So this past week, we loaded up the family truckster and headed out on the holiday road—
Unlike the Griswold clan, however, we weren’t headed across country to Wally World (nor did anyone die and get strapped to the roof), but instead we went a bit south on I-95 to a different sort of vacation playground, one that we had previously never visited.
Actually, it provided
Five Things I Learned During My Summer Vacation
1. All the televised stupidity aside, there’s a reason why people go to the Jersey shore. Nice beaches with real waves, long, well-maintained boardwalks ideal for strolling, lots of entertainment options, plenty of waterfront access and all very easy to get to. Even with multiple bathroom stops (someone’s wife likes to drink a big cup of coffee before every long car ride—don’t ask me why), it’s less than a two-hour ride from Shelton to Spring Lake (just south of Asbury Park), which is about an hour-and-a-half less than a trip to Cape Cod. The beaches are just as nice and the ocean is the same, and with more places open to the public and a bigger coastline, there’s just more to enjoy.
Speaking of Asbury Park, my grandparents took me there once when I was a kid, and I was happy to see the same kind of cheesy arcades with skee balls and other games of chance are still available along the shore (we went to Point Pleasant boardwalk, just a few minutes south of Spring Lake). We even got authentic frozen custard, which I remember my grandparents raving about but, to be honest, wasn’t all that impressive this time. Still, it’s always fun to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.
2. Spring Lake, New Jersey, is a lot like Connecticut’s gold coast . . . in that it’s full of really huge houses and very wealthy people who want nothing to do with anyone. Seriously, it was midweek before anyone said “hi” to us on the street. It was also a bit of a ghost town—one of our friends who lives a few towns over says most of the large, well-manicured houses in Spring Lake are only weekend retreats for the rich. It also has pretentious rules that sound like they could be straight out of Greenwich: “No parking on streets at night!”
Our inn was on the edge of gorgeous tree-filled park in the middle of town, with a scenic pond, paved walkways and a kid-friendly playground. If it was in the middle of Shelton, you probably couldn’t get near the place on any given evening but when we went for walks at night, we were practically the only ones enjoying the park. Weird.
3. Even if it seems like another world, it’s still New Jersey. That means lots of Jets fans (good by me!) but also times where you can see—as I did—impatient drivers lean on their horn and out of their car window to shout, “WHAT THE FRACK ARE YOU FRACKIN’ DOIN’, YOU FRACKIN’ IDIOT?!”
There’s also lots of goons looking to hook up, as my wife can attest to. I won’t embarrass her with the whole story; let’s just say that anything ever happens to me, she won’t want for baked goods if she moves to Jersey.
4. The sun is still hot. We had perfect beach weather this week—low 80s and almost no humidity—which lulled me into a false sense of security. Usually, I lather on about a gallon of sunblock before venturing out just to cut the lawn, but for reasons I still don’t understand, I didn’t fully apply lotion to my stomach and freshly waxed back. My shoulders and nose didn’t burn, but those other spots—a nice bright summertime lobster red. Well, I guess that just gives something else for Dr. Noonan, my dermatologist, to slice off somewhere down the line. Yay for that.
5. Even with all the sand, I still love the beach. As I’ve previously detailed, I enjoyed large portions of my youthful summers at the shore in Connecticut, but Long Island Sound just can’t compare to a true ocean beach. With more powerful waves and smoother white sand, I had an absolute blast just playing in the surf with my sons, watching them learn the fine art of bodysurfing and generally just goofing about in the water.
It’s amazing how the smell of the ocean and the taste of salt water on my lips can evoke such simple happiness, but it does. There truly is no vacation like a summer beach vacation.