One of the downsides of trying a new experience every week is that it leaves little time to repeat the ones we enjoyed. I am a person who likes traditions, so it is sometimes hard to balance our time between new experiences and cherished ones.
There is one family tradition that my children and I look forward to every year. We spend a week at the Jersey Shore with my parents and my sister’s family. For years we have been saying that we should change our routine. In the spirit of trying something new, we had considered trying a new beach this summer- maybe driving to the Outer Banks in North Carolina or visiting Cape Cod. However, when Hurricane Sandy struck our beloved shoreline last fall, we felt a strong need to return to our traditional vacation spot. Nothing can ever stay the same, yet we somehow thought that our shore would always be there for us. We truly thought we could steal off to another state for a week this year, and our shore would wait for us next summer. When we nearly lost one of our most cherished places, we learned to appreciate the Jersey Shore more than ever.
It is not the prettiest coast I’ve ever seen. The sand is dark and coarse. The water is too murky to see my feet as I stand just knee-deep watching my children body surf. I hardly ever venture deeper, as the ocean is much colder than I prefer. The beach is crowded, making a solitary walk along the shore impossible. But, its familiarity is comforting. The smell of the salt water and the fisherman’s catch mingle with the sounds of children laughing and the ice cream truck’s bell. It is a home away from home, and I love it.
Every year we play miniature golf and walk along the boardwalk, stopping in the arcades and amusement park. We love these things, and yet, I still look for new experiences wherever we go. It has become a habit of mine. This year we tried something as a family, and it is bound to become another Jersey Shore tradition for us.
We rented a surrey on the Ocean City boardwalk. A surrey is an odd little vehicle that a character sings about in the musical, Oklahoma. “Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry… when I take you out in my surrey… when I take you out in my surrey… with the fringe on top!”
When I got the idea for New Experience #30, I tried to explain a surrey to the kids, but they had no idea what I was talking about. It wasn’t until they saw the four-wheeled carriage that they became excited. As soon as they set their eyes on it, they couldn’t wait to get on it. They decided that Leah would sit up front in the basket with my niece and nephew, Luke would sit between his uncle and me, and my sister and mother would sit in the back. It was hard to believe that eight people could fit on the contraption!
In the song, the character mentions a horse. I think his surrey was drawn by one. Our surrey was powered like a bicycle. There were enough pedals for four people to turn. However, I think my sister and mom were letting my brother-in-law and me do all the work!
We pedaled up and down the boardwalk for an hour. We laughed as we tried to maneuver around pedestrians and shouted “beep beep” whenever someone was walking in the surrey lane (yes, there is a lane designated for surreys!). We couldn’t help singing the song from Oklahoma. We looked at the waves crashing on the shore, window shopped as we moved along, and noted places we wanted to stop later on. It was a fun experience for all 8 of us, and we look forward to trying it again next year.
New Experience #31 at the Jersey Shore was not as well-received. We drove north of Ocean City and visited Lucy the Elephant in Margate. Lucy is not a real elephant- she is a six-story building in the shape of an elephant. I had seen her picture in just about every travel brochure for the Jersey Shore. Apparently, she was quite the tourist magnet when she was built in 1881. Now she is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the symbols of the Jersey Shore.
We walked around the grounds, learned a little bit about the building, and posed for a few photographs. When planning the outing, I thought we would go inside Lucy, but once we were there, no one (including me) was very interested in touring the building. We saved the $16 entrance fee.
My children and I must have no respect for history because all we could ask is, “Why on Earth is this building on the Jersey Shore?” We read about the elephant’s origins while we were there, but it still didn’t offer a good explanation other than it was a novel idea at the time.
Apparently, we are in the minority, because there are people who are passionate enough about this building to have a “Save Lucy” foundation. At first I thought they were crazy, but I thought about the traditions that my family and I cherish. Perhaps another family like us visits Margate every year and smiles whenever they see this goofy building come into view. Perhaps it is just a part of their summer landscape that they want to hold on to as long as they can. As someone who just realized how much my traditions mean to me, I think I understand their passion.