Day 2: Narrows, Bonfires, Tigers, and the Tower of Power
The second day of my cross country road trip began in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, and ended in Princeton, NJ. My travels took me through a series of New Jersey cities and Hill towns, and an afternoon exploring the winter Continental Army encampment and Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown. I ended the day with good friends in Princeton. Here’s how it all happened.
I am continuing to wake up early on this trip, which is good for getting work done early in the morning and getting what I need to get done before I hit the road. On this Sunday morning, June 7, 2015, I got some research done over some French Press brewed coffee. While my brother, whom you may remember from day one, was sleeping, I got a lot of work done. When he woke up, Jerome helped me learn some new digital photo processing skills using Adobe Lightroom. It was a crash course in about aa half hour that is helping me significantly manage the photographs on this trip.
I left Brooklyn at about noon and crossed onto Staten Island via the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The view you get of New York Harbor from this bridge where the Harbor meets the Atlantic Ocean is always breathtaking. After getting through Staten Island and into New Jersey, $16.00 later – yes the toll on the Verrazano Bridge is $16 for non-residents.
Upon arriving in New Jersey I went back to my prime directive for this trip. I got off the highway and started on backroads. The trip took me through a variety of cities and towns in New Jersey. Starting in Elizabeth, I traveled through Union, Springfield, and Summit among others on my way to Morristown. The route was predicated on going through the only pass in the Watchung Range between New York City and Morristown. Once I got to Morristown, I would learn the significance of that pass and the crescent shaped range of hills.
I arrived in Morristown a little after two o’clock in the afternoon, and proceeded right to the Morristown National Historical Park, more specifically the Washington Headquarters Museum. The museum is in the front yard of the Ford Mansion, where George Washington set up his headquarters while wintering at Morristown during the winter of 1779-1780. Washington also wintered at Morristown after the Valley Forge campaign. I arrived too late for the 2:00 tour of the actual headquarters, and the next tour wasn’t until 3 p.m. I wasn’t on a tight schedule but also didn’t want to arrive at my friend’s apartment in Princeton too late. I chose to skip the tour.
The museum itself had a great collection of weapons from the Revolutionary era, as well as everyday household items that would have been in Morristown at the time of the encampment. These household items ranged from china, to a piano, at that time known as a pianoforte. That someone in the colonies would have had a piano, which was only invented less than 100 years prior, was interesting to me.
The museum taught a great deal about why Washington, and his officers chose Morristown as the place to set up the winter camp. The most important reason was the ease of defending the encampment from attack by British forces who held New York City, and the strategic location on the way to Philadelphia, the new nation’s capital.
Morristown is immediately west of the front-range of the previously mentioned Watchung Range, known to Washington as the Blue Hills. The majority of the town itself is at a lower elevation than the 400 to 500 foot peaks of the range. One hill in the town is higher than the range, and it was there that Washington had an earthworks fort built, Fort Nonsense. You can see the view from Fort Nonsense towards New York City in the photo below.
Washington had a series of bonfires built along the ridges of the hills in order to warn of British troop movements towards the encampment at Morristown. If enemy forces started marching towards the gap in the range, fires would be lit alerting Washington with a few days march of the British to spare so that he could prepare his troops to fight. The British never attempted to come to the camp in great numbers.
After visiting the site of Fort Nonsense, I drove down to Jackson Hollow, where the camps were set up. There is a lovely drive through some woods to an open field where the camp was. There are replicas of the cabins built to eventually house the troops. I was finished touring the park at about 3:15 and started towards Princeton.
Getting to Princeton from Morristown is a relatively easy jaunt. You take US Route 202 south out of Morristown to Route 206 into Princeton. U.S. Route 202 runs from Bangor, Maine to just South of Wilmington, Delaware. It runs mostly west of Interstate 95 with a distance of a few miles at either terminus, to around 75 miles west of Route 95 in parts of Massachusetts. I’ve travelled the Massachusetts portion of 202 a lot, where it is known as the Daniel Shays Highway.
I got into Princeton at around 4:30 and was anxious to see my good friends Andrea and Tiger. Andrea is a friend from Massachusetts who met her now husband when he was travelling as the trainer for the Princeton Basketball Team in Massachusetts. They are a great couple, and a load of fun to hang out with.
After catching up and decompressing after the ride at the apartment, Andrea for the record makes a mean John Daly, we went for a walk around the Princeton Campus. The primary reason was to take a photo of Rowdy, my college mascot and travel companion, with the Princeton Tiger statue. But I also saw some interesting Princeton traditions, including each graduating class putting a plaque on a building. They go back almost to the start of the college.
We also went to the courtyard where Tiger proposed to Andrea and I snapped this great picture of the two of them.
We then went to one of my favorite restaurants, and their go to spot in Princeton, Witherspoon Grill. The food at Witherspoon as well as the service are top notch. There are two things I always get when I am at Witherspoon Grille, the first is their take on an old fashioned cocktail, made with bacon and fig infused bourbon. Yes it is as fantastic as it sounds, and looks.
The other item I always order at Witherspoon is the small seafood tower, which I affectionately call the “Tower of Power.” You get a whole lobster, loads of crab claws, along with shrimp, oysters and clams. It is a fantastic meal in and of itself. Tiger got the roast turkey which they make every Sunday with a whole bird.
The meal was fantastic as was the conversation and the company. After dinner we had a nightcap at another neighborhood watering hole then headed home and for bed. It was a great second day, and I’m really enjoying meeting up with friends and family along the way.
On day three I would be travelling from Princeton to State College through Bucks County and the hill towns of East Central Pennsylvania.
If you missed my day one recap, take a look here.