Although New Jersey calls itself the Garden State, to most Americans it is the Turnpike State. Say "New Jersey" and almost inevitably people think of the New Jersey Turnpike, envisioning trucks and truck stops rather than truck gardens.

Oddly enough, it's the names of the service areas along the New Jersey Turnpike that intrigue many of the toll road's travelers. All 13 of the New Jersey Turnpike's service areas (those officially designated places where drivers can stop for gas, food and restrooms) are named for individuals. For years as I've whizzed past, I've read the names and wondered who they are and what they have to do with New Jersey.

The official answer, according to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority: "Each of the individuals, no longer living, was selected on {the basis of} his or her prominence and contribution to society as a resident at one time or another of New Jersey."

For those who still remain curious (as I did), about the people for whom the turnpike's service areas are named, here are their basic biographies. The service areas are listed in south-to-north order, just as a Washingtonian driving north would pass them.

Exit 1N: John Fenwick Service Area. Major John Fenwick (1618-1683) founded the first permanent English settlement on the Delaware River. An English Quaker who landed in West Jersey in 1675, Fenwick founded and named the town of Salem, N.J., and surrounding Salem County (where the service area that bears his name is located). He chose the name Salem, the ancient Hebrew word for peace, because the countryside where he landed was so quiet and peaceful. He'd find it a bit different now. The house Fenwick built in 1677 no longer exists, and today its southern New Jersey site is covered by gasoline tanks and commercial buildings.

Exit 1S: Clara Barton Service Area. Clara Barton (1821-1912) was the first president of the American Red Cross. In addition, she is credited with writing the amendment to the constitution of the international Red Cross that provides for the society to distribute relief not only in times of war, but after calamities as well. When she was in the her early thirties Barton lived and taught school in Bordentown, N.J., for two years. During that time, she was responsible for starting New Jersey's first free public school (called Bordentown Free School), which began with an enrollment of six children. The enrollment grew quickly, soon reaching 600. At that point, the school board decided the school had become too large for a woman to run, so it hired a male principal and made Barton the assistant principal. Not surprisingly, Barton left shortly afterward, moving to Washington in 1854 and taking a job in the U.S. patent office.

Exit 3S: Walt Whitman Service Area. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was a journalist, poet and U.S. government worker. Paralysis from a slight stroke when he was in his fifties forced Whitman to retire from his government job in the office of the attorney general in Washington, and in 1873 he settled in Camden, N.J. In his later years, a number of his admirers (many of whom were European) made pilgrimages to visit him there. Whitman is buried in a Camden cemetery, and his house has been designated a New Jersey historic site.

Exit 4N: James Fenimore Cooper Service Area. James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), author of the Leatherstocking tales, is considered the first major U.S. novelist. He was born in Burlington, N.J., and when he was a year old, his family moved to Cooperstown, N.Y., a frontier village founded by his father (and now the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame). Cooper never lived in New Jersey again.

Exit 6N: Woodrow Wilson Service Area. (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was the 28th president of the United States. His New Jersey connection? In 1902, while a professor at Princeton, Wilson was named president of the university, the first non-minister ever to hold the position. From that post he graduated to the governorship of New Jersey and then to the presidency of the United States from 1913 to 1921.

Exit 6S: Richard Stockton Service Area. Richard Stockton (1730-1781) was a lawyer and a New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence. A native of Princeton, N.J., he was an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court before becoming a member of the Continental Congress. In November 1776, Stockton was captured and jailed by the British; when he was released a few months later, his health was broken, his fortune gone, and the British had looted his lands and buildings. He chose not to return to public life.

Exit 7S: Molly Pitcher Service Area. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, a.k.a. Molly Pitcher (1754?-1832), was a heroine of the Battle of Monmouth (at Monmouth, N.J., on June 28, 1778) during the American Revolution. Born near Trenton, N.J., Ludwig grew up in Carlisle, Pa., where she met and married John Caspar Hays. When he enlisted in the Pennsylvania artillery she, like many wives, joined her husband in camp. During the Battle of Monmouth, which took place on an extraordinarily hot June day, she was nicknamed "Molly Pitcher" for carrying pitcher after pitcher of spring water to thirsty American soldiers. When her husband was wounded (or perhaps prostrated by the heat -- stories differ) "Molly Pitcher" took over his cannon and fought the rest of the battle in his place.

Exit 8N: Joyce Kilmer Service Area. (Alfred) Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) was a journalist and poet. He was born in New Brunswick, N.J., and is best remembered for his widely anthologized poem "Trees" ("I think I shall never see/a poem lovely as a tree"). During World War I, Kilmer was killed in action in France while attacking a German machine-gun nest.

Exit 10N: Grover Cleveland Service Area. (Stephen) Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) was the 22nd and the 24th president of the United States. He was the only president to be born in New Jersey (in Caldwell), and he also died in New Jersey (in Princeton). Cleveland's family moved to Fayetteville, N.Y., while he was quite young, and his law and early political careers were in New York state. At the end of his second presidential term in 1897, Cleveland and his family settled in Princeton, N.J. In his later years, Cleveland was a Princeton University lecturer and trustee; he is buried in Princeton Cemetery. (It would be especially appropriate to stop and buy a Baby Ruth at this service area -- the candy bar was named for Cleveland's daughter, Ruth, not, as many people think, for baseball great Babe Ruth.)

Exit 10S: Thomas Edison Service Area. Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was a prolific inventor: the electric light bulb, phonograph, movie camera. With money he made from the invention of a stock ticker while still in his early twenties, Edison opened a workshop in Newark, N.J.; he gradually expanded his laboratories to Menlo Park, N.J., and West Orange, N.J., as well. It was in Menlo Park, in 1879, that Edison invented the incandescent light bulb.

Exit 11N: William F. Halsey Service Area. Admiral William F. ("Bull") Halsey (Jr.) (1882-1959) was a U.S. naval officer and commander of the Third Fleet operating in the Pacific during World War II. He was born in Elizabeth, N.J. During World War II, Halsey's forces were instrumental in the final defeat of Japan in naval operations around Okinawa. After hearing the Japanese had stopped fighting on Aug. 15, 1945, he ordered that any Japanese snooper planes spotted were to be shot down "not in the spirit of vengeance, but in a friendly fashion."

Exit 12S: Alexander Hamilton Service Area. Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was an aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution, a New York state delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the first U.S. secretary of the treasury and a lawyer. Born on the island of Nevis in the West Indies, Hamilton spent a year in Elizabethtown, N.J. (now Elizabeth, N.J.) preparing to enter King's College (which became Columbia University). In 1804, he was challenged to a duel by his longtime political adversary, Vice President Aaron Burr. The duel was fought beneath the Palisades near Weehawken, N.J., and Hamilton was mortally wounded; he died the next day in New York City. Aside from his year of college-prep work and being shot in Weehawken, Hamilton seems to have had little connection with New Jersey.

Exit 13: Vince Lombardi Service Area. Vince(nt) Lombardi (1913-1970) was perhaps the greatest coach in the history of professional football. During his career, he was an assistant coach of the New York Giants and head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins. A coach who was determined that his players put their all into winning, he is known for saying "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lombardi grew up in Englewood, N.J. After graduating from Fordham University (where he was one of a group of linemen called the "Seven Blocks of Granite"), Lombardi enrolled in Fordham's law school and returned to Englewood as a coach and teacher at St. Cecilia's High School from 1939 to 1946. From there he went on to college and National Football League coaching.

Ellen Ficklen is a Washington writer and editor who has traveled the New Jersey Turnpike for years.