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Published: September 5th 2019
The drive from Philadelphia South/Clarksboro KOA in Clarksboro NJ to Colonial Meadows Campground in Egg Harbor Township NJ, just outside Atlantic City NJ, on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 was just over an hour and was totally uneventful – just the way Uncle Larry likes them. I used Thursday to catch my breath after two hectic weeks of trying to merge the bevy of Independence Day activities and the “on any day in Philadelphia” activities into the same calendar while working around the unpredictable weather. Friday found me back at the wheel of the “professional touristmobile,” heading for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center
in Brigantine NJ. On the day of my visit, there were no “rescued” animals in house; however, I watched an informative video and a second very interesting video
(23:23) is posted on the web site showing half a dozen or so rescues and releases that occurred on a single day as well as other educational information. In the small museum, I learned of the difference between sea lions and seals, saw numerous anatomical structures from marine mammals and sea turtles and learned of the hazards of marine debris, most notable plastic. The most poignant message for me was the intentional release of
helium-filled balloons. All those pieces of plastic return to earth as litter at a minimum. Many are ingested by critters, terrestrial and marine, some of which die from blocked digestive tracts. Even with the rehab facility unoccupied, the museum itself is worth a 20-30-minute stop. I walked next door to the Brigantine Beach Historical Museum
. How convenient! This small museum is nicely done and tells the story of Brigantine Beach. It’s not worth a special trip for the average tourist, but if you’re already at the stranding center it’s worth 15-20 minutes of your time. What the heck, two birds with one stone!
I knew of a handful of lighthouses open for climbing on New Jersey’s eastern shore but had some apprehension about climbing them after my recent knee episodes. As I was cruising around Atlantic City looking for a seafood restaurant that was calling my name, I happened upon the Absecon Lighthouse
. I decided to stop for a visit and, at least, see if there was a museum or keeper’s quarters I could enjoy. I asked the attendant about the height and learned Absecon stands 171 feet high, the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey, and has 228 steps with seven landings. I
deciding to give the knees a “trial by fire” which I could abort along the climb if necessary, paid the climbing fee (the other components are free) and set sail. I took my time, stopped at each landing for 30 seconds or so and got to the top without any noticeable discomfort in my knees. There I met Buddy, a 91-year-young docent who is a former Marine. We bonded immediately and discussed his habitual climbing of the tower wherein he confided that he now not only takes a break at each landing but takes a short breather at each mid-flight as well. He was a total encyclopedia of Absecon Lighthouse trivia and history. Did you know that 598,634 bricks were used in the construction of the tower? There were three companies in France that manufactured the Fresnel lens
, with the first-order Fresnel lens being the most powerful. The Absecon lens was manufactured in 1854 by L. Sautter & Cie of Paris and was lit for the first time on January 15, 1857. I must admit I used the Internet to augment some of the information he conveyed, because I couldn’t remember his discourse until I got back to the Bighorn! Buddy
was delightful, and if I am as physically and mentally fit at 75 as he is at 91 (“I’ll be 92 in a couple of months”), I’ll be one happy camper. Call to learn when Buddy will be working, and climb Absecon. Oh, yes, the views are great.
Saturday found me heading for Historic Batsto Village
located in Wharton State Forest near Hammonton NJ. This truly is a “best kept secret” in New Jersey. The Batsto Village Visitors Center houses the gift shop and the museum, is where self-guided tour brochures are available and is where Guided Mansion Tour tickets (check for seasonal offerings) can be purchased. The museum features exhibits that depict the historical growth of Batsto and the processes of iron and glass making as well as the natural history of the area. The Self-Guided Tours can be conducted by following the Village Brochure “or the new Audio Cell Card.” Don’t ask me, I’m just the reporter! The facility hosts numerous special events including monthly hikes, star watch parties, a Country Living Fair, a Glass & Bottle Show, a Decoy Show and a Winter Festival. The village has most of the standard historic village fare such as a blacksmith
shop (the smithy was working the day of my visit) and a general store but also includes features not found in most historic villages such a the water-powered lumber mill and a grist mill (both inoperative but interesting nonetheless) and a workers village with a dozen or so dwellings, some of which have an open door to allow visualization of the interiors. Placards near the retention pond, from which water was released as needed for the grist and lumber mills, tell of life in and around the pond, including the life cycle of herring. I’m a fan of pickled herring and now know of whence it comes! This is one of the better historic villages I have seen and merits a visit, particularly for those with minimal exposure to these types of attractions.
On Saturday, my knees had felt great at the beginning of my visit to Batsto Village, but I developed a slight discomfort in my right knee by the end of the day. Sunday was predicted to be what I term “a 95 and 95 day” – hot and humid, so I decided to enjoy, essentially, a scenic drive from the cab of the Ram. I checked
the outside thermometer as I pulled into the parking lot of Cape May Lighthouse
in Cape May Point NJ. Ninety-five degrees, and the humidity felt like 50-60 percent! The weather, my smoking-compromised lungs, my 70-year-old heart and my problematic knees all contributed to my decision that attempting to climb the 199 steps to the lighthouse summit was not a good idea. I wandered the grounds and visitor center for a few minutes to stretch my legs and hopped back into the air-conditioned truck cab before resuming my scenic drive along the Jersey shore.
One of the reasons for picking the Atlantic City area for a New Jersey landing pad was its famous Boardwalk
. Back the day of no cable television and only three networks, the Miss America Pageant was an annual ritual in my household. My mother was the autocratic decision-maker but got little protest from hubby or the boys. I can still envision Bert Parks (who hosted the telecast from 1955 to 1979) singing “There She Is, Miss America.” Indeed, a girl from a neighboring town won the title in 1968 – the year I was in Vietnam and didn’t see the event. No, my folks didn’t record it!!! There
A Handful of the Multitude of Different, Distinct Pipes Used in the Organ
Midmer-Losh Pipe Organ Tour and Concert at Boardwalk Hall - Atlantic City NJ
are several references to the pageant along the Boardwalk. Regardless of the political correctness or lack thereof in the 2019 climate, it is what it is and IT IS part of America’s history.
In researching the Boardwalk, I learned that a free ½-hour organ concert was offered in the Main Auditorium of the Boardwalk Hall (formerly known as the Atlantic City Convention Hall) Monday-Friday at 12:00 noon from May-September. The Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ
was built by the Midmer-Losh Organ Company and is the largest organ in the world, as measured by the number of pipes (officially 33,112, but the exact number is unknown). The organ has three other entries in Guinness World Records, including largest pipe organ ever constructed, largest musical instrument ever constructed and loudest musical instrument ever constructed, and holds several records in the organ world. Okay organ gurus, this is for you – it is one of only two organs in the world to have an open 64-foot rank and the only organ to have stops voiced on 100 inches of wind pressure (about 3.6 psi). Its console features seven manuals. Happy now? Okay you acoustics engineers, this is for you – the main auditorium is 487×288×137 feet
Lucy the Margate Elephant – Margate City NJ
with a floor area of 140,000 square feet, giving a volume of 5,500,000 cubic feet. “Consequently, the organ runs on much higher wind pressures than most organs in order to achieve a volume loud enough to fill the hall.” Happy now? Although the instrument has not been fully functional since the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane, the 15-20‰ that has recently become operational has begun to be heard for the first time publicly in many decades. The organ was played in September 2013 during the Miss America pageant, its first public performance in 40 years, and the free concerts were initiated in May 2014. There was not only a concert but a tour of the back side where restoration/maintenance folks were busy at work and the “behind the scenes” parts of the organ were revealed. It’s an extraordinary instrument with a phenomenal history. Oh yes, the concert was outstanding. I’m sure glad I incorporated the concert and tour into my visit to the Boardwalk.
My next stop was also to see something truly unique to the Atlantic City area – Lucy the Margate Elephant
. “Lucy” is a six-story elephant-shaped example of novelty architecture and was modeled after "Jumbo the Elephant" of “Barnum and
A “Lucy-Eye” View
Lucy the Margate Elephant – Margate City NJ
Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth” fame. Constructed of wood and tin sheeting in 1881 in Margate City, NJ, approximately five miles south of Atlantic City, she was originally named Elephant Bazaar and was built to promote real estate sales and to attract tourists. She stands at 65 feet tall, 60 feet long and 18 feet wide and weighs about 90 tons; is listed as the 12th tallest statue in the United States; and was constructed with nearly one million pieces of wood that required 200 kegs of nails, four tons of bolts and iron bars and 12,000 square feet of tin to cover the exterior. There are 22 windows placed throughout the structure. Today, Lucy is the oldest surviving roadside tourist attraction in America. Through the first half of the 20th century, Lucy served as a restaurant, business office, cottage and tavern (the latter closed by Prohibition). By the 1960s, Lucy had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition, but, in 1969, a group of Margate citizens formed the Margate Civic Association (which later became the Save Lucy Committee). They were given a 30-day deadline to move the edifice or pay for its demolition. Various fund-raising events, the most
successful a door-to-door canvass by volunteers, raised money. On July 20,1970 Lucy was moved about 100 yards to a city owned lot and completely refurbished. In 2016, Lucy had 135,000 visitors at the site – 35,000 of whom took the guided tour. Simply put, Lucy is an irreplaceable piece of Americana.
My final stop of the day was at Gillian's Wonderland Pier
in Ocean City NJ, a sibling to Ocean City Boardwalk in Ocean City MD which I visited in early June 2019. It is refreshing to relive the days of attending an amusement park for the sheer pleasure of absorbing the atmosphere without the pressure of “riding as many rides as possible to get my money’s worth.” Some folks merely want to ride the carousel, and a prohibitive $50.00+ price tag for the “adrenaline junkie buffet” deletes that activity from the discussion. Of course, I rode the carousel. I made that mistake in Ocean City but don’t plan to make it again.
As I had noted in my Baltimore blog, part of the B&O Railroad's notoriety had come from being one of the four featured railroads on the Monopoly board game. Interestingly, it is the only railroad on the
To All of My Construction Friends …
While Walking to an Attraction in Atlantic City NJ
board that did not directly serve Atlantic City NJ. After cruising around Atlantic City, I have decided Monopoly should be renamed “Acquire, Develop and Monopolize Atlantic City” or (shortened) “The Donald Trump Game.” The streets of Atlantic City do not run north, south, east and west; but, instead, run northwest to southeast and southwest to northeast. Regardless, the Monopoly properties with a state’s name (New York, Tennessee, Illinois, etc.) intersect those without, i.e., Atlantic, Ventnor, Pacific, Baltic, etc. It made me think the developer of the game was an Atlantic City native; however, the inventor of Monopoly was Elizabeth J. Magie who was born in Macomb IL in 1866. Who knows where she got the idea to base the original version of the game on the streets of Atlantic City.
I had a nice time in the Atlantic City area. It was a nice way to wind down after the chaos that surrounded a very busy two-week stop in the Philadelphia area. Getting around is relatively easy, and the condition of the streets makes it obvious when one is moving from a more affluent, tourist area to a more impoverished neighborhood. I drove through neighborhoods that befit Bill
Gates, particularly during my Cape May scenic drive. Ocean City is less touristy than Atlantic City which makes the tourist district seem more “blue collar.” If you visit, enjoy yourself at the beach, but don’t forget there’s a lot of interesting stuff outside the box.
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