Around NJ.

At the beginning of this summer, New Jersey Monthly, a magazine that chronicles life in the Garden State, introduced “The Great New Jersey Monthly Scavenger Hunt 2021.” Participants who accept this challenge will travel to 36 sites around the state, taking a selfie at each one, and then submit them to the magazine. Completing the challenge enters you into drawings to win prizes, but the real benefit to finishing the scavenger hunt is to learn more about the history, businesses, restaurants, and hidden gems throughout the state. Although we discovered the challenge after it had been open for several weeks, my wife and I decided to see if we could put ourselves in gear and finish the scavenger hunt before the August 31st deadline.

This Saturday, we spent nine hours on the road, crossing six more locations off the scavenger hunt list. I thought it might be fun to let you peek behind the scenes and see how we attack such a mammoth challenge. So come along then, as we head out on the road once again, exploring locations throughout my home state. There are also some automotive updates, fun news to share from a friend, and a cool update about this blog.

Let’s begin:

Six More Places Done!

Map of New Jersey, with blue route running from New Brunswick, north to Weehawken, up to Demarest, and over to Hot Dog Johny's in Belvedere.
Yup, looks like a typical Saturday for us! By the end of the day, the six locations would put almost 200 more miles on my Accord’s odometer. Kudos to my wife for creating a route that gave us a well-ordered path from one location to the next.
View of NJ Turnpike from behind dashboard of Honda Accord.
Heading north on the NJ Turnpike early in the morning, we encountered mercifully little traffic. Of course, that’s what happens when you head away from the shore on a summer weekend!

Whitney Houston Mural

2012 Honda Accord parked beneath mosaic mural of Whitney Houston on side of building.
Our first stop was the city of Newark, to visit a glass mosaic mural honoring one of the city’s most famous musical residents: the late Whitney Houston. Unveiled in 2020, the mural is comprised of over 1,000 pieces of glass. Whitney Houston was born in Newark, and began her singing career as a child in her church’s choir (via nj.com).

Tear Drop Memorial

2012 Honda Accord parked near Teardrop Memorial.
Our next stop was to Bayonne, located along the Upper New York Bay. After winding our way past newly constructed condominiums, half-demolished warehouses, and cruise ship terminals, we came to the Tear Drop Memorial.
Teardrop Memorial with American flag in foreground.
Officially titled “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,” it is more commonly referred to as the Tear Drop Memorial. The monument, standing 100 feet tall, looks out over the bay. It was a gift from Russia in honor of the victims of both the 1993 World Trade Center bombings and 9/11 (via Wikipedia).
Inscriptions of names of 9/11 victims in granite.
A granite base bears the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Close-up of metal tear-drop with reflection of surrounding park.
The teardrop is covered in nickel, and offerings a reflective view of the small park and the adjacent area.

Liberty State Park

Panorama of Liberty State Park.
Okay, so our next destination was not on the scavenger hunt list. However, neither my wife nor I had ever visited Liberty State Park, which was only a few miles from Tear Drop Memorial. The park overlooks the Upper New York Bay and offers views of Manhattan, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. We decided to get out of the car and explore.
Manhattan skyline across Upper New York Bay.
The view of Manhattan from the banks of Liberty State Park is simply breathtaking.
View of Ellis Island.
Ellis Island, the primary arrival station for immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nearly 12 million visitors came to Ellis Island over a 32-year period, including some of my own relatives. It’s my hope to visit the island for a tour in the future.
Rear view of Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your huddled, your poor…” The island also offers a view of the Statue of Liberty. The 151-foot tall statue was a gift from the people of France in 1886.
View of New York skyline from across Upper Bay.
Before leaving, I took a few more snapshots of the New York harbor. I might have to get this one printed and hang it up in my office! After enjoying our break, it was time to set off for our next stop.

Firemen’s Monument

Firemen's Monument statue of fireman holding small child.
Our next destination was a small park in the city of Hoboken. Firemen’s Monument, installed in 1891, commemorates fire fighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Exterior of Bareburger restaurant.
We scored a free parking spot, so decided to take our time and wander through Hoboken to find some lunch. Our restaurant of choice? Bareburger, a New York-based burger chain that prides itself on sourcing its ingredients from sustainable farms, and has several options for diners who need meals that are gluten-free, vegan, and/or dairy-free.
Burger in wax paper wrapping, box with fries, and a ginger beer bottle on metal table.
As lunch stops go, this hit the spot. I ordered the “Standard” – beef, colby cheese, caramelized onions, dill pickles, and special sauce on a brioche bun. My wife ordered a “Standard”, but with a turkey burger patty, a gluten free bun, and a non-dairy cheese. I enjoyed mine, and my wife was thrilled with hers. The only let-down were the french fries – they were a bit on the soggy side. However, as we got our food for takeout, I’ll reserve my judgment until I can go back and eat them when they are freshly delivered from the kitchen. Overall, it was a very good meal. Rested and refueled, we were ready to continue our journey!

Weehawken Dueling Grounds

Bust of Alexander Hamilton overlooking Hudson River and Manhattan skyline in distance.
On a high bluff overlooking the Hudson River is the Weehawken Dueling Grounds. Back when the art of dueling was still an acceptable way to settle conflicts, this was a popular spot. At the time, the grounds were only accessible from the river – duelists would row across from New York to fight to the death. There now stands a bust of the most famous duelist (and victim) on these grounds: Alexander Hamilton. Long-time readers of the blog might remember this spot from a previous visit last winter.

Demarest Railroad Depot

2012 Honda Accord parked in front of Demarest Railroad Depot.
Our next destination took us to the far northeastern corner of the state for a visit to the Demarest Railroad Depot.
Demarest Railroad Depot.
Built in 1872, the station operated until 1966. It now functions as both a museum and a senior citizen center (via Wikipedia).
IMG_6958
The station sits beside the beautiful Tenakill Brook.
Black Cormorant standing on ledge near brook.
As I was photographing the brook, I spotted this double-crested cormorant who paid me no mind as I snapped photo after photo. Moving to the very edge of the water, I was less than fifteen feet away from the bird, and it did not seem threatened (or bothered) my presence.
Double-crested cormorant flapping wings.
I was certain the cormorant was going to take flight when it began flapping its wings, but after a moment’s hesitation, it swam away instead. Check out the bird’s sharply hooked bill – it is used to spear fish when hunting for food (via All About Birds).

Four Sisters Winery

Tasting room of Four Sisters Winery, with cars parked in front of it.
As we made our way to our next destination, we stopped for a break at Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere. Established in 1984, Four Sisters has won numerous awards for its wines.
Vineyard, with solar panels. A tree-lined forest is in the background.
This was our view as we sat on the winery’s deck, listened to live music, and reveled in the beautiful weather. Did you know that in 2012, at a conference at Princeton University, a selection of elite French wines and wines from New Jersey were blind taste-tested against each other? A panel of neutral judges from France, the United States, and Belgium tasted the wines, and the New Jersey and French wines scored so similarly, they were judged to be not statistically distinguishable from one another. The New Jersey winery industry hailed it as a victory, dubbing it the “Judgement of Princeton” (via Wikipedia). My point? If you enjoy wine, give New Jersey vineyards a chance. 

Hot Dog Johnny’s

Sign along two-lane road that reads BUTTZVILLE 1, DELAWARE 7, DEL WATER GAP 14
Our final stop took us to the western half of northern NJ, to the unincorporated town of “Buttzville.” Yes, that’s its real name. Yes, I giggle like an 8-year old each time I say it. Now if you’ll excuse me… (heh heh heh heh).
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of Hog Dog Johnny's.
Our last destination of the day was… a hot dog stand. But this isn’t any hot dog stand – it is Hot Dog Johnny’s, a New Jersey institution established in 1944.
Small shack, made of white wood with black trim, that says THE ORIGINAL 1944-1945.
The first Hot Dog Johnny’s was this modest shack that stood next to a gas station. The business has evolved over the years into a far larger roadside eatery.
Hot dog, fries, and birch beer in cup, on wooden table.
Our goal was to take a selfie… but for the good of our readers, we knew we’d have to at least sample the food (we do it all for you, dear readers!). The hot dog was very good and the birch beer was tasty… but the french fries were out of this world! I’d go back for an order (or two) of the french fries alone – so good! Filled up, we began our trek back home.
Car odometer reading 177938 TRIP A 46.6
We arrived in our driveway, the Accord knocking on the door of 178,000 miles. It was a great day exploring New Jersey, and a nice warm-up for a far longer road trip that begins this week. Onward!

Automotive Updates

Between updates on our own vehicles, a cool meet-up, a friend’s new ride, a fantastic announcement from a favorite car company, and a cool update about this blog, this post wouldn’t be complete without sharing some news.

New Tires Tuesday!

Nokian WR G4 SUV tire on Jeep Grand Cherokee. Closeup of wheel and wheel well.
My wife’s Jeep recently received a new set of tires. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the old Nokian WR G4 SUV tires were replaced with a brand new set of Nokian WR G4 SUV tires. Of course.
Car odometer reading 70076
And the Jeep hit a milestone of its own: 70,000 miles is now in the books! My wife and I were deep in conversation and I completely missed the 70k mark, so this will have to do. Better late than never, I say!

A New Acura

2021 Acura TLX Type S in Tiger-Eye Pearl.
In other news, automotive journalist (and friend) Tyson Hugie recently took possession of this gorgeous 2021 Acura TLX Type S. Tyson’s blog, Drive to Five, was the inspiration for The Open Road Ahead, and this TLX joins his stable of 1990s Acuras (I’d say “classic” Acuras, but I have a hard time using the word “classic” to describe cars that could be bought new when I was in college… because that would mean I’m getting old). 
2021 Acura TLX in Tiger-Eye Pearl.
Tyson, the original Acura high miler, already has over 1,900 miles on his new car. Congratulations, Tyson, on your new ride!

That’s a Lotta Miles

In previous posts, I have featured high mileage Honda Accord owners Justin (who owns a 2003 Accord that has over 838,000 miles) and Josh (whose 2015 Accord has 598,000 miles). They recently met up in Texas and shot a quick video of their cars together. What does over 1.4 million miles look like? When it comes to Hondas, it looks pretty normal. If they passed you on the street, would you know that these Accords have such stratospheric mileage? No, neither would I.

The Teaser Video of All Teaser Videos

In my pantheon of greatest cars of all time, special mention goes to the Acura Integra. It was a sports compact car that, for legions of young drivers in the 90s, became the definition of affordable luxury. These cars drove like race cars, with tight, responsive handling, and were powered by small but rev-happy engines that sounded their best above 5,000 rpm. Last week, in a surprise announcement, Acura announced they would be bringing back the Integra in the Spring of 2022. After hearing the news, I’ve been like a kid waiting for Christmas morning ever since.

 A Blog Milestone

Small box that has statistics for blog that reads VIEWS 18.1K VISITORS 6,228 POSTS 199 BEST VIEWS EVER 136
Meanwhile, with today’s post, this blog will cross its own unique milestone: 200 blog posts! In March of 2016, I thought I would dip a toe into the blogging world. I had no expectation that five years later, I’d still be at it, and would have written 200 posts!

Wrapping Up

We’re now in the home stretch of the New Jersey Monthly Scavenger Hunt, as we have only 6 more sites to go before we finish. I will keep you updated on our progress as we appear to be approaching the finish line. In the meantime, my wife and I are setting off on a new road trip adventure this week to celebrate my birthday. You’ll certainly learn more about it here in an upcoming post!

Before closing, I wanted to offer a special thanks to everyone who has read this blog. I am grateful that you continue to find these posts an enjoyable way to pass some time, and that you keep coming back to read again and again. Thank you for continuing to engage with this blog. I plan to share our road trip adventures for a long time. Once I press the “publish” button today, 200 posts will be in the books. Onward!

‘Til next time.

6 thoughts on “Around NJ.

  1. The Teardrop Memorial is really beautiful. I noticed they should really properly dispose of that flag and get a new one.

    I knew you couldn’t have a quiet weekend, but I’m glad to read about your adventures. Congrats on 200 posts! I learn something from every post you make.

    Congrats to Tyson on finally getting his beautiful Type S! I know his encouragement got you into blogging. I appreciate his encouragement with building my YT channel to document our car.

    Thanks for including the video with Josh and me. It was great to finally meet him. I can’t wait for all three of us to get together!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, that’s a great point about that flag. For remembering such an important event, you would think the flag would be in better condition.

      Glad you enjoyed our non-adventure-weekend! And I had a lot of fun including the video with the two high mileage Accords – thanks again for sharing that!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great post and you inspired me to look up info about the new Integra! Had no idea that it was coming out. I will keep searching periodically to see if new updates come out. Also, congrats on another glowing report in your usual maintenance check! You are so observant of your car. You had mentioned in a previous post about a concern about a possible issue with the blend door motor? Was it OK in the end? I learn from you so I can take better care of my Honda too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, and thank you for your kind words! The blend door motor has been intermittent, and it wasn’t making the noise when I took it to get looked at. Another good example is from yesterday – it was making noise on and off, but today, I drove the car over 300 miles, and it was silent the entire time. So I’m holding off until it’s more consistent. Thanks for asking.

      Like

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