Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong… -John Denver
Throughout the past five years, one of the goals for this blog has been to introduce my readers to a side of New Jersey that many people never have the opportunity to discover. Setting aside all of the stereotypes that cling to my home state, I invite you with each post to come along and explore the scenic coastlines, travel through the wooded splendor of the Pine Barrens, visit small towns, meet the wildlife, stroll through historic sites, and check out everything else that makes New Jersey my home.
However, say the words “New Jersey roads” to most people (including myself!), and what will come to mind are highways like the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and traffic-clogged roadways like Route 70 and Route 18. In fact, in 2021 the junction of I-95 and Route 4 in Fort Lee
was named the “The Most Congested Road in America” by the American Transportation Research Institute. Yet New Jersey also has some amazing, scenic drives through beautiful landscapes of rolling hills, farmlands, scenic overlooks, and mountains. My wife and I recently read an article naming Route 519 one of the most scenic stretches of roadway in the state. Beginning in Wantage Township near the New York border, the winding, two-lane county road travels almost 90 miles until it terminates in Delaware Township in the central-western part of the state. As neither of us had ever driven this road before, we decided to spend a beautiful Saturday in early October on another New Jersey adventure!
Come along then, on a fun drive down a country road! I will also share some highlights from a trip to a historic battlefield, and some fun automotive news!
Our journey would begin at High Point State Park in the northwestern tip of the state, and would end in the town of Clinton, traversing almost 60 miles of Route 519.
Setting off after breakfast, we headed to the far northern end of New Jersey. Route 23, pictured here, is also on lists of New Jersey’s most scenic roadways. In addition, it’s one of the oldest roads in the state, as it follows the Pompton Trail, a Native-American road once used by the Lenape people long before New Jersey was colonized (via Cultural and Historic Resources of Sussex County).
Our trip officially began at High Point State Park, which has the highest elevation of any point in New Jersey.
Not a bad view! Long-time readers might remember High Point State Park from our visit a few years ago.
The monument at the peak of High Point is dedicated to New Jersey’s veterans who perished in the wars of the United States. Built in 1928, the monument rises to a height of 220 feet (via Wikipedia). Readers who would like to see the view from the top should read the post of my previous visit (I conquered my fear of heights once to climb this thing – twice is asking too much!).
The view from High Point State Park was spectacular. I can only imagine how it will look in a few weeks as the leaves change into brilliant shades of orange, yellow, and red.
With the telephoto lens attached to my camera, I could look down on Port Jervis, NY and the Mid-Delaware Bridge. Not too far away from this is the Tri-States Monument, where New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania meet (longtime readers might remember when we stopped by the monument in March of 2020).
Looking south, we could see Lake Marcia, the lake with the highest elevation in New Jersey. Fun note to share: somewhere in the distance, more-or-less in this direction, one of my readers was getting married at the same time that I was standing atop High Point. Congratulations, dear reader! Best wishes for all your and your spouse’s future happiness!
While 1,803 is kind of short to be called “High Point,” the view from the top was still spectacular! After taking in the view one more time, we set off for our next destination.
A few miles from High Point, we turned onto Sussex County Route 519.
Route 519 would take us past countless dairy farms, corn fields, and horse farms…
It was also a driver’s delight, offering a constant stream of s-curves, sweeping left-hand and right-hand turns, blind crests, and a 55-mph speed limit. It was easy to imagine myself as Max Verstappen, piloting the Red Bull-Honda Formula 1 race car through Silverstone or Imola.
“Push now, Max! Attack!” I could imagine my race engineer calling into my headset as I accelerated into the next set of curves.
We did slow down when the road took us through numerous small towns, such as Bernardsville.
This narrow tunnel beneath a hillside was another time to ease off the gas.
After almost 60 miles of driving along Route 519, we turned into the town of Clinton, aiming to get some lunch. Our drive took us over the Lowthorp Truss Bridge. Built in 1870, this cast-and-wrought iron bridge is one of the few surviving examples of its type… and is still in daily use for vehicle traffic!
We parked on the street in the charming downtown section of Clinton and ran to The Clean Plate Kitchen, our favorite eatery in town, to get our takeout order.
We then headed to a new favorite spot – Unionville Vineyards in the town of Ringoes. Unionville allows you to bring your own food to enjoy with their locally-produced wine.
My wife and I both enjoyed the “You Guac My World” sandwich (on a gluten-free wrap), along with pickles and plantain chips. Unionville’s chardonnay and mistral blanc completed the meal. It was a great treat at the end of the day’s road-driving adventure!
On the way home, we stopped in the town of Hopewell, New Jersey, to visit some antique shops. As we were walking down Broad Street, we spotted this cool metal sculpture. I couldn’t find any information about it, so if any of my readers know the title of the work or the name of the artist, please send it my way!
After a fun day of exploring yet more of my home state, we arrived at home. The Accord was a terrific companion for the drive, cruising down highways with ease, but turning into a willing dance partner on the twisty stretches of Route 519. With nearly 182,000 miles on the odometer, all seems well. Onward! Automotive, Historic, and Beach Updates!
Before closing, I wanted to share a fun bit of news from a reader, a visit to a national park that’s an old favorite, and another high mileage update.
The CR-V on Expedition
Readers Jessie and Ryan are currently on a road trip, and posed their 2020 Honda CR-V in front of Fort Pipestone, a recreation of a historic 1860 fort in western Minnesota. They thought I might enjoy this photo… and they were right! Valley Forge
Although I have been to Valley Forge National Park in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania several times, my wife had never visited the park. Recently we were in the area and decided to stop by to check it out.
Washington’s army camped in Valley Forge from December of 1777 to June of 1778. With harsh conditions and chaotic supply chains, almost 2,000 of the 12,000 soldiers in Valley Forge died during the encampment (via Wikipedia). Numerous monuments, such as the Pennsylvania Columns (which honor volunteer soldiers from the Keystone State) dot the landscape of the park.
Although the conditions within the camp were miserable, the high ground gave an excellent view to guard against approaching British forces.
Originally a state park established in 1893, Valley Forge was gifted by Pennsylvania to the United States in 1976, and the 3,500 acres of the park have been managed by the National Park Service ever since (via Wikipedia).
We also stopped by Washington Memorial Chapel, an Episcopalian church located on the outskirts of the park. Established in 1903, the chapel stands as a tribute to President George Washington (via Washington Memorial Chapel). A High Mileage Update
After our last trip, my Accord was close to a new milestone: 182,000. My wife thought an early morning drive to an old favorite spot for breakfast might be a fun way to mark the occasion. Departing our house, we encountered fog so thick, it was like driving into a scene from a Stephen King novel.
Our destination? Toast City Diner, one of our favorite beachside eateries in New Jersey.
That will be a Firebird gluten-free waffle for me and the Firebird gluten-free pancakes for my wife. After not venturing to Toast for the past nineteen months, it felt great to return, and the food was just as good as when we last visited!
One of Asbury Park’s most notable features are the number of public art installations throughout the city. We stopped by the Carousel Building. Although the original carousel is long since gone (it was moved to an amusement park in South Carolina), the building showcases several art installations (via Atlas Obscura).
It’s always fun to find new murals throughout Asbury Park…
…or check out an old favorite.
Tillie, the mascot of Asbury Park, features prominently on Wonderbar, a restaurant, bar, and performance space. Despite having visited the city numerous times, this was the first time I was able to grab a photo of the Accord and Tillie together.
We stopped by the Asbury Park Historical Society, which is located in the Stephen Crane House. Named after the author of The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane lived here for several years while battling ill health. This is the only remaining building in the United States with a direct connection to Crane (via Asbury Park Historical Society).
The reason for the trip – 182,000 miles is now in the books! Less than 18,000 miles until the big 200k – onward!! Wrapping Up
Although I started this blog to share my road trip explorations with family and friends, a significant benefit has been the way that the blog has allowed me to make discoveries of places near and far, including those throughout my home state. If you are a driver who relishes twists and turns, I would strongly encourage adding Route 519 to your list of “must drive” adventures.
And as always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.