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Where work is play
One of the benefits of uncling (or aunting, or auncling) is a free pass to do kid stuff that would otherwise make people look askance. Normally I ignore those people, but in the current climate of violence in the United States, I find it increasingly difficult to do so. You don’t know who will be violent. Perhaps that’s the chilling effect intended. But alas, having a wonderful niece (and goddaughter) and nephew to bring to amusement parks like Diggerland, where you can ride in the bucket of a payloader or work a backhoe,is privilege indeed.
I have been wanting to visit since I moved to South Jersey and saw it on the map. They close in winter, much like New Jersey road construction. You can dig in frozen earth, but it’s no fun. Makes me recall a story about a Maine gravedigger who works all winter with hand tools to bury the Down Easter dead.
Diggerland jives well with the whole South Jersey ethos. They’re a little more rural, a little more blue collar down here. We’ve got money down here, and endure a golf club owned by the orange jackass—who of course calls it the Philadelphia, when it’s in New Jersey—but Philly money isn’t New York money. The Norcross family may own Camden, but you don’t get the feeling that every jerk-off in a Maserati might be the douchebag scion of a moneyed semi-crime family who might decide to lean on their pocket politicians if you honk at them for running the red light, as one often does in northern New Jersey.
South Jersey also has copious amounts of sand. They could call it North Jersey’s litterbox.The locals often feel like it, to hear them talk. (The southern end of the state doesn’t get a whole lot of love.) This gives us many sand pit operations to mine it, so kids and adults often see gigantic machinery hulking over quarries like hibernating giant robots, ready to rampage across the landscape.
Here’s a quarry where I hike sometimes:
I was kind of hoping that Diggerland was more like that quarry, but with a free-for-all of construction equipment, but it’s very much an amusement park with a ticket booth, an overpriced arcade with skee-ball and tickets to “win” prizes, and those “you must be this tall to ride” signs. Which is fine. We went for a ride on a big truck, we sat in the back of a dump truck and got “dumped” while belted into safety seats, we operated little backhoes, and got swung around in a giant payloader:
My niece was the most game of us all. She wanted to go on all the high rides! Then a lightning storm dashed her hopes. My nephew rode on my lap while we operated a segmented truck thing where he couldn’t reach the pedals. We crashed and I had to restart it and walk him through steering while I backed us off a concrete barrier. Sometimes kids will listen when you give them agency.
I’m not sharing any photos of them because they are children and this is the internet. She’s up on this thing, all by herself, having a blast. I would have gone, but my nephew wanted to play on the three story super slide.
I’m glad I went, even if we got rained out and had to play video games together for a half hour. We fought pirates and aliens. They won, because we ran out of quarters. “Quarters” my ass! You buy a card and each swipe costs a kidney. It would have been cheaper to take the kids to a casino. But it was fun. My sister was a sport and took pictures when I know she wanted to operate a backhoe. We spent the day calling each other backhoes and things that siblings do.
We wanted to murder each other half the time when we were growing up, but we always played together well in between fights. I’m glad we are friends now. She’s a force of nature, and I’m proud to be her brother. And because I know she is reading this, here is someone farting the national anthem:
I was going to tour an abandoned island owned by Citgo that’s now a nature preserve, but it was cancelled for rain. Next week I’ll catch up on the Pine Barrens adventures, then move on to Iceland… and a new collaborative outing with!
Titter all you like! Every double entendre you find is fully intended.
I had a sandbox as a toddler, and a whole lot of outdoor cats. Let’s just say I developed trench mouth, and leave it at that.