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Trip 23 -- Diners of New Jersey Walk

Day 4: Budd Lake to Long Valley (Budd Lake Diner)
Sunday, October 18, 2020

Today: 21262 steps/17.05 km/10.59 mi/3h 23m
Total: 133309 steps/106.81 km/66.36 mi/22h 21m

I chose the Super 8 in Budd Lake because (1) it was about 50 cents cheaper than the Days Inn down the road, (2) it is a few minutes' walk from the Budd Lake Diner, and (3) near the lake itself is a bar called the Pavillion Lounge. It sounds like a classy place with a tranquil setting, but an Internet search promises a dive bar with a moody owner and basic food.

It's karaoke night. A woman is singing "This Is How We Do It" and she's within the realm of being on pitch, if you round things off to the nearest half-step. The song ends and, after some contemplation, she sings it again.

There's a large rectangular bar area near the entrance, big enough for about 30 people. Two men are sitting on one side, and one of them is the singer's partner, at least for tonight. I sit along the adjacent side and order a Tito's and soda.

Beyond the bar area is an enormous area set up with tables and chairs awaiting diners.

"Are you serving food?" I ask the bartender.

"The kitchen's closed," she says ruefully, and I'm guessing it hasn't been open for months.

Off to the side are the karaoke equipment and our talented performer. The DJ, Bill, is operating the equipment, and he wears a monk costume with little human skeletons dangling from it. Behind his area is a little nook for a couple to sit in, and way across the room is what looks like a business lounge in a hotel, with a printer. There are also a pool table and a very long table-shuffleboard set, near which hangs what appears to be an antique wooden scorekeeping device from National Shuffleboard in Irvington, New Jersey, whose phone number was Essex 3-8141.

The place could comfortably accommodate several hundred people. There are just the six of us; it's about 8:30 on a Saturday night.

A boy about 12 years old comes out of the office, and a woman who is perhaps his mother brings in a plate of spaghetti. The bartender serves my drink, and a few minutes later she says she's not feeling well and is done for the night. She crawls under the bar through a gap and heads out.

She's replaced by Joann, the owner. A poster on the wall attributed to Richard J. Moore Jr. says that "We can call the owner a friend, mom or the boss. She listens, guides, suggests while helping us deal with our loss....Thank you Joann for supplying this place. This is a very special space."

Joann recognizes me as somebody she doesn't recognize. "It should pick up around ten," she says. I finish the vodka and switch to Jack Daniel's on the rocks. I have no idea why; I haven't had a Jack Daniel's in about 20 years. Joann is friendly and shows me how to scan the QR code for the karaoke options -- no confusing overstuffed three-ring binders to pore through.

The singer and her companion leave. The remaining patron has tattooed skin and clothing with red splotches on it. He's been spending the last two weeks painting the exterior of the bar. His name is Brad, and we start talking. He's 22 and an avid skateboarder, the kind who goes up and down the big ramps -- vert ramps, he says they're called. He rattles off a few Web sites where I can learn more than I ever wanted to know about skateboarding; I'm impressed with his enthusiasm.

He recently dealt with the practical aftereffects of the death of his grandmother, with whom he used to live; I don't ask about his parents. Since then, he's floated. He's lived in Budd Lake for a year, doing one-off jobs such as painting the bar (a natural outcome of his being a regular). He plans to move to Philadelphia soon, but he doesn't know for how long. We agree that as long as he makes enough money he might as well drift around as long as he likes to.

I tell him of my recent reconnection with someone I met in Mongolia more than 20 years ago. "Twenty years from now," I say, "we're going to meet again in Uzbekistan or something, and I'll say, 'Didn't you paint a bar in Budd Lake?'"

He's drinking Jim Beam Red Stag. I buy us a round (everything is handily priced at $8.50 and thus comes to $10 with tip); it's fairly sweet, and I go back to Jack after that.

He's ready to sing. "I want to scream!" he says. He looks for Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade" but settles for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Can't Stop." He plays the lottery; a new game appears on the screen every 15 minutes. His preferred number is 9, but it doesn't come up. Jimmy wins $92, however, and perhaps that is the source of my next glass of Jack.

Joann is right. Eventually the place is packed -- there are as many as six of us patrons at a time, and that doesn't include Jimmy or the kid or any of his family members. Then there's a lull; "I'm the only one in the bar," I write in my notes. "Really, no one else." They've all gone to the restroom or outside to smoke, even Joann.

I watch people play pool; I mingle and make friends. We drink Fireball, and I have more Jack. The bar doesn't accept credit cards and I've taken only about $120 to the bar, leaving most of my cash at the hotel. I have $16 when I get back, and I bought rounds. Surely I can't have had that much, right?

My forehead tells me otherwise, when I wake up abruptly at 9:25. I've purposely planned a short walk today in case I felt sluggish this morning. But I'm super-sluggish. I enter the shower and after 30 seconds of halfhearted motions get out and flop back down on the bed. Check-out time is 11; I call the front desk and get approval to stay until noon.


It's the name of a dive that's by Budd Lake.
Pavillion. Pavillion, Pavillion, Pavillion.
All the dozens of glasses of Jack that I dared to take.
Pavillion, Pavillion, Pavillion, Pavillion, Pavillion, Pavillion...

I drank at a bar called Pavillion,
And suddenly my brain is reeling from the pain.
Ooh, whee!

Got drunk at a bar called Pavillion,
And suddenly I'm slow and stumbling to and fro.
Ah, gee!

Get three sheets and your head starts spinning.
Get three more and you're losing, not winning.
My liver remembers Pavillion.

(And yes, it was in that very driver's-education class that I learned "three sheets.")

The Budd Lake Diner is a five-minute walk away. I spend an eternity with the menu, which I'd estimate is 2-10-1 -- several half-size cards are together in a pocket. The sandwiches are all "Served with Souffle Cup Of Cole Slaw and Pickle." I have no idea what that means, but I learn that those little plastic ramekins are called souffle cups. One of the sandwiches is a "Happy Waitress." I've never heard that term either, but apparently it's common: grilled cheese with bacon and tomato. Another sandwich is described as "veal cutlet (genuine)."

I'm not even in the mood for food, but I know I need something. I contemplate the special of baked lasagna. I see that if it were a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, I could have a seven-course prime-rib meal for $24.95.

I decide on a pastrami-and-corned-beef sandwich on rye. It's surprisingly dry and lean; I expected, even hoped for, more fat and grease. I barely make it through a glass of Pepsi but I drink several glasses of water -- "I'll get you a bigger glass," my patient server says after the second refill.

The food does the trick; I'm more revived than I thought I'd be, and I begin the walk. I head down toward Budd Lake to see it in the daytime. The community seems neat and friendly; people are out with their dogs and children and putting up Halloween decorations. One yard contains an enormous inflated purple monster that's as tall as the house. Another has a sign that says "Beware of the Dog." There are three, but they're the least-threatening fluffballs I've ever seen. A couple big dogs do startle me, but they're penned in.

I pass the lounge. Brad has done a good job making it red.

I continue along the lake on Sand Shore Road and eventually have to merge back onto U.S. 46. There's a wide shoulder until I reach the end of the lake, and then there's nowhere to walk but in the traffic lane, period. Off the road it's overgrown with grass. I reach the intersection with Wolfe Road and there are a crosswalk and a crossing signal. Why did they bother? Once I've crossed Wolfe I have to walk in the roadway again anyway.

I give up and tramp along the grass; it's slower and uncomfortable, but it's much safer. I pass Amish Mike, a dealer in Amish gazebos, sheds, and patio furniture. I cut through car-dealership lots.

I turn left on Naughright Road, which perhaps wins a prize for being the street name with the most silent letters: It's "NAW-rite," I learn when I ask at the market of the Totten Family Farm. They raise Belted Galloway cattle, sometimes known as "Oreo cows" because they're black at the front and rear with a large white midsection. The farm also deals in honey, chickens, and CBD products for humans and pets. "We grow our own hemp," I hear the staff member telling someone. I buy a package of Uncured Rasputin's Revenge Beef Snack Sticks. They've got just enough zing and a hint of cinnamon.

Farther down Naughright I almost miss the maple tree. It's the prettiest orange I've ever seen in leaves, as brightly colored as carrots or, well, oranges. I stand in front of it for several minutes, my mouth agape. A few minutes later there are more of the same, but the leaves have started to fall off: The top half of each tree is bare; the bright orange clings to the bottom half only.

I turn onto East Springtown Road and contemplate a detour along a trail through Schooley's Mountain Park. It would add only about a mile, but I'm ready to settle in where I'm staying. Also, at the trail entrance a sign says that bow-and-arrow bear hunting is allowed except on Sundays. It's Sunday, so the bears are more likely to be out, I reckon, since they know they're safer today. I do step into the park briefly for a view across George Lake.

I take Camp Washington Road down to Schooley's Mountain Road and reach Long Valley, an unincorporated community of about 2,000 known as German Valley until World War I. It was settled around 1740 by Palatine Germans. My bed-and-breakfast is called the Neighbour House not because of any particular friendliness (although the Israeli owners, Isis and Rafi, are very friendly) but because one of those Germans was Leonhard Nachbar, who anglicized his name as Leonard Neighbour after he arrived by ship in Philadelphia in 1738 and settled in German Valley. The Neighbour House dates from about 1830.

My visit to the Neighbour House as part of a long walk is not that exceptional an event, Rafi tells me. They once had people walking from New York to San Francisco, although that group had others to drive their belongings from place to place. Several people have come through on bicycles. And one couple having an affair uses it as a meeting point, midway between their homes in New York and Pennsylvania.

The bed-and-breakfast has an enormous front lawn and a view of mountains and is next door to a horse farm. My room has a sloping ceiling, a fireplace, and an old-fashioned wooden chair with a writing desk attached to it and a little drawer under the seat.

Long Valley has a cluster of buildings called Restaurant Village. I choose the Long Valley Pub & Brewery, set in a stone barn that housed dairy cattle from its construction in 1771 to the 1940s, when milk-price regulation led farmers to sell off their cattle.

I'm told I can sit anywhere at the bar. This should be easy, because no one is sitting at the bar, but somehow the entire bar area is occupied. Half-eaten dishes are strewn around; these are staff dinners that they pick at during breaks. There are dirty beer glasses and I move one of them away to make room; they remain there throughout my meal.

I'm quite hungry. I start with a special, a short-rib quesadilla that's full of well-seasoned meat. Paying tribute to the town's German heritage, I have a "Best of the Wurst" platter: knockwurst, bratwurst, and weisswurst. They are tasty but have a bit of a sameness about them. The accompanying potato salad has bits of ham and is, surprisingly, warm. I like it. I finish with peanut-butter silk cake, made with chocolate and peanut-butter mousses. All I drink is water.

It's a long ten-minute walk along a pitch-black road back to the Neighbour House; I keep my phone's flashlight switched on and don't try to enforce rules on drivers of oncoming cars. The driveway of the Neighbour House is lit up, though, and soon I'm upstairs and in my cozy room.

Go on to day 5