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Category: Leisure

Biking the Island

Biking the Avenue

Distance: 4.4 miles
Time: 8:30 a.m.

I would rank Beach Avenue as the easiest bike ride for visitors. For one thing, you can roll out of bed and, without having to do too much thinking about where you are going, enjoy a nice morning bike ride.

My cycling partner Macy and I arrive at my old friend Dennis Flynn’s Village Bicycle Shop on Lafayette Street around 8:30 a.m. to rent our bikes. Our ride, therefore, begins at Ocean and Lafayette streets, continuing down to Beach Avenue where we turn left and sail on without incident until we reach the end of the avenue, at what locals smilingly refer to as, Poverty Beach. Yeah smilingly, because it is so not impoverished. Anything but, really.

It is a beautiful August morning and the heat of the day has not yet taken hold. As we make our way back up the avenue toward the Cove, at Second and Beach, we realize that we are awfully hungry and can’t help noting the abundance of choices for breakfast along the way, which of course makes us all the hungrier. Starting with Pier House at Beach and Pittsburgh avenues, anyone looking for breakfast with a view will not be disappointed. Other choices include the Harry’s Ocean Bar and Grill, McGlade’s, George’s and Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (both at Perry Street and Beach), Ocean View Restaurant and last, but certainly not least, the Cove Restaurant.

It’s been a while since either Macy (who is 20 something) or I (considerably older than 20 something), have been biking and we are thrilled to have navigated our way through traffic without endangering ourselves or any innocent drivers, pedestrians or fellow cyclists right up to moment we cross over Beach Avenue and bike onto the Promenade.

Biking on the Promenade is permitted from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. and let me just say, it’s a good thing we both had our sea legs by the time we set our course down that path, because by 9 a.m. it is painfully clear that we’re not the only ones with the brilliant idea of getting some exercise with a view of the beach and the ocean to inspire us along the way.

It takes some skill to maneuver among groups of six, to whom the concept of single file, or even two by two, is lost in their enthusiasm to converse. Or to avoid a collision course with the quintessential biking family – mother, father, older brother or sister and baby biker, whose trike or two-wheeler with training wheels, all too often zigzags across the pavement in a pattern hard to predict for the person trying to pass and get out of harm’s way. I dare not even venture to look behind me to see how Macy is faring, but she apparently manages because we make it to Sunset Pavilion and are pleased as punch with ourselves. So pleased, that after sitting for a spell and watching the other bikers make their way to the end of the “road,” we cannot resist rewarding ourselves with breakfast from The Cove Restaurant. Hmm. There is nothing like French toast covered with maple syrup or eggs over easy to quell the shock of suddenly doing physical exercise.

It’s time to get back to work. Yes, this biking is on company time. Hey! It’s a tough assignment, but someone has to do it. Emboldened with success and food, we bravely bike into traffic and proceed straight up Beach Avenue to return our bikes. Except for beach goers crossing the street, we breeze along and make it back to the Village Bike Shop in no time. Total trip including breakfast and gawking at the ocean was about an hour and 15 minutes. A word to the wise, always be on the lookout for the car door that can suddenly pop open and clock you as you obliviously try to speed on by.

Biking at Sunset: Sunset Boulevard, the scenic route

Distance: 6.9 miles
Time: 6 p.m.

Now this is what I’m talkin’ about. A little more difficulty, far fewer people, gorgeous scenery and great scents.

We pick up our bikes at the Village Bicycle Shop around 6 p.m. Denny encourages us not to bike along Lafayette to Perry to Sunset Boulevard, but to instead take the scenic route. Who are we to question the bike man? And so Macy and I set off along Elmira Street. We only get as far as Cape May Creek when Macy and I stop to look at the beautiful white heron in the creek. We cross Park Boulevard to Leaming Street. We are now in West Cape May, what used to be, and still is, just not as much so – the agricultural part of the island. What a pretty street Leaming is. It seems each house has a doll house-like quality with a pretty garden in front. Now for the brave part of this exhibition – crossing Broadway. No problem. We find ourselves twisting around until we are on Sixth Avenue with a large open field on our right, very few cars, and the quiet of twilight beginning to descend and the rich smell of nature all about us.

“Wait! What’s that, Macy? Are those pigs?” For full disclosure I should share with you the fact that Macy and I are not the most agile, graceful cyclists you’ve ever seen. It takes us each at least four push offs to get going. And stopping? Hmm. Sometimes, when excited, we just jump off without braking, tangling ourselves about the bikes like a contortionist without a sense of direction. Perhaps we can invest in bumper stickers for the back of the bikes, something like: We brake for piglets. And we did.

Apparently it’s dinnertime for Momma and her baby piglets, plus there seems to be an overprotective aunt looming about as well. How very cool is this? Thrilled with our find, we continue on down Sixth, make a quick left onto Bayshore Road and a quick right onto Stevens Street. We are now truly in the heartland of Cape May’s agriculture scene. Rea’s Farm is dead ahead and dominates the landscape along Bayshore and Stevens, but just a little further up the road and we are in farm country. Beach Plum Farm and Willow Creek Winery are located along Stevens Street. There is not a car in sight, except those in the driveways as we approach a more residential area of the street, and it is so quiet you can hear the crickets in the distance telling us night will be upon us soon. The end of Stevens Street is also home to Cape May Carriage Company and that brings us to Sunset Boulevard. We check the time and it is not even 7 o’clock. So, we adjust our trip to include the Cape May Lighthouse. Crossing Sunset Boulevard we again opt for the scenic route and take Sea Grove Avenue to Lighthouse Road.

Sea Grove Avenue is my FAVORITE road and I do forgive it for being in Lower Township not Cape May, West Cape May or Cape May Point. A sense of peace comes over me as we turn the corner and smell the honeysuckle. It’s just me and Macy and the sound of birds getting ready to turn in, but the moment doesn’t last long enough and before we know it, we are on Lighthouse Road heading to this wonderful monument to the past. I love this area and especially love looking at the Lighthouse keeper’s house, wondering what life out here in this desolate area must have been like for him and his family.

Macy doesn’t let me wonder too long, however, because it’s time to make our way to Sunset Beach for the Evening Flag Ceremony. The lowering of the American flag is a 43-year-old tradition and Marvin Hume has been at the mast for 35 of those years. The 86-year-old Hume owns the property at Sunset Beach which includes a couple of gift shops, a clothing boutique and Sunset Beach Grill, where Macy and I break to have a light dinner (well Fish and Chips, not so light, but awfully good) while watching the setting sun and the many travelers who begin to arrive by car, by foot, and by bike to witness this miracle of nature and partake in a little slice of patriotism, the Cape May way.

A few minutes before sunset a loudspeaker goes on and someone, sometimes Marvin Hume, sometimes someone else, explains the ceremony and introduces the family who will help lower the flag that night. All the flags flown at the mast are veterans’ casket flags donated by the families of the deceased. There are always, as there is on this night, representatives of the deceased veteran. Mr. Hume asks which of the children feel they are most able to help lower the flag, and afterwards he shows the family how to properly fold it. Kate Smith can be heard over the loudspeaker singing God Bless America and that is followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Gentlemen are asked to remove their hats. Most stand with hands over hearts. The flag, the sunset and the honored. Is there any better way to end your day here in our little slice of Paradise?

Because it has been a long day and it is now a little after 8 o’clock, Macy and I bike straight down Sunset Boulevard into Cape May and lock our bikes at Denny’s shop.

Biking to Higbee Beach

Distance: 7 miles
Time: 7:30 a.m.

Although Denny is at the helm, Macy and I have our locks for the bikes we used the night before. Again, it is a lovely morning and the heat and humidity which will make the afternoon sticky and stifling are absent. We make our way back down Elmira to Park and wind our way around to Broadway turning left onto Stimpson Lane. We are so lucky because there is virtually no traffic on the roads and in no time we turn right onto Bayshore Road, again in front of Rea’s Farm and buzz on down to New England Road. Macy and I cannot get over the rich smells of the country and sea air and as we get closer and closer to Higbee Beach, a quiet comes over the countryside, broken only by the delightful (I never use this word, so when I say delightful, I mean it) sounds of song birds. I feel like I’ve just stepped into a scene from Snow White. Soon I will be dancing with the birds and they’ll be helping me to make a dress for the ball.

We park our bikes and make our way down one of the paths which ends at the beach. I never get over that. You are walking through what I perceive to be the woods, and then there is a clearing over a little crest of a hill and the beach, the ocean and sky greet you like long lost friends. It was my intention to have a picnic breakfast on the beach, but something went wrong with that idea – like the fact that I didn’t get up early enough. What a wonderful way to start the work day, or any day for that matter.

Now, we ARE plagued with saddle sores on the trip back, but it’s our own fault for doing nothing for weeks on end and then trying to vie for Olympic biking champ status three days running.

I urge all of you – be you locals or visitors – to get on that bicycle and explore the island and parts nearby. Cape May is perfect. It is relatively flat and incredibly beautiful and diverse, plus you’ll save on gas and get the blood to the arteries. Anyway you look at it, it’s a good thing.


The Best of Cape May 2009

Cyberspace drum roll please as we announce the 2009 winners of the 5th Annual Best of Cape May survey. Every year, winners of the Best of Cape May are determined by online voting. There were 58 categories and awards will be presented to 25 of the winners – many won awards in multiple categories. Voters cast their online picks for 26 days in August, and it was a record turnout for voters. It took us half a day to tally the results!

So now without further ado – the Winners, knowing that this is Cape May and there are no losers. We don’t allow them to cross the bridge. We sent them back to someplace else.

The Best Places to Stay

QueenVictoria
Best B&B The Queen Victoria

columbiahouse
Best Guest House The Columbia House

congresshall
Best Hotel Congress Hall

beachcomber
Best Campground Beachcomber

billmae
Best Pet-Friendly Accommodation Billmae Cottage

congresshall
Best Kid-Friendly Accommodation Congress Hall

The Best Customer Service

Washington Inn Exterior
Best restaurant customer service The Washington Inn

QueenVictoria
Best accommodation customer service The Queen Victoria

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Best store customer service The Whale’s Tale

QueenVictoria

Best overall customer service The Queen Victoria

The Best Shopping

caroline4
Best store for clothing
Caroline Boutique

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Best store for beach wear Dellas 5 & 10

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Best store for jewelry The Whale’s Tale

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Best store for bargains Dellas 5 & 10

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Best store for accessories Kaleidoscope

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Best gift store
The Whale’s Tale

fudgekitchen
Best  store for candy & fudge The Original Fudge Kitchen

The Best Dining

wawa
Best Coffee WaWa

louiespizza
Best Pizza Louie’s

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Best Hamburger The Ugly Mug

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Best Sandwich The Ugly Mug

Washington Inn Exterior
Best Fine dining The Washington Inn

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Best cheapest breakfast George’s Place

madbatter
Best brunch The Mad Batter

lobsterhouse
Best takeout The Lobster House

unclebills
Best kid-friendly restaurant Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

kohrbros
Best ice cream Kohr Bros.

Washington Inn Exterior
Best overall restaurant The Washington Inn

lobsterhouse
Best seafood The Lobster House

lobsterhouse
Best crabcakes The Lobster House

The Best Beaches

thecovebeach

Best beach for tanning Steger’s
Best beach for surfing The Cove
Best beach for families The Cove
Best place to escape the sun The arcade

The Best Activities

shopping
Best thing to do on a rainy day Shop

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Best theater company Cape May Stage

beachtheatre
Best movie theater The Beach Theater

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Best kid-friendly activity Miniature Golf

limabeanfestival
Best festival The Lima Bean Festival

capemaypoint
Best birding spot Cape May Point

lighthouse
Most interesting tourist spot The Lighthouse

cmngc
Best area golf course Cape May National Golf Club

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Best mini-golf course Ocean Putt on Jackson Street

Best watersports activity Parasail

The Best of Nightlife

brownroom
Best place for a cocktail The Brown Room at Congress Hall

boilerroom
Best music venue The Boiler Room at Congress Hall

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Best nighttime hangout Cabanas

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Best overall bar The Ugly Mug

The Best Around Town

washingtonstreemall
Best place to meet people Washington Street Mall

cviewinn
Most likely place to meet a local The C-View

QueenVictoria
Best Victorian building The Queen Victoria

macemlen
Most interesting architectural building The Emlen Physick Estate (MAC)
Best history tour Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts
Best ghost tour MAC’s Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour

whalewatcher
Best water/boat tour Cape May Whale Watcher

sunsetbeach
Best photo spot Sunset Beach

sunsetblvd
Best bicycle route Sunset Boulevard

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Best Cape May publication or website CapeMay.com / Cape May Magazine


Sweaters on Legs: Alpaca Farming in West Cape May

This is an abridged version of A Different Kind of Farm, which was first published in the Spring 2007 issue of Cape May Magazine. Text by Karen Fox.


Ever since she was a little girl in Ohio, Barbara Nuessle wanted to live on a farm. It would be 50 years before Barbara – with a stroke of luck – found the farm of her dreams. “I really thought I was going to raise horses,” she says. Instead she raises alpacas with her husband Warren. alpacas-groupshotNow 14 years later, the gold and green sign on New England Road says, “Bay Springs Farm Open.”

There’s a long clamshell lane that bridges over a spring-fed pond, and at the end sits a handsome cedar-shake farm-style house that Warren designed with wrap-around porches. Warren can be seen moving quickly to his commercial mower that he operates about three hours a day to keep up with the fast-growing lawn and pasture.

Barbara is standing at the fence on her 10 acres in the Cape May countryside admiring her alpaca herd – especially the new-born babies on wobbly legs. The other members of the herd are kicking up their heels in the meadow sprouting green in the warm spring sun. The delights of this perfectly picturesque setting are the alpacas walking, their heads up high. The little ones break away, necking and rollicking along the fence row. Barbara loves hanging out on the fence. The alpacas are mesmerizing. They are so quiet. The color of their thick fleece has a wide range: white, beige, light fawn, dark fawn, light brown, dark brown, rose gray, silver gray and black.

Why alpacas?

“My first impression was sweaters on legs,” says Barbara with a chuckle. As a serious knitter with an understanding of excellent yarn, salpacas-ewokhe knew alpacas grow a fine fleece that rivals cashmere in luxurious feel and durability.

The year was 1993, and the Nuessles decided to buy 10 acres of the old Doug and Carol McPherson farm, one of the last working dairies in Cape May County, which in 1993 grew lima beans.

Instead of planting lima beans, springtime at Bay Springs Farm now means shearing time when professionals are called in. Each alpaca produces five to ten pounds of fleece. The fleece is sorted and prepared to be spun into yarn for knitting, crocheting and weaving. Eventually the Nuessles’ homegrown fleece is available at their Farm Store at the rear of their home. Artfully arranged are skeins of alpaca yarn in soft colors plus items that Barbara has knitted herself. There are alpaca blankets, sweaters, socks, booties, mittens and scarves handmade in Peru.

Alpaca farming is an everyday commitment to nurturing. The barnyard chores come first, no matter how severe the weather. One 18-degree morning this past February, Barbara was up with the first streaks of dawn to see snow blowing sideways. “No golf for Warren today,” she said at breakfast. The bay winds cut icy swaths across their fields and into their layered barn clothes. Warren rides the golf cart, juggling buckets of warm water for the boys in the front pasture, but finds they have taken shelter in the barn. Barbara totes pails of hot water to the girls and their young ones snuggled inside. “Alpacas love the cold, but they don’t like wind and snow,” she said. Barbara mucks the barn and puts down fresh sawdust for the girls.

alpacas-barbaraIt’s 10 o’clock, time for alpaca breakfast: Barbara pours 10 pounds of feed into a large bucket, mixes in some minerals, and parcels out a cup or two into individual feeders. She scatters some hay, and a top dress of alfalfa, a gourmet treat. By 10:30 a.m., Barbara is peeling off her chore clothes, then ordering a case of kale and carrots for the herd. She’s off to the grocery store to pick up provisions, making a stop at the post office to mail fleece samples for a national yarn competition. Before a lunch of produce from last summer’s garden, Barbara and Warren bundle up again to check the alpacas, all snug and humming, as they do when they are happy, and stock up the many birdfeeders dotting the landscape.

Before and after 4 p.m. chore time, Barbara catches up on computer work: ads and photos for studs for hire, and for sale. She preps for an alpaca association teleconference from 8 – 11 p.m. She takes a look out at the barn at midnight. All is well, though the Bay winds howl. She curls up with a book and can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow. Alpaca farming is a labor of love.

Mild-tempered and gregarious as alpacas are, they have their eccentricities. It’s true, they spit, Barbara confirms, rarely at humans – but occasionally at each other. alpacas-restingThe spit is chewed up grass, odorous, but harmless. It’s their immediate defense system. They are herd animals but like their own space, especially when lounging in the barn.

Though located off the beaten path, Bay Springs Farm plays host to more than 3,500 knitters, spinners, tourists and families who want their children to see the alpacas. The farm is located in one of the only remaining natural dune forests, bordered by the 1,500-acre Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area on one side, and the preserved Hidden Valley Ranch on the other.

“We just never know who might be dropping in,” says Barbara. “And you never know who is knitting these days. A lot of young people are taking up knitting because they appreciate handmade things, and they knit for social reasons. They call their groups ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch.’ Boys, too, are knitting. I had an 11 year-old customer who was totally into fiber and interested in becoming a designer.”

Planners that they are, Barbara and Warren have taken steps to preserve their dream-come-true for future alpacas-babygenerations. Bay Springs Farm is now part of the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program, which protects it from development. Their 10 acres joins the hundreds of preserved acres on their boundaries. The goal is to keep the fields and forest as they are forever.

Dreams? Well, Barbara got a horse of her own at age seven. He was a brown and white Pinto named Chuck-A-Luck, which she rode every day. “My horses were my loves,” she says thinking about those days. Today, when she walks out and gazes upon her herd, it’s easy to see who her new loves are.


Visit Bay Springs Farm online at www.bayspringsalpacas.com


All Aboard! The train is now leaving the station

redtrainfaceThe Cape May Seashore Lines’ train is totally cute… and you should ride it.

You should take the train in the rain.
You should take train if you have kids.
You should take the train if you live here.
You should take the train if you live over there somewhere.

Oh? You want to know more? Who am I, you say? Why should you take my word? All right, if you insist, I’ll tell you more.

For one thing, the train ride is a nice way to go back in time. On the Saturday I took the train, I rode Number 304 – The Mermaid – departing from Cape May City Rail Terminal, located at Lafayette and Elmira Street – one block west from the Washington Street Mall. The rail terminal shares space with New Jersey Transit, Cape May’s Welcome Center and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May.

advertismentThe Mermaid was manufactured by the Budd Co. back in the 1950s.  Most of the cars currently available do date back to the 50s, although restoration work has just begun on the the “Blue Comet” observation car built in 1927 to make runs from Jersey City to Atlantic City for the Central Railroad of New Jersey. For those not in the know, an observation car has a platform on the back with leather straps for passengers to hold on to when the train is in motion. Politicians used these cars for “whistle stop tours” passing through towns throughout the United States stumping for votes.

But back to The Mermaid.  I caught the train on a Saturday in July as a way to get to the annual 4-H Fair being held at the Cape May County Park fairgrounds (the Cape May County Zoo is also located here).

redtrainI fell in love the second I saw the engine. It’s so cute and red with neat character lines distinguishing it from other train cars. As an aside, I should tell you that I’m an old-hand at train riding – as a means of transportation that is. I grew up riding Amtrak’s “The Pennsylvanian” from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to New York to Washington D.C. so, I’m used to Amtrak’s sleek silvery “not-so-cute” engine and cramped, often “not-so-clean,” train cars.

While waiting on the platform of the Cape May City Rail Terminal, I peeked inside the passenger car. The seats are blue leather and spacious. There is leg room – lots of leg room – and wide aisles. The train car itself is much smaller than the Amtrak cars. Seats face each other, so a maximum of four people (or six if they’re little) share seating arrangements.

chairsI notice people are beginning to line up, so I join them.

The door opens and the ticket taker and conductor come out. They’re even cuter than the engine. The conductor has a little hat (which the company pays for) and uniform (which the company does not pay for). The ticket taker has a neat vest and both men are all smiles.

I take my seat and immediately start snapping pictures. The train pulls out at precisely 2 p.m. The conductor, who turns out to be one David Diano, welcomes us aboard The Mermaid.  Diano is the senior conductor for Seashore Lines. He is in charge of training other conductors. What’s involved in the training?

conductor2“Well,” he says, “there’s the paperwork. Then the I let the conductor work with me to see what I do. And there’s the paperwork.”

Our ticket taker is Bill Heller. A round-trip ticket to Historic Cold Spring Village he says is $5 for adults, $4 for children 12 and under.  For an $8 adult fare, $5 for children, the train goes all the way to the 4-H Fairgrounds Rail Station, 1 mile north of Cape May Court House, adjacent to the west entrance of the County Park and Zoo and the last stop.

Once the train pulls out of the station, I am struck by how pretty the scenery is. Even Home Depot looks good on this train. Again, I can’t help comparing it to the train rides I’ve taken before and I can assure you the urban blight that I’m accustomed to is for the most part absent on this journey. There are a few sore spots around Rio Grande, but otherwise, the rider is treated to vineyards,
trees, and the backyards of people’s homes.

tickettakerThe best view is crossing the Cape May Canal Moveable Bridge. The info tape, which plays sporadically throughout the trip informs the rider that the bridge was built in 1943 to protect the canal from Japanese submarines prowling the east coast during WWII. The train comes to a stop just short of the canal so that the bridge can be moved into place and then we’re off again.

To make an afternoon of it, you can catch the train in Cape May, get off at Historic Cold Spring Village, tour the village, have lunch at the Grange Restaurant and catch the train back. Or, you can catch it and ride further to the Cape May County Park and Zoo. Just one word of caution, mind your timing because on this particular Saturday, as it turns out, the afternoon train departing Cape May and arriving at the 4-H Fairgrounds at 3 p.m., ended up being the last train leaving the fairgrounds that was Cape May bound. So, I never did get to the 4-H Fair, but truth be told, I knew that before I started.

canaltrianbridgeThe one thing that disappointed me was the dining car had gone AWOL. I really wanted to have tea on the train. Just my luck, the Cafe was down for repairs. Conductor Diano said it needed a new compressor. Still, spending the afternoon with the “little red engine that could” is time well-spent.

For more information and schedules, contact Cape May Seashore Lines at 609-884-CMSL or visit their website (which has very cool pictures of the various engines) at www.capemayseashorelines.org


Cape May Nightlife

My date and I spent a rainy Saturday night in June hitting some of the bars in Cape May  that we think single people looking for a good time should try out. We were on foot, so we focused our attention on a few that are found on and around Beach Ave.

Our trek started at the King Eddy (King Edward Room in the Chalfonte Hotel, Howard Street, 2 kingeddyblocks from the beach). This Southern Plantation style building, celebrating its 127th anniversary this season, is host to several musical events every summer. At the end of a typical performance the audience spills out of the Henry Sawyer Room into the King Eddy, so, by 10ish the place is usually happenin’ — it’s a theater-going kind of happenin’, laid back, sophisticated, cozy.  Tonight Paul Klineburger is tending bar and he makes a super Mint Julep (in the style of the Old South)

But on this particular Saturday night, it really isn’t happenin’. For a couple of reasons.  One, it’s only 9:30 for heaven’s sake, but we had to start somewhere. Two, the Henry Sawyer Room was dark this night so it was really only hotel guests and passers-by filling the bar and the tables.  After a bit of chat with the bar customers, we finished our drinks and move on.  But we say don’t miss the King Edward.  Especially when Jilline Ringle begins her cabaret run at the Chalfonte on July 2.

Off we go to Cabanas on the Beach – four blocks away at Beach and Decatur.  When we arrive, “The Jinx” is just getting ready to start their first set.  Scott, the man in charge wants to know if we want to buy a VIP card – a pass for whenever they have a cover charge.  We decline.

The bar is full and the tables alongside the bar are quickly filling up. There is a constant buzz jinx2around the pool tables at the far end of the room. The crowd at Cabanas varies according to who’s on stage. On this night the mood is young and single. By the middle of The Jinx’s first set, girls are standing against the rail facing the band. Tattooed Ronnie who shares vocals with Kelly works the room like a segment on American Idol leaping off the stage and making his way around the bar – mike in hand. By the end of their second set, the dance floor is crowded. It’s noisy and jumping but we must move on. We finish our drinks and just four steps down the pavement is the stairway to Martini Beach.

Conveniently, Martini Beach is right above Cabanas. Jason, our bartender informs us, this restaurant/bar, is a classier place to linger.  A mermaid hangs over the bar.  A neon martini glass lights the far wall.  By the time we arrive, dinner (which by the way is served in a small narrow room with an ocean-view shared by the bar) is over; so the music is cranked up – a mix of Disco and 80s funk.  No dance floor, so I’m forced to sway and move my head as though only the upper half of me could dance. But it’s fun…

My date takes a drag on his unfiltered Camel, sits back in his chair, looks over and says, “You’re scaring me.”  His fears are squelched after he gets a taste of “Mickey’s Dirty Little JasonSecret,” a vodka martini with olive juice and giant olives served straight up. I have a Key Lime Martini which tastes just a little too much like Key Lime Pie.  Duuuhhhh . What did I think it was going to taste like? Key lemon? I prefer “Mickey’s Dirty Little Secret” …but I manage to drain my Key Lime thing… no problem.

I could have stayed in this small, intimate room the rest of the night. The crowd is mixed–  30s,40s, 50s, locals, tourists, people looking for a nice place to hang and talk. Kinda nice. Hmmmm.  No no. Duty calls. We must be off!  But not very far at all.

All rightie then. Carney’s and Carney’s Other Room are just a few more steps away after I manage to deal with the long narrow stairway down from Martini Beach.  We open the door to “Carney’s Other Room” first. Now, you know the place is having an off night when everyone – all six of them – look up from their drinks as you as though you were the newest stranger in town. “Ahh, on second thought, I think we’ll go on over to the other Carney’s.  Not the Other Room Carney’s – the original – well maybe it wasn’t that Carney’s. But the one … next door… whatever!”

We approach the door minder who wants five bucks a pop for a cover; or we can pay  $25 for a VIP card. We negotiate. It’s an assignment after all.

O.K. Let me just say that tonight – if you’re looking to be where the action is – this is the place to be. “Bigg Romeo” is just finishing a bigg set. The dance floor is mobbed with beautiful young people having a great time.  The place absolutely exudes sensuality from the tacky flashing lights on the dance floor to the cave-like decor to the gorgeous babe dancing in the tight T-shirt with the cowboy hat .

I am tempted to switch to club soda. But then I can’t comment on the drinks. Hhmmmm. So I order something light. Suffice to say it’s chilled and wet.  Besides the drinks are secondary to the band and the crowd.  Wait – did I just see a girl in a wedding gown? No. I saw two girls in wedding gowns. Who knew?

June, as we all know, is El primo wedding month and it’s also the time when young brides, carneysbridetheir grooms, and their entire wedding parties move on to Carney’s for some after-wedding-party partying. The one bride is named Karen Stoner- her first time using her new name we figure since she and her new hubby just came from the Southern Mansion where their reception was held. She says she really doesn’t have time to talk. Even if she wanted to, I couldn’t hear her; so I had her write her name on my notepad.

We must leave Carney’s before Bigg Romeo takes to the stage again. It’s getting late and we still have more stops to make. Besides I’ve been made!  People are asking me why I’m trying to take notes in a bar after midnight.  Well fercryinoutloud, the tape recorder idea didn’t work, that’s why!

The Rusty Nail is kind of a locals’ bar, at the west end of town on Beach Ave near Broadway, which puts it kind of out of the loop for bar-hopping. If you can manage the 6 block walk however, it’s worth the effort.

First of all, it has breathing room. A big hackin’ horseshoe bar, large dance floor, spacious dining room, and the management  generally books some really good music.  Tonight it’s the sindiraymondSindi Raymond Band.  This couple — I don’t know if they’re a “couple,” but he’s a boy and she’s a girl and there are two of them O.K.? — this couple has a fresh, smooth sound.  They’ve played in Wildwood since the mid 90s but are new to Cape May.  Even though we’re approaching 1 a.m. the bar is still full.  People seem pretty mellow but shortly the crowd thins. Everybody is liking the music.

Unfortunately, we can’t stay long, I have two more stops before closing time. Tyring to clear my head a bit, we saunter back along Beach to Perry and go downstairs to the Boiler Room in boilerroomthe Congress Hall Hotel.  My first impression was that I had just crashed someone’s wedding. My date didn’t have that sense since by now, I think he was approaching senseless. He plants himself at the bar while I go to investigate.

I hear the band but I can’t find them. How is that possible?  A semicircle of gorgeous sophisticated young adults, girls in long slinky dresses, guys in suits and tuxes – are all standing facing away from the bar. I make my way to the far corner, still following the sound and there they are! – The Benderz – down in the orchestra pit. Well, not really an orchestra pit, but a place that’s certainly set below sea level. I sense if I’m not careful I’ll trip into the band.

Apparently the happy couple are from Texas, or one of them is from Texas. In homage to this, The Benderz sing a pretty good rendition of Garth Brooks’  “I Got Friends In Low Places.”  I benderzwould say that on a normal, non-wedding kind of a Saturday night, this would certainly be on my “A-list” of places to stop and even on this night, everyone is having a great time and it’s infectious. I want to stop now and stay a while longer… Can’t.

Our last stop (it’s going on 2 a.m.) is the Ugly Mug. I figure this late at night, it must be pretty ugly by now. Well, it is, but not in the way I thought it would be.  We’ve been to “the Mug” before and know more than a few of the namesakes on the hanging mugs personally. Great local bar. But this night we’ve gotten there just a bit too late. Just a handful of people left, who prod the guitar player, Wesley Ochs, to play “Sweet Caroline,” and a bunch of lame requests.  When we hear him saying, “I can only play so many Jimmy Buffet songs in one night!” we figure it’s time to go home. Besides, I’m feeling like the night is SO OVER now anyway. I’m really, really glad we walked. I could never find my car keys or even my car.

That was our Saturday night in Cape May. We hit fewer than half of in-season Cape May night spots Though I got a fat headache from the assignment, I’m ready for Part II.

A couple sober tips for newbies in Cape May: The local newspapers are full of info on who’s playing where.  But be sure to log onto CapeMayAfterDark.com. It’s the web site to keep abreast of “what’s happening where” at night in Victorian Cape May.