Sunday, July 5, 2015

July 4th Tour of the New Jersey State House

Our foray into doing things Ashley would not enjoy doing continued with a evening bike ride with Trenton Social. Wills creates these rides to coincide with the first Saturday of each month. The group takes a leisurely paced ride through different parts of Trenton. Don has done these rides many times back when they were on Friday nights. This was my first ride.

The group meets in the back of the Trenton Social, a bar/restaurant/lounge. The ride costs $10 a person, but includes a beer a pasta dinner at the end. Don said often they ride a bit as a group, then Wills stops at some place in Trenton and talks about it. It might be gardens, or artwork, or something of historic significance. In honor of the Fourth of July, it was a behind-the-scenes tour of the State House. How does one get access to the State House on a Saturday night of a holiday weekend when the place is locked up tight? It helps to have connections. In this case Reed Gusciori, Assemblyman from the 15th Legislative District since 1996.

Reed got us bike parking in the Governor's entrance.

He, along with Carol, and fellow cyclist and former aide, Jeff, gave our group a really special tour of the State House that often included the phrase "this is not part of the usual tour" and "normally we don't let people sit here." It was also about 90 minutes long on a holiday.

I used to love being able to say "My Congressman is a Rocket Scientist." Now I'm proud to say "My Assemblyman is a bicyclist." That can only mean hope for making roads more pedestrian and bike-friendly.

First he took us to where the Assembly majority group hangs out to hash out bills. Carol added information about the artwork on the walls -- made from thousands of pieces of inlaid wood (hopefully Don's picture turned out better than mine did).

Then we continued to where the Assembly meets as a whole. As a seniority member, Reed's desk is up close. Love the chandelier which was made by Thomas Edison when electricity was new. The wall sconces used to be wired for both electricity and gas. The entire State House received a massive renovation in the 1990s.

Reed also took us to where the Senate meets. It is a lot more formal, though at the same time less impressive feeling than where the Assembly meets. Carol pointed out during a renovation in the 1950s the old desks were replaced with Formica. Fortunately someone had the good sense to return to the more classic look, but their desks are all reproductions.

This is where the Senate majority sits to talk in closed door sessions. Unlike in the Assembly, they sit around one giant table. This room had been a cube farm in the 1970s with a drop ceiling hiding its glory. Fortunately someone decided a renovation was in order.

This is where we leave the legislative branch and enter the executive wing. The two sections do not meet together very often.

The dome from the third floor. Most tours only show the dome from the ground floor. 

Hall of governors' portraits.

The governor's office was off-limits to us. 

A group shot before parting. Behind us is a statue by Boehm depicting the symbols of New Jersey: the oak tree, goldfinch, African violet, and bumblebee. 

From here we rode another two miles back to our starting point. My legs were sore from the ride the day before and were happy to get off of my bike!

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