Trouble Right From The Start
I was so excited to see New Jersey the garden state and had high expectations for our visit. It probably didn’t help to have the governor shut down all the state parks right when we arrived at our camp in Jersey city, but like always we just tried to make the best of it. So some of our Jersey experiences were not so good and others were great. It is just like we always tell the kids, ‘life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react’. So we took the bad in stride and tried to make the best of our Jersey experiences.
We picked our second camp site in New Jersey because of it’s distance to Liberty Harbor because I was still not feeling very well after being super sick. Yes when you are traveling full time somebody is going to get sick, it’s just an inevitability. Lucky for me I have a great wife and she nursed me back to health and let me take it easy for a few weeks while we were in New Jersey. Although the campground at Spruce Run was a little loud and rambunctious on the weekend, it was one of the best times we have had staying around camp. The kids made some friends, then they made some more friends. Then new neighbors showed up and the kids and adults made more friends! We were right near the playground and after a couple of days the kids were being called to by name to come play. It was great and we all enjoyed ourselves, even though we didn’t do too much.
Trenton is about an hour from Spruce Run and so we headed to the capitol like we usually do. As soon as we parked the car and approached the capitol we had some serious doubts about New Jersey. A bunch of windows were boarded up and one window even had a window A/C unit mounted in it with no support bracket of any kind! Yes the exterior was in a horrible state and we hoped the inside would be better, but the front door was locked with an unclear message about using another entrance. We wandered through flooded mud flats and under scaffolding to find this other entrance and were having no luck because every door was locked. A nice man in a suit suggested we visit the government building next door to get inside. The security guard in this building just tried to get rid of us. “Looking to kill some time? Go up the street” was his opener. It wasn’t even 2 O’clock yet and he says well the last tour was at three. What? OK, well how about the 2 PM or 3 PM tours can we go on those? No he sent us away at the first chance he got. Even though the New Jersey State Capitol website didn’t mention the renovations or the front door being closed. We were told that there was renovations and part of the building was closed, you had to have a tour guide to get in, and you needed an ID to enter. In Oregon they required an ID, Sarah didn’t have hers, but the guard looked at us and let us in anyway. This guy was all too happy to be rid of us and unapologetically told us we couldn’t go in and to leave immediately. No wonder they don’t get many tourists in their capitol building! The saving grace of the whole experience was the state museum down the street that was free and educational. The section with old toys was fun, they had an old TV playing black and white toy commercials, and we all enjoyed learning some more natural history.
The Better Side of New Jersey
We decided to make another short move to allow me even more time to get better (I was really sick). The next camp we picked was the Mahlon-Dickerson Recreation Area and this was a great find. This camp site was only $20 a night for partial hook-ups (water and power). The showers were clean with good water pressure and hot water. The hiking trails had tons of mushrooms, salamanders, toads, deer and other wild animals. At night it was so quiet and relaxing, so everyone slept well. Plus it wasn’t that far from shopping, somewhere to get an oil change, and a laundromat. We even took the kids into town to see a movie one night; sometimes doing regular everyday activities needs to be fit into all this sight seeing and schooling. Yes, this camp was just what my nurse recommended and after some rest I was feeling good again!
One of the things we did manage to see from this camp was the Thomas Edison Workshop in West Orange. I have always admired Edison and it was great to be able to walk through his office and research facility. After visiting the Johnson-Victrola Museum, we were thrilled to get to hear some of Edison’s records on an original phonograph machine. It was also interesting to learn about how influential he was in the motion picture industry among a multitude of other industries. From the first talking doll to toasters this genius had a hand in shaping modern industry. It rained the entire time we were visiting the workshop, but of all the National Historic Sites to visit on a rainy day we happened to be at a perfect one. It didn’t matter it was raining because most of the site is inside!
Shoes For Trip
Trip was in need of shoes, so we looked for a shoe store on the return drive from Edison’s workshop. We went to several places and were unable to find something that the parents and him both liked. Then Sarah found this shoe shop called Jay’s Shoe Box. Now we normally try to be exceptionally frugal with the kids shoes because they out grow them so fast. When we first walked in and looked at the prices we thought we were out of our budget and were ready to leave. Then a nice gentleman who worked at the store came over and talked us into staying. Boy were we glad we did because this man knew customer service. He had seen us looking at the price tags and understood that we were price orientated customers. After going into the back and getting several different pairs for Trip to try on we settled on a great pair of high quality shoes. Not only are these shoes better made than others we have gotten him, but they cost almost the exact same price! His customer service skills were so good that even Miles and Journey mentioned how good he was. Now if even the kids notice that you are good at your job you must be doing something right. Then he gave the kids stickers, coloring books, crayons and Journey scored a backpack! We walked out of this store wishing that they had a store in every state so that we could buy all our shoes from them. It is great to find a small business that really shines and we love promoting them (they don’t ask us to and we don’t receive compensation, but we have owned small businesses and know how hard it is).
As a note we participate in several affiliate programs including Amazon’s affiliate program and if you click on the affiliated links and make a purchase we receive compensation. We are in no way affiliated with Jay’s Shoe Box and did not, nor will we receive compensation from sending customers their way. We just like to let other people know about small businesses that provide exceptional customer service.
Yes our experience in New Jersey had it’s ups and downs, but it was still great to visit. We made some new friends and the kids even received a call from a few of the kids they met. The Thomas Edison Workshop was a great history lesson and we all were wowed by it. The campgrounds both received high marks from us and we liked the state museum. Pretty much the only thing we didn’t like about New Jersey were the cities. Every city we visited was run down and instead of the governor spending his time in the governors residence on the beach when no one else was allowed in a state park, he should put energy into fixing the roads and the inner cities. (The roads were cracked and full of pot holes everywhere we went) Not to mention that the capitol building looks like it needed to be renovated decades ago. That is just my humble opinion though and what do I know. I am just a guy who has visited 22 other capitols and would put New Jersey at the very bottom of the list.
Here are some links and more pictures for the places we visited:
Trenton State House
New Jersey State Museum
Mahlon Dickerson Reservation
Thomas Edison National Historic Site
Jay’s Shoe Box