A week long stay at the Jersey Shore has been my summer tradition for as long as I can remember. Even growing up in California, every year we would fly across the country to visit with extended family and enjoy the picturesque beaches and wholesome family fun that are hallmarks of “The Shore.”
One of my favorite things about this corner of the world is that it’s been left relatively untouched by the passage of time. There are still “badge checkers” who wave you through the beach entrance,
where beach goers kick off their flip flops with every confidence that they will be right where they left them at the end of the day, bikes go unlocked and general stores like the family owned “Ben Franklin” anchor a town’s business district.
That is why, this year, when we packed up the car to make the 2 hour drive south to Lavallette – the charming beach town that we have been renting in for decades – I felt a nagging anxiousness…unsure of how we’d find our beloved summertime playground in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
While the damage from the storm is still very much visible — from the homes and businesses under construction, to the roads being repaved to the poignant hole that was left in the Seaside Heights “skyline” when the iconic roller coaster met its sad fate in the Atlantic —
signs of hope are emerging.
Residents and visitors alike seem to be falling into their old routines as repair work is quietly underway. For my family’s part, we savored our Jersey Shore traditions just a little bit more this year — perhaps knowing how close we came to losing them. Each night, we lingered on the boardwalk until the last streaks of sun were visible in the sky.
We celebrated each crab that we hauled up in our nets on the docks “Bayside”
We visited the beach in the early morning to watch the lifeguards -with all of their colorful buoys- make their preparations for the day ahead.
We ate Jersey tomatoes and corn almost every night — and I don’t think I’m the only one who thought the corn tasted just a little bit sweeter this year.
This great farm stand/garage is none other than “Big Ed’s Produce” – a Lavallette institution whose apt slogan is: “It’s not summer until Big Ed’s opens!”
We ate dinner at the venerable Crab’s Claw — where we ordered an extra round of drinks to toast to summer fun.
I even let my kids commandeer their own substantial bags of cotton candy at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant…
where the carnival games, rides and weekly fireworks show do not disappoint (Seaside Heights hosts a weekly fireworks show too!).
Finally, the mighty ocean remains as beautiful as ever.
There were even some “firsts” on this year’s visit: The first surfing lesson for my daughter — thanks to my friend who is a Jersey Shore lifer and knows all of the best kept secrets in the area:
And the first time we really took the time to explore the nearby town of Bay Head, with its charming 100 year-old homes,
It was even the first time that I tried my BFF’s favorite orange/vanilla twist (not bad!) — however I feel obliged to say that I remain a chocolate/vanilla twist cone devotee.
I recognize that the road back for these beach towns will certainly be long and I don’t want to minimize just how devastating Sandy was to the region’s residents — but I did come away from this year’s visit sincerely impressed by the resilience of these communities. By my eyes, they are “on their way.” And, much to my relief, the very best features of The Shore — the laughter of children playing in the sand, the happy hum of foot traffic on the boardwalk, the scene of colorful kites flying at sunset and the sound of the waves crashing at night — thankfully, these things remain.
So…in these final weeks of summer, if you find yourself with a spare day or two on your hands, hop in the car and take the easy drive south to soak in the sun and the Jersey hospitality. And when you get there, make sure that you show your support and…
Photos: Ben Franklin, Business Insider, Jenkinson’s, CT.
|KEEP IT CRISP||A SHED OF ONE’S OWN|
|KEEP IT CRISP|
|A SHED OF ONE’S OWN|