Despite the kaleidoscopic cornucopia of amusements that the Princeton campus provides for students in need of a thrill, every so often we feel a yearning to journey out of our protective cocoon in search of greater adventure. To provide for this rather risky impulse, the University kindly constructed an adorable little town for us to explore. It even created a back-up plan for students whose wanderlust couldn’t be sated by a trip to J. Crew, a hoagie or the so-called “Dinky,” which allows you to enter a dream state in which you go to thrilling “real-world” places like “Trenton,” “Newark” or even “Manhattan.”
But sometimes students yearn for the earthily romantic desolation of the pastoral, and Palmer Square just doesn’t cut it. Thankfully for all of us, just south of campus lies the rustic paradise we’ve always searched for: Lot 32.
Lot 32 is delightfully treacherous to reach, as a bucolic utopia should be. If you opt to trek there, you’re in for a hike that’s longer than the notorious Forbes footway and covers terrain more godforsaken than the Grad College trail. There are no places to resupply along the way, so be sure you pack rations to last you the time it’ll take you to get there. If you decide you want to drive there, you’ll have to dodge a speeding train before risking your life two-wheeling it around winding switchbacks, mislabeled as “roundabouts.”
Even after you enter the Lot, you’ve still got to contend with the unpaved, potholed pavement that is your only path into the wilderness. It may seem bizarre that the primary vacation space for an entire body of undergraduates is so poorly paved and maintained, but when you hear the rattle of gravel plucking the paint off the side of your new car or feel the groans of your suspension as it struggles to keep you level, you’ll understand that it’s all part of the appeal. It’s a goddamn adventure.
Once you’ve made it there, you’ll find yourself alone in Chevy Shangri-La, as tranquil a solitude as you could ever want. People are few and far between. The sun shines, birds chirp and crickets make their cricket noise. You can even hear the soothing thrumming of a mysterious power plant in the distance, the second best thing after the sound of waves eroding our coasts.
If you decide to explore the area and your car has no remote alarm, you can enjoy hours of natural beauty as you wander, trying to find the place where you parked it. It’s a great chance to feel like Bear Grylls; remember, it only feels like you’re lost and wasting your time, but it’s actually fun!
The only thing better than Lot 32 in the day is Lot 32 at night. Poorly lit, sketchy and full of cars that may or may not have people in them, Lot 32 is just like a rural drive-in. The only things it lacks are all the things that suck about drive-ins, like other people or annoying movies that you have to pay to completely ignore.
If that’s not enough to convince you of Lot 32’s superiority to its awkward cousin, the drive-in, allow me to direct your attention to the fact that Lot 32 is open. This openness separates the Lot from the 56 of 57 rival drive-ins in the state of New Jersey that are definitively closed.
And I think we can agree that the lone survivor, the Delsea Drive-In, isn’t really competition. It’s in Vineland. Where? Exactly. That sounds like a dumb place Tarzan would go, or a confused German looking for some champagne. Lot 32 isn’t like Vineland. It’s beautiful, and makes a lot of sense.