New Jersey, Where We've Been

Trenton, The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Philadelphia, Diggerland, & The Hindenburg

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The state of New Jersey is known for its famous jug handle intersections. They are so named because from an aerial point of view, they look like milk jug handles. The idea behind them was to allow traffic to flow easier and faster without having to have cars block the intersections trying to make a left turn.  In theory, the idea behind making a right to turn left was a good idea.  Unfortunately, the implementation of the design didn’t work out as well. As you can see they take up a lot more space than a regular intersection and it makes driving in New Jersey just that much more confusing.

The only time I can see it working is if you need to make a u-turn with a fifth wheel, then it actually does work out. 


Trent’s town was established by William Trent who bought the land and built this house in 1719.

Trent was a wealthy shipping merchant who was based in nearby Philadelphia, PA. He later added more land to his original purchase that encompassed nearly all of the city limits of Trenton today. He laid out the city and named the town after him. 

After his death, the house was lived in by several Governors of New Jersey before being dedicated to the city with the agreement that the house be restored to its original colonial appearance and used as a museum. 

In these older colonial homes, the kitchen was either located in the basement or was detached from the house in case of a fire. The fact that Trent owned a number of slaves surprised me as Trenton lies north of the Mason-Dixon line. Slavery was not isolated to the southern states, but spilled over into the northern states during this time. The difference was that the northern states did not condone its existence like the south did.

These slaves who worked as butlers, cooks, gardeners, and other trades around the home. 

Silver coins were used as early money back in colonial New Jersey. They would divide up the coins into 8 pizza-shaped slices and use them to pay for goods and services. This is where the phrase “pieces of eight” comes from in our modern vernacular. 

This was a handheld letter board (a hornbook) that helped young school-aged children learn their alphabet. That’s not what is so fascinating about it though. There is a thin, plastic like cover above the letters that covers and protects it. It isn’t plastic though as that didn’t exist at the time. So what was it? 

It was actually a very thin layer of animal horn that had been worked to be thin, flat, and see-thru. 

Outside the house and near the garden were a couple of bee  hives that the Trent’s used as a source of honey. Unfortunately for the bees, using this antiquated system meant that the bees would have been killed in order to retrieve the honey as there was no way to ensure their survival at the time.


The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Did you know that Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are actually located in New Jersey? They’re often associated with New York as they can be seen when pulling into New York Harbor, but the islands are both within the borders of New Jersey.

Ellis Island was the first place immigrants set foot in America from 1892 to 1954. The facility built on Ellis Island was used as a processing center for nearly 12 million immigrants. They had to pass a battery of medical and intelligence tests, names and other pertinent information was recorded, and it was decided whether they could enter the country. There was a small percentage that were initially turned down, most appealing the decision and receiving entry, leaving a very small percentage that were actually turned away. 

Women that tried to enter had to be accompanied by their husband. If they weren’t present, they would need to travel to meet them there. If they were engaged, a quick marriage ceremony would be performed. 

Many of the migrants who came during this time were of European descent. They came to escape the conflicts plaguing their home countries, most especially during World War 1 and 2, but also immigrants from Russia who were escaping the uprising from the Bolshevik Revolution.

The second part of the tour took us to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty has proudly stood since 1886. 

Lady Liberty was a gift from Frenchman Édouard de Laboulaye. Laboulaye was a proud supporter of America and the liberty which it so proudly proclaimed that he wanted to present the country a statue as a tribute to its 100 years of independence. The freeing of the slaves after the Civil War helped strengthen his commitment and after many years of design and construction, the individual parts were sailed across the Atlantic for assembly on a pedestal America had prepared as part of the agreement.

Now she stands looking out into New York Harbor, a reminder of the liberty so many fought and died for, to all who look upon her.

Inside the museum, the history of the statue and the process that Laboulaye went through in its construction are detailed with videos, recreations, and models. Did you know she is made of copper on the outside, but inside is a full network of structural systems that make it possible for people to travel up to her crown and at one time, all the way to the torch? 

The crown tour is available for people to purchase as an extra, but you have to be quick as it is sold out 4-5 months in advance. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get the tickets.

We did however get to see just how big the statue is compared to Ellie. She was able to sit her whole body of just her second toe alone!

The cafe on Liberty Island provided a nice smoothie break the kids were looking forward to. They even gave their own Lady Liberty poses as a thanks. 

You never get to see the back of the statue, so here it is in case you were curious. Lol, she has a very interesting hairdo. 

From the ferry, downtown Manhattan was an amazing sight to see. How many famous buildings can you point out?

The tallest skyscraper is One World Trade Center on the left side. Do you see The Empire State Building or 40 Wall Street?



Philadelphia was home to Benjamin Franklin. A man of many hats, he became well known as an inventor, author, scientist, publisher, diplomat, and signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

We visited the city of brotherly love, stopping first at the National Constitution Center. 

The center is dedicated to the education of the content within the U.S. Constitution and the process that the founding fathers went through in order to write it. 

An amazing live performance in the theater started us off. A 360 degree theater with visual effects on all the walls and in the center was an impressive display.

Following that, many displays were set up to explain different parts of the Constitution.

As President, Ellie would spend many hours of the phone holding meetings with her friends.

Some of the amendments also received their own displays – this one being about the 19th amendment. Votes for women!

Benjamin Franklin lived and died in Philadelphia and as such he was also buried there. 

Another such historic building is the Betsy Ross house. This isn’t a house that Betsy Ross owned, but one that she rented for a time. (I believe the actual Betsy Ross house is in Baltimore, MD.) However, they told the history of Betsy Ross and how she sewed the first American flag under the direction of George Washington. 

An actor played the role of Ms. Ross and we were able to ask her questions about the flag. She also showed us how you can fold fabric, or paper, and make a few cuts to make a perfect 5-pointed star. She convinced George Washington that this was the ideal star for the flag instead of the 6-pointed star that he had originally envisioned. 

Across from Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell lies in state after being taken down from the bell tower due to its now famous crack.

The Liberty Bell is free to visit, but the line can be long to get inside. I think it took us around 20 minutes, but it was worth the wait to see the iconic bell.

I had the kids look for a misspelling on the bell as part of their homework. I guess it’s not an actual misspelling, but an alternate spelling of Pennsylvania, spelled with only one “n”.  They did eventually find it.

This is Independence Hall, the building where the details of the U.S. Constitution were hammered out and the structure of our government, a republic, were born.

During the sweltering summer months and without ventilation due to the windows being nailed shut for secrecy, the men of the Continental Congress met in this building to work out the details that would birth a new nation. 

The men who met here risked their livelihood, property, and even their own lives to draw out the document we so cherish today. Benjamin Franklin sat in the right rear seat, advanced in age, and as he stared at the sun carved into the seat at the front table, he wondered if it were a setting or rising sun. At the completion of the countless months of debates, and the then unknown future of the new country, the elderly man told the assembly that he could now rest easy knowing that it was a rising sun that was dawning over new born country. 

Not far away from the historic meeting houses and historic buildings stands a sign for the historic Tun Tavern. While the building no longer stands, the memory of the events that happened here rings in the head of every modern day Marine. 

A last visit to the Benjamin Franklin Museum gave us further insight into the life, inventions, and writings of the man that was Benjamin Franklin. Did you know he was also a surveyor?


Diggerland was a unique find. Part waterpark, part construction park (?) Diggerland’s theme revolves around construction equipment and lets kids get in on the action. 

While rides aren’t thrilling like a roller coaster, they are unique. This ride had riders spinning in 360 degree circles.

There were many kinds of tractors, rollers, and other vehicles that adults and kids could get in and drive themselves. Yes, they went slow, with top speed of 5 mph, but the adults were just as eager as the kids to stand in line to wait for their turn.

There were strength exercises scattered throughout the park. It took both the kids pulling on the tractor, but they finally were able to get it up the ramp. 

(In the background, they also have a playground, climbing wall, and 4-story rope tower.)

We also tried out the backhoes – scooping and digging and dropping dirt. It was actually a little tricky to get the hang of, but a lot of fun.

They had a zip line connected to a tower over the park and Ellie was the only one of us brave enough to try it.


The Hindenburg

In 1936, an 804 foot long zeppelin airship launched from Germany. Filled with hydrogen gas, it allowed the airship to sail across the Atlantic at a cruising speed of 78mph. As it came in for a landing in Lakehurt, New Jersey, a nearby storm caused static electricity to ignite the gas within the balloon. Within minutes, the airship was fully engulfed in flames. Being close to the ground, many of the passengers on board jumped to safety on the ground below, but not all were able to get out in time. Thirty-six people perished in the disaster. 

This is the hangar that once housed the zeppelins. It is enormous!

As a matter of scale, take a look at the size of the kids, compared to the size of the hangar doors.

Seen from the site of the crash, the zeppelin was trying to land quite a distance from the hangar. It was an unfortunate accident that ended up being the nail in the coffin of zeppelin flight.


Our First Harvest Host Campground

We recently signed up for Harvest Host and Boondockers Welcome.

Finding one night stays while enroute to a far destination is more difficult on the crowded east coast than the more open west coast.

What these programs allow us to do is stay for an overnight at a privately owned business, like a farm, museum, winery, or golf course. In return, we are asked to spend an equivalent of $20 in their store or make a small donation to support them.

Our first Harvest Host allowed us to skip the Walmart parking lot in favor of an alpaca farm, just outside the Fort Dix gate.

We met the host, she told us where to park, and let us feed and pet the alpacas and sheep that lived there. We learned about the alpaca business and what is involved is raising these adorable animals.

In return, Ben got some really comfortable alpaca socks that he’s been loving.

Their farm was so beautiful with the setting sun so Ellie and I went out and took a few photos.    












Willow Pond RV Campground

We stayed on base at Willow Pond RV Campground, at Fort Dix. Getting on base was a little tricky as we were told by the Route 68 gate to use the commercial gate and the commercial gate told us to use the Route 68 gate.

After that confusion was settled (and we used the Route 68 gate), we set up and enjoyed our site for two weeks. 

Ellie found a place to hang her hammock and that’s where the kids could be found enjoying the outdoors when we weren’t traveling somewhere.

I checked in at the MWR office and added our paperwork to the sign at our site. There are only 8 sites at the campground with a locked bathhouse nearby. There were port-a-potties located out front.

It’s an electric and water only site, but there’s a dump on site which we used regularly in order to do laundry.

We were able to use our Verizon phones at 2 bars, and with the cell antenna, Verizon had 5 bars and AT&T had 4 bars. However, Starlink was blazing at 150 down / 15 up.