There is a Sopranos episode where the city boys coming to the Jersey Pine Barrens find out that doing a mob hit in the wilderness can get much more complicated than expected.
This area of south central New Jersey really does sometimes feel like a wilderness, although in places it is as close as thirty miles to downtown Philadelphia. While bicycling inland from Atlantic City and passing the airport, the topography starts to look similar to rural areas of coastal South Carolina that I had recently visited, even down to the high percentage of pickup trucks. Betsy says that because New Jersey has such limited wilderness areas, they pass laws that restrict development and keep the area wild. On this lonely stretch of highway, I saw a dog standing in the road, not within sight of a house in either direction. From the bicycle, I also saw a snake slither off the road.
The places people live out here also looks a lot like South Carolina.
I will confess that I cheated a little on this ride, and about twenty miles from Central City Philadelphia, I caught the commuter train, so that I could stay in the big city that night, and also avoid bicycling through Camden NJ, described by some as The Most Dangerous City in America. On my cellphone, I bid low on Priceline dot com for an anonymous hotel, and got this art deco gem. It tries hard to seem hip; bicycles in the lobby windows, yoga mats in the rooms.
I had dinner that night at the Dandelion, a gastropub around the corner from my hotel. The British, if they actually invented the gastropub, should be proud of themselves. A pub has always been a warm inviting space, but traditionally the delicious beer was offset by terrible food.
British dishes like bangers and mash, or shepherd’s pie, need not be that different in quality from French dishes like steak frites, if the cooking is done with quality ingredients and careful (French) technique. At the Dandelion, I had welsh rarebit followed by salmon, and it was all delicious; washed down by British import IPA, manually pumped.
Leave a Reply