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A trip to New Jersey with Elyse and Woomy…

August 14, 2022, 7:57 PM

On Thursday, July 28, Elyse and I took a trip up to New Jersey.  The main purpose of the trip was to visit the Scrub Daddy headquarters in Pennsauken, where the company has a retail store.  Then we built a day around this in order to justify the trip.  We were no stranger to Scrub Daddy by any means, as we had previously stopped by their facility on the last day of our Atlantic City trip back in January, just to see where it was.  I remember how excited Elyse was during that visit to Scrub Daddy’s headquarters, and on that occasion, we just photographed the outside of the building, since the retail store wasn’t ready yet.  I could only imagine how excited Elyse would be going in and actually seeing the place.

We left the house around 10:00 AM, and got as far as Delaware House by noon.  This was to be our potty stop on the way up.  Elyse noticed an Edwards Integrity on the outside of the facility, and got some photos of it:

I got my own photo of it as well:

The current version of Delaware House has been around for about twelve years at this point, and I’d say that this outdoor horn/strobe looks about like what one would expect for somethign that’s been out in the elements for that long, as the “FIRE” lettering is faded away for the most part, and the strobe lens has a yellow tinge to it – kind of like the Wheelock AS that I spotted on the Asbury Park Casino back in 2013.

From there, our original plan was for us to go to John’s Roast Pork on Snyder Avenue in Philadelphia for lunch.  That was Elyse’s idea, and I was looking forward to it as well, since I’d never had a Philly cheesesteak that was actually made in Philadelphia before.  When Anonymous DC did Philadelphia back in 2009, we visited Pat’s King of Steaks, but I didn’t have anything, because I didn’t want to get my hands dirty.  So I was still without an authentic Philly cheesesteak experience in my life.  However, due to traffic that we encountered on the way up, Elyse nixed it, because she didn’t want anything to get between her and our visiting Scrub Daddy, i.e. she wanted to go straight to Scrub Daddy as our first stop.  I was a bit disappointed about that change because I was looking forward to it, but I suspect that John’s isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so that’s on the list for a future adventure.  That change also shifted our itinerary quite a bit, as I was going to make some drone flights from the Camden waterfront that weren’t going to happen now, or at least not right away.

That change also meant that rather than going up I-95 into Philadelphia via Wilmington and then over the Ben Franklin Bridge as originally planned, we would now go directly into New Jersey via the Delaware Memorial Bridge and then up I-295 to Pennsauken.  I told Elyse that I was fine with that… but if we were going that way, I was making a photo stop on the way over.  I had wanted to photograph the Delaware Memorial Bridge for a very long time, but in doing my research, I determined that most of the land within sight of the bridge was either occupied by an industrial facility, private property, or just plain inaccessible.  But then I found Church Landing in Pennsville Township, on the New Jersey side.  It was a little less than two-thirds of a mile south of the bridge, with a clear view, and public access all the way to the water.  I added it to my list of photo targets, and considering that our change in itinerary would take us right by there, plus that it was a beautiful day, I was going to take full advantage of this and cross this one off of the list.  Elyse grumbled a little bit about the extra stop because she didn’t want anything to get between her and Scrub Daddy, but that was the deal.  First, I got some land-based shots:

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, viewed from the Church Landing fishing spot

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, viewed from the Church Landing fishing spot

Not a bad view, if you ask me.  Then I threw the drone up in the air and went in for a closer look.  After all, this was always intended to be a drone shoot more than a ground-based shoot.  So here are some drone shots:

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

I also got some shots of Pennsville Township while I was flying back:

Pennsville Township, New Jersey, viewed from the air

Pennsville Township, New Jersey, viewed from the air

And then before I put it all away, I got a quick handheld photo of Elyse with the drone:

Elyse, in the car and holding a Scrub Daddy plush. Woomy is sitting in the console, stewing about something.

I enjoyed this flight around the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  I did most of my flying beneath the level of the bridge deck for safety reasons, since you’re not allowed to overfly cars.  Thus when I got those shots from between the two spans, I had flown underneath the northbound span, and then only raised my altitude once I was clear of both spans.  I also stayed close to the New Jersey end of the bridge because of winds.  I likely would have gotten better lighting if I had flown closer to the Delaware shore and then turned around to face New Jersey, but when I was flying at the highest speed setting and only getting four miles per hour, I realized that I was pushing against a lot of wind, and that while I might make it there, I would deplete my battery trying to get over there, and would have to turn right around and come back and not get any operational time over there.  So I stayed close to the New Jersey side, but I would love to come back here on a future trip, hopefully with less wind, and see what else I can do here.

From here, we beelined it to Scrub Daddy.  As soon as we got there, I parked the car and Elyse went right on in.  I followed, with Woomy in tow.  Getting into the Scrub Daddy “Smile Shop”, Elyse was like a kid in a candy store.  So much Scrub Daddy stuff to see:

Elyse photographs a rack of Scrub Daddy sponges.
Elyse photographs a rack of Scrub Daddy sponges.

Elyse takes the claw game out for a spin.
Elyse takes the claw game out for a spin.

Elyse shows off what she won from the claw machine: a Scrub Mommy!
Elyse shows off what she won from the claw machine: a Scrub Mommy!

Elyse points at the crab on the package with much delight.
Elyse points at the crab on the package with much delight.

Elyse takes a selfie with the big Scrub Daddy.  One of the crab-shaped Scrub Daddy sponges is in the big Scrub Daddy's eye.
Elyse takes a selfie with the big Scrub Daddy.  One of the crab-shaped Scrub Daddy sponges is in the big Scrub Daddy’s eye.

Woomy checked out the store as well, but unlike Elyse, the little curmudgeon wasn’t nearly as enthused about everything that he found as Elyse and I were:

Woomy checks out the stack of Scrub Daddy mugs.
Woomy checks out the stack of Scrub Daddy mugs.

Woomy checks out the dye-free Scrub Daddy products.
Woomy checks out the dye-free Scrub Daddy products.

Woomy reaches out to touch the Scrub Daddy Eco Collection sponges.
Woomy reaches out to touch the Scrub Daddy Eco Collection sponges.

Woomy checks out the BBQ Daddy grill cleaning pads.
Woomy checks out the BBQ Daddy grill cleaning pads.

We stuffed Woomy into the eye of the big Scrub Daddy for a photo.  He really didn't like that assault on his dignity.
We stuffed Woomy into the eye of the big Scrub Daddy for a photo.  He really didn’t like that assault on his dignity.

I suppose that there’s no pleasing a grumpy little curmudgeon like Woomy.  He definitely says, “I don’t like that!” a lot.  Because of this, we warned the staff not to take anything that Woomy says personally, because, well… because Woomy.  Fortunately, though, the staff just loved Woomy.  Most people do, despite how much of a grump he is.

The folks at Scrub Daddy were really awesome.  Their social media person walked by while we were there, came into the retail store, introduced herself, and then asked, “Are you Elyse?”  Clearly, Elyse has made a big impression on the folks at Scrub Daddy, if they recognize her on sight.  They also surprised us by bringing out the folks in the mascot costumes.  Elyse and I both just loved that, and had a blast with them.

Elyse gets a selfie with the Scrub Daddy mascot.
Elyse gets a selfie with the Scrub Daddy mascot.

Elyse and the Scrub Daddy mascot share a hug.
Elyse and the Scrub Daddy mascot share a hug.

Elyse poses with the Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy mascot.
Elyse poses with the Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy mascot.

Elyse hugs the Scrub Mommy mascot.
Elyse hugs the Scrub Mommy mascot.

The Scrub Mommy and Scrub Daddy mascots hold Elyse's Scrub Daddy plush as if it was a baby.
The Scrub Mommy and Scrub Daddy mascots hold Elyse’s Scrub Daddy plush as if it was a baby.

And of course, family portrait.
And of course, family portrait.

All in all, we had an amazing time at Scrub Daddy.  I imagine that we will be back again at some point.

From here, we headed to our next destination.  Elyse wanted to have a small transit adventure in Philadelphia, while I wanted to have lunch and then fly the stuff from the Camden waterfront that I didn’t get to do earlier because of our course change.  So I set Elyse down at the City Hall PATCO station in Camden, and then headed off in search of food.  I was looking for Taco Bell, and ended up going to one out in Mount Ephraim.  Across the street from the Taco Bell was a Harley-Davidson dealership, so, keeping Elyse and her love of Harley dealerships in mind, before I went in for lunch, I dipped in there and bought a poker chip for her collection.  I took my time having lunch, because I assumed, correctly, as it would turn out, that the stuff that I had planned wouldn’t take as long as the stuff that she had planned, so I needed to fill some time.  I had no regrets there, because the timing ended up working out perfectly.

Once I finished lunch, I headed back over to Camden, with the intention of flying my drone around the Ben Franklin Bridge.  My previous experience with Camden had only been in the really bad areas, so I was quite pleased that the Ben Franklin Bridge was in a much nicer part of the Camden waterfront.  I set up in a little waterfront park just north of the RCA Pier, and sat on top of a picnic table in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The park that I flew from. It was a nice area, even if the grass was dead.
The park that I flew from. It was a nice area, even if the grass was dead.

And then, up I went:

The Ben Franklin Bridge, viewed from the New Jersey side.
The Ben Franklin Bridge, viewed from the New Jersey side.

Getting lined up for a shot of a PATCO train coming across the bridge, and then just waiting for it to come by.  This was essentially trainspotting, high-tech style.
Getting lined up for a shot of a PATCO train coming across the bridge, and then just waiting for it to come by.  This was essentially trainspotting, high-tech style.

Patience pays off, as I got this photo of a PATCO train crossing the river.  Incidentally, Elyse was on board this train, and she spotted my drone as she was going by.
Patience pays off, as I got this photo of a PATCO train crossing the river.  Incidentally, Elyse was on board this train, and she spotted my drone as she was going by.

The bridge from the Philadelphia side.
The bridge from the Philadelphia side.

Hovering close to the water, getting a view of the underside of the bridge.
Hovering close to the water, getting a view of the underside of the bridge.

Still skimming over the water, viewing the bridge from a little further out.
Still skimming over the water, viewing the bridge from a little further out.

A view of Camden as the drone was flying itself home.
A view of Camden as the drone was flying itself home.

Selfie at the end of the flight, just before landing.
Selfie at the end of the flight, just before landing.

After this, I changed the battery, and then went for a brief flight in the area around where I was sitting.  The signage on some of the buildings behind me intrigued me, and so I went in for a closer look:

The buildings right next to me in Camden

Triad 1828

Close-up on the "Triad 1828" sign.  I didn't linger here too long, because the birds were making me nervous when I was flying close to the sign.
Close-up on the “Triad 1828” sign.  I didn’t linger here too long, because the birds were making me nervous when I was flying close to the sign.

RCA Pier and beyond.
RCA Pier and beyond.

By the time I was finished with this flight, Elyse had come back and joined me, and we headed to our next stop, which was Phoenix Park.  For those not familiar, Phoenix Park is not in a particularly nice part of Camden.  We explored this area during our Atlantic City trip, and it looked doable, but the area felt super sketchy.  Therefore, I did not want to do this one alone.  Having Elyse with me, even if she was just sitting in the car, made me feel a lot more comfortable.

At Phoenix Park, the plan was to fly around the SS United States in order to get better photos of her stern, and then photograph the Walt Whitman Bridge.  But first, I had to wait for a big cloud to pass.  It was a nice day in general, but I wasn’t going to let this big cloud block my sunlight and give me less-than-vibrant shots.

The cloud that I was waiting for.
The cloud that I was waiting for.

The drone, sitting on a table at Phoenix Park, powered down while I wait for the cloud to move.
The drone, sitting on a table at Phoenix Park, powered down while I wait for the cloud to move.

I ended up doing two flights from Phoenix Park.  My first flight was a relatively quick one on a partial battery:

The Walt Whitman Bridge.

The Walt Whitman Bridge.
The Walt Whitman Bridge.

The Delaware River.
The Delaware River.

The Stove Ocean, a Norwegian-flagged bulk carrier.
The Stove Ocean, a Norwegian-flagged bulk carrier.

Overhead view of Phoenix Park as I bring the drone in for a landing.
Overhead view of Phoenix Park as I bring the drone in for a landing.

Then, after changing the battery, I was up in the sky again:

One of my targets on this flight was the SS United States, as I wanted to get better photos of the stern.
One of my targets on this flight was the SS United States, as I wanted to get better photos of the stern.  You really need to fly that from Camden, in order to maintain proper line of sight and remote range.  Unfortunately, though, I came too late in the day to get stern photos, because the sun was in all of my shots, which wasn’t the effect that I was going for.  I suspect that in order to do this right, I need to get there in the morning.

The Walt Whitman Bridge.

The Walt Whitman Bridge.
The Walt Whitman Bridge.

I was surprised to see this style of sign gantry over the bridge.  These new gantries were installed a few years ago, replacing the arch-style ones that I remembered growing up.
I was surprised to see this style of sign gantry over the bridge.  These new gantries were installed a few years ago, replacing the arch-style ones that I remembered growing up.

A high-level view of Walt.
A high-level view of Walt.

I then dipped down and flew under the bridge in order to get some shots from the far side of the bridge.

I then dipped down and flew under the bridge in order to get some shots from the far side of the bridge.
I then dipped down and flew under the bridge in order to get some shots from the far side of the bridge.

On the way back from the Walt Whitman Bridge, I photographed the Stove Ocean again as it was being loaded up with material.

On the way back from the Walt Whitman Bridge, I photographed the Stove Ocean again as it was being loaded up with material.
On the way back from the Walt Whitman Bridge, I photographed the Stove Ocean again as it was being loaded up with material.

And then I landed and put the drone away, because I had no more flights planned for the day.  However, while I was flying, I noticed that two vehicles had come into the park, turned around, and parked along the side of the road that goes in and out of the park.  No one got out of either vehicle.  That made me a little uncomfortable, because I didn’t know what was going on, and it validated why I wanted Elyse nearby for this part of the adventure.  After all, that felt a little suspect to me.  Were they up to no good?  Was I in danger?  I didn’t know.  However, once we started heading out of the park, I discovered what was going on.  I glanced into one of the vehicles as we drove by, and I saw a man sitting in the driver’s seat, and a woman’s head was bobbing up and down next to him.  Ah.  I understand now.  As you were.

From here, Elyse wanted to visit a Grocery Outlet store in Philadelphia.  I had planned on doing some night photography of the vintage sign at the McDonald’s in Magnolia that evening, which I had previously photographed in 2014, during the day.  So my plan was to remain in New Jersey and then leave via the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and not touch Pennsylvania at all.  My general rule when it comes to New Jersey and bridge tolls is that I only want to pay a bridge toll once.  Therefore, if we’re in New Jersey, you’d better be absolutely sure that you’re done in New Jersey before we drive to Pennsylvania.  Likewise, if we’re in Philadelphia, you had better be damn sure that you’re done in Philadelphia before I drive to New Jersey.  Those bridge tolls add up, after all.  I was still planning on doing the McDonald’s sign in Magnolia, so if Elyse was insisting on having me drive into Philadelphia, this toll was on her.  She agreed.  So we went into Philadelphia via Walt.

The Grocery Outlet store, meanwhile, was nice enough, though I did spot a mouse running around on the salesfloor.  I also didn’t like the fact that the restrooms were locked and only available to employees, especially since I needed to go, myself.  But the people working there were nice.  We ended up going to a nearby Acme store afterward to satisfy our restroom need before continuing.

Elyse also wanted to take me to Barcade, which is a bar with lots of vintage arcade games housed inside.  We didn’t stay for very long, because we showed up just after 8:00, and the place was pretty busy.  There was lots of noise from other patrons, and the arcade machines were pay-per-game rather than on free play, and I was unprepared for that (note to self: bring small bills).  Plus a big storm was about to arrive, and we didn’t want to get caught in it.  This is what the sky looked like when we arrived at Barcade:

Storm clouds over Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia.

We left at exactly the right time, as we had only been in the car for a few minutes when the storm began to make its presence known.  Soon, there was thunder, lightning, and very heavy rain.  We would have gotten drenched just from walking out of Barcade to the car, and we were parked right in front.  We eventually made our way to a Target store on Mifflin Street, and we waited out the rest of the storm in their parking lot, just sitting in the car.  Once the storm subsided, we went in and wandered around a bit, buying a few odds and ends while we were there.

After this, Elyse thought that we might want to go to Pat’s, since it was close by, but wondered how late they were open.  Turned out that Pat’s was open 24 hours, so no worries there.  So maybe I would just end up getting my authentic Philly cheesesteak after all, even though I’m told that the whole Pat’s/Geno’s thing is highly overrated and you can do better at other places, much like how Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC is also considered by locals to be overrated.

Once we got there, I saw it as a photo opportunity, as I broke out the tripod and the DSLR and photographed around the area a little bit:

Signage at Pat's.

Signage at Pat's.
Signage at Pat’s.

Geno's Steaks.

Geno's Steaks.

Geno's Steaks.
Geno’s Steaks.

Signage at Los Taquitos de Puebla.
Signage at Los Taquitos de Puebla.

Signage for Rim Cafe.
Signage for Rim Cafe.

The intersection of South 9th Street and Federal Street.
The intersection of South 9th Street and Federal Street.

I admit that I don’t have as much experience (and therefore skill) doing night photography as I would like, but I did like the way some of those shots of Geno’s came out.  I need to go out and shoot night photography more often, though, since I can do decent work when properly provoked.  I think that a lot of it also is that there are very few purpose-built nighttime photography adventures.  Nighttime photography often comes at the end of a longer day as something of an afterthought, and so I’m not necessarily at my best when shooting it.  Plus Elyse is usually running out of patience for my photography by that time in the evening, and often tries to rush me, which knocks me out of my headspace.  All in all, I like doing night photography, but I definitely need to get a lot more practice with it.

Also, this is the nerd in me coming out, but around the time that we did this trip, I had been watching a playthrough of Space Quest 6 on YouTube, and I couldn’t help but think that this area right around Pat’s and Geno’s reminded me of the streets on Polysorbate LX, which is the planet that you’re beamed down to for shore leave at the beginning of the game.  Elyse laughed about that because it’s such a me thing to reference, but it’s true – it did feel like I was walking around a real life version of Polysorbate LX.

And then as far as the cheesesteak wars go, which side did I choose?  Neither.  While I was out photographing Polysorbate, er, South Philly, Elyse went in search of food, and while she considered both Pat’s and Geno’s, she ultimately ended up getting an egg sandwich from J&J Pizza, which is about a block away from Geno’s.  She had me try a bite of it, and it was delicious, so I got something similar.  Seriously, it was amazing.  I had not had an egg sandwich that good since I worked at Food & Water Watch and would occasionally get breakfast at the cafe in the basement of our building.  Elyse and I were discussing how they made it taste so good, and I suggested that it’s because they were cooking on a flattop, they knew what they were doing (unlike ourselves), plus they were probably using lots of butter.  Whatever the case may be, though, we were fans.  The cheesesteaks can keep until a future visit, because I have no regrets about getting that egg sandwich.

Finishing up there, we started to head back home.  It was almost midnight, and we had two and a half hours’ worth of driving ahead of us to get back to Montgomery Village.  That also meant that Elyse was off the hook for the toll, since we did not return to New Jersey as we had intended earlier, so only one New Jersey toll was paid, which was all that I wanted to pay.

Along with a healthy dose of “I HATE STEVEN SINGER!” billboards, we encountered road work just south of Philadelphia and into Wilmington.  One thing that we were both surprised to see was variable message signs with flashing blue and red lights on them like police vehicles would have:

Red and blue lights on a message sign. Not a good thing.

I posted this to a Facebook group called “there is NO way that is MUTCD-compliant“, and a commenter described the problem quite well.  They said, “The problem with this is that it desensitizes people to the flashing red and blue lights and therefore makes it *more* dangerous for first responders at actual emergency scenes.”  Additionally, the current version of the MUTCD expressly prohibits this sort of practice, stating, “Techniques of message display such as animation, rapid flashing, dissolving, exploding, scrolling, travelling horizontally or vertically across the face of the sign, or other dynamic elements shall not be used.”  But Pennsylvania will do what it wants, I suppose, just like how Delaware still puts those idiotic PSAs on their changeable message signs, despite that those are also explicitly not allowed following a 2021 FHWA ruling.  When we were driving home, DelDOT was running a message on their signs that said, “A cold dinner is better than a hot ticket.”  They need to stop running those, but apparently, they just can’t help themselves.

Beyond that, the trip back was pretty uneventful, and we got home just before 3:00 AM.  All in all, I’d say that we had a fun time.