I just passed the sagging middle of my work-in-progress, so to celebrate–er, rather as to verify some of the locales I wrote about, I decided to take a trip to see how close I came to their reality. Google and Google Earth will only take you so far, and the committed writer shouldn’t ever rely solely on virtual reality over the real thing. So my husband and I packed up the car and headed for coastal Jersey, which to this South Jerseyan, is not the same as the more celebrated Shore. Parts of Southern Coastal New Jersey consist of a vast tidewater region of creeks, rivers, and salt marshes or what what the locals refer to as meadows (“meddas,” as my Piney husband calls them), which are varied and lush as some of their inhabitants are hard-shelled and truly, well, bizarre.
Our first stop was just past Tuckerton near Mystic Islands, in an area we simply refer to as Great Bay Boulevard. It’s a long, straightaway (more or less) though the meadows teeming with fish, crab, egrets, osprey, songbirds, even the occasional eagle, and especially this time of year–April to August–turtles all over the place. In fact, I’ve never seen SO many wild turtles in one place. They were in the water, the reeds and most especially, crawling all over the road. The locals take this mating period quite seriously, and are very protective. Everywhere we saw not only official TURTLE CROSSING roadsigns, but hand-scrawled and painted ones by the dozens. And for the amount of turtles we saw scampering (if that’s what you can call it) across the road, and believe me, they were EVERYWHERE, in two days we only saw one dead. Pretty miraculous if you think about it. We also saw at lot of them swimming in the bay at a place we went for dinner called the Oyster Creek Inn (fabulous) in Leeds Point. And if you don’t know what Leeds Point is legendary for, then I suggest you look it up, or troll old episodes of The X-Files. (An aside: if you have ANY kind of aversion to greenhead flies, do NOT venture anywhere near here. They are huge, vicious, tenacious bastards with wings, and they will hunt you down, then proceed to chaw the skin off your bones. I truly believe this is where the legend of the Jersey Devil began. A photo cannot even begin to do them justice.) I should also mention that all around us the spring flowers were in full bloom. I’m pretty dumb when it comes to naming flora, but I did recognize a profusion of honeysuckle as well as wild rose, plus a bunch of other stuff I won’t embarrass myself trying to name. There was also a lot of pretty good fishing and crabbing around, as I could tell from the amount of people hanging off the bridges that link the various sedge islands. And apparently the shellfish must be doing pretty good as well, as my husband fell into a food coma after a dinner of Barnegat Bay broiled scallops. (A note about the picture to the right: it is the boardwalk below the Oyster Creek Inn where my husband’s arm was nearly chawed off by a greenhead. No sympathy. Kill. Them. All.)
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’ll end this pictorial by letting the snaps below speak for themselves. What follows is what we encountered on Route 9 just past New Gretna. It’s a mansion that sits on the southbound side of the road, but luckily enough has a big enough shoulder on the opposite side, otherwise traffic would surely be snarled. It is out-and-out the purest display of WTF I’ve ever seen, crawling over and atop and in front a seven-foot-high concrete wall. Classic Weird New Jersey. Enlarge, enjoy.