Friday, April 29, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 20: We Fight for NJ

This is a new video from Titus Andronicus, premiering today, that is about New Jersey. The preamble mirrors a lot of how I feel about this wonderful, mixed up, beautiful garden state. The video hits the Pine Barrens, Little Egg Harbor, Asbury Park, New Brunswick and Jersey City. I'm jealous because I've never been inside that carousel house in Asbury Park.


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 19: The Wetlands Institute has an Osprey Cam

Osprey are large raptor birds that are sometimes called the fish hawk. They hunt fish, and are beautiful to watch.

They also love the Jersey Shore.

The Wetlands Institute, which is on the causeway between Route 9 and Stone Harbor, has set up an Osprey Cam where you can watch two locals - Hali and Luke - as they nest. It's fascinating. Who knew birds could be so interesting?

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 18: The Jersey Shore can make you fat

Last night I wrapped up the second of two big Jersey Shore food articles I wrote for Edible Jersey magazine. In May, you can read an excerpt from my book in SJ Magazine about making salt water taffy.

Hence today's fact of the day: The Jersey Shore can make you fat.

Proof! These are some items I wrote about: hot and angry lobster cocktail, whole baked artichoke, tater tots, chocolate coconut pancakes, ludicrous wings, she crab soup, sticky buns, caramel popcorn, and a hot dog with Tabasco mayonnaise.

This is why I stress that Green Cuisine is a must-stop on your Jersey Shore trip. They make salads. Very good salads.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wanted: Shore Backroads

I'm writing an article about backroads to get from the Philadelphia area to the South Jersey Shore. I know you have them. I do.

The trick is I need people who are willing to share them in print.

Is that you? Hit me up in the comments or email me at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com.

I find that people either want to brag about their best backroutes, or they pledge to take their route with them to the grave. Then you have people like me - I know where to go but would need a map to say exactly where the path lies.

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Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 17: Yum Yum's insures your ice cream

Yum Yum's is one of those ice cream spots that routinely has a line stretching out the door and down the block. It's right in the middle of downtown Sea Isle, and the ice cream is darn good.

Make sure you get a cone because at the bottom is a gum drop. They started doing this to prevent ice cream from dripping through the bottom of the cone. People liked it so much that the gum drop has stayed, even if cone technology has improved.

And now I want a gum drop. Way to go, blog.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 16: The Bayside Center Loves Kayakers

Did you know about the Bayside Center? It's an activities hub on the Bay in Ocean City, set inside a 1916 house on 1.35 acres of land. They have an environmental center, and events.

They're also big with kayakers. That's because the Bayside Center also has docks, and kayakers can paddle up and take a break on a hot summer day. Perfect spot for sunset, too.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 15: The Knife & Fork has an amazing backstory

I'm going to cheat a little on this fact of the day - I'm off from my full time job today but have a long list of things to do for freelance and the book.

Last night, I worked late to finish up a dining piece for Edible Jersey magazine, and went to the website of the Knife & Fork to fact check that portion of the story. And came across this.

I'd known this, but haven't read it written so well before. Enjoy.

So what we we think of this series? I've enjoyed writing it, from the real facts to the silly ones. Worth continuing?

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 14: My book is available for pre-order

Huzzuh! It's getting there. Last week, my book popped up on Amazon
and Barnes and Noble, ready for pre-orders.

Now about that publication date...yes, it's June 6. Yes, that's after Memorial Day (nothing I can control folks, unfortunately). BUT! Books will start shipping from the warehouse on May 18. If you placed a bulk order, you should have them before Memorial Day and, most likely, you'll see the book in stores by then too.

If you want to buy one from me and have it autographed, just let me know and I'll arrange it. I'll have copies to sell on my own in May. And, of course, if you want to place a bulk order, let me know...

I'll have details on a book launch party shortly, too. It'll be a fun one, and open to the public this time.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 13: The first skee-ball games had 36-foot ramps

The first version of skee-ball is not what you see today. Invented by J.D. Estes of Philadelphia in 1909, the first version of this classic game had 36-foot ramps. It was also an outdoor game, and was invented as a much cheaper version of bowling.

"The real estate on a beachfront boardwalk is so expensive in terms of rent that no business could afford a full-scale bowling alley," said Angus Kress Gillepsie, professor of American Studies at Rutgers University and co-author of Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike. "What you have in effect is miniature bowling, same as miniature golf."

The alleys were cut down to 14 feet in 1929, and today they're between 10 and 13 feet. The benefit of shorter ramps is that you can fit more into one space, and it's a game more people can play, from the adults gunning for high scores, or kids whose parents help them along.

Atlantic City hosted the first skee-ball tournament in 1932. You'll find skee-ball in just about every shore town, and around the country. It's made appearances in the Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants, too.

This tip is drawn from a sidebar in the second edition, FYI. Yes, it's a travel guide, but I stuffed a lot of cool history facts in as well.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 12: Boardwalks are busy on Easter

If you head down the shore on Easter Sunday looking for a nice, peaceful stroll down the boardwalk, forget it. It'll be a busy busy day.

For a lot of shore businesses, Easter weekend is the start of their season (and Easter being late this year wasn't helpful). Easter Sunday is also when a lot of the ride operators sell tickets at deep discounts. I went to the Ocean City boardwalk in Easter 2009, and lines at ticket windows stretched across and down the boardwalk.

Playland in Ocean City and Morey's Piers in Wildwood put details of their Easter sales online. If you have your heart set on another ride pier, give them a shout.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Asbury Park Half Marathon

After following along the Boston Marathon this morning, the half doesn't seem like much, but, here we go anyway.

The Asbury Park Half Marathon has two options: a three loop course, or an out and back course from the boardwalk to Sea Girt and back. The out and back course goes over the Belmar draw bridge. If the bridge is up, you're stuck until it goes back down, and that time counts toward your official time.

But what the heck. Opted for the out and back course anyway.

Thank goodness it didn't rain but the wind was terrible. I could hear it howling when I woke up that morning (the wind ended up being so bad that I had windburn marks around where my watch was). I went out a little faster than I hoped, but held my pace. The wind wasn't *too* bad going out. After the Sea Girt turn around, though, it smacked you, and I leaned into it the rest of the way to the finish line. The only reprieve was in the last stretch where our course merged with the three loop course - it wasn't on the boardwalk, so there was some wind buffer, but not much.

I managed to hold up that fast pace through the second half of the run, and even pushed to run negative splits (meaning I ran the next mile faster than the one before). I finished with official time of 1:54:20. That's 140th overall out of 630; 13th out of 74 in my age bracket; and 58th woman overall out of 404.

I'll be honest: the time shocked me, not just because of the wind, but because it's not far from my half marathon PR of 1:53:06, which was the last race I ran before my hip injury pushed me out of competitive racing (and that wasn't even a great race, but another story for another time). I don't feel anywhere close to being in the same shape, and I haven't been training like a maniac, so the time is still a kick.

AND I managed to unpin and re-pin my bib mid race. Because the weather was so crazy, I had no idea what to wear. I stood outside of the hotel in three different outfits before going with to-the-knee tights, light tank and light running jacket. I ditched the jacket at mile three, but my bib was pinned to it, so I unpinned it from the jacket and re-pinned it to my bib while running. I kept the jacket, too, which I really appreciated given how much my body temperature dropped after the race.

Thank you to the volunteers who opened the straw and punched it into the juice box for me. My hands were frozen and swollen, and I couldn't even get the cap of a water bottle off let alone accomplish that complex task.

I only have one complaint, which lead to two problems: packet pickup was extremely unorganized. I was given two shirts but no wrist band that let me into the post-race shindig. Since there was no water station at the end of the race, I couldn't get any and relied on those volunteers who took pity on me and gave me water (the juice box was from a company handing out samples). I understand if you want to limit the crowds, but isn't my bib, medal and sweat soaked body enough?

Anyway. Now, for what you've really been waiting for: the food.

The first stop was Langosta Lounge for edamame, then Dauphin Grille for drinks with friends. Dinner was PASTA at Stella Marina, and post race meal came in at Tim McLoones.

Yes, Tim McLoone's. Wonderbar was not open, and even though the waitress standing outside waiting to be let in swore they'd be open at noon, she said no one was inside. Not good if you want to order a burger pronto, so we crossed the street and figured we'd look at the menu.

Turned out to be a good call. I went with the burger stuffed with blue cheese, and the dude did the burger with pork roll on either side of the meat. We both went for the fried pickles, which were incredibly. I also went for two bloody marys, which meant a nice big nap on the drive home.

I stayed at Hotel Tides, which fit the bill in terms of price and proximity to the race. Had a nice room, too. Only problem was the location of that room: 203, right up the (open) stairs from the lobby, which was loud. I came back from dinner after 11pm and the music was still on, and people at the bar. I had to sleep with the TV on to get past the noise, which I never do. If I stay there again, I'd try to get a room away from that stairwell.

Another observation. Take look at my race bib:

The race was sponsored by Wawa. Combined with seeing "pork roll" on a menu, I have to wonder if South Jersey culture is slowing creeping up the NJ coast. Those are very South Jersey things, and I was surprised to see both in Asbury Park.

Next up? Broad Street. It'll be nice to just take the subway to the start for this one.

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Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 11: Sea Isle City was Born from a Trip to Italy

Yes, you read that right. Charles K. Landis founded Sea Isle City after visiting Italy. Odd, but true. He bought the land after that Italy trip, and made Sea Isle a borough by 1880.

Some of those buildings from the 1880s are still around...on Landis Avenue, of course.

I'll have an update for you on this weekend's half marathon - hopefully by later today...

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 10: Shore Weather is Unpredictable

All week, the weather forecast for Saturday has been rain, rain and more rain. Yesterday's email update about the Asbury Park Half Marathon said the same thing: rain. And wind - wind that might push sand onto the course. Obstacle course. Fun!

But that forecast might be changing, to rain in the afternoon. That would be awesome.

For a lot of reasons, I had to pack for this race last night. I'm the kind of person who went to Italy for five days with just a carry on, but my duffel for the weekend is overstuffed. Why? Because I had to pack for every possible scenario: rain, wind, sun, and maybe even heat. That wind can turn, the sun could come out, or clouds blow over. You never know. Heck, it was supposed to SNOW for the Ocean Drive 10 miler, and I finished the race in sunshine.

Do you have a fun change of weather story to tell? Drop it in the comments.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where to Eat & Drink: Asbury Park Half Marathon Edition

If you're running the Asbury Park Half Marathon on Saturday, you've already gotten the email with dining recommendations.

Since there's only six on the list, here's my informal guide of where to go for what. I've included bars because, let's be honest, a lot of us run races then immediately participate in the sport known as "day drinking" to celebrate.

There *IS* a post-race party at Convention Hall, but if you want to do something different, or eat up the night before, here are some of my recommendations. Note! There are a lot more excellent Asbury Park dining options, but these are places for which I can vouch:

Wonderbar. This is the turquoise building with a giant Tilly on the side. Nothing fancy here, but they have my favorite post-race combo: slutty cheeseburgers and bloody marys (I am not suggesting that the cheeseburgers are easy - they're greasy and awesome. This from someone who doesn't like burgers). This is also the last place Bruce Springsteen dropped by to play a casual set.

Moonstruck. Not on the beach but on a lake - and still easy to walk to from the heart of town - this is a slightly upscale option for pre-race pasta and much more. It's a locals hang out, too.

Langosta Lounge. I heart this place, which touts "vacation cuisine." Good if you have a lot of people with different tastes in your group. The bar scene is busy if you're looking for ANOTHER kind of exercise (wink wink nudge nudge, say no more, say no more). Langosta was one of the places featured in this New York Times piece I wrote about nice places at the shore.

Brick Wall Tavern. Carbs, carbs and more carbs. The sliders are excellent, as is the beer selection. Casual place, too. Gets a more crowded and louder later at night, but you should be resting by then (right? RIGHT?!)

The Annex. This is more than next door to Brick Wall. If you go to the back of the restaurant, you'll see a big sliding door along the right wall. That goes into the Annex. The red sangria is excellent. It also has fun chalkboard walls.

Watermark. Fancy place that does drinks and tapas. I would think twice about coming here immediately after the race - unless you sat outside. Then again, they don't open until 5pm on Saturday. You'd feel pretty scuzzy by then. Also featured in that New York Times piece.

Stella Marina. On the boardwalk with more pasta options that you could ever hope to eat. My favorite memory was from summer 2009 while I was staying in the area, working on that New York Times piece. I travel alone for these kinds of pieces, and a guy had come up to me earlier that day and called me by a different name. He swore up and down that I was his ex-girlfriend. I was not. That night, I had dinner on the upstairs dining deck at Stella Marina. The same guy passed me but he was on the boardwalk, and yelled up at me, angry that I was eating alone. Weird memory. But good food.

Asbury Lanes. I put a bowling alley on here for two reasons. One, it's awesome. Two, they have the best tater tots on the face of the planet (and, yes, a bar). I know I'm going to want to walk right from the finish line into "the Lanes" as the locals call it, though they're only open from 8pm until 2am. Perhaps a Friday night snack.

Dauphin Grille. This is the new-ish restaurant and bar in the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, where I'm going to guess a lot of runners are staying. I stopped in here about a month ago, and they had Allagash White on tap. I didn't eat here, just had a drink, and I dug it. Classic shore restaurant feel. They open at noon on Saturday.

Nagles. This is in Ocean Grove (just south of Asbury and way easy to walk to), so it's dry. But if you've got kids with you, or really want ice cream, I highly recommend this former pharmacy. It's now more diner and ambiance. And did I mention the ice cream?

Like I said - this is a list based on my experiences. It's also done with runners in mind, which is why I kept a few gems off the list (I love you, Trinity and the Pope, but I just can't fit in you into the running equation). If you have any additions, drop them into the comments.

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Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 9: Ocean City has a Doo Dah Parade

This Saturday, Ocean City celebrates the end of tax season with the Doo Dah parade, a ridiculous romp that involves comedians, impersonators, and about 300 basset hounds parading down Asbury Ave. and up the boardwalk.

Yes, the parade is taking place before tax day this year, but it's not really their fault that the day was pushed back to April 18.

I went in 2008 and took a lot of pictures, which you can see here. I've tried to go since, but scheduling always got in the way. Last year, I was in Chicago. This year, I'll be at the Asbury Park Half Marathon.

Speaking of, check back on the blog later today for my guide on where to eat while in Asbury, fine tuned for runners. There's also a semi-serious commentary about runners and the sport known as "day drinking."

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 8: This is my 1,000th post

For better or for worse, this is the 1,000th post of "Down the Shore with Jen."

I started the blog in 2007 while writing the first edition of my book. I did it because I was frustrated with the process, and was finding out information that was fun but didn't quite fit into book format. I never expected the blog to become whatever it is today. So thanks for following along.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 7: AC Gaming Once Outpaced Las Vegas

Yes, you read that right: Atlantic City once beat the Las Vegas strip in gaming revenues.

This, according to David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Las Vegas. Last week, he tweeted about preparing for a lecture on Atlantic City gaming, and shared the tidbit that "from 1982 to 1999, Atlantic City produced more gaming revenues than the LV Strip."

This is startling considering the 31 straight months of decline in AC gambling revenues - new numbers out yesterday.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Beach Theatre Update

This issue with the Beach Theatre in Cape May is getting really tense.

Long story short: the Beach Theatre was a classic Jersey Shore movie house. It is one of the very few remaining today. The owners wanted to sell it, and there were plans to put condos in its space. Housing crisis hit. Non-profit came together to save the theatre, and started using it for different events and functions. But now the owners are back to trying to do it all over again (with lawsuits involved).

The issue right now seems to be whether or not the Beach Theatre is a historic building. It is much younger than the other historic properties in town, but those for saving it say it still meets the standards to fall under the town wide National Historic status.

What concerns me here is that Cape May was put on the "watch list" with the National Park Service. If they allow the theatre to be demolished, it could be another blow step toward losing their historic status. Combined with dings for the modern design for the new Convention Hall, those ugly vinyl lighthouse things put up at the entrance of town that called quite a stir...this could be a problem.

Will it be worse toward historical status than the demolition of the Admiral Hotel. I don't know, and the National Park Service is being tight lipped.

But it seems an awful lot to risk.

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Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 6: Boardwalk Empire is Based on Fact

If you've seen the ritzy HBO show Boardwalk Empire, you might think it's too good to be true. It is and it isn't.

While the characters are fiction, the basis of the story and that world are very real. Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City is a book about that history, written by Nelson Johnson, an Atlantic County judge, and published by Plexus Publishing, a small press based in Marlton, NJ.

Fun, non-shore related fact: one of my first freelance assignments was a story about Plexus Publishing. I think I wrote about them in 2003. Small world.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 5: Avalon has a Past

Not to be of the "kid get off my lawn" variety, but sometimes I miss the old Avalon, back when the Princeton was old and grungy, and you could get almost anything you needed for the beach at Hand's department store.

I'm not the only one: check out to see what I'm talking about.

Maybe it's nostalgia. My "shore" as a kid was Avalon. Most of you who emailed me about what you think is the real Jersey Shore wrote about what you remember from when you were a kid (hi dad). I bet your parents think the real Jersey Shore is what THEY remember when they were kids. And so on. And so on.

At least this website covers a lot of different generations, so if your nostalgia leads you to the town that's Cooler By a Mile, check it out.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

The Borgata is renovating its rooms.

Check out the Wetlands Institute osprey camera!

Must be Windsday.

Oooo, Pinky's ticked (side note: I have been in this tunnel, but it's been a while).

Sure sign it's almost summer: meters are coming back.

Can I file this under "I'll believe it when I see it?"

Make a note if you drive the Ocean Drive - part of it is closed for construction.

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Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 4: Atlantic City was filmed in Atlantic City

If you're interested in the history of Atlantic City, Netflix yourself a copy of Atlantic City, a 1980 movie with Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster that was actually filmed in Atlantic City. I believe the above photo is set inside the Knife & Fork Inn. Other locations include the White House Sub Shop and, of course the Atlantic City Boardwalk (Lucy the Elephant is in the movie, too, but in the wrong location - you won't see her on your way into town. She's in Margate).

The movie shows a time of transition - the abject state of decay right at the start of the casino boom. It takes place right after gambling legally came to town. Resorts is open and operating, and old, crumbling yet beautiful hotels are being torn down to make way for the casinos you see today. Not saying it was right - but the movie captured that moment.

It's a good flick, too. Sarandon was nominated for an Oscar for her role. Well worth adding to your Netflix cue.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Real Jersey Shore

Speaking of the real Jersey Shore, I just got an assignment to write about just that.

The editor's given me a lot of leeway in where I can go with the piece. I'll be talking to Justin Gaynor for sure, and including my own thoughts. But where to go from there?

So what do YOU consider the real Jersey Shore?

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Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 3: West Wildwood is Small

Most people think of three places that fall under the umbrella of "The WIldwoods:" North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwcood Crest.

But there's actually a fourth town: West Wildwood.

West Wildwood is .25 square miles with one bridge on and off the island. It floods. There's one bar. And they have a really hard time figure out who's in charge.

But I dig it. I keep pushing my dad to buy a house there. I could live without up front beach access for a little shore peace and quiet.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 2: Cape May requires beach wedding reservations to avoid nuptial traffic jams

Yes, you can get married on the beach at sunset in Cape May. It's one of the few places where you can do that on the East Coast, which is one of the reasons Cape May is a popular destination wedding spot.

But did you know that you need to reserve your wedding time and spot in advance? That's because beach weddings are so popular, and the city doesn't want a nuptial traffic jam.

According to the Cape May Times, you must call Terry Stickle, the city's wedding coordinator, at (609) 884-9580 to get the ball rolling.

I've helped a few couples sort out their Jersey Shore wedding details, so feel free to email me at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com if you have questions. And here's a short sales pitch: If you have guests traveling in from out of town, you could give them copies of my book in a welcome bag, or as gifts to your bridal parties. I an offer bulk rates, too, up to 50% off. This actually wasn't my idea - a few couples have done this already!

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Want the Real Jersey Shore? There's an App for That

Justin Gaynor, the fabulous photographer who provided me with a cover image for book 2, just launched an iPad app that is what a bunch of us writers and bloggers have been screaming from the mountaintops: The Jersey Shore is not that fictional BS MTV pretends is fact. Their false portrayal of the shore area is not only extremely offensive, but it hurts the image and, ultimately, tourism dollars that go down the shore.

So here's Justin's iPad app: The Real Jersey Shore. It features 35 "videoscapes" of the Jersey Shore, from Sandy Hook to Cape May, plus weather information for wherever you're going.

It's only a $1.99. So if you've got an iPad, grab it. It's nice to look at on dreary days like this.

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Jersey Shore Fact of the Day 1: "The Sindia" is still at sea

Welcome to the Jersey Shore Fact of the Day series. I hope to do one of these every weekday through Labor Day. We'll see if I can keep up with that.

First up? "The Sindia".

"The Sindia" was a 329-foot, four-masted ship that hit a sandbar in Ocean City in 1901. The ship cracked in two, and parts of it are still off the shore of Ocean City, right around 16th and 17th streets. You can't see the remains because they're covered by sand. But you can eat at the Sindia Restaurant. It'll open for the summer season in May.

(And grammar fact of the day: names of ships are put in quotes. Classes of ships are italicized.)

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Atlantic City Beer Festival

This weekend is the Atlantic City Beer Festival. Big event. I'd be there if I wasn't running the Cherry Blossom Run in Washington DC. My advice if you go:

Don't be an ass.

I was in Atlantic City for this weekend last year, but not at the festival. I tried to leave town just as one of the sessions let out. Someone decided the best way to cross the street was to walk on the Atlantic City Expressway.

Don't be that guy. Please. And don't be that person running through red lights to cross from the Convention Center to the outlets. Or the person who decided they need to shop drunk.

So be smart. Don't get bombed. And for God's sake don't drive home if you're loaded.

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