Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Whatchathinkin'

Backroads’ fairer half, Shira Kamil, has an interesting perspective on the day-to-day things riders run into which is both extremely well written and informative. She adds a new polish to the editorial team here at Backroads.

Name: Shira Kamil

Current Rides: Honda 919, Suzuki V-Strom 650

Favorite quote:

If it all falls down, falls down, falls down; If they solve my life, if they find me out; Never thought to keep all I have found; I have had my fun, if it all falls down.

- Jimmy Buffett • If It All Falls Down - Floridays

Jersey Girl

For pretty much all of my life, I have resided in the Garden State. Except for a four-year walkabout in California, thankfully in the early 80s before the state became ridiculously overpriced, my ties have been to Jersey. Yes, I have been fortunate to have traveled around the country and the world, but I love coming home to my house in the woods in the ‘pretty’ part of the state.

WhatPAPGirl1118I grew up Cliffside Park (center of the universe, according to anyone who has ever lived there) on a dead end street on the cliffs of the Palisades. Our home had a magnificent view of the NYC skyline (until the neighborhood arrived across the street), the Good Humor truck came every once in a while, I would hike down the cliffs to Edgewater and walk the train tracks with my friends, we stayed out past dark, played in the woods without fear (except for the damage we would do to ourselves), rode our bicycles far and wide, walked to school in any weather and generally had a hell of a good time.

‘Across the water were the Palisades, crowned by the ugly framework of the amusement park – yet soon it would be dusk and those same iron cobwebs would be a glory against the heavens, an enchanted palace set over the smooth radiance of a tropical canal.’ The Beautiful and the Damned F. Scott Fitzgerald

Perhaps the highlight of living in this area was Palisades Amusement Park. For anyone who may not be familiar with this great establishment, the Park was around from 1898 through 1971, with such great rides as the Cyclone and Wild Mouse coasters, Tilt-A-Whirl, the Cockeyed Circus Fun House and the Salt Water Wave Pool. Apparently, when the pool was first built, the water was pumped up from the Hudson River. That must have been something to see.

I remember having nightmares about the Cockeyed Circus, with its insane trio of maniacal mannequins cackling outside, the second level filled with impossible-to-navigate zigzagging walkways, turning barrel, rotating disks, slanting room, blowing air holes and the topper of them all, the seemingly innocent bench that would collapse and send you plummeting to the lumpy mattress at the bottom.

‘Everything is legal in Jersey, as long as you don’t get caught.’

Tweeter and The Monkey Man Traveling Wilburys

I had always been a pretty good girl, not lured into the evil ways of my girlfriends,WhatPAP118 and never really did anything wrong. My one transgression was that I used to sneak into the Park, always feeling guilty but having the best time. Many years later, while watching a documentary, a security guard was interviewed and said that the owners gave instructions to ‘turn their heads’ should they see the neighborhood kids sneaking in. My one thing was no longer a thing.

'Cause tonight I'm gonna take that ride, across the river to the jersey side,

Take my baby to the carnival, and I'll take you on all the rides.

Jersey Girl Tom Waites (not Bruce Springsteen)

While my family were not beach-goers, I would head ‘down the shore’ to Long Beach Island (LBI to Jerseyites) and Seaside Heights in my teens, slathering my skin with baby oil, baking in the sun and then hitting the boardwalk when the sun descended. The neon of the amusement park would light up the night and the smell of roasting peanuts, popcorn, sun-baked bodies and sand filled the air.

Growing up ‘on the other side of the Hudson, deep in the bosom of suburbia’, I yearned for a place away from neighbors, in the country. When looking for our home, Brian and I ventured to those empty roads that we would ride to get away from the hustle and bustle – Sussex County. Farmland and woods filled the acres, deer and bear ran free, vibrant sunflowers during the summer, breathing space and beautiful riding. I remember when my parents came to see our soon-to-be home and my father, a world traveler himself, exclaiming ‘You know, I saw an actual pumpkin field!’ My mother was concerned that we had no house ‘right next door’ should something happen. I was in heaven.

From the northern tip in High Point State Park to the Cape May/Lewes Ferry platform in Cape May, New Jersey offers visitors more diversity than most states. Oceans, mountains, lakes, the Paterson Falls, more shopping malls than you could visit in a lifetime, iconic diners, the tastiest corn and tomatoes you’ll ever eat and some of the best riding around. Yes, we may have a sarcastic and caustic attitude, but we’ll defend our state to the end of time. As we natives like to say, ‘Welcome to New Jersey, now get the hell out.’