This morning we drove up the Delaware coast to Lewes, where we took the ferry across Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey. This was a fancier and more expensive ferry than those we took in North Carolina. We sat in a comfortable lounge enjoying the views and our fellow passengers. Cape May architecture
The Lewes - Cape May ferry was almost put out of business by the freeways and turnpikes that made for fast crossings of the Delaware further north; but Atlantic City gambling gave the ferry a new life. Many of our fellow passengers were gamblers, and couldn't wait for a little action; they played poker and gin for money at the tables around us while we worked our cryptic crosswords.
Cape May is another charming coastal town. It has restored its nineteenth century Victorian houses to shining splendor, and built new ones with architecture to match. Hundreds of yachts are sitting in boatyards awaiting their spring launching. Carpenters are busily repairing old homes.
This far north the season doesn't start until Mother's Day, but people are looking forward eagerly to crowds of weekenders and vacationers. We stopped for lunch in Wildwood, New Jersey, which is trying to make a virtue of its miles of shabby 1950s architecture -- they call it "the Doo-Wop School of Architecture" and offer tours, displaying old neon signs, flared restaurant facades and the like. Our waittress told us they were preparing for a Mustang show, new this year, and also a Corvette show. This will bring their total of classic car shows to four yearly! Atlantic City boardwalk
From our point of view, Wildwood was the tackiest beach town we've seen, but we still noticed lots of money being spent on sprucing the houses up for the season. The point is, America is investing in waterfront property; homes close to the beach can be rented dearly enough in season to make a good profit.
The beach islands in southern New Jersey are separated by inlets where the ocean rushes in to marshy salt water bays. There's a bridge across each one of these inlets, a total of five. Oblivious to modern traffic safety principles, each bridge is two-laned and narrow and right at the top of the arch the roadways widen out just a little to make room for a little house in the middle where a toll collector gets fifty cents. The northernmost bridge is closed, being replaced by a new one. We found ourselves wondering if New Jersey will step forward into the 21st century, or else put another tiny tollhouse to crown its new bridge!
Having visited Las Vegas often while we lived in California, we didn't expect wonders from Atlantic City, but there are lots more people living east of the Mississippi than west, and Atlantic City pulls them in. Even on a cold spring weekend busloads of gamblers from Philadelphia and further away had deposited their cargo on Friday and parked in huge lots until Sunday when they'll haul them home again.
The hotels, including ours, are overpriced and undermaintained, and not at all well equipped for folks who want to set up their laptops and send out their trip reports. In fact, hotel rooms in gambling towns tend to be spacious but Spartan, to encourage the players to return to the casinos.