Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey

Asbury Park, New Jersey

This is the first part of the story of my road trip across the USA in 1997.

7th June – 40 miles around Newark.

We flew into Newark airport, arriving in the late afternoon and with nowhere to stay. We’d done a shorter road trip in California a few years previously and were confident that we could pick up the car, hit the nearest major road, and find a selection of motels to choose from.

It proved slightly more tricky than that, and, coupled with a mix up with the car rental that cost us a few hours, we ended up, late that evening, in a cheap motel in Rahway, New Jersey. It was the kind of place that was aimed at truckers, with a huge parking lot filled with semi rigs and the rusted hulks of old cars sitting on blocks. Reception consisted of a grill in a window from which we were given our key. It was not the most relaxing start to the trip.

8th June – 154 miles from Rahway, New Jersey to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The Asbury Park Boardwalk

After a quick breakfast in a nearby White Tower burger place, we hit the road. Our first stop was Asbury Park. As fans of Bruce Springsteen, this was something of a pilgrimage for us. Early on a Sunday morning, the boardwalk was deserted, populated only by what we assumed were clubbers making their way home. Madam Marie’s was closed and the town had clearly seen better days.

Lavallette, New Jersey

From there we headed down on to Long Beach Island, which was a big improvement. We passed through a number of well maintained small beach towns, before a slight misreading of the map took us down a dead end at the bottom of the peninsula. It was long before Google Maps existed, and I think some unfortunate positioning of text in our road atlas obscured the fact that there was no connection back to the mainland. We backtracked to the nearest bridge and made our way to our next stop in Atlantic City.

Approaching Atlantic City, photo by Spencer

We checked into a motel a block or so back from the boardwalk, where we were advised to park the car in view of reception and not to stray further inland. Apparently, while the boardwalk itself was fine, the streets that ran parallel to it weren’t the safest place to be.

Our Atlantic City accommodation

After exploring the boardwalk, we ate that night in the Sands casino, then played pool and had a few beers. It was one of the few bars on the trip that didn’t bother to check our ID.

The Atlantic City boardwalk

9th June – 204 miles from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Arlington, Virginia

Lucy the Elephant, Margate City, New Jersey

The next morning we started with a detour to see Lucy, the giant elephant in Margate, before heading to Washington across the largely rural southern stretches of New Jersey. We made a quick unscheduled stop at a car rental place to swap our car, as the one we’d been given was displaying the “check engine” warning light and that didn’t inspire confidence with thousands of miles ahead of us.

To keep our within our restricted budgets, we picked a motel in Arlington where we checked in for two nights ready for a day trip into Washington DC itself, and one of the few days of no driving.

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