Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Riding up the Jersey Shore, Part 2 - Tuckerton to Freehold

(brief aside - this is post 500 on the blog.  Thank you all ever so much for reading!)

This was the day I had been looking forward to.  Not necessarily because it was the last day of the journey - because it was the day I would revisit my childhood haunts.

I was born in Pt Pleasant Beach, while my dad was stationed somewhere in the Air Force.  My mother's parents lived there.  My father's parents lived in Bradley Beach.  After a few years of living in various small towns in New Jersey, my parents moved far away, to Scottsdale AZ, then Rochester, NY, then Huntsville, AL, and finally, Houston, TX. (yes, I was a Rocket Kid; my dad worked in the space program industry).

But we'd go back every summer, and I'd stay for a couple of weeks, maybe longer, visiting around with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, great aunts and uncles...

So, this day's route would take me through Pt Pleasant Beach and Bradley Beach, then to Freehold via the Allaire State Park.

The hotel at the golf course had a continental breakfast - bagels, fruit and coffee.  It would do for a start.  Of course, rolling out, I noticed that I had a rear flat (!)  Walked over to the snack area, with benches and tables, repaired it, washed my hands, and finally headed out.

The first 21 miles were all on Rt. 9.  Wide shoulder, tailwind...  Not bad, really.  I eventually was able to turn east a bit, and ride through some quiet neighborhoods and marsh.  Then I crossed the Toms River, and ended up IN Tom's River, with a street fair in process right where I was meant to ride through.  Then I saw the souvlaki stand and decided right there that it was (early) lunch time!

Street fair and gyro in Tom's River, NJ

After that tasty pause, I headed through town, and ended up on Hooper Avenue, which was clearly a place I shouldn't have been riding.  High speed, no shoulders...  I stuck myself on the white line, and it all worked out.  I was not crowded.  No one honked.  But certainly not fun.  I pulled off at a gas station just to figure out how much more of this I had to go.  Fortunately, not much.

From here I was headed toward Mantoloking, back on the barrier islands.  This is totally a Jersey Shore town, even though all the houses are new - rebuilt from when Sandy flattened everything.

Bridge to Mantoloking

Then a turn onto Ocean Avenue (all shore towns in NJ have an Ocean Ave), and there I was, in Pt Pleasant Beach.  As soon as I could, I rode up onto the Boardwalk.  It is all rebuilt as well - I couldn't find any Skee Ball or Pinball places.  Or, for that matter, my Great Uncle's salt water taffy store.  But it was still Jenkinson's Boardwalk, and I was a happy camper.

I was born here.

Jenkinsons Boardwalk, Pt Pleasant Beach, NJ

From there I rode up Arnold Avenue, which was/is the main street.  Of course everything had changed.  Many of the original buildings are still there, but with new and different tenants.  Turned right onto Lincoln Ave, site of the former A&P Grocery, coasted the three blocks down (all the big estates on the river side of the road are now filled in with other homes), turned right onto Walnut Ave, and there it was.

My maternal grandparents home

The current owners are keeping it very nice.  Green shutters rather than blue, but the front porch almost appears to have the exact same wicker furniture, and the hydrangea bushes are still in front.  The son of the owners (he was outside, we talked) said they like to keep the house true to its roots.  They even rebuilt the maid's quarters in the back, which previous owners had torn down.

front porch, maternal grandparents home

Maternal grandparents home, back porch

From there I rode the block over to the river.  What used to be a few houses and woods has been built up with large homes.  I looked in vain for the beach I played on for days on end, damming up the storm pipe, harassing the horseshoe crabs, paddling around (unsupervised) in those plastic boats.

This WAS the beach I played on for days on end

After thinking about it, I decided that the storm drain was extended out into the river, and the new house put in a lot of riprap and then terraformed and terraced themselves a flat lawn out to the river.  No beach remains.

From there I rode by the Pt Pleasant Beach public library - still in that old house!  One summer I tried to read through the entire children's section.

Spent one summer trying to read the entire childrens section

Time to head north to Bradley Beach.  As a kid, I always liked driving over the Brielle Bridge.  Now I got to ride over it, after the bridge lift ended.  There were signs to walk bike across bridge, but with that huge shoulder... nah.  I should mention that I never saw anyone pay attention to any of the bridge prohibition signs (no crabbing or fishing from bridge, etc).

Quick turn off east, riding through Brielle, and into Sea Girt, where I picked up Ocean Avenue and the boardwalks again.  This was fun.  The boardwalks have all been rebuilt, and, it being off-season, bicycles are allowed.

Belmar Beach

Another bridge lift at the Shark River Inlet, where I (and the other cyclists) ignored the Walk Bikes On Bridge signage.  Quickly found myself in Bradley Beach, and turned left on 2nd Ave, up to my other grandparents' home.

My paternal grandparents lived here

Paternal grandparents home, front view

It also looks well kept, but the bushes along the east covered patio are awfully tall and bushy, blocking the view :-)

Trip down memory lane complete, it was time to head inland to Freehold.  I went inland a bit, then turned south and then west again.  A stupid brief stretch on Rt 35, then off into the semi-rural roads which make up so much of central and south New Jersey.  I had routed myself onto the Wall Township Bike path, which turned into a couple other bike paths, crossed by a cool general store which I did not stop at (too close!), but went by and ate lunch the next day, and then rode through a section of Allaire State Park.

bike path in Wall Township, NJ

Allenwood General Store, on the Wall Township bike path

Back onto the surface roads, riding through Farmingdale and back out in to the semi-rural countryside.  Not too far now...  Look, a cyclist coming the other way!  I know him!  Yay!

My uncle rode out from Freehold to meet me

My uncle and I rode the last couple miles in together.  I had ARRIVED!  Success!

Arrival in Freehold!

A bit of wine to celebrate, a shower, clothes that I hadn't been wearing for five days straight...

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