Wildwood Doo Wop.

For over two hundred years, people have been coming to the New Jersey shore to relax, unwind, and breathe in the clean ocean air. Whether you are playing tourist in the nation’s oldest seaside resort town of Cape May, indulging in living the high life at one of Atlantic City’s casinos, checking out the latest upcoming band in one of Asbury Park’s music venues, or hiking through the coastal wilderness of Island Beach State Park, the Jersey coastline has something for everyone. Since the 1950s, however, the spot for teenagers and 20-somethings has been only one town: Wildwood!

Although a resort town since the late 19th century, the completion of the Garden State Parkway in 1955, as well as the post-war economic boom, transformed Wildwood into a destination hot spot. The town also played a major role in the founding of rock and roll. At a Wildwood hotel in 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets first performed “Rock Around the Clock Tonight,” in what has been described as the first major rock and roll performance. The first live performance of “The Twist” by Chubby Checker took place in Wildwood in 1960 (via Wikipedia).

Set amid the backdrop of rock and roll, the beginning of outer space exploration, the era of atomic power, and an idea that the future was right around the corner, hotel owners in 1950’s Wildwood embraced “Doo Wop” architecture. The new style incorporated metal, glass,  and an endless amount of neon lights to create futuristic styles that were designed to entice tourists to stay at the numerous hotels throughout the town (via Wikipedia). Although this style is more commonly associated with Miami and Las Vegas, there is still plenty of neon in Wildwood!

Let’s take a trip back in time to the 1950s and explore the architecture that put Wildwood on the map. Along the way, we’ll eat great food, stop by a familiar spot for cool bird photos, and share some automotive updates. Let’s begin!

Wildwood

Map of New Jersey with red pin in location of Wildwood.
Our destination: Wildwood, New Jersey, located 158 miles south of New York City and 91 miles southeast of Philadelphia.
View of Garden State Parkway through car windshield.
As we headed south down the New Jersey Turnpike, the Accord crossed yet another milestone: 173,000 miles!
Large doo-wop style sign that says WELCOME TO THE WILDWOODS.
Wildwood embraces its Doo Wop architectural history, as evidenced by the town’s welcome sign.
Exterior of Doo Wop Museum, with several 1950s signs.
We began our tour after dinner at the Doo Wop Experience. Although the museum’s website indicates it is open, the facility is most definitely closed. We did enjoy the small “graveyard” in front of the museum where signs from demolished Wildwood motels are preserved.
Interior of Doo Wop museum, with neon signs and items in display cases.
The Doo Wop Experience seeks to preserve life in Wildwood during the 1950s and 1960s. Peeking my head in through a window, I was able to snap a photo of the funky, cluttered interior. Once the museum opens again, I’ll definitely come back for a visit.
Exterior of Caribbean hotel.
We began our walking tour at the Caribbean Motel. With its angled windows, swooping ramp, plastic palm trees, and swimming pool shaped like the letter C, the Caribbean Motel, built in 1957, set the standard for Doo Wop design. As described in this excellent article in Smithsonian magazine, the outlandish architecture served an important function – by creating such designs, it was an effective advertisement. Tourists would be lured in by the exteriors, and then the unique styles would help them remember where they stayed the previous year, when they returned for yet another summer vacation. Brilliant!
Neon sign advertising vacancy and wifi.
Although it is on the National Register of Historic Places, The Caribbean still has modern amenities like free Wi-Fi, advertised in the most Doo Wop way possible!

Rather than commenting on every single building, sign, and plastic palm tree, I thought I would let the photos from the rest of our tour speak for themselves:

Exterior of Gondolier hotel

Exterior of Attache Hotel, with neon sign for Attache.

Exterior of Waikiki hotel, with two plastic palm trees.

Exterior of Pan American hotel.

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Exterior of Crusader Motel

Tile Crusader knight on side of building.

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Exterior of Aztec Motel

Neon sign on side of building that reads Olympic Island Beach Resort

Exterior of Daytona Motor Inn.

Miniature golf course, with title "Where the Wild Things Par."
A more recent addition is this miniature golf course, designed in the spirit of Doo Wop… and who doesn’t like a good pun, too?
Exterior of Kohr Bros. frozen custard shop, with doo wop style sign for Starlux Golf on top of building.
Even the ice cream shops get in on the Doo Wop action! Kohr Bros originally began in 1919 as an ice cream stand in Coney Island. Dairy farmers by trade, the Kohr brothers realized that adding eggs to their ice cream recipe would slow the melting process of the dessert in the summer heat – giving us custard! Kohr Bros is now a chain in four states along the East Coast. With my camera safely tucked away, I treated myself to a small dish!
Entrance to Morey's Piers.
The Morey family were developers in Wildwood, responsible for the creation of several of the motels and resorts mentioned in this post. They may be best known, however, for Morey’s Piers, an amusement park spanning multiple piers along the Wildwood boardwalk. No visit to this town is complete without stopping by.
View of Morey's Pier, with ferris wheel in the background.
Roller coasters, a log flume, batting cages, a Ferris wheel – Morey’s Piers conjures summer memories for anyone whose childhood involves a visit to Wildwood!
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of Welcome to the Wildwoods sign.
It was a fantastic trip to Wildwood, exploring the unique architecture of this seaside resort town. Did I remember to take a souvenir photo? Of course.

The Wetlands Institute

2012 Honda Accord parked in front of marshland at the Wetlands Institute.
And what trip to the Jersey shore is complete without some birding? My wife and I returned again to the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, which we visited earlier this spring.
Egret in flight.
We were only there a few minutes when an egret came swooping by…
Egret landing in marshland.
…made a dramatic landing…
Egret standing in waters of marshland, its reflection in water below.
…and then promptly posed for its modeling session.
Small brown and grey bird with long beak, in water.
This little guy (perhaps a willet?) kept poking under the water with his long beak to look for food.
Tree swallow on wooden fence.
This tree swallow (at least, I’m pretty sure it’s a tree swallow) looked particularly photogenic.
Osprey holding fish in its talons.
The stars of the show, though, were the ospreys. This one had a pretty successful day of fishing.
Osprey holding branch in its talons, while in fight.
While this osprey was returning to its nest with more building materials. After a long drive down to the shore, the Wetlands Institute is a fun place to stop, stretch, go for a hike, and enjoy nature!

The Food

Exterior of Dar's Steaks in row of storefronts.
On the way to the shore, we stopped at Dar’s Steaks in the town of Westmont to pick up lunch to share with my Mom. As natives of the Philadelphia region, we’re always up for a good steak sandwich!
Blackboard menu in restaurant listing all options.
My wife was thrilled to find gluten-free and dairy-free steak sandwich options at Dar’s as well.
Container with cheesesteak and another container with french fries with Old Bay seasoning.
Healthy? Definitely not. Delicious? Absolutely! I had the plain cheesesteak, my mom had a steak sandwich on a seeded roll with Portobello mushrooms and banana peppers, and my wife had the cheesesteak with dairy-free cheese on a gluten-free bun. We split an order of plain French fries, as well as fries with Old Bay seasoning (pictured). Dar’s bills itself as offering the “World’s Best Cheesesteak,” a bold claim when Philadelphia, the home of the cheesesteak, is only minutes away. The verdict? It was exceptionally good. Is it the world’s best? I don’t know… I’ll have to go back for another taste test!
Exterior of Lucky Bones Backwater Grille in Cape May.
After hiking through the Wetlands Institute, we stopped in Cape May for takeout from Lucky Bones Backwater Grille.
Pizza covered in cheese, garlic, and shrimp.
Not terribly hungry after our enormous lunch, we split a Sofia Pie – shrimp, roasted garlic, and cheese, on a gluten-free crust. We also shared a roasted beet and goat cheese salad, that included pistachios and thyme vinaigrette. It hit the spot without being too filling!
Exterior of Uncle Bill's Pancake House.
Fortunately, we did several miles of walking around Wildwood on Saturday night during our Doo Wop architecture adventure, so we had enough room for a mandatory stop at Uncle Bill’s the next morning!
Pecan pancakes and bacon on plate.
Pecan pancakes? Check. Now my Jersey shore experience is complete!
Car odometer reading 173323 TRIP A 212.0
After a post-breakfast walk on the beach, it was time to return home. Two hours later, we rolled into our driveway. The Accord performed flawlessly during the journey. Less than 27,000 miles now until the big 200k… onward!

Automotive Updates

Over the past several years, I have been fortunate to have met several other owners of Hondas and Acuras who have the same nerdy interest that I do: seeing how many miles they can put on their odometers! Today I wanted to share an impressive achievement from a friend in Texas, before closing with some automotive updates closer to home.

The 800,000 Mile Accord

Car odometer reading 800000 TRIP A 104.2
Yes, you are seeing that correctly. My friend Justin, whose part-time gig is as a delivery driver in Texas, recently rolled 800,000 miles in his 2003 Honda Accord V6 coupe. You may remember the interview I ran last spring when his Accord had only a measly 650,000 miles.

With only 200,000 miles to go until his car crosses the 1 million mark, I asked Justin if he would be interested in a short interview, and happily he agreed!

Q: Wow! 800,000 miles! How’s the car holding up?

A: It’s doing great!  I have no concerns about getting this to a million miles.  It continues to perform well with no major issues. 

Q: What have you had to do for maintenance since we last saw the car at 650,000 in May of 2020?

A: Looking back at my maintenance log, here’s what I’ve done over the last 150k:
 
Bled clutch
Inner and outer tie rod ends
Front end alignment 
PCV valve
2 sets of tires
O2 sensors
Lower ball joints
Air filter
Inner fender well
Fuel system cleaner 
Spark plugs
Transmission fluid change 
Timing belt and hydraulic tensioner 
Power steering reservoir 
Oil seal around VTEC actuator
Coil packs
Clutch slave cylinder 
10 oil changes (Editor’s note: Yes folks, that works out to about one oil change every month)
 
That may look like quite the list to some people, but it’s also about the lifespan (150,000 miles) of how long most people would keep a car.
 
Q: Given how many miles you’ve put on your car, you’re probably the expert on the 7th generation Accord coupe (2003-2007). Is there anything you wish Honda had designed differently?
 
A: I understand this is a sporty style coupe and has firm seats.  Mainly the side bolsters are too firm, in my opinion.  Guess they didn’t think someone would drive one of these 400-500 miles per day! In later 7th gen models, the steering wheel controls were lit.  I wish mine would light up. Another thing that would be nice would be a quick release to slide the driver’s side seat forward without using the power controls.  It’s quicker and easier to access the back seat from the passenger side with the manual seat. 
 
Q: Is there anything you plan to replace in the near future as you approach 1,000,000 miles?
 
A: The original struts lasted 320k.  The replacements also lasted 320k.  I’m assuming I’ll be doing them again at 960k.  I may have to replace the front axles again before 1MM.  Otherwise I’ll just address issues as they come up.
 
Q: Once you hit a million miles, do you think you’ll keep the car? Trade it in for something else? Build a pedestal on your lawn and display it for posterity?
 
A: I really can’t imagine getting rid of it.  I may get something else to drive if I’m not doing deliveries, but I know we’d regret letting this go.  Our daughters were little (they’re both adults now) when we got it,  so it’s been part of the family for a long time.
 
Q: Have you given a thought to where you want to roll the magic million?
 
A: Based on how my life has gone lately, I figured it would be late at night along some desolate highway in Texas.  I think it would be fitting if a trip was planned to hit a million by visiting the factory in Ohio where it was made or to Honda HQ in California.  I ran that by my wife and she liked the idea.  We’ll see what life has in store for us at that time.
 
2003 Honda Accord in silver-blue paint, parked in driveway.
Thanks for stopping by for this interview, Justin. Keep those miles rolling, those updates coming, and best wishes for safe travels on the way!

 A Jeep Update

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked by lake.
Some fun news closer to home – we recently paid off the loan on Grace, our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s a great feeling to be completely clear of car payments, especially  when we own two cars that still look and run great. Here’s to new adventures in our debt-free vehicles!

Wrapping Up

I continue to be amazed at how many fascinating places exist in our nation, many of which are right near our front door. While I had seen the memorable signs and buildings in Wildwood for years, I had no idea of the back story of the Doo Wop design movement. The next time you are at the New Jersey shore, it’s well worth a visit!

Thanks for coming along on this history-filled journey down the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.

 

8 thoughts on “Wildwood Doo Wop.

  1. Wildwood looks like such a fun place to explore. I appreciated the pics of all of the different hotels along with their neon signage! I also enjoyed the bird pictures from the Wetlands, as usual 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wildwood looks really fun. I love when communities embrace a common theme like that to draw people in. I really enjoyed all of the colorful pictures from there.

    We’ve been to a couple of places like that. Helen, GA and Leavenworth, WA both have Bavarian themes you can see in the architecture throughout the communities.

    Congrats on paying off Grace’s loan! Debt free is the way to be.

    Thanks for including our car in your blog again. I’ve enjoyed your interviews and appreciate your friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the Wildwood tour! I looked up photos of Leavenworth, WA online – absolutely fascinating! I’d love to find out how that town came to be.

      Yes, having zero car payments is a great feeling. Looking forward to seeing how far the two vehicles can go. And thanks again for being willing to be featured in the blog!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The hotels are really cool. Didn’t realize plastic palm trees were a thing. I also tried to go to that museum, but it was closed. Looked more like a welcome center. I did like the 50’s kitchen sets and stools I could see through the window.

    Liked by 1 person

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