Return to the Forbidden Zone. A Ride to a 50’s style hamburger drive in in the Garden State

Stewarts 1

As previsouly mentioned on this blog my HOG Chapter doesn’t go into New Jersey frequently even though it’s just over the Delaware Memorial Bridge (5 minutes from our sponsoring dealership). We mostly ride in our other two neighboring states of Maryland and Pennsylvania. I was scheduled to lead a chapter ride on Sunday June, 13th and wanted to do something different so I went back to The New Jersey Project. This time I would venture into Southern Jersey. You think of Jersey as being a northern state but the very tip of Cape May is just a shade north of Covington Kentucky. The Jersey Shore is about even in latitude with Wheeling West Virginia and is below the Mason-Dixon line.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do but eventually a two phase plan crystalized. Phase one would be to ride from Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson in New Castle Delaware to the Cross Keys Drive In in Williamstown, New Jersey. The Cross Keys Drive In was a Stewart’s Drive In from 1961 to 2008. It is an open air hamburger and root beer stand only open in the summer. They still serve Stewart’s Root Beer and you can get it in a frosty glass mug. There are 60 Stewarts locations and 38 of them are in New Jersey even though they started out in Ohio. Click this link to see more Stewart’s Drive Ins. They are really cool looking so click the link.

Stewarts 2

Stewarts 3

Stewarts 4

The ride from Delaware to the Black Horse Pike in Williamstown is easy and I know it well thanks to a former weekend job I had where I would drive there once a week to pick up an exotic dancer and drive her to her Saturday night jobs. From Delaware you cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge into New Jersey and get on the New Jersey Turnpike. You get off on exit 2 and follow Rt 322 East. From 322 take a left onto Rt 42 which is the Black Horse Pike. Keep an eye out for it on the right side. The Black Horse Pike is a busy divided highway so as we got close to the drive in we pulled the group into single file formation and just before the parking lot entrance we all pulled onto the shoulder out of traffic and then into the parking lot. I think of the shoulder as a motorcycle only turn lane. That way you don’t have a group of bikes all of a sudden come to a crawl on a busy roadway as everyone slows down to make the turn into a parking lot.

Phase two was derived from the travel books I bought last year about New Jersey backroads. Back Roads New Jersey features a chapter on Rt 553 and 555. Backroads of New Jersey features a twenty nine scenic routes and #29 seemed to work for me. I could take Rt 555 from Williamstown to hook up with the route in the book. After preriding the route I had to change it just a little to avoid going through the downtown Vineland.

From 555 South we took a right on 540 West. It is possible to simplify this route and follow 540 all the way to 49 and 49 into Pennsville and then cross back into Delaware but that’s not exactly the route we took. Route 555 and 540 will take you through one of the nations premier agricultural areas and the reason for New Jersey’s namesake of the Garden State. This area spawned three food related inventions that changed the way the world eats.

In 1858 Vineland’s John Mason invented the Mason Jar which created a vacuum in the jar giving cooked and pickled food a longer a seemingly infinite shelf life. In 1869 a Methodist minister from Vineland named Reverand A. K. Street asked Thomas Welch if he could produce a grape based substitute for wine to be used for communions instead of wine. He wasn’t keen on serving alcohol. Welch was a dentist and grape growing hobbyist. Welch gave up dentistry and developed a way to bottle the grape juice to keep it fresh for long distance shipping to churches south of Jersey. In 1896 Welch and his son Charles began a national advertising campagne to bring their grape juice from the church to the kitchen of all American households. Welches moved to New York and expanded the product line to include jellies and as they say the rest is history.

At about the same time Arthur Seabrook built a fifty-seven acre farm and sold produce throughot the Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York markets. He also had a son named Charles who took over the family business in 1912. At that time they had grown to a three thousand acre operation with a cannery and a cold storage plant. Seabrook helped Clearance Birseye refine the process for quick freezing vegetable and thus frozen food was available to consumers.

This area became a target during the revolutionary war because of it’s rich farmlands. The Americans would raid the farms for supplies to carry them through the war in Valley Forge. The British thought the farmers were aiding the Americans and they sent a party of their own soldiers which resulted in the battle of Quinton’s Bridge with forty American casualties. Three days later the British stormed the home of Loyalist William Hancock and bayoneted twenty militiamen who had taken the house and were sleeping there. The brick house is a state historic site and we passed it on our route. I have previosuly visited it on another chapter ride several years ago.

Before Rt 540 intersects with Rt 77 you can bear left onto Rt 711 and travel down a rural farm road that goes through a Rutgars University Agricultural center. There is an intersection that you zig zag on to stay on Rt 711 and then it will end at Rt 77. Take a left on Rt 77 South. Rt 77 will take you down into Bridgeton where you can take a right on Rt 49 West. Again, you could cut this ride short and follow Rt 49 to the Bridge, but we have more fun in store.

While traveling West on 49 you have to keep an eye out for a left hand turn toward Hammersville. This is Rt 667 but I don’t think there is a sign saying so. This is truly a backroad and I wouldn’t believe you if you told me you saw a car on this road. Again you are traveling through farmland. Rt 667 becomes 658. Follow 658 through Salem. Salem is run down. I was talking to a biker from New Jersey back in the Mike’s Famous parking lot and he advised me to not stop in Salem. At the time I had never been to Salem and wasn’t sure what he meant. When I rode through and saw the run down condition of some of the homes I got the picture. As you travel through this region the landscape changes from farmland to marshy coastal plains. We took a left on Rt 630 which takes you to Finn’s Point National Cemetary and Fort Mott. Fort Mott is really cool and I recommend you take the walking tour and check it out. The view of the Delaware River is cool and there is a great picnic area complete with bathrooms and a playground.

Fort Mott 1

Fort mott 2

Fort Mott 4

Fort Mott 6

Fort mott 7

Fort Mott 5

Fort Mott 8

The Forbidden Zone Staff

This location is a very strategic point to protect the harbors up the Delaware River. At this location the river narrows and there is an island in the middle. Fort Mott is part of a three fort system that was designed to protect the river from invasion. There is Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the middle of the river and Fort DuPont in Delaware City on the Delaware side of the river.

Fort Mott 10

Fort Mott 11

Fort mott 12

Fort Mott 13

From Fort Mott take Rt 630 out but bear right onto 632 and follow that back to Rt 49. Take a left on Rt 49 and then bear right on Rt 551 South Hook Road. South Hook will become North Hook and leads you to Interstate 295. Take 295 South and be careful as you merge with highway traffic, especially if you are with a group of bikes. Interstate 295 South will put you on the Delaware Memorial Bridge. We always use the right hand toll booths because hardle anyone else uses the right side. That has got to be the longest row of toll booths of any road I have ever seen. There must be twenty of them. Once you get throught the toll you do have to battle your way back across to the left lanes to get on 95 South. That takes us home!

Heading Home from Fort Mott

2 Responses to “Return to the Forbidden Zone. A Ride to a 50’s style hamburger drive in in the Garden State”

  1. N.J. I wanna’ do it someday. All my Jersey co-workers were the best bad-asses around. A couple saved my ass at one time or another.

    Thanks for the tour and the picts. Fort Mott looks like a cool gig to explore. Gotta’ check it out someday. As per your directions I’m pretty sure I will be able to find it! Oh yeah, as always, love your choice of strategic positioning for foreshortened and 3point perspective shots of MrsRC.

  2. Thanks. It feels like the more we get into our photography the worse our camera performs. Mrs RC sure is my favorite model. Gota get a new camera, I’ll keep Mrs RC. We’ll get out west and visit you and BB someday.

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