princeton University played the first game of college football (Rutgers won, 6-4). Nowadays, as players arrive for games, they proceed down the Scarlet Walk and touch the “First Game” statue for good luck before entering the stadium.
Top of First Game Statue.
Unfortunately, of late, “First Game” hasn’t really brought the team a lot of luck in the win department. However, with the return of Greg Schiano as head coach (under whose previous tenure the team had its greatest success in recent memory), things are starting to look up for the Scarlet Knights.

Updates, Automotive and Otherwise

As always, I enjoy sharing people’s high mileage achievements through this blog. I recently came across a video on YouTube of Walter Keller, who lives in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. He owns a 1992 Honda Accord station wagon with over 960,000 miles on it! The video is from 2017 and I was not able to find any follow-up information, but I’d like to presume that his Accord reached the magic 7-figure mark.

I also have a really cool high mileage Honda story I’d like to share from a new reader! Justin and his wife Lisa live in Texas and own this gorgeous 2003 Honda Accord EX-L V6 6-speed coupe that has a whopping 645,000 miles on it! They bought the car new in 2003, and its mileage was pretty reasonable until Justin started using it for his job as a courier – he now puts over 100,000 miles on it each year! It is still on the original engine, although the transmission was replaced around 320,000 miles. If you’re interested in reading the history of his car, you can scroll through his excellent post on the “Drive Accord” online forum here. I asked Justin if I could share the story of his car here, and he graciously obliged.

2003 Honda Accord coupe, in silver, parked in driveway in front of close garage.
From the outside, it looks like a really nice 2003 Accord coupe, like many others still dotting the roads today…
Car odometer reading 645603 TRIPA A 87.9
…but that odometer, woah! My Accord is a baby in comparison! I love his description of how he keeps it in such good shape: “We never abuse the car… I generally shift just above 2,500 RPMs and don’t ever let it get above 3,000 RPMs anymore. With the V-6, I still get ample acceleration like that and don’t rev it up anymore to prolong engine life.” Justin and Lisa, thanks for sharing your story, and good luck with your goal of 1,000,000 miles!
Car odometer reading 080085 TRIP A 165.2
Still on the high-mileage front, my Dad recently texted me that he had just broken 80,000 miles in his 2015 Honda Accord EX-L V6 sedan. He took this odometer shot when he was able to stop the car and safely get a pic.
2015 Honda Accord sedan in silver, parked in parking lot.
Dad’s ride! This 2015 Accord is my favorite Accord sedan style in recent memory. To me, there is an elegance and classiness to this design that will age very well. I’ve been open about my lack of enthusiasm for the 10th generation Accord (2018+), and the “refresh” of the 9th generation (2016-2017) has too much chrome on it for my taste. There is a simplicity and tastefulness to the design of his 2015 that will hold up very well to the passage of time. Congrats on the milestone, Dad, and here is to reaching 100,000!
Young boy standing in front of 1980 Honda Accord hatchback.
And while we’re on the topic of my parents, my Mom recently dug up this gem: yours truly, age 5, giving a tour of my parents 1980 Honda Accord hatchback. Proving that, for me, Honda is a lifetime relationship!
Sign above NJ Turnpike saying NO TAILGATING CARS OR PEOPLE.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious matter, I am glad that whoever is in charge of the public messaging on New Jersey roads has a sense of humor. Over the past few weeks, signs along our major highways have taken a decidedly “New Jersey Humor” approach to public information. “No Tailgating Cars or People” read this one.
Sign over highway reading FLATTEN THE CURVE - NOT YOUR TIRE.
“Flatten the curve – not your tire” is another. My favorite, though, is one I saw this past weekend: “Don’t be a knucklehead – wear a mask.”
Trunk of 2012 Honda Accord and back of 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, both filled with packages of food. This is a split-image.
I’ve spoken previously of my wife and my involvement with a local food pantry. Both her Jeep and my Accord are invaluable members of this process! We use both vehicles (often simultaneously) to pick up and deliver donations. For sheer load carrying, her Jeep is amazing for how much cargo it can swallow. And my Accord continues to impress me for the amount of food it is able to haul in such a relatively small vehicle. Kudos to Jeep and Honda both for thinking through the basic problem of how to make loading, storing, and unloading as painless and efficient as possible.
View of car dashboard as it goes through car wash.
With pollen season well underway, I recently ran the Accord through the car wash, as I’m pretty sure that pollen yellow was not a factory-approved color. Now at 152,855, the Accord is slowly creeping up on 153,000 miles. Onward!

While many of the places that this blog usually visits – museums, roadside attractions, historic warships, car shows – remain closed, the public parks are a welcome way to get out of the house and explore. Once social distancing can safely end, my wife and I have some small trips planned in the coming months which we are looking forward to sharing here. In the meantime, I have a special post planned for one specific aspect of photography that I neglected to mention in my Art of Photography post last month. Please stay tuned!

As always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.


9 thoughts on “Weekend Wanderings.

  1. Great of you to volunteer with the food pantry. The AZ Department of Transportation is similarly featuring humorous saying on our freeway signs. Glad you were able to get out of the house and enjoy some nature!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the write up about our car in your post. I enjoy writing back and forth with you.

    I hiked a lot of trails when I was a Boy Scout. I don’t remember those trail blaze signs then so I thought that was interesting.

    As a fellow Honda owner who packs his car too, it is surprising how much you can fit in these cars. Neat that your parents found that picture of you as a kid enjoying Hondas at a young age. My first ownership experience was in my early 20s. This car is phenomenal and I still love driving it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for letting me feature your Accord in the post!

      I’ve seen the trail markings before, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen an actual legend/key by the entrance.

      And I completely agree about the car – I get the “new car itch” like anybody else, but then I get back in mine and take it for a drive and the need for something new/different goes away.


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