I don’t really like to fly. I’d much rather travel by car, but, that’s not always practical. For example, the drive from Oklahoma to New Jersey takes 21 hours straight through. Flying gets you across the country in half-a-day. Since we were heading to the east coast to spend time with family, it was only logical to wake up at 4:00 AM to get to the Tulsa International Airport last Saturday for an early flight.
The traveling party consisted of me, Samantha, my Mom, and my brother. Our flight from Tulsa to Dallas was a quick hop; we only spent 45 minutes in the air. At DFW, though, we had to rush to our connecting terminal. We hopped on the airport tram with confidence that we’d make it in time, but to our surprise it completely bypassed our terminal. By the time we were able to get off the train, our flight had started boarding in a completely different part of the airport. After some explanation, an airport worker flagged down a cart and we were ushered through the concourse at great speed. Our names were called over the airport loudspeaker as we scrambled up an escalator to our gate. We made it just as they were closing the jet bridge.
The flight itself was thankfully uneventful. Getting our luggage and rental car in Philadelphia couldn’t have been easier; soon, we were continuing east. Tyler snapped photos of Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Eagles, a nemesis of his beloved Dallas Cowboys) as we left the city. There were no signs to welcome us to New Jersey, but the information boards for the Shore were enough. Samantha excitedly pointed out childhood landmarks as we got closer to the beach: the grocer they always use to stock up for the week, the campground they frequented, the pizzeria with the best slices. It was energizing to see her so happy.
We crossed the bridge that leads from the mainland to the small island that held our home for the next week: Sea Isle City. The beach community is home to around 2,000 citizens, though the summer season brings the town population up to 40,000. It’s clear that most of the housing is designed for rental accommodation: the quaint Victorian homes we’d noticed in other towns were mostly replaced with three-story modern monstrosities designed to house as many tourists as possible. I pulled into the driveway of one of those houses and immediately heard enthusiastic shouting from the top balcony. We had arrived!
The hugs were quick and fierce. I hadn’t seen most of Sam’s family since the wedding nearly two years ago. Samantha made a bee-line for her niece and I knew that pair would be together for most of the week. Our group was 13 strong in total, comprised of four generations of Sam’s family. Saturday afternoon and evening was spent at the house, catching up and making plans together. Tyler had never seen the ocean up close so we walked over to see it together; it was only a block from the house. He was awestruck. The two of us, along with Mom, held one another as we watched the waves crash against the beach. We hadn’t been on a family vacation together since 1997. We were due for some relaxation.
Sunday was a beach day. Sam’s family had been coming to the same section of Jersey Shore for generations…seeing it change from sleepy community to bustling tourist town. Samantha hadn’t been in a decade and she pointed out the things that had changed. Some things never change, thankfully. She was as excited to play Skee Ball as anything else, at the little arcade a short distance down the boardwalk.
Among the excitement, I was nervously checking the news back home for most of the day. I had awoken at 5:30 Sunday morning to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and learned an EF-2 tornado descended on our neighborhood back home just three hours prior. Businesses only a block away from our house had been leveled. It took until the afternoon before I received confirmation that our house had survived the storm. The only damage had been from falling limbs taking out a mirror on my brother’s car. It could have been SO much worse.
By the time the weekend came to a close, I was happily exhausted. Our hearts were full and things were only expected to improve. We had plans to visit Cape May, Ocean City, and several other places through the week in addition to spending copious time on the beach itself.