Until last year, I’d not heard of Cape May. It’s a small town at the southern tip of New Jersey, noted for the concentration of Victorian summer homes built by the wealthy of Philadelphia and DC. A good number of them have been renovated and turned into bed and breakfasts. I learned about it last summer from Mark, a fellow I met while biking around Europe. He’s been going there since childhood, and now is restoring his own huge Victorian with his partner. They’ve been at it for several years and probably have a few more to go. He invited us down to see the town, so I proposed timing our trip with the horseshoe crab mating season.
Sure, Jersey has a terrible reputation with the turnpike, sprawl, and industrial wastelands, but I loved the Jersey shore! We spent the night outside of Asbury Park, had a lovely morning stroll on the quiet boardwalk of Bradley Beach, stopped in the tawdry, downtrodden Atlantic City and then followed the endless beach homes down to Wildwood. Wildwood also has a large, lively boardwalk that is tons more fun but just as cheap and cluttered as Atlantic City’s. I could’ve eaten peanuts and hotdogs, tossed some balls for cheap plush toys and rode amusement rides easily all day here. I settled on trying my first (and only) fried Twinkie and being frightened on the log ride with Vic. From here, the sprawling beach towns turn into salt marshes, remnant farms and bird sanctuaries around Cape May.
We never did connect with the birding set in Cape May. There was a conference going on but it cost hundreds of dollars. We certainly saw hints of them around, but between showing up late on Saturday and taking Sunday morning to re-look the houses Mark pointed out to us, we missed the majority of them. At 5 AM on Monday morning though, you would have found Vic and I in the marsh at the point stalking birds and then at Higbee Beach watching horseshoe crabs get washed up in the tide. Seeing their humped shells and tails sticking out of the surf is eerie and would make me think twice about swimming in Delaware Bay. Three types of gulls were hanging about with us waiting for the 10 or so crabs stuck on their backs to die. It was not quite as lively as I thought it would be, and I don’t know if you really do have to go in the middle of the night, but it was awesome to see these things and to actually pass binoculars back and forth with Vic over some mysterious, yet common birds.
On this trip, I learned again that trusting your instinct when traveling and following up with folks you meet on the road can lead to wonderful opportunities. Going to Cape May was awesome, everyday had some food in it that I’d never eaten, and I’ve got a visual for some of those Springsteen songs I love to listen to. And to top it off, when folks talk trash about New Jersey, and I say, “Yo buster, I “heart” the Jersey Shore.” Actually, I’d probably say something a bit more Jerseyesque, obscene and forward, but you get the idea.
Journey to Cape May