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On Returning Home

“Never was it thought I would return; so
Neighbors get over the garden wall,
Every one sobbing out welcome; then
As darkness falls and by candlelight
We stare into each other’s face
As if in a dream.”
Du Fu, from Qiang Village

Coming home–however you want to define “home”–after being away for an extended period isn’t as easy as some would imagine. It’s a contrast of memory and reality, how you want to look back on what once was there and finding the unfamiliar.

First time I got to see the finished World Trade Center

First time I got to see the finished World Trade Center

Reverse culture shock

I’ve been through this before. It’s called reverse culture shock. I spent almost four years in China before moving to Jersey City for another four, at which point I took my work-from-home job and set out on a bit of an adventure. I came home once during my stint as an expat in China; it was month-long Spring Festival holiday and I treated my time in the US as a vacation. When I returned to the US in what I thought was a permanent move, I felt slightly out-of-place; it was a feeling that didn’t dissipate for months.

Jersey City redevelopment with the Trump Plaza behind

Jersey City redevelopment with the Trump Plaza behind

And now I find myself home again after my journey through eight countries–a journey that gave me highs and lows as I met new people, said good byes, wondered what I was eating, lost my job, and struggled to survive on freelance employment.

Why did I return home?

The journey home this time around was indefinite. I had to return to New Jersey for my brother’s wedding. It was a beautiful wedding and I’m happy for my brother and sister-in-law. I also got to see my relatives who came in for the festivities (and I attempted to stay out late to hang out with my cousins despite jetlag). I won’t post photos here because that’s their life and not mine.

View of Jersey City and NYC from the wedding

View of Jersey City and NYC from the wedding

Having a comfortable bed at my parents’ house when I arrived home was the greatest feeling–it was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in almost a year. Same goes for the nights at the hotel in Jersey City for the wedding (but not the nights I slept on my brother’s couch). A comfortable bed is what I love best about being home–I had very few comfortable beds around Asia, plus it takes me time to grow accustomed to a new abode.

You can't see the rest of the apartment in Tokyo because I couldn't move far enough back to get it in the frame

My tiny apartment in Tokyo didn’t have a comfortable bed

Seeing changes at home

During the first week and a half back in the US, I got to live back in Jersey City–someone had to take care of my brother’s cats. While recovering from jetlag, I wandered the streets that were once so familiar. I knew downtown Jersey City had changed since I’ve been gone, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much had changed. New high-rise apartments and expensive condos and more overpriced restaurants and bars. It wasn’t a cheap place to live when I was there for four years, but I’ve now been priced out of the market.

Nicole's jerk chicken and plantains before I added the hot sauce

Nicole’s jerk chicken and plantains before I added the hot sauce

I checked out some of the new places–I scoffed at most of the prices on menus. Even a beer is now at least $7. Why would I pay Manhattan prices if I’m not in Manhattan? At least in Taipei the price of good beer is justified because of outdated liquor laws and import costs. Fortunately, my favorite cheap eateries are still open, though prices have gone up by a dollar or two. I couldn’t resist a trip to the Taqueria for a chorizo taco and torta, as well as dinner at Nicole’s Caribbean Restaurant for jerk chicken and some amazing hot sauce. There are also two falafel shops that are still inexpensive and delicious–I got hawawshi with fries and salad for $8, and I was stuffed afterwards.

Tortas at the Taqueria

Tortas at the Taqueria

After wandering the streets of Jersey City each day I realized how little I connected to the city. I don’t know as many people as I once did, and I’ve lost touch with many of the ones still there. I became bored and only wandered through the city to get a bit of exercise and sunshine.

It’s been three weeks at home, and despite gorging on foods that are unavailable in Taiwan, I still feel like home isn’t home. Taking me out of my routines of the last several months–writing, walking, grocery shopping, biking–has complicated my sense of place. I attempt to find new routines–cooking for my parents, reading non-ebooks (Laird Hunt’s Neverhome is a terrific work of poetic historical fiction), finding comfortable times to write–to alleviate the boredom of returning home without work (though I have had a little freelance work to keep me busy for a few hours).

The new pedestrian mall on Newark Ave. in downtown Jersey City

The new pedestrian mall on Newark Ave. in downtown Jersey City

The longer I’m away from home, the more I feel comfortable abroad. The longer I’m home, the more I wonder if it’s still where I belong. Reconciling these emotions isn’t easy, and describing the feeling isn’t much easier.

Fortunately, I now know that my time home is temporary. I was offered a new job in Taipei and only have to wait on paperwork before booking my flight to begin a new routine in a city I find somewhat comfortable. It’s reassurance that struggling to make ends meet while living abroad has finally paid off.

Sunset over my hometown in northern New Jersey

Sunset over my hometown in northern New Jersey

In the meantime, I’ll continue relaxing at home, eating all the delicious foods my parents keep buying simply because I’m home. I’ll also search for more things I can bring back to Taiwan to make my life more comfortable. I’ll also attempt to see more of my friends in the area.

Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock? How did you cope with it? Can you really go home again?

Recalling Winter

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

While friends and family have endured the winter storm that wasn’t in the New York/New Jersey area, I’m reminded that I haven’t experienced winter since the beginning of 2013 (unless you count the couple days I recently spent in Seoul, which welcomed me with some flurries). winter-highline

The last winter I had in New Jersey was pretty bad, but not as awful as the previous one. That was the year of the brutal storm and freezing temperatures that prevented anything from melting while residents pretty much refused to even shovel out their cars to make street-clearing easier. It didn’t help that I had to walk to work at the community college every day on icy sidewalks that weren’t cleared.Jersey-City-Winter-storm

What was the point of this post again? Oh yeah, I hate winter and I’m glad I’m living in a subtropical region that requires a jacket on occasion. Alright, I’ll admit it, I miss watching the snow. I just don’t like walking to work in it.

I actually enjoyed some of winter on my trip to Iceland–but that was more because of the landscape. I certainly didn’t enjoy the icy rain that Iceland enjoys more than snow in the winter. It was even worse to arrive home to even colder temperatures. Good thing I made a point of buying insulated winter boots for that trip so I could wear them upon my return to frigid New Jersey.iceland-winter-landscape

I’m not gloating about the current weather in Taipei–it rains too much for my liking and I know I’ll be miserable when the heat and humidity turn me into a lethargic puddle on the streets in the summer. Still, I don’t mind missing winter.

Do you ever feel like you miss the weather at home while traveling?

Ai Weiwei at Princeton

fountainBefore I head out on my next big adventure, I decided to visit my friend at Princeton University. Unfortunately, my friend hasn’t been in the area long and doesn’t know most of the buildings on campus. We walked around a bit so I could see at least some of the architecture around campus. Fortunately, he did know of one stop that was of interest.

Last year, Princeton brought the art of Ai Weiwei (艾未未) to campus. For those who aren’t familiar with Ai’s work, he’s a controversial figure in modern China–he’s been arrested, harassed, and injured by China’s police. He is also banned from traveling outside China. He also helped design the 2008 Beijing Olympic stadium (the Bird’s Nest). He became more of political activist after the Olympics, for which he has faced a few charges. He has become more popular on the international stage in recent years.zodiac_heads

Princeton brought Ai Weiwei’s Chinese zodiac heads for a year-long display outside Robertson Hall. The zodiac heads are modern representations of the ones that were pillaged from the old Summer Palace by British and French forces in 1860. Some of the original bronze sculptures were auctioned off by Christie’s in France in 2009, generating outrage from China (and even a winning Chinese bidder who refused to pay).dragon

The original bronze sculptures aren’t all that interesting; the history behind them is all that makes them significant. Ai Weiwei’s recreation of the heads is more impressive–there’s more artistic detail in his version. Also, the surrounding fountain adds to the atmosphere for viewing such artwork.tiger

Despite spending three and a half years in China, this was my first encounter with the artwork of Ai Weiwei.

Feast at 15 Fox Place

foxplaceSaturday night, I joined my brother, his girlfriend, and a few other friends for dinner at 15 Fox Place in Jersey City. My brother told me about this restaurant after his birthday–at that time I wasn’t willing to shell out $115 (including taxes and tip) for a meal. But this time around, I decided I had to go (I almost forgot about it because we made the reservation a month ago). I even picked up a more expensive bottle of wine than I usually get because the restaurant is BYOB.

15 Fox Place is a unique dining experience–according to the website, it’s by reservation only for 2 to 40 people. It’s a small house, and each room is set up with individual parties. It almost feels like eating a feast with family–it’s fine dining without being pretentious. It doesn’t look like a restaurant–it’s just a converted house in a residential neighborhood, but the backyard is beautiful for dining if the weather is nice. We all thought it was a beautiful backyard garden when we wandered through the house during our dinner intermission (yes, you really need to get up and walk around halfway through).

A view of part of the backyard

A view of part of the backyard

Our dinner began with homemade tapenade that was the best I’ve ever tasted, and the food just kept on coming. I’m not entirely sure how many appetizers came out after that, but it was a lot. There were spicy peppers on fresh-cut potato chips, followed by an amazing plate of stuffed peppers (which was one of the few plates we completely finished).

15 fox place

Delicious stuffed peppers

I was told the polenta arrabiatta was great, but when I had it with the sausage sauce, I had to dig in for more (it was also the first time that I can remember eating polenta)–it was creamy and savory. It was gone from the table faster than any other antipasti.

15 Fox Place

Another dining room

There was also a pasta appetizer with a lemon sauce, which I thought was much better than the manicotti that arrived on the table at the same time. And yet, I thought the manicotti was delicious–it was not as heavy as I expected considering how much we ate before.lemonpasta

Unfortunately, I just bought a new camera and I’m still trying to figure out all the settings and how to best take photos. There were a few dishes that came out rather blurry in the low light–maybe my hands were shaking in anticipation of the wonderful flavor or it could’ve been the Desierto 25 malbec (one of my favorite wines). I was disappointed that my photo of the watermelon salad served in an ice bowl didn’t come out–and I was surprised how good watermelon with vinegar tastes.15 Fox Place

After intermission, which was spent in the backyard and checking out the upstairs dining rooms, I managed to screw up the photo of our main course. The chicken topped with thinly-sliced crispy ham was delicious. And for the pescatarians, there was a fish option (ordered in advance at reservation). There were even mussels and shrimp somewhere during the appetizers.

15 Fox Place ice cream

Dessert began with ice cream

To end the meal we were served espresso, coffee, or tea and three desserts (normally one dessert is more than enough for me). The desserts were an assortment of homemade cookies, some ice cream, and zeppoles.

zeppoles

It continued with zeppoles…

Probably the best perk of dinner was the family that runs the restaurant. They went along with our jokes at the table. There were some comments about getting adopted by the family, but we all realized we’d get really fat with all that awesome food. As our friend Jarrett put it, “If you leave here hungry, you’ve got a tapeworm.” Considering you’re encouraged to NOT finish every plate, I’d say that’s an accurate statement. We needed an extra 20 minutes after dessert to finish our wine and roll ourselves out the door.

15 fox place

Someone took the remaining cookies home

So, was my dinner at 15 Fox Place worth $115? Yes. It was a huge, elegant meal that lasted about three and a half hours. Would I go again? Probably not for at least a year. I just can’t justify the cost more than once a year. The restaurant also offers cooking classes and wine tastings.

Down the Shore

Last weekend’s seafood festival in Belmar reminded me that it’s been a while since I last visited the Jersey Shore. Although I’ve lived in New Jersey most of my life, I’ve only been to the shore a few times–the first time was when I was 17.cape_may_sunset

A few years ago I took my first journey to Cape May, but visited at the end of the season to avoid the crowds. Sunset from Sea View Park is a must on any visit to Cape May–there’s even a view of the lighthouse in the distance.

Alligator Is Seafood, Right?

seafood_festivalOn Saturday, I joined my friends for the Belmar Seafood Festival. I haven’t been to the Jersey Shore in a long time (a few years ago I drove to Cape May during the off-season), and this was my first trip south on NJ Transit. It was two hours on the commuter train, but it was more relaxing than driving on the Garden State Parkway.

After a day of torrential rain throughout the state, the festival grounds by the beach were covered in hay, but we still managed to get muddy and sink into the ground a bit. I was certainly glad that I wore sneakers instead of sandals–I  saw a few muddy feet.Belmar_beach

My first stop on the seafood fest tour was a little Cajun booth that sold alligator sausage for $8. I have to admit, the meat didn’t really taste any different from a pork sausage, but the Cajun seasoning made it great. It was definitely the best food available.alligator_sausage

Most of the food stands were the same, but there were a few that stood out. I found buffalo fried clam strips, which were pretty good. The second-best booth was Jamaican fish–I ordered the jerk fish, which had an amazing sauce. I only wish the fish had been a little larger.

Crayfish and jerk fish

Crayfish and jerk fish

My friends also ordered crayfish, crab cakes, softshell crab (with a mango sauce), calamari, and a few other things I can’t quite remember. I’ve never been much of a fan of crayfish–I see it as too much work for too little food. The calamari definitely wasn’t as good as at the Hoboken Pilsner Haus. But the softshell crab and crab cakes were pretty good choices.

More seafood variety

More seafood variety

We also sampled the beer tent. It was a choice of four Leinenkugel beers from Wisconsin. I opted for the imperial IPA and Baltic Porter–I figured I might as well get the higher alcohol beers if I was paying $6 per beer in a plastic cup. The imperial IPA, at 8.9% abv, was quite smooth–the hops weren’t overpowering, but the flavor went well with seafood. The Baltic porter, at 8.5% abv, was much heavier and didn’t sit as well after all the seafood–as my friend put it, the beer had more of an alcohol flavor.

The flamingo looks hungry

The flamingo looks hungry

After we finished eating, we headed to Point Pleasant to walk the post-Sandy repaired boardwalk. I forgot how cheesy and expensive the Jersey Shore boardwalks were. But there was a shop that sold ice cream and waffles.

Jersey City on a Bike

Sunday was the 4th annual Bike JC Jersey City Ward Tour. Starting from Exchange Place, the 600-plus cyclists (I assume since my bib number was 624–I can’t find official numbers) leisurely rode 15 miles through the streets of Jersey City to see each of the six wards.Bike JC

Like last year, it was well organized (even started on time this year) with the police and volunteers blocking intersections for the participants to ride safely.

I decided not to stop anywhere aside from the three designated meetup locations for photos. Last year I ended up at the end of the crowd because I kept stopping for photos that really didn’t come out that great anyway.

Sure looks like a lot of people. And I think i was in the middle.

Sure looks like a lot of people. And I think i was in the middle.

Though it was a bit warmer than I would’ve liked, the weather was great for the ride–the huge thunderstorm didn’t roll through until much later.wardtour_exchangeplace

And at the end of the ride, it was nice to hang around Exchange Place and enjoy some empanadas and beer while watching the local bands on stage.

Story of a Bridge

This past weekend, Jersey City unveiled its new footbridge linking Liberty State Park with Jersey Ave. The old, worn, lopsided bridge was washed away by Hurricane Sandy. This new bridge came with a price tag of $800,000.

This bridge really cost $800,000 of taxpayer money

This bridge really cost $800,000 of taxpayer money

As you can see, this pre-made bridge looks like something you can buy at Home Depot. I understand that some work had to be done on the roadway to be able to install the bridge properly, but $800,000!? I don’t care if the federal government is picking up most of the tab. I’m still wondering who pocketed the other $700,000. Our mayor-elect is taking credit for the bridge, but doesn’t seem to care about the price tag.

Prior to being installed. It just sat there for a few weeks

Prior to being installed. It just sat there for a few weeks

Anyway, Memorial Day provided some great weather for a bike ride through the park. Of course, after a few days of rain and cold temperatures, everyone decided Monday was a great day to spend in the park. There was a lot of traffic. Not being one for crowds or really slow bike rides, I decided to cut my ride short and enjoy a little grilling.

Beautiful day to enjoy the park

Beautiful day to enjoy the park

I didn’t take any photos of my grilled dinner, but it was delicious. Marinated steak with dried chili peppers, mirin, soy sauce, grated ginger and garlic, and a little oil. Wonderful flavor and spice.LSP-skyline1

Jersey City Chili Cook-Off

chili-2013On Sunday, I walked over to the Grove St. PATH station for the annual chili cook-off. I went late last year and missed out on most of the chili, so I headed over just after the event started this year.

Holding the chili cook-off at Grove St. was a great idea–it’s a much better location than the hidden lot on 4th St. The crowd was thin when I arrive just after noon, but it became quite crowded as the day went on.

I was rather disappointed with the entries to the chili cook-off. There were too many bland chilis, and only one that I found reasonably spicy. For some reason, there were a lot of rather sweet entries (really, who the hell wants to eat sweet chili?). It made me think that if I had entered this year, I would’ve had to make everyone sign a waiver because I make my chili spicy (I even use Sichuan flower peppercorns (aka prickly ash) and Thai peppers).

This was my favorite chili from Chilin' Beans

This was my favorite chili from Chilin’ Beans

I’ve reviewed the winners of this year’s cook-off, and I’m not too pleased with the results. My pick for individual chili entry was Chilin’ Beans, which made the chili with 10 types of peppers, giving it a very nice flavor and a bit of a kick. For some reason, the voters chose a chili that was made with Dr. Pepper and was sickeningly sweet. The winning restaurant, PJ Ryan’s, was a decent chili with chorizo–again, it would’ve been much better if there was at least some level of spiciness to it.chili-band

There were also a lot of vegetarian and vegan entries. Most were a little thin on the sauce, but a few were good enough that I would eat more that the little cup provided.

Pilsner Haus Rules

Last Friday my friends came to visit. The plan was to have dinner and drinks at the Hoboken Pilsner Haus on 15th St. and Grand St. I’ve been there a couple times before–one of those times was for Oktoberfest, for which they had a special menu. It bills itself as an Austro-Hungarian beer garden, and the menu reflects some of that tradition.pilsnerhaus

Pilsner Haus has an outdoor area, which is great in the summer and fall (we’re still waiting for spring around here). Inside, the long tables and benches provide ample seating–although, it did get a bit crowded when we left around 10 pm.

The beer selection isn’t the best, but it provides a nice variety of German draught beers. They also have a few American micobrews. My choices for the evening were the Bitburger kostritzer schwarzbier, Sixpoint Bengali tiger, and Speakeasy big daddy IPA.

As for food, there are two options: the grill and the kitchen. The grill is cash only and you have to stand in line to order food. Everything from the kitchen can be ordered through the waitstaff, who happen to be excellent (they’re good at telling you about the beer too). I like the food from the kitchen better.

Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten

I had the sauerbraten. The beef was tender and flavors were excellent. In the dimly-lit beer hall, it’s not easy to see what you’re eating, but everything that was on my plate was delicious. On my first visit, I ordered the Hungarian beef goulash, which was also wonderful. My friends all ordered from the grill. The jalapeno cheddar frankfurter was really good–I was tempted to order one for myself. My brother also swears by the braised pork cheeks.

Appetizers are also worth ordering. The calamari with kielbasa is great mix of flavors. And the giant pretzel is worth ordering for the cheese dip (mustard is good too, but not as good).

When I was out later that night with another friend, I was informed that the Pilsner Haus also has a weekend cocktail lounge upstairs. The Kolo Klub is set up as a high-end cocktail lounge separated from the rest of the establishment. Definitely another reason for me to head back there.

Surviving Sandy

I finally have power restored after hurricane Sandy stopped by for an uninvited visit. I really wasn’t affected much, but surrounding areas and towns like Hoboken are in much worse shape.

corner

This was not my first hurricane–we suffered through the rain of Irene last year, but that didn’t do much in my area. I also lived through a few typhoons in Shenzhen. The most interesting part about the typhoons was that Hong Kong (just a couple miles away) would shut down entirely, but Shenzhen would remain open.

Sandy really didn’t seem like such a bad storm–we barely got any rain and wind didn’t seem that strong. But the storm surge was quite impressive and caused significant damage further inland than anyone expected.

On Monday night, I noticed a lot of my neighbors milling around the hall–they were having a hurricane party. Unfortunately, I work the overnight shift editing news from Asia, so I was stuck working as long as we had power. That didn’t last long…

From my balcony

From my balcony

Around 8:20 p.m., I heard a commotion outside, so I checked on it from my balcony. There was flood water coming up the street. Further down the road usually floods during heavy rain, but this was more than any of us that seen. I read Facebook updates about streets turning to rivers less than half a mile in the other direction. The lights began to flicker. I made a few comments to my coworkers via Skype just before the power went out. I grabbed a glass of Scotch and a cheap flashlight and joined the party.

As I mentioned, hurricane Sandy didn’t seem that dangerous, and a few of us stood outside the door to the building watching the water rise and recede. A few neighbors took their dogs for a short walk.

A block away, these trees took out the power lines

A block away, these trees took out the power lines

The next day, I awoke early to survey the damage. Crews were already outside with chainsaws clearing the felled trees. Nearby I saw the most probable reason for the power outage (although I later learned a few substations had flooded). As I walked to Grove St., I noticed more damage. The storefronts had definitely been under water–most basements were still flooded and a few people were using their generators to pump the water out. I was told that the Tacqueria was completely under water, but I didn’t check it out for myself. I did, however, witness someone using a sump pump hooked up to a car.

Still flooded the next morning

Still flooded the next morning

I later walked to Shoprite with my friend to see if we could find better flashlights or candles since we were told we’d be without power for four to five days. We saw a lot of debris that was deposited along the streets by the flood waters–this street became a river as you can see from my friend’s video (this is less than 1/2 a mile from my place).

Shoprite was ridiculously busy. The store set out power strips in the aisles so people could recharge their phones. All the flashlights and candles were gone (as were most drinks and snacks, but there was plenty of produce).

Hurricane pizza, anyone?

Hurricane pizza, anyone?

On our way back, we passed the Barcade, which had a sign that said they had no power but they were serving $4 beers. We stopped in for a Ballast Point Oktoberfest, which was very nice. There were at least 60 people in the Barcade.There was also a long line at both pizzerias that were operating.

I invited my friend to come over later and join the party, drink some beers that would otherwise get warm, and enjoy fried rice with whatever was left in my fridge. We had another lobby party with one of my neighbors carrying out a hand-crank Victrola to provide music. We had some food and drinks, and I met many of my neighbors for the first time. I offered my balcony as a refrigerator as it was colder there than in the fridge–I set out a cooler with the top open, and it kept my food cold enough.

Yesterday, most of Jersey City returned to normal. There was some return of electricity. As I walked out get coffee, I saw a long line–and the power went out as I stepped inside. I later charged my phone at a bar near my brother’s house before we grilled some leftover meat that had thawed in my freezer. It was a depressing walk home as I saw most of downtown with lights, but complete darkness as I reached home.

The Jersey City fire department and police did a very nice job of keeping everything orderly (although there were still too many people driving around aimlessly and nearly running over pedestrians).

Cooler Weather and Colors

It’s autumn in New Jersey. It’s usually a great time of year as it doesn’t rain as much and I don’t have to deal with the awful humidity. But it’s also time to see the fall colors. Unfortunately, living in the city leaves me with little color to see. As I took a late-day bike ride through Liberty State Park yesterday, I realized that most of the trees around here don’t change in the way most people would want–they just turn brown. It’s probably why most people don’t associate fall foliage with New Jersey.autumn

Fortunately, I have some older photos of autumn from my hometown a little farther west. It should look like this in another week or two. It’s a nice reminder.

Double the Independence

Before booking my flight to Halifax, I wasn’t paying attention to the dates, only the days of the week. It worked out in my favor as I was in Halifax for Canada Day on July 1.

halifax airport

Welcome to Halifax International Airport

The downside to being in Halifax for Canada Day is that a lot of shops are closed and residents are on vacation. There are still plenty of tourists to fill the void though. There were plenty of events around the city to keep me busy between long walks to see the sights.

One friendly bartender showed me the parade route, of which I caught the tail end. I missed out on the visiting international militaries that were putting on shows. I also missed out on the free concert in Dartmouth (I took the ferry over early in the day and realized there was nothing to do until much later). But I did get a tour of the Government House–they offered free tours for just that weekend.

canada parade

Bagpipes and drums at the end of the parade

Instead of searching for more to do around Halifax, I rested in the late afternoon before heading back out to the roof of the Farmer’s Market to watch the fireworks over Halifax Harbour. I watched the boats go by in the sunset while enjoying a Montreal smoked sausage. The smoked sausage was excellent–it was like a smoked chorizo. It was also one of the cheapest meals I had.smoked sausage

The fireworks were fun, but they were over in 15 minutes. Watching choreographed fireworks just isn’t the same as drunken disorganized fireworks displays that I enjoyed with a hint of terror in China. At least these fireworks were safe.

I returned to New Jersey for July 4. I was prepared to ride my bike along the waterfront in search of a place to watch the fireworks on the Hudson River (it would be so much easier to watch if they moved the fireworks back to the Statue of Liberty), but the heatwave sucked all the motivation out of me. Instead, I enjoyed a relaxing evening at home–really a great way to celebrate independence.

Biking Jersey City

bikeJCSunday was the Bike JC ward tour. The 15-mile ride looped through all six wards of Jersey City–much of which I hadn’t seen before–and ended with music, beer, and crafts at Exchange Place. My total ride was probably a little more than 16 miles since I had to begin at my apartment, but again the MapMyRide app didn’t work properly (there’s most likely a weak signal with the GPS on my phone). I prepared for the ride with another 10-mile ride around Liberty State Park on Saturday.

I was surprised to see that unlike at the Summer Streets in Manhattan, no one was dressed in crazy costumes or had a decorated bike. But, there were plenty of people riding through the streets. We even had a police escort to block traffic.

It was a rather easy ride with very few hills. Unfortunately, it was a slow ride with a few stops in between that weren’t worth a photo. In all it took about two hours, but I could’ve finished it much faster.

Exchange Place with a view of Manhattan

Exchange Place with a view of Manhattan

After the ride, I sat with friends for a beer and some empanadas. And we met someone from the Humane Society walking around with a dog for adoption. I was tempted to adopt her–she was quite friendly.

Wouldn't you want to adpot this dog?

Wouldn’t you want to adpot this dog?

The weather was perfect for the ride, but a violent, brief thunderstorm put an abrupt end to the festivities at Exchange Place. I rode home once the rain stopped.

Cycling Season

LibertyStateParkThe inconsistency of the weather has made it difficult to go for bike rides around town (unless you count my daily commute). Yesterday was an exception. The sun came out and the temperature reached the mid-60s, which convinced me it was a better idea to ride around Liberty State Park than spend an hour in the gym.

Of course, I didn’t realize it would be so windy as I rode through the park. I probably should’ve worn slightly warmer clothes. At least the wind kept a lot of people away, so the waterfront path was rather empty, making it easier to ride.

The views of Manhattan, the Jersey City waterfront, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty make this bike ride enjoyable on clear days.

I decided to make my ride last a little longer by peddling through the city. I stopped at the intersection of Grand and Greene for this shot of the new World Trade Center.WorldTradeCenter

I tried using my new mobile app for MapMyRide to see how long my bike ride would be. Unfortunately, the GPS did not work properly and it cut out most of my ride (the route it showed does not exist–you can’t ride over water where there is no bridge). I guess I’ll give the app another shot.

And when I arrived home, I had good news waiting in my email. My media pass was approved for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic that starts Saturday and runs through next week (of course, I’ll have to miss Sunday’s events for Mother’s Day, but I’ll survive).