It has been two weeks since
our epic road trip across northern New England. In the two weeks since touring Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, my wife and I couldn’t possibly take any further adventures, could we? We would most certainly sit at home, order takeout, read books, and watch Netflix for days, right?
Of course not! A rolling stone gathers no moss, and the staff of The Open Road Ahead managed to fill the past two weeks with adventures near and far. We visited a local favorite beach for breakfast and a walk on a beautiful morning. Cars were washed, detailed, and waxed. And we drove several hours away to attend the wedding of a dear friend, while also managing to play tourist.
So come along then, as we go for a walk, a wash, and a wedding:
On a beautiful Saturday morning, my wife and I set off for breakfast at one of our favorite beaches in central New Jersey: Asbury Park.
Our destination? Toast City Diner, one of our best-loved eateries in Asbury.
That’ll be one order of Will’s Firebird Waffles (gluten-free) for me, and another for my wife. How was it? Absolutely delicious! Fueled up, we set off to enjoy a leisurely walk around the city.
We strolled along the Asbury Park boardwalk, following it south through the towns of Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach, and Avon-by-the Sea. With blue skies and temperatures in the upper 50s, it was a gorgeous morning for a walk.
We passed the remains of the Asbury Park Steam Plant, built in 1930, which once provided heat to a large number of nearby buildings during the city’s heyday.
We stopped by Convention Hall to do a little shopping, and also to check out the latest temporary art installations.
Unlike some of the historic buildings in Asbury which have fallen into disrepair, Convention Hall has been the site of significant restoration work. The detailing at the top of the building caught my eye.
As much as I enjoy visiting Asbury these days, I would have loved to have seen the city in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was at its peak as a tourist destination.
We wandered down to the beach, where we were captivated by the waves crashing against the rocks and jetties.
Although New Jersey does not typically see large waves, we were treated to a rougher than usual surf.
This man decided to get up close and personal with the waves.
I was content to watch from a safe distance and take photos with my telephoto lens. Of course, that didn’t stop me from misjudging one particularly heavy wave and being soaked up to my shins. The water was… brisk.
What better way to dry off than by sitting in the sun and enjoying some coffee from Asbury Park Roastery? That’ll be an oat milk latte for my wife (left) and an iced coffee for me (right).
Ah… this is the life!
As I have noted before, Asbury Park’s ever-changing murals are one of my favorite attractions in the city. This mural, outside of Asbury Lanes, made a fun backdrop for my Accord’s obligatory glamour photo.
On the way home, we stopped by the Jon Bon Jovi Travel Plaza. As I mentioned in a previous post, several rest stops along the Garden State Parkway have been re-named to honor celebrities and historical figures from New Jersey.
You can fully expect to see me tour the James Gandolfini, Toni Morrison, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Blume travel plazas. Stay tuned in future posts!
“Our true enemy… has yet… to reveal himself.” In addition to Steve Van Zandt, the longtime guitar player for Bruce Springsteen (who also portrayed Silvio Dante in The Sopranos and Frank Tagliano in Lilyhammer), numerous other celebrities were featured throughout the building.
“Livin’ on a prayer!” Of course, the centerpiece of the plaza was Mr. Jon Bon Jovi himself.
As we neared home, the Accord crossed yet another milestone- 194,000 miles was in the books. Onward! A Wash
With winter finally over, it was time to give both of our vehicles a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning. First up was my Accord, which received a wash and a wax. I even used 3M-brand chrome polish to clean up the tips of my exhaust system. A clean car is a happy car (and a happier owner).
I cleaned all of the hard-touch interior surfaces with Meguiar’s Interior Detailer, and then spent some time treating the leather with Meguiar’s Gold Class leather cleaner.
Not bad for 10 years and 194,000 miles of good, honest use, right?
One tip – if you ever pay a professional to detail your car, I’d recommend checking that the door jambs and the interior of the gas tank door have been cleaned. If either are dirty, it most likely means that the detailer was not being thorough in their work.
I also made time to use the Meguiar’s Headlight Restoration kit to remove the fog and dirt from my headlights. Although my Accord won’t win any Concours D’Elegance awards, I was happy with how the car came out!
Next up was Grace, my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, which received the same exterior treatment as my Accord. So dirty was the Jeep that I actually had to wash it twice to remove a winter buildup of salt and brine from the chassis. It’s all clean now!
The name of the game is attention to detail! In addition to the usual interior cleaning and leather treatment, I even took a detailing wipe and cleaned all the plastic seams. My wife was thrilled with the results. Both vehicles are now cleaned up and ready for more springtime and summer road trip adventures! A Wedding
On a recent weekend, we headed 80 miles west of Philadelphia to the city of Lancaster, PA.
As my Mom would be joining us on this trip, we set off first for southern NJ to pick her up before heading to Pennsylvania.
For this trip, we would use neither my Accord nor my wife’s Jeep. Instead, our ride of choice would be my Mom’s 2021 Honda HR-V. With barely 600 miles on the odometer, we decided to give it some exercise!
We stayed at the Lancaster Arts Hotel. Originally built in 1881 as a warehouse, the property now houses a cool hotel, along with several small businesses.
Much of the building’s original brickwork is exposed, along with the wooden timbers and beams that support the structure. It was one of the most comfortable and memorable hotels I have ever visited!
On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in early April, we attended a beautiful wedding. It was lovely to see two dear friends say “I do!”
Although we were in Lancaster for the wedding, we also had time to play tourist around the city. One of my favorite spots was The Fridge, a craft beer bar and pizzeria that opened in 2011. While I chowed down on the chicken tacos (delicous) and my mom enjoyed the Roasted Local Vegetable Sandwich (tasty), my wife got the best entree of the night – a gluten-free mushroom pizza (yum!).
If you are a craft beer fan, The Fridge is the place for you! The four floor-to-ceiling coolers stock over 400 different beers from small breweries around the nation.
We also discovered a great coffee shop in town: Mean Cup. The logo alone made it worth the visit. We were also fortunate to find an open coffee shop, as we discovered that many businesses in the city were closed on Sunday.
Cool logo, great coffee! I ordered a dark roast, while my wife enjoyed an almond milk latte. Equally good was the assortment of gluten-free baked goods. We sampled a gluten-free granola bar (pictured) which was so tasty!
Before returning to New Jersey, we made one final stop at the Lancaster Campus of History. In addition to learning about local history, the campus is also the site of Wheatland, the home of US President James Buchanan.
Although the museum is closed on Sundays (it is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm), the grounds are open and a free audio tour is offered. Simply visit the website listed the sign on your mobile device, and you can learn cool facts about Lancaster History as well as the life of President Buchanan while you tour the grounds. The website also offers transcripts of the tour, if you are unable to listen to the audio.
Built in 1828, Wheatland is the home of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States. Buchanan lived on the property for two decades until his death here in 1868 (via Wikipedia).
As the house was undergoing some renovation work, we had to navigate through a bit of construction to explore the house. While the property was cool, the Buchanan presidency was less so. Consistently ranked among the worst (if not the worst) Presidents of all time, Buchanan led the nation during its slow descent into the Civil War. He failed to address the issues of slavery and secession, instead allowing the country to continue to splinter (via US News and World Report). After visiting the home of Franklin Pierce last month, and James Buchanan during this trip, my wife and I may indeed have to visit the homes of all five of the Worst Presidents of All Time.
Several other buildings on the property are still standing, including the carriage house. This structure was built in 1893. The original carriage house from the time of Buchanan’s ownership has long since been torn down. It once stood about fifty yards away.
One building that is original to the property is the privy, which was capable of accommodating eight people at once. Dear readers, we bring you all the important information about the places we visit!
Another building still standing is the icehouse/smokehouse, which stored ice (below ground) while also smoking meats in the upper level. After enjoying our walk around the grounds, it was time to get back on the road and head home.
On the way home, we stopped in Haddonfield, New Jersey, to pick up lunch from Crust N Fire, a restaurant and pizzeria. My Mom enjoyed the burrito chicken bowl, which included grilled chicken, lime cilantro rice, avocado, corn, black beans, and lentils. My wife dined on the Crust N Fire chicken wrap (grilled chicken, spinach, avocado, and chipotle ranch on a gluten-free wrap). However, in 2020, Crust N Fire won an award from Courier Post newspaper for offering one of the best burgers in the state. I had to try one! I ordered the Southwest Burger – angus beef, applewood bacon, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and avocado ranch sauce. It was simply fantastic – one of the best burgers I have ever eaten… and check out that bun!
We returned to Mom’s home, putting over 200 miles on her still-practically-brand-new car. For such a small SUV, the HR-V surprised me with a comfortable ride for long-distance cruising, ample space for three adults with all of their luggage, and excellent fuel efficiency. Although it will never be mistaken for a sports car, it was surprisingly nimble and agile – helpful for navigating the at-times crowded roads of Lancaster. Here’s to more HR-V road trips in the future! Automotive Updates
Before closing, I wanted to share some high-mileage news from a friend and detail an unexpected pit stop for my Accord on its way to the 200,000 miles mark.
Readers may remember my friend Josh, who recently picked up a used 2014 Honda Accord to replace his poor-winter-performance 2018 Honda Accord. He owned a 2015 Accord that had over 600,000 miles on it when it was totaled in an accident with an errant deer. His new ride is well on its way to that mark – it crossed the 100,000 mile mark in the Tuscarora Mountain Tunnel along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Congratulations, Josh! Here’s to many trouble-free miles ahead! An Unplanned Pit Stop
I recently had a test drive of yet another Honda HR-V. When checking my Accord’s oil, I discovered a significant oil leak on the top of the engine. I called Honda of Bridgewater, who were able to fit me in the next day and also provide me a loaner car. I think I’m becoming an unintentional expert on this this subcompact SUV.
By the end of the day, my car was ready. The leak came from a part called the VTEC spool valve. The spool valve, which controls camshaft operation, is powered by oil pressure. When the part wears out, it can leak, and is positioned directly above the alternator. Dripping oil will eventually fry the alternator, resulting in a pricey repair bill. However, the mechanic gave me a virtual pat on the back. He said he usually sees cars with this problem towed in with a dead alternator. He had never seen someone catch the leak so early before – my alternator was totally dry. Although the repair was unexpected, the car has been so trouble-free over so many miles that I really can’t complain.
And speaking of miles… my newly repaired Accord crossed the 195,000 miles mark! Less than 5,000 miles until the big 200k – onward!! Wrapping Up
Living in the Mid-Atlantic region makes me grateful to be in an area where plenty of opportunities for new discoveries and adventures are only a short drive from home. One morning, I can be walking on the beach, watching the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash against the shore. The next, I can be touring a historic city that was founded before the creation of the United States of America. If nothing else, I hope this blog allows my readers to explore a little of this fantastic region of our nation.
As always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.