Fort Lee, NJ

We spend some time along the retreat route.

Fort Lee, NJ is a town on the Palisades of the Hudson River. It’s known primarily for two things: the George Washington Bridge crosses the river at Fort Lee to the upper end of Manhattan island and George Washington’s retreat route runs right through it.

Of course, there was a fort. It sits high on the Palisades, just south of the bridge. There isn’t much left of it, but there is a nice park with paved paths and lookout points with benches. The Americans used the fort to lob mortars onto British ships sailing up and down the river.

Until the Americans ran away.

I’m making fun, of course. Back in those days of the Revolution, the American army did a lot of retreating. What’s weird is that there are signs along the retreat route proudly proclaiming that they ran away right past where the sign now stands. But we did win.

We had some time to kill before meeting my sister and brother and some others for dim sum, so we went for a walk in the park. And we got a few treats.

Fife and DrumThe first treat was the re-enactment stuff going on. I don’t know if they do this every Sunday or if we just happened to stop by on the right day, but there were men in revolutionary war uniforms doing the kinds of things the soldiers did back then. Like marching around with a drum and fife. Or with guns. Or setting up a camp near the mortar lobbing area. Or building a shelter without any modern tools.

camp I don’t know why these guys were there, but they were definitely into it. Their outfits looked great — but a lot cleaner than they would have been 230 years ago. Sadly, there weren’t many spectators. The park was pretty empty. It was as if they were performing for themselves. Maybe something was going to start later on. We didn’t hang around. We had dim sum to eat.

George Washington BridgeWe also spent some time at one of the lookouts, watching the bridge and the river flowing beneath it. I took some pictures (of course). And I can recall some of the facts that I’d read about the bridge while in my hotel room.

The George Washington Bridge — or GWB, to the locals — was once the longest single span suspension bridge in the world. It’s still one of the 15 longest. (It’s about 2 miles across the river.) It was built in the 1930s and was originally designed with two levels of roadway, but budget cuts kept the bridge to just the upper level until the early 1960s when the lower level was added. It’s the primary crossing from New Jersey to New York — I can’t remember how many millions of vehicles cross each day. The bridge’s original design called for the towers to be faced with local stone so it matched the Palisades on the New Jersey side. That plan was nixed along the way and the bridge is painted regularly. They just finished doing some rennovation on the towers — you can still see some of the scaffolding on the New York side in this photo.

When I was a kid, my family had a small motor boat. We kept it at home, on a trailer. We’d go boating in the Hudson River. The boat ramp we used is just south of the tower on the New Jersey side. We’d go on day trips around Manhattan island or past Ellis Island (before they fixed it up) and the Statue of Liberty. The water in New York Harbor was always rough; the water in the Harlem River was always smooth. Hells Gate, where the rivers came together with the Long Island Sound, was a crapshoot.

Leaves and SkyAnyway, I also took some time to lay back on the bench and look up at the sky through the leaves of an oak tree. It was nice to be among trees that were a good deal taller than I am. The area is lush with vegetation, like a jungle waiting to reclaim the land.

And just beyond it is I-95 with traffic and exhaust and the sound of cars and trucks.

We left the park right around noon and headed into town. Fort Lee (or Fort Ree, as we sometimes call it) is known for another thing: good Asian food. With a huge Chinese, Japanese, and mostly Korean population, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Want some of the best dim sum in the New York metro area? Go to Silver Pond on Main Street in Fort Lee. You won’t be disappointed.

And if you have time, check out the Fort Lee Historic Park. Maybe those guys will be camped out again.

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