"Not all who wander are lost"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jersey Shore

On the cold November morning, we had set out from Edison, NJ, not knowing where we were headed but determined to bring back sea-salt in our hair. We took 287S which promises to take you as far as Cape May. But being at the wheel I started taking turns that were, well, out of turn…nooks and crannies and quiet towns tucked along the New Jersey coastline. (The following is at the exit near Tom’s river…. If you notice any mistakes like locations, routes, please correct me!)
Soon we found ourselves on a no-outlet road kissed by numerous
backwaters and bays of the metal cold Atlantic. At one point, it really looked like the end of the world, you were lined by water on 3 sides; could see some islands and faraway coasts on other side of the bay, some adjoining towns and a huge bridge if you squinted your imagination hard enough. This is the Route 72 causeway bridge I am guessing.
At what we called the end of the earth as hunger struck, we were mighty glad to find something that looked like a restaurant.
A small walking pier on the back side of the restaurant read “Pirates Only. No trespassing. all others will walk the plank” So with our pirate-hats on, we marched past 2 pm asking if we’d still get lunch. Evidently we were the only guests up until 3 but the youngish person who answered the door was more than ready to get us the menus. My experience with good view and ambience comes with a big compromise on the palate and/or wallet. But I’m ready to go out on 4 limbs to rate this $10/head lunch with 5 stars (my scallop dish was $8)! The scallops were fresh, the crab cakes mouth watering, the wine not so much! My 2 cents: by all means go local, but don’t commit to bottles of local jersey wine, unless you’ve tasted some already and have already decided to like it!

Next we started driving towards the Route 72 causeway bridge and continued north along Route 72/Long Beach Boulevard. Following the main road, which changes names numerous times, several signs led us to the Barnegat Light House state park. As cold and windy as it was (high 30s), we still loved the beach and the light house area even though we couldn’t enter inside (I think it was closed for the day). For those into shelling and stone collecting, I hear much is to be explored in summer time. (I am going back!)

As we left the park and started driving back, we could smell the fishing boats, we got some beautiful sunset shots in an obscure by-lane at the bay.

Most of the stores had started to close for the evening, but we caught a couple: a quaint coffee place (bit overpriced but nice ambience….we couldn’t sit outside for the weather and there was no place to sit inside). A mom-n-pop local craft store which if you ask me was a tad overpriced and probably not very customer friendly… the two ladies at the desk kept chitchatting about their own problems… making it very gloomy. There was another store which, however, more than made up for the previously experienced callousness: “Wildflowers by Cricket” in Manahawkin NJ… [find out more on www.crickettileart.com] this seemingly little store has everything from a frame shop, designer metal jewelry, huge selection of fused glass and art glass, tiles, DIY help and everything, everything you can think ok. They said that they traveled all over the place collecting artwork from artists as well as made their own from shells from the adjoining beach! How neat is that? Their store was the definition of personalization. They have parts of the flooring mosaic-ed with tiles and shells. I dabble in a variety of art media myself and found it nothing short of enthralling [I was struggling with my 2nd mosaic project myself and I got some very helpful tips :) ]. For local art enthusiasts like me who celebrate ‘personal touches’ this is a must see. While you’re at it, sign up for their newsletter and say “Hi!” to Cricket….

Moral of the story was we should visit again in summer when the air is less chilly and when we can actually take some workshops there… See you there!

Desert grandeur... Arizona

"Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, One cannot begin it too soon. "
I WHISPERED, "I am too young,"
And then, "I am old enough;"
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
"Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair."
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,

For he would be thinking of love.

Till the stars had run away

And the shadows eaten the moon.

Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

One cannot begin it too soon. --Yeats

This was the much awaited Grand Canyon tour.

...AND since there is no dearth of information about the Grand Canyon on the internet, I will not waste characters on the details.

What I will focus on in this one instead is what not to do:
when you are crunched for time there… DO NOT take “the desert tour”.
And try to avoid the driver “Joe” if you can. He rants Wikipedia details and urge you to actually enjoy it. I love guided tours make no mistake. But he breathes down your neck, picks at people, starts late, big talks about himself and completely ruined my supposed-to-be 4 hours $38/head trip.

You can use those 4 hours + a little research and drive to the overlooks yourself and choose what appeals to you! That’s what I’m doing the next time.

Next, the Bright Angel Lodge was a nice place to stay (we slept for only 2 hours…reached at 2 am and left by the 5am sunrise tour), I sure would love to have a fireplace like that in my family room! But better temperature control was expected in the rooms…

The tour-guide for the sunrise tour [youngish person with lots of piercing ;) ] was very nice. Very helpful, informative and truly a “guide”. Forgot his name, Tim? (he resembled a distant uncle I have like that’s information you can use).

With his suggestion I tried deep-fried rattle-snake at the Yippee-ei-o Steakhouse…. Except for the fact that I was tasting snake for the first time, nothing was good about this place. Bad service. Bad food. The salmon stank, the biscuits sticky, the steak yuck! And did I mention it was super expensive and had the gratuity in the bill…? And gratuity for real bad service if I may add. NOT money well spent!!

But as if to make up for our bad experience at lunch, Tim’s (I don’t remember his name so lets call him Tim) other suggestion to go visit Sedona and Red Rock Canyon was SUPER good.

We took scenic Rt. 180 and stopped at a couple places including a Native Indian store which was scary and weird and fun at the same time.

The view of the San Francisco Peaks was breathtaking. Miles of flat flat land and then suddenly in front of you standing are the peaks streaked with snow… not to mention all day we didn’t get good sun and GC was rather disappointing without proper sunlight, but now the skies were blue, white floating clouds, peaks that ranged from brown to green to white!

We took pretty long to reach “Red Rock” but when we did, it was WOW and all I could think of was why didn’t we spend the night in one of the cabins there instead of GC?

We drove down all the way and as if by luck, the sun which had disappeared again, shone for a few right on the brick red stones. Grey overlaying heavy clouds, peek-a-booing blue and bright slant rays of gold on red! Aha… the drive was so worth it! Thanks Tim (and my friends who suggested Red Rock)!