Background Music: “Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One Mix)” a.k.a. "The Soprano’s Theme Song" by Alabama 3

New Jersey- The Garden State, land of a million toll roads, one of only two states in the union where you can’t pump your own gas (we’re looking at you Oregon) and home to the loudest, most obnoxious, and fashion deprived stereotype in the US.

New Jersey gets absolutely no respect. But really, they make it too easy. Many of the people and the places live up to the stereotype beautifully. At least, that’s what we found living among these folks for a few days.

We were here in Port Republic, NJ over the Memorial Day weekend. On a Thursday we camped in an isolated, quiet spot, and on Friday a dozen or so families moved in around us. Everyone brought their kids, their dogs, the entire extended family, all the cars they owned and most of their living room sets. They set up their TV’s outside, started up the barbeques, and spread out rugs, cribs, kid’s toys and furniture until all visible space was taken. Folks were camped right up to our trailer and it’s possible there were a few small children camped out beneath it as well.

Once set up, the kids played baseball in the six foot area between our vehicles, the women sat at camp smoking cigarettes and gossiping, while the men walked from campsite to campsite asking, “How you dooin’? How you dooin’?” The people here are very outgoing, and not at all afraid to ask what you’re having for dinner. We usually have to leave our campsite to get this much entertainment.

We did leave to take a few day trips. One trip was to Atlantic City- a very fun spot. There are several casinos, a boardwalk, the beach, shopping, and you cannot beat the people watching in Atlantic City. There are loads of tourists, and of course, those great folks who make up the New Jersey stereotype.

Some people may not like it- sure there’s a little bit of aggressiveness, but most of the people we’ve met here are really friendly. They’re boisterous and greet their friends really loudly and at great distances. All over we were hearing yells over our heads, “Whoa, hey Gino- how ya doin’?”, “Hey, there’s Joey, ya son of a gun!” Everyone seems to know everyone else. Maybe it helps that everybody seems to be named Gino, Joey or Johnny. That’s a pretty nice thing- it’s good to be associated with a stereotype regarding outgoing friendly behavior. There are other, not so nice behaviors though, like that whole wardrobe thing. What is up with that?

The outfit here is easy. If you’re a guy, go buy yourself a nice pair of track pants and cut the arms off your t-shirts. On a warm day, a tank undershirt is the right choice. For the ladies a pair of stretch pants will do nicely for any occasion. Pair those with a thigh length tight t-shirt and waist length jacket, preferably in a bold colorful pattern. For the more outgoing woman, replace the t-shirt and jacket with a leopard print halter. Either Stilettos or tennis shoes are fine with either outfit. Obviously, not everyone dresses like this, but…let’s just say there has got to be a pretty good sale on track pants going on somewhere. I’m just sayin’.

Our biggest day trip from here was outside New Jersey to New York City. It would take a lifetime to get to know New York City. We had a day. Luckily, we learned a lesson from our recent Washington DC trip and decided to book a tour instead of trying to see all the sites on our own. The tour was great. Over about six hours we got to see the highlights from the top of Manhattan Island to the bottom, and we had several more hours on our own to explore the area around Times Square and Rockefeller Center.

There is no way to really describe this city. Would you call it fast paced, vibrant, diverse, overwhelming, or just amazing? It’s like a whole new experience every few blocks. Almost like a- hey- like a Melting Pot. Not at all like a Big Apple- which we never did get explained to us.

We were actually surprised that we liked it so much. Usually the places that are hyped can be a bit of a let down when you actually get there, but we found Manhattan to be everything we’d heard and more. The people are interesting, there are so many things to see and do- I even saw Edie Falco at the mall, just walking around like a normal person and no one said a thing to her. Can you believe that? This is definitely one place that we will be coming back to for sure.

After our day in Manhattan we came back to find the campground empty. They left as quickly as they came, and they took all their furniture and kids with them. The only remnants we found were a couple of toy parts accidentally left in our campsite, a broken picnic table across the way, and two dumpsters overflowing with trash bags and camping gear that had been damaged during the friendly wrestling matches. All was quiet.

To be honest, I really liked it here in New Jersey. I don’t know that Travis feels exactly the same, but as a fairly quiet person, I like to be able to just sit back and listen to everybody else do the talking. If they’re this animated and entertaining, all the better. You know, they may have earned the stereotype, but these Jersey folks really aren’t so bad.

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