By Susan Kirkland
While it might not be easy to think of positives that have come from the pandemic, I have one I’d like to share that may be useful to others.
It was July 2020 and we were tired of jigsaw puzzles, having the every 10-day trip to the grocery store be the highlight of the week, and frankly, each other’s exclusive company.
But what could we do?
The enforced inactivity was harder on my husband, Mitch, who thrives on travel. Rather than giving up, however, he started looking for interesting places we could safely drive to and explore, even if the actual destinations were still locked down.
Through internet research, he found many relatively unknown, interesting and historical places within a half-day’s drive from our home here in Lawrenceville. Needing something to which we could anchor time, and the traditional designation of “hump-day,” he chose Wednesday as the day for us to venture out. That’s how “Wandering Wednesday” (WW) was born.
The first WW was a drive along Great Bay Boulevard, a little-used, sandy two-lane road meandering along the salt marshes along the New Jersey coast. While the road was planned to be a causeway connecting the area to Atlantic City, it was never built and the area was turned into a wildlife refuge.
We took along sandwiches and had a picnic where the road suddenly ended, with a view overlooking the bird-filled marshes.
Through the rest of 2020 and all of 2021, we continued our WW adventures. We were amazed, even after living here 20 years, at how many interesting and relatively little-known places there are that we’ve never visited.
When our local bakery was able to open, with tables set up in the yard of the house next door, we began our day with coffee and cinnamon buns from The Gingered Peach.
Fortified in the sweetest way, we visited places around New Jersey and Pennsylvania ranging from Fort Hancock, a military instillation protecting our shores in World War II, to a confederate memorial and cemetery where 2,436 Confederate prisoners of war were buried.
More lesser-known sites included “Jenny Jump” State Forest where we explored a little cave, but never discovered where the name came from. We found the northeast’s version of a ghost town, Millbrook Village. The 20th century houses were purchased by the government to make way for flooding as a result of a proposed dam. The dam was never built, so the houses stand empty and boarded up in mute testament to another abandoned plan.
We explored Asbury Park – no Springsteen sightings – Village near Pemberton, and many points in between.
During the times when things were opening up, we even made a few trips into New York City and Philadelphia.
Our friends at the bakery now always ask where we’re going on “Wandering Wednesday” this week.
Occasionally we have to switch to Thursday, but it’s still Wandering Wednesday to us.
I realize that since we’ve both “graduated from work” – also known as retired – we can commence doing other interesting things on any day, but I believe that anyone can institute a similar activity. It could be “Wandering Weekend” or “Sunday Funday.”
The point is finding interesting places near home and making the effort to get out and explore. We’ve discovered unusual places we never knew existed and have developed a greater appreciation for our adopted state. Would we have done this without the motivation of COVID? Probably not – but, it’s comforting to have found a positive activity in the middle of the negative.