Newark was my only introduction to New Jersey. Naturally, I didn’t have a point of reference for the Garden State beyond its low-cost airfare and access to Manhattan. Okay, there was the MTV show. But I just had to Google “New Jersey MTV” just to remember the name of the show, so it’s not like it made a huge imprint on me.
Regardless, neither point of reference stirred up any sort of excitement when our ferry docked at Cape May.
We were headed for Sea Isle City to meet up with friends who were serendipitously staying at their family beach house just at the time we needed a place to stay. State parks in New Jersey do not have electrical hookups; a problem when we have to plug in computers to make a living.
The beach house was in a private community about five miles from the beach. It's only open from April to October and its main rules entail that you cannot have more than one trailer per lot. Yes, these beach homes are, in fact, mobile homes. They are situated on small, pebbled lots and perma-built into homes by adding decks, porches, pitched roofs, flamingos and seashell wind chimes.
You probably think I’m making fun of this. But you’d be wrong—so wrong. On the contrary, I felt oddly at home. I spent our three days strolling by the pool and weaving through the “streets,” stealing floor plans and deck ideas and all the genius that mobile home developers in Sea Isle City have to offer. These are some damn nice mobile homes; I’d happily live here year-round if allowed.
Despite being very sick, our friend John and his girlfriend / our mutual friend Leah toured us around the various beach communities of southeastern NJ. We ate the local pizza. They let us use their family’s beach tags to read and drink and sun bathe on Sea Isle’s finest shorelines. And they took us to the single most important place in all of New Jersey: Hank’s.
Hanks Hot Sauce is hands down the best hot sauce in the world. Period. Imagine a really good — say your Texas Pete’s or Tabasco. Now imagine it infused with herbs. And kicked up an extra six degrees on the hot scale. Would you be interested in that hot sauce? Of course you would. Which is why Hanks is the number one reason to visit New Jersey. Of course, you could just order some online, too, but this is a travel blog, people. We recommend you go there. (Tell them Local Color XC sent you. Maybe we’ll finally get them to sponsor us…)
After a short three days we packed up and said goodbye to John and Leah and arguments about whether or not Carson likes Terrence Malick films (he does not) and headed to NYC. But not before a quick swing through Farmingdale, NJ, where our good friend Ali and her incredible family agreed to let us store Elsie for the week. God knows we weren’t about to risk pulling our only home through Manhattan. A week later, we picked her up again, Connecticut in our sights. But before we crossed state lines, we camped a few days at the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Northern NJ. It’s a beautiful stretch of wilderness. The campground itself is rustic modern to a T; incredibly comfortable despite being just a paved road in the middle of a forest surrounded by miles of hiking, mountain biking and bears.
Hank’s Hot Sauce. Beach. Mahlon Dickerson. Repeat. That’s all we needed, New Jersey. You’ve redeemed yourself.