It's not everyone's idea of fun but someone has to do it: we got ambushed by Jack Riepe and ate fish with him in New Jersey. He exhausted my wife so badly she had to retire early and I was left alone with the Great Writer Himself. Unnerving.
But I get ahead of myself. We left the safety and familiarity of Burlington with some trepidation but my wife was healing and we knew it was going to be a long slow drive home as she couldn't stand more than six hours in the car in a day and needed plenty of walks to keep blood flowing in her legs. Like I say there's nothing routine about gallbladder surgery. I know that now. For some reason known only to Google, if there is a gravel road no matter how painful for postoperative passengers, the blue line will follow it:
We were the last on the 11:30 ferry across Lake Champlain to Essex, New York. $14:50 and thirty minutes for the car, us and Rusty.
New York's Adirondack mountains were on the horizon. Too bad we had to go south.
Eventually the next day we arrived in New Jersey and found our way to the Riepe neighborhood. Rusty gathered his strength outside our motel room while my wife slept in:
Riepe came by and picked us up for a drive to the famous New Jersey Pine Barrens.
These woods are known to the world at large thanks to an episode of The Sopranos wherein the mobsters let us all know what a handy place this is to dump bodies.
Unfortunately for Rusty the rain was bucketing down and he only got a brief scamper before we retreated to dinner in Tuckerton.
Barnegat Bay Riepe explained to Layne while Rusty and I took our ease in the rain.
It was a fun drive with a tour guide and I was in the back with my dog which made a change.
The next day early I loaded the dog into the car and I followed the phone's GPS to a spot I had marked the night before. The rain had stopped and Rusty was ready for the Pine Barrens:
From what I could see you park and walk. There is some private property but state lands, miles of them are marked by little white triangles. It's all wonderfully empty and unregulated and filled with foreboding and rumors of dark deeds and dangers.
This is the reason anyone knows about these remarkable, undisturbed woods from the third season, episode 11 aired in 2001:
Valery insults Paulie, prompting him to attack the seated Russian. Christopher had tried to stop Paulie from acting out, but he jumps in on Paulie's side. The three men fight, and eventually Paulie chokes Valery with a floor lamp, severely injuring him and apparently cracking his wind pipe. The situation causes the Mafiosi to panic and they wrap Valery in a carpet before wheeling him out to their car. While trying to figure out what to do with the body, Paulie suggests that they take it to the Pine Barrens, as it will be deserted and is in close proximity to Atlantic City. Christopher, who has not yet eaten, wants to stop for breakfast at Roy Rogers but Paulie insists that business must come first, and will soon be completed.
In the woods, Christopher and Paulie open the trunk to find that Valery is still alive and has chewed through the duct tape. They lift him out of the car, present him with a shovel and force him to dig his own grave. When the pair are distracted, Valery smacks them with the shovel, delivering a blow to Christopher's head and a jab to Paulie's groin before fleeing. Christopher and Paulie draw their guns and give chase, but are amazed when Paulie shoots Valery, clearly hitting part of his head, and the Russian immediately gets up and runs into the woods. They try to track his blood and footprints in the snow but are eventually left with no clues. Still on the hunt, the pair hear something and run, firing some shots. Paulie slips down a slope and loses his shoe. They discover that they killed a deer. They try to return to Paulie's car but cannot find it, and soon realize that they are lost in the woods. Paulie uses his cell phone to call Tony for help, but communication is limited by poor reception, interference and crosstalk.
Later I took Rusty to another spot and let him run while I took some pictures for my pleasure: