After waking up at my own private lake house in Manahawkin, I set sights on Atlantic City. This was a big day. If I made it to AC and no further, I could at least hang my hat on that, but it required putting in my most mileage to date.
Looking to lose weight? Then you should try Countri Biking. For some reason I am not hungry and do not eat during the day, only at dinner.
- Day 1 I had a protein bar and fruit smoothie in Bradley Beach
- Day 2 I struggled through half a breakfast wrap in Lavallette.
- Day 3, today, I pulled over for a Rita’s Ice in Tuckerton and that was it until dinner.
- Day 4, tomorrow, I'll have a terrible milkshake in Margate City and a Dr. Pepper in Marmora. Not exactly breakfast for bike commuter champions. I don’t know why, but I’m just not hungry until after I’m done riding.
Light traffic and increasingly rural landscapes down Route 9 allowed me to relax and ride. However, Route 9 merges with the Garden State Parkway north of Port Republic, forcing cyclists to take out-of-the-way Country Road 542 from New Gretna. Let me tell you, it got real country real quick.
A different reality
Is your view of New Jersey tainted by visions of urban blight, chemical plants and Bridgegate traffic? Mine was. Then I biked a corner of Wharton State Forest, the largest tract of land in the state park system. I didn’t go off road to hike or canoe, but it didn’t matter.
The woods were so serene that all I could hear were the spokes spinning. I marveled at the wingspan of a giant bird taking flight from a nesting site. I was finally at peace with my decision, and rode on the center line to celebrate. No cars, just a blue bike cycling in the wilderness.
Outside Egg Harbor Township, I sensed something. An oncoming Kia turned around to follow me. Who was this? Someone who recognized that the bike didn’t belong in South Jersey, that’s who!
It was Mark, an employee at Citi’s Hoboken office. A cyclist himself, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He stopped to get out of his vehicle, and I welcomed the break in the ride for some human interaction.
Back to civilization
Nature’s gentle rhythms in Wharton State Forest contrasted to major headaches heading into Atlantic City. A combination of fast moving cars and sh*tty shoulder conditions make Route 30 an awful bike ride. It got worse in West Atlantic City, which is surely not part of any state tourism campaign. Seedy motels—one being demolished as I rode by—lined the road along with boarded up bachelorette headquarters and clubs promising all nude dancers.
I’ve never been to Atlantic City. It’s not my idea of fun, and biking there is even less palatable. Yet reaching the city limits was a defining moment of this trip. I gambled and won, but not in any casino. I had created a plan of action, carried it out despite daunting logistics, stayed the course despite mounting doubts, and arrived all the way in Atlantic City more than 100 miles from my docking station near the office at 38th and Broadway. In short, I am bike commuting full time. Doesn't that deserve a #winning?
I rode onto the Pacific Avenue sidewalk and went down the strip searching for a cheap but not hot sheets motel. And not one with an attached cash for gold shop either. Although far from golden, the El Dorado Motel was only a block from the boardwalk and Tropicana Casino. For $70 the bedding was surprisingly nice, but at that rate don’t expect a concierge.
When I asked the front desk clerk about some good authentic AC eats, he pointed to P.F. Chang’s across the street.
“No, I mean something more... only-in-Atlantic-City kind of place, something local and iconic.”
“We don’t have anything like that around here,” he said. “We have McDonald’s down the road.”
I gave up, glanced at TripAdvisor and narrowed it down to Dock’s Oyster House dating back to 1897 or Arctic Avenue's White House Sub Shop since 1946. Dock’s was more expensive and formal and I was just in the mood to stuff my face and get my hands messy.
I ordered half a cheesesteak sub with everything on it, devoured it, and then ordered half an Italian and devoured that, too. It was now 9pm and I didn’t have energy for gambling, strip clubs or whatever else pleasure-seekers do here. I simply wanted to go back to the room and write, which I did until 2am.