Living in a Beach Town in the Summer

In January of 2005, Susie and I lived our dream, and bought our beach house in Ocean City, NJ. Located in the north end of town, about 500 feet down the street from the beach, it was truly our home…except during the busy summer months, when we shared our home with some renters, to help pay the mortgage! In November of 2017, we sold our home of 31 years in Mineola, New York, traded our New York license plates and driver’s licenses for the Jersey variety, and the home we bought at the beach in 2005 became our one and only home, and we became full time residents of Ocean City, New Jersey.

Ocean City is the northern most city in Cape May County. Estimates put its 2020 full-time population at around 10,800, but in the busy summer months of July and August, the population of our little beach town is closer to 150,000 men, women, and children. Befitting its start as a Christian Summer Retreat, Ocean City is a dry community. No liquor sales in town, no BYOB at local restaurants, no kegs on the beach. There are, however, two huge liquor stores just outside the city limit, over the bridges on the mainland, in Marmora and Somers Point. We are about 12 miles south of Atlantic City, and we get off the Garden State Parkway at Exit 30, so we are 30 miles from Cape May and the end of the Jersey Shore.

What we love about the place is that for better than 8 months of the year, it’s a sleepy little town. The kind of place where people in the local coffee shop and hardware store remember you, and where neighbors look out for neighbors. In July and August, it’s a hopping resort town, full of families looking to spend their week or two at the shore in our town. Are they all wonderful folks? Not always, but the vast majority of them are long time repeat visitors, who consider Ocean City their home at the shore. For years before we bought in 2005, that’s how we felt. Back when we rented out our house, we had lots of folks that came back year after year, and noted in our guest book that they felt they were home when they moved into our place.

So, how do we adjust during those months when our little sleepy down gains over 140,000 residents? Obviously, with more walkers, bikers, and cars driving around, you must be more vigilant than in say, January. It really seems that for some on vacation, turning their brain to “OFF” is a part of the decompression process. People walking and on bikes may pop out in front of you as you drive down the street. When you’re walking, you run the risk of our visitors not stopping at crosswalks when you’re trying to cross the street. Occasionally you’ll find yourself stuck behind a whole family riding 5 or 6 bikes all the way across the street you’re trying to drive down. Some consider stop signs and parking rules just suggestions, while others will drive down the street at 5 miles an hour sightseeing all the way! So # 1 on our list of Summer Rules is Be Vigilant!

Rule # 2 we try to abide by is only going across town on streets with traffic lights. There are a lot of stop signs in Ocean City, and in the winter months, it’s very easy to go across town on any street you desire. There are also streets all across town that have traffic lights in every block. From about mid-May through September, these are the only streets we use!

The third rule is all about traffic control. There are two exits for Ocean City on the Garden State Parkway. Exit 30 is the main exit and Exit 25 is for the southern end of town. In 2012, a new 9th Street Bridge opened up, replacing the 1932 bridge. Exit 30 leads to this new bridge which in turn leads right on to 9th Street in Downtown Ocean City. As such, it’s the main gateway to our town, and because of that, is avoided at all costs on Saturdays in season! House rentals in Ocean City typically run from Saturday to Saturday, starting between 2 and 3 PM the first week, and ending at about 10AM the second Saturday. Both the bridge at 34th Street (Exit 25) and the 9th Street Bridge need to be avoided Saturday morning as folks leave, and Saturday afternoon as people arrive. If you don’t have to leave Ocean City on a Saturday, DON’T, but if you do, take one of the two secret resident bridges into town! (They’re not really secret, but rather not bridges that most visitors know about or use…all the better for us!) So rule #3 would be to think twice before leaving town on a Saturday!

Ocean City has a great 2.5 mile boardwalk, filled with family friendly stores, places to eat, amusements, and mini golf! On a typical summer evening, it is THE thing to do in town if you are a visitor. However, there are lines to get food, back-ups at the mini golf courses, and lots of people trying to get on and off rides at the two amusement parks. If you’re a visitor to our fair city, it’s a wonderful way to spend the night, but for residents, not so much. The summer of 1983, oldest son Billy’s first summer on earth, we stayed in Ocean City for a week and did the boardwalk. For the next 30 plus years, we came with all three kids, and others, stayed in Ocean City and did the boardwalk. Even the years both before and after we bought the house, when Susie and I came alone to Ocean City, we did the boardwalk! Now, unless we have visitors that need to be on the boardwalk, we just don’t go! I guess rule #4 would be avoid the boardwalk unless necessary!

And then there’s the beach! We are very fortunate that we like going to the beach early in the morning (9-10 AM), while most visitors seem to do things in the morning, and come to the beach later in the day. Some wait till they’ve had lunch, some bring it with them and dine with the sand and the seagulls! By about the time the beach starts getting crowded, we’ve been there 3 or 4 hours, and are ready to head home for a cool drink and some lunch of our own. So, I guess part one of Rule #5 would be to go to the beach either early or very late (like 3 or 4 o’clock) in the day. We also use the behavior of renters as a rule of thumb. For most folks who arrive on Saturday afternoon, Sunday will be their first beach day, and at the other end of the week, Friday will be their last beach day. We find that Sunday and Friday are the most crowded beach days, so part two of Rule #5 is no beach for us on Friday or Sunday!

Rule #6 is simple…take your business elsewhere! While we love supporting our local businesses during the off season, during the summer months there are limited places to go to eat or shop, and lots more folks eager to experience the local businesses. We just find it easier in the summer to head off island for everything from hardware to bagels! Since we bought our house in 2005, we have discovered more things off the island that we never knew existed in all the years we’d been coming to Ocean City since my first year in 1955. We now consider our neighbor across the bridge, Somers Point, to be part of our community, and find it’s easier in all ways to shop there. While we may still run to the local Acme on 8th street from time to time, it’s far easier to shop at the Shoprite in Somers Point, a store that most visitors have no idea exists!

The pandemic that hit in March of 2020 did change things up. Starting almost immediately after we came home from Florida mid-March, we saw more folks moving into their second homes. Many stayed through the summer, and many more than usual were with us all through this last winter. The real estate market in Ocean City is nuts, with very few properties for sale, and the ones that do come on the market, stay available a very short time and sell for sometimes more than asking. Rentals are also very tight, as we hear that more and more new buyers are planning on using their houses, rather than renting. What this will do for the economy and for our Summer Rules is yet to be seen, but whatever it takes, we will adapt and find a way to make it through the summer, counting the days till our beach town turns back into our sleepy little hometown!

Happy Birthday to the Love of My Life!!

Susan Lynn Johnson was born on May 28th, in a place called Amityville, New York. She came into my life on July 3rd, 1977, so today will mark the 43rd birthday I have been fortunate to spend with her!

She is the most giving, loving person I have ever met, and she is simply the best thing that has EVER happened to me!! She is frankly so much better a person than I am, and I know for a fact, that were it not for her, I wouldn’t have the life I have today!

Susie, like most folks in our life, I love you and am in awe of your ability to touch folks and to be loved by them. Thank you for loving me, and for giving me a better life than I could have dreamed of!

I am so blessed that she said “yes” when I asked her to marry me on December 25th, 1978, and love that she is the Mom of our 3 kids and the Grandma of our three little darlings, and has kept me in line every day of the last 43+ years!

You are my life Baby, and I will love you FOREVER!! Happy Birthday!

In Defense of Spam

Lately it seems to me that more and more, I see people taking pot shots at Spam.  Be it on Facebook, or on the Internet, I see people call it names, and folks saying that they’ve never eaten it, and never would!  The real slap in the face, is when these same people pick Scrapple over a true American Hero, Spam!

Spam was introduced by the Hormel Corporation in 1937.  Spam’s basic ingredients are pork with ham added, salt, water, modified potato starch (as a binder) sugar, and sodium nitrate (as a preservative).  By the last turn of the century, Spam was sold worldwide  in 41 countries, on six continents, and trademarked in over 100 countries.  It is a traditional food in places as far flung as the United Kingdom and Mainland China.  In our 50th State, Hawaii, residents have the highest per capita consumption of Spam in the United States, it is sold at both McDonalds and Burger King, and is so popular that it is sometimes referred to as “The Hawaiian Steak”!

Of course, Spam’s big heroic moment was World War II, when it became the answer to getting fresh meat to soldiers on the front lines.   Before the war ended, over 150 million pounds of Spam had been bought by the United States government.  As American solders moved across the world, Spam followed, and its popularity spread, which is the prime reason it is used in so many different food cultures around the world.  Local people took this canned “ham” and made it their own!   That’s why in Hawaii there is a dish called Spam Musubi, in Puerto Rico a local dish called Sandwich de Mezcla containing Spam, in Japan it’s a staple ingredient in the traditional Okinawan dish chanpurū, and in South Korea there’s Spam kimbap (rice and vegetable filled seaweed roll) .  If you’d like to read more about Spam’s history and worldwide appeal, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article about it….. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(food) .

Susie’s and my Dad were both in the United States Army in World War II, and I guess in a way, they brought Spam home from the war.  We were exposed to it early in life,  as it was a staple in both our houses when we were growing up.  I will always associate it with Susie’s Mom, when she made her great dinner combo of Potato Pancakes and Fried Spam.  I remember my Dad telling WWII stories of him convincing the cook of their unit to try making it the Italian way (Spam Parmigiana?), and always remember it being in our house.  

As to how we use it in our house…for years we’ve made a great Spam and Pineapple Fried Rice, and we’ve used it as the protein in Pasta Dishes.  Of course, it has a real place in our breakfast portfolio as an ingredient in an egg scramble or as an accompaniment to fried or scrambled eggs.  We’ve also discovered that the Spam that is packaged in the “SPAM Single” size, is cut a bit bigger, but thinner than the canned version, and is the perfect thing to brown and slide into a grilled cheese sandwich!  

When we went to Hawaii in 2013, we were so amazed at the many varieties of Spam we found in the grocery store that we’d never seen before.  As one of its biggest markets, Hormel makes several flavors exclusively for the Hawaiian Islands.  We were so impressed, we bought a number of cans of Spam unknown to us, packed it in a Post Office Flat Rate box, and sent them home.

Our collection of Hawaiian Spam and a typical Hawaiian “Plate Lunch” featuring deep fried Spam

Did you know that there’s also a Spam Museum?  We do, because we’ve been there!  Austin, Minnesota was where Hormel was founded, and it is also the home of the Spam Museum.  The museum was one of our first sightseeing stops on our Bucket List Trip in 2016 after I joined Susie in retirement.  The museum has displays showing Spam’s place in history, the many places around the world where Spam is sold, and some of the many varieties that Hormel produces.  It also sells “Spam Gifts” of which we bought a few!

So there you have it, our interaction with an American Classic, and my defense of this heroic American canned meat product.  The versatile product, that’s good hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!  And  to all the Spam haters out there who love their Scrapple, I leave you with this quote from Wikipedia,  “Scrapple is typically made of hog offal, such as the head, heart, liver, and other trimmings, which are boiled with any bones attached (often the entire head), to make a broth.”  Just Saying!  Good Eating!

Vaccine

Back in the beginning of the year, when Covid 19 Vaccines became available in New Jersey for folks over 65, Susie and I actively started searching for appointments. At that point, one of the few places you could get the vaccine in New Jersey was at the Pharmacy Department at Shoprite Supermarkets. We loaded the Shoprite Pharmacy app on our phones, Ipads, and computer, and started every day by logging into the app on multiple devices, looking for appointments. At first we were stymied by the announcement that seemed to come up by about 9AM every morning that said, “All Covid 19 Vaccine appointments are filled. Try back again tomorrow.” That was the case till about the third week of January, when our neighbor Doc Anderson told us that he’d gotten an appointment on the app the afternoon before. We’d never tried beyond the morning when that announcement came up, so now we knew to try back later in the day.

The next day, signing onto the app in the afternoon, it appeared I’d secured an appointment for the following day at 2 PM, but there was a catch. The app said that I’d get a confirmation email later in the day, and that email never came. Again I can thank our neighbor Doc, because when I told him about not getting the confirmation email and said I was probably not going to go, he said to me, “I thought you were a New Yorker? Just go there tomorrow and act confident!” (Doc grew up near Mexico, New York, north of Syracuse) So, confidently, that’s exactly what I did, and got my first Moderna Covid Vaccine shot on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, 2021! One down, one to go.

It took Susie a couple of more days of both of us signing into the app multiple times a day, but within a few days, we got her an appointment, and on Thursday, January 28th, Susie got her first Moderna shot too! Unfortunately, we didn’t get our appointments at close Shoprites, like the one we usually frequent in Somers Point, or the one just south of Ocean City in Marmora, but we got our appointments. I went to the southern part of Cape May County to the Shoprite in Rio Grande. For Susie’s, we had to travel a bit further to the Shoprite in Glassboro, NJ. They were a little bit removed from Ocean City, but we got the shots, and when we went to my shots, we got to have lunch from Arby’s in Cape May Courthouse. Coming home from Susie’s we got to stop at our favorite Italian Market, Bagliani’s in Hammonton. While we had to travel under an hour to our appointments, the appointment that our neighbor Doc secured was at a real far flung Shoprite. It was a Shoprite that necessitated him driving about 2 and a half hours to each appointment, but remember back to early January, and how scarce Covid Vaccine appointments were, and you’ll understand why Doc had no issue with the drive.

On Friday, February 19th (delayed one day because of an ice storm), I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at the Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro. At that time, the CDC was saying, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th, two weeks after Susie got her second shot, our “Coming Out Day!”

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that since that Thursday we have been eating inside at two of our favorite restaurants (Charlie’s and Angelo’s) almost weekly, have hit the road again, leaving New Jersey for the first time in a year, have visited with all three of our children and their spouses, up and down the east coast, have seen our three wonderful Grandchildren in North Carolina multiple times, and have put over 3000 miles on our too long dormant leased Honda CR-V! We’ve also gotten to hug people, and be with friends and neighbors without fear. In short, we’ve gotten our lives back!! Twenty-first century science has created new ways to bring vaccines to the general public, in times that would have been unheard of 20 years ago…just another thing to be thankful for!

There are now multiple vaccines approved for use, and lots more places around Ocean City where you can get them. I just went onto the Shoprite app, and discovered that I can get a Moderna Covid 1 shot appointment at multiple times within the hour at our local Shoprite in Somers Point. The Mega Vaccine Center that they set up at the Atlantic City Convention Center is now available for walk-in shots, and I just read this morning that many states are asking for less than their allotments of vaccine, because those seeking shots has virtually dried up! I also read that in Ocean City, 58% of the population is vaccinated, while across the bridge in our mainland neighbor Somers Point, only 40% of the population is vaccinated.

We’re very fortunate that our entire family (but the Grandkids) are completely vaccinated, and the “worst” reaction seems to have been from our son Kenny who was laid low for about 36 hours. In the rest of our family, reactions have been very mild if anything happened at all, but really, I would rather have a reaction to the shot for a day or two, rather than continue to live in fear of maybe ending up in a hospital on a ventilator!

According to the CDC, those of us who are fully vaccinated can do virtually anything without fear, If we were to get Covid 19, it would be more like a bad cold than the life threatening illness it was a year ago. In their latest update, they’ve also said that those of us who are fully vaccinated can go without a mask in many circumstances! As a member of the generation that was the first to receive mass vaccinations for Polio way back in the 50s, perhaps I have more faith in science than some, but I will continue to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to the well being of the rest of us.

It’s been a tough year for everybody, and thank God we were not one of the millions of American families who lost a loved one, but life seems to get better every day. Seeing friends, eating in restaurants, and returning to normal. For example, Susie and I are looking forward to a week long visit with our two oldest Grandkids, Layla and Henry, in June. Grandma has been making lists of things to do with them since our son wondered if we’d be interested in an alone week with them. Just another reason to be thankful for the vaccine! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Thank You Science for giving us our lives back!

Twins

On Thursday November 20th, 1986, at 4:13 PM, Kristen Anne D’Elia was born. Two minutes later, at 4:15 PM, her brother Kenneth Michael D’Elia was born. They were born six weeks premature, and because of this, Krissi spent 18 days and Kenny spent 28 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They were born, and spent the first weeks of their lives at Winthrop Hospital, next to the Mineola Long Island Rail Road Station, and about 3/4 of a mile from our Mineola home.

As twins growing up, they had the usual “twin” experiences. Yes, they were close, from the earliest times of their lives when they liked being together, and even seemed to be able to communicate with each other, way before the rest of us could understand what they were saying. All through school they were close, sharing friends and interests, and generally being each other’s best friend. Going to different colleges was probably a challenge for them, but they still shared in each others lives, and even today in their 30s, they are still very close and generally know everything about each other, way before their Mom and Dad do!

In January, Krissi and her husband Mike bought and moved into a condo in New Rochelle, New York. In January, Kenny and his husband Chris moved into a new apartment in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The second weekend in April, Krissi and Mike came down from New York and spent the weekend with us in Ocean City. During that visit they told us that they’d been seriously contemplating adopting a cat. About a week later, we got the first pictures of our “Grand Cat” Marzipan….Mars for short.

Last week, we spent four days in St. Petersburg with Kenny and Chris, and heard how they had been cat adoption shopping too. Just the other day, we got a text and pictures of our second “Grand Cat”!! Say hello to Saint James Foxington of Petersburg, also known as Jimmy!

So 34 years and 5 plus months since these two entered this world at Winthrop Hospital, and living some 1170 miles apart, these two are still “connected”! Welcome to the family Mars and Jimmy…may you both have great lives with your new families!

Miracle of Science – Part Three

To recap, Miracle of Science Part One was the weekend that having our Moderna Vaccine let us leave the state of New Jersey for the first time since March 14, 2020, and to journey down Interstate-95 to see our son Billy, daughter-in-law Lori, and our three wonderful Grandkids Layla, Henry, and Annabelle, who we had not seen since the end of January, 2020. Miracle of Science Part Two was the weekend that being fully vaccinated allowed our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Mike to not only come and spend the weekend in our house in Ocean City, but to be hugged and kissed by Susie and I for the first time in over a year. That takes us to Miracle of Science Part Thre

After we went down last weekend to Wake Forest, North Carolina for the dual birthday party of our two beautiful Granddaughters Layla and Annabelle, it was time to broaden our horizons, and to encompass the rest of our kids in this miracle, and towards that end, we continued our journey down Interstate 95 south, to the Sunshine State, the home of Our Boys, son Kenny and his husband Chris! We wanted to see them, we wanted to return to our Florida home of Pinellas County, and we wanted to keep our Florida visit record intact! So last Sunday, after the Saturday birthday party for Layla and Annabelle in Wake Forest, we headed south, and on Monday, we reached our goal!

Since I retired the end of January, 2016, a “winter” trip to Florida has been part of our yearly agenda so that we could sample a preview of the next summer. In 2019 and 2020, we rented a condo in Indian Rocks Beach, and immersed ourselves in the “Snow Bird” life style. Unfortunately, we had to cut our 2020 visit short due to the pandemic, and made no plans for a 2021 visit. However, now that we are fully vaccinated, and Kenny and Chris live in St. Petersburg, Florida, we decided that a brief trip was in order. We are not going to be here a month…heck we’re not going to be here a week, but we are in Florida, enjoying this early spring/summer weather, and we are with the boys

The first thing we were interested in seeing was their apartment, that we’ve only heard about and seen in pictures. Bottom line was we loved it! They have definitely put their spin on it, and with so many familiar things from our house, my Mom’s house, and Kenny’s life, we definitely knew we were on familiar ground! It was great and they feel very much at home!

After a brief visit, it was time to drive down the street and check into the hotel. We are staying in a brand new hotel, just 2 blocks away from the boys’ apartment. It’s called Tru by Hilton, and is a hotel of the new “industrial” style, but it’s very close, the room is comfortable, and the cost is zero dollars a night, thanks to Hilton points! We didn’t even get charged the $17 a night to park the car!

After we got all set in our room, the boys came over and it was time to get our evening started. The plan was that they were going to show us the area that they live in, the Central Avenue area of Downtown St. Petersburg. There are lots of new apartment buildings in the area, and an active bar scene, and looks like the perfect area for the boys. There is always something to do, and they are very much enjoying being just a couple of blocks away from it all. The boys walked us all over the area, including past Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. By the time we got to the venue they’d planned for dinner, we were ready for a seat, and a drink. We got both!

The boys had decided our first stop of the night was going to be the Burnt Ends Tiki Bar, a beautiful roof top venue located above a bar-b-que joint (hence the name). The weather was absolutely wonderful, and it was super to be with Kenny and Chris, to be in Florida, and dining outside!

After a couple of great drinks, and some excellent appetizers, we decided to venture downstairs to Dr. BBQ to sample some of the BBQ the boys had said was so good…and it was!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and had another drink at a place on Central Avenue called Ferg’s Sports Bar. This incredible venue encompasses nearly two city blocks, and is ground zero for game day pre-gaming, as Tropicana Park is just a block away. It was much quieter on a non-game day Monday evening, but it was fun to sit along Central Avenue and have a drink with the boys!

After a good night’s sleep, Tuesday’s plan was for the boys to show us around St. Petersburg some more (not on foot), and to ultimately show us where they lived for the first 6 months they were here. When they left Ocean City last July, it was to move to a furnished apartment they’d found online in St. Pete’s Beach. Although they enjoyed their time there, living in a furnished apartment without their “stuff,” they kind of felt that they were just visitors and they did not really get into a resident vibe. The area was also very transient, as most folks there were on vacation. It was a nice place, in a great location (just a little over a block from the beach), but when their 6 month lease was up, they were happy to move to their current apartment. Back in January, they rented a commercial van, drove back to Ocean City and emptied their storage unit. So now they are living with their “stuff” and loving the new location. We agreed that the beach looked interesting, but being on Central Avenue was the right neighborhood for them!

They did show us a bunch of local establishments they frequented during their time in St. Pete’s Beach, and one in particular was singled out as our lunch stop of the day! We’d been hearing about this place called Focheezy almost from the first days they were in St. Pete’s Beach. It turned out that it opened just days before the boys arrived, and from what they told us, and the pictures we’d seen, it looked like the home of the most outrageous Grilled Cheese sandwiches ever devised. Susie and I had to see what it was all about! We saw, and we tasted, and it was incredible! The sandwiches are huge, so the four of us split two sandwiches and some sides. Take a look and tell me if it doesn’t look incredible!

After lunch, we stopped and did a little shopping, and then returned to the boys apartment. A late afternoon and evening of hanging out, having a drink or two, talking and relaxing, and ordering some take-out food was the perfect way to end our second day in St. Petersburg!

Wednesday was a bit of a laid back day, with our plans for the day not starting till around lunch (or brunch) time. Unfortunately, Chris was a bit under the weather, so it was time for Kenny and Mom and Dad to venture out. Our plan was to go toTrip’s Diner, a place we’d enjoyed in 2020 when we were in Indian Rocks Beach. We were going to go to a location nearer the boys, and one that had outside dining, as the weather was superb. Unfortunately we were not the only ones that apparently had that idea, because there was a line out the door, and nary a parking space within a 2 block area! After a couple of passes, it was decided that Susie and I could have Trip’s tomorrow as we headed to Indian Rocks Beach, and we’d go with Plan B! Plan B was the Maple Street Biscuit Company on Central Avenue, and it was fantastic!!

Susie and Kenny had The Five & Dime and I had the Egg-stremely Risky Biscuit. We added Potatoes O’Ryan and something called Maple Sausage Balls, and we had a fabulous brunch! Plan B was good!!! Leftovers went home for Chris, and for safe keeping, Kenny made sure they were strapped in!

After a brief rest period back at the hotel, the four of us did a tour of the boys two favorite St. Petersburg breweries! The day was beautiful, with sunny blue skies and low humidity, and we enjoyed being outside, first at Three Daughters’ Brewery and then at Pinellas Ale Works! An interesting thing about Pinellas Ale Works…Chris is an artist, and later this year (July to September) he is going to have a showing of his work there!!

What a wonderful town St. Petersburg is, and amazingly, Susie and I both agreed that in our minds, it was a place we associated with old people, but today it is a wonderful vibrant community for young folks. We’ve loved every place we went with the boys, and see why they love where they live!! St. Petersburg is a wonderful community with lots of culture (museums everywhere), with art all over the place, with a vibrant bar and food scene, with a love of dogs, and seems like a wonderful place for Our Boys to live! We will be back, and we think they will be here for the long haul!!

On Thursday, for our last night in Florida, we were off to Indian Rocks Beach, and the place where our love of the area started back in 2018..the Holiday Inn and Jimmy Guana’s! This will be the 4th year in a row that we’ve visited IRB, unfortunately not for an extended period, like we’ve done the past two years. In fact, in this semi-post-pandemic year, this one night stay will be our shortest stay ever in IRB. Unsure about what 2022 will bring in terms of a new hip for Susie and my second new knee, our fingers are crossed that we’ll be back next year, but we were so glad that the boys joined us at the Holiday Inn, and a good time was had by all as we celebrated our last night in Florida!!

Friday morning, we were up and out of Indian Rocks Beach, and that afternoon bid a fond farewell to the Sunshine State! It had been a busy 4 nights in Florida, and we loved being with Kenny and Chris, seeing their apartment and city, and reconnecting with Our Boys! Farewell Florida…see you soon!

PS – Our stop Friday night was Darien, Georgia, and yes, we did get our shrimp at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, that we’d missed in 2020 when we “ran” home from Florida! It was wonderful as always!!! Thanks Abe!

Miracle of Science – The Return of the Road Trip Continued

Saturday Morning, April 17th

Good morning from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In case you are interested, our trip down south from Ocean City worked perfectly! We pulled out of our garage a little after 8 AM to a cool, but sunny morning, and traffic was wonderful. Ms. GPS (I’m not being sexist…she does speak to us in a female voice) took us once again all the way to Philly where we joined up to our “Mother Road”, Interstate-95 south. Susie and I timed our drivers’ exchanges to work perfectly, so that neither of us drove extensive stretches, and the Express lanes in Virginia worked perfectly. You pay extra to ride these, and it’s charged to your EzPass. They only run one direction, so you have to catch the correct schedule to be able to use them. When we got there yesterday morning, they were running south, and boy were we glad to pay extra, as the regular lanes were backed up for miles. Probably saved us close to an hour in travel time!

Billy and Lori’s house is a little crazy due to the duel girl birthday party, and in an effort to make it a little easier on us, he got us a room using points at Wake Forest’s Marriott Fairfield Inn, a couple of minutes away. We arrived at about 4:25, and we were supposed to use the digital key on the app to get in our room, but it wasn’t working on my app. He called the desk and got us a hard key, but when we went to the room, it didn’t work. I left Susie outside the door and returned to the front desk. The young man there was very apologetic and made me another which worked. Susie hit the bathroom, and I was about to do the same, when I heard another key open the door, and a couple start to enter the room! I stopped them, we compared notes and discovered that WE were in the wrong room!!! We’d turned to 134 rather than 133 across the hall, and somehow our key had worked. We quickly grabbed our stuff, apologized and went to the door across the hall. We didn’t expect the key to work, but it did, prompting me to wonder if the young man at the desk made us a MASTER KEY??? I wanted to try it on other doors, but thankfully, as she does most days in life with most of my questionable ideas, my wonderful wife of 41+ years deterred me from this questionable endeavor!

Birthday party number one for the girls was strictly a family affair at a great local Italian Restaurant that we’ve eaten at before with the kids, and because we are in the South, the temperature was perfect to eat outside on their covered patio. Lori’s Mom Kathy was there, as well as her sister Keri and husband Bill, and more kids that seemed right for the two couples! Turns out there was their 5 and a couple of friends without parents! Too much food was ordered, great fun was had with the family, and I made Annabelle laugh when the sun got low and I was using my hand to block it. Of course, since it was her second birthday, Grandpa had to keep doing that, even though the sun was no longer an issue. Nothing better than a 2 year old’s laugh; even better when she’s laughing at you!!

To be a part of this special day, and join his sisters, our wonderful 5 year old Grandson Henry lost his first tooth yesterday! When I saw Lori’s post about it on Facebook at a rest stop, I mused to Susie that the tooth that grows into this young guy’s mouth to replace the tooth he lost, will be with him till he’s an old man. I find that incredible when I look at this adorable 5 year old today! The miracles of life are all around us!

In order to give the parents a bit of time to prepare for a party that sounds like it will have about 50 kids, a Dunk Tank (for Daddy), and a Bounce House for entertainment, Grandma and Grandpa entertained Layla and Henry at the hotel, and Lori’s Mom Kathy was going to try and coral little Annabelle. Billy dropped our two charges off about 10, and a wonderful time was had by all! Grandma had the presence of mind to prepare before we left Ocean City, and had brought bags of chips and the cookie’s they most associate with us…Black and Whites. Grandma showed them how she likes to break the cookies at the point where the two icings go together, and before long, that was the only way Layla and Henry would eat theirs! I said to Susie, that they’d be showing their kids someday, and maybe their Grandkids, how their Grandma liked to eat these special cookies! Susie added yogurts and fruit from the hotel’s pantry, and experimented with making chocolate milk from regular milk and hot chocolate mix. It worked!! We played Mario Monopoly, colored on their tablets, watched Cartoons and Power Rangers on the TV, and at one point I was watching something on the TV with Henry and on her tablet with Layla! Good thing Susie says I can listen to two conversations at once, because I was able to comment to the two of them on what was happening on their respective shows! The two of them also made Grandpa download Fart Games and Whoopie cushion apps to his phone…Grandma was not pleased! All in all, a great time was had!

The party was as advertised! Young kids, young parents, a full size bounce house and an Annabelle sized one, the dunk tank, and a sand box for the real little ones. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries and chips…what else could a party need? How bout an Ice Cream Truck? Yep, about halfway through the party, a bright yellow Ice Cream Truck parked at the end of their driveway, and it was cones, or cups, or ices for all! There was nothing that Lori and Billy didn’t think of! They did a wonderful job!!

The party was a wonderful success and our weekend with our beloved North Carolina Family was incredible. It was great seeing Lori’s Mom and much more of her family, meeting a lot of Billy and Lori’s friends, and watching all the kids have the time of their lives! Susie and I are truly blessed to have Lori and Billy in our life, and as far as Grandma and Grandpa are concerned, there is nothing better than spending time with our 3 favorite little people in the world…Layla, Henry, and Annabelle!

Thanks Moderna for giving us our life back!

Miracle of Science – The Return of the Road Trip

Those of you who have been following this blog, already know that its origin was way back in 2016, and was to mark Our New Adventures, as I followed Susie into retirement, and we entered the next chapter of our lives. The first blog post in February of 2016 that was entitled Road Trip (https://rnewadventures.com/2016/02/), detailed the background of our first retired road trip, a trip to Florida. After we returned from that Florida trip, we started discussing the planning for what we called Our Big Adventure, which ultimately took 9 weeks of our life, during which we traveled a grand total of 9,773.0 miles! Every night of that trip (with a couple of exceptions due to internet issues), I detailed that day’s travels, what we saw, what we ate, and what we thought. In reality, road trips are at the very core of this blog!

Over the past five years, there’s been lots of blog posts about road trips. Every winter we have journeyed at some point to Florida and have written about traveling around the state, about our 3 wonderful stays in what we consider to be our Florida home, Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast, of trips to Disney World taking advantage of my Disney Retiree Discount, Spring Training Baseball games with our Mets, interesting places we’ve seen, and wonderful meals. This is post number 241 in this blog, and I’d have to say that being on the road has been one of our favorite blog subjects, and probably comprise a majority of our topics. But, alas, our last road trip ended very suddenly, in March of 2020 when we left Florida in a big hurry to get back to our Ocean City home, because of the Covid 19 Pandemic.

Since last March, there have been zero posts about road trips (unless you consider the blog post about Sunday Traditions that included details of our usual Sunday ride around our Ocean City environs a road trip post), but now, thanks to the miracle of our Moderna Covid 19 vaccine injections, there has already been one road trip in 2021. That took place a couple of weeks ago when we left the State of New Jersey for the first time since March 14, 2020 and joined I-95 again for the first time since last March, so we could visit our North Carolina family, hug our Grandkids and our son Bill and daughter-in-law Lori, and get back to normal! As I said at the end of that blog, Thank you Moderna!

TIME FOR A REAL ROAD TRIP

So this post is just an advisory of what’s in our immediate future. On Friday, April 16th, we will once again head down the Atlantic City Expressway towards I-95 Southbound. Our first destination later that day will once again be our son Bill’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. You see, our two Granddaughters happen to have both been born in April – albeit 5 years and 15 days apart! Our 7 year old Layla came into this world on April 2nd, 2013, and her sister Annabelle joined the family on April 17th, 2019. This Saturday, they are going to have a joint birthday party for our two Granddaughters, and we plan to be there! Layla’s birthday happened to coincide with Easter this year, but this will be the first real birthday we get to spend with Annabelle, and Susie and I are super excited about that!

THE BIRTHDAY GIRLS – 7 AND 2 YEARS EARLIER!

Okay, so that’s part one. On Sunday, April 18th, we once again head south on Interstate 95 with Sunday’s stop at a Hampton Inn in Richmond Hill, Georgia. No, we’re not stopping there because it’s called the same as a village in Queens. There is a much more important reason…there’s a Fuddruckers in a truck stop just down the road from the hotel! So, are we driving all the way to Georgia for a hamburger we haven’t gotten since the Fuddruckers on Long Island closed many years ago?

Nope, Monday morning we are up and again headed south on I-95, and will keep going till we get to the city of St. Petersburg, in the Sunshine State, Florida! Covid cheated us out of what has become our usual summer preview, by traveling to Florida in February and March, and now fully inoculated, we need to make a brief guest appearance there to keep our record up to snuff….that, and we want to see Our Boys, son Kenny and his husband Chris who now live in Downtown St. Petersburg! We want to see their new apartment IRL, we want to see where they live, and mostly we want to be able to hug these guys! It’s only a brief 3 days stay in St. Petersburg, but it’s a start!

On Thursday the 22nd, we will head back to where it all started for us in Indian Rocks Beach, the Holiday Inn! This is where we first stayed for a couple of days back in 2018, till we met our bartender friend Lindsey, and decided to stay longer. After 4 days at the Holiday Inn, we fell in love with the town, and we are looking forward to a brief (one night) stop with the boys to say hello to our Florida home! It’s not the month we stayed in IRB last year, but at least we again get to keep our streak going, with hope for 2022!

On Friday morning, we say goodbye to Kenny and Chris, and head back to I-95 and another favorite “trip to Florida” stop, Darien, Georgia! We’ll spend the night at the Hampton Inn in town for one reason and one reason only! So we can have dinner at B&J’s Steak and Seafood! The home of the best fried shrimp we’ve ever had. It’s a Friday, so we may have a long wait, but we missed our shrimp on the way home in 2020, and we want it now!

So that’s what we will be doing the next couple of weeks, and who knows..there may even be a trip to New York for Doctors’ appointments and to see our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Mike’s new condo in New Rochelle! Watch out world…Susie and I are free, and we have mileage to put on the Honda before the lease is up!!!

To be continued….Thank you Moderna!

Miracle of Science – Part Two

Back in the end of August, we saw our daughter Krissi and her husband Mike, when Mike’s sister Sara, her husband Gabe, and teenagers Maddy and Ethan rented a house in Ocean City for a week from our neighbor Neen. It was the first time we’d seen them since they surprised me and helped me celebrate my 70th birthday back in January. As we were in the height of the pandemic, Krissi and Mike didn’t stay with us, Mike’s parents Paula and Jerry stayed at a local Bed and Breakfast, we observed social distancing by visiting together in our garage and at the beach, and we exchanged the briefest of hugs. It was something, but it wasn’t what we really wanted.

Turn the clock ahead 7+ months, and now Krissi, who is an administrator at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, and Mike, who sells wine and spirits with MS Walker are both fully vaccinated. Add in the fact that Susie and I are fully vaccinated too, and it’s time for a real, old fashioned weekend with our favorite daughter and our son-in-law! Last Friday, Mike dropped Krissi off with us, while he worked some clients with one of his local salesmen Bryce, which was the beginning of a weekend they spent staying in our house! Old times were back again!

Our time together started with hugs and kisses all around, and then a good old fashioned weekend of visiting. Rather than heading here, there, and everywhere, Krissi decided on a laid back weekend, with home-cooked meals, and lots of time for visiting! She had a hankering for some grilled food, as living in their new condo in New Rochelle doesn’t give them a grilling outlet. Luckily, Susie and I had visited Costco just the day before, so Pork Chops and Pork Tenderloin Medallions were on our Mixed Grill menu. Krissi, Susie and I hit the local Acme to get the fixings for a big salad, while Mike headed off to work with Bryce, and because they looked wonderful, some grilled asparagus were added to the menu! The weather wasn’t wonderful, so I headed down to the grill, while Susie, Krissi and Mike stayed upstairs. After all was done and said, it was a great meal, accompanied by some great wine that Mike had brought for us! Earlier in the day, Krissi also joined Susie and I in our daily exercise routine, and a new chandelier was also put up over our dining room table, by Susie, Krissi, and me, but we don’t need to talk any more about that.

Saturday was a hanging out day around the house, watching some TV and being lazy! Poor Mike was subjected to our Wedding Album when the topic of weddings came up. Then Krissi and Mike proceeded to cook us a wonderful dinner. It was a Turkey Taco Salad, with lots of wonderful vegetables. There was lots of chopping to be done, and the two of them were a perfect team! It was a great meal, and during it we watched one of their favorites on TV – The Masked Singer.

We carefully checked the weather, and although not perfect, Saturday night looked like the best chance of the weekend for some time Fire Pit time, so that’s what we did!

Sunday morning was, of course, Bagel Sunday, so orders in hand, I headed off to see my friends at Hot Bagels and More in Somers Point! As usual they were yummy!!

Again, Sunday was not a great weather day, but we were able to get out a bit with the kids and hit BF Mazzeos and Tilton Market, to both get some things for us, and for Krissi and Mike to bring home. Then it was time for Sunday Stir Stir Vodka (for Susie and I) and Gin (for Krissi and Mike). We decided that Sunday night dinner would be a hors d’oeuvres buffet of sorts, so I was called upon to make my Dad’s Stuffed Mushrooms. It was accompanied by Shrimp Cocktail from Costco, Eggplant Meatballs from BF Mazzeos, Buffalo Chicken Sausage from Bagliani’s (along with Blue Cheese Dressing from Charlies), and a charcuterie platter with delicacies from Bagliani’s and Passion Vines!

Susie and I relaxed while the kids took a walk around the neighborhood. That night we played a rousing game of “That’s What She Said,” and laughed a lot! After a good night’s sleep, about 10:30 on Monday morning Krissi and Mike headed back to their new condo in New Rochelle, where we will turn the tables and be their guests in two weeks!

It was a great weekend with our middle child (by 2 minutes) and her husband, and just another clue that our lives are returning! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again – we may even have a road trip in our future!! Thanks again Moderna!

Miracle of Science – Part One

Last Saturday, April 3rd at about 8:15 AM, Susie and I pulled the Honda CRV out of our garage and headed towards the Ninth Street bridge. Just about an hour later, at 9:12 we crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge, entered the city of Philadelphia and our neighbor state of Pennsylvania. For the FIRST time since we returned from Florida on March 14, 2020, we had left the state of New Jersey! 4 states, and about 7 hours later, we pulled up in front of our son and daughter-in-law’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Grandma and Grandpa were ready to spend Easter weekend with our three precious Grandkids and their Mom and Dad!

Last year, on January 30th, 2020, on our way to Florida, for what we thought was going to be a two month stay, we stopped overnight to see Billy and his family. The next morning, when we left, headed south on I-95, we expected that we’d see them again in a couple of months later on our way home from Florida. Little did we know that on January 31st, 2020, we would see Lori, Bill and Layla, Henry and Annabelle for the last time till last Saturday afternoon. At that point we knew nothing about something called Covid-19, or what America and our family would look like during a pandemic, or that we’d lose an entire year out of our Grandchildren’s lives!

Our son’s family had been at Busch Gardens for several days, and they arrived home about an half hour after we got there. It took zero time after hugs and hello kisses for the kids to put us in Grandparent mode…and we loved it after a year away! It took Annabelle a bit to warm up, but before too long she was calling us Grandma and Grandpa, and we were so happy to once again be back in our three Grandchildren’s lives! Billy and Lori went out to shop for Easter brunch, and Grandma and Grandpa had Chinese food with the kids and then settled in for a night of playing games!. From Henry and Grandpa playing with his Nintendo Switch, and Grandma and Annabelle playing with Stickers, and Grandma and Grandpa as a willing audience for Layla’s performing, up to and including watching some show called the Haunted Hendersons, we had a great night!! When Lori and Billy came home, they thanked us for watching the kids. We thanked them for giving us several uninterrupted hours with our 3 favorite people 7 and under!

Easter morning was wonderful as we watched them hunt for Easter Eggs and try and find where the Easter Bunny had hidden their Easter baskets. Then we were almost as excited as they were as they discovered what surprises were in the eggs they found, and dove into their Easter baskets!


Then it was time to check out Easter presents from Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa, before it was time to shower and get dressed before the rest of the family arrived!

The rest of the family included Lori’s Mom Kathy, her sister Keri and husband Bill, along with their two kids Molly and Max, and Lori’s brother Sean and his girlfriend Lauren. Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and we were all thankful that everybody in the house (but the kids) had had both vaccine shots! It was wonderful to once again be with family. To eat (oh what a spread Lori and Bill put out), drink, and as they say, be merry! The kids played, the adults played, and a good time was had by all!

We slept very well that night after a day spent with young kids. They were all wonderful and we were so glad to be back on track after a year of FaceTime calls! The next morning, after breakfast and getting dressed, we were off to see Bill and Lori’s new Lake House! The cars were packed, Layla and Henry rode with Grandma and Grandpa, and we departed Wake Forest for the hour and a half trip to Roanoke Rapids lake!

To say we were thrilled by where Lori and Billy’s life has taken them would be an understatement! What a wonderful life they have created for themselves, and their 3 incredible kids, and what remarkable memories they are going to create with this great Lake House! They’ve done, and had done, a lot of work already, but the vision is very clear and we loved it! It’s a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath house, but Lori came upon with this great idea to convert the upstairs bedroom to a bunk room, which is able to sleep 10 people in comfort! A great idea and we loved the execution of Lori’s idea by their handyman Oscar!

We totally enjoyed the rest of Monday, on the large deck overlooking the lake, on the pontoon boat on the lake, and around the fire pit that night! It was a magical time, in a magical place, with 5 people that we love so much!

Tuesday morning, after some more Grandparent/Grandkid time, it was time for Susie and I to head back to Ocean City. The traffic wasn’t the greatest around Washington, DC, but what’s new about that? We safely got home, with nothing but wonderful memories of Easter, 2021! Thanks to the Miracle of Science, and the Modern vaccine that Susie and I got back in February, we were once again able to enjoy hugs and kisses from our family, and to put memories of 2020 in the background, as we move ahead to make many more new memories in 2021 of Family Time!! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again!! Thanks Moderna!