Caption: Members of Cape Island Runners participated in last month’s Mug Run. They ran from the Ugly Mug to the C-View to Sea Salt to Carney’s, to the Rusty Nail, then back to the Mug… stopping to enjoy refreshing brews along the way. Aleksey Moryakov
A Model Family
There are a group of little witches in Cape May. They’re brewing in their cauldron not too far from the bottom of the ski slope. Left of the ice-skaters. South of the tug-of-war kids. These are some of the figurines that have been painstakingly placed throughout the Cape May Model Trains exhibit, where motorized steam engines and passenger cars pick up the electric currents from 30 separate tracks. “The scenery can be just as important as the trains themselves,” said owner Tim Delp when we stopped by for a visit last weekend. “Here, it’s half-imagination and half-reality.”
Some of the trains — The Polar Express and Thomas the Tank Engine, for instance — exist only on television and, now, in this Elmira Street exhibit. Others are modeled after those real-life machines Tim and his family have traveled across North America in their motor-home to ride… like the Shay locomotives of West Virginia that were used in the logging industry from 1900 to 1960. Tim will give you the history, if you’re interested. Otherwise, you’re free to meander throughout, marveling at the amount of time it must have taken to place those itty bitty canoes in the lake, or to build that plaster mountain where the deer and goats are grazing. “I was keeping track of the hours at first,” Tim said, “but I lost track. It’s into the thousands. We don’t expect to make our money back on this.”
So why do it, we wanted to know. Tim and wife Nancy are the owners of Cape Environmental Laboratory, which conducts basic water and environmental testing. Neither, we would think, has the time to be cleaning toy tracks twice a day (which is how often they need cleaned, according to Tim). “It was a no-brainer,” he told us. “My sons… the way they’re proud of this place makes me proud of it. This gives them satisfaction, and that was the main goal.”
Tim and Nancy’s boys — Stephen and Tyler — are 20-year-old conjoined twins, attached at the head. They are also autistic. “But they stay active,” Tom told us. “They don’t sit around and mope.”
This is likely because they’re too busy winning handicapped-accessible hockey games (they sit in a sled and use shortened sticks to propel themselves forward), playing the violin (they’ve got perfect pitch), learning Spanish (they’re already fluent, but they’ll study the language further at Atlantic Cape Community College this fall), and, like most 20-something guys, crushing on Penelope Cruz. “Tyler and dad both like Penelope,” Stephen shared with us.
The guys also love Bruce Springsteen, and they’ll attend their fifth Boss concert next month. We asked what happens if one of them isn’t in the mood to go… how do they decide what happens? “We get along pretty well,” Stephen told us. “I can’t remember a time that’s happened.”
Since the exhibit opened almost three weeks ago, the twins how have an outlet for their greatest passion — trains. They work a morning shift and an afternoon shift everyday the exhibit is open, swapping train trivia with an already loyal following. “We hope people will come and enjoy themselves, and share their stories,” Tyler said.
We hope so, too, but we couldn’t help but wonder what the reaction has been so far.
“We’ve heard it all over the years,” Nancy told us, sharing a story about a time when the twins were very young. The family was on the beach, and a nearby group tried to have them evicted from the sand. “They told us they paid good money to be here, and that they didn’t want to have to ‘deal’ with seeing this,” she said. “They got the mayor involved. In those situations, as much as you want to lash out, you just have to bite your tongue, even if it’s bleeding.”
But in Cape May, the couple said, the support has been overwhelming. “$5,000 worth of ceramic houses were donated,” Tim says. “That entire train layout in the corner was donated, too. And it’s the kids from the Special Services School carpentry class who spent two years doing construction here before we opened. They built the handicap ramp. It’s been amazing.”
Now, the Delps say, they want to give back. They plan on hosting birthday parties, class trips and private viewings. “Because of the autism,” Nancy said, “my sons couldn’t always handle crowds so well. There were times, at different train exhibits, that people held private viewings for us, and we want to be as approachable as we can about doing the same.” It’s important, she says, because everyone we encounter is bearing some type of cross. “I’m sorry, but no one gets through this life without some kind of bump in the road or hardship. But no matter what your disability or what condition you’re born under, I think if you’re loved — truly loved — that’s the strength in all of us.”
Plus, the trains are just really cool.
For more information, call (609) 432-1690, or just stop by. You’ll be glad you did.
For The Love Of Running
We’ve heard this place referred to as “exercise island,” and it’s obvious why. We went for a run along the promenade at 10pm the other night, and even at this late hour, we found ourselves weaving in and out of fellow joggers. Sometimes, it feels like you can’t throw a rock in this town without hitting a bicyclist/skateboarder/speed-walker/roller blader/that man who does some version of Tai-Chi along the beachfront every day. But up until recently — two-and-a-half months ago — there was a gaping exercise-related hole on Cape Island: there was no running club.
Enter Christina Davis, the thirty-something ultra-marathoner from Ocean City who’s a huge fan of group running in Cape May. Working as the monarch intern for the New Jersey Audubon in 2001, she had the opportunity to connect with the “wonderful birding community that thrives in Cape May.” Years later, at a birder party (who knew?) Chris met fellow naturalist Glen and fell in love. Last fall, they got married at the Pavilion Park Circle in Cape May Point — they pleaded with the CMP Environmental Commission for permission to do so — and moved full-time to this neck of the woods.
But Chris seriously missed the running group she’d left behind in Ocean City, so she decided to launch Cape Island Runners, or CIR. “I wanted to create a place where people can share their passion for running,” she told us, “a place where they can be pushed to their potential, but still have a lot of fun doing it…”
It’s this “pushed to their potential” bit that had us a little nervous when we showed up this month for one of CIR’s weekly Wednesday runs, which always begin at 6pm from the entrance of Cape May Point State Park. But Chris and Glen put us at ease; they have no desire to leave anyone in the dust. “The thought of joining a group of strangers for a run can be a pretty intimidating prospect,” Chris said. “But the reality of joining a group is nothing but pure fun… Clubs can be a really great addition to a runner’s repertoire, and since ours is homegrown from the bottom up, it will be a very supportive environment.”
And that it was. Your reporter, Chris, Glen, and one other runner (a small group this week due to job interviews and family obligations, we were told) did our three miles at such a pace we could talk the whole time (although we did speed up a bit when we came upon the electronic speedometer on Cape Avenue that’s meant to keep cars in check. Here, we clocked in at seven miles per hour, thank-you-very-much.) And what did we talk about? Your reporter happened to be the only non-naturalist in the group, so she did get a bit of free nature lesson along the way. That’s inkberry growing along Seagrove Avenue, by the way.
We also discussed Chris’ next marathon training plan (her first long-distance day is a cakewalk, she told us, at nine miles… HA!), the beauty of running through the Point and it’s cool ocean breezes, as well as some things on tap for the future of the group. First, there’s the full moon run slated for September 29; a bakery run where the goal is to jog from, you guessed it, bakery to bakery, indulging just a bit at each one; and a few “dash n’dines” where the group will meet at a restaurant after a jog to “chow down” on a prix fixe menu. “The possibilities are endless,” Chris said. “The general idea is that we come up with a fun theme and create a run that is completely stress-free — no timers, no pace to keep to, no winners.” After all, she told us, the goal is just as much social as it is athletic. Sometimes, she said, CIR members may opt to “get together and have a few beers… while talking about running.”
We like the sound of that. We also like the sound of Chirs’ other idea for Cape May — guided running tours. “It’s an already established idea,” she told us. “People run while learning about the history of an area. I participated in a great one last winter in Washington, DC. It got me thinking that Cape May would also be a perfect place — we have a ton of interesting history and a beautiful landscape.”
So keep an eye out for that, Cape May. In the meantime, we plan to continue meeting CIR on Wednesday evenings, and we hope to see you there. Like Chris told us, it’s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.
Under The (Blue) Moonlight
We’ve drunk the beer at the Rusty Nail. We’ve had the pizza after a late night at Cabanas. We’ve eaten the ice cream on a hot summer day. But we’ve never given the name too much thought. We’re talking about Blue Moon. Come to find out, it’s not just a popular moniker for familiar Cape May foodstuffs. The old expression, “once in a blue moon,” refers to a real phenomenon. On August 31, it’s a blue moon that will be in the sky, and on August 29, Congress Hall will host its Blue Moon party to celebrate.
Don’t feel silly if you have to ask… No, the moon won’t actually be blue. We called Congress Hall’s Senior Programming Manager, Natalie Sudell, who explained that the name refers to the second full moon in a calendar month. (We did some Googling, and if a volcano happens to erupt on this night, sending plumes of ash to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, it is possible the moon could be blue in color, too.) If not, this is still a rare event. “It comes once every three years,” Natalie told us. “So the next one won’t be until 2015.”
The party will be on the lawn, so the congo and veranda bars will be open, and the Adirondack chairs easily accessible. Sit back, enjoy the beauty of the not-blue blue moon reflecting off the ocean and the pool, and chow down. The food will be buffet style, and will include “traditional American fare,” like hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob, pulled pork, and baked beans, with a s’more bar we plan on ravaging.
But we’re most excited about the drum circle led by West Cape May local Marc Jacopec. Natalie told us Congress Hall is expecting about 75 to 100 people to turn up for this party, and that everyone is invited to participate in the drum circle. We can only imagine what a tremendous, primal sound this crowd has the potential to create.
For the kids, there’s all things iridescent — like glow in the dark face-paint and light-up hoola-hoops. “It’s a very relaxed, family evening,” Natalie said. “Parents can de-stress while kids enjoy the activities.”
We think it’s a pretty great way to say goodbye to August and usher in September, which is, arguably, the best part of the summer on Cape Island. “It’s the last big hurrah,” Natalie told us.
We’ll see you there, specialty cocktail in hand.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for kids four to twelve, and free for kids three and under. For more information, call 884-8421.