Let’s take a trip. Drive to Deposit and hop onto 17 East; you’ll pass by Hancock, Liberty, Roscoe, and Middletown. Go through the toll and take 87 South. Just two miles past the Ramapo Service Area you see “Exit 15”. Take it and you’ll merge with 287.
As you head up the ramp, a big smile spreads across your face when you see the sign: “Welcome to New Jersey”. You are home.
If you’re in the “Jersey Club” then you know the rules, the customs, and the language. It’s also part of your DNA to drive both offensively and defensively at the same time. When my husband goes with me, he will drive to Middletown and then we switch. He can’t handle the “city driving” as he calls it. Meanwhile as I get closer to the state border it’s as if I am auditioning for the next ‘The Fast and the Furious’ movie.
Growing up my family made the 3-hour trek a few times a year. We moved to upstate New York when I was little and while we had some family that migrated with us, most of our extended family lived in northern NJ. It wasn’t uncommon for us to spend the weekend at a family member’s house for holidays, birthday parties and special occasions. It was like a sleepover for the us kids. We’d gather with our sleeping bags in the living room and stay up late snacking, talking, playing games, and watching movies.
My great aunt and uncle lived near the state border in Suffern, and it was a good “in between” spot for those of us who lived upstate and family in Jersey to gather. They had a big house that had a basement apartment where my Great Grandparents, and Great Aunt Dariel lived. One year we were visiting around the holidays and the movie ‘Legend’ was on.
From a previous column you know that this movie part of those dark movies from the 80’s that kids really shouldn’t have been subjected to. It was the first time I saw this movie and it scared me. Whenever I think about this movie I think about that holiday visit and while it makes me smile to think of them sitting around the kitchen table, unfortunately this memory also comes with one that includes a hideous red beast with big black horns.
While my feet are firmly planted in New York, I have always loved visiting my home state and when I don’t get there for a while, I find myself homesick for family and all the things I love about the Garden State.
First, there is nothing like a Jersey Diner. In fact I would go as far as to say that the Jersey Diner is unmatched anywhere in the country. I have found a couple that come close – the Roscoe Diner (Roscoe, NY) and Park Diner (Binghamton, NY) are decent substitutes. A classic Jersey diner is open 24/7, breakfast is served all day, the home fries are cooked correctly, your coffee cup is never empty. And while you rarely have room for more, the dessert case is full of the most amazing delicacies you could imagine.
It is totally appropriate to eat 6 or 8 ‘White Castle’ burgers in a sitting. These delicious, bite sized sliders are so scrumptious that the smell of them entices you to keep eating them until you realize, 8 empty boxes later, that you’ve eaten nearly a third of a ‘Crave Case’. But don’t worry, after a White Castle binge, nature will take care of it. There’s a reason we call it the ‘Jersey Girl Cleanse’.
Then there’s the great debate: Taylor Ham or Pork Roll. The debate is not whether or not this item makes it the most perfect breakfast sandwich you’ve ever had (it comes on a hard roll, lightly buttered with a fried egg and cheese). The debate is what we call it! The ‘Taylor Ham’ or ‘Pork Roll’ debate is long, deep and is even a disagreement among true Jersey peeps.
Here are a few more ‘Jersey-isms’ for you:
A ‘jughandle’ is how you make a left-hand turn.
Wawa is more than a gas station. It’s a mega-convenience store with everything you could want and delicious food. But don’t even think about trying to pump your own gas because it’s illegal to. There are paid attendants that do this quick and efficiently. And no, you don’t need to tip them. It screams “out of towner”.
Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen are our claim to fame. And we will tell you. Repeatedly.
It’s “down the shore” not “at the shore” or “the Jersey beach”. The day before my trip as Brianna was leaving for the day she said, “Have fun at the shore.” Katie and I stopped in our tracks, turned and at the same time said, “It’s DOWN the shore!” Jersey girls know.
“What’s your exit” is how we know what part of Jersey you’re from. We don’t need the name of your town or affiliations. The exit is all we need.
It’s called “Great Adventure”, not “Six Flags”.
Bagels from New Jersey are fantastic and there is no shortage of bagel shops. I always make a pit stop at Silver Bay Bagels on my way home from the shore. The trick is to go early while they are fresh and warm. If there is a line, then you know it’s a good place.
It’s good to know where you came from, but it’s a blessing to return to the place and people you chose to make your forever home with. As I came off the route 17 ramp in Deposit for the last leg home, I smiled knowing that my family was waiting for me.
The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of any entity that this author represents.