Roll With It
SPRING is less than a month away, which means many things to Cape Islanders… businesses will be reopening, certain bird species will be returning and, most exciting for some, bikes will once again be the preferred mode of transportation. Or at least, they should be. We all know they’re healthier for us and the planet, and they don’t require paying a meter… all reasons, no doubt, that Mark Jacopec thinks “the car thing is getting old.” This spring, he’ll be launching Ride With Mark, a bike tour business that offers a little something for everyone.
“I’ve always thought this concept would work well… because of our topography, this is a great spot for biking. But I’ve always talked myself out of it because of the legal implications and the setting up process,” he told us. “But a lawyer friend of mine, without knowing anything about my plans, told me I needed to do this, and that he would handle all of the legal stuff. That’s when I decided if I’m going to talk the talk, I need to walk the walk.”
Or, uh, pedal the pedal, in Mark’s case. He’s a self-described “obsessive” biker who has heaps of ideas for his tours. “We’ll bike to Sunset Beach to look for Cape May diamonds, or to the Red Store to grab lunch, for example,” he told us. Those looking for a killer workout will enjoy a “17 or 18 mile-an-hour rip,” history buffs might be more interested in an informational tour about the city, and foodies will love the meet-the-chefs tour. A certified yoga instructor who teaches at Balance studio and at Atlantic City High School, Mark is also working on ways to combine biking and yoga — either cycling to a beautiful spot for some seaside savasanas, or instructing people on how to apply the principles of mula energy to the actual peddling motion so that you can “fly like someone is pushing the back of your bike.”
There’s only one possible impediment to what sounds to us like a stellar idea… and that’s the condition of one of the island’s most heavily-biked roads. “Parts of Sunset Boulevard are impassable,” Mark told us. “I know every nook and cranny, and I’ve met every piece of glass; since the beginning of January, I’ve had 20 flats. My tires have so much patching, they look like quilts.” Other problems include overgrown vegetation (the reason Mark sports goggles on his daily ride) and potholes.
We asked on our Facebook page how others feel about the condition of this road. One woman told us to “leave Sunset Boulevard alone,” but the majority of the responses were from disgruntled bikers, like the man who told us his ride to the lighthouse along this strip was the scariest mile of his life. Someone else said she’s been waiting over 20 years for it to be paved. We got an email from a woman who rides 20 to 30 miles a day, but says she hasn’t been able to take Sunset Boulevard in years, and another man whose grown so frustrated, he’s stopped biking here altogether. We even had a petition for the repair of the road that was circulated in 2011 by Chris Wimberg dropped off to EZ Global Headquarters. Although it was never submitted, it was signed by 64 individuals concerned about “extrusions of paving” that cause drivers to veer from their lane onto the shoulder, creating a particularly hazardous scenario. Chris told us he’s incurred over $1,000 in damages to his car on this road.
It was enough for us to call the County Freeholders Office, where we spoke with a very pleasant gentleman by the name of Frank McCall, the county’s Public Works Manager. He explained that last fall, at the request of cyclists, there was some milling work done, in which bumps in the road were flattened. He assured us that more milling work would take place this spring, along with the trimming of shrubbery, and that Cape and Lincoln Avenues would be redone entirely. “One complaint is just as valid as 1,000,” said Frank, who told us he enjoys riding along Sunset Boulevard himself. He asked that if we have any more concerns to be sure to call back, and we’d like to ask the same of our readers. If you don’t feel satisfied with the condition of your favorite biking path by this summer, let the authorities know. In the meantime, please make sure your own property is not a part of the problem…
“One of the most common problems, and probably the easiest to rectify,” Mark said, “is rocks from driveways pushed out into the shoulder, making it hazardous for a cyclist to maneuver. Sometimes, the rocks even get pushed up against the tire and are sent like bullets. So, in an effort to clean up the bikeways, we should privatize the effort, meaning property owners should take cyclists into consideration and clean up rocks, branches or encroaching organic matter, sand, glass, etcetera.” Mark is offering to do this for you, free of charge, if you don’t have the tools or time. “Just leave the address on Ride With Mark’s phone,” he says. That number is 609-884-0911.
In the meantime, get psyched for the first opportunity to ride with Mark, happening on April 7 between 1 and 3pm. The event will be a “flash ride” around the Cape May Point Circle (five times around equals one mile, and you’re welcome to go at your own pace. Immediately afterward will be a launch party with live music. Though it’s free, donations are welcome, and all proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Hope Matters, a local group dedicated to suicide awareness and survivor support. (See our bulletin board on page 20 for details.) “I don’t expect to get rich on this,” Mark said. “I don’t call it a business. I’m a service-oriented person, and I’m excited about this. I’m full steam ahead, baby.”
For updates, be sure to check out Ride With Mark’s Facebook page at facebook.com/ridewithmark?fref=ts.
THERE are a lot of wonderful non-profits in Cape May, advocating for everything from film appreciation, to environmental protection, to animal safety (see pages 21-30 for photos from the latest Animal Outreach Shindig). But there’s one nonprofit — a group that’s been doing big things with a small amount of manpower and an even smaller budget — you may not have heard much about. We’re talking about the Cape May Maritime Museum and Education Center, and although the name may be misleading — there is no physical museum space established yet — the group’s big plans for showcasing and safeguarding an important part of our island’s heritage are well underway. This week, we sat down with Maritime Museum President Kevin Maloney and his wife Sandy, the group’s Administrative Director, to get the details.
“The maritime history here is so rich,” Kevin told us. “There’s the military side, the commercial side, boat building, shipwrecks… at one point in the 1800s, there were more fatalities due to shipwrecks off the New Jersey coast than anywhere else in the country. We want to see this maritime heritage preserved in one central area.”
It all started in 2010, at a time when discussions about demolition of the old Convention Hall were taking place. Gretchen Whitman, Director of the Nature Center, came up with the idea for a maritime museum, and the hall’s solarium was suggested as an ideal venue, if it could be moved from the beachfront to the Harbor. It never happened, but the city did pass a resolution in support of the development of a Maritime museum. “We established a diverse, dedicated board,” Kevin said, “we became incorporated, and we decided to keep on pursuing this. We know it can add value to a community. In Shanghai, China, for example, $780 million was recently spent on a maritime center. This is an important part of a culture.”
The first order of business for the group was to learn as much as possible. A year and a half ago, they recruited a set of volunteers and began researching and writing the book Cape May’s Maritime Heritage, which Arcadia Publishing has agreed to produce. (Look for it at the end of this year or the beginning of next). “It’s not about making money,” Sandy told us. “We’re going to get the word out, and that’s what’s important to us.”
The nonprofit has also hosted a series of lectures held at the Cape May County Historical Society on topics ranging from local lighthouses to area shipwrecks. They’ve been busy restoring the 2,000-pound, 26-foot wooden monomoy lifesaving boats, circa 1940, they purchased from the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York last year. And they’ve been working on securing an area to reconstruct the lifesaving station that was featured in 1876 at the World’s Fair Centennial Celebration in Fairmount Park before being transported here, to the site of the old steamboat landing, where it became a functioning lifesaving station until it was destroyed by a 1954 storm. The new building — the architectural designs for which have been secured from the Library of Congress — is tentatively slated for the area of the old magnesite plant between Sunset and Higbee beaches. “The lifesaving stations came about because of a New Jersey man named William Newell, who sat next to Abraham Lincoln in Congress,” Kevin explained. “He put forth the Newell Act, which appropriated funds for the establishment of these lifesaving stations which, along with the cutter service, eventually developed into the Coast Guard. One of our goals is to open a window to all these terrific accomplishments.” If all goes as planned, the structure will be the site of reenactments and perhaps even a nightly firing of a Lyle gun cannon.
But we would be remiss if we didn’t mention what’s shaping up to be one of the non-profit’s most anticipated projects: Youth Outreach Boat Building. It was the idea of George Loos, Maritime Museum board member and local boat builder, who explained that boat building is a proud Cape May tradition. “The Jersey cedar and white oak we have here our ideal,” he told us. But the inspiration for this particular endeavor came from overseas, from the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project, in which participants fashion St Ayles Skiffs from easy-to-use timber kits. So far, there are only seven of these boats being built in the United States, and none of them in New Jersey.
“We just discussed the idea with Lower Township High School’s curriculum director yesterday,” George told us, “and they seem really enthused about it. He’s going to be presenting it to the board.” If approved, the program could lend itself to lessons in shop classes, or develop into an extracurricular activity. Eventually, the Maritime Museum is hoping students will be able to compete against other area high schools in rowing competitions that could take place on the harbor. They’re so committed, they’ve agreed to put up the money for the first boat kit, which will cost $3500.
“Cape May’s Victoriana isn’t something that necessarily appeals to all kids,” Kevin told us. “But the students sound very excited about this project so far. We’re hoping they’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment, and an appreciation for teamwork and project management. The takeaway will be to create a group of individuals who embrace this heritage we have. They are the future, after all. And of course, it will be a fun thing to do.”
In the meantime, the group continues the search for an educational, interactive museum space, which will offer small craft exhibits; a library of historical books, manuscripts, maps, photos, and videos; collections from local shipwreck explorers; youth boating safety classes; ongoing marine sciences research and academic conferences; and more than we could possible list here. To keep up to date on the Maritime Museum’s many projects, check out capemaymaritimemuseum.org… and be on the lookout for a group of kids paddling by sometime soon.
WE had to add another page to our Goings-On guide this month, because we’re moving toward that time of year when so many exciting happenings usher people out of their winter hibernation. One event in particular has caught our attention this week. On March 10, there will be a reading of Bill
Sterritt’s new play, The Wreck of the Spanish Armada — examining a Parisian romance between a physician poised to address an international conference and a swashbuckling high value target who leads African pirates — at Joanne Reagan Studios on Seashore Road.
Bill, a Cape May native, ran a theatre company here in the late 70s and early 80s, putting on plays at Cape May Stage when it was still the community center, and also at the Chalfonte Hotel. But as a young adult, he left for Carnegie-Mellon University in Boston to study playwriting. After that, he moved to Los Angeles, where he’s been working as a playwright for 40 years. Now, he’s the artistic director for SPQR Stage Company.
Just how successful is Bill? Next Sunday’s event is a warm-up before a major reading at Philadelphia’s Society Hill Playhouse on the 11th. And Philadelphia’s Adreienne Theatre on the 12th. And Asbury Park’s Urban Nest on the 13. And — drum roll, please — the Manhattan Theatre Club on the 14th.
But it’s not just about the preparation for Bill… he told us he’s simply looking forward to visiting home, and giving the people of his old stomping grounds the opportunity to see his work first.
If you’d like to show a local boy your support, make a reservation by calling 323-793-2153, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Readings are free. And just in case you’re wondering, No, Bill was not in attendance at this year’s Oscars. “We hate the Oscars,” he said. “We’re right around the corner, so we get blocked in by all the limos.” Poor guy!
MARIA Moryakova, wife of Exit Zero photographer Aleksey Moryakov, is from the Russian town Chelyabinsk, 900 miles east of Moscow and not too far from the Kazakhstan border, where a meteor landed on the morning of February 15. “Luckily,” she told us, “my family is fine and no one was hurt.” But 1,500 were injured, and everyone did receive one heck of a scare.
Maria explained that mobile service went down, and it was difficult to reach her family immediately following the incident. Her father called her via Skype about 20 minutes after the fact, still unsure whether the burning object had been a plane on fire. From his car, he’d seen a bright flash. Then, “everything started shaking,” she told us. “Windows cracked and broke into little pieces, cars started beeping, and people were screaming. My mother said it was like the movie Armageddon. People were standing around, looking up, having no idea what would happen next. They were yelling ‘It is the beginning of a new war,’ or ‘Terrorists!’”
Though the meteor landed in Chelyabinsk, one of the largest pieces broke through a thick layer of ice in Chebarkul Lake, Maria told us. “It was 17 meters in diameter and weighed 10,000 tons,” she said.
The city is now in the process of repairing a great deal of damage, particularly to its schools, universities, and hospitals. “We also have a zinc plant that looks light the meteor landed right there. My father says if this thing had exploded just a little lower, the entire town could have been destroyed.”
But it is, Maria says, a reminder of just how important it is to keep from taking life for granted.
“After such accidents,” she told us, “you realize how big the universe is, and how scary it can be to live in this world. You never know just what tomorrow brings. There are some things you can never predict.”