I spent this past weekend in NYC (or more accurately, Jersey City, with one night out in NYC) which didn’t give me a lot to write about (which is completely fine). I mean, I had a great time (and might possibly still be hungover-4am last calls are not your friend at age 28) but it was much more about seeing great friends I don’t see often enough and much less about going new places and seeing new things. In fact, that’s always how my trips to NY go and I’m ok with that.
My brother and I (who was my weekend travel companion) woke up uncharacteristically early on Sunday, and figured that since we both felt awake, we should take advantage of the day. Shawn had a 7PM bus out of Harrisburg to catch, but it was 10:00 and we had nothing to kill but time till then. He’s in law school at Pitt so wanted to make it down to the shore, as he’s not sure he can fit in another beach trip this summer and growing up in NEPA, with the shore in day-drive distance, it doesn’t feel like summer to us without at least one beach trip.
We decided on Asbury Park, as it were only about an hour drive from Jersey City. Some quick googling told us it had a boardwalk, and it just seemed appropriate being as I was only still coming down from a post-Springsteen high after seeing the boss live in Hershey that previous Wednesday. For those of you unaware, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J,” was Bruce’s 1973 debut album and, one of its tracks, “Growin’ Up” is a personal favorite.
Like many of Bruce’s anthems, Asbury Park was a once thriving vacation destination who fell on hard times during the 80’s and 90’s. He wrote “Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” about the popular boardwalk culture that once thrived there. It has, in modern times, experienced something of a resurgence and was one of the first beach front communities to rebound post Hurricane Sandy. Still, we were struck by how desolate and unbeachtown like Asbury Park was on our drive in.
This being said, the boardwalk is exactly what you picture a Jersey boardwalk to be. Shawn and I parked and strolled along the boardwalk for a couple of minutes. There were a lot of beach side bars we figured we’d like if alcohol wasn’t the enemy at the moment, a lot of places that looked like good food if our number one goal wasn’t an epic seafood chow-down and looked like a generally nice, albeit rocky, beach if it weren’t so cold.
We grabbed some ice cream, walked down on the beach so Shawn could say that he did, and I took some pictures at the famed Stone Pony, a heralded old rock club known for helping to cultivate the “Jersey Shore Sound.” The Stone Pony is where some of Jersey’s biggest names, like the boss himself and Bon Jovi, got their start. I would love to go see a show there someday, especially now that I’ve gotten a sneak peak of Asbury Park. After our boardwalk stroll, we headed south to Belmar, another quintessential Jersey shore town.
We didn’t really explore much of Belmar but did spend a rather enjoyable hour or so at Klein’s Fishmarket and Waterside Café, which I found on a list of the 10 best seafood restaurant in Jersey Shore. It did not disappoint. We ate on a dock, overlooking the bay and split a giant Lobster Bake, with some of the freshest seafood I’ve had in a while. I’m telling you, happiness is shoveling scallops covered with drawn butter into your mouth, as boats idle by.
It was during our meal that I made a discovery I’m not proud of. I was mapping out our route home (actually trying to see if Long Beach Island were close by-the nautical meal made me want to climb a lighthouse) and found that we were only 15 miles (give or take) away from Seaside Heights, home to the ubiquitous Jersey Shore. I brought it up to Shawn casually, trying to front like I really didn’t need to see the house or to visit “Karma” the grossly clubby bar where “beating up the beat” was formed (I’m not proud of any of this, ok?). Luckily we’re cut from the same cloth and he was in, thus beginning a half hour trip out of the way to simply take pictures of the home that introduced America to Snooki.
Judge me all you want, but in my senior (fine, super-senior) year of college when Jersey Shore premiered and was instantly hooked. The latter seasons sucked once they got legitimately famous and were hyper aware of what they were doing on camera, but the first? Pure, unabashed, trash-laden comedy gold.
Our time in Seaside Heights was extremely limited. We were still 3 hours from Harrisburg and only had 20 minutes to spend there in order to make the bus, It was too bad, because it looked like a fun town to walk around. I guess I was expecting a lot of neon lights and self tanner, but there seemed to just be an abundance of divey looking beach bars (one of whom was having a bean bag tournament when we drove by) speciality shops, and boardwalk amusements. We literally had time to snap a few pictures of the Jersey Shore house, and outside of the infamous Karma. I only regret that I did not have time to go in for a drink and a piss behind the bar.
Also, Jersey Shore is not the only piece of cultural significance to grace Seaside Heights with its presences. The music video to LFO’s classic “Summer Girls” was also shot on the famed boardwalk. It upsets me that I didn’t know this when we were there. Time-crunch be damned, I would have made time to walk those hallowed boards.
After leaving Seaside, we stopped at Wawa (very Jersey of us) and then got a move on back to Pennsylvania. It was a nice little unexpected side trip to see this portion of the Jersey shore, and from what little I did see, I’d definitely like to go back and explore Asbury Park and Seaside Heights when I’m not on as tight of a schedule. I don’t know that I’ll be able to do that this summer, not while Sea Isle still promises the allure of a good old Sunday jam, but who knows.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash off the Jersey skeeze.
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