Due to ACA’s new “use it or lost it” policy on paid time off, I’m away from work this week. Trying to get as much biking in before the weather turns bad. On Monday, I journeyed to a monument dedicated to Mexico’s most beloved aviator located in the unlikeliest of places….deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
In the summer of 1928, Captain Emilio Carranza became a national hero when he was selected to undertake a goodwill flight from Mexico City to New York City in response to the previous year’s flight from New York City to Mexico City undertaken by Charles Lindbergh.
On his return flight to Mexico he encountered a thunderstorm, his plane broke up and crashed in the Pine Barrens. His body was found by a pair of blueberry pickers.
Donations from Mexican schoolchildren built the Carranza Memorial that stands at the crash site in Tabernacle Township, Burlington County. Each July officials from the Mexican Consulates in NYC and Philadelphia along with member of the American Legion Post in Mount Holly honor Carranza in a ceremony.
As for the actual trip, I biked to 30th Street Station. What a nightmare that was. This is the first time I biked during rush hour on West Chester Pike. There is no way I could do that every day. My nerves would be shot by the end of the first week. From 30th Street I took the NJ transit train to Hammonton. Then North on 206 into the Wharton State Forrest.
Fun Fact: The Wharton State Forrest was originally purchased by Joseph Wharton (The Penn Business School is name for him) to supply clean drinking water for the city of Philadelphia. The city was growing rapidly in the 1870s, but the Delaware and Schuylkill were so polluted that the city needed a new source of water. The plan (before it was killed by the NJ legislature) was to pump the water from the Pine Barrens aquifers to the city. If this had happened, perhaps Jack Nicholson would have starred in South Jersey instead of Chinatown.
I biked a couple of miles past the turn on my directions. The reason I missed it, was the road was dirt (or unimproved as the State of NJ calls it). So I biked deep into the woods. Pedaling thru the sand is quite a workout. Once it got so deep, I had to dismount and walk for about 75 feet.
After about 20 minutes into the forest I was a bit worried. With no sign posts, I could only hope I was going in the right direction. I also started to imagine what could go wrong. If I hit a patch of sand, wrecked and broke an ankle, would anyone find me? Plus what if I run across the Jersey Devil?
Side note: One of the weakest episodes of The X-Files is the season one clunker, The Jersey Devil. where the eponymous monster is killing tourists in Atlantic City. The rocky forests of British Columbia in no way look like the Pine Barrens. The Casino execs (and the local politicians in their pockets) are trying to keep the murders by the Jersey Devil quiet for fear of scaring off the tourists. Big mistake! If people thought they could catc a glimpse of this monster, they’d be packing into AC. Also the producers seem to think that Atlantic City is right next to the woods, so the monster easily slips back and forth between home in the Pine Barrens and downtown AC. Unfortunately the city is on an island. The monster would have to cross a divided highway bridge with plenty of traffic to get back into the forest.
And there’s a pointless subplot where Scully goes on a date!
OK, back to the trip, I eventually found my way out of the forest and I was on the right road. I passed the juvenile detention center, and both the phone and power lines stopped at that point. It really is in the middle of nowhere. (Checking on the map at home, the trip would have been much longer had I stuck to paved roads, that shortcut through the forest saved me.)
I found the monument. Not much to the area. Just the memorial and a couple of information plaques.
Then it was back home to Newtown Square. Saw some McMansions in Medford Lakes and some guy who was biking on the wrong side of Federal Street in Camden yelled at me in some foreign language. I am guessing because I was in his way. I told him “Hey, buddy, I am on the right side of the street.” He just kept yelling at me. Made it back about 30 minutes before sunset.
Total miles on bike: 81.2
5 counties (Delaware, Philadelphia, Atlantic, Burlington, Camden)