Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cape May, Atlantic City, and all the places in between

Just before I left for Cape May on Friday, my publisher's publicist emailed me to say that he was holding a copy of my book in his hand. My reaction? "GIVE IT TO MEEEEEEE" (we get along, if you can't tell). I should have a copy today (?) or tomorrow.

So it was fitting, then, that I hit most of the towns in the book this weekend.

The trip didn't start out on the best foot - literally. On Friday morning, the dude broke his toe. This meant, we thought, no running for him, and no real walking around. So instead of driving right down to Cape May, we stopped first in Sea Isle, and I took him on a short bar tour (where I did not drink, of course, since I drove).

First stop: Dead Dog Saloon. This is one of those old, worn in bars that's packed in season but a cozy place before the summer madness begins. The second floor was closed. The Phillies game was on. I think everyone at the bar were Sea Isle friends, most reuniting for the first time since they shut down their shore homes last year. Two of those groups asked us where our Phillies gear was from (Spring Training). Very chill and relaxed crowd, which will change soon as people pack both floors of the place. If you do eat there, get the nachos. I am sad to report, though, that the women's bathrooms no longer have ash trays in the stalls. No one smokes in there, and I don't support smoking (duh, I run), but it was one of those old throwback details I liked. Ah well.

Then we hit the OD, simply because the dude had never seen the place. It was pretty empty with a younger crowd around the bar. The bartender and I tried to explain what the place looked like during the weekly No Shower Happy Hour parties. A bit hard to do without jamming a couple hundred more people in there.

Next it was south through Avalon to the Concord Cafe, which sits right on the Avalon/Stone Harbor border. I thought it would be busy but not as jammed as it was. We had to wait 20 minutes for a table, but it was worth it for those buffalo cheese fries. Our bill with alcohol came to just over $25. Another reason this place is so popular. A very high recommendation.

Then it was onto our final destination: The Beach Shack in Cape May. Friday was the first night they were open for the summer season, so let's consider some of the oops to be first night jitters. They put us in a room next to the Rusty Nail, which is a great bar, but not exactly what you want to sleep next to if you have a 10k in the morning (if you book here, make sure you ask to stay in the building away from the bar if this is a concern). They were great in moving us, but the room we moved into was very musty and dank. Again, I imagine it's because it was the first night and not everything was up and running yet. I still think it's a great property, and it needed to stretch a bit to be really ready. I zonked out as soon as we got into the new room, so it served its purpose.

Then the 10k, the Great Cape May Footrace. When I came back from Wawa getting pre-race food (hash browns) and fuel (coffee and gatorade), I opened the room door to see the dude lacing up his running shoes. He was just going to test how it felt.

Well, testing lead to actually running the race, and he swears he felt fine. The 10k course is flat with a lot of twists and turns through the more residential area of Cape May with a trip through Coast Guard housing. It doesn't go through the heart of Cape May, so if you're looking for a scenic run, this is not it. But after recent obscenely crowded races (Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Broad Street Run), hilly races (Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon) and insanely windy races (Asbury Park Half Marathon), this course was a nice change. Kudos to John Cooke, president of the Cape May Chamber of Commerce, for asking for my feedback after the race (I do this now, so I guess I'm an expert). Next year, expect paper instead of plastic cups at the water stop.

I finished with a 49:45, which is not bad and inching closer to my pre-injury times. I finished 5th woman and 3rd in my age group - but that's out of 210 runners, so take that with a giant shaker of salt.

Post race food (burger and boardwalk fries) and drink (extra spicy bloody mary) was back at the Rusty Nail. I'm glad to see they got the bonfire issues figured out - last time I was there, the city had said they didn't want bonfires at the outdoor bar, but it was lit and running on Saturday. It was nice eating at outdoor picnic table, even if the weather wasn't exactly cooperating.

Then it was up to Atlantic City. Now, I hate shopping. Hate it with a passion that boils my soul, but we stopped at the Atlantic City outlets anyway to visit the Nike store. My haul:

Two pairs of short tights, two singlets, and eight pairs of socks.

I only do this once or twice a year. Last year, the woman working at the counter couldn't believe how much money I spend on socks. But they're running socks!

Well, if you're a runner, you'll get it. If you're not, consider them my version of a fancy purse, but actually practical.

We hit Adidas and Puma with less luck, though I'll be testing out new Adidas running shoes tonight (Mizuno, why did you make the Waverider heavier, huh?) - another running thing that most of you probably don't get.


Then it was to the Borgata, which was a zoo. I didn't know what I expected. It is, after all, a Saturday in May. People everywhere, including the New Yorker who cut us off in line to check out at 3pm.

The first night, we stayed in the original Borgata tower, which was nice, but didn't have a flat screen TV. I don't say that to sound like a snob. *I* don't have a flat screen TV, but it seemed like a bit of a disconnect.

We were there for the AtlantiCare Foundation Gala, which was, of course, lovely. Pre-event, I got a blow out at the Borgata salon. Despite the price ($75), I'd say it was worth it. Sue, the very nice woman who did my hair, took my head of tangles and made it into a smooth, bouncy sleek style.

Not the best picture, but it's all I've got.

For those who are curious, this was the dress, which I bought at Lord & Taylor. His tuxedo and tie/pocket square are from Boyds.

The next morning, we moved over to the Water Club, Borgata's new tower. If you can stay here, STAY HERE. The room was gorgeous, and the new tower wasn't as crowded or loud as the main one. There isn't a casino in this tower, and, yes, the rooms did have flat screen TVs. But you must book directly with the Water Club. We had to check out and check back in because they operate on two different systems.

It was pretty funny watching hung over bachelor and bachelorette parties scramble to check out by 11am. Their hangovers looked epic.

We did a whole lot of nothing on Sunday, most of it at the Water Club's pool. Now, there are two pools: the free one (to registered guests of course), and the spa pool, which you can get into for free if you're using the spa, or for $30 if not. The free one was more than fine, though I imagine it gets pretty crowded in season.

Dinner Sunday night was at Izakaya, which bills itself as a modern Japanese pub.

This is how I know it's good: the dude is Japanese-American and a former chef. He is critical of Japanese restaurants. He loved it. Absolutely loved it and wants to know when we can go back again. I loved it, too, but I'm not as picky as he is. We tested the sweet corn ice cream that will go on the menu this summer. It's divine. A high recommend.

For fun, we headed to mixx after. I didn't know what to expect on a Sunday night. At first, a group of 40 and 50 something women in what looked like a bachelorette party were tearing up the dance floor. They were having so much fun, and they were fun to watch. Later, though, it started to turn over into a more typical nightclub experience. We stayed off to the side (that toe was still broken) and watched mini dramas unfold: the young Catherine Zeta Jones look alike swat off potential suitors, the three guys in bottle service who looked like they didn't know what they were doing, the two girls who tried to crash and then got kicked out of bottle service, and then one of those girls immediately sucking face with one of the bottle service guys. The music was good, though at the start what I'd describe as "Bar Tampa 1999." Bar Tampa was "the" bar to go to when I was in college, and they played a lot of the same songs as mixx did that night. A lot of Biggie Smalls.

I'm guessing this was industry night when a lot of people who work in the area have off after a long weekend. We left just as the featured dancers started tearing up the bars. Hey, we're not 21 anymore, and - again - the broken toe.

Monday morning we headed down to Downbeach Deli for breakfast and then meet up with my girl. Her tail's getting fixed!

I haven't been in Lucy in a while, and the dude had never made the trip. It was informative, and just cool to be inside a 60 foot wooden elephant. Make sure you go up to her howdah if you make the trip. Even though it was very foggy on Monday, the view was still worth seeing.

If you REALLY like Lucy, you should come to my book launch party, which is a fundraiser for Lucy, too. Details here.

Then it was south to Ocean City to pick up some salt water taffy from Shriver's. I'm doing a book signing next Tuesday at Book Expo America, a major book publishing conference, and will be giving out salt water taffy, too. The conference is a jumbled, lovely mess of book people, so I need to do what I can to stand out. Salt water taffy usually helps.

Our final stop, of course, was Mack & Mancos. I wasn't really hungry, but how could I resist?

Despite the cruddy weather, I had a great time. Staying over on Sunday night was a great idea because we could relax all day without that Saturday crowd.

It's nice seeing almost everything open again. Oh, summer, can you please hurry up?

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Anonymous said...

Great re-cap Jen. Love all the info; sounds like a great trip.

John and Lisa Howard-Fusco said...

Nice trip! We love Izakaya as well. - John

shann said...

GAH this makes me want to get down there ASAP! I will be braving the Borgata myself this weekend (hoping not to have an "epic" hangover) but will spend Sunday in OCNJ. Mac&Mancos and Hula Grill are for sure on my hit list. :)

Jen A. Miller said...

shann, OMG they were so funny. You could see them all gearing up for the big night (we had to walk through the casino to get to the black tie), and then look like DEATH in the morning.