Established in 2002, the Wonder Bar near the Asbury Park Boardwalk on Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park, New Jersey offers basic Americana staples such as burgers, shakes, fries, onion rings, and hot dogs, live music, food, and great drinks. This famous New Jersey spot is a favourite stop for seasoned bands and where up-and-comers can make their mark. Bon Jovi, Clarence Clemons, Lance Larson, Bruce Springsteen performed and many others have played at the Wonder Bar.
Asbury Park is over one hour drive from Montgomery Township. I planned to leave home after a quick breakfast and arrive around 8 AM. The idea was to arrive at the Wonder Bar before motorist had parked on the street. However, I overslept and didn’t leave my home until well after 8 AM. I parked on Ocean Avenue, noticing the half dozen cars parked outside the building.
The air was cold and crisp. I could smell the ocean coming off the nearby beach. I walked around photographing the exterior of the Wonder Bar trying to keep the parked vehicles. I started thinking about the various bands that have played the venue, about the parties in the expansive outdoor deck called Tillie’s Landing after Tillie, a grinning mural of an amusement park “fun face” that was initially located on the side of Palace Amusements.
For this challenge, I decided to visit Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. I drove up to Ocean Avenue from Asbury Park, New Jersey. The road is lined with the beach homes of the wealthy. I imagine it was like driving down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. I don’t know. I’ve never been to Beverly Hills.
To enter New York Harbor, ships need a deep channel. Until the 1900s, that meant sailing next to the shore of Sandy Hook. This gave the small peninsula a big role in the safety and defence of New York Harbor for more than a century before Fort Hancock was built.National Parl Service
Fort Hancock is a former United States Army fort at Sandy Hook in Middletown Township, New Jersey. The coastal artillery base defended the Atlantic coast and the entrance to New York Harbor, with its first gun batteries operational in 1896. Between 1874 and 1919, the adjacent US Army Sandy Hook Proving Ground was operated in conjunction with Fort Hancock. It is now part of Fort Hancock Memorial Park. It was preceded by the Fort at Sandy Hook, built 1857–1867 and demolished beginning in 1885. Wikipedia
I arrived in the Fort Hancock, and Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark and drove slowly along Kessler Road looking for an interesting subject. As I expected most of the crumbling buildings had been fenced in. The buildings are favourite subjects for photographers and curious visitors, who have in the past entered the premises and bee hurt. Many of the buildings are unsafe. I turned on Hudson Road and parked in the back of one of the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters.
The fort was decommissioned on December 31, 1974. Since then, most of Fort Hancock has served the public as the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area. The remainder of the peninsula serves as U.S. Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook.
While the recreation area is well maintained, the former buildings and officers quarters are in disrepair. The weather has battered the buildings making them uninhabitable.
Trash is your inspiration. Tell a story or create something beautiful.
Bhavna and I have always wanted to ride in a balloon but with young kids and work, we never made the time for it. The kids are older now. Shaan is out of the house and a sophomore at Rutgers University. Kiran is a senior in high school and busy with AP classes and college applications. My health has been failing lately and I am feeling more fragile.
When the QuickChek Festival of Ballooning came around I suggested to Bhavna that we should take a ride. But the festival weekend conflicted with another event on the calendar. Seeing my disappointment Bhavna suggested that I search for other ballooning options.
I found a few options in the area but Bhavna thought they were too expensive. She suggested that if we were going to spend that kind of money that we should have a great balloon experience. Searching Google for “best balloon rides in the USA“ I found a link to a Fodors ranking of balloon rides and a similar Fox News article. The nearest one was Balloons over Letchworth. That’s the one I chose.
I booked the balloon ride for the only date remaining for the season. Balloons over Letchworth launches at 5:15 PM from inside the Letchworth State Park and the balloon ride can last about an hour. We were driving just over five hours for the balloon ride so Bhavna and I decided to make a weekend of it. We decided to stay in Watkins Glenn.
I learned that the area around Seneca Lake is home to many wineries, waterfalls, and … breweries. I found accommodation at the Inn at Grist Iron, which has an onsite microbrewery, The Grist Iron Brewing Company. We booked for two nights.
The original plan was to drive directly to the launch site on Friday, then drive back to the Inn, and unpack before heading to the brewery for a night-cap. Thursday night, the balloon pilot called to say that the Friday night flight was scrapped. The weather was not conducive to a balloon launch. A storm was expected. He had a cancellation for Saturday and was able to accommodate us. This was even better than our original plan.
Friday after breakfast we packed the car and drove straight to the Inn at Grist Iron.
When we arrived at the Inn the innkeeper, Darlene, a friendly and bright-eyed woman, greeted us, pointed out the location of the Farmhouse, explained the dining options are the brewery and the surrounding area and made some suggested of other breweries to visit.
Our fully restored 1860s farmhouse features wide plank floors, original hand-hewn beams, and various shades of chestnut, pine, and oak for guests looking for the traditional warmth and feel of a bed and breakfast. The house features a large shared dining area, small parlour, kitchen with a vaulted wood ceiling, and French doors that lead out to our covered front porch with ample seating and magnificent lake views. With four charming rooms to choose from – each with their own private bath – guests can enjoy antique furnishings, cosy reading areas, and the comfort of years gone by.
I had booked us in the Sunset Room, a room with a private first-floor entrance and stairway, and a lake facing view so we could enjoy the sunset. The Sunset room is a 2-bedroom suite with a private en-suite bathroom located on the second floor. Our room had a large picture window with the best lake view in the Farmhouse, which can be enjoyed from the antique four-poster canopy bed or reading chair. Bhavna loved the linens and pillows.
We unpacked, freshened up a bit and walked over to the brewery for lunch.
The Grist Iron Brewing Company
Founded in 2015, Grist Iron Brewing Co. is a microbrewery based in Hector, NY, in the heart of the NYS Finger Lakes region.
There was a large group of people at the tap room. I am amazed (and annoyed) at how much effort American adults will put into choosing from a menu, especially when the menu is limited to nine beers. When Bhavna and I were finally able to get the attention of someone at the bar we ordered two flights to sample eight of the nine, along with a BBQ chicken pizza, the Grist Iron “Bomber”, (for me) and a Seneca Simple Salad (Bhavna).
We sat outside facing Seneca Lake. It was very windy; moreover an indication that perhaps the storm was on the way and we would not have the sunset we had anticipated. We talked about how much we regretted not doing trips like these earlier in our marriage and not taking the kids on more vacations to see the USA.
The food was brought to the table and we dined and drank al fresco style. We were underwhelmed by the flavours of the ales. I don’t think Bhavna liked any of hers. I made the best of it. We decided that after our extremely late lunch — it was 3:30 PM when we checked into the Inn — we would shower and try another brewery. There are about five breweries in Hector but we decided on Two Goats.
When we arrived there was a group of people tossing dollar bits at the ceiling. We soon learned that this particular act is a form of entertainment. The dollar bill is pierced with a tack and wrapped in a dollar bit with a quarter. You “win” by getting the toss just right so that the tack sticks to the ceiling. I wonder how many patrons have injured an eye?
The views from Two Goat are beautiful. The property sits on the lower side of the road at the top of the eastern edge of Seneca Lake in Hector.
We ordered a few pints instead of a flight and went outside to enjoy the view. We stood on the deck looking down at Seneca Lake. The picnic-style tables were occupied by other brewery patrons. It was windy and we could clearly see the storm clouds in the distance. We would not have our sunset that night. Bhavna enjoyed the NEIPA.
I ordered the Floggen Schloggen, is Belgian Dubbel, just because the name is cool. We learned from the owner, John, that he chose the name after a trip to Belgium with his wife. In German, Flügeschlagen means “unfinished business”. John doesn’t speak Belgian and the word “strange and cool” to him. Floggen Schloggen is how John remembered the word.
We started talking to John about his brewery and when and why he got started brewing. From our conversation, it seemed he really enjoyed his work. I had packed a few cans of ales from Flounder Brewing, Conclave Brewing, and the Referend Blendery and I offered them to John. We sat at the bar chatting while drinking. I don’t why I did this. I hope John doesn’t think I’m some sort of nut. I just wanted to share.
End of the Day
It was getting late. Because we ate lunch so late, Bhavna was feeling hungry. We drove to the Walmart in Watkins Glen and picked up some junk food and ramen noodles which we prepared in the Farmhouse kitchen. We would regret that the next day.
We looked in the fridge and found the complimentary six-pack of beer from the brewery.