Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tacks on the road and bicycle racing go way back. A belated tip of the cycling cap to the TdF

Perhaps you've heard that during one of the later stages of this year's Tour de France a misguided "fan" sprinkled the road with tacks and took out a number of competitors, support cars and media motor scooters.  Although the outcome was not altered, the makers of Stella Artois remind us that nothing is new under the sun.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Roadside New Jerseyana; Exhibit 1

As one travels the road of life one sees many curious sights.  From time to time I pull over, wind down the window and snap a pix of the strange, the whacky and the sometimes downright tacky sights encountered along the way.  New Jersey has a seemingly endless and rich array of  weird stuff.  Today's entry features the "hubcap tree" of Williamstown.  I passed it yesterday on the way to another south Jersey winery.

This hubcap tree is a local landmark along the stretch of Route 322 which is part of the old Black Horse Pike.  It's been here for years.  I've often wondered why anyone would buy a hubcap that already has a bad track record of not wanting to stay on its original wheel.

Monday, July 16, 2012

NJ winery tour

A few representatives from yesterday's outing.  There are 35 wineries registered with the Garden State Wine Growers Association.  If you can get to all of them within a year and get them to stamp their page in the "passport" I think you get some sort of small prize for the effort.  Perhaps a matching pair of Kabuki kewpie dolls.

Back during our two week vacation, at the end of June, diaristwoman and I spent a rainy day touring three wineries in the Cape May area.  The wine growers association of course wants us to visit them all and we're gamely giving it a go.  This past Saturday we ticked three more wineries off the list.  Since many of the wineries are in the southern end of the state it shouldn't be too hard to do this.  The ones that are located way up in the northwest corner of the state will require a dedicated trip or two.  Of course the association has a website which you can peruse:

We started the afternoon with a stop at Bellview Winery.  I was a little hesitant because I associate the name "Bellview" with the well known mental hospital!

The tasting room however was very inviting.  As was the case with the three wineries we visited back in June, Bellview charges $5.00 per person to taste their offerings.  For the price one generally gets to keep the stemware with which one samples the wines on offer.  In this case, although there were several wines which we found pleasant, the prices were on the high side and only a cranberry-based novelty wine (it will make a refreshing hot afternoon spritzer when mixed with club soda) caused me reach for my wallet so we pressed on to the next winery which was only a few minutes away.

Coda Rossa apparently means "red tail" in Italian and is a reference to the red tail hawks that lurk in the vineyard of this winery.

Coda Rossa has attractively landscaped gardens leading to the tasting room.  One can see some of the vines in background.  Some of  Coda Rossa's wines come from their own grapes while others, although fermented at the winery are derived from California grapes.  A nice aspect of this winery is that their don't charge a fee to sample and they pour with a generous hand.  And sample we did!

I was smitten with two of the wines: the Tempesta, a full bodied red (a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet & merlot grapes) from their own vines and also a very pleasant 50/50 blend of California Barbera and Petite Sirah grapes.  I bought six bottles which gave me a 10% discount and this handy six compartment bag to carry my booty to the wagon.  The discount dropped the cost per bottle to less than $14.00 which your diarist thought was good value for the money.

Auburn Road Vineyards, just west of Woodstown, NJ was our last stop of the day.

The tasting room is at the end of this inviting shady graveled lane.

Although the exterior of the tasting shed looked serene, inside it housed a noisy party atmosphere which made it difficult to concentrate on the task of wine sampling.  Tasting was free (your choice of three wines).  We sampled several that were drinkable but the prices, like those at Bellview were not competitive with the real world.  I bought a single bottle of their "Rustica" red table wine (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes) and we soon left.
So, between our two excursions we've ticked off six wineries out of thirty five.  Only twenty nine more to go--if this was a bigger state I'd probably need a liver transplant!

Friday, July 13, 2012

A walk on the wild side: to the north end of Brigantine

At our last installment our hero and heroine were about to embark on a walk to the north end of the island.  Let us pick up the thread: Diaristwoman was interested in getting a good look at the City's Observation Platform which I assume was built for birders.  However I do know that it's also used for other purposes such as an annual ham radio operator's demonstration.

The Observation Platform; used by birders and hams.

Although the platform can be accessed from a sandy road, inland, unfortunately one can't get to the platform from the beach.  My bride's displeasure can be read by her "hands on hips" body language.

Well, one could get there if one was prepared to hike through a lush stand of poison ivy.

So close but so far away.  The observation platform marks the limit of the City's reach into the wild beach.  Beyond this point the island is safely part of a  wildlife refuge.
This Herring Gull is glad of that!

A Natural Area--perhaps we'll encounter some naturalists (not to be confused with naturists...)

The beach was blissfully empty.

We passed the remains of an old wooden jetty.  The worn, black stumps of the pilings remind me of a mouth full of rotting teeth.  Years ago Brigantine had many similar wood jetties built in an attempt to stabilize the beaches.  The ones on the developed part of the island have now either buried themselves below the sand (the original intention) or have been removed because of the carcinogenic nature of the creosote used to preserve the pilings in those days.

As I walk along I always keep an eye open for interesting shells.  This razor clam caught my eye.

Midway on our walk we saw this dead bayberry "forest".  I'm unsure of what caused this die-off but I suspect it was due to salt water intrusion caused when Hurricane Irene came ashore last year.

Without the interference of humans the wind shapes the dunes and decorates the sand with dried reeds as it chooses.
Parts of the wild beach are closed even to foot traffic.

Don't take my word for it; read for yourself.  While it's OK to continue walking along the beach, ya can't go inland beyond this fence.

This diamondback terrapin became quite defensive as I attempted to take his picture. Perhaps he's Amish.

He was soon on the move again once he decided that I was just a nosy tourist.

As we approached the tip of the island the gull population increased.

Diaristwoman succeeded in capturing a close up of this brown Pelican.  He was one of three we saw.

At the north end one can see the water tank and other structures of Holgate in the distance.  Holgate is a community which forms the last few blocks of the town of Beach Haven which in turn is one of several towns along the southern end of Long Beach Island.  LBI is the next inhabited barrier island north of Brigantine.

Pullen Island is a small, uninhabited island in between Brigantine and LBI.  We used to sail our boats up from the yacht club and have picnics on Pullen Island.  Some members would also camp on the island after a couple of hard frosts in late fall knocked the bugs down to a tolerable level.  Now Pullen Island is completely restricted as a nesting area and you can't even beach a boat.
The inlet between Brigantine and Pullen Islands is unsurprisingly called Brigantine Inlet.  Unlike Absecon inlet at the south end of Brigantine, this inlet is marked "closed" on navigation charts because the Coast Guard makes no attempt to mark or maintain the channel which links the ocean to the bay at the north end of our island.  The sandbar in the inlet constantly changes depth and position but knowledgeable watermen can successfully shoot the cut as the next few photos of a boat moving through the inlet will show.

This boat is approaching the inlet from the bay side.

At first he splits the difference between the two islands.

Note the different shades of water color.  The water at this point of the inlet is a bit deeper over by Pullen this year.

At mid channel he cuts back towards the Brigantine side, but not too close!

The waves are breaking to his port and there's brown water to starboard.  The crew has an anxious moment as the skipper gives the depth sounder a close look.

The crew visibly relaxes once Rambler is over the bar, on the ocean side.

Continuing along we spot several types of seaweed.  I can't identify this one.  Anyone know?

I think this one is called Witch's Hair but I'm probably wrong.

This photo proves that oil pollution caused by ships pumping their bilges too close to shore is still common.  When I was a kid it was so bad that my brother and I had to wipe the tar off our feet with kerosene before we were allowed in the house.  Now the black stuff doesn't stick to your feet but it no doubt has a negative impact on the island's wild life.

A still life:  a whelk egg case with sea lettuce (I know sea lettuce when I see it!) and the red-brown seaweed seen in the earlier pix.

It's very peaceful here. Just the crash of the waves and the cries of the gulls.  Atlantic City with its hectic traffic and casinos seems a long way off.

Monday, July 9, 2012

F.L. Abbott Sailboats

Francis L. Abbott, better known as Fran to his many friends and customers, established a boat building and repair shop at 200 West Avenue in Ocean City, New Jersey after being discharged from the Coast Guard at the end of the second world war.  In the early 1950s Fran built perhaps two dozen well built Moth Boats from his own design.  The boat which Bill Boyle has recently restored is one of those.   Fran passed away several years ago but his widow Ester, helped by their daughters Kay and Caroline have kept the business going offering a reduced range of services and hardware.  Sadly, the time to sell off this long standing oasis for small boat sailors has come.  We knew that sooner or later this day would arrive but that doesn't diminish the loss of F. L. Abbott for the south Jersey sailing community.

As a teen-ager I bought my first boat from Fran, a nail sick old Ventnor Moth for the lofty sum of $172.00 (I still have the receipt).  The price included delivery from Ocean City to the Brigantine Yacht Club, installation of a sea cock in the transom, a new traveler bridle and a new "life" cushion--nobody actually wore life vests or jackets in those days, in fact most of us used the cushions as a convenient place to lash the 2 1/2 lb Danforth anchor and 50 feet of 1/4" line that all racers had to carry in those days (I placed the anchor on top of the cushion and wrapped the line around both; the cushion was useful in that it kept the anchor from dinging the varnish on the floor boards and also would float and thus prevent the loss of the pricey ($2.50) anchor if the ensemble went over board during a capsize.  No one lost much sleep worrying about the loss of the skipper).  Today's post offers a few photos to mark the passing of an era.

Like your favorite watering hole, this boat shop hasn't changed a bit since I first saw it in 1959.

F. L. Abbott has occupied this address right from the beginning.

Say it ain't so.  The phone number is O. C. 2424 on my old bill of sale for that poor ol' Ventnor Moth.

Fran's old boat (not a Moth) is still suspended in the front room as if waiting for her owner.  The display case used to be crammed full of  Race-Lite fittings, which back in the late '50s were state of the art.  Note the line of Danforths in the window.

This small side court used to be filled with used Moth Boats for sale by consignment.  I used to get up early (5 am) and ride the fifteen miles from Brigantine to Ocean City just to see what was for sale. At the time of the day I'd arrive nobody was around and the shop was closed but that didn't matter.  I'd look at the boats for fifteen minutes and then head for home.  Today if a kid did that he'd probably be arrested for casing the joint.  The reason for the early depart was that bicycles could use the Atlantic City broadwalk until 10 am and so I could avoid most of the city streets if I was quick about my visit.  As a kid I typically dressed rough and my old rusty balloon tire, single speed bike wasn't much to look at either. I still remember when the toll collector on the bridge connecting Longport with Ocean City told me I didn't have to pay the 10 cent toll if I'd be a good lad and throw some broken bottles that drunks had tossed out of their car in the middle of the bridge over the side!  I didn't argue with the man, hell a dime was a dime in those days.

"Cash No Cards".

Among other things, Fran was an early Sailfish and Sunfish distributor.  When Alcort couldn't keep up with the demand for replacement parts Fran made patterns for rudder blades and centerboards and made better ones than what the factory were producing.  This of course pissed off Alcort--typical of a large, short sighted and self absorbed company.  They should have embraced Abbott rather than having their lawyers tell him to knock it off.  So, there it is then.  One can peer in the windows and still see all of Fran's gear, the nicopress tools, the saws, the jars of misc. screws, etc. all where he last left them, but not for long.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Walk to the End of Civilization: Walking North on Brigantine Beach, Part 1.

Last year I took you on a beach walk to the south end jetty.  This time we'll head north.  For the first part we'll stick close to civilization as we go from 22nd Street South to the end of development at 14th Street North.  In part 2, once diaristwoman catches up, we'll head onto the "wild" beach which is part of a wild life refuge.

Heading through the familiar cut in the dune all seems as it should.

But what's all this?  A bit of logging has taken place of the north side of the cut.
It seems that some people don't like their expensive view cluttered by dune stabilizing trees.  Ordinarily the City wouldn't permit tampering with dune vegetation but the rationale offered in this case is that the black pines are an "invasive" species.  Hmmm....

Apparently black pines are not an invasive species on your diarist's side of the cut.  A good thing since I planted most of them!  I remember after the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962 leveled the dunes that the City begged residents to place their Christmas trees, etc. on what was left of the dunes in order to trap sand and thereby encourage dune stability.  We did that over the years plus we planted any seedlings that popped up our gardens.  I've had about a 50% success ratio with the little trees I've put up there.  Perhaps I should stop caring about the dunes now.  Such things seem out of date in this era of McMansions replacing cottages bought as tear-downs.  Rant over.

The old hotel is our first objective as we walk north.

If one walks a beach often enough, one learns to navigate by keeping track of the different roofs of the beach front houses.  The boxy flat topped house on the extreme left is at 20th Street South.  The house with the red terracotta roof, second from the right, is on 19th Street South.  The street numbers decrease as we walk north until we come to 2nd Street South.  Roosevelt Blvd intervenes and thereafter the numbers increase from 2nd Street North to 14th Street North--the end of civilization.
It's mid-morning and heavy construction is about to commence.

The old Brigantine Hotel, now the "Legacy Vacation Club", rests at the foot of 14th Street South and was built during the land boom of 1927, just two years before the great depression.  It's a lovely, quirky old sand castle of a structure and is the tallest building on the island.

No beach walk is complete without an appreciative glance at a surf boat.  Lovely lines, don't you think?

Passing 8th Street South, the twin bell towers of St. Thomas Church peek over the dune.
This example of the iconic "Stonehenge" style of pillar and mote castle construction was spotted at about 5th Street South.

One hopes that these kayakers are paying attention to the building off-shore wind.  The west wind is predicted to increase to 25 knots by the afternoon.  The next bit of real estate to the east is Portugal.

As we approach the Promenade the beach becomes much narrower.  The flagpole marks the intersection of Brigantine Blvd. and 14th Street North.

The view south from the Promenade.

Zooming back towards the south.  The old Brigantine Hotel is dwarfed by the new Revel Casino (building with the swoopy roof line behind the Hotel).  Just as a point of perspective, the Revel is actually about three miles beyond the hotel, across Absecon Inlet on the next island, in Atlantic City.

Compare the view to the south with its buildings, people and beach umbrellas to this view from the Promenade of the undeveloped beach to the north.  The City controls about another 10 blocks or so of this piece of the island.  The remaining two and a half miles are part of a federal wildlife refuge administered by the state of New Jersey.

I told diaristwoman I'd wait for her by this pay per view binocular.

Do these things ever work or do they just gobble quarters?

My bride has arrived.  She's never been out to the tip and asked me how much farther it is to the north end of the island.  I lied and told her "it's not that far."  Our exploration of the wild beach starts at the bottom of this ramp.  Join us on the next post for part 2 of this walk.