Hike and Slice Karmel Knocking Around

Moses Wandered…So Did We!

As part of our “Hike and Slice” series, we set out to stay healthy by doing a 5K (at least) by hiking through nature (rather than our usual running) and then indulging on some pizza from some of the more famous, or infamous, pizza joints. Sometimes we’re not sure which is more challenging…the trails or the pizza!

Allaire State Park

Because of a love for Allaire State Park, and the fact that one of the pizza places on our list is in close proximity to the Park, we decided to venture to Monmouth County and get in a hike on a beautiful spring day.

Looking at the various trails available on the internet, one stood out immediately as it was 3.1 miles…just what we needed and hoped for…without having to do part of another trail or walk circles in the parking lot like two schmucks to get to that 3.1 mark. That trail was the “blue” trail which is called Mountain Laurel Trail.

One of the problems with the Allaire trails is that the trailheads are not at the Park’s main entrance or in the vicinity of the Village. They are set way off from that location. So you might get to the main facility only to find that you need to venture off to find where you actually must go to your starting point.

When we finally got to the parking lot at the trailhead, it became quite apparent that we weren’t the only ones with the brilliant idea to have a spring jaunt. The lot was filled with cars and it was quite clear that most of the people were there to ride bikes on the trails. There were groups of people gathered together with mountain bikes and true biking gear ready to go, and a large family tailgating in the lot with young children riding around on bicycles that were definitely higher in quality than my hybrid that I ride.

Seeing all the bicyclists gave a clear indication of what we would be dealing with. As did the fact that there was not a clear indication of where the blue trail actually was on the map at the trailhead, nor were there any blue indicators at the start of the trail, only orange. So we really had no choice but to head out on the orange trail which was a lot longer than the 3.1 miles we set out to do. But we can be flexible and adapt, even if bitching and moaning comes along with it.

The truth is that it was a beautiful day, perfect for hiking. The sweatshirts came off pretty quickly. But we also quickly realized that we would spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out where we were as the trails were not marked well at all. The app that we often use, All Trails, did not even show the blue trail on it. So we just ventured on. Eventually, we did come upon a blue marking and thought we had finally found the trail we were seeking. That didn’t last long because, suddenly, no blue. So…back to orange.

Along the trail at Allaire State Park

The Park’s website talked about sandy areas. Well…we found that. And lost the trail. We did find some steep hills that are clearly used for bikes, but not for hikers. A look at All Trails proved useless so I looked at the sun, licked my finger and put it up to the wind, and pointed left. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or where I was going, but, believe it or not, I actually found the blue trail again. That got me a “you’re a genius Sweetheart” from Melissa.

Allaire State Park’s sand dune.

I so love it when a plan comes together. Only to quickly realize that the damn blue trail disappeared again!

Getting agitated over the lack of markers was bad enough, but add to that the fact that we were constantly dodging people on bikes. As someone who also rides, I am aware that if you are coming upon a pedestrian or hiker, you ring your bell. We didn’t hear a single bell. Most of the time it was Melissa asking, “Do you hear someone? Is that someone behind us or in front of us?” And we were constantly stepping aside.

Honestly, although I have done some trail riding, I think it would be a challenging place to ride, although I guess that is part of the fun of it. Personally, I think with the many protruding root systems it would be a tough ride for anyone without a very extravagant suspension on their bike. I just see “pain in the groin” to be honest. And there are a number of narrow spots on the trail where two trees are so close, it’s a wonder how anyone passes through at such high speed without ripping their arms off their bodies.

Well, what was supposed to be a 5 K (3.1 miles) hike turned into FIVE (5) MILES. It was frustrating and sometimes painful. The actual highlight of the tour was coming upon two women on horseback who do equestrian therapy with disabled children. The horses were beautiful and friendly and nudged us to pet them.

As it turned out, there were VERY few people hiking. There were two runners, but it was almost all people on bicycles racing through like the Wacky Racers of Saturday morning cartoon fame. And as for the blue trail, uh, well, if you find it, let us know. But, apparently, All Trails hasn’t found it either.

Pete & Elda’s Pizza

After five miles, we were definitely ready for pizza. So on to Pete and Elda’s, a place that has been on my list for a very long time. And, apparently, I am not the only one.

I have heard about the pizza at this place for many years, and I am actually embarrassed to say that I had never been there, nor did I even know where it was, although I have driven in the vicinity so many times over the years. So I was truly excited to go, especially after getting so agitated on the hike.

The one and only Pete & Elda’s!

Of course, we were ordering a pie, but I was caught off guard when, after I simply ordered a “large pie” the server asked, “do you want large or do you really want EXTRA large?” Huh? Then she went into the whole diatribe that small is actually medium, medium is actually a large, and large is actually an extra large. It was like the scene on Seinfeld when Elaine is asking for a small popcorn and the person at the counter says, “There is no small. Small is medium…” I asked, “Does it have eight slices? Bring me that one.”

We argued over whether or not we should get anything ON the pizza. Melissa wanted peppers. I was thinking, “but the picture.” Melissa doesn’t care about the picture. She threw some expletives in there. So I asked, “Why not get the peppers on the side and add them on after?” Add in more explicit expletives. I love peppers too but I was thinking of the picture. OK, to hell with the picture. Give me the one with the eight slices and add peppers.

Well, I have heard that the pizza is thin. But not THAT thin! It was like eating Passover pizza! For all of you who are not aware of what that is, it is pizza made with matzoh. The people of the Jewish faith make it every year during the Passover holiday. I have had tacos that were thicker than the crust of this pizza.

Pete & Elda’s famous pizza!

Melissa is ok when it comes to thin crust. I am not adverse to thin crust, but I am partial to the thicker, soft crust that you find at L&B Spumoni Gardens or with any Chicago deep pan pizza. But it truly felt like I was eating some sauce and cheese on a cracker…like an hors d’oeuver.

I think the sauce is the most important part of a pizza and I always like to get extra sauce on my pie. And I got it. I guess because of the cracker crust, the sauce sat on the pie like water sitting undispersed by an overloaded storm drain with nowhere to go after a heavy rain. And if not for the peppers that Melissa insisted on getting, there would have been little taste to it because it was bland, not as sweet as I am used to.

The place was packed with limited seating because of the indoor dining restrictions. But there was adherence to social distancing with plastic dividers between tables. The management even put an extra air filtration system in for the comfort and security of the patrons. The service was extremely quick and the staff was super courteous and attentive.

It’s definitely a place to experience as the restaurant menu has some great items that look like they are worth trying, and they looked appealing when brought to the nearby tables. But I, personally, don’t understand the hype around the pizza itself. With Passover coming up, I feel like I can do this one on my own.

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