On the road again…

I’ve meant several times to blog but PJ and I are on the road again, with Gayle and her niece/practically twin sister Bonnie (oh the joys of having a large family), on the Liberty Bell Wanderers weekend bus trip.

This three day adventure will take us to Cape May and the eastern shore of Maryland so stay tuned.

I woke at 4:30 this morning and some household snafus had me running at least ten minutes late. This bothered me as I am an extremely punctual person.

I am wearing my Wilson Warrior Marching Band t-shirt as red is the Liberty Bell Wanderers color and today is homecoming. I will be missing the big alumni band and halftime performance, featuring the song, “Africa.”

This group is part of the American Volkssporting Association, so we will be doing a series of volkssport walks.

So I’m almost to Cape May. I look forward to sharing PJ’s newest adventures.

Barnegat Adventure

  

My schedule suddenly opened up for a Monday— no plans for child or myself. The weekend had passed normally, which meant some of it was fun and some of it involved pre-puberty meltdowns every five minutes from my tormented eleven year old. My husband had to work, as usual, on Monday and I wanted to do *something* that would keep the child and I occupied. Preferably fun.
So, over my cup of coffee with my husband in the wee hours, I searched the AVA web site from my phone. We’re members of AVA—American Volkssporting Association, a group that sponsors self-guided walking tours of various points of interest— and our closest thing to a local chapter (Liberty Bell Wanderers).

I found walks in communities anywhere from an hour to three hours away, some in the mountains, one in Hershey, another in Lancaster, history-commemorating walks in Philadelphia, and many in New Jersey, including the shore points.

At 7 a.m., I roused the child and told her if she wanted to take a road trip and do a Volkssport Walk she needed to rise and shine. I consider volkssporting educational (reading maps, following directions, filling out paperwork, and learning about new places) and a good source of exercise since I push for the 10K walk whenever possible. Anything to keep the family moving. In my daughter’s mind, volkssporting means an interesting day, usually with a meal in a restaurant, and the chance to buy drinks at convenience stores. 

In other words, a win-win. 

I let her pick the destination. This avoids the pouting that eventually happens if “we always do what Mommy wants to do.” The first part of the equation was to narrow down the distance she wanted to travel. She told me she was willing to drive as far as D.C. That pretty much meant anything I might be willing to drive. I thought she’d want to stay a little close to home. But no. She is an adventurer at heart.

She picked Barnegat Lighthouse on Long Beach Island. The fact that she selected a beach did not surprise me, but it did somewhat surprise me that she picked Barnegat when I had offered shore points much closer to home. She opted for the 135 mile car ride. 

We didn’t set out until 7:50 a.m., and we had to stop for gas so I suppose our true start time was 8:10 a.m. We hit a bit of a travel snarl on 78E, which could be anticipated at such an hour on a Monday. It kept moving and we only “lost” about ten minutes. We hooked up with 287 and headed down to the Garden State Parkway, making our only potty stop at the Cheesequake Travel Plaza. Having never visited before, we didn’t realize there was a commuter lot and ended up parking— no exaggeration, I clocked it on FitBit— a half mile from the building. Honestly, after the first leg of our journey, the walk felt good.

We arrived on Long Beach Island about 10:30ish. We drove down the island for what felt like forever. Passing beach upon beach was like a tour in itself, like an endless array of possibilities. My daughter turned out to be an excellent navigator. 

We arrived at Kubel’s Restaurant at 11:07 a.m. The restaurant had the official walk box. It didn’t open until noon, but we didn’t exactly know that. We couldn’t find any info on the door or online so we decided to walk out to the lighthouse because the official walk had to pass the lighthouse. 

It was at this point that I realized I didn’t have my ATM card. This shouldn’t have been a shock as I never carry my ATM card. But usually I am with my husband who has his ATM card. And we were in a tourist area, heavily cash-based. I had something like $29 in toll money left and an additional $9 in our walking binder. I knew, if we climbed the lighthouse, I wanted to reward my daughter with the $15 t-shirt that required cash. 

After a quick tour of the area around the lighthouse onto the jetty and back. We happened upon a man fishing at the exact moment he caught a fish. We watched him unhook the fish and toss it back because it was too small. (We also saw a man with a prosthetic leg.)

  
This allowed us to see how much admission to the lighthouse would be. We stopped at the visitor’s center to use the bathroom and meandered back to Kubel’s as we were starved and thirsty.

We arrived at 12:01, got the walk box and a table and had the most amazing mac and cheese ever, baked lobster mac and cheese.

  
 It featured those thick spiral noodles with gooey cheese and a crisp top, with some grated cheese on that, and the innards had peas, cherry tomatoes and get this— diced tiny green beans. Delightful. Truly.

  
We decided to do the 10K. Our adventure took us to see the boats at the High Bar Harbor yacht club. 

   
 We deviated from the path to enjoy a 1/2 mile walk along the tip of the Atlantic Ocean, then back to the main drag. 

  
At some point we stopped at White’s Market for cold drinks. I even let the child have a black cherry Stewarts. The lady in the market gave us a paper with favorite things to do on it, and I have to say, the list tempts me to return. It’s an awesome list.

  
We also stopped at the post office to mail our start cards to the Princeton Area Walkers. 

  
We finished the day with a climb to the top of the lighthouse. 

  
After walking about 8 miles before the 217 step staircase, I have to admit my thighs protested heavily at the bottom. Might be the first time I ever had thigh cramps. They still ache a bit today.

   
 The day was fabulous and I didn’t even get that much sunburn.

  

Opinion: Lessons Learned in Phillipsburg, N.J.

My guest column in my last issue of The Free Press

My guest column in my last issue of The Free Press

 

I worked at The Free Press (Phillipsburg, N.J.) for about a year. I left when a publisher from another weekly called me out of the blue and offered me an editor position. I hated to leave Phillipsburg and my amazing publisher Enid, but I had long ago learned that regrets often stemmed from not knowing “What if?”

The Free Press was a weekly paper, paid subscription, mailed to those who subscribed. At the point I started working for Enid, I had already freelanced for a decade. This was my first full-time journalism position. I was sitting at my desk in our very tiny newsroom on September 11, 2001. The experience of being part of the media, even if only part of a small local weekly, gave a haunting layer to the tragedy.

After a year as editor of The Blue Valley Times, working with my former science teacher, Larry Cory, I joined the staff of the start-up weeklies from the Morning Call, known as The Chronicles. I returned to Phillipsburg, and in the three years that entity existed, I made some relationships that last until today. Phillipsburg still holds a special place in my heart.

And it’s not just because the gas in New Jersey is cheaper than Pennsylvania. And it’s not because the gas stations are full service.

 

 

I vowed never to be a journalist but life disagreed

My first appearance in a daily, 1994

My first appearance in a daily, 1994

In 1994, I hadn’t even declared a major yet. After three years of high school journalism, I had taken a college-level journalism class and had some experience writing features for a local weekly. I accepted a job as a freelance “stringer” for the Newark Star-Ledger. I traveled across Warren County, New Jersey attending municipal and school board meetings. Then I called the editor on the desk and read him my notes.

This was before cell phones and filing by internet. (I’m a dinosaur!)

It was brutal. They always asked questions to which I never knew the answers. They paid well, but the editors often reduced me to tears. One nice editor offered me advice. Call before you leave the site. Make relationships with the people at the meeting and ask for a number where you can reach them. (I also was polite enough to ask how late  could call.)

I hated it. I vowed I never wanted to be a journalist.

Funny, how life changes…

The article in the photograph is the result of my reporting. While it’s not an official byline, it’s my first appearance in a daily newspaper.