The Franklin Parker Preserve and abandoned railroad tracks

Back in July, I was hanging out in the parking lot of the Brenda T Byrne State Park welcome center, waiting for the sun to set so I could get some video of Northern Dusk-Singing cicadas singing. These cicadas, as their name suggests, sing after the sun has set. I located a male cicada perched in a tree close to the ground and was poised to film it singing when I noticed the silhouette of a man appear in the distance manifesting like a ghost out of the haze of twilight. He walked directly toward me. Was he a ghost? Was he a serial killer? Turns out the guy was a trucker who liked to hike and stopped by to get some information about the park. We talked for a while and he gave me some tips about other local parks and trails like the Franklin Parker Preserve. The trucker was intrigued by the abandoned train tracks that ran through much of the Pine Barrens as well. I missed getting a video of the cicada singing, but I got some good tips on new trails, and later I snagged a cicada nymph which I was later able to watch molt.

Chatsworth Lake, across the road from the entrance to The Franklin Parker Preserve:
Chatsworth Lake

The Franklin Parker Preserve, maintained by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, is located in Chatsworth, New Jersey, not far from Hot Diggity Dog and the Brooksbrae Terracotta Brick Factory. Ecologically speaking, it is prime Pine Barrens: sandy soil, with obvious dunes in some places, multitudinous pine trees, blueberry bushes, oaks, and a black-water river. The hiking trails are scenic: winding through forests, over dunes, alongside and over swamps, and the West Branch Wading River. The park is recommended for everything from horseback riding, to fishing, to bird-watching — as a naturalist, and someone who enjoys finding abandoned stuff in the woods, it’s a most excellent place to explore. The cicadas you’ll find in the park are the Pine Barrens cicada (June-early July), the Northern Dusk-Singing cicada (July-August), and the Dog-Day cicada (late July-September).

The quiet, cola-black waters of the West Branch Wading River:
Cola-black water

The abandoned railroad:
Franklin Parker Preserve railroad

I’m sure a lot of folks will ignore the railroad that bisects the park, but like the Trucker, I was intrigued. The main hiking trail crosses the railroad — just a step or two and you’re over it. But, if you follow the tracks northeast, you’ll discover a decaying train bridge made of timber, that crosses the West Branch of Wading River. If you go southwest your path will be blocked by a pine forest. The railroad is the New Jersey Southern Railroad. If you start at Franklin Parker on Google Maps satellite view, you can trace the path of the railroad north to Raritan Bay, and south to Vineland, bisecting the Pine Barrens. You can catch glimpses of it alongside the Brooksbrae Terracotta Brick Factory and in Atsion near the abandoned furnace. Over the years the Pine Barrens has been home to many industries including bog iron harvesting, iron forging, charcoal manufacture, lumber, brick making, glass making, paper mills, ice harvesting, and farming cranberries and blueberries. Trains were needed to transport these goods north to New York and west to Philadelphia (the New Jersey Southern Railroad connecting to the Camden & Atlantic and/or Atlantic City lines). With little manufacturing in the area, starting in the mid-20th century, there’s been little need for a railroad. The forest has reclaimed the land, but the ghost of the railroad remains.

More from the Pine Barrens:

Dot and Brooks Evert Memorial Trail Preserve (New Jersey’s Spookiest Hike)

The Dot and Brooks Evert Memorial Trail Preserve is located in the middle of New Jersey on the north-western edge of the Pine Barrens. It is near Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, the Michael Huber Warbler Preserve, and an entrance to the 53.5-mile Batona trail. The preserve is maintained by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. The entrance is along the curiously named Ong’s Hat road; it is easy to miss, especially if someone is tailgating you while you’re trying to find it.

Evert Trail

It is near the ecological border between the Pine Barrens and the divide between inner and outer coastal plains. You won’t find the sandy soil and multitudinous pine trees typical of the Barrens — instead, the Evert Trail Preserve is mostly swamp, streams, and trees growing from small lumps of ground periodically rising above the swamp. This is a unique experience! The trail is constructed from planks of wood seemingly floating on top of the swamp. It’s not for horses, bicycles, or ATVs — I weigh north of 250 pounds at the moment, and there were times I was sure I would sink. Good balance and concentration are necessary. This trail/preserve is best for hikers, naturalists, and birders.

Spoilers! Here is a video of part of the trail:

Along the way you’ll see hundreds if not thousands of different types of swamp-loving fungi and plants like this Swamp Loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus):
Evert Trail Swamp Loosestrife

And even though it is 50 minutes from Leeds Point, I’m sure the Jersey Devil has been here. It’s the spookiest and most memorable trail in New Jersey.

More stories from the Pine Barrens:

Tracks with Graffiti

Abandoned Pasadena Terracotta Brick Factory (lots of graffiti)

The graffiti-decorated ruins of the Pasadena Terracotta Brick Factory — or “Brooksbrae” as Google Maps calls it — exist in the woods alongside Pasadena Woodmanse Road in Manchester Township, NJ. If you allow Google Maps to direct you there, it will lead you down treacherous mud roads. Instead, drive down well-paved Pasadena Woodmanse Road* and look for graffiti on the road, park your car, climb the hill, climb over the train tracks and walk into the woods. Spray-painted trees, discarded spray paint caps, the smell of aerosol paint, and random yucca plants will show you the way.

There’s no missing it once you get there. Walls, doorways, and foundations — most without rooves or floors — trees and grasses reclaiming the land — graffiti scripts and modern-day hieroglyphics covering anything mad-made. Most graffiti is bubble-letter tags, but there are enough illustrations & variety of vibrant colors to make it interesting. It’s reminiscent of the graffiti road in Centralia, Pennsylvania.

Brick Factory

Graffiti on a wall

the vestibule

* The best way to get there is to start at Hot Diggidy Dog in Chatsworth, get yourself some hot dogs, then go north on Main, and make a right onto Savoy Boulevard and take Savoy all the way to Mt. Misery Road. Make a right onto Mt. Misery, and then a quick left onto Pasadena Woodmanse Road, and look for the graffiti.

Graffiti on the road

The brick factory is not far from Hot Diggity Dog, the Franklin Parker Preserve (more train tracks), Evert Trail Preserve (floating swamp trail), the Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve, and something called Hidden Lake.

I’ve always been curious about the Pine Barrens, thanks to the legend of the Jersey Devil, John McPhee’s book The Pine Barrens, and reading dozens of Weird NJ magazines. As a child, I collected rocks and minerals; someone gave me a hunk of rainbow-colored glass from the Batso glassworks, and at the time I vowed to visit Batso but never made the trip until 2019. Later in life, I made trips to Manchester to look for Megatibicen auletes cicadas — the largest cicada in North America. Summer of 2021, with nothing else to do, I started visiting the Pines almost every weekend.

More from the Pine Barrens:

The Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, NJ

The Gingerbread Castle/House in Hamburg, NJ, is a mythical place I remember visiting as a child — or at least being told that I visited (constructing memories from photographs). While most families went to the Jersey shore or more exotic places like Florida for vacation, my family preferred the woods of Sussex County NJ, and local amusements like the glowing rocks of the Franklin Mineral Museum and this Castle. I accidentally drove to it while testing some car repairs in July of 2021.

Gingerbread castle

The castle is small compared to actual castles of Europe or fantasy castles of Disney World & Land. It’s composed of stone, cement, and something like stucco. Colors are true to the frostings you would find on a high-end gingerbread castle: white, pink, pastel blue, and ginger. Unlike the mostly rectangular construction of modern gingerbread cracker-based castles, this castle has rounded spires, columns, and very few rectangular parts.

The grounds surrounding the castle feature many public-domain fairy-tale characters like a Dragon, a sassy Humpty Dumpty, and a giant frog.

Looming over the Castle are the remnants of a large mill and factory that made cannonballs during the Revolutionary war, and later flour for troops during the War of 1812. The mill continued to operate and supply ground flour and baked goods to New Jersey up until the 1900s. I’m guessing Gingerbread Castle was made as a way to promote their consumer goods.

Mill and Castle

Both the Castle and Mill are locked up behind a fence and/or plywood and are inaccessible to the general public. Urban explorers might find a way in… maybe Scuba gear, as the first floor of the mill seems to be flooded.

The mill is flooded

War of the Worlds Monument in Grover’s Mill

Last Saturday, I was looking for Brood X cicadas in West Windsor Township, New Jersey. I visited Van Nest Park and Ronald Roger’s Arboretum in West Windsor, as well as the Lenape Trail & Waters Edge Park in nearby Plainsboro.

Of all the local parks, Van Nest Park had the best abundance of cicadas. Van Nest Park, located in the unincorporated community Grover’s Mills ( located within West Windsor Township), is home to a metallic monument to the 1938 War of the World’s radio broadcast by Orson Welles. Welles’ radio play told the story of a Martian invasion of Earth — and people thought it was real! In the story, the Martians invaded Grover’s Mill. Orson’s story was remade into at least two movies and Orson went on to be a famous and successful film actor and director.

The War of the Worlds monument:

Van Nest Martian Landing Monument

A cicada sharing Orson’s microphone:

Cicada sharing the mic with Orson

Look for Park Martians around West Windsor Township:

Park Martian

The Ronald Rogers Arboretum Monument:

Ronald Rogers Arboretum

According to the plaque, Ronald was adored for planting trees throughout the community.

Roger's hat

Half-wit

New Jersey Half-Wit

New Jersey Half-Wit — no, I don’t mean New Jersey residents. Not us (I am one) — we’re all geniuses. I mean the Half-wit style muffler man poised/posed/paused in front of the Intergalactic Pizza and Dracula’s Domain paintball range on Monmouth Road in Jackson Township, New Jersey.

Half-wit muffler men remind me of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Numan. Interesting story about the inspiration for Alfred E Numan. Worth noting that Dracula’s Domain has a Dracula muffler man, but he’s only around at Halloween time.

A Half Wit

Turtles

Jackson Woods & Thomas Booth

When you think of the Jersey Shore, you probably don’t think of nature preserves, hiking trails, or freshwater ponds, but they do exist. Open a map on your cellphone, and look for green open areas — they’re there, but they’re not always obvious. Across the highway from a skateboard park, in Long Branch, NJ, is Jackson Woods — a multi-acre park made up of a pond, a brook, and winding paths bounded by trees, viny plants, and Phragmites australis. From the road, you wouldn’t expect it to be as large as it is — maybe 100 feet wide — but it is deep, and wedged between a few neighborhoods and an apartment complex.  Even though I had passed it hundreds of times in the past ten years, I didn’t visit the park until 2018. I wish I had visited sooner.

Jackson Woods, as it turns out, is a true “hidden gem” of the Jersey shore. The pond — while it doesn’t seem to have fish, it does have turtles and plenty of dragonflies, which are great subjects for fans of macro photography. Throughout the grounds, you’ll find all sorts of trees, vines, flowers, and even the occasional colorful fungus. Within the woods, there are several winding paths that criss-cross through the park, a bridge that takes you over a brook, and even a pyramid-like structure made of blocks of stone. I visit the park to take photos, and for a quick getaway from the stereotypical loud and drunken aspects of the Jersey Shore. Like any park, it has its imperfections — invasive species like knotweed, occasional graffiti, the odd rubber tire sticking out of the earth, and trash here and there — as do most parks and public spaces.

After my fourth visit to the park,  I met Tom Booth. He saw I had a camera, and asked about the photos I was taking. At the time Tom has the caretaker of the park. In the past, he fought developers who would have turned it into yet another gaudy Jersey Shore condo complex, ensuring the park would remain a peaceful haven for the residents of Long Branch. My conversation with Tom left a lasting impression on me. Tom had chosen to devote his life to something he loved — the park — and made certain it would be preserved for others. Tom was the antithesis of most of the people I meet on the Jersey Shore, most of whom are loud, thoughtless, hateful pigs. Tom was a true mensch.

Dragonfly
Pachydiplax longipennis Dragonfly.
Fungi
Clavulinopsis aurantiocinnabarina Fungus.
The Pyramid
The “Long Branch Pyramid”.

Sadly Tom passed away last year. There is a bench by the pond dedicated to his memory.

Jackson Woods on Google Maps.

Facebook Page @VisitJacksonWoods.

 

Map of Jackson Woods
Map of Jackson Woods. 10 is Jackson Woods. 2 is the skatepark.

Notes about New Jersey

Moon Motel

A friend of mine was traveling to New Jersey, so I typed up some notes for her about what to see and do in the state. This is, by no means, a complete list, but in context to her winter-time travels, it made sense. It was cut and pasted into a Facebook message.

If you’re from New Jersey, you’ll likely have strong opinions about the content of this article. It likely won’t feature your favorite places, and you’ll likely disagree. You’ll likely tell me about grammatical errors. But that’s New Jersey for you.

This article is written with a traveler in mind, so when I say things like “Jersey food is horrible” I’m thinking about how often I’ve gotten food poisoning from the average restaurant (a lot). Travelers need to avoid food poisoning. I’m sure your favorite — or your personally owned restaurant — is just fantastic.

Here is the message/notes on New Jersey.

Independent Reading

My expertise is mostly with West-northern and Central New Jersey.

Food

NJ has a lot of food choices, including some unique to the state. Those unique to the state are typically due to a regional business or the Shore (beach area). The diversity is due to NJ’s proximity to NYC. Generally speaking, if other states have it, they’re doing it better — for example, NJ is rife with great pizza parlors, but there’s better pizza in Brooklyn. Generally speaking, Jersey food is horrible — or at least no better than chain restaurants. With a few exceptions, the local Applebees is as good or better than the mom & pops.

So what’s unique to NJ?

Pork roll, which is ground up pork parts shaped into bologna-shaped tubes that people slice up and cook with eggs and cheese, and eat them on a bun. A grab-and-go blue-collar belly-warmer. These can be found anywhere. In the north, they call it Taylor Ham, in the south it’s Pork Roll.

Giant hot dogs (found along the shore) and Italian Style Hot dogs (Newark area).
Giant hot dogs are large, thick-skinned hot dogs heated on a metal pan and served on a bun often with chili & cheese. Everyone will have their favorite place to get these, but Windmills are the most reliable — the Windmill in Longbranch is actually shaped like a windmill.

Italian Style hot dogs are hot dogs served in an Italian bread roll, with ketchup, potatoes, and onions. I don’t know a specific place to get these. This is really a variety of the Jersey “Fat Cat” sandwich, with is typically a burger with EVERYTHING on it.

Tomatoes pies. A tomato pie is the inverse of a pizza, in that the sauce goes atop the cheese. That’s about it. Just as good as pizza with the same combination of flavors.

Papa’s is the best known. https://www.papastomatopies.com They also have a mustard pie which I’ve tried once and actually liked.
It’s Nutts has a great name, and their tomato pies are pretty good as well http://www.itsnuttsrestaurant.com .

Disco Fries. French fries with gravy and cheese, but not curds like poutine. Found in diners.

Frozen Custard. This is a south Jersey shore thing. Basically soft serve ice cream, but instead of cream, it’s based on custard (includes egg, which works well with vanilla). Very good, but not much better than plain old soft-serve ice cream.

White Rose style burgers. These are essentially large White Castle burgers. Burgers with a lot of onions mixed into the meat, smash fried by alleged former convicts [this is not said for comic effect — it’s what I’ve been told time and time again]. Burger places have names like the White Rose System and are usually isolated from anything else interesting.

Baked eggs. Instead of frying eggs, these hole-in-the-wall mom & pop places bake them. The result is dry, not buttery, with a faint smell of burnt hair. Don’t recommend it, but the places they serve them are usually interesting as they haven’t updated since the 50s.

The Best City: Asbury Park

Asbury Park might be NJ’s most interesting city.

Wooden Walls Project. A couple dozen graffiti/street artist murals found throughout the town made by world-famous artists like Shephard Fairie, Squid Licker, and others. http://woodenwallsproject.com

The Silver Ball museum http://silverballmuseum.com/asbury-park/

The Carousel/Casino https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/asbury-park-casino-carousel-house

The Steam Plant https://blogfinger.net/tag/the-asbury-park-steam-power-plant/

The Paramount Theatre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramount_Theatre_(Asbury_Park,_New_Jersey)#/media/File:Asbury_Park_Paramount_Theater.JPG

Morro Castle Monument https://weirdnj.com/stories/mystery-history/morro-castle/

Good galleries [Parlor Gallery is superb], decent restaurants, music venues, and the boardwalk.

Roadside Signage/Figures

Interesting roadside sights are being rapidly destroyed as older businesses fail, so now is the time to see them.

Top of mind is the Clown in Middletown NJ. That’s going to be torn down soon to make way for a Mall and Condos. It’s a giant plywood clown. https://weirdnj.com/stories/roadside-oddities/evil-clown-of-middletown/ . East-central Jersey.

Circus Drive-in sign. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/27279 I think it is still up.

Motel Moon sign. https://www.flickr.com/photos/dancentury/42446341480/in/dateposted-public/

Some Unique Weirdness

The Deep Cut Gardens mafia volcano in Middletown. https://www.dancentury.com/travel/the-volcano-of-middletown-nj/ Better in the summer, because the gardens are in bloom.

Light Dispelling Darkness fountain in Edison NJ https://www.dancentury.com/travel/edison-new-jersey-is-boring-dont-go-there/

Quick Stop groceries from Clerks. It’s a real place. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/8659

Museums

Most museums in NJ are aimed at kids, and so a visit is 2 hours of high-pitched screaming and having strollers shoved into your ankles.

The Silverball Museum in Asbury Park is a pinball machine museum and you actually get to play with the machines. http://silverballmuseum.com/asbury-park/ It is the “#1 attraction in NJ”. East-central Jersey.

Sandy Hook/Hartshorne Woods/Fort Hancock. In the 1960s and prior, this was the military base that protected NYC from Nazis and the US from Russian missiles. Now it’s a huge, disintegrating military base that’s semi-open to the public. The fact that it’s winter and the government shutdown makes a lot of it inaccessible. But the stuff in the woods, and that isn’t fenced off is accessible. It looks like something from a post-apocalyptic video game (admittedly, I’m not a gamer). Two lighthouses. East central Jersey.

Grounds for Sculpture is a gigantic sculpture garden in Hamilton Township. http://www.groundsforsculpture.org It is, however, closed in February. There are many sculptures in the surrounding area outside the grounds. West-central Jersey.

If you know someone interested in model trains Northlandz https://northlandz.com in Flemington is worth enduring screaming children. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s amazing… if you like trains. West-central Jersey.

InfoAge Science Center. Deep historical science and technology nerdery. https://infoage.org East-central Jersey. I’ve been to a computer fair there, but never to their main exhibit.

Holmdel Horn Antenna. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/holmdel-horn-antenna

Closed in February, but the Franklin Mineral Museum quarry is neat because they have glow under black-light rocks https://franklinmineralmuseum.com West-northern Jersey.

Its sister mine might be open though: Sterling Hill Museum https://www.sterlinghillminingmuseum.org West-northern Jersey.

Thomas Edison Center Boring, but the world’s largest light bulb. East-central Jersey.

Decrepit and Abandoned

Other than the aforementioned Sandy Hook/Hartshorne Woods/Fort Hancock, NJ doesn’t have as much decrepit and abandoned that is obvious. Because of our large and ever-growing population, the old gets ground up and replaced pretty quickly. The stuff that doesn’t get rebuilt/processed is typically left alone because it’s a toxic dump, there are legal issues, or it’s far enough from civilization that it gets a pass. Weird NJ http://weirdnj.com chronicles the stuff that’s a little out of the way, and beyond Atlas Obscura and Roadside America.

What is a mystery to me is South Jersey. Pine Barrens, southern Shore, odd little downs. They’re probably interesting stuff there.

Light Dispelling Darkness

Edison New Jersey is boring, don’t go there

I grew up in a small town called Metuchen, New Jersey. Metuchen is best known as the hometown of magician David Copperfield. In terms of interesting things to see, it has a haunted house and a Revolutionary War graveyard. Otherwise, it’s a safe, boring commuter town in the middle of New Jersey. Surrounding Metuchen is an even more boring place called Edison, New Jersey. Edison is a patchwork of strip malls, warehouses, and tract house neighborhoods, stitched together by a commuter rail line and several major highways. Boring. Folks call Edison the “donut”, and Metuchen the “donut hole” — in other words, I grew up in the literal void inside, perhaps, the most boring place in the world.

It might sound like I’m trashing Edison, but I’m not (well, maybe a little). Boredom can be inspirational — it can inspire people to live more interesting lives, move to more exciting places, travel, or make the world a better place. But you’ll have to take the first step — boring never changes to exciting or interesting on its own. Boring will fight you to stay boring. Newton’s first law of motion states that “an object at rest stays at rest” — the same is true of boring. Something that is boring will stay boring. Either you need to exert some influence on it to make it less boring (often futile), or move to a better place (GET OUT).

Now you’re thinking “Dan you’re just playing with words”, I love Edison, it’s not bad at all, we’re close to New York City, and surely Edison is less boring and soul-destroying than North Brunswick, New Jersey (touche), or the Mid-West. Well, news flash, every location in the Mid-West is less boring than New Jersey because most of the Mid-West has legal explosive fireworks — right there, that’s more exciting. The Mid-West has better fast food as well.

So, what if you’re stuck in Edison (there on business, your family moved there), and you’re looking for something interesting to check out? There are two places.

Edison Light Tower at the Thomas Edison Center

Edison Tower

Go here to see a large tower with the world’s largest lightbulb at the top. Link to the website. The location features a small museum, a park, and a pond, where, as legend has it, inventor Thomas A. Edison procured a fishing hook that he used as a filament for one of his blubs. The light tower and blub are impressively large, and from a historical perspective, the location is significant. Worth seeing if you’re in town.

Light Dispelling Darkness

Rooselvelt Park Fountain

Light Dispelling Darkness is an amazing fountain located in Roosevelt Park. According to Roadside America, it was a Depression-era WPA Art project, unveiled to the public in 1938. The fountain portrays evil — in the form of greed, disease, and other bad stuff — fleeing from good — in the form of industry, science, and other wholesome activities.

If you’re into weird or horrific things, this fountain is for you. The sculptures portraying “darkness” are truly grotesque. Intertwined, wresting octopuses; a skeleton riding a screaming horse; a horse with measles; naked dudes; dudes with 5 heads. Not what you would expect in a boring town.

Light Dispelling Darkness becomes a good metaphor for Edison, the town, except the town is Boring and the Bored are Fleeing it. Light Dispelling Darkness, Bored Fleeing Boring. In both cases, Edison is an inspiration for progress and change.

This is the GOOD: science, sports, zeppelins, etc:

Roosevelt Park Fountain

I think this is WAR:
Roosevelt Park Fountain

This might be GREED or PESTILENCE:
Roosevelt Park Fountain

This might be DEATH:
Light Dispelling Darkness

I need to take some better pictures.

Bonus: Dismal Swamp

When I grew up, the most exciting thing to do in Metuchen or Edison — if you had no money — was to go hiking (drinking) down by the train tracks or in the woods. The woods with the best name in Edison is the Dismal Swamp aka the Everglades of New Jersey (no gators). Dismal can mean “dreary, drab, dull, bleak, cheerless, depressing, uninviting, unwelcoming”. Almost “boring”. If you like nature and hiking, this is probably the best place in town.

Also, once every 17 years (next 2030) they get a good crop of cicadas. Otherwise, don’t go to Edison.

Lucy the Elephant

Margate New Jersey’s Lucy the Elephant

New Jersey prides itself on its weirdness, whether that be cultural, architectural, historical, or cryptological weirdness. There’s a magazine devoted to it: Weird NJ. We have a hockey team called the Jersey Devils, named after a mythological demonic chimera that torments the Pine Barrens.

But why?

New Jersey might be “weird” because is not an easy place in which to live — it’s ridiculously expensive, it’s polluted, it’s unforgiving, and I’m guessing the first human to be called an “asshole” was born here — the Garden State grows more of them than tomatoes, blueberries, and corn combined. Perhaps weirdness is both a product of and a refuge from the harshness of Jersey. I also think that a lot of what we Jersians label as “weird”, might actually be perfectly normal — we just call it weird as a defense mechanism to keep the assholes at bay.

I scoured Roadside America’s New Jersey page (Doug Kirby used to live in Jersey, btw) and my own memory, for the roadside attraction in Jersey that is both weird and magnificent. Something you might travel from another state to see. My answer is Margate City, New Jersey’s Lucy the Elephant (9200 Atlantic Ave, Margate City, NJ).

A square photo of Lucy:

Lucy the Elephant

Lucy is a stunningly beautiful, 65 feet tall statue of an elephant that spends her days admiring the Atlantic ocean. She has lovely painted nails. You can visit her at her home in Margate City. You can take a tour, climb through her insides, ride her back, and get the best view of the beach and sea in town. She’s so wonderful that it pains me to call her “weird”, but since “normal” on the Jersey Shore is a beige condo complex or a gaudy McMansion (with too many “voids”), weird is a compliment.

I was working on my “bucket list” on the 31st of March and realized that I’d never seen Lucy in the flesh. I thought “I can check this one off my list today”, entered my vehicle, and steered toward Margate City.

You have to pay a toll (“the Downbeach Express”) to get into and out of Lucy’s hometown. E-ZPass won’t work, so bring 4 singles. Seeing Lucy for the first time was an experience. Not cathartic, but definitely worth the trip — worth bringing others with you. There are a plethora of souvenirs to purchase — stuffed elephants, t-shirts, mugs, keychains, pens, candies — I got a fridge magnet.

I recommend stopping by the Margate Dairy Bar & Burger for a snack while you’re in town.

Lucy’s Toes (on fleek):

Lucy the Elephant’s Painted Toenails

A water tower featuring Lucy:

Lucy Watertower

It wouldn’t be New Jersey, without an asshole:

Lucy's rear end