The weekend weather was as beautiful as a picture postcard. High near 80, low in the upper sixties…puffy white clouds, if any at all. A light breeze came from the ocean and gave everything a slightly salty tang. Monday morning, though, a storm system came to the coast & lasted all day.
The top floor of the beach house is where everyone congregates. The large common room serves as living room, dining room, and kitchen with two balconies outside. It has a beautiful view: marshland and an inlet to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east. One of the four bedrooms is upstairs, too; that’s where Samantha and I slept. Sleep itself, though, is a valuable commodity in a house with two small children that like to get up before 7:00. I’m not used to that…but at least there’s coffee.
Since it rained all day, everyone stayed in for the most part. I took a drive by myself in the morning to see a bridge (as I am wont to do). It rained off-and-on as I weaved down the tree-lined two-way roads of southern Jersey. Signs told me I was passing in and out of townships, but I didn’t see any evidence of centralized local government…just tall trees, lone houses, and an occasional Wawa. After about half an hour, I arrived at my destination in Mauricetown. The village is little more than a collection of historic homes dating back to the late 1700s; even the bridge I’d driven out to see barely existed anymore.
The span was built in 1888 and crossed the Maurice River. For its entire life, the old steel truss bridge was a hand-cranked swing bridge! It opened in the middle to allow boat traffic through. Although it was demolished around 1971 when the new taller bridge was built, the town kept part of a single span on the west bank of the river. I was able to take a few photos before the real downpour started. A man in a slicker, who was tending a pair of fishing rods, waved as I left the riverbank.
The rest of the day was family time. Eight of us sat around the table and played dominoes. My brother, in particular, enjoyed the vibrant give-and-take antagonism that comes with the game. The rest of the family watched movies or took a walk during the brief periods when the rain reduced to drizzle. At dinner time, a vibrant rainbow appeared over the Atlantic. The girls squealed with delight as a second rainbow appeared. A few of us walked over to the beach to see the tumultuous waves crash against the shore as the sun broke free from the clouds.
Tuesday was much more active. Most of the family took a drive down to Cape May at the southern tip of the state. The Cape May County Zoo is another place that holds a wealth of Crawford/Extance memories. The habitats are much better designed than the ones in Tulsa; it really felt like I was out in the wilderness. My favorite exhibit was the red panda; they were sleeping, but still adorable. After the zoo, we walked around the shops in downtown Cape May. They have a great outdoor mall right next to the ocean with a host of various shops to see. Samantha’s favorite is called Whale’s Tale, which is themed as you’d expect. I wonder if they’d be interested in anything about Route 66’s Blue Whale?
Everyone was exhausted by the time we made it back to Sea Isle City, but the day wasn’t over yet. Five of us (my brother and me, Sam, her brother, and their cousin) all piled in a car and drove down to Wildwood, where we walked the boardwalk. It was very touristy with thrill rides and more t-shirts than you can imagine, but I enjoyed it as a first-time visitor. The boardwalk is known for their battery-powered tram car system, which dates back to the 1939 New York World’s Fair. In 1971, they recorded a simple vocal warning for pedestrians: “Watch the tram car, please.” It is engaged on a loop by the driver any time pedestrians cross into the tram lane, which is often. Thus, the entire boardwalk is strongly associated with that decades-old voice looping into infinity.
I’d actually heard about Wildwood for years thanks to their strong concentration of 50s and 60s motels, complete with a high number of vintage neon signs. There was no way for me to see them all in one go, but we saw quite a few as night descended. Our gang rode the streets, giving each other a hard time while I snapped photos (some from the car, others from the sidewalk). It felt a bit like I was back in high school (in a good way!) It was the best way to cap off a day of sightseeing and togetherness.