Sunday, May 31, 2009

Write Break

Hey folks. Just wanted to pop my head in and say I'm taking a mini break from the blog. My brain is fried from the big deadline I hit on Thursday (I call it "writing hangover" where you work and work and work and once it's done, you turn into a blob).

But, more importantly, I just learned that my great uncle has passed away, so there's some traveling to be done. I'll check back in shortly.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Your Shore Weekend

I'm packing. Again. This makes weekend four of five away from home -- yes, in a row. Oy. The good news is that the big article that took me away from home most of those weekends is now done and sitting with my editor (I won't say completely done because it needs to be edited, and I'm sure there will be changes).

I'm also headed to Book Expo America on Friday for Jen's version of Disney World: hundreds of publishers lined up in a row for me to talk to and ask what they're publishing in the near future (I also review books when not down the shore -- or at the shore, but not writing about it). Then I'm off to AC via the ACES Train to AC. But more on that after the shore schedule.

WXPN is hosting what looks like could be great concert at the Showboat's House of Blues: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin and Buddy Miller sound good to me.

Over in Ocean City, the Lu Lu Shrine concert band is playing at the Music Pier at 8pm. FREE

Ocean City's Restaurant Week started on Thursday. I haven't posted about it because, to be honest, I'm not buying this claim that Ocean City is one of the best places in the country to open a restaurant. You can't even BYOB in town, and that's not exactly opening up the door to high class eateries. It's also pretty dead in the winter. I'm sure someone's going to yell at me in the comments, but it is what it is. Anyway, if you like eating in Ocean City, you should check it out. I like OC, but it's not my first choice for dining.

Blue Magic's giving a free concert from noon to dusk at Gardner's Basin in Atlantic City. FREE

Start laughing: Jay Leno and Wanda Sykes are at the Borgata and Joan Rivers is at the Hilton. If I had to pick? Rivers, hands down.

The Ocean City Boardwalk Spring Family Fun Fest starts today on the boardwalk from 9 am to 6pm. It'll run on Sunday, too, at the same times.

Heritage and Sea Isle City hold their surf tournament on Saturday.

Vroom Vroom. The Spring Thunder on the Sand Motorcross Pro/Am is in Wildwood this weekend -- both Saturday and Sunday.

Aside from driving home? Check out the Ocean City and Wildwood weekend events that extend into Sunday.

Now -- after I pick up way too many books than I can carry home from Book Expo America, I will be headed to Penn Station to catch the ACES train to Atlantic City. I'm not happy with having only two options for departure times: 2:28pm or 8:17pm. Those are the only two times offered on Fridays. I know it's a new train, but if this thing is going to work, that's got to change. The ACES folks still aren't releasing ridership numbers, spinning that "the train isn't supposed to be profitable" which leads to me believe it's not exactly packed (I'll be doing a head count -- TRUST ME). But it is convenient to get me from NYC to AC even though I have to leave my conference early or else not get into AC until 11pm.

The plan was for Bill to pick me up and we'd go to dinner at the Knife & Fork Inn then drive down to Sea Isle. That somehow morphed into staying overnight at the Chelsea (shocking cheap rates helped the cause). Then we added on a possible visit to C5, the Chelsea's new club, into the mix.

So maybe in a way the ACES train worked. If it wasn't there, I'd be heading back to Philly after my conference and then driving right down to Sea Isle. But those two departure times? ACES folks, lean on NJ Transit to change that, or else I don't know that this thing is going to work the way it could.

**UPDATE** A few friends insist I check this out. Apparently, he likes C5. If this is the scene I walk into on Friday night? Oy. I'll pass and head to Firewaters. I hope that it's an exaggeration, like everything else he seems to write about. It doesn't mash everything else I've experienced at the Chelsea. We'll see...

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News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Awful: shift manager at the Trump Taj Mahal was shot and killed yesterday.

That "what's she's famous for?" person was at the Pool at Harrah's on Saturday night. Not feeling the background there.

The North Wildwood writers conference is June 2 and 3 (maybe my invitation was lost in the mail? ;-) )

AWESOME blog by a Jersey Shore limo driver. My favorite line: "I picked up a bunch of loud mouthed trampy types and their drooling men (Sorry, drunk shoobies from PA). The bass was pumping, the girls were thumping, but nobody was humping in the back."

Not a shocker, but tourists had no information this weekend about the Tracy Hottenstein case.

Another update on Strathmere's attempt to detach itself from Upper Township (another hat tip to Jason Nark-- also a Bellmawr, NJ native like myself -- for this one).

Not sure how I feel about this post -- is Sea Isle City really like Belmar? (and thats BELMAR, not the aforementioned BELLMAWR -- get it straight).

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Surrey Race?

With all this talk about triathlons, I joked that someone should do the bike part of one such shore race in a surrey -- those big group bike things that trundle along the boardwalk all summer long.

Funny idea. But could the "Down the Shore with Jen Surrey Race" actually be happening this year? Maybe. I've approached one town about doing one this summer, and they like the idea but have to talk to a surrey provider and local police first (the first for insurance reasons and the second because part of the boardwalk would need to be shut down for the race).

So let me ask you this question: if there were to be a surrey race in, say, August, would you participate?

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cop Shop

I'm still slamming on a deadline coming up at the end of the week, so while I'm typity type type typing away, check out this article from the New York Times about how Sea Isle bulks up its police force in the summer.

Shesh, do they need it. Last weekend was the first time I've been out in Sea Isle in a while, and the crowds were nuts. I made it to The OD on Sunday (and the "Got Lemonade" party on Monday), and yikes. Did I act like that in college?

Don't get me wrong -- I had a great time, but the sheer number of absolutely blitzed people in one room was eye opening. It's amazing that incidents like what happened to Tracy Hottenstein don't happen MORE often given how many people I saw drinking themselves into oblivion.

I don't want to sound too preachy. I certainly indulged this weekend, but part of me wanted to pull aside the girls grinding on any man that moved and give them a glass of water, point to the Hottenstein flyers that were plastered all over the bar, and say "take a lesson from what happened here and be careful."

Oy, I'm getting old.

Oh, and to the group with the Sh*tster shirts on -- I'm in the background of a bunch of your pictures. Just a heads up in case you're wondering who that stranger is smiling in the background.

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Wrap Up

After a fun fun and busy busy weekend at the shore, I'm back at my desk in the ol' Collingswood and attempting to catch up. I only have one story due this week (phew), but it's a whopper. I'm also headed to Book Expo America on Friday in New York City, which should be fun (has been for the last three years). I'll also be taking the ACES Train from NYC to AC, which should be interesting -- I haven't ridden it "in season" just yet.

While I get back on track, check out these two articles I wrote for Metro, Philadelphia's free daily newspaper.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tri Tri Tri for our Vets

My day started at 6am this morning. Bill was up and ready and eager to go for the second annual Sea Isle Tri for our Vets. I've never watched a triathalon, so I was curious to see what it was like -- turns out, a big show.

Congrats, Matt McCulley (guy in the first picture), for doing a great job (and I know you want me to compete next year -- I can't swim. Maybe the duathon. If I finally buy a bike).

Afterwards, we checked out the VFW in Sea Isle for post-race drinks, and then Bill took a nap that he well deserved. We stepped out for a moment in Sea Isle last night, but I think we're going to go out-out with a group of friends this evening. I haven't been out-out in Sea Isle in a while, so this should be interesting. I'll try to remember my camera. Stay tuned!

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Shore Shots

Who watches Arrested Development? That shot's for you -- taken yesterday outside a Cape May shop.

Lovely day down the shore yesterday. It was a busy one for me, too. I'm up early this morning to help out with the Sea Isle Tri for our Vets -- lots of fit looking people at the Wawa this morning.

Until then, a few pics from my adventures yesterday. This is the new coffee shop/bakery/ice cream parlor at Congress Hall. Great coffee. Bill says the cookies are excellent, too.

This is Holy Mackerel, a new ocean front restaurant in Wildwood Crest:

And a lovely bride coming down the boardwalk aisle in Wildwood:

It's looking to be another great day. I'm off to the tri!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Mid-Day Report

Hello from Cape May (still!) I'm wrapping up my day here, which unfortunately did NOT involve any beach time. But I had a great interview (that involved an impromptu trip to a farm), learned that Justin Timberlake might be staying at the Chelsea in Atlantic City tonight, and saw the crowds and excitement for the upcoming weekend jump. Had a great lunch at Congress Hall, too, which now has an ice cream/coffee bar/bakery inside its Tommy's Folly shop. Lots of GREAT stuff going on.

Off to ride up the Ocean Drive. Final stop: Sea Isle!

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Shore Driving Tips

Hello from Cape May! Lovely down here right now, though a bit chillier than in the Philadelphia region, especially at night. So if you're still throwing things into your overnight bag, make sure to include jeans and some long sleeved tops.

I drove down during the evening hours of last night, and was a bit shocked by the heavy traffic on Route 42. I know it's the day before a holiday weekend, but I thought those crowds would have dispersed by 8pm. Apparently not. It'll be a parking lot during Friday Rush Hour, though -- good luck if you've got to make it through. It gets better after Ocean City. Promise.

I thought about that drive a lot as I zipped down the AC Expressway to Exit Zero of the Garden State Parkway. I'm used to putting the car on cruise control the whole way. Not during the summer season. So here's a few tips for your drive tomorrow (or any other shore day).

1. If you're driving 70 miles per hour, get out of the left lane. Yes, that's 5 MPH over the speed limit, but who listens to that posted sign? For the good and safety of the drivers around you, GET TO THE RIGHT. Seventy is not fast enough to warrant the fast lane, especially in the two-lane part of the AC Expressway, especially with impatient drivers.

2. I don't care if the car in front of you has a DVD on. Do not follow close. I saw two Escalades with movies tonight (also breaking the 70 MPH-in-left-lane rule). They both had people close enough behind them that they were either tailing or watching along with Sponge Bob or whatever rich kids watch these days. It's not safe. Also, parents, is it that long to keep the kids away from TV, too? Turning the thing off might be safer for everyone, too.

3. If you do not have EZ Pass, make sure that your toll money is out and counted BEFORE YOU START DRIVING. I saw many cars either tapping on breaks or slowing down as they rooted for dollars and change as they approached the toll booths. Again, not safe. The AC Expressway Toll is $3 each way. The Garden State Parkway Toll is $1 each way. Plan ahead.

4. If the cluster of cars in front of you all hits the breaks at the same time, they're probably slowing because they see a police car in the bushes. Heed their warning and save yourself a ticket.

5. Be nice to the truckers. I'm sure they're not anxious to be driving on a busy weekend, and they have a lot more space to haul than you do. As for the tour busses...well, it's probably in your best interest to be nice to you or else you'll get buzzed or pushed off the road by one. I've had that happen to me three times. They're mean, but unlike a fight with a school bully, this one could get you killed.

6. Be nice to the locals once you roll into town. Imagine how you'd feel if the population of your home time grew 10 fold in one day. Yes, shore towns rely on tourism to pump up their economies, but people still live there year round. Think about that before blocking in a driveway.

7. Look out for runners/walkers/bikers, especially when turning in and out of driveways. I was almost hit TWICE this morning running past a 7-11 because people weren't looking (and I was on the sidewalk and slowed to a walk).

8. If you happen to see a young woman who's been stuck in a space at a Wawa parking lot for five minutes, yet decide you can't wait yourself and give her the "wait a minute" sign, don't be shocked when she gives you the middle finger back. Because you're rude.

I'm spent last night at the Grand Hotel of Cape May, which I picked because of the orange jacket incident. It's a servicable beach hotel -- nothing fancy, but across the street from the ocean, and clean. I have a balcony and a view of that ocean too. I'll be headed up to Sea Isle later, where I'll be anchored the rest of the weekend.

It's getting busy around here -- lots of activity last night, like kids cramming for an exam, all to be ready for today. So enjoy your drive down, and be nice to those people stuck in Wawa parking lots!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Your Shore Weekend

Bringing you Your Shore Weekend a day early so you can plan ahead. It'll be a busy one -- obviously. Let's just hope the weather doesn't start crying all over the place.

You'll notice a few changes, too -- instead of organizing by town, I'm organizing events by day. If it's free, I say that in nice big capital letters.

KITES! We've got KITES! The Wildwoods International Kite Festival dresses up the skies for the weekend. Watch for FREE. Stick around, too, for the night flight on Friday at 9pm.

In Atlantic City, we've got the Official Unveiling of “And They Marched On: Atlantic City Veterans, A Photo Exhibit.” The opening ceremony will take place at 10 am at the All Wars Memorial Building, 1510 Adriatic Avenue. FREE

Penn & Teller are doing some sort of stunt on the Atlantic City Boardwalk at 2pm. Check it out at Bally's and the Boardwalk. FREE

You can leave your hat on for this one -- and your suit, too: the Business Person Plunge will happen at noon in Ocean City to kick off the holiday weekend. FREE

Tri for our Veterans is taking place in Sea Isle. I will be running part of the course on behalf of injured vets (I hang out in the transition area and run their time chips in -- or something like that. All I know is I'll be doing a mean set of 50 yard dashes). What does this mean for you if you're in Sea Isle? Well, registration is closed, so you couldn't sign up at this point. But you'll find traffic changes, and the chance to watch some major athletes competing in the city (for FREE). Good luck to Bill, who's doing the race this year. RUN/SWIM/BIKE LIKE HERON.

A free concert featuring headliner BLUE MAGIC as well as various local bands will entertain at Gardners Basin from 12 to Dusk. A host of vendors will be on hand. FREE

Trump Plaza is holding a Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at the Beach Bar at 2pm. SO MAD I COULDN'T JUDGE. They did ask, but I can't be in two places at once. Sigh. Must clone twin. FREE

Kim Kardashian will be appearing at the Pool at Harrah's Saturday night. Why? I don't know. Who will pay to get in to see her? Beats me, but it is what it is.

Billy Ray Cirus plays the Atlantic City Hilton.

Buckcherry will be at the House of Blues at the Showboat in Atlantic City.

And Keyshia Cole performs at the Trump Taj Mahal.

Jefferson Starship plays Ballys -- and it's FREE.

There's a big skate jam in Sea Isle on Sunday.

Atlantic City "unlocks" its ocean at South Carolina Avenue and the beach at noon, followed by the traditional Memorial event in honor of veterans in which lifeguards row out and throw a wreath upon the water. FREE

Summer usually means dogs are kicked off beaches and boardwalks -- so make sure to bring your pup to the Ocean City boardwalk at 12:30 p.m for Barks on the Boards. Register your pup for the contests, too -- like largest, smallest, best dressed, and best tail. It's a fundraiser, so it'll cost you to enter. But watching is FREE

Stone Harbor's 10th annual Turtle Trot 5k starts at 8 am (6:45am for registration).

The Atlantic City Memorial Day Service will be held at the All Wars Memorial Building from 11 am to 11:30 am. It'll have appearances by dignitaries and the Neptune Drum and Bugle Corps. FREE

Also in Atlantic City, check out an all-day concert featuring various bands playing R&B, Rock, Jazz and Gospel will perform from 12 Noon to 6 pm on the Boardwalk at Kennedy Plaza (opposite Boardwalk Hall – between Georgia and Mississippi avenues). FREE

Wildwood will have its Memorial Day Ceremony at 10 am on 1st and Spruce Ave. in Wildwood. FREE

Sea Isle's Memorial Day ceremony is at Veterans Park (JFK and Landis Aves.) at 10 am. FREE

Stone Harbor's Memorial Day parade starts at noon at 96th Street. FREE

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shore Fashion 2009

I wanted to do a nice big "shore fashion" post like I did last year, but this time using clothes I've been accumulating since January that I pegged for summer use. But it's the Wednesday before Memorial Day Weekend, my dog got out of the yard today (only to run to the front door), I'm behind on a story and I'm leaving tomorrow to work most of the weekend.

So this is the pile of possible items I'm bringing this weekend. Why it's harder for me to pack for the shore than a long weekend in the Florida Keys, I don't know. Maybe because I have so many different places to be from Thursday through Monday, including:

Cape May Stage Kick Off Party at Martini Beach
Possible meet up with the Redtettemer clan, who is in Cape May for a retreat
Morning interview with Curtis Bashaw, who owns the Chelsea and Congress Hall
Sitting anonymously in a bar to check it out for a possible story
Nights out at Sea Isle Bars -- probably four of them
Running on behalf of vets doing the Sea Isle Tri for Our Veterans
Non-competitive runs with Bill
Dinner with Bill's family
Hanging around with Bill's family
Possible book signing
House tour in Avalon for an article

Get the picture? See any room for the beach in there? I'm hoping to squeeze in some sand time between interviewing Bashaw and heading to my next appointment. We'll see.

I learned last summer that I need a lot more summer clothes than I do winter, for exactly the reasons you see above (and I'm not doing any TV spots -- yet), hence why I start looking in January, usually the slashed-to-the-bone priced summer stuff from the year before that stores must move. Most of last year's buys have been re-used this year. Capri jeans bought at a store-closing sale in August, and from the clearance rack of Six Clothing in Haddonfield are staples, especially for this weekend, where highs will be in the 70s. I'm adding in maxi dresses, which were cool and comfortable, even in Florida

This is a gray floor length dress from Loehmann's(where I've bought most of my summer buys) that cost $29.99. I like the cut, and the gray color, which counterbalances what could be the formality of the length. It's GREAT for flying, too -- like being covered in a light, soft blanket.

Shoe wise, I'm going to with flats, new wedges from Target and the Sidewalk Surfers I picked up this winter.

You'll also see a brightly patterned black and pink dress on that pile in the first picture. It's a strapless French Connection dress I picked up on major clearance from Macy's in New York. I think it cost me a whopping $30 -- not even close to what they're charging online. I'll be wearing that to Martini Beach tomorrow. It has pockets, which I love in a dress, especially when I'm carrying a tape recorder.

Other than that, I'm keeping it cool and casual this summer with a slight 70s and 80s retro vibe (bright colors, wide leg jeans, sling purses and letting my hair go wavy -- take THAT hair straightener). I've packed a few casual t-shirts for the weekend, along with bright patterned shorts I found on the clearance rack of Banana Republic. My favorite buy so far are these Nicole Miller sunglasses, which I got from Loehmann's for $24.99 (originally $150):

They hint to aviator without going overboard.

And of course I'm bringing plenty of running clothes (those are my new trail running shoes in the Mizuno box in the back). Jewelry and makeup, as always, will be at a minimum because that's just how I travel. I briefly lost my makeup bag in Florida, and I didn't miss it. Unless I'm on TV, I'd rather not be bothered. Oh, and I'm bringing a bathing suit and cover up. I don't think it'll be warm enough to hit the beach in my skivvies, but it's a nice thought.

So what's your shore fashion going to be?

**UPDATE**I haven't packed the clothes in a bag yet. Notice something added to the pile?

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Farm Preview

I bought those an hour ago. One of the quarts is now missing. Wonder where they went to...

Yummy, isn't it? Memorial Day Weekend means strawberry season in Jersey, and you'll find plenty of these babies at roadside stands to and from the shore. I'm going to hit up some Cape May farms during my down time on Friday between interviews since most of these are being baked into a rhubarb/strawberry crisp(link is to a PDF file). If they make it through the evening.

Big "Your Shore Weekend" coming tomorrow -- format's a little different this year, but I hope you'll like it!

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What's the WORST beach in New Jersey

Ledger Live: What is the worst beach in New Jersey

The Star-Ledger flips the best beach question on its head -- and makes an excellent statement about the "private beach" issue. How can a beach be private if state taxes pay for it's upkeep? Anyway, very funny video.

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Shore Biz Updates

Three updates for you:

1. JOB ALERT! Lincroft, NJ isn't technically at the shore, but it's close enough. Tammie Bennett is looking for an active mom to teach stroller strides classes, which are total workout classes moms can do with their babies in the stroller. Must get CPR certification and fitness certification. For more info, contact Tammie at tammiebennett [at] strollerstrides [dot] net.

2. The Funland Pier in Sea Isle City will NOT be open for Memorial Day weekend. Construction was delayed by 13 straight days of rain. I will still be checking out progress this weekend (I hear the rides are in place), and of course send back a report.

3. Ocean City's Dixie Picnic, home of the Upcakes, is facing foreclosure. It is an incredibly sad story of a good new business that got caught in the credit crunch. I've known about this since Easter Weekend, but sat on the story hoping for a miracle that has yet to appear. I'm not writing about it, but I know someone who is. I'll post a link to her story when it's live.

Also, the NOT OUR JERSEY campaign is picking up speed -- it was featured on yesterday. Keep it going, people!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Best Beaches: Redux

Here's your list of winners:

Ocean City
Wildwood Crest
Asbury Park
North Wildwood
Cape May
Seaside Heights
Sea Isle City

First off -- congrats to all the beaches that made the list. LBI did a smart thing and lumped all six of its municipalities together into one for the voting.

What do I think of the list? Considering seven of the top ten (eight if you count LBI) are South Jersey Shore beaches, fantastic. I'm sure Wildwood isn't happy about dropping from first to third, but all three of its major beaches (I doubt anyone voted for West Wildwood) made the cut, which is excellent news.

No one is going to agree on what's best and why -- so if you want to argue about best beaches, go right ahead and hit up on the comments.

My only complaint is poor execution in giving out the results. I was told they were going to be handed out at 11am, so I re-arranged my schedule to be at my desk to write about it. Then when I asked why I hadn't gotten them at yet, I was told it was noon and that I had to wait for everyone else.

So why did the AP story come out at 11:59? From Ocean City while the news conference was in Sandy Hook? If you're going to release results early to one person, fine. But it's 12:30 and I still don't have any official word and was told to sit down and wait like everyone else, which I found condescending. Yes, I blog about the shore, but I also write about it for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and New Jersey Monthly (to name a few). Maybe that's a little bit "insider baseball" for the blog, but I'm annoyed.

Anyway, argue away in the comments. For what it's worth, my favorite beaches are the 40s and 50s blocks in Avalon; Strathmere; and Higbee Beach in Cape May (and that's the actual beaches, not the towns. If that were the question, I'd give an entirely different answer).

**UPDATE** That list I was supposed to get at noon? Came in at 2:05pm. Someone needs PR 101.

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New Jersey's Best Beach is...

...Ocean City.

More here. Since they haven't sent me the results yet (told me to wait for everyone else when they obviously leaked out out to certain outlets first -- HARUMPH!), I don't have the information for a longer write up just yet. More later.

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Not Our Jersey

I've refrained from making comments about The Real Housewives of New Jersey and E! Jersey Shore Unleashed. Why? (Kids -- especially you Marples -- cover your eyes because I'm about to curse):

Those shows are bullshit.

They are lame attempts to capitalize on the "Jersey" stereotype that only lives in small pockets of the state. Why should Belmar and Seaside Heights -- the party hardy parts -- speak for the rest of us? Why should those "housewives" serve as spokespeople for all Jersey Girls? I don't shop at Shorthills. I don't live in a McMansion. And I certainly have more to do than idly complain about absolutely everything.

So I propose staring a "NOT OUR JERSEY" campaign. If you visit this blog, you most likely agree with what I'm saying -- and probably write about it, too. Since NJ is so crippled with its budget and political problems, I wouldn't expect the state government to do anything about the state's PR issue any time soon.

What can you do? If you run an NJ blog, write a "Not Our Jersey" post, or share this one on your twitter feed or Facebook page. Graphic artist? I think we need a logo that we can display proudly to show that our beautiful state is not what media companies want people to believe, all in exchange for a quick buck.

Who's with me?

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Joy Running

Think I run a lot? That's nothing compared to Joy of She is one shore running momma. Here's what she has to say about finding time to hit the road, marathoning, and best run routes down the shore.

1. How long have you lived down the shore?
We moved into the area in 2003. My husband and I lived in South Philly, but we didn’t want to raise our kids in the city. His parents are nearby and he’s spent most of his summers in Ocean City, so it became the logical choice to move down here.

2. When did you start running and why?
I worked with someone who was a marathoner and she introduced me to running in 1998. I’d been running on and off since then, but after I had my first child, it became more regular. I started off by taking my son for a walk with our jogging stroller on the Ocean City boardwalk and, inevitably, he’d start fussing after a little while. I started running again just to get home faster and haven’t stopped since.

Also, my husband knew a lot of the staff at the Aquatic & Fitness Center – they’re involved with a lot of the local races, so I got sucked into those as well. My first long race that I trained for was the 2007 Broad Street Run.

3. How do you fit running into your daily schedule?
I usually have to wait until the kids are in school – there’s a lot of household business that I should be doing at that time, but I’d rather run instead.

4. What's your favorite shore run route?
Depends on how I’m feeling and how far I want to go. For runs less than 8 miles, I’ll hit the OC boardwalk. For my longer runs, I like to go to the Atlantic County park (off Rte 50 in Estell Manor). The park has an out-and-back route just shy of 4 miles that heads into the woods, then loop around the park that’s a little over 2 miles.

5. Most challenging?
When I want to add hillwork, I tack the Longport Bridge to my OC boardwalk run – that usually gets my legs nice and tired. Dodging the bikes & surreys on the OC boards during the season is in itself a good challenge too.

6. Prettiest?
Running through the Lester MacNamara hunting preserve (off Rte 631) is very scenic. It can get buggy in the summertime, but otherwise it’s peaceful & beautiful.

7. I've been talking with a lot of people about shore races this summer. What are your favorites -- in summer and not?
My favorite shore races have been the Labor Day 5-Mile in Ocean City (out and back on the beach starting at 23rd Street) and the Trail of Two Cities 5K in November.

Last year’s Labor Day 5-Mile was during high tide, so that was pretty brutal. It’s still a lot of fun and they have a mile fun run for the kids also. I missed the Trail of Two Cities last year, but am planning on doing it this year. Given it’s on the reconstructed 9th Street causeway, the new elevation should be interesting.

I know I’m missing a lot of shore races – there seems to be a 5k or 10k available practically every weekend in the summertime, which is great. I have this site ( bookmarked so I can hopefully make some of these this year.

8. Tell us about what it's like to run a marathon.
I distinctly remember thinking at the start of both my marathons (Philadelphia 2008 & New Jersey 2009) that it was going to be a loooonnnnggg day – it’s not a good mindset to have. Someone has said that running a marathon is more mental than physical – I think that’s definitely true. You can get physically ready in the course of 4 to 5 months, but the mental aspect of it has been more challenging for me.

There’s lot of thought that goes into the race. Unlike a 5k where you can just line up and go, the distance of 26.2 merits a lot more considerations, especially when it comes to fueling and hydration. Along with getting your legs physically ready for the distance, the purpose of the long runs is also so you can work those details out for yourselves. Strategies that work for one runner won’t necessarily work for another.

Both times, I hit a point around mile 21 where I was done – I’d get sick and tired of putting one foot in front of the other and keeping that forward momentum felt like an insurmountable challenge. I was in a lot of pain by that point in Philadelphia, but in Long Branch, my legs weren’t in pain (just tired and heavy). Again, it was more mental.

Fortunately in Long Branch, it was raining throughout the second half. I honestly think my time would’ve been slower had it not been raining - the thought of getting into some warm dry clothes as soon as possible was what kept me moving.

Running a marathon is an exhilarating experience – I’ve developed a newfound respect for what I can do. Sure, there are points along the course where I question WHY I’d ever sign up for such a thing, and honestly believe that I would NEVER EVER do it again. But like childbirth, you forget the pain and just remember the accomplishment.

9. And what did you think of this year's Ocean Drive 10 Miler?
I like this race a lot. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a big event with the huge expo, timing chips & all that, but it’s a well-organized and well-supported event. This year’s winds were much better than last year’s, so I probably could’ve pushed the pace a little faster. There’s not always a lot of crowd support along the course, but for someone used to running alone, it’s actually a good thing. If the winds were less of a variable, I’d consider doing their full marathon at one point.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Delaware gets sports betting. Is Atlantic City next?

I don't think it's possible to create a "Miami vibe" in Atlantic City -- retro yes. But Miami?

Electricity might cost more in Atlantic City soon.

The World Series of Birding happened in NJ on Mother's Day weekend. Here's a write up.

Well, this I didn't know: Taylor Swift is a Stone Harbor girl.

Tracy Hottenstein's death has been ruled an accident (she died on Polar Bear Plunge weekend in Sea Isle), but the case is not closed. Official cause of death: "hypothermia due to exposure complicating acute alcohol intoxication," according to the medical examiner's office. It looks like her family is moving in a direction to sue the city.

Tri for our Vets is DAYS AWAY. Here's an interview with organizer Matt McCulley. I'm not doing the tri, but will be helping out some vets on the course.

Note to you kiddies: Don't even try using fake IDs in North Wildwood.

The New York Times forecasts the real estate market at the Jersey Shore.

Not a shocker: the deal to sell Trump Marina is most likely a no-go.

And here's what's free to do by the sea (written by me!)

Stay tuned into the blog tomorrow -- the 2009 NJ Top Beaches will be announced around 11am. I'll post the results when I have them.

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Keyed In

That is a beach somewhere in the Florida Keys. I saw somewhere because I don't remember, somewhere between Key West and Islemarada. That's the kind of vacation it was, one without schedules or plans -- a freewheeling, relaxing time that felt too short. In keeping with the "I AM ON VACATION" theme, I'll do a quick post with pictures today...and jump right back into the Jersey Shore tomorrow.

We started our adventure by flying out of Atlantic City into Ft. Lauderdale and driving to Key West. It's a fun ride -- lots of wacky things to see on the roadside, and an array of people enjoying what the Florida Keys have to offer. We stayed at the Paradise Inn, which was lovely. I would absolutely stay there again.

We only had a day and a half in Key West, but we saw a lot, included a Pirated version of a Phillies flag at Pat Croce's Rum Barrel:

It was very pretty but HOT. I tried running on Friday morning and ended up taking a "break" at minute 12 that involved sitting on the concrete and forgetting where I was for a moment. I think it was scarier for Bill than me, but a heaping dose of water and oranges made up for it.

More prettiness:

We also checked out the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, which was fascinating and pretty -- and overrun with six toe cats.

We're told all the cats on the property are descendants of Snowball, Hemingway's six toe cat. Weird.

Then we headed up to Islamorada, where we spent there rest of the trip doing...nothing. Absolutely. Nothing. It was a very fun trip, even with the heat. I know it'll get hotter here in the summer, but my body's not quite ready for it yet. It was a good place to visit. I'm not sure I could live there year round, but it was a nice break between the craziness that was shore article deadlines and the summer to come.

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Be Right Back

I'm rested, tired, tanned, and way behind on work, but I'm back from the Florida Keys. I'll write up a longer post later. Until then...this picture goes to show: the shore follows me wherever I go.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009


Emily's holding down the fort while I'm in Florida through Sunday. I wouldn't expect too much blogging from her while I'm gone (she hasn't been keeping up with her typing lessons), and I expect her schedule to involve much spoiling and treats from Mom Miller. Lucky dog.

Until I'm back at the keys, check out this interview I did with Time Out New York about Wildwood. I also might get a nice shout out on NBC 10 on Friday with tips on where to save money at the shore (since I'm out of town, I'm not sure how it'll work -- but they got the tips and my logo, so we'll see!)

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cape May Day

What a beautiful day in Cape May yesterday! I made it into town around 10:45 a.m., and when I left at 7 p.m., the sun was still shining and the weather delightful.

It was a work day, for the most part. I toured a house in North Cape May for an article, wrote the story in the offices of Exit Zero, then hung out at the Cape May Chamber of Commerce May Social & Mixer -- a sort of kick off to summer for the folks whose livelihoods depend on it. The event was held at the newly renovated Chalfonte.

You can't see many of the renovations to the old hotel when you're downstairs -- a bump out for air conditioning in the dining room is about it.

The real changes are upstairs. The Chalfonte was a hold out -- a hotel that didn't have air conditioning and whose rooms all didn't have private bathrooms. The owners wanted that way, and when they decided to sell, they were very careful in selling to someone who would keep the spirit of the place the same. The result was that, over the summer, the layout of the guest rooms were changed so that they have AC (which is centrally controlled -- not per room) and private bathrooms. The hotel now has two suites.

It doesn't officially open until Memorial Day Weekend, so the long timers -- the people who liked not having AC -- haven't had a chance to give the place a review. I'll be interested to hear what they say.

The only non-work thing I did was get a manicure and pedicure at the Cape May Day Spa. It's not something I usually do, but have you seen runner's feet? I soak mine weekly to keep things under control, but I needed some help. I liked the spa a lot. My only complaint was being forced to overhear a conversation about baby poop between the person who got a pedicure before me and whoever gave her the pedicure. I almost had to leave the room.

I also saw a copy of the article I did about the Wonderland Pier carousel:

-- the article that accompanied this photo shoot (you're not surprised that the Uggs picture was axed, right?) Neat book. I don't have my own copy just yet, but will write more when I do.

And with that, I'm off to Key West tomorrow. I won't be blogging while away (I won't even bring my computer), but stay tuned for more on Monday -- we're almost to the start of the summer!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Like it? I do. Special thanks to Mike Verzella for designing my logo (and my business cards four years ago when I started freelancing). The concept started with a beach tag, which I liked, but I thought it was too much with the beach tag "pin" stuck in the middle. Plus, not all of Jersey's beaches require tags, hence it morphing into this circle with "Shore" in the middle instead of a pin. Thanks Mike!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Shore Press

Isn't she pretty? The June issue -- the shore issue -- of New Jersey Monthly is now available online.

I URGE you to check it out in print, too, because it's beautiful. If you're not looking forward to summer 2009 already, this will take you there. This is my fourth NJM shore issue, and I think it's the best so far.

What did I write? Let's start with the larger articles, both about Atlantic City: first, fun things to do in town; second, a "state of the union" piece.

Outside of AC, I wrote about the Wildwood boardwalk controversy and Terry O'Brien and his one-man traveling shore karaoke show. Even though it's not shore related, the feature I wrote about the secret lives of romance writers was a lot of fun -- and who doesn't need a good beach book?

I got a shout out in New York Magazine's Atlantic City article, too -- interesting being the intervewee instead of the interviewer. There's more coming out later in the week, including an interview in Time Out New York and a piece in the big Philadelphia Inquirer shore package.

I'll probably be in Key West when those come out, so I'll link to them next week because I WILL NOT BE ONLINE. Can you see why I need a break? ;-)

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Asbury Lane

I rolled into Asbury Park mid-afternoon on Friday, checked into the Berkeley Hotel, laced up my running shoes, and ran through Asbury Park and its neighbor, Ocean Grove. I've been to both a few times over the last year, but wanted to get a good look at what was new/old/opened/closed, and the best way to do that is on foot (even if it was hot and humid -- I'm trying to acclimate myself to hot weather running...we'll see).

Then it was off for an early dinner at Langosta Lounge (love love love the edamame). I had lunch here in January, and liked the food, the space, and the vibe. It had opened in December and I hoped for good things, which I found on Friday. I sat at the bar among people waiting for dinner and happy hour patrons. The crowd grew for as long as I was there, and the place was three deep with bar patrons when I returned after I finished my interviews.

Here's the set up behind the bar:

Once "work" was over, I met up with Michael Streko, who runs, and his crew and set off to the Annex, which is where the first picture of this post was taken. They have a chalkboard wall, and I left my mark (it was still there on Saturday night, too). Fun bar -- very cool vibe.

It picks up on the alternative crowd that's come to Asbury recently (LOTS of cool ink on folks around town). They keep the music scene alive and well, and support recent development. Most of the places I'm writing about are new this year, and they've all had fruitful off seasons (one bar owner is wondering how he's going to deal with the summer crowds because he's crowded already). I started reading 4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land on the trip, which is a history of Asbury's shadowy past. It was odd reading the book then walking through the streets that Daniel Wolff writes about, and seeing the skeletons of some of the buildings that was supposed to mark Asbury's progress. But more on that in a minute. Can we talk about sangria?

I love sangria. I seek it out at restaurants and bars, and make my own in the summer (secret ingredient: fresh jersey peaches). The sangria at the Annex is the BEST sangria I have ever tasted. I wouldn't expect to find it in this kind of bar, but there it was. I liked it so much that I went back on Saturday night after working to get another one -- and convinced a heavily tattooed gentleman to do the same (though as his head is shaved, he couldn't stick the umbrella decoration in his ponytail).

We capped off the night at Asbury Lanes. The Annex is a nice place to hang out and drink, but Asbury Lanes is the coolest place I visited in Asbury. It has one thing that other bars don't: a bowling alley.

I'm still trying to find out the 'official' history of the place, but the gist is this. It opened as a regular bowling alley in the 1960s. It did OK but eventually went out of business. Whoever bought it last re-opened it AND BARELY CHANGED A THING. They did add a concert stage in the middle lanes, so "the Lanes" is a big part of Asbury's music scene.

Look at this place:

It has what those new "retro" bowling alleys try to recreate: REAL retro. Can't wait to go back.

On Saturday, I wandered around Ocean Grove, worked on my story, and, before dinner, went on a six mile run through Asbury, Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach, Avon-of-the-Sea and Belmar -- almost entirely on boardwalk. Then it was off to Long Branch and Sea Bright for more work. I checked out the Wonder Bar when I got back, which I think is something you MUST do if you're in Asbury Park, then had one final sangria at Annex before heading back to the boardwalk. I'm glad I brought my camera.

You'll notice two things when visiting the Asbury Park boardwalk. The first is Convention Hall at the north end of the boardwalk. The second is the Casino, which was never a casino but more like a convention hall. I'm still reading up on the history and don't known enough to be an expert, but they are GRAND buildings. Convention Hall is used (I slipped into a fundraiser Friday night being held inside), but the Casino is not as of right now. The room that held the carousel (which a few people I talked to remembered from their childhood) is full of construction stuff. It looked like a very different place at night (JEN NOTE: I'm not going to pretend these are the best pictures you're going to see of Asbury Park -- I saw about 10 photos shoots taking place in the two days I was there).



I felt like I was walking through a ghost, which might not be far fetched. I had just read about the era of the Casino, and tried to imagine it in full swing, with couples in their finest turn of the century dress waltzing through while kids rode endless circles on the carousel, reaching out to grab the brass ring. Maybe it was taking the pictures at midnight or the exhaustion of work from that weekend, but it was a very surreal experience.

Anyway, a few more notes from the trip:

1. I stayed at the Berkeley, which was OK. I only paid $110 a night and had a view of the water, which was great. But as a chap commented in the elevator this morning, "it's like a B-movie." Parts of it have been upgraded, but it doesn't feel completely done. The TVs didn't really work. Part of the shower fixture was falling off. My room never cooled down, and my reservation was wrong. It was a place to hang my hat, but that's about it. I wouldn't book a room there and expect the Chelsea, for example (though a few of you have written me about the so/so condition of the annex portion of the Chelsea). Would I stay there again? Probably -- but I hope with better AC.

2. In honor of the location, I cued up Springsteen's Born to Runon my ipod for my Saturday run. As I crossed into Convention Hall, I felt this odd flutter in my chest. When I broke through onto the rest of the Asbury Boardwalk and saw the scene -- kids on bikes, couples strolling, teens eating water ice, the ocean to my left and Asbury to my right, "Thunder Road" in my ears -- it FINALLY hit me: my job is to write about the Jersey Shore. This is what I do for a living. I know that sounds like an obvious fact (the blog is "Down the Shore with Jen," after all), but for some reason the setting of that run and the assignment that brought me here gave me a new self-awareness of what it is that I do and why. I felt that way as I crossed onto Belmar, too -- sprinted, actually, to "Born to Run," turned around and was overcome by this serene feeling as I ran back to Asbury listening to Pete Yorn (another Jersey guy who counts the Boss as an influence). I felt that same flutter as I stood on the deck of the Avenue in Long Branch on Saturday night, looking over the ocean as people partied behind me.

I like Asbury. A lot. I think I'll be back a few times this summer. It's only an hour and a half drive away -- that's closer than Cape May. I want to see if the redevelopment takes this time, too. One person I interviewed talked about the redevelopment attempt of the mid-80s and how it flopped. She feels different this time, and has the numbers and receipts to prove it. I hope she's right.

And I MUST go bowling at Asbury Lanes. That alone is enough reason to come back.

So what's next? I'm in Cape May all day on Tuesday. Then on Thursday, Bill (who took some excellent pictures in Sea Isle this weekend) and I are off to Key West on Thursday (via the Atlantic City Airport, flying into Ft. Lauderdale).

John Shabe joked about me going to a beach not in New Jersey (I replied that the state gave me a temporary pass to leave). But it'll be nice to go somewhere that I don't write about. I love the Jersey Shore (obviously -- did you read number two from above?) but I always feel like I'm working. The assignment I'm working on requires night reporting, but I still felt like I was working during the day. When I tried to take a few days off while in Cape May last May for my dad's wedding, the general manager of the hotel sat down next to me as I tried to take a nap in the sun. In Key West? I'm not doing ANYTHING. It's only a four day break, but I think it'll be enough to get me ready for the start of the shore season. I hope.

**UPDATE** Caren Chesler's article about Asbury Park for New Jersey Monthly is now online. Worth the read. I did a similar piece on Atlantic City -- but I'll dedicate an entire post to the June issue once I have a copy in my hands. I can only read it online right now, but from what I see? It looks fantastic. I know how much work went into it from the writing, editorial and photography sides of the magazine (a lot of this was photographed last summer). Stay tuned for more!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Northern Exposure

I'm headed to Asbury Park on Friday, and will be spending the weekend in AP and roaming around towns north and south. I have a rough outline for the weekend, which will involve work, shopping for a Mother's Day present (mom, I waited until I was in the Ocean Grove area to shop for you -- not being lazy!), and meeting up with some folks I've connected to via Twitter. Yes, twitter. I wrote a piece about who to follow in South Jersey -- if you're interested.

This weather makes it impossible to pack. Will it rain or won't it? If it does rain, will it still be humid? And if so, do I dress for the temperature, or a little warmer because of the mucky air? If it doesn't rain, how hot will it be? And will it still be humid on top of that? Plus I'm packing running clothes...egads. No wonder I take a lot when I travel down the shore. I never know what I'm going to get!

Mother's Day Weekend should be a busy one at the shore, almost a Memorial Day Weekend preview. I can't think about that right now -- I have to get through this weekend and then go to Key West next weekend (CANNOT WAIT) -- THEN I can worry about the official open to the shore season.

Is it really here already? That was fast...

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News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Atlantic City's Garden Pier is now closed.

Still no answers-- but more information -- about the death of Tracy Hottenstein (she was found dead the day of the Sea Isle City Polar Plunge).

And more information in the sinking of the Lady Mary.

This guy was a very bad guy.

The Borgata is in a world of hurt. They had to shut down the new fancy pants Water Club mid-week during the off season. These numbers don't help.

But this is good news: Atlantic City is doing well in a down travel economy.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shore Break: Goodbye, Scrubs

Tonight was the final episode of Scrubs. Yes, there's word that there will be Scrubs after this year's season finale, but not with the same cast. It might still be funny, but it'll never be the same without its star, Zach Braff, nor its brain, Bill Lawrence. It will never be the show that wound itself around my 20s and served as a steady sidekick over the last year years.

I started watching Scrubs from the beginning. Eight season ago, I dated someone who looked like Zach Braff. We met in college and were determined to stay together even though he was in medical school in Maine and I was in graduate school in New Jersey. Scrubs, with the first year resident who looked slightly like Tom, was another connection to my far away boyfriend.

The relationship unraveled, but I kept watching the show. Braff's resemblance to Tom wasn't so much a reminder of the failed first love, but a companion. The show was funny. It was wacky. And it was about a group of 20-somethings going through the same things I was going through -- even if I didn't wear scrubs.

A lot's happened since then. I quit my job to become a writer. I endured a tortuous relationship. My grandfather died. I also got a dog, wrote a book, bought a house, and you could say that I found my calling. Through the worst of these 20-somethings, Scrubs was a constant. After every breakup, after every heartbreak, after every setback, I put Scrubs into the DVD player, and let the characters and the well-known story lines carry me through. Even if my life changed faster than I could track, the show was always there (even if the characters were in as much flux as I was).

I'm not sure if there should have been an eighth season -- the creativity dipped even before the show moved from NBC to ABC, but I'm glad that the cast and crew had a chance to do a true finale. NBC's send off didn't live up to what the show meant for so many people, especially for me. I hate to admit this, but I sobbed through the last five minutes of tonight's show. I don't know what opened up in me to bring out crying so loud it frightened my dog.

My best guess is that I felt a transition happening in me. By the show moving on, I was leaving those crazy years behind me. I let go a part of my past, just like J.D. did as he walked down that corridor of former show characters. As I let that go, I thought ahead, as J.D. did with flashes of the future playing across a banner. I remembered all those nights I laid in a ball on my couch, broken and watching the show with a plate of nachos and a beer to keep me company. I spent one Valentine's Day just like that, upping the volume every few minutes to drown out the amours adventures of the people downstairs. It didn't quite work, but at least I had a co-pilot in trying to push through the pain of another lonely Valentine's Day away.

Like the show, my life is changing. A part of my crazy 20s that wound around so much relationship drama is ending. You might have noticed that this guy has popped up on the blog a few times. We met through the website -- not a dating site, but a web log for athletes. We both signed up for the Ocean Drive 10 miler, so followed each other's training. I then friended him on facebook and saw that he, too, had been at the Golden Nugget Ceremony, hence that post. Soon after, we agreed to go running. Instead, we met at an LL Cool J concert at the House of Blues, and we've been dating ever since.

Our first date:

After the Ocean Drive 10 miler:

So why post all this? First, because a "friend" of eight years -- Scrubs -- has passed, and I watched all the DVDs I had of the show after I wrote my book to help me figure out what to do next, or at least take my mind off figuring out what to do next.

Second, I don't want to be cagey about why the tall, dark and handsome man previously featured in the blog is popping up in a lot of pictures, so "that guy" -- Bill -- shall now be known as "my boyfriend."

And, heck, maybe you've felt this way about a show, a movie or an artist -- that it was so tied to a part of your life that you were sad to see it go. I am sad, but I am also happy to put that part of my life behind me, and head out into a great new adventure.

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