East Coast Field Guide pt 2: Connecticut + New Jersey

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream / At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines / Sprung from cages out on highway 9 / Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line / Oh-oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap / We gotta get out while we’re young / `Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run
-The Boss

Day one of pt 2 of our East Coast journey found us in three states in one day.  Let’s begin where we left off in my last post — Penn Station, Manhattan, bidding Joey adieu. We boarded a train to Secaucus where we caught our connecting train to Ramsey, New Jersey, located on the New York border.

Tensions were running high on the train; Robbie and I were tired and annoyed with each other, we were both getting sick and feeling sad we hadn’t been able to see and do as much as we wanted to on our short stint in Manhattan. We had both been hurt by the other and the train gave us a good chunk of time to talk through all that, and to show each other grace and love through the power of the Gospel. As with every marriage we are learning how to care and nurture each other in unique ways, and to show love and compassion in areas that might not be our strong suit – we’re getting better but there’s no real combat training for two selfish sinful individuals who are becoming one.  There’s occasional resistance from both parties, so we are learning by failure and with grace.

We arrived in Ramsey by 10:30 am and were picked up by Robbie’s uncle. Today was the day of our New Jersey party, celebrating our marriage. We had a fantastic meal at a small Italian placed called Limoncello, there were many courses of food + many bottles of wine, as well as a cake of course! We had calamari, caprese salad, rigatoni, a wonderful pear and blue cheese salad, and breaded veal. It was an almost all day affair and after leaving the restaurant we went back to Robbie’s uncle to celebrate more (and to watch the Rangers game — Rangers of the hockey variety.)

I think the Senators won the game, I am not sure. At this point I was feeling pretty congestion and sick, the pollen in the air mixed with a general sinus cold had me down for the count. Around 6:30 we hopped in a van with Robbie’s mom and his grandparents headed for Connecticut.

Our final destination was “brass city” the cozy town of Waterbury. After drinking a hot toddie I fell fast asleep.


Day two was one of my favorite days of the whole trip. We slept in until around 8, a feat for Robbie and I, woke up to fresh coffee and donuts, heaven. The only excursion for the day was a beautiful drive to lovely Litchfield for morning mass at The Grotto. It was drizzling while we were there, but the tranquil presence of the Holy Spirit and the low sound of the brook running through the grounds was serene. I didn’t take any pictures while I was here, sadly. It will just have to be remembered in my head.

After The Grotto we had a quick snack at Dunkin’ Donuts (of course!) and returned home for more relaxation until we were summoned to the dinner table. Robbie’s grandfather had prepared a treat for us: rack of lamb, salad, potatoes, and homemade focaccia, referred to as “oocheech” by Robbie’s family. “Oocheech” is a word used only in the VERY localized area of Southern Italy where Robbie’s grandfather is from, no where else will you find this word.

Again, I didn’t take any pictures. It was too nice of a night to worry about sharing the share-able-ness of it on Instagram. It was a simple evening full of love and so much yummy food. Plus Robbie’s grandad’s homemade wine, it was an unparalleled night. The night ended with a slice of coconut cream pie and watching the classic Sydney Poitier film Lillies of the Field – the film that gave him his Oscar.


Day three meant saying “goodbye” to quaint Connecticut and traveling back to New Jersey. We were on the road by 8:30 and almost as soon as we had crossed into The Boss’ Country we were in a diner enjoying the Jersey breakfast – Taylor Ham Egg and Cheese on a hard roll.  A cheesey ooey salty crispy breakfast sandwich that is hard to replicate anywhere outside a diner or bagel shop in NJ.

Feeling satisfied and ready for a day of NJ tourism we headed straight south aiming for Princeton and it’s infamous cemetery near the college.

Are you Aaron Burr, sir?

Yes, we saw the grave of THE AARON BURR (sir.) We also saw many theologians, a handful of mathematicians, and a plethora of tombstones in disarray. I noticed small rocks and pebbles strewn on many of the tombstones in the cemetery and it piqued my interest. It wasn’t until later in the day when driving past a Jewish cemetery that I noticed every gravestone was covered with them. I googled and discovered this ancient Jewish tradition employed as a way to pay respect to the deceased.  

Rosemary Citrus Soda
Once we finished up our cemetery tour I asked about possibly getting coffee — “not yet” was the reply. Robbie and his mom had a system of doing things, this was hardly their first time here in Princeton, in fact Robbie was born in Princeton! First we had to visit the Princeton Library and store. It was a very progressive and STEM friendly library and my sister, who recently got her masters in library science, would’ve adored it. 
We left the library and wandered down Witherspoon street to Small World Coffee, there I ordered the rosemary citrus soda because how could you not! It was perfect for the warm day and wandering around the historic avenues of Princeton. Straight down Witherspoon takes you into the Princeton Campus proper, we saw a few buildings and looked into the Chapel. We searched for the chapel where Jonathan Edwards (also buried at Princeton Cemetery) once proclaimed the gospel but it had been destroyed in a fire in 1920. 

Our last and final stop in Princeton was at one of Robbie’s favorite bookstores on Earth: Labyrinth books. A large and established bookseller directly across the street from the Princeton campus, it was multi-level and full of every genre and title you can imagine. 

Lunch was a stop at the Jersey Freeze, established in 1952 they offer soft-serve, lunch counter sandwiches, and hot dogs. The Jersey Freeze is in the hometown of none other than Bruce Springsteen, he’s been known to have ice cream here at this landmark on highway 9. 
“I assure you we are open”

“I wasn’t even supposed to be here today” 
On the way to our final stop in Middletown we drove through Leonardo, New Jersey – home to the one and only Kevin Smith, one of Robbie’s favorites. (He’s slowly winning me over too.) We stopped by 58 Leonard Ave so Robbie could show me the actual shooting locations for the film that put Kevin Smith on the map, Clerks. 
We arrived in Middletown around 5 pm, hungry and tired.  After an hour rest and some freshening up, we headed out again, this time with pizza in our minds. Robbie’s aunt and uncle took us out for dinner to Tommy’s Tavern in Sea Bright, some of the best beer and pizza I’ve ever had, plus the location is stunning. Brick, historic, and nautical, with a bit of down to earth Jersey. They have pizza, wings, and sushi, plus their Moscow Mule was perfect. Robbie and I both cannot wait to go back! 

Day four, our last and final day in NJ. First stop was a diner for another taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a hard roll, then we headed “down the shore” for the morning.
Sandy Hook is a 6-mile strip of land hugging the Jersey Coast and offering the closet nice beach to Manhattan. White sands and white coastal seaside buildings give a vintage feel to this idyllic, but very popular beach. Since we were they on a weekday in April it was empty, but during the summer this place gets overrun with city folk looking to escape. We wandered around the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and the Civil War era Mortars and Batteries before returning to our cars and then to Newark. 
And that folks, was the end of our trip. My love of New Jersey grows and grows, I am so glad I will have many more chances to visit in the future.  New stop in NJ: Asbury Park! 

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