My First Trip to Sussex County

Sussex County: Just the tip of the armpit.

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Sussex County for the first time.  Nestled up in the northwest corner, Sussex County is geographically New Jersey’s northernmost county but culturally its southernmost.  It is known for its mountains, farmland, small towns, and country folk.

The reason for the trip up north was for a friend’s birthday.  Driving up to Sussex County, I couldn’t believe the scenery and almost forgot that I was in New Jersey.  The gently rolling hills full of trees seem more typical of Pennsylvania and upstate New York.  And the signs advertising not one, but two mining museums made me think I was in West Virginia or Kentucky.  But all of the strip malls along the way served to remind me that I was still in the Armpit of America.

Another reminder was the numerous signs talking about this one diner – apparently the best diner in New Jersey.  Diners are a dime a dozen in this state and usually fall into one of two categories:  perfectly average or not so great.  Each one claims to have the best of something, whether pancakes, burgers, or omelets.  But for a diner to claim to be the best at everything?  I was intrigued – but I’d have to do my investigations another day.

We arrived at the birthday party and were greeted by some of the redneckiest rednecks I’d ever seen.  And I mean that in the nicest possible way.  Everyone was really nice and friendly, just a little more country than any other people I’ve ever met in New Jersey.

But do they know how to cook!  One woman walked around with a tray of deviled eggs and implored me to try one.  Now, I don’t usually eat deviled eggs.  Just the name alone scares me.  After I was assured they would be the best deviled eggs I ever had, I gave one a try.  It was pretty amazing.  As were the three different types of barbecued chicken.

But the star of this show was a dish I’d never even heard of before that day:  trucker beans.  Though it sounds like something a truck driver might leave on the side of the road when faced with long stretches between rest stops, trucker beans are delicious.  The crock pot was full of a saucy blend of beans and meat and some vegetables.  It was pretty much just like chili.  I’m not sure what differentiates trucker beans from chili, so if anyone out there knows, please tell me.

Don't try to hide it, Sussex County. We all know you're really Jersey.

 

By the time it got dark, we were all sitting around a campfire in the shadow of this creepy old shed in my friends’ backyard.  No one knew what was inside, but I would guess it’s either a meth lab, dead bodies, or drying meats; apparently all three are good possibilities in Sussex County.  Anyway, we spent the night roasting marshmallows and playing guitar (well, I just listened to guitar).

My first visit to Sussex County was a short one, and I only went to one backyard in one town.  But I loved it.  The people were a nice change of pace from the more typical Jersey folk I encounter in my daily life.  The scenery on the way up was beautiful, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was still in the Armpit of America.  I definitely can’t wait to go back and see more of New Jersey’s least Jersey-like county.

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7 Comments on “My First Trip to Sussex County”

  1. consultpub Says:

    Hey dude!

    Great minds think alike!!! We were there last week!! Here is a suggested itinerary based on our trip:

    Take I-80 to the exit for NJ Route 23 North. On the way stop off at Rte. 23 Farm Market for great fruit and veggies and other stuff.

    Get back on NJ 23 North to High Point State Park and go to the “Monument”. It’s the highest point in NJ (get it?) and you can see 4 states from there.

    Get back on NJ 23 North to I84/Route 209 South to Matamoras and Pennsylvania. Stay on 209 South all the way to I80 and the Delaware Water Gap. MANY things to see and detours to take on 209. Take 80 East back to the Armpit.

    Enjoy!

  2. einar Says:

    I love Sussex!! camping and hiking there are amazing, watch out for bears!

  3. sara Says:

    You can see 3 states, not 4 from the monument. NJ,NY,&PA. Hence the area being called the Tri-State Area. I grew up in Wantage, I may be one of those redneck people. lol It was a great place to grow up although I hate when I tell people that’s where I am from they automatically think eww Jersey when it is really pretty in Sussex County!

    • armpitofamerica Says:

      Well I’d take those redneck people over the guidos at the shore any day! And yes, no matter where you’re from, it’s impossible to escape the Jersey stigma.


  4. […] Jersey, the Philadelphia-inspired vernacular of South Jersey, and the strangely southern accents of Sussex County. (FYI – hailing from Central Jersey, I speak in perfect non-offensive accent – or so I […]


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