Things I’ve Learned:
1) Now that I’m in the comfy, verdant bosom of southeast Pennsylvania, my bitterness towards New Jersey has waned. It actually started waning earlier in the week, after a couple mainly pleasant drives along the Hudson River. However, upon making a wrong turn and ending up trying to find a way out of the Newark airport, it all came screaming back. But let’s cleanse the soul of negative things and focus on the positive (for now).
Here are some good things about New Jersey:
(A) The Palisades Interstate – it runs alongside the Hudson River from the George Washington Bridge to the state line with New York (and continues for several more miles after that). Along the way, you get very pretty views of the river, the Bronx, and Yonkers. Here’s the George Washington Bridge from one of the Palisades’ lookouts:
(B) Hoboken – this city’s like the training wheels for living in Brooklyn. It’s walkable, has many parks, and features lots of cool shops and restaurants. Also included: killer views of Manhattan. Frank Sinatra was born here, which is cool. MUCH MORE IMPORANTLY, it’s also the home of . . .
(C) Yo La Tengo. Truly, New Jersey’s finest export.
(D) Liberty State Park in Jersey City. How else are ya gonna get to the Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island? From Manhattan, via the ferry that leaves from Battery Park? As if, says I.
Also, the Central Railroad Terminal at the park is really damn cool:
(E) The Trenton Pork Roll. More commonly known as the Taylor Pork Roll. It’s wonderful, the sole reason why diners in Jersey are generally better than the ones in Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.
Moving on (and speaking of porkish matters):
2) Potato chips cooked in lard are awesome. Eight years ago, a friend and I were cutting through the Harrisburg area when we stopped at a convenience store and bought – among other things – a bag of chips. My friend was a vegan. I had been off meat for several months. Within the first bite, each of us knew that something in these chips was very different from regular chips. We turned the bag around, looked at the ingredients, and saw that – instead of the usual vegetable oil – the chips were cooked in “prime processed lard”. Neither of us took another bite of those chips.
Fast forward to Saturday. I was back in the Harrisburg area (in a town called Carlisle, about 10 miles west). While getting some groceries to take back to my hotel room, I remembered the lard-cooked chips and headed to the appropriate aisle to see if they had them.
And they did! They were Kay & Ray’s Potato Chips – the same ones I bought eight years ago. Having long-resumed my voracious meat-eating ways, I scooped up a bag and eagerly headed back to my hotel room to give them a taste. As before, the difference in cooking methods is immediately discernible. Unlike before, I found this difference to be awesome, and ate most of the bag in one sitting. Because I’m an awful glutton – an awful, incredibly-happy glutton.
The Week In Hotels:
The first two nights of the week were spent at a Knights Inn in South Hackensack, New Jersey. The exterior looked skeevy as hell. The interior, though, was actually quite nice – a good, spacious room with a flat-screen TV that featured several hundred channels, giving me a chance to actually watch some non-swimming-and-gymnastics Olympic events. Holy crap, handball looks like a lot of fun.
On Wednesday, I got caught up in a fairly nasty thunderstorm while wrapping up my work day. Wanting to find some quick shelter, I made my way to the nearest hotel, which turned out to be a Super 8 in Raritan, New Jersey. All they had was a smoking room, which sucked. I didn’t want to do any more driving in the rain, though, so I went ahead and took it. The room was okay – didn’t smell too bad. And it, too, featured a nice TV with hundreds of channels. But all niceties that I had towards the place faded away the next morning, when I woke with bug bites on my lower leg, near an armpit, by my elbows, and multiple bites on both ears. THAT’S RIGHT BY MY BRAIN!! And that’s 3 times in the past 5 months that I’ve been the subject of an overnight bug-feeding. I’m as tasty as a Trenton Pork Roll to them.
Thursday was spent at the Red Roof Inn in Allentown, Pennsylvania. As I said the other day, I was intending to spend the weekend there, but a music festival got in my way. Instead, the weekend has found me at a great Travelodge in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The only downside to the place is that the dining options nearby are very limited (Wendy’s, Arby’s, McDonalds, and an Iron Skillet), which initially hindered my impression of the city (it’s actually a really nice town, with lots of cool old buildings and a role in history dating all the way back to the Whiskey Rebellion).
That lack of non-fast food dining options near my hotels was a recurring theme throughout the week. As a result, most of this week’s eatings took place at Wendy’s, McDonalds, and a couple not-too-shabby Chinese buffets. The only exception was in Hackensack, where I lunched at a Cuban restaurant called the Casual Habana Cafe. As someone who grew up eating Cuban food and craves it way more often than I get a chance to eat it, my expectations were likely too high. In other words, it wasn’t great. Was nice to eat plantains and black beans, though.
I did not have a drop of alcohol this week. That’s two weeks in a row! What’s wrong with me? I really should be drinking more – for one thing, the alcohol might kill off all the bug eggs in my body that’ll likely be hatching soon.
A couple more days in southern Pennsylvania, then a brief dip into Maryland before beginning a long trek through Virginia.
More pictures can be found at my Flickr page.