Sorry to have maintained radio silence for the past week. Getting ready to get out of town, the overnight journey (15 hours door-to-door), doing Philly stuff for a day and a half, taking the Megabus to Manhattan, doing NYC stuff in heat ’n’ humidity with my niece and her kids, getting the bus back to Philly and then the bus to South Jersey, writing for my day job….Well, it took more out of me than I’d expected.
I’m still pretty flattened even though I’ve been at my dad’s place for two days. It didn’t help that the Megabus out of New York was late, which meant extra standing around in the aforementioned H&H. It also meant that I missed the Jersey bus I wanted to get.
Did I mention the sudden high winds that powdered me with Philly grit while I waited near the corner of Broad and Vine? Or the thunderstorm that rolled in immediately afterward? And for extra credit, the NJ Transit bus was late, too.
Why not get a rental car? Two reasons:
I didn’t need wheels for the first two days, because I was too tired and too busy (I’ve had to write two MSN Money columns since I got off the bus) to want to ram around much. Dad let me use his pickup for short visits with my Aunt Dot and my brother.
Also because I’m cutting corners where I can. We’ve had a great time so far but we’ve spent a boatload of bucks. When Alison and her boys arrive tomorrow I’ll pick up the rental car and we’ll divvy up the usage.
Besides, on the bus ride I saw my first real sign that I was back in South Jersey.
It was a literal sign: “Serene Custard & Miniature Golf.” For the uninitiated, “custard” is sort of an American gelato – a type of ice cream made with extra egg yolks, so it’s very rich and creamy. This is a soft-serve version rather than the soft-scoop kind found at places like Culver’s.
Custard was a huge treat when I was a kid. We didn’t get it very often, which made it even more special. My parents always got us the 10-cent cones (gee, I’m old) and I used to dream of being grown-up and able to buy myself the 15-cent or even the 20-cent cone. Luxury!
Seeing a custard stand means I’m back in South Jersey.
Other roadside attractions
Additional signs, observed over the past two days:
Heat rash. My legs look like they’ve been flayed.
Humidity. Or as they say here, “you-midity.” After months in arid Anchorage it feels damn near tropical here. As of 11 p.m. it was 82 degrees and 78% humidity. It ain’t Florida but it ain’t comfy, either. When I wondered aloud how people stood it in the days when it wasn’t decent to wear short sleeves, let alone short shorts, my dad told me about an elderly neighbor’s memory of Saturday night dances in the summer. He’d take three or four extra shirts so he could freshen up every so often.
Clotheslines. Just about everybody has them. Even in the you-midity, clothes will dry eventually. My nightgown and shirts smell lovely after hanging out in yesterday’s breeze. Fortunately I brought them in just before yesterday’s downpour.
Wawa stores every few miles. People from outside the Delaware Valley laugh hysterically when they hear the word “Wawa.” They’re just jealous that their convenience stores aren’t as cool as these.
Wild turkeys. The reintroduction of these birds was so successful that they seem as common as sparrows. Great big sparrows. They wander along roadsides with no apparent fear of cars, and they saunter around my father’s property as though they hold the deed to the place. True story: My brother hit a turkey and its beak went through the grille of his vehicle and punctured the radiator. That’s one expensive fix, and one more “weird auto damage” tale for his insurance agent to tell at conventions.
Roadkill. On back roads like this one the speed limit is more of a lifestyle option than a mandate. Sometimes drivers can’t stop in time when something runs out of the woods. On previous visits I’ve seen a dead turtle, possum, fox, cat, squirrel, an unidentified bird and several deer. I’ve taken only one walk so far but I’ve seen two dead things: a squirrel and what I think was the remains of a vulture. That last was probably eating something else that had been hit – maybe a turkey? – and couldn’t get out of the way of the next vehicle to come along. There’s a moral to be made about greed and risk, I think.
Roadside trash. As always, I’m disgusted by the tendency of South Jerseyites to throw crap out of their car windows. On the bright side, I picked up four My Coke Rewards caps. But I was appalled by the sheer quantity of stuff I saw: bottles (beer, wine, soda), cups, sandwich wrappers, shopping bags and, I swear, a partly empty tube of KY Jelly. There’s a pun to be made about “back roads,” I think.
Tastykakes. As regional as custard, and as fondly remembered. I crave these snack cakes the rest of the year, and will have to fight to make sure I get my share once Alison and the boys get here. Fortunately, they were on sale at the Wawa.