To celebrate their 50th anniversary, my parents rented a house across the street from my sister’s summer rental on Long Beach Island, on the Jersey shore. My brother, sister, parents, spouses, and kids jammed into the two houses for two weeks. Actually, there wasn’t much need for “jamming,” because the houses were very large. Plenty of room for the fourteen of us to tuck into my brother’s killer paella and Steve’s burgers.
I probably went to the beach a handful of times during my twenties. Now, I have a special cart for dragging the chairs and buckets across the sand. Beach visits are pretty much manditory once you become a parent. I’ve grown to love a beach vacation. It keeps the kids busy, and it simplifies life to three activities — eating, drinking, and reading. And exercise and outdoor living. Every morning, I went for a two-mile walky-run on a quiet road that had more runners than cars.
We’ve been to beaches up and down the eastern seaboard. Every area has its own personality. Cape Cod is an entirely different world from the southern shores of North Carolina.
And New Jersey is its own thing, too. Yes, there are differences between the different beach towns. (Do NOT get into the Jersey debate about the merits of Sea Girt versus Lavalette). But all Jersey shore towns all share one feature — it’s set up for walking, not driving. The shore is located on a very narrow strip of land. In most areas, it’s only four blocks long. It’s entirely possible to pull your car in the driveway when the week rental begins and not leave again until the following weekend. Want some fresh donuts for breakfast? There’s a place around the corner. Fish tacos? Chilled white wine? Two blocks down the road. Kid gotta hit the potty? It’s a two minute walk back to the rental.
We stayed in Long Beach Island, which specializes in extended family getaways. Up and down the beach, families grouped up their chairs in horse shoe shapes in the morning and left only when it was time to make a pasta dinner back at the house. There are few day visitors. You get a week-long beach pass with the shore house.
It’s convenient. Steve had to go back to work in the middle of the week, but returned on Friday night. In two hours, he went from Wall Street to Beach Haven Road. In some ways, it was too convenient. Outside the water slide park, we ran into several people from back home. I don’t really want to see people from home when I’m travelling, but that’s the trade-off.
There aren’t the posh shops, like the Hamptons. There isn’t mind-blowing seafood. The homes are plastic and cement, designed to survive the next hurricane, so they aren’t incredibly interesting. But it was just perfect.