[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]
We were finished with New York City for the year, but our road trip wasn’t over yet. Our Indiana home was a few states away, and nicer parts of New Jersey had highlights to share with us before we left.
DAY EIGHT — Saturday, July 16, 2011.
Our morning in local news:
* Updates on the week’s ghastly dismemberment and murder of a Brooklyn schoolchild
* An attempted rape at 8th and 35th, not terribly far from our Sunday path
* The supposed advent of Carmageddon on the LA 405
* Mentions of other, lesser felonies in Brooklyn and the Bronx
We weren’t sure if any of these would count as omens for today’s Weehawken departure. On a relatively minor note, I was gratified to see Newark has slow news days.
Before checking out, we walked over to the office food court for one last breakfast. Only one restaurant was open this Saturday morning, presumably because of Saturday not being a standard work day. That didn’t stop the local place from having one solitary employee on the clock. I was grateful he had enough ingredients left to make one last bagel sandwich just for me.
After checkout we reunited with the rental SUV, which had remained dutifully stationed all week long in the hotel parking lot, where I had been using it primarily as the world’s unnecessarily largest spare change holder. The New York City subway system was a marvelous convenience and a swell amusement park ride, but I did miss being in a driver’s seat.
We took in the Manhattan skyline one last time from the New Jersey shore, our farewell to that big, Big Apple that had been so accommodating, so stimulating, so invigorating, and so, so…well, big.
Weehawken had tourist options, but we couldn’t stick around long. Not far down the road was the fancy Weehawken Public Library. Built in 1904 as a private mansion, it’s been the library since 1942.
A few minutes’ drive north of the hotel was a major historical landmark: a marker for the place where Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr faced off in 1804 in two-shot mortal combat.
At the base of the riverside statue sits the actual rock upon which Alexander Hamilton lay his head while dying of duel-action GSW. I’m not sure what protocol was regarding post-duel care and comfort, but sometimes you just have to make the most of your surroundings.
Hamilton’s bust looms large above, lamenting the sins of Aaron Burr. A plaque teaches the history of the moment to those willing to learn. The important lesson here: “honor” can get you killed.
Our final New Jersey stop was at the last New Jersey exit on I-78 to grab breakfast for my son, who we figured had fasted long enough. And we never saw Newark again.
After we switched to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I checked another item off my to-list by stopping at a turnpike service plaza and demanding myself a genuine Nathan’s hot dog. I’d heard so much about them from Anne and the rest of the world that I had to try one for myself before they were once again out of reach. The Nathan’s stand, which also doubled as a generic snack shop, was staffed by two sweet elderly ladies who did the best they could to move the line along. After much waiting and toe-tapping, eventually I was rewarded with my very own official Nathan’s hot dog, with meat and bun and optional toppings and everything.
It tasted like a hot dog. The rotisserie and heat lamps added no secret special qualities that I could discern. Maybe I would’ve been more blown away if I’d spent several hours walking through summer heat first before trying it. Or maybe if it had been the first hot dog of my entire life. I could imagine tribesmen from deepest Africa being overwhelmed by the sensation of sodium-laden processed meat and immediately applying for green cards just to be nearer to a hot dog stand. Me? Meh.
To be continued!
1. When we saw the Hamilton sights back in 2011, there was no wildly acclaimed musical compelling us to seek him out. My wife’s a history buff and wanted to see history stuff. It goes without saying that a few past attractions became retroactively more noteworthy after our time with them.
2. In 2016 I had a second Nathan’s hot dog at a dingy Manhattan food court. Much, much tastier stuff. Now I get it.]
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