Yes, Pennsylvania has a town name King of Prussia, no we didn’t stop in to say hello or kiss the ring.
Waking up in Pennsylvania isn’t something I ever thought I would do. Wasn’t on my bucket list either unless I was in Pittsburgh and celebrated a little too much after a Cincinnati Reds playoff win. Since that was so 1990, I really had no idea what to do next. Was the ghost of William Penn and his zombie Quaker army going to politely ask me to hit the state line before they decided to go righteous on me? (Note from Miss Madison: Quakers believe in peace and don’t participate in wars.) My anxiety alone at these antics had me tossing and turning all night.
Then suddenly a tender young right arm conked me in the head yelling, “WAKE UP SKIPAH,” and I knew it was all a bad dream and The Turtle Man was politely reminding me and the whole city of Harrisburg that the mea culpa for him on this trip was about to go down. We were off to West Berlin, New Jersey to visit the hallowed grounds of Diggerland.
Diet Dr. Pepper has been fending off renegade zombie Quaker attacks for years! Miss Madison is practicing some revisionist history with her take on Quakers!
No this isn’t the West Berlin of the Berlin Wall days of yore I speak of. Granted parts of New Jersey would remind you of Cold War Germany, but on this particular day the sun was shining and the kids were chomping at the bit to live out some construction equipment fantasies. Which is exactly what you do at Diggerland USA. The fine folks of J.C. Bamford Equipment have outfitted a whole park of nothing but construction equipment or construction related activities.
Your kid wants to drive a front end loader? As long as he/she makes the height requirements (unfortunately, Turtle Man needs a couple more servings of vegetables) not a problem at Diggerland. Want to dig to China on a mini excavator, Diggerland encourages it. Want to take a spin in the bucket of a track hoe? A Diggerland employee will be more than happy to oblige. Overall a great experience, but one drawback I noticed was it’s not very adult friendly.
For kids, it’s super fun, for adults you better hope it isn’t blistering hot or you will become a heat wave statistic in the Jersey sun. Cocktail umbrellas have more coverage than what you will receive at Diggerland to dive out of the heat! I guess with all those backhoes and excavators going they must have dug up all the trees around the complex that provided shade, because believe me there is none. The only air conditioning options in the whole park is the gift shop and the bathroom. I guess one could pose as a concession stand worker if they needed to.
Luckily for us, it was a cool 70 with a light breeze so we were definitely in our own comfort zone. Our nerves from time to time were a little frazzled watching the kids run around the place like they announced they were giving out free candy, but in the end it was a great day for all of us. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story!
Sloane apparently has been eating too many bananas because she went into monkey mode on the obstacle course.
The Turtle Man was begging the staff by the end of the day if he could stay there forever!
With a full day in the books, we were off to our temporary shelter for the night in cozy Mt. Laurel. After all that entertainment, of course, we had worked ourselves up a healthy appetite. Normal folks that live in normal states just leave their hotel and head off to the nearest restaurant on either the LEFT side or the right side of the street. Not a tourist in New Jersey! Once the gang and I found a place to spend our good hard earned money on a nice family meal, it unfortunately was on the left side of the road. How New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen hasn’t lobbied against the absurdity that is driving in New Jersey is beyond me.
Here is a pro tip from this well-seasoned tourist that got to experience it first hand. YOU CAN’T MAKE A LEFT TURN IN MOST PLACES IN NEW JERSEY! It’s impossible, it’s against the law, hell, they don’t even have turning lanes, just some of those beautiful concrete barrier walls to divide the road. Miss Madison and I were a good four miles down the road before we finally figured out something wasn’t quite “kosher.” Welcome to the jug handle or what’s more affectionately known as a Jersey left. So aptly named not because of the design, but because by the time you figure it out a couple of belts off your favorite jug handled quaff are exactly what you are going to want. Basically, you just make right turns that turn into U-turns to get to the other side of the road. Since I’ve seen a bunch of the country and only seen this craziness in New Jersey, I think maybe somebody should pass the word to Trenton that this isn’t so efficient!
After “turning” a two-block journey into a 20-minute excursion, we finally did enjoy dinner.
Unbelievable I know most American residents are thinking, but it gets even better! You aren’t even allowed to pump your own gas in New Jersey. It’s the ultimate tourist trap! They make you burn extra fuel trying to hang a left before you figure out you can’t. So, of course, you are going to need more gas when driving in Jersey. Trust me, Jersey fuel prices are just a smidge higher than most other states, and now I know why! You have to pay a little extra for that “professional” gas pumper to make sure you don’t blow yourself up at the pump. Never mind not one “fuel pumper” I came across could more than likely outscore my daughter on an IQ test.
Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Paul Simon, how come I don’t hear you? I’ve seen you support some pretty silly causes in my day, time to look in the mirror and get behind some real change in Jersey! When is the benefit concert? Asbury Park? I know Springsteen has connections there! Hold the concert, raise some funds, line some lawmakers pockets and let’s get some law changes that go with the rest of the country! It is at this point I should mention Oregon also doesn’t allow you to pump your own gas either, I’ve got a call into Phil Knight to do something about this should I ever make it out there.
I know I’m being a little harsh at on my fellow Jersey Americans and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention everyone (except that one asshole dad at Diggerland that had Miss Madison ready to resume her kickboxing workout regimen) was polite and nice as can be, and, hell, for all I know he could have been from Connecticut. That whole Jersey asshole attitude that I’ve always heard rumors of was nowhere to be seen. From the staff at the restaurants, hotels, and Diggerland to even the numerous toll booth operators we came across, they were all pretty damn cool and funny.
About it for now, with Diggerland in the rear view mirror that day we had a much more arduous task for us the next day. It was going to be Skipah versus Rocky Balboa in a showdown for the ages. That’s right, I was taking the family to the Streets of Philadelphia the next day. Cheesesteak fun and learning a little history were on tap before we rode off to tame the mighty Atlantic Ocean for a couple of days. Stay tuned, the ride is about to get really wild!