After my round in Connecticut, I had a long drive down to the Edison / Piscataway, New Jersey area. My choices were either to blast through the city on 95, or to go around it on 287. The closer I got to the city, the more convinced I became that the only appropriate choice was to go right through the city, and cross over the George Washington Bridge. Delays be damned! I’m traveling the country, and any cross country trip without at least a drive through of NYC isn’t a complete one. As it turned out, I somehow managed to blast right through the city without so much as coming to a stop. It was about 6 o’clock on a weekday. I have been over the G. Washington bridge before, and was certainly not expecting to cruise through. A super bonus combo drive if I’ve ever made one. Cruised right on through.
From the very beginning, my stay in Jersey was dirty as hell. In the vernacular, something dirty is something good. Allow Homer Simpson to further elaborate:
I ended up staying at a Days Inn in Edison, right on Route 1. Route 1 is so very busy, and all left turns are verboten. Rather, if you wish to make a left turn, you have to turn to the right and loop around to a light. Sometimes there is a ramp for this, sometimes you’re going through a neighborhood plastered with “U-turn” signs showing you the way. As I had never been there before, and was relying on my iPhone to get me where I was going, but also had to focus on the road, I missed a turn here or there, and had the full experience of turning around on Route 1. Fumbled a solid 15 minutes away there.
In the end, I ended up checking in around 8. A few minutes later, as I was back in the lobby trying to get some ice, a bus load of foreign tourists showed up. Given that the lobby was about 15′ by 15′, and doubled as both the food procurement area and dining area, I knew immediately that I was in for a battle in the AM. Just my luck that the leader of the group made a critical mistake by telling the desk guy, right in front of me, what time he wanted a wake up call for. “7:30. Don’t forget.” (He then pointed to his head). Excellent. All I had to do was arise and arrive before 7:20 or so, and I would be home free to feast.
Unbelievably, I showed up at 7:15, only to have been thwarted by a dozen of the craftier tourists who refused to be beholden to the wake up call. It was a mad house in there. People waiting in front of the toaster for their stupid toast to toast for literally minutes when I all I wanted was a goddamn bagel, people pouring scalding hot, tea-making water over cereal, it was a spectacle to behold. I made the best of it though, and ended up whaling away on some food. Lesson learned though, I hit today’s continental breakfast before it opened. Yup, I was that guy waiting at the door for the folks to open up. Quick breakfast. Much appreciated.
As I raged about yesterday, the Wi-Fi connection was very spotty, and I was unable to blog as I had wanted to. This did, however, give me time to set up tee times for the weekend. I’m all set in DE and DC today, and MD and WV tomorrow. These are my last two back to back 36 hole days. If I’m alive at the end of the day tomorrow, I will make it!
On to the golf. I had a phenomenal experience yesterday at the Rutgers University Golf Course, located on the science and engineering campus in Piscataway. It was blazingly hot, and was going to be the most trying round weather wise for sure. It’s always better to go through hell with a companion, and I had a great one. Mike Donahue found out about the trip on reddit, and offered to pick up my round in New Jersey. Abundantly generous, Mike not only picked up my round, he also gave me a Rutgers UGC ball marker, and about 30 brand new Slazengers that he bought and found not to his liking. Amazing. Thanks Mike.
The most memorable feature about the course wasn’t the challenging layout, the impressive maintenance (especially given the volume of play), or the scenery, but the focus of the golf course staff on pace of play. I have played many, many rounds of golf and have never been to a course where the overriding goal of the staff was to get you around the course quickly. Mike had made us a tee time for 10:03, and as a twosome, we were of course paired up with another twosome. A pretty cool feature at RUGC is that the starter announces your names over a loudspeaker when it’s time to play. “Now on the tee, from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, winner of the 1999 Lebanon County Junior Championship and the 2013 Dumbass Open, Alex Feeman!”
Gotcha! It wasn’t quite that extravagant, but the starter did announce “10:03 – Donahue and Hung.” Pretty cool. We were paired up with a Korean man and his son, as best I could understand their names were “Taiho” and “Min.” Their English was poor at best, but they were friendly enough, and shared in the oohs, aahs and ohs of good and bad shots. In that, we connected. Neither had played much golf in his life, and from the beginning, it was evident that our group may be presenting a concern for the staff, being focused as they were on pace. Taiho was so “cute,” for lack of a better term, when on hole 1, before hitting his second shot from the rough, raised his hand and yelled “Fore!” at us, as if to notify us that he was about to hit his shot. He got the timing wrong, but his heart was in the right place. It filled my heart with joy. He did it a few other times as well, always bringing a smile to my lips.
Back to the focus on the pace of play, there was of course a clock at the first tee. However, as soon as we left the tee, the starter said “alright boys, we’ll see you on the 9th green in 2 hours,” not “good luck.” Once you’re actually out there, there were numerous “players assistants” driving around in carts on the course to help you find wayward tee shots, and to remind you that you were moving too slowly. On several occasions, one of the assistants would roll up to Mike and I and notify us that he was going to speak with our playing partners, as we were falling too far behind.
While I appreciated the sentiment, and love that the course is working to keep pace appropriate, the course wasn’t necessarily that full. We weren’t all that far behind the group in front of us, and even caught them a few times, and were only holding up the group behind us by the 8th hole. At the turn, Mike and I decided we ought to let the group behind us through. Mike asked the starter if that was okay, and shockingly, was told that it was not! I was flabbergasted. The starter’s reasoning was that it would throw the tee time schedule off. Schedule schmedule. If I was one of those dudes in the cart behind us, I would have been furious. Hey dudes – we tried!
In the end, we finished the front 9 in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Definitely not a bad pace for a foursome including two beginners. We were still told that the guys we were with were too slow, and the starter talked to them at the turn about their pace. Again, I liked the focus on pace, and understand it, given that the course is in the very densely populated Northern NJ and gets a lot of play, but berating beginners for playing 9 in just over 2 hours kinda struck me as overkill.
As for my round, I played pretty well. I drove the ball about as well as I have on the trip, excluding my woeful tee shots on 1 and 10. Mike suggested that we play from the tips, aptly named the “Scarlet” tees at RUGC. I thought that was a nice touch. Measuring in at about 6350 yards from the Scarlets for a par of 71, the course rating was 70.7, while the slope rating was 130. The difficulty of the course wasn’t the length (although at over 6300 yards, the course did feature some longer holes), but the necessity for smart golf; for placing shots well to make approaches into greens. The greens were uncharacteristically slow, but rolled very true, and once I got the speed down, were accommodating to scoring.
I played a very nice front 8, sitting at 4 over when I stepped up to the 9 tee. Hole 9 is a 448 yard dogleg right par 4. The number 1 handicap, I commented on the tee that “A double is expected, and a bogey seems like a good score here.” Mike affirmed my assessment, adding that a par was a phenomenal score. A killed drive, terribly yanked 7 iron, bump and run from the trees and 6 foot putt. Just your normal par. What a memorable hole. I was really happy to par it, given the difficulty of the hole. Always fun to score well on a hole you shouldn’t.
The back 9 brought me a little bit closer to earth, and I ended up shooting an 84. Not quite as low as the 74 the day before, but RUGC was a much tougher course, and the weather was absolutely brutal. In all, my experience at RUGC was fantastic. A little more militant about pace than I would have preferred, in the end the staff didn’t force us to skip a hole or make Taiho or Min tee up from 150 out, or do anything truly over the top. They allowed all four of us to play 18 complete holes, and ended up ushering us around the course in just over 4 hours.
Mike Donahue and I outside the RUGC Pro-shop.
Following the round, Mike and I decided to get some lunch, and I wanted to hit up a diner! After all, I was in Jersey. We went to the Somerset Diner, which I assume was in Piscataway, and it was as Jersey as you can get. A typical Jersey diner, it was dingy and chrome laced on the outside, but clean, well adorned and chic on the inside. We sat down to a solid meal over some solid conversation. Mike went to Rutgers himself, and, as befitting of someone earning a degree from a school with the reputation that Rutgers carries, was knowledgeable and comfortable discussing a wide variety of topics. He had worked for a few French banks, and ended up being laid off in May, after the most recent bank he was working for used up his utility. It just ain’t right. At least they gave him a severance package. Now he’s got time to work on his golf game!
I was delighted to find out that Mike was a Flyers fan; we are a unique and dedicated group of people, and running into another of us is always refreshing. We talked about baseball, hockey, Jersey, travel, work and a bunch of other topics, and the meal flew by.
Upon ordering my wrap, the waitress asked what type of soup I wanted. I wasn’t aware that soup even came with the meal, but asked for my choices, and ended up going with a Jersey classic: Motzo Ball Soup. Our waitress alerted us that she had never even heard of the soup before moving to Jersey, and a few minutes later we determined that she was a midwestern girl from Iowa, who was living with her brother, who is a football player at Rutgers. She hadn’t been on the coast for too long, but had already enjoyed her first trip to the Jersey Shore. She was still wide eyed though, and admitted that the pace of the east coast was a bit more frantic than it was in Iowa. She’ll make it here though. I’m sure of it. To actually get out of the nest and follow something to a new place takes courage, and alone is a massive first step to living a worthwhile life. She was friendly, open to our (mostly Mike’s) advice about how to make it on the east coast, and cute. She’ll be just fine.
This massive epic is drawing to a close, I promise. My lack of access to Wi-Fi yesterday put me in this hole, but I’m just about to be completely dug out. Just one more story about Jersey.
For those of you who’ve never been to Jersey, I want you to know that you aren’t permitted to pump your own fuel. You gotta pull up to the pump and have an attendant do it for you. I’ve always hated it, and really couldn’t ever get used to it. Sometimes I like to lolly gag, and while I’m pretty militant about filling the tank until it clicks, never more and never less, I’m sure others have different preferences and would find not being in control of their own fuel disbursement grating. So yeah, I didn’t want to stop in Jersey for fuel. My last fill up was in Lee, New Hampshire, though, and getting all the way from Edison to PA was going to be a challenge.
I planted myself in the right lane and set the cruise for 60. As I was crossing over the Commodore Barry Bridge into PA, the range computer in my Jetta read “5.” Then it read “0.” No worries though, I found a gas station immediately. No diesel. Come on! I busted out my phone, and did a google search for diesel locator. I actually made it through the first couple steps before I realized I was looking for a store for that stupid fucking Diesel clothing shit. Diesel is FUEL. Not a clothing brand. DAMN. Not I really felt fucked. I was in Chester, Pennsylvania, which is a really tough suburb to the southwest of Philadelphia. And I was basically out of fuel. I wish I had a more thrilling end to the story. I went in the station, asked where I could find diesel, was given the answer, and made it to the new station with .4 of a gallon to spare. Really, anticlimactic, I know. Sorry about getting you all hot and bothered there.
Let me make it up to you. As I was filling my gas tank, some neighborhood kids were playing a game I wasn’t familiar with. They each had their bicycles, and were standing on the side of a 4 lane highway running along the Delaware River in Chester. As cars would drive by, they would roll their bike out into the road, rooting for a collision. I kid you not. It prompted a “what the fuck?” from me, for sure. To be honest though, after a few rolls, I myself was rooting for a collision. Ssshhh, don’t tell anyone.
Okay. Off to Ed Oliver GC in Wilmington for a quick AM round, then down to DC for the afternoon. Entries of this massive size will not be frequent, provided I have standard access to Wi-Fi moving forward.
Oh yeah, here’s photographic proof of the misery: