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Turnpike Trivia

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I recently cruised down the New Jersey Turnpike for a weekend in Philadelphia. I hadn't been to Philly since a poorly executed field trip in 1991, when many of the exhibits were inexplicably closed. So it was good to be back. We saw the same high-speed chase three times (a movie was filming near our hotel) and hit up the Starbucks across from Betsy Ross' house.

But the learning opportunities didn't start at Philadelphia's city limits. If you've ever traveled the Turnpike, you may have noticed the rest stops are all dedicated to famous (and not-so-famous) Americans. I've always wondered how these obscure names were connected to New Jersey. Let's take a ride up the Turnpike, making frequent stops for answers:

+Clara Barton, Established the American Red Cross
NJ Connection: Started NJ's first free public school
Milepost: 5.4 (southbound)

+John Fenwick, Quaker colonist in America
NJ Connection: Early settler of NJ
Milepost: 5.4 (northbound)

+Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass poet
NJ Connection: Buried in Camden
Milepost: 30.2

+J. Fenimore Cooper, Last of the Mohicans author
NJ Connection: This rest stop (He was born in Burlington, but moved at age 1 to Lake Oswego, NY)
Milepost: 39.4

+Richard Stockton, Declaration of Independence signer
NJ Connection: Continental Congressman from NJ
Milepost: 58.7 (southbound)

+Woodrow Wilson, 28th President
NJ Connection: President of Princeton
Milepost: 58.7 (northbound)

+Molly Pitcher, Possibly took the place of her wounded husband behind a cannon during the Revolutionary War
NJ Connection: If this did happen, it probably happened at The Battle of Monmouth in 1778.
Milepost: 71.7

+Joyce Kilmer, Poet and son of the guy who invented baby powder
NJ Connection: Born in New Brunswick
Milepost: 78.7

+Thomas Edison, Inventor with 1,097 U.S. patents
NJ Connection: "The Wizard of Menlo Park" is buried in West Orange
Milepost: 92.9 (southbound)

+Grover Cleveland, 22nd & 24th President
NJ Connection: Born in Caldwell, buried in Princeton
Milepost: 92.9 (northbound)

+Alexander Hamilton, First Secretary of the Treasury
NJ Connection: Killed by Aaron Burr in a Weehawken duel
Milepost: 111.6

+Vince Lombardi, legendary Green Bay Packers coach
NJ Connection: His first coaching job was at St. Cecilia High School in Engelwood
Milepost: 116

There probably wasn't a lot of resistance to any of these roadside memorials. I can't imagine anti-Clara Barton sentiment. But one naming has been a source of contention -- the Howard Stern Rest Area on I-295 in Springfield. It was christened in 1995 by governor Christie Todd Whitman. This gesture "“ a "thanks" for Stern's support in the November 1993 election "“ drew both criticism and thieves. A plaque featuring Stern in an outhouse was stolen. Jim McGreevey closed the rest stop in a 2003 cost-cutting measure.

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Space
Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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