Tuesday, June 25, 2024

From Cheesequake to Jon Bon Jovi

Today's trivia question:  What is a Cheesequake, and what does it have to do with Jon Bon Jovi?

I originally asked this question in 2010, after attending a wedding in New Jersey.  I never found out.  I tried asking again in 2016 and still didn't find out. But now, there is even more to this story.

In July of 2010, spouse and I traveled to the Jersey Shore from the Binghamton, New York area.  This involved travel on the Garden State Parkway, known as the country's busiest toll road.  We had been warned about the traffic and we already knew how aggressive and high speed the driving would be, so neither came as a shock.  We proceeded through The Oranges and The Amboys when to our wondering eyes did appear, near exit 120....(milepost 124, to be exact)...

The Cheesequake Service Area.


Spouse and I turned to each other simultaneously.  What was a Cheesequake?  We pondered various answers.  A strange New Jersey restaurant chain?  A former cheese factory that had exploded and was now a historical site?  Some kind of corrupted Native American word?

Our wonder grew as we passed by a sign for Cheesequake State Park.

Turns out spouse's guess of a corrupted Native American word was correct.  My spouse, however, speculated that "Cheesequake" came from the same word that Chesapeake (as in Chesapeake Bay) derived from.  That apparently is not the case, according to what I was able to research back then.  If my sources are correct, Chesapeake comes from an Indigenous word meaning a village "at a big river" while Cheesequake comes from a Lenape word for "upland village".

Drawing from my (too long ago) college anthropology courses, I recalled that the Lenapes (formerly known as the Delaware) are part of a much larger Native American group-age called the Algonquians.  So, there may still be some truth to this speculation.

At any rate the word has nothing to do with neither cheese nor earthquakes.

Cheesequake State Park does sound fascinating but, as of today, I still haven't revisited the area.  

But, moving on, fast forward to a week or so ago.

We were watching a late night TV show whose host was interviewing  New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi.  Bon Jovi mentioned something about being honored by having a New Jersey highway rest area named after him.

"Wouldn't it be something", I mused, "if it was the Cheesequake service area?"

Turns out, it was.

RIP, Cheesequake Service Area.  It is now the Jon Bon Jovi Service Area.

But wait, there's more.

It would seem that New Jersey has been renaming its turnpike service areas after famous New Jerseyians, and several of them are musicians.  There's the Celia Cruz Service Area.  The Whitney Houston Service Area.  The Frank Sinatra Service Area.  (There are several non-musician named rest areas, including one for the late great actor James Gandolfini, but none named after Tony Soprano).

New Jersey offered to name one after Bruce Springsteen, but The Boss declined the honor.

For a future Music Moves Me (my Monday posts) post, maybe I'll do a post based on Musicians with New Jersey Turnpike Service Areas named after them.  

Because, why not?



  1. I think Cheesequake is far more memorable and appropriate. In 100 years, who will remember these slebs?

  2. ...two things that I know nothing about!

  3. Fascinating story, Alana! I did some more research and apparently, 'Cheesquake' is also a strain of marijuana. ☺

  4. I was going to have my own question, "What's a service area," but Jon Bon Jovi answered that by saying "rest area." Ours don't have names, just mile markers.

  5. I guess it's more memorable to name things after people we've heard of. Sad that Cheesequake is gone, but I suppose the area still has that name in other locales in the area.

  6. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this. And no, it doesn't surprise me at all that Bruce declined the honor of having a service area named for him! Now if they wanted to rename New Jersey to "Springsteenland" that might be worth considering.

  7. What a great idea for a tourist attraction

  8. Sounds great! Looking forward to it...

  9. Interesting read for sure and now when you publish music to match your discovery, it'll all make perfect sense. :)


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