"When things are bad, it's the best time to reinvent yourself"
State 41: New Jersey - May 21 - 24, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Wilmington, DE refreshed and excited to get on the road again! Yesterday, we visited the Hagley Museum to learn how gun powder was made, and we could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead! The first task of the day is to drive Southeast to enter the 41st state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; New Jersey: The Garden State. While there is no definitive origin of the motto, it is widely accepted Attorney General Abraham Browning of Camden coined the term in a speech at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia on August 24, 1876. In Browning’s address, he said;
“New Jersey is an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanian's grabbing from one end and the New Yorker's from the other”.
New Jersey has been known as the Garden State ever since! While most may not associate New Jersey with “gardens”, in actuality agriculture is the state’s third-largest industry worth over a billion dollars annually! Will New Jersey’s bountiful harvest inspire the Cross Country Couple to call the state our new home? As vegetarians, Nate and I love fruits and veggies, and cannot wait to begin to our week of exploration in New Jersey!
After spending the past three days discovering Southern New Jersey, today we drive 87 miles Southeast to the Cross Country Couple's "Can’t Miss Attraction" for New Jersey the “Atlantic City Boardwalk”. Incorporated on May 1, 1854, Atlantic City is a nationally renowned resort city best known for gambling, shopping, fine dining, boardwalks, beaches, candy stores and beauty pageants. In 1976, New Jersey voters approved gambling in Atlantic City, and today it is second only to Las Vegas as the biggest gaming market in the US. Atlantic City has been the home of the Miss America Pageant since 1921, and the cities' street names provided the inspiration for the board game Monopoly!
Neither Nate nor I are fans of gambling, beauty pageants, shopping or fine dining, and we sure as hell did not come to Atlantic City to play Monopoly. The Cross Country Couple had come to explore the first and oldest beach boardwalk in the Unites States! Opened on June 26, 1870, the Atlantic City Boardwalk begins at Absecon Inlet in the North, runs along the beach Southwest to the city limit four miles away, and continues another 1 1⁄2 miles into Ventnor City. The boardwalk serves as the main artery for the casinos, convention halls, hotels, resorts, retail stores, restaurants, amusement parks and more.
The 90+ degree temperature and high humidity prevented me from walking the entire length of the boardwalk, so I limited my exploration to a mile stretch between the Showboat Hotel and Hard Rock Café. I also visited on a Thursday during the day to avoid any unsavory people or uncomfortable situations. Please see the pictures below of my stroll along America’s oldest boardwalk.
While embarking on a leisurely stroll down the beautiful boardwalk, I came across the Cross Country Couple’s: “Famous Food” for New Jersey; Salt Water Taffy. Salt water taffy is a soft chewy candy typically consisting of sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, water, salt, butter, glycerine, food coloring, and natural and/or artificial flavors. Although salt water taffy comes in hundreds of flavors and varieties, some of the most common include: vanilla, lemon, maple, banana, red licorice, watermelon, raspberry, peppermint, strawberry, key lime and many more. Just for the record, salt water taffy is not made with sea water.
Over the past year, I have traveled; down the West Coast, up the East Coast, across the Gulf Coast, around the Great Lakes, and all across America! If there is one type of store each and every beach town has in common, it is the candy shop! Nate and I do not have much of a sweet tooth, so we typically do not patronize such places. However, there was something very historic about the candy shop we encountered on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
While most agree salt water taffy was invented in Atlantic City, the exact circumstances surrounding its creation remains subject to a variety of local legends. According to the most widely accepted story, a severe storm flooded a candy shop along the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1883. The next day, the shop's owner found his entire stock of taffy soaked with sea water. While the owner was drying off the candy, a young girl approached the shop wanting to buy some taffy. “You mean salt water taffy?”, the shop owner sarcastically replied. People loved the new candy, the name stuck, and the rest is history.
No one person did more to promote this newly popular confection than Joseph Fralinger. In 1884, Fralingers took over an existing taffy stand, perfected his salt water taffy recipe, and developed over 25 new flavors! Fralingers began selling one pound variety packs to Atlantic City resort visitors, and by 1899 salt water taffy had become a household name. The one pound variety box of salt water taffy is still Fralinger’s best seller! Today, salt water taffy can be found for sale online, and in almost any candy store across America. However, it all began over 125 years ago on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Please see the pictures below of our visit to at Fralinger's Salt Water Taffy Store.
Since the ingredients in salt water taffy contains food coloring, corn syrup, and artificial flavoring, I opted to select just a few small pieces. With dozens of interesting varieties available, I had a hard time choosing which flavors to choose. In the end, I opted for one of each of the following: banana, chocolate, root beer, peppermint, vanilla, PB&J, sour cherry, pina colada, blueberry, and watermelon. Since it was blistering hot on the boardwalk, I returned to Rosie to eat my salt water taffy. I cannot even recall the last time I had salt water taffy, and I greatly feared my fillings would come loose! Nate's favorite was peanut butter and jelly, and his least favorite flavor was peppermint. My favorite was root beer, and my least favorite was tart cherry. With all of the poor quality ingredients, salt water taffy is not something I would eat again. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to partake in an all American candy native to New Jersey. As you can tell from the pictures below, chewing the salt water taffy was quite the workout!
Between the cost of street parking and purchasing a small sampling of salt water taffy, the Cross Country Couple spent $7.21 during our day in Atlantic City! Not too shabby if I do say so myself! Although I have not previously visited Atlantic City, I have heard plenty of horror stories of corruption, violent crime, prostitution, urban plight, poverty, hustlers, panhandlers, and more. I always try to remain open minded about each new place I encounter, but I did not have high expectations for Atlantic City.
What I actually discovered during my stroll down the boardwalk shocked me! The beaches were vast, clean and beautiful. The boardwalk was sturdy, well maintained and both the biggest and widest I have encountered! Along the side of the boardwalk were adirondack chairs to rest, and overhead outdoor speakers piping in tasteful music as you walked along. I saw no creepy people or shady individuals, and there was an ample police presence both on bike and on foot. I never once felt in danger! I have seen dozens upon dozens of beach towns, and Atlantic City hands down has the best boardwalk in America, and the beach was among the top five I have encountered. Atlantic City is not all that bad of a place, and certainly not as bad as people make it out to be.
With that said, Atlantic City desperately needs to re-brand, revitalize, and reinvent itself! Gaming revenue has declined month after month, and year after year, resulting in casino’s going out of business one by one. Most equate Atlantic City to gambling, and gambling has clearly taken the city as far as it can go. The casualties of decades of economic decline are clearly evident. While the beach and boardwalk were beautiful, vacant lots surrounded by chain link fences, abandoned buildings with graffiti and an endless sea of run down souvenir shops were quite the eyesore. Although things may currently seem bleak, remember Atlantic City: is home to America’s first boardwalk, invented saltwater taffy, is home the Miss America pageant, and provided the street names on the Monopoly board game. Atlantic City has repetitively overcome economic adversity over the past 150 years, and I have little doubt the future will be bright and sunny for the resort city on New Jersey’s Southern shore.
After departing Atlantic City, we drove 50 miles North to Lanoka Harbor where we found a Walmart to spend the night.