Traversing the Tri-State Coastline via Public Transportation
I am fresh off a weekend trip to Southeastern Connecticut, to visit a friend from college. I must admit that as much as I love New Jersey, the chance to get away for a bit is always welcome and I had a great time doing so. It was as weekend of firsts for me. It was the first time I had visited our neighbor in the tri-state area (Okay, I went to Connecticut once before for a college tour, but I won’t count that). It was the first time I ever ate steamers, which someone had to explain what they were (steamed clams, as I now know). It was also the first time I took the bus into Manhattan, rather than the train or driving to a PATH station. I must say I was very pleased with this means of travel. Granted my journey did start at 4:48 AM from Freehold Center, so traffic was at a minimum and most of the world was still asleep, but catching the bus alongside the early rising carpenters commuting for another day of work reminded me of why I love being in transit. The beautiful view of the Manhattan Skyline from the highway as the sun rose added to that feeling of wonder and movement. Kudos to NJ Transit. Before I knew it, I was heading to Penn Station to catch the Amtrak train to Mystic, CT.
Mystic River Bascule Bridge in downtown Mystic, CT (Source: Rhvanwinkle, Wikimedia)
Prior to my trip, I was curious as to how the Connecticut Coastline could compare to New Jersey’s expansive shoreline. Downtown Mystic is one of the most famous spots on the New England Coast with ships from all over sailing to dock in the many seaports and historic areas. The waterfront offers beautiful, calming views of the Long Island Sound, and the New England seafaring way of life lives on in the local scene and economy. There are some small stretches of sandy coast for swimming and lounging, but they barely qualify as a beach. I was very anxious, though, to check out Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, Rhode Island. The beach was smaller than the average Jersey beach, the waves lackluster, the water cold and there was no boardwalk in sight, but the free admission and beautiful view had me at ease. Now I’ve heard rumors before of Rhode Island housing a lot of “guido-types,” and DJ Pauly D does call Providence home, but my afternoon at the beach provided some hard evidence. I was fortunate to choose to sit next to a loud group of twenty-something Providence guys, who provided me with hours of entertainment as they tried to coax women over with free beer and spent the day turning their chairs around to follow the sun’s strongest rays.
My return home was less smooth, as Sunday train tickets quickly sold out and I left Connecticut close to midnight. I managed to sleep a bit on the return train, and luckily the conductor woke me up a few minutes before Penn Station, saving me from waking up dazed and confused in DC. Then I sat waiting for the first NJ Transit Northeast Corridor train to depart while trying to convince cabbies that I did not need their service. Of course, it wouldn’t be NJ Transit if I didn’t have a few interesting encounters, including the man sitting behind me who would not stop groaning and the couple in front who could not stop making out and groping. However, news that NJ Transit is considering off-peak discounts again gets me excited for more middle of the night traveling.
We know that New Jersey mosquitoes are infamous, as Jesse explained in “The Mosquito State“. Yet, I left the Nutmeg State with the worst case of mosquito bites in my life, which can probably be attributed to sitting in the middle of a state forest at dusk. Of course, the best remedy for bug bite relief is arguably salt water so I headed to Ocean Grove after returning to Jersey. I was reminded as soon as I got there that Jersey beaches cannot be beaten. The huge beach prevented me from being stared at by sunbathing wanna-be DJs, the water was a perfect temperature and clear, the waves provided excitement, and I couldn’t stop myself from ranting to my friend over how awesome our shore was. The seven dollar beach badge was more than worth it for Jersey’s coast. Connecticut and Rhode Island, you gave me an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to go back, but my alliance lays with NJ.
Now I’m currently enjoying mosquito bites AND sun burn, but it was worth it. Traveling reminds me how many great sites are packed into the Northeast. However, the Jersey Shore still reigns supreme when it comes to coast line. Let me know if you agree.