One reason why New Jersey rates as the garden state

Hudson's Corner

July 10, 2014|By Kathy Hudson hudmud@aol.com

My sister and I recently spent five days at Ocean City, New Jersey. In early childhood summers, thanks to our grandparents, we spent months there. As we grew older, they took us traveling. Beach months dwindled to weeks, then days.

The imprint of those early years is strong. In summer, what I now enjoy most is what I enjoyed in childhood: learning to ride a two-wheel bike, riding on the boardwalk and flat beach sidewalks, walking down the street to the beach and swimming in the ocean, eating fresh fruit and vegetables for dinner, eating ice cream later, playing cards and board games, having my first library card and spending time at the library, riding the rides and meeting up with friends.

Our beach activities this summer were pretty much the same. I wobbled when I first climbed onto a rental two-wheeler, but by the last day, it was hard to give up that bike. My sister and I, and lifelong Baltimore friends, pedaled the side streets, where one is now designated for bike riders.

We rode from one end of town to the other, ending up on the street where we grew up. The house is pretty much the same, although an expanded garage is now a guesthouse. The houses next it were enlarged to the property lines. Gone was the neighbor's driveway where I wobbled on a boy's bike until I balanced. 

This year my sister, an experienced rider, was the one who adjusted my seat and rode behind me until she was confident that I would not crash and fall off.

What we noticed on our rides was something our mother and grandmother always noticed: the gardens. Almost every house there has flowering plants in the front yard, window boxes or other containers. No other beach community I have visited in recent years, save the Hamptons, has more.

From this one town alone, New Jersey deserves to be called the garden state.

Ocean City still looks old-fashioned. Canvas awnings hang from a majority of houses, even the gigantic new ones. Only one high-rise condominium building exists. Apparently, after it went up, such controversy arose that regulations were enacted to prevent others.

Ocean City is still 'dry.' No alcohol is sold. This means no large groups arriving to party. The town is full of families, and it is quiet. Beach patrols enforce the "no alcohol" and  "no loud music" ordinances on the beach.

The Ocean City community center is something I wish for inner city Baltimore. It includes a huge swimming pool and fitness center, a cafe with healthy foods, a small history museum, and a two-story library with computers and a vibrant lineup of programs and activities for all ages. I went there every morning after my bike ride.

This year, we did not stay a block from the beach; we stayed right on the beach. It is wider than ever.  The last time we visited in 1991, it had shrunk from the wide beach of our childhood. Now, new grasses dot wide dunes. The sand is soft as melting butter. My sister still loves digging with a shovel, but this time she did it with the 2-year-old son of her godchild.

That little boy loves swimming in the ocean as much as we did.  

Being at the beach with a child also took us to back to the pavilion of kiddie rides. The carousel, fire trucks and boats he rode are the same as those my sister's children rode in 1991.

We had dinner with him and his family every night. The local tomatoes were the sweetest we'd had. He enjoyed our Bird Bingo game so much that he wanted to take his card to bed with him.

Our favorite frozen custard maker is still there. We had a cone every day, but we did not discover their new coffee-flavored offering until the day before we left. Our final stop of the trip was that boardwalk kiosk.

Standing under the pavilion of the Music Pier, we enjoyed one last cone. 

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