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Trip 23 -- Diners of New Jersey Walk

Day 11: Mays Landing to Somers Point (The Windjammer)
Sunday, October 25, 2020

Today: 25145 steps/21.08 km/13.10 mi/3h 34m
Total: 407742 steps/325.89 km/202.50 mi/64h 06m

Patience is the theme of the first story on today's "CBS Sunday Morning." It's a quality I've never been known for but tried to develop, and one positive outcome of this year -- though I'd certainly trade it to get back the lives that have been lost -- is that I am more patient than I used to be.

We spend two years of our lives waiting in lines, they say. Seventy percent of people would rather give themselves electric shocks than be bored. Patience is healthy; anxiety can cause the long-term diminution of telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes, which in turn can make the body grow older sooner. "The only thing that gets faster with impatience is aging," says Dr. Amit Sood.

Walking is one way to boost our resilience and remain calm; a stroll through the outdoors improves our moods.

I have to be patient because it's raining; I'm ready to go, but the rain should wind down in an hour or so, so I might as well watch the whole program and enjoy the little nature show that concludes every episode. This time it's elk in Yellowstone National Park. They look awfully patient. The spider on the ceiling of the Minnie Moore room is also patient; it's moved about an inch since I arrived yesterday. A handsome arachnid, I think. It hasn't bothered me.

The steady rain wraps up sooner than I expected. It's still drizzling, so I don the ghostlike poncho and head out. Today's directions are simple: two miles on the imaginatively named Mays Landing-Somers Point Road, then about nine miles on Ocean Heights Avenue and a quick shot down Bethel Road, where I'll pause to do laundry before the last mile and a half to the Econo Lodge in Somers Point.

I soon reach Sugar Hill Subs, "Since 1982" and "Over 1 Billion Sold!" I have to do the math: Forty years in business would mean 25 million a year. That's around 70,000 daily; let's say they're open 12 hours each day. That comes to almost 6,000 an hour. No way are they making a hundred sandwiches a minute, every operational hour of every day.

Maybe they mean calories.

(I fine-tune the math later on. They're open 14 hours a day, so it's really closer to 5,000 per hour. But they're still not making an average of 81 sandwiches a minute.)

The drizzle stops; I leave the poncho on under the assumption that the rain will resume the moment I take it off. I walk an hour and it stays dry.

People do a lot of golfing on Ocean Heights Avenue. It's a long slog with no turns, but it's not unpleasant; other than the golf courses the area is largely residential, and on this chilly Sunday morning people a few people are outside and tending to their lawns or sitting on porches.

I remove the poncho and it soon starts raining again. I put it back on.

Ye Olde Washaus is tucked into a shopping center. All the machines require quarters, even the one that dispenses little boxes of detergent. It's a giant contraption in the center of the room, one that's been built to last. I imagine it was installed when items cost a nickel, and it's been reconfigured over the decades. I insert a dollar in quarters and make sure the lever is positioned over the Tide box I desire; then I turn the crank and it spits out my soap.

There are washers of various sizes and brands. Those at the front are huge and cost $4.75 per load. I see a few that are $2.50, and in one row the machines look old and the displays simply read "20." I have no idea what that means. Two dollars? A 20-minute cycle? Two women are folding clothes, and I ask them for help.

"That's five dollars," one of them says.

Oh, I get it: 20 quarters. I resist the urge to respond with my usual comment -- "Is this machine made of gold?" -- and instead thank her and go back to the $2.50 machines.

Now's the hour; I've got detergent
And my stack of quarters.
Now's the hour to press a cycle,
And I'll start the waters.

[That is a rhyme in New Jersey.]

Washing clothes in Somers Point again,
Washing them the second time.
Public machines, caky lint screens.
Extract the grit and grime.

Washing all the sweat away again.
Sounds just like a metaphor.
Pick your own part, effect a new start.
Compose your chosen score.

Maybe I am reading too much
Into doing laundry.
This is not some pressing matter.
I'm not in a quandary.

[There is a tranquil 21-minute orchestral interlude, at the end of which the machine starts becoming visibly agitated.]

Two minutes more,
Finish the chore.
Then I'll resume my walk!

Washing clothes in Somers Point again.
Washing them at two o'clock.
Now every shirt is free of dirt,
And every brief and sock.

No more filthiness,
No more soils and soots.
No embarrassment
Due to stains and schmutz.
Count it down: tick-tock.

It's a blissfully short cycle, only 23 minutes. I skip the dryer (is this a mark of patience? I'm not eager to spend more time in the Washaus, but I'm happy to let the clothes dry for hours in the room) and instead hang the shirts and spread out the rest when I'm settled into my place at the Econo Lodge. The receptionist asks what brings me to Somers Point. I tell hem about my walk, and he mentions a few rules about my stay.

"There's no smoking in the room," he says. "But you won't be smoking if you're walking."

"Correct, I don't smoke."

"Is someone sponsoring your walk?"

"No, I'm just doing it for myself."

I lay out my clothes and turn the heat on. Across the street is the Windjammer, listed as Diner -- Bar -- Grille on their Web site and signed as Cafe -- Bar -- Grille outside. It certainly looks the part of a diner, with the requisite booths and dessert displays. Mosaics of fish and an anchor confirm my approach to the shore; tomorrow I'll cross the Stainton Memorial Causeway and walk along the coast.

I sit at the bar, where people are watching football. The menu is 1-3-0 and because I've arrived after 3:00, I'm too late for breakfast but just in time for the early-bird specials. I mull them over for a while and then catch the bartender's eye. He inputs a null sale and the machine spits out a slip of blank paper.

"You have to eject paper from the machine to have something to write on?" I ask.

"It's easier than carrying around a book."

"I've never seen anyone do that," I say. "That's brilliant." By brilliant I mean that I need a moment to consider its merit, but it does seem a clever idea. Why lug around paper when you can access a little piece whenever you need it?

I have the broiled-seafood combination, a stuffed shrimp, scallops, salmon, rice pilaf, and sauteed green vegetables. It comes with soup -- options are chicken or pumpkin, and the latter is well-spiced and welcome on this cool, dreary afternoon. It also comes with bottomless coffee, tea, or iced tea -- explicitly not soda. Iced tea hits the spot, and then I throw in a Bloody Mary.

The meal is surprisingly light, even with the dessert of "Jewish apple cake." The bill arrives; it's made out to "Single Guy" and my server is listed as Kathy.

"Am I 'Single Guy'?" I ask. "Or are you?"

"You're 'Single Guy,'" he says.

"And you're Kathy?"

"For now. What's your name?"


"Hi, Seth. I'm Danny."

"Thanks, Danny!" I head back to the Econo Lodge and fall asleep while watching the Patriots-49ers football game, which evidently most of the Patriots sleep through as well judging by their performance, and then I join my parents and cousins for our weekly Zoom chat.

It's brought up that it rained today. "Do you carry an umbrella?" my cousin Gordon asks.

"Never, anywhere. The idea that I would ever walk like this" -- I mime holding an unwieldy cylinder similar in heft to a flagpole -- "is ridiculous."

I see my cousin Julie with her thumb up. I didn't realize anyone in the family other than my brother shared my disdain for umbrellas.

"I think umbrellas are the silliest idea that mankind has ever come up with," Julie says. "But I do have one use for them. If the weather is bad and I'm in a long line, because I'm short, I hold it over my head and I get a little personal space."

"Good for social distancing," I say.

I watch the interviews with the presidential candidates on "60 Minutes" and then I need a drink, so I head over toward the Anchorage Tavern. On the way is Somers Mansion, a three-story house built in the 1720s that alternates long bricks with brick stubs and has a roof that resembles an upside-down ship's hull. It's the oldest known house in Atlantic County. Here, too, there was once a rail line, along the street on which I'm walking, connecting Atlantic City with Ocean City.

The Anchorage Tavern is 132 years old and was a hotel for "fishing parties, sea bathing, hearty food, healthful sea air, and a bay view from the veranda," says the plaque outside. The ordering system is so old-school that when I sit at the bar and order both food and drinks, I have to pay the bartender and the waitress separately.

Guy Fieri was here, and his name endures on the menu with his special combination of the tavern's crabmeat-stuffed flounder and meat-filled cannelloni. As in a diner, I have choices to make with respect to the side dishes. I go for the basic salad, cubed beets, and a sweet potato that comes with a plastic ramekin (that's souffle cup, if you've been paying attention) of brown sugar.

The bartender, Adam, brings me tastes of Somers Point brown ale and Cape May IPA. The IPA is nice and bright -- it's his favorite -- and I commit to a pint. I tell Adam about my walk through the Pine Barrens. "Oh, the Jersey Devil," he says.

I have to look it up. According to local lore, the Jersey Devil is a mythical being that lives in the Pine Barrens, screams, and resembles a two-legged goat with wings. The creature was reportedly the unwanted 13th child of a Pine Barrens resident called Mother Leeds.

We discuss the timing of my trip; I like visiting shore towns in the off-season. He tells me of "shoobies," people who take day trips to the area with their lunches packed in shoeboxes, or perhaps people who store their belongings in shoe lockers on the beach. Whatever the origin, shoobies at the New Jersey coast, like their counterparts in the Hamptons, can be either respectful or disrespectful to the places they're visiting: Some patronize the establishments and clean up after themselves on the beach; others bring their own drinks and leave their trash behind. The best thing shoobies can do, Adam says, is acknowledge that they're shoobies and act considerately.

On my way back to the Econo Lodge, I stop in at Josie Kelly's Public House for a Smithwick's, and I meet Marla and Manny, who are sitting across a very large table from me. Marla deals in real estate; Manny is a runner and is preparing for a 50K run with a friend next weekend. He's from just south of Belfast in Northern Ireland and accordingly friendly and talkative (as is Marla). He gives me his address in Cape May -- complete with the code for the door -- and invites me to stay there Wednesday night even though he won't be present himself. "Just leave things as you found them."

We prove to be on opposite sides politically, but we can concur on the need for certain changes in the country, particularly as they relate to race relations and police reform.

"F--- the police!" Manny says. I'm ready to chime in about reallocating police funds toward social welfare, but he's so emphatic and animated that I'm never able to express what I believe to be something of a general agreement.


Go on to day 12