“While the merry bells keep ringing, happy holidays to you…” -Andy Williams
It’s the holiday season here at The Open Road Ahead! Settling into our new home has meant that my wife and I are pausing our usual road trip adventures while we continue to unpack boxes, hang pictures, do small improvement tasks, and settle into our house. However, becoming new homeowners hasn’t totally crushed our sense of wanderlust. On a recent weekend in early December, we decided to go Christmas shopping… in Cape May! Rather than explore the local mall, we took a 300-mile round trip to pick up some presents for family and friends, eat good food, and enjoy the sea air.
So come along, then, on our latest journey to Cape May… it’s
shore to please!
Cape May at the Holidays
Longtime readers of this blog can probably find two locations on a map of the US without a second thought: Cape May and the Adirondacks.
After a day of rain and wind on Friday, Saturday morning was bright and sunny, if a bit chilly. As we drove down I-295, we were passed by a convoy of Amazon Prime vans – nothing says that Christmas is soon like a squadron of those blue delivery trucks on the highway!
As I have said before, my car isn’t happy without some sea spray on the paint and some sand in the carpet… it’s a two-door coupe with the soul of a beach buggy.
We made a quick stop to take in the sea air at the beach, and then we were back in the car to run some errands.
Our first stop was to pick up some bottles of wine from one of our favorite local wineries – Hawk Haven Vineyard. Of course, we had to sample the wine first (to make sure it was good enough to give as a gift, obviously), so we each took a glass of chardonnay and sat beside one of the outdoor fire pits. It was a lovely way to take a break from the road!
We next headed to the Washington Street Mall for some holiday shopping and dinner!
Established in 1971, this stretch of Cape May is home to numerous shops and restaurants. The creation of this shopping area preserved the Victorian architecture, while offering a new way to revitalize the local economy.
Our choice for dinner was Mad Batter, one of my favorite restaurants in Cape May. Established in 1976 in the old Carroll Villa inn, Mad Batter was the first of what are now many fine dining locations in town. We had last eaten here shortly before COVID restrictions were implemented across the nation in March of 2020. It was great to get back once again!
My wife and I had been given a generous gift card to The Mad Batter a few years ago, and we were determined to spend every last penny of it tonight. We started with appetizers – a cup of clam chowder for me, and a salad for my wife. Not pictured – the plate of “Gringo Nachos” that we devoured – gluten-free tortilla chips with green onions, tomatoes, pico de gallo, vegan sour cream, and vegan cheddar cheese. We almost licked the plate clean, it was so good!
For dinner, I luxuriated in the crab cakes (my favorite entree at Mad Batter), served with mac and cheese and crisp string beans. My wife enjoyed the blackened fish sandwich, served on a gluten-free bun. Our meal consisted of three appetizers, drinks, and two entrees. After spending all of our gift card, would you like to know how much out-of-pocket money we spent on this multi-course meal? $7.
Needing to work off some of the calories we inhaled at dinner, we set off for round two of shopping. Pro tip: if you’re going to shop in a chocolate shop, go after you eat so you aren’t tempted to buy everything in the store.
Louisa’s Chocolate Bar is part of Louisa’s Cape May, an establishment that includes a top-notch cafe serving some of the best food at the NJ shore. The chocolate bar, which sources its ingredients from around the world, is a must-stop spot in Cape May.
As we returned to the car, we ambled through Cape May Rotary Park, the space lit up for the holidays.
On our way back to my family’s shore house, we encountered a slight hiccup – our road home was blocked by the North Cape May Holiday Parade. We spoke to a police officer who gave us directions through several back roads. Along the way, we spotted this gem – these homeowners have set the bar for holiday home decorations in 2022!
The next morning, it was time for our obligatory Jersey shore breakfast from Uncle Bill’s Pancake House! That’ll be an order of pecan pancakes for me and an order of gluten-free pecan pancakes for my wife. Yum, yum, yum!
Before heading home, we took one last look… with work events, holiday gatherings, and a big road trip in the coming weeks, it’ll be a little while until we get back to the beach. I tried to soak in as much shore as I possibly could!
Gray skies, wind, and rain meant our return drive was less than scenic. However, we encountered next to no traffic, and were back home in a little over two hours.
As it has for the past 7.5 years, the Accord brought us home from yet another road trip, comfortably, capably, and drama-free. 208,000 miles is on the horizon – onward! Automotive Updates
Car Maintenance for the Holidays!
Recently, the Accord was due for quite a bit of maintenance. I took it to Burns Honda in Marlton, NJ, for its A156 service – fresh transmission fluid and engine coolant, new air filters, an oil change, a tire rotation, an alignment, and new spark plugs. It was a bit pricy, but well worth it – the key to high mileage car ownership is good maintenance!
The post-service inspection report only revealed one issue area – the car needed new cabin and engine air filters (which were promptly addressed). Despite its age and mileage, my 2012 Accord remains the best driving, most comfortable, most reliable vehicle I have ever owned.
While my Accord went in for routine maintenance, our Jeep Grand Cherokee ended up making an unexpected pit stop – the check engine light illuminated when my wife was driving home from work last week. Route 18 Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram was able to fit us in, and diagnosed an issue with a coil pack. Coil packs deliver power from the electric system to the spark plugs. Given the age and mileage, we opted to replace all six coil packs and all six spark plugs. The Jeep was nearing its next service interval, so the Jeep dealership also threw in an oil change and tire rotation.
Now happy and healthy once again, the Jeep is ready for our annual drive to the Midwest for Christmas! With over 91,000 miles on the odometer now, we should be well toward 94,000 miles by the New Year. Onward!! The (Almost) Million Mile Man
Meanwhile, my friend Justin continues his inexorable quest to reach a million miles in his 2003 Honda Accord V6 coupe. 970,000 miles is well in the rearview mirror. Onward, good sir. Onward! Wrapping Up
We continue to make our new house into a home, unpacking one box at a time. We are excited to be spending our first Christmas season here!
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays, from The Open Road Ahead, to you!
The holiday season is one of my favorite times to visit Cape May, even if it’s just for dinner and some shopping! Although this autumn has been light on road trips, this month will feature a huge road trip to Wisconsin and Minnesota for the Christmas holiday – over 1,200 miles each way. Stay tuned for the write-up on that automotive adventure!
And, of course, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.