Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Jersey

While mapping out our vacation this year, when I suggested starting in Savannah, GA and then driving up the coast, my husband said he wanted to make it to New Jersey to visit a hamburger joint.
"Why not?" I thought, so I added it to the list of possible attractions.

We had a full day of driving from Wildwood, NJ where we stayed at the wonderfully renovated yet vintage Caribbean Motel.
Upon checking in, which was done by hand not computer, we were given a real key on a vintage style key ring.

This 1957 motel's vibe was great from the mod rounded platform jutting out of the building, which doubled as a ramp to access the funky cabana room; authentic shuffleboard painted on the concrete; a swanky pool that made me feel like I needed to don some big round sunglasses and a 1950's-era swimsuit; and our room, complete with mod table lamps, palm tree cutouts over the colorful seersucker striped bedspreads and vintage green bathroom fixtures.
We really enjoyed the motel as well as Wildwood and already have vowed to return.

After breakfast in at Jimbo's in Wildwood, where I had a great breakfast wrap, we had a short gambling stint in Atlantic City stopped at several lighthouses, then rolled in to Hackensack in the evening and parked behind the tiny White Manna diner, a Paramount Diner manufactured in the late 1930s.
There were a handful of occupied seats inside the diner, which has been there since 1946, but we were able to close the door behind us after we got in line.
There appeared to be just three or four people ahead of us who needed to order.
As one of the patrons got his turn, he placed his order for 40, yes, 40, cheeseburgers. I wondered if all hope was lost for us on our burger quest, but peering around the people to the grill, it looked like things were well under control.

The two men hard at work behind the counter had their tasks. One took orders for drinks and fries, the other took the burger orders and seemed to be able to keep them straight (cheese, no cheese, onions, no onions, how many and who) with ease, while lining every available inch of grill space with burgers.

After a five or ten minutes we were able to get a couple of stools at the counter where we had a better view. We placed our order for fries and drinks and waited to order our burgers, which are smaller than a typical hamburger, sliders almost.
After ordering our burgers it didn't take very long for them to arrive. While we enjoyed our meal, the two restaurant workers swapped jobs, so the previous fries and drink guy was then slapping burgers on the grill with honed skill.
White Manna was a great stop to add to our itinerary, as much for the atmosphere and history as for the burgers.

Caribbean Motel
5600 Ocean Avenue
Wildwood Crest, NJ 08260

White Manna
358 River Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601

Friday, June 18, 2010

Loveless Café

During our big spring road trip this year, our first stop was Nashville, Tennessee.I looked for historic restaurants we could visit and had to look no further than the Loveless Café.
The restaurant was first known as the Harpeth Valley Tea Room and was purchased by the Loveless family in 1951. The husband, Lon, ran the motel on site while his wife, Annie, whipped up homemade preserves and biscuits, catering to travelers along US Highway 100.
The Loveless Café has changed hands a few times over the years, but luckily their famous biscuit recipe has remained.
The motel ceased operations in 1985 and the site now features quaint shops and a Loveless Café Hams & Jams business.
In 2004 the restaurant closed for five months for renovations, bringing a new kitchen, new restrooms and additional seating.
The 1900s house you step into to enter the restaurant has a vintage screen door, which welcomes you in with style.
We were seated in a room off to the right of the hostess area, and were greeted right away by an efficient waitress with a southern accent. She brought our breakfast beverage order quickly and we asked for a couple more minutes to check over the menu.
Knowing the place was famous for biscuits, we made sure to order meals that included them, and they were the star of our dining experience. The surprisingly small, fluffy biscuits were perfectly warmed and accompanied by strawberry, blackberry and peach preserves. I went back and forth between the strawberry and blackberry while my husband raved about the peach.
Our bellies full, we headed outside for pictures and to visit the market store. We noticed a banner on the neon sign in memory of Carol Fay, "the biscuit lady", who we then realized we had seen on Throwdown with Bobby Flay several years ago.
We picked up some bacon as a souvenir of our stop in the market store and then set out for our next destination.

Loveless Café
8400 Highway 100
Nashville, TN 37221

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thunderbird Inn

When planning our latest vacation, I wanted to try to support smaller, independent lodging establishments vs. the big hotel chains.
One of the first places I found was the restored Thunderbird Inn near the historic district in Savannah, GA. The web site made the place look great!
In doing my homework, I also found several good reviews of the place online, so I booked a room for a night with the intention of staying another night if we liked it.
We spotted the retro motel, built in 1964, and parked next to the office and went to check in.
The office seemed to be scented with bubblegum, which complimented the kitschy decor nicely.
There were some old postcards of the inn framed on the walls.
We soon had our key card and headed to our room.
The room was clean and surprisingly boutique-like, complete with a white down comforter, which was fine by me.
There was some very nice art (I'm assuming local) displayed on the walls.
I loved the funky toiletry products provided in the bathroom, fitting to the theme of the motel.
There was a mini fridge, ironing board and coffee maker in the room.
Right after loading our things in we headed back to the office to secure a second night in our room.
Each time we went outside there seemed to be guests sitting in patio chairs in front of their rooms which lent even more to the vintage feel.
Once when my husband went out to the car to get some items and clicked the remote to lock the doors, I heard a lady exclaim "Oh, hon, you don't need to lock your car here!"
The next morning we went to the office to partake in one of the offerings we had seen on the web site, Krispy Kreme donuts. We sat in the brightly-colored molded plastic chairs and enjoyed coffee and OJ with our donuts.
Even though our vacation officially began a day before we arrived in Savannah, staying at the Thunderbird felt like the true start of our holiday.
If I were visiting Savannah again, I would definitely stay at the Thunderbird. I can't imagine anyone else could be "the hippest hotel in Savannah."

Thunderbird Inn
611 West Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, GA 31401

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Castleman's River Bridge

On our way home from vacation we decided to take a more scenic route, traveling US Route 40 through several states.
This gave us the opportunity to view several historic sites and road markers.
We noticed a beautiful stone arch bridge in Maryland and stopped to stretch our legs and have a look.
According to the historic marker posted at the site, the Castleman's River Bridge "formerly 'Little Youghiogeny' was erected in 1813 by David Shriver Jr., the superintendent of the 'Cumberland Road' (National Road). This 80 foot span was the largest stone arch in America at the time. It was continuously used from 1813 to 1933."
The bridge was built to aid in the westward movement through the wilderness west of Cumberland and was declared a registered national historic landmark in 1963.
It is no longer used for traffic, but due to preservation efforts remains in good condition.

Castleman's (Casselman's) River Bridge
146-198 Casselman Road
Grantsville, MD 21536

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Roadside America Inc.

On our recent vacation we realized we were driving right by Roadside America, Inc. in Pennsylvania, so we had to stop and visit. Dubbed the "World's Greatest Indoor Miniature Village", I wasn't sure quite what to expect.
After a visit to the restroom, outside of which stands a working player piano, we paid our admission of $6.75 and headed into the display room.
I was instantly taken by the tiny, intricate village complete with churches, homes, trains, a zoo and so much more. Perfect trees dot the lush landscape. Several of the displays incorporate motion, which you can activate by pressing a button in front of the glass half wall.
We were treated to a night pageant where the room lights are dimmed and patriotic music plays, allowing us to further appreciate the lights throughout the village, some even shining through tiny stained glass windows.
Established in 1935, Roadside America was later moved to it's current site.
This wonderful display is the result of years of work by two brothers who had an idea to make little models of houses as they appeared from the top of Mt. Penn so future generations could appreciate how they had looked. Larry Gieringer, the oldest, continued this work long after his brother Paul entered the priesthood.
Today these efforts are available for visitors to appreciate, maintained by the family of the original designer.

Roadside America, Inc.
Roadside Drive
Bernville, PA 19506