Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Day Down the Shore

Yes, this really is New Jersey

I am embarrassed to admit that I have lived in New Jersey for thirteen years, and I never realized we had a beach. Well, sure, I'd heard people talking over the years.

"So-n-so's not here today. She went down the shore."

"Garden State clinic? Oh, it's not too far. Just down the shore."

"Have you been down the shore yet?"

"We're vacationing down the shore this summer."

But notice, no one has ever said the word "beach."

As a child and teenager, I spent almost every summer on the beaches of the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the sands are white, the sun is bright, the air is hot and the ocean is blue and green. In my mind, that has always been the epitome of "beach."

So, is it any wonder I was clueless about the Jersey shore? Sure, I knew there was an ocean over there to the southeast, and that parts of New Jersey ran into it. And frankly, all these years, I thought I had been "down the shore." I couldn't understand what all the hoopla was about. After all, one of our first summers here, we attempted to go to Sandy Hook. I think we might have been looking for a place to sail, but I can't remember if we took the boat with us or not. I do remember that getting there was horrendous, and that we waited in a line of stopped and crawling traffic two hours long, only to get to the park entrance to find a ranger turning all the cars away with a sign that said, "Closed -- Maximum Occupancy Reached." Welcome to New Jersey... the most densely populated state in the nation.

We did try to go back to Sandy Hook once, in the late fall, I think. No one was there, and it was very windy and very cold. The "shore" was a pile of rocks that hurt our feet, the "sand" was brown and pebbly and the "ocean" was more like a little bay with black, cold, waveless water. Needless to say, we've never been back.

One other time I went down the shore. It was on a marine research vessel in the middle of winter with my Ecology class. We wore heavy parkas and gloves, walked around on a tiny boat (like the one in Jaws), and collected and catalogued weird stuff that the researchers dredged up from the bottom of the sea for us, while the boat rocked violently in the wind. This was so not Florida.

Thus imagine my surprise when I followed a whim of my daughter yesterday and decided to try once more to go "down the shore." This time we bypassed Sandy Hook and drove a little further south to Spring Lake. Lo and behold, we found a real beach, complete with waves, sand dollars, jellyfish, gulls, blue water and more. Yes, there were rocks.

And the sand was not as pristine as the white sands of Florida.

But it was real. And it was fun. We got bitten by sand crabs, and we even got sunburned.

Who needs Florida when there's a real beach just an hour away?


Anonymous DS said...

OH-MY-GOSH!! I MISSED THIS??? How could you let that happen? Now I have to wait another year! We should have listened to the child! She is such a cutie and the "shore" is WAY better than the "beach."

8/25/2006 2:48 PM  

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