Fort Mott

The Delaware River has been a vital waterway throughout the history of the United States. From the Atlantic Ocean, through the Delaware Bay, the river provides access to the cities of Philadelphia, Camden, and Wilmington, as well as to other waterways that connect to areas further inland. Beginning with the earliest Dutch settlers, forts were erected to repel attacks and protect friendly shipping. Following the Civil War, and concerned about a potential conflict with Spain, American generals devised a series of fortifications and cannon emplacements at strategic locations along the entrance to the river, including a major base in Pennsville, New Jersey. Fort Mott bristled with 12-inch, 10-inch, and 5-inch guns, the earthwork fortifications containing thousands of artillery shells to hurl at an enemy approaching by water (via Wikipedia).

With plans to visit family in southern New Jersey, my wife and I set off to explore Fort Mott, now a state park, and learn a little more of the history of this massive defensive fortification. After sharing our newest adventure, I would also like to introduce another high mileage Honda owner and give some updates on my wife’s Jeep and my Accord.

Let’s begin with our trip to the southwestern corner of New Jersey:

Fort Mott

Map of New Jersey with red pin in location of Fort Mott State Park.
Fort Mott sits at the mouth of the Delaware River, in Salem County, New Jersey. This is my second major exploration of Salem County, after my first tour a few years ago. 
View of New Jersey farmland.
We Are South Jersey! As I have noted many times in this blog, southern New Jersey is far different than the rest of the state. Filled with farms that produce bounties of corn, succulent tomatoes, and juicy peaches, South Jersey is largely rural, and criss-crossed by desolate county roads.
Richard Woodnutt Town House in Salem, New Jersey.
As we drove through the town of Salem, my wife urged me to pull over. Market Street is filled with historic homes, including the Richard Woodnutt Townhouse, which was built in 1738. Established in 1675, Salem has many historic buildings, including the second-oldest active courthouse in the United States.
Exterior of 47 Market Street, with sign by front door indicating the home's use as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
We learned something interesting about Salem – it was a stop along the Underground Railroad, the trail of safe houses and hiding spots for escaped slaves who were fleeing northward. 47 Market Street, also known as the Goodwin Sisters House (built in 1821), was owned by two abolitionists who would provide money and supplies to escapees.
Sign beside 47 Market Street that says 7 STEPS TO FREEDOM.
The Goodwin Sisters House is one of seven locations throughout Salem County that highlight the role of local individuals in the struggle against slavery. Created by a Rutgers University professor, 7 Steps to Freedom allows you to call a phone number for an automated recording at each stop, which will give you further information. You can learn more about this fascinating project on its website.
2012 Honda Accord coupe asked in front of Finns Points Rear Range Lighthouse.
As we headed to Fort Mott, we passed a familiar site: Finns Point Rear Range Lighthouse, one of our stops when we completed the 2018 NJ Lighthouse Challenge. The lighthouse sits on Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, a stopping point for migratory birds traveling along the Atlantic Flyway.
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of an earthenwork fort, with WELCOME sign in background.
We arrived at our destination by lunchtime. A state park, Fort Mott is free and open to the public between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. Although we had packed a picnic lunch, I was eager to start clambering over these century-old fortifications. My wife patiently followed.
View from top of Battery Gregg, with empty gun emplacement and fire control tower.
We first climbed to the top of Battery Gregg, which once held two rapid-fire five inch guns, capable of hurling shells up to seven miles. We proceeded from the gun emplacement to the commander’s station (right). 
View from Commander's Station at Battery Gregg.
The commander’s station of Battery Gregg offers an expansive view of the entrance to the Delaware River. Fort Mott, Fort Delaware, and Fort DuPont, the three forts that line the river, created overlapping fields of gunfire to stop anyone from approaching the waterway.
View of Salem nuclear power plant from river.
From the top of Battery Gregg, we could see Salem Nuclear Power Plant, a 2-reactor facility that opened in 1977. Fun fact: actor Bruce Willis was once a security guard at this power plant (via Wikipedia).
Interior of gun battery.
Although the interior of the gun batteries were closed to visitors, I was able to poke my camera through a window to take some photos. As my wife noted, this would make an amazing location for a haunted house…
Hallway filled with debris under tower.
If exploring decaying architecture is your thing, this facility has lots to offer!
Rear of batteries.
Behind the batteries is the parados, a man-made hill, designed to protect the gun batteries from land attack. The latrines are built underground beneath the parados, and they empty out into a moat on the other side of the hill. I’d rather take my chance in a moat filled with water, crocodiles, or ravenous wolves than what once filled the moat at Fort Mott!
Remains of plotting room.
Although many of the underground rooms of the fort are closed, certain rooms, such as the plotting room, are still open. From this room, gunners would receive their targets.
View of watch tower overlooking the river.
The tower in this photo is for directing the guns for Battery Arnold. Arnold once housed the fort’s 12″ guns, which were the heaviest weapons at the fort.
Rusty, dilapadated steps leading up the fire control tower.
You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to attempt to climb these rusty, crumbling steps to the top of the control tower. No, no, and no.
Exterior of guard station/welcome center.
A small set of buildings to the east of the fort are all that remains of the fort’s residential buildings. Once the guard’s building, this is now the welcome center for the park (although currently closed, due to COVID-19).
Exterior of Commander's House.
The large, stately Post Headquarters was once the office and residence of the base’s commander. Built in 1902, no expense was spared in making this a high quality home – a slate roof for the house, galvanized steel roof for the porch, and the gutters are integrated into the roof, instead of being hung on the side of the house.
2012 Honda Accord parked beside WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY sign.
After a fun, informative afternoon, we began the long trek home. I did pull off the highway at a rest stop along I-295 so I could take this photo… Welcome to New Jersey!
Car odometer reading 162414 TRIP A. 137.9
And home! The Accord once again proved to be a comfortable, reliable companion on yet another road trip adventure. Less than 38,000 miles now until we hit the big 200,000. Onward!

Updates

Before closing, I wanted to share the story of an immaculate Honda Civic that is hiding a secret, along with a few updates from closer to home. 

Wait, another high mileage Honda?

2008 Honda Civic sedan in white.
Through social media, I recently met another high mileage Honda owner, Chris. His 2008 Honda Civic sedan looks immaculate. But it hides a deep, dark secret…
Car odometer reading 555555 TRIP A 555.5
…the car has over 555,555 miles! I reached out to Chris to see if he would be willing to share his story, and happily, he agreed!

Q: Hi Chris! Thank you for sharing your story with us. Which model Civic do you have, and why did you choose it?

A: It’s a 2008 Honda Civic EX-L sedan with the 1.8-liter engine, also known as the FA1 (Editor’s note: FA1 is Honda’s chassis code for the car). It is Taffeta White, with the ivory interior, purchased in May of 2008 at Crown Honda in Greensboro, North Carolina. With a growing family and a recent job change with a longer commute, the Honda Civic fit the need. As gas prices rose during 2008, the Civic, and its fuel sipping 36 miles per gallon highway, was an easy choice. 

Q: What’s your mileage at currently?

A: It’s approaching 560,000 miles as of mid-October – about 46,000 miles annually. “To the moon and back,” as my daughter’s artwork depicted in a 2018 post on Instagram. 

Q: What do you do that puts so many miles on your vehicle?

A: Just regular nine-to-five commuting, not related to courier or medical services (like many high mileage stories). The thought has crossed my mind to offer courier services to help flip the gas bill, but I’m not sure how to market my available trunk space.

Q: What’s been the biggest repair, to date?

A: As stated on the Civic’s Instagram page, the engine and transmission are original and have not required me to touch even a screw on the valve cover. This is going to anger many “professional” mechanics out there, but it got to the point once it reached 300,000 miles that I was determined to see what this engine could do. It took only regular engine oil and transmission fluid changes, and I finally changed the spark plugs around 375,000 miles in hope of slowing the diminishing gas mileage. At its last fill-up, it’s still getting around 33 mpg.

The first component to fail was the air conditioning compressor clutch at around 375,000 miles. I changed the compressor and condenser, and on the original refrigerant it’s been giving 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the vents ever since. After some sluggish cold morning starts, the original starter motor finally left me in the garage one morning at 536,000 miles.

What minor components have been changed? Amazingly, there have only been a few: the evaporative valve in the throttle body blew, an $0.82 power steering pump o-ring, and one replaced radiator.

Q: With all your time on the road, what do you listen to for entertainment? 

A: With probably a year of my life spent in the driver’s seat, I have listened to countless news cycles, podcasts, and audiobooks. I have attempted to learn a new language, as well as preparing for a professional exam, but the need to plug in my phone and keep it in view without it sliding onto the floor has gotten old. I am so envious of new Civic owners who pass me with lane assist on, listening to Sirius XM, while guided by Waze, all on that big display screen!

Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen on the road?

A: Countless sightings of strange things going down the road – just lately I saw a Tesla on fire while being transported on a rollback (flatbed truck). Can’t tell you how many times I have seen loose tires bouncing down the road… probably my worst fear, by the way.

Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve with other drivers?

A: Number ONE has to be the lack of cruise control on a spacious, open highway. One moment a drive like this will pass you, but before long you catch up to them, as they cause a logjam on a two-lane highway. Just think of the fuel savings if everyone would use what is a standard feature on most autos!

Generally speaking, I can’t let this topic pass without mentioning the countless folks in need of a retake of a basic driving test. My thought here is that autonomous cars may be a good idea.

Q: What’s your dream road trip?

A: Hmmm… maybe driving a Honda Civic Type R through the Swiss Alps, possibly. The 800 mile road trip to my Civic’s birthplace to the Alliston assembly plant in New Tecumseth, Ontario, Canada, last year was one to remember. Packing up the family for a twelve-hour road trip in a 500,000 mile compact car across the Appalachian mountain range without even thinking twice about a roadside event was fairly exciting and thankfully uneventful!

2008 White Honda Civic in front of building that says HONDA OF CANADA MFG PLANT 1.
A photo from the road trip Chris took with his Civic to its birthplace in Canada as it rolled 500,000 miles. Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to share you story with us! You can follow’s this Civic’s adventures through its Instagram account @that_500000_mile_civic_guy. Good luck Chris, and keep us posted on future milestones!

Upgrades to the Fleet

All-weather trunk mat in Jeep Grand Cherokee.
I have previously shared that my wife and I volunteer at a local food pantry. Part of our responsibility includes transporting food donations to the pantry. As a result, the trunk of my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was starting to get beaten up. We purchased the all-weather trunk mat from Jeep. Sturdy and waterproof, it is designed to keep the trunk looking as clean as possible. If the mat gets dirty? Just take it out and hose it down!
2012 Honda Accord interior with blue light shining under dashboard.
And then there was the slightly less practical upgrade… I recently splurged and treated myself to the Honda interior lighting kit. A family member gave me a generous gift for my birthday, so I used it to have the kit installed. It casts a blue light under the dashboard at night. Functional? Not so much. But I absolutely love the way it looks!

Wrapping Up

Although road trips are a bit more challenging these days, there are still plenty of fun, safe locations to explore. Fort Mott State Park, in Pennsville, is open daily from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. Park entrance is free, although there is a fee associated with renting the large group picnic area (which includes a pavilion, restrooms, and grills). Seven Steps to Freedom in Salem County is also free to explore, but fortunately, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own couch to learn more about the county’s ties to abolition- you can take a virtual tour on the website!

Thanks, as always, for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

 

8 thoughts on “Fort Mott

  1. Hi Tim; Enjoyed the read. Will share with Jacob. He is here Tuesday and Wednesday for “virtual learning”.  Your pictures definitely better than mine. LOL. Jacob and I visited there several times this summer! We took the Ferry over to Delaware City. Neat place to visit. Lunch at Crabby Dicks was delicious. Very old houses but neat.  Did you visit  Finns Point National Cemetery?( Military Cemetery). It’s back off  the road a bit. Not sure if even open because it’s a dirt road, floods often.  Do you remember the designer Versace? Andrew Cunanan, the man that shot him, stayed there as he started his trip to Miami (they don’t advertise that!) I’m two behind on “The Open Road” but saw Fort Mott & had to open.  Hope all is well.Doris 

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Doris, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! We didn’t get down to the cemetery – we saw the sign, but didn’t have the time to detour. I didn’t know of the connection to Andrew Cunanan (and I definitely remember that story). The Ferry wasn’t running yesterday – I’ll have to check and see if it is summertime only.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. I’ve been to a couple old forts like that. Always neat to visit and learn about their history. Glad you were able to still explore things there. I share your opinion of those steps on that tower. Looking up, you can also see some missing boards up top. Better viewed from the ground.

    Your auto accessories look great. I love those lights. Would be nice if my Accord had them.

    Chris’ Civic looks exceptionally clean. If Tyson owned a Civic… I always enjoy reading about these high mileage cars. Interesting that his is just normal use and long term ownership. Feel free to share my info with him. I could give him some insight into the courier gig. I’ll have to check out his car’s Instagram too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading about your travels! It is interesting to read about another town of Salem. It looked beautiful and it was cool to learn about its role in the Underground Railroad. The inside of the battery definitely looked creepy. Also, I love learning about the car upgrades! Who knew there were blue lights for your feet?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the travel write-up! The Underground Railroad exhibit may have been the coolest part of the trip, and it was totally unplanned. And I admit, the interior lighting is totally like something out of “The Fast and the Furious,” but I like it a lot! Thanks for reading!

      Like

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