My Favorite Place: The Beach

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I always seem to be attacted to locations on the water. Maybe this is the result of growing up in a beach town on the shore of Lake Michigan. As kids, the beach was the center of our lives from early summer to the end of September. I remember many years heading to the beach after the parade on a warm Decoration Day only to realize that 58 degree water was way too frigid to swim in. During the summer, there were lazy days on the beach, walks on the pier, trips to the amusement park followed by picnics on the beach. (Bob’s first summer job was making cotton candy at the amusement park!) Fireworks on the 4th of July were best enjoyed by lying on a beach towel and staring upwards as the explosions created a magical ceiling. I particularly recall going off to college and being surprised that everyone didn’t kick off the new school year with class beach parties. I think these experiences created an unconscious draw to the water wherever we travel. And when we finally were able to get on the road again, It seemed like a great idea to join thousands of others spending July in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

It was less than a three hour drive from DC to our new place but it felt like a million miles away. We were pleasantly surprised when we got to Annapolis and found no back up on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. (Some day I want to do a blog just about the spectacular bridges we’ve crossed in our travels!) The weather was definitely beach weather…in the 90’s for most of the month. But we did have a great little patio for cooler evenings.

Stephen and two of the grandkids came for a few days over the 4th. The complex where we were staying had a great swimming pool and we could enjoy a morning swim with absolutely no other people there! Nothing like having your own pool! Then we’d trek off to check out a beach. The Rehoboth Beach boardwalk itself was fun: lots of restaurants, beachy shops and a great place to watch the 4th of July fireworks. The blue and orange umbrellas that permeate the sand seem to blend into a single mass. And our grandkids loved playing in the waves and sand! The Delaware coast has so many great places to swim that each day we tried out a new shoreline locale.

My favorite and one that Bob and I returned to on our own was Cape Henlopen State Park just a couple miles north at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. In addition to pretty ocean views and a wonderful sandy beach, this is also the site of Fort Miles, which was a World War II Army installation. During the cold war the Navy constructed a terminal for the Sound Surveillance System there which continued to operate until 1981. Today the Biden Environmental Conference Center is housed in what used to be the headquarters. Top off all the history and sunshine with lots of seafood (Nobody loves raw oysters more than our youngest grandkids!) and well, life is pretty great!

Delaware is definitely proud of being the first state. The reminders are everywhere: on their license plates, street signs, restaurants and hotels. Not knowing much about the state Bob and I decided to make the short drive up to Dover and check out the capital. William Penn’s surveyors laid out the city in 1711. There were two main original sites that are on the Green, which is the lovely historic square in the center of the town. The first was the Meeting House for the “Dissenters” (the Presbyterians) and the second was the Church Square, reserved for the Church of England. (The Meeting House is today the State of Delaware Museum.) I particularly enjoyed moseying through the old churchyard at Christ Episcopal Church. This is the church where Caesar Rodney, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, worshipped. The city has a much slower vib about it with a population of only about 37,000 but because of its location between large metropolitan centers, there still was plenty of traffic. It was a hot and humid day so we didn’t wander too much. But I felt a definite sense of awe as I thought about the people who had once strolled here and the conversations they had.

Knowing the weekends are the most conjested on touristy highways, we chose to drive to Assateague National Seashore on a weekday. It was only a bit more than an hour drive but we were amazed by the almost continuous stream of touristy shops along the way. We tried to count the number of mini-golf courses we passed along the way but lost count somewhere around 20. And surprisingly, they all seem to stay busy.

We had visited Chinoteague Island, a similar place about an hour further south years ago when the kids were small but not Assateague. We stopped at the information center as we entered the national seashore. Assateague is an interesting combination of beaches, marshes, folks crabbing, and wild horses. Like most islands in the ocean, it has been defined by currents, winds and waves. But on this island there are five different natural zones which include: coastal bays, salt marshes, maritime forests, dunes and upper beach and of course, the ocean. It’s difficult to explain how strange it seems to come upon wild horses naturally wandering along the road or the beach.

On our last weekend in Rehoboth we enjoyed a lazy weekend with Patrick and his friend Ryne, revisiting many of the same places while adding in a trivia competition at a local bar as well as a few games of euchre.

Then it was time for us to head to Nova Scotia. We were thrilled; finally, for the first time since Covid began, we were going to be able to leave the country. The Canadians have set up a website with protocol for crossing the border. I completed all that I could but had to wait until closer to our arrival to finish the process. This turned out to be far from easy. The Canadians wanted to know which crossing we’d be using and what time we would arrive! Wow! I wrote down an estimate and crossed my fingers.

We decided we’d take three days to drive the 1100 miles or 18.5 hours Google estimated it would take. Our first night would be in Nashua, New Hampshire. I had just finished reading The Engineers Wife, the historical fictional account of Elizabeth Roebling’s involvement in the building of the Brooklyn Bridge so I wanted to see it with my own eyes. And lucky for me, Bob is always very accomodating when I add these incidental sidetrips to our itinerary. (Note: The Engineer’s Wife is way too fictionalized for my liking. As a result, I added David McCollough’s, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge to my “must read” list.)

From the first glimpses of the skyline, the drive through New York City was amazing. We went from Jersey City through the Holland Tunnel, into Manhattan turning onto Broadway up to 5th Avenue just as we came to Madison Square Park, down through Lower Manhatten, across the great bridge, continuing through Brooklyn and Queens and even made a wrong turn or two in the Bronx. It was a wonderful drive, one neither of us will ever forget! I can’t wait to go back and check out theatre and musical performances and the museums.

We were however, exhausted when we finally got to Nashua and were very pleased to find that our hotel had a restaurant. We could eat and crash! Early the next morning we headed on to St John, New Brunswick. When we got to the Calais, Maine/St. Stephen, New Brunswick crossing Google took us to a small two lane bridge on a little-traveled city street. We were one of four or five cars in line. When we got to the window, I explained to the border guard that we had passports, our vaccination verifications as well as the code on my phone from the app, and asked which he would prefer. His response was quick, “Your passports would be wonderful!” He looked them as well as the vaccination cards and asked a couple of routine questions. Then sent us on our way. No mention of the details on the app, just a routine crossing! What a relief!

When we crossed into Canada we entered the Atlantic time zone, an hour later than the eastern time zone, we changed from miles to kilometers (as well as pounds into kilograms) and signs were written in both English and French. In little more than an hour we had reached our destination for the night, St. John.

It’s only about four hours from St John to Haliax so the next morning we decided to take another sidetrip, this time to Shediac. Shediac is right on the North Umberland Sound which boasts the warmest waters north of the Carolinas so I shouldn’t have been surprised when we found lots and lots of traffic as we drove into town. We hadn’t eaten breakfast so when we saw a Victorian style home/restaurant with people eating on a large front porch we decided we needed to give it a try. The name, The Lobster Deck, says it all!

Yum! The lobster rolls were truly amazing with more lobster than imagineable! After lunch, we visited the giant lobster sculpture and of course, browsed through the gift shops, before heading on down to Halifax, the thirteenth largest Canadian city, and second largest port in eastern Canada.

This will be our home for August. And while this our fifth trip visiting this beautiful province, we look forward to revisiting many places as well as discovering new ones.

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