Friday, September 28, 2007

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

Big day for bikers tomorrow. No, not motorcycle bikers, but peddle-themselves bikers. This weekend is the MS 150!

The City to Shore Bike Tour starts in Lawnside, NJ and ends in Ocean City. You can ride one way or both -- my mom has done this ride before, and she's peddled back. And been very tired on Sunday night. There's a bus if you want to ride back on someone else's power. Check out more information here.

Dixie Picnic (819 8th St., Ocean City, 609–399–1999) is running specials for bike riders -- show your bike helmet for proof of participation and get 10 percent off any breakfast or dinner entre. They're also having an "early riser" Sunday Breakfast, opening at 5:30 am to fill your belly before the trek home. Whenever you go, try the Upcake. Yummy.

I'll be headed down the shore in a more traditional way tonight -- by car -- as me and the boyfriend are going to The Quarter at the Tropicana (2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City) for dinner at Cuba Libre. They're running a "15 Tastes of Cuba" menu at their Atlantic City and Philadelphia locations, and I have been looking forward to this since we made the reservation a few weeks ago. I went to college in Tampa, which is a great spot to learn about and learn to love Cuban food. The boyfriend's never tried it, so this is a great way to introduce him to one of my favorite cuisines, and taste them again myself. We might sneak over to Firewater, which is also in the Tropicana, to watch the end of the Phillies game. I have tried not to get my hopes up, but I drove past a sign yesterday that said something along the lines of "Don't Give Up, You Gotta Believe," and I swear I got teary. I remember what it was like going to the playoffs in 1993, and please please PLEASE bring that feeling back to the Philadelphia area.

Anyway...then it's back down the shore Saturday (do I even need to tell you how many miles I've put on my car the last few months?) to Cape May to work on an article for New Jersey Monthly. I'll also be checking out their Oktoberfest celebration. You can read more about that here. This humidity is supposed to go away to make for a beautiful weekend, whether you're peddling down the shore or hoisting a beer in Cape May. Still plenty to do down the shore!

What I'm Listening to: Soundtrack to Garden State
What I'm Reading: The Stylist by Cai Emmons

Digg this

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What is South Jersey?

I've been following Allison Winn Scotch's advice on how to make this blog more popular by finding other shore blogs, and came across The Jersey Side by John Shabe, and his post about what actually is north and south Jersey. You can read about it here.

I have a few things to say about this. Before delving full time into the world of freelance writing, I was editor of SJ Magazine, and we said that we would cover anything south of Trenton (the only time I ever stretched this line was to interview Zach Braff. Yes, he's from north Jersey, but would you pass up the opportunity? I think not). After a year at that job, and reading through New Jersey Monthly's attempt to dedicate an entire issue to the topic (sorry guys -- I absolutely love writing for you, but when you say the only decent restaurant in south Jersey is in Tom's River, I have to take you to task...but that was in 2005, so there's been time for change), I gave up trying to figure out the distinction. Even the Daily Show tried to chime in by interviewing my then-boss (Rob Corddry's a very nice guy, FYI), but that was more for yucks than an attempt to define the regions.

I think it depends on where you live. If you read through the comments on Shabe's blog, you'll see that north Jersey folk are giving us places like Six Flags and the Driscoll Bridge. Ask 100 people from this area if we think that's south Jersey, and I bet 100 of them will scream no. And maybe 10 would give you the finger.

Why write about this on a shore blog? Because I had to make a call re: north versus south Jersey for my book. It's not about the entire coast. I did that for a few reasons. First, I couldn't find another book that hyper focused on the areas from Atlantic City through Cape May, which gives my book a distinction in the guide book field. I don't think that, if you're going to visit the shore, you're going to go from a north Jersey to a south Jersey town. I wanted to focus the book on where people from my area -- Philadelphia, and its Pa. and NJ suburbs -- go on vacation. LBI was on the cusp because I know a few people who go there, but it was ultimately cut because it didn't have a strong enough connection to the rest of the region. It didn't fit.

I could also argue that the book covers places you would get to via the Atlantic City Expressway. You can chime in, too, on whether you think I made the right call or not (and please do so through the comments, or email me at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com), but so far I've learned this: I have met a lot of people who are saying thank you for writing a book just about just this region because some of the smaller south shore towns have been glossed over by other shore travel guides. If I had to cover the state's coastline top to bottom, I might have done the same. But I'm glad I had the chance to dedicate so many pages to a region so many people love.

Anyway, that's my north Jersey versus south Jersey ramble for the evening. And if you happen to be one of my editors at New Jersey Monthly and are thinking of doing another issue about just that, I hope you at least give me a chance to write about dining in south Jersey. I do live in Collingswood, after all.

Digg this

News from Around the Jersey Shore

This isn't good: the new tower of the Borgata, to be called the Water Club, caught on fire this weekend. Original projections put the opening at late 2007, which was then bumped back to 2008. Who knows what this will do to their plans to add 800 new luxury rooms, plus a two-story spa, to the property.

Speaking of destroying casinos, the Sands will be imploded on October 18 at 9:30 pm. If you've never seen a building to boom, it's incredible. I watched the demolition of Veteran's Stadium -- amazing.

The ever-hysterical Don Polec took his camera to Busch's Seafood Restaurant (8700 Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City, 609-263-8828). They've been making the she-crab soup for 125 years, and only three people have ever known the secret recipe. Yum.

What I'm Listening To: Awake is the New Sleep by Ben Lee

Digg this

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Historic Smithville

As promised, here's a link to the Smithville piece for New Jersey Monthly.

It's an interesting town. Both me and and my editor were perplexed about the addresses -- every store and restaurant has the same one. The only difference is the "shop" number, which explains why the addresses look a bit repetitive in this article.

You can read about the history of the town in the article, but let's just say that it didn't look this way when Fred and Ethel Noyes founded it. I'm not sure if I would recommend staying overnight in Smithville -- you could shop the place in a day. But it has a quaint, village-esque feel, and I liked watching the roosters roam the property like so many power shoppers. I loved the SmithvilleBakery (615 E Mossmill Rd, Shop 20, 609-652-6471). It was probably the most colonial looking thing in the bunch.

In another housekeeping note, I just signed up for I love it -- makes me think about what books I have and should maybe look into re-reading. If you'd like to check out what I've got, or want to 'friend' me, click here. I have a myspace page, too. That's here.

What I'm Listening to: A Different Light by Sherwood.

Digg this

Monday, September 24, 2007


A few housekeeping notes:

-I wrote an article about Smithville, NJ (which is right outside of Atlantic City) for the October issue of NJ Monthly. If you're a subscriber, you should have already gotten that issue in the mail. I'll post a link once the article is online.

-Irish Weekend was fun. It was entirely too crowded on Saturday night to get into any of the more popular bars (and I wasn't too jazzed about paying a $5 cover), so we ended up at Casey's on Third (301 New York Avenue, North Wildwood, 609-522-7759), which had a band and a lot of people watching the Phillies game. Then we headed to Owen's Pub (17th Avenue, North Wildwood, 609-729-7290), which allowed a little more breathing room, another Irish band, and plenty more people watching. I didn't see the parade, but did see the Clydesdales walk by the house where me and the boyfriend were staying. Damn, they're big animals.

-Not shore-related, but still cool: Rachel Weingarten, author of Career and Corporate Cool, is running a fab contest on her blog. If you buy a copy of her book on September 25 (that would be tomorrow) between 9 am and 5 pm, send your online receipt to backtocool@careerand, and you'll be qualified to win a slew of cool prizes, including iTunes and Sephora gift certificates, magazine subscriptions, gift baskets from Phyto and so much more. Check out more info here. I'm not qualified because I already read the book -- highly recommend it to anyone looking to kick start their career, or give their own corporate life a kick in the rear (helped me out when re-evaluating my goals). And the book is not a boring business book, so check it out!

What I'm Listening to: The Weight is a Gift by Nada Surf.

Digg this

Friday, September 21, 2007

Irish Eyes are Smiling

Last night was the start of Irish Weekend in North Wildwood. This year marks the 16th anniversary of the event, which, from what I hear, is tamer than in years past. Yes, you can bring the family and not worry about too many drunks stumbling across your path. Unless you're out at night. In that case, it's expected. I'm going down late for the festivities -- Saturday -- and will be wearing my green tank top (and probably hoisting at least one pint of Guinness).

The Courier Post did a pretty good job summing up the events (though I'm not sure I agree with the hotel situation). Check it out here. If you're going, expect crowds. Lots of them.

And the sun. It's going to feel very summery this weekend, which is why me and the boyfriend are going to hit the beach before changing into our green garb (yes, after a shower -- I don't want to stink up the bar). Is Sunday really the first day of fall? Depends on how you look at it. Still summer for me, it seems!

What I'm Listening to: Music for the Morning After by Pete Yorn.

Digg this

Thursday, September 20, 2007

News from Around the Jersey Shore

I'm not the only one who loves the shore in September. Here's a fantastic essay about just that from Amy S. Rosenberg at the Inquirer.

Remember those fancy boats used at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry? They didn't go over so well.

More on the fight to get Strathmere out of Upper Township. They want to join Sea Isle City, which makes sense to me. They're on the same island. And I put them together in one chapter in my book. I'm sure they're considering that in their decision.

Ocean City might not be using rain forest wood to repair the boardwalk after all.

Casino revenues may be down, but NJ Transit ridership is up in Atlantic City.

Speaking of Atlantic City, seven of the 11 casino hotels will have smoke free gaming floors. They'll have dedicated smokers' lounges, but now I can breathe if I happen to blow five bucks on the slots.

A preview of a new casino hotel coming to Atlantic City.

Check out this great article about Cape May from Sunday's New York Daily News.

A short round up of what's going on this weekend at Wildwood's Irish Weekend.

I'll be at Irish Weekend, so check in tomorrow for my preview of how to get your luck on. No book updates, but hopefully I'll have something to share soon!

What I'm Listening to: Preston & Steve on WMMR.

Digg this

Friday, September 14, 2007

Back At It

Sorry for the blogging silence. I think that the exhaustion from finishing the book caught up with me, that or I'm still decompressing. I spent a lot of this week cleaning, reminding editors I'm alive, and trying to drum up some work. I now have a few assignments lined up, so I'm almost back to full speed. Monday will be my first full day back, which will be a very good thing.

Lots going on down the shore this weekend. Two of note: Historic Cold Spring Village (720 Rt. 9 South, Cape May 609-898-2300) is having their annual Civil War Weekend. They'll have reinactments, and you can see what life was like for the soldiers.

This weekend is also the Wings & Water Festival at The Wetlands Institute (1075 Stone Harbor Blvd., Stone Harbor, 609-368-1211 ). Events include a turtle release, touch tank and swimming retriever dogs, plus boat rides, kayaking, a rubber duck race, crafting, jugglers, folk music, salt marsh safaris and dune walks.

Looks like the weather's going to be beautiful for both events, and for a weekend at the shore. I'm looking forward to Sunday, which I hear will be the first fall-feeling day of the season. I'll be at home working on my lawn though I have plans in Wildwood for next weekend. Stay tuned!

What I'm Listening to: Preston and Steve on WMMR.
What I'm Reading: Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

Digg this

Friday, September 7, 2007

Shore Love

I mentioned before that I turned down what could have been my second book project. I have a lot of reasons for saying no to what could have been book two:

  • I wasn't thrilled with the contract.
  • I wasn't thrilled with what they wanted to pay me.
  • I'm at the point in my career when I don't have to accept every scrap of work thrown my way. I'm 99 percent sure I'll do better money wise and stress wise by working on freelance projects in the space that would have been dedicated to the book.
  • I'm too burned out from writing 75,000 words in a short amount of time to jump right into an 80,000 word project on an even shorter timeline.
  • I wasn't completely in love with the subject matter.
The last factor is key. A lot of writers refuse to do travel guides because they think the pay is low for the amount of work required. Travel writing won't always make you rich, but for me, writing a book about this area made sense. I already write articles about it, and I like being there. Plus, now that the research is done, I have a long list of articles I want to pitch to magazines about the area that I wouldn't have had without writing the book.

I joked that, after the book was done, I'd go as far away from the Jersey shore as possible because I was sure I'd be sick of the shore. But I'm not. Now that I know where to go and what to do and where to eat and where to stay, I want to enjoy it all. That's why I'm headed to the shore tonight. I can't get enough of it, which shows me that this book was the right project for me. I wouldn't have that kind of dedication to what could have been book two, so I passed.

The weather's still summery even if the calendar is not, so go ahead and head down if you've got the time. I'll see you on the beach.

If you're in Avalon, Jack's Place (3601 Ocean Drive, Avalon, 609-967-5501) is having a "Drink 'Em Dry" party tonight. All drinks are $2.50. That's quite a bargain compared to regular summer prices.

Digg this

Thursday, September 6, 2007

News from Around the Jersey Shore

The loan that would protect the Beach Theatre in Cape May did not go through. But it wasn't rejected -- the decision has been delayed.

Another deck collapse at the Jersey shore, this time in Wildwood. This doesn't surprise me -- some of these decks look like they're attached to houses with silly putty.

A nice story about summer memories down the shore from Jason Harris at the Burlington County Times.

The Holiday Inn and Ho Jo in Atlantic City are closing down for renovations that will make them into a boutique hotel called The Chelsea. If you're looking for a budget-friendly place to stay in Atlantic City, there's always the Irish Pub Inn, which, yes does have an inn portion.

Someone in Cape May County (or who visited Cape May County) is a very wealthy person.

What I'm Listening to: Preston and Steve on WMMR
What I'm Reading: The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

Digg this

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Post Labor Day Down the Shore

I took a quick spin through my Statcounter report to see how people are finding this blog (hello readers of Ask Allison!) and saw a lot of Google searches for what beaches are open after Labor Day.

The easy answer is: all of them. You can't really close the beach for the year, especially since some people (like me) enjoy walking along the beach in the cold weather. If you're looking as to whether or not beaches have lifeguards after Labor Day, well, the answer's a bit more complicated.

The beaches down the shore start losing lifeguards right around the time that college starts. Simple enough: the kids have to go back to school. So even on Labor Day weekend, some shore towns 'close' their beaches meaning that those areas usually guarded during the summer season no longer have lifeguards.

If you want to know what beaches are guarded in what town, call the town chamber of commerce. And since you got here by Google, I'm going to assume you know the best way to do that. I also have links on the left side of this blog that connect you to the towns' websites.

I'll have more (and longer) posts for you next week. I'm still unwinding from the stress of the last few weeks -- okay, last few months. I've been doing some work, even if I was supposed to take today off, but it's not book work. I'm transitioning back into my regular life where I didn't have to work every night after dinner or figure out what days I could zip down the shore and where I'd find a quiet spot to do a phone interview along the way. I think it's going to take a while, but I'm happy to be working back to however 'regular' the life of a freelance writer can be.

Digg this

Wacky Wig Contest

Jen Singer is a fabulous writer and has been vacationing in Wildwood Crest with her family for years. This summer, she's also been battling cancer (though she did make it down the shore), and is hosting a Wacky Wig Contest on her blog.

So show a fellow shore fan some love (and get a chance to win some fab prizes) and vote for your favorite (I went with "Tall, Blonde and Crazy").

Digg this

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Aftermath

Done. DONE! I am done done done!

I kept a tally of my habits for the month leading up to my book being due to the publisher. The first number is what happened in the month; the second number is what usually happens. If you're scratching your head about the use of decimals, remember that this is per month. Sometimes I only do something once every other month.

Cups of coffee or tea after 5 pm: 5/0
Articles pitched: 13/25
Articles written: 7/15
Take out meals: 16/3
Miles run: 32/60
Reams of paper used: 6/.5
Toner cartridges used: 4/.5
Days worked in my pajamas: 2/0
Books read: 1/5
New York Times Book Reviews read: 0/4
Fingernails lost to research-related injury: 1/0
Times I threw my phone: 4/0
Times I punched a grocery store door because they closed early when I needed toner: 2/0
Weight gained: See items about "miles run" and "take out meals." You do the math.
Listened to Guster on Ice: Live from Portland by Guster: 25/5

If you'd like a visual representation:

My office

My office floor

My dog, who is very happy to have me back.

And with that, I'm taking the rest of the afternoon, and tomorrow, off. Wahoo!

Digg this

T Minus Zero: Book Day

Happy September 4. For most people, this will be a day of trudging back to school or work. The light, fun summer is over, and it's time to get down to business.

For me, it means my book is due to my publisher. And rather than a frantic rush that I thought I'd feel at this moment, I'm calm and ready to take on the day (though after some sleep -- I'm writing this at midnight).

I worked most of Labor Day, doing one final read through and putting together all the things I'll need to ship off tomorrow. I stopped working around 11:30 pm, watched a bit of Letterman while enjoying a glass of wine (Cape May Table Wine, in fact) and a snack. Now I'll go to bed and hopefully get a good night's sleep before the morning push. I sometimes have a problem turning off my work brain so I can go to sleep, especially in the last few weeks leading up to this big deadline, but I'm feeling okay and think I should get at least six hours.

There are things to do, too many to list here, but I have no doubt that I'll make the deadline.

I bet September 5 is going to still carry that "my fun time is over" for a lot of people, the same way it does with September 4. Not me. After all the work I've poured into this book for the summer, September 5 will be my freedom day, my signal that the good times are about to begin. I'm not taking any substantial time off -- I've already got three assignments waiting for me -- but at least I'll be able to shut my computer down before dinner and not worry about what work I'll have to do that night.

Digg this

Monday, September 3, 2007

T Minus One Day: Laboring on Labor Day

Is it already September? Is my book really due tomorrow? My calendar doesn't lie -- today is September 3, and I'm seeing the light at the end of this tunnel.

I'm feeling okay. I looked at the manuscript over the weekend and saw that it's almost done, and that I shouldn't be hyper about anything. My mad dash of work earlier last week pushed me through most of what still needed to be done. Today I'm reading the book "cover to cover" and finishing up the map information, plus finalizing the pictures and picture captions. Tomorrow I'll give the book one more quick overview -- I don't want to get too bogged down in the text that I've already read a dozen times. Tomorrow's run through will check formatting only.

I came home from the shore yesterday, and it was a dazzling weekend. The weather was beautiful, and the water warm enough to swim in. I wish that guy near me hadn't started smoking a cigar Saturday afternoon or I would have stayed on the beach longer. Why would he light up in a crowded area with kids all around? That's one thing I'll never get.

Anyway, I'm done with Atlantic City and am going to plow south through the rest of the book. Enjoy you Labor Day!

What I'm Listening to: Wincing the Night Away by The Shins.

Digg this