Saturday, September 17, 2011

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

When we weren’t dodging Nature’s fury, we had a pretty good vacation.

Yes, the last bit of August was time for our mostly-annual trek out to the wilds of the Jersey shore, where sand, family and beautiful Cape May awaited us. Cape May is the kind of place where you can bring kids and know that they will not have to deal with anyone who looks like they fell off an MTV promotional tour or who will try to sell them timeshares – it’s a nice place that way. My parents started renting a house there for a week in the summers about a decade ago, and it’s become something we all look forward to immensely. We head in from Wisconsin and my brother and his family come down from New York. The cousins get to hang out with each other and do all the beach things that one does amidst sand and surf, and the adults get to talk and have margaritas.


Even before the various outside crises we knew it was going to be an abbreviated trip, though. Kim’s new post as Interim Dean is a time-crunch of a job so we would have to cut the beginning of the vacation fairly short, and since the house we like was only available in the last full week of August (darn those owners wanting to use their own house all summer…) and the girls started school in Wisconsin on September 1, that meant cutting the end fairly close as well.

Among other things, the practical upshot of that was that there was a list of friends whom we wanted to see but didn’t even bother telling we were headed out since we knew there wasn’t going to be time to see them anyway. Next time we’re out, we’ll have to correct that.

Still, it was worth it. We did get to see a couple of our friends, and of course we spent a week with various configurations of family down at the shore, and that’s a good thing no matter how you slice it.

We arrived on Saturday August 20th via the Cape May – Lewes ferry, a novelty for us, which we had never done before. Kim likes new things – she truly believes that anything done twice intentionally qualifies as a rut, which amazes me since I find that sort of repetition comforting. Between us we make a whole person. And this time she won, which turned out to be a good thing since the ferry was rather a fun experience. You drive down to central Delaware and then onto a boat that’s roughly the size of an office block, and for 90 minutes you steam across the Delaware Bay toward New Jersey. It made for a suitably dramatic entrance, we thought.

This was moored right next to the ferry in Lewes, which made it even cooler.

We were eager to get down to the beach on Sunday, since that is what we were there to do. Well, that and drink margaritas, but since you can’t bring those onto the beach we save them for after. We are responsible citizens of Cape May in this regard. Plus, if you drink all the margaritas down at the beach you will likely not be able to find your way back to the house – not the tequila-intensive way I make margaritas, anyway. You’ll stagger about for a while until you fall over in the sand and fry until you either die or look like a House Majority Leader or, possibly both (does anyone actually have conclusive proof that that man is not undead?), whereas back at the house afterward you can drink all the margaritas you want and you’re already there! And if you fall over, you’re still already there!

It’s as if there were a plan already in place...

So we gathered up the troops, packed our supplies, hoisted anchor and invaded the Philippines.

No, it just felt like we did. We do not travel light, no we do not. For one thing, you never know when you just might want that one more little item and since the number of one more little items in the world is potentially infinite, well, you can see the problem. And for another thing, even when we limit ourselves to necessities such as beach umbrellas, they’re still heavy. At least ours are. The blue one in the photo below dates back to the Truman Administration and is made from sailcloth, oak and wrought iron. This turned out to be a good thing, though, since Sunday’s sustained winds were somewhere around 30mph and were sufficient to turn the more modern, space-age umbrellas (mylar, aluminum, and soap bubbles) into pretty little kites attached to spears, at least one of which managed to stab poor Cousin Josh in the leg. He is a brave young man, though, and was back out in the waves before you knew it.

We had an excellent time, wind notwithstanding. The girls picked up right where they left off with their boogie boards and their cousins, getting the most out of every beach day, and when it wasn’t a hurricane it was actually beautiful out there.

The adults also picked up right were we left off, with our conversations and our general willingness to let the rest of the world go hang while we relaxed.

For lunches we decided to skip the pretence of being at all concerned with our health and just go get food from Hot Dog Tommy’s little hole in the wall walk-up window just off the beach. The girls had been jonesing for Tommy Dogs all summer long, and you know what? Nutrition is for normal life. For vacations, there are only Tommy Dogs. I enjoyed my Buffal Dogs (all beef dogs with bleu cheese and hot sauce, no onions – “hold the O” as Tommy says) and my tribal-sized can of Arizona Iced Tea, and I can cut back on sugar, salt and fat now that I’m back in the more mundane normality that is my life.

Well I could, you know. It’s entirely possible. It is.

We hit most of our favorite spots while we were there. We went mini-golfing one night, for example, or at least the kids did. The grown-ups mostly watched, as otherwise we’d still be there, somewhere around the 14th hole, arguing over whose turn it was and yes she DID hit my golf ball with hers and why CAN’T I use the club as a cue stick? We also went to Sunset Beach, where the old concrete ship went down in the 1920s. The light is always so nice there.

There were some strange moments on this trip.

For one thing, I spent one morning getting my hair cut, which is not something I usually do on vacations. But everyone – even me – agreed that my hair had gotten too long and was approaching “comb-over” status, which I find annoying. So my brother and I went to a barbershop, since a) Keith lives in New York now and thus has a sense of Style, something I will never have no matter where I live, and b) a barbershop is infinitely to be preferred to a salon when it comes to getting a haircut without too many fripperies. There are too many guys named Serge in this world who own salons and want to design your hair and not enough guys named Tony who work in barbershops and want to cut it. We ended up with Tony’s wife or mother or possibly great aunt, a woman whose New Jersey accent could have sliced open soda cans at thirty paces and whose voice sounded like three miles of unpaved road. But between her and Keith I came away with a much more reasonable looking, if much less covered, head. I can live with that.

The other thing that struck me as odd was that at some point there must have been an Austin Healey convention, since all of the sudden the streets were swarming with dozens of impractical little British sports cars, all of them bearing Quebec license plates for some reason. I will pause here to let you, the reader, guess the gender and approximate vintage of every one of the drivers I saw. Sometimes you just want to grab people by the shirt collar and yell at them – “Don’t! Confirm! My! Stereotypes!” But so it goes.

On what turned out to be the last day we spent down in Cape May, Kim decided that it would be fun if people went kayaking. The girls were all up for this, as were their cousins Josh and Sara and their father, Keith. And since Lori and I were to remain safely on dry land, we agreed that this was a fine plan. So we made our way over to the kayak rental place (of course there was a kayak rental place in Cape May – don’t be silly) and they got kitted out.

After a smooth launch into the water, off they went.

Apparently a very good time was had by all.

We got home for lunch, and then it was a blur until we suddenly found ourselves back in Philadelphia, waiting for the hurricane, as described a few posts ago.

Once the hurricane got sorted out it was time to head back to the nation’s tender midsection. It was just the girls and me on the drive home, and they were troopers. On the way we stopped in Pittsburgh for some O-Fries, a move which is fast becoming a tradition. That’s a medium order of fries, by the way.

We landed at a hotel somewhere in Ohio after that. It was a nice place, I suppose – the train tracks ran right behind it and there was no elevator, but it was clean and it had a pool and that is all the girls care about when it comes to hotels. They spent most of the evening splashing about, since they’d noshed their way across the time zone and weren’t hungry for dinner, but eventually we found a place that served decent food and had paper placemats that we could make into origami objects. I was actually kind of pleased that I remembered how to make those inflatable paper balls that so enlivened my junior high years. Now that Tabitha’s in middle school she’ll need to know things like that.

The next day we were home.

It’s good to be home.


Unknown said...

Great photos!

David said...


I work on the "if you take enough of them, some of them will turn out" theory of photography, much to the chagrin of most people I know. ;)