Memorial Day 2017

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This whole weekend carries many memories for me, as it was always one that seemed to make the D’Elias a typical American Family. In the early days of being a family, the weekend always started with a great fireworks display on the beach Friday night at Bar Harbor, on the Long Island Sound side of the Town of North Hempstead. We attended this event for many many years, and over the years, our group of friends changed and grew. It started out being folks from ABC, then church friends were added, eventually the kids’ school friends’ families, and then neighbors and our Boy Scout friends joined. Whatever the make up of the group, it always was centered around sitting in a beach chair, surrounded by our kids and friends, watching a wonderful Gucci fireworks show. What could be more American than a local fireworks display on the beach to start your Memorial Day Weekend?

Then, Saturday morning, bright and early, it was time to pile everybody in the van and hit the highway. To be specific, to head to the Garden State Parkway, and even then, our spiritual home, Ocean City. We’d stay in a motel, we’d walk the boardwalk, we’d eat pizza and french fries, we’d play ski ball and mini golf, and join with hundreds of our Shoobies in the traditional first week of the summer season in whatever year it happened to be. That was our usual Saturday and Sunday routine, and then Sunday night. we’d pile into the van again, and start the northbound trek up the Garden State Parkway home to Long Island.

While Memorial Day’s date would change year to year, one special event that was also usually centered around this weekend was Susie’s May 28th birthday. Some years it happened before the actual weekend, and some years after, but the many years that it landed on the weekend, it was a huge part of the D’Elia Family’s Memorial Day weekend. Some years it was celebrated with a candle in a Hostess Cupcake in a motel room, some years there was a fireworks display on her birthday to mark the special day, and some years, the Village of Mineola even threw a huge parade to celebrate…Susie never knew exactly what form that year’s celebration would take!

IMG_2534As much as we love the traditions that have become such a huge part of our family’s life, as time goes on, things change. Eventually the fireworks display on Friday night at Bar Harbor ended, and we no longer had that anchor for our weekend. The kids got older, and they had their own life, and were no longer interested in Dad’s version of the typical American Memorial Day Weekend. For the past 13 Memorial Days, we’ve owned our house in Ocean City, and so that has led us to create new traditions. For many of those 13 years, we have had the kids join us at the house, we’d spend the weekend on the beach, on our front porch (when the weather has been better than it’s been this weekend), surrounded by our family and their friends, and our Ocean City friends who have become more like family than friends. We’ve celebrated Susie’s special day with the kids, at the Ocean City Yacht Club, at a surprise party at a friend’s house, or just sitting around having friends drop in to have a drink, and share her special day with her. If you ask me, great new traditions that will last forever!

But if you remember earlier, I said we’d pile into the van on Sunday night and head home, and that’s because of the longest standing tradition in the D’Elia Family’s life. This was one tradition that transcended the many changes in our lives, that took different forms in some years, and was enjoyed by different people, but was a constant part of this weekend for us for close to 30 years, The Mineola, New York Memorial Day Parade.

IMG_2519From Billy’s first year in Cub Scout Pack 246, through the years when younger brother Kenny joined him, the years when Billy transitioned to Boy Scout Troop 45, to the years when Kenny and Dad joined Billy in Troop 45, to the years when Billy went off to college, and even long after Kenny stopped being a Boy Scout, marching in the parade was a constant part of this weekend. Some years my Mom would drive in from Bayside, and she, Susie, and Krissi would stand on the side of the road and cheer us on. Some years Susie’s Dad would join us in the parade, and we’d end up after the parade at a party at her Dad’s VFW Post in Albertson. Some years we’d sit on a neighbors porch and reflect on the day and the parade, and for many years, the day would end at our good friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf’s house, as Scoutmaster Steve would throw a huge post parade party for the Troop 45 Family!

For most of the last 13 Memorial Days, no matter what has been going on at the Ocean City house, and no matter who was with us for the weekend, and no matter how late Sunday night went, our routine has been to set the alarm for 5 AM on Monday morning, quietly get up and get dressed, sometimes climb over sleeping people, get out of the house and into the car, and head for an empty Garden State Parkway and the Village of Mineola, arriving in plenty of time to change clothes, and get over to the start of the parade. We might have been somewhat sleepy, but remembering those who had given their lives for our freedom, and reminding the boys of Troop 45 why we were doing what we were doing, had become a very important part of our Memorial Day Weekend.

Because both Susie and I were retired last year, and there was no reason for me to be in NYC on Tuesday morning, we made the hard decision to change our routine and not head back for the parade. Mother Nature must have felt bad for us, because she opened the heavens in Mineola, and the parade was canceled because of torrential rains, so we didn’t miss a parade. As I write this on Memorial Day, 2017, I’m sitting at the table in our Ocean City house, reading a weather forecast for heavy rain the Mineola, and wondering if the parade will happen, or if it will have to be replaced with a smaller indoor ceremony to commemorate the day. Either way, we won’t be there, ending yet another tradition in our life.

IMG_2520But no matter where we are, and no matter what we are doing today, on Memorial Day Monday, my heart will always be walking the streets of Mineola, following a large group of young men, holding many American flags, being proceeded and followed by many other organizations, seeing friends and neighbors on the side of the road cheering on the marchers, and remembering the sacrifices that so many made so that we can have the lives we now enjoy. I’ll remember our long standing Memorial Day Weekend traditions, and always be thankful that it was because of the sacrifices of others, I am blessed with these wonderful memories, our wonderful family and friends, and the ability to live the life we now live. Our family was lucky that all those from our circle that served, returned home safe and sound, but for the thousands of families who were not as fortunate, today has even more meaning. Please remember them today, and their heroes who may have died at Pearl Harbor, or a trench in the First World War, or over the South Pacific or wherever they were standing up for what they believed.

Memorial Day is truly about memories!

Big Changes On The Horizon

In my last post Holiday Road, I alluded to some of the big changes happening in our family’s life, but Susie and I just wanted to spell out the big change that we will soon experience, so everyone understands.

img_2279After a lifetime of wishing for it, on January 28th, 2005 we were able to live out our dream and buy our beach house in Ocean City, NJ. Just 500 feet from the beach, with an incredible summer front porch, we knew at the time it was the perfect beach house…what we didn’t know, however, was that we had landed in the perfect spot, on the perfect street, and were surrounded by great people who would soon become friends, and ultimately become our family! The plan in the beginning was that we’d use it and rent out this house for a couple of years, then flip it to something else, and continue on that progression till we had the ultimate house! Well, within the first couple of years, the bottom dropped out of the housing bubble, and houses in OC stopped appreciating at 20% a year, and from a financial point of view, that plan would no longer work. From an emotional point of view, that plan would also not work, because Susie and I are convinced that fate landed us exactly where we were meant to spend the rest of our life, so the plan changed.

Although we hated doing it, we continued to rent out the house for a portion of the summer, but spent as much time possible the rest of the year on Pennlyn Place. Over the years, our summertime spent in Ocean City grew, we looked forward to the day we would no longer rent the house out, and it would become ours, and ours alone. Since we happen to live on a great street with lots of full time residents, eventually we hatched a plan that the house on Pennlyn Place would become our full-time home, once we both retired. Well we are both retired, our time is our own, and last summer was the last time we will rent out our house in Ocean City!

img_2278That brings us to the second half of the D’Elia Housing Equation…the house in Mineola! Susie, Billy, and I moved into this house in August of 1986. At that time, Susie was pregnant with Krissi and Kenny, and Billy was a 3 year old. The Mineola house was built in 1928, and over the years we have discovered evidence of it’s original DC electric wiring, of the original coal fired boiler that kept it warm, and of a history of close to 90 years of one resident after another patching things together. We’ve replaced roofs, windows, furnaces, porches, fences, flooring, appliances, radiators, central air conditioning, a bathroom, and too many other things over the years to even enumerate. Frankly, every time we turn around, something is breaking or signaling it’s eminent doom to us. The house is old and it shows it, and since our life here is nothing like our life in Ocean City, this is really not where our hearts are.

img_2276Now we factor in the third part of the equation, the financial aspects of our retirement. Between Susie and my pensions, and our Social Security, and our 401Ks, we have the well being to live a nice life in retirement. What we don’t have is the ability to pay for two houses on our retirement income, without going to the bank too many times in the process. Susie added up everything it costs for us to keep the Mineola house, and the number was right around $40,000 a year, and that doesn’t factor in having to fix things.

I’m sure you see where this is going, and it’s as evident to you as it was to us, that making Ocean City our only house was both emotionally and financially the smart thing to do. But, that means cleaning out a house that we have lived in for almost 31 years. A house full of not only our “stuff”, but the “stuff” of raising 3 children. That was indeed a daunting task, but once we got into it, it’s amazing how easy it is to divorce yourself from items you thought were important, when you realize what’s really important! Susie has always loved the OC house, because unlike Mineola it’s not cluttered and full of “stuff”. We realize that we want to keep it that way, so our mission has been to eliminate and to transport only the most important things to the shore. For months we have been replacing “just good enough” things at the shore, with “the good stuff” we’ve had at home, and that’s great. Having two houses for 12 years, we have had duplicates of lots of things, so now it’s our time to save only the best. It’s also time to get rid of things that you may have had for years, but when you ask yourself, “will I miss this?”, the answer is “no!” (I mean, how often have I ever looked at my high school year books?). So the process goes on, and we are really getting to the point where we see the end in sight. Kenny went a long way in making his decisions when he was packing last week for his move to California, and Billy came over Monday and spent 3 hours going through his “history”. Amazing how unimportant those things seem now, that seemed so important when there was a convenient place to stash them….in Mom and Dad’s attic!

So we hope that before summer hits, we will be at a place where we can put this house up for sale. It’s old, and frankly needs things done to it, and since the mode on our street the last couple of years has been to knock down old houses and build new, we think we will probably investigate that direction. Our friend has names of multiple builders that do that kind of thing in Mineola, and if we can get the number we have in our head for the house, not having to deal with a real estate agent, and a buyer who needs this and that fixed, sounds like a good thing. Of course, first we have to empty the house out!

It’s kind of a sad thing to leave a house you’ve lived in for 30+ years, and frankly a state Susie and I have lived in all our lives, but it’s not the end of us and Long Island. While Kenny will be in LA, and Billy and his family will be in North Carolina, Krissi will still be in Astoria and Susie’s Mom will still be in a nursing home in Great Neck, not to mention her sister and brother who will still be Long Islanders. And let’s face it, could we survive without Nail Night every 2 weeks, and our visits to the St. James? Or how about a burger or Rough Rider Wrap at TR’s in Williston Park, or Chicken Zingarella at our favorite, Piccolos. No, we are not done with Long Island, but without the Mineola housing costs, we have lots of freedom to come and go as we choose. Hell, even if we came back every 2 weeks for a whole year, and paid to stay at the Homewood Suites on Westbury Avenue, it would only cost us about $7000 a year! That’s $33,000 less that keeping a house we really don’t want to call home anymore!

Over the next couple of months, the garbage piles in front of 40 Fairfield Avenue will be big every trash day, and there will be lots of trips with loaded cars down to OC as we enter the home stretch of our Big Change. There will be decisions to make, and items to be packed, and somewhere along the way, even New Jersey license plates to get for the cars. Change is never easy, even if it’s a good change!

On The Road Again

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Well, we are on the road again!! No, not in any shape or form like the way we were a couple of weeks ago, but none the less, we were on the road again today..on our way to Ocean City! We left Ocean City on Saturday, August 6th, and haven’t been back since! It’s the longest time we’ve been away from Ocean City since we bought the house in 2005, and as you can imagine, we were very desirous to get back, but first there were things to do!

As you recall, we got home last Saturday, after being on the road for 9 weeks. As you can imagine, there were lots of tasks that had to be done before we could get back to Ocean City, and that’s what we did the last week.

First, there was laundry! Although she did do laundry on the road a couple of times, nothing had been done since the day we got on the Liberty of the Seas! Susie had 5 loads, which she originally figured would run into the early part of the week. Surprise, surprise…she got it ALL done by cocktail hour on Sunday! Job #1 out of the way!

img_6681Then there were food desires. Twice on the trip, we’d had Chinese..once at PF Changs in El Paso with our friends Mike and Nancy, and a second time in Moab, Utah, at a converted Mexican Restaurant. We were due, so after getting home Saturday, it was Chinese take-out for dinner, along with a bottle of Prosecco! We’d had a lot of pizza on the trip, but not New York Pizza. So Sunday it was time for a Meatball and Mushroom Pizza, Fried Zucchini Sticks, and an Encaldo Salad from Mineola Pizza! Food desires quenched!

Monday it was off to the cleaners. Most of this stuff was summer clothes which we wore on the cruise, but they needed to be cleaned before being put away, so off we went with arm loads! $86 later, and we were ready for the summer of 2017!

Monday, we also stopped by the Mineola Post Office and picked up our mail, that they’d held for us for 9 weeks. They had it very organized in a mail bin, which we dumped into two reusable grocery bags. In addition to bills that I’d already paid, there were a lot of magazines, regular mail, and more election flyers than you’d believe! To be honest, piles were made on Monday, but it took me most of the week to go through it all, pay the bills, and file the rest! This also necessitated that we do some banking too! A couple of trips to various banks, and we were up to date! Every bill was paid on the road, except the landscapers. Although we thought we’d arranged to have them email us the bills, we found two when we got home. Paid that bill, and we were current!

Oh, and did I mention that when I flushed the downstairs toilet the day we got home, water rushed out of the bottom of the tank? Thanks to Susie’s brother Don, it got fixed in a couple of days! Turned out we lucked out and it was the gasket between the tank and the bowl, and thanks to Donnie, it was $8 in parts from Home Depot, rather than a $300+ bill from the plumber! It’s always handy to have a handy brother-in-law! Thanks Donnie!!!

img_6684Then there was the Sonata. She’d faithfully carried us 9,773 miles without a stumble or a whimper, and she deserved to be taken care of. We’d changed the oil in Las Vegas at Terribles about 5,000 miles ago, but she deserved a visit back to see Mike and Mike at C&S Automotive, and a little pampering! Turned out that all she needed was an oil change, and off we went! Oh, and after 9 weeks, she needed a car wash too. I mean a real car wash, not the kind I’d given her on the road! Of course, after I had that done, it rained!

Then there were two visits to Best Nails! On Tuesday, Susie and I went to have pedicures. Yes, I go with Susie and we get pedicures together! It’s nice to be taken care of, and frankly with my knees, it gets hard to bend over and clip my toenails. No nail polish for me, but everything else! Of course, after a visit to Best Nails, we had to go next door to the St. James, and have a drink with our favorite Mineola Bartender, Dennis. A couple of martinis, and a lot of talk, and we were caught up with the last 9 weeks! On Wednesday, we resumed Nail Night, as Krissi took the Long Island Rail Road to Mineola, and Susie had her first manicure in over 9 weeks! Of course, Nail Night also includes a visit to St. James, and this time we were joined by Krissi’s boyfriend Mike! We all had a great time meeting Mike, (he seems like a really nice guy, and makes Krissi happy!!) and it was good to see Mo and our other St. James friends after being away! That would be just the first of many times we’d see Krissi and Mike that week! Oh, and Wednesday morning, Susie also had her first visit to Laura her hairdresser since we’d left. Unlike her manicure, which she handled herself when we were away, Nancy had taken Susie to her hairdresser in El Paso, but it was good to be back to her regular shop!

Thursday afternoon, Susie and her brother Don visited her Mom. Her Mom is 91 years old, has dementia, and has been deteriorating this past year. She’s in a nursing home near North Shore Hospital, and each time they see her, she is a little worse. On Thursday she thought Donnie was me, and although she knew that Susie was her daughter, she had no idea of what her name was. The saddest thing was that she no longer remembers her husband Bob. Susie showed her pictures, mentioned his name, but she had no idea who that was. She’s ready to leave this life, and the truth is, that what she’s going through is really not living. It’s really sad that we are more compassionate with our pets, than with our loved ones.

So after they got home, it was time to return to TR’s in Williston Park for the first time in months! A nice cold beer, a couple of Rough Rider Wraps, and some good talk with friends from our old church made for a great night! We took Donnie to dinner in thanks for fixing our toilet and saving us a lot of money. A good night that I think both Susie and Donnie needed, after spending time with their Mom!

Then it was time for the celebratory time of the week, as our little Grandson Henry celebrated his first birthday! Krissi and Mike took the train to Mineola, and the 4 of us traveled out to Deer Park on Friday for Henry’s actual birthday. Just Billy and Lori, Lori’s Mom Kathy, and Henry’s big sister Layla, and we enjoyed spending some time with our oldest and his family! We’d see Krissi and Mike again on Sunday when we again were at Lori and Billy’s for Henry’s official Birthday Party. Another fun time, celebrating this little bundle of joys first year in this world, with our family and their friends! It was great seeing friends that Billy has had since kindergarten and others that showed up in college! The weather was great, and we had a great barbecue outside, with temperatures in the 70s, and the rain held off till the party was done! A great family weekend all around!

Henry wearing his coonskin cap from the Alamo and enjoying his birthday cake!

Between Henry’s Birthday Weekend, we had a nice quiet night on Saturday with our good friends Pat and Steve. Some vodka, a wonderful home cooked meal by Pat, and the debut of the Sue and Frank D’Elia Our Big Adventure slide show!! A nice relaxing night with good friends!

So that takes us to this morning, Monday, October 31, 2016. We picked up the cleaning we’d dropped off last week, and at 11 AM we were back on the road to Ocean City. A great trip down the Garden State, a stop at Acme on 9th Street for some shopping, and we were home. As I mentioned, it’s been 3 months since we’ve been at the house, and since it was rented for 6 weeks after we left, almost nothing is where it belongs! Today we did the minimum we had to do to get us back into the house, and we’re about to make dinner, and have a martini or two! Tomorrow we will push it, and get the house back in shape, and hopefully Wednesday will be warm enough so that we can take the porch furniture down and power wash it before putting it away! It’s great to be home, and even better to know that when we put the house back together, this will be the last time! That’s because the Summer of 2016 was the last time we will rent this house, so all the stuff that we use when we rent can go, and only our possessions will stay. It will truly be our home, and with any luck, it will be where we officially live by this time next year! A lot of work getting rid of stuff from the Mineola house, but we hope to do a lot of that over the winter.

So that’s what we’ve been up to this week, as we have passed the time between getting home from the road, and heading out again. Ocean City is only 150 miles away from Long Island, so it was a short trip, but when we are at the shore, it’s like we are a million miles away! We’ve already seen our neighbor Doc, met the new dog, Surfer Boy, and are starting to settle in! Time to go, mix the martinis, and help Susie with dinner. I could get use to this!!!

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And finally, thanks to all the friends who traveled along with us via our blog.  So many have said nice things about the blog, and how much they enjoyed traveling with us.  It’s great to know that others were reading along with us, and that I was not just doing this for Susie and me, so we’d remember what we did.  I appreciated all the nice things you said about my writing, and I promise you all that I will continue to write, and I hope you will be with me then too!  We loved having you all along, and hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did, because it was wonderful!

See you soon!

Knowing and Using Your Resources

As the calendar pages turn from July to August, our days in Ocean City get down to a handful, and the start of our “Big Adventure” is just weeks away! Once we get back to Long Island next weekend, we’ll have a couple of weeks to get clothes together, schedule the car to be checked out, take care of visits to the Doctor and Dentist, take care of nail and hair appointments, and see our kids before we leave. Then on Sunday, August 21st, with the car loaded, off we will go. A combination of sadness (that we are leaving the life we love in Ocean City), excitement (that this trip we have so long dreamed about and planned is really here), and trepidation (are we nuts to embark on 2-3 months of driving around the United States????) is our current state of mind, but we know that once we get on the road, we’ll have a great time!

Recently, a friend who has been following along with this blog asked a question about where to get information. He too wants to embark on a retirement trip, but he just didn’t really know where to start. It started us thinking about what our process has been, and thought some might find it interesting to take a look at some of the tools we have used along the way. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but just some ideas we have used to get a handle on some of the places we want to visit and how to get there.

image1 – The AAA. As long time members of the American Automobile Club, we have always used AAA Maps and Tour Books as our road trip bibles. If you are of a certain age, you will understand what we mean when we say there is just something about watching your progress on a paper map that seems to define a road trip. Luckily, some of the best paper maps you can get, are published by the AAA, and are a perk of your membership. In addition to the maps, the tour books have a wealth of knowledge about tourist destinations as well as hotel and restaurants listings in the area. If you are an AAA member, you can order maps, tour books and even triptiks (route directions) online. You can also just stop into a local AAA office (doesn’t have to be the state AAA you are affiliated with) and pick up maps, tour books, and even triptiks. Having a paper map in front of you so that you can check the location and relationships between places you want to visit is a must when planning a trip, and the tour books will give you valuable information about the places on your trip and be very helpful in deciding what you want to visit. If you are a member, stop in and pick up a couple of maps and tour books and start planning. If you are not a member, consider joining, as the price of your membership will be well worth it for the information you can get. (aaa.com….yearly membership $52)

image2 – Atlas – Because many people would not consider a road trip without a comprehensive road atlas, we purchased a Rand McNally Road Atlas. This one volume contains maps of all 50 states and lower Canada and assures us that we will always have a map showing our location, wherever we are in the US. The scale is smaller than the AAA maps which sometimes makes it hard to figure out exactly what you’re looking at, but sometimes makes it easier to see the relationship between two destinations. While we’ve used this volume a lot in our planning, for our actual trip we think it will take a back up roll to the bigger scale AAA maps.

image3 – Books – One of the things that you need to do when you are planning a road trip, is to decide what you want to see. If you have a “bucket list” of places that you want to include (like Frank wants to see Mt. Rushmore and Sue Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon), it will make your planning easier, as you already will have destinations in mind. If your “bucket list” is empty, or if you need more information about places, there are thousands of travel books you can purchase via Amazon or at a book store like Barnes and Noble that will help you flesh out an itinerary. Two that we have used are, “1,000 Places to See in the US and Canada Before You Die” (Workman Publishing, NY) and The New Roadside America (a Fireside Book published by Simon and Schuster, NY). The first covers everything from National Parks, historic sites, scenic byways, and the like, while the second will lead you to the odd things…like the biggest thermometer, ball of twine and those kind of offbeat attractions.

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4 – Google and the Internet – We live in the age of information at our fingertips, and much of the info you’ll want to plan your trip is available via your computer, tablet, or even smart phone. Google will lead you to just about anything you have a question about, and virtually everything has a website these days. Want more info on the Grand Canyon? Type it into Google and go right to the Grand Canyon National Park’s website. While it’s nice to have books in hand, the reality is that you can find everything you need on the internet.
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5 – Trip Advisor – While we are talking about web sites, we’d like to single out one that has provided us with lots of information and advice. Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) is virtually a one stop destination for travel information. From hotel, restaurant, and attraction reviews, to information about the area, even to listings of hotel and apartment rentals, Trip Advisor is a great source for travel information. Just put in the area you are interested in visiting, and Trip Advisor will provide you a complete overview. In addition, hit the MORE button on the top of the page, highlight TRAVEL FORUM and it will open up the Travel Board where you can ask questions and get real advice from fellow travelers! From Cities and States, to National Parks and Historic Sites, to every kind of trip (like Road Trips), you can find a forum that covers exactly what you are looking for, populated with knowledgeable travelers looking to help their fellow travelers. A great resource.

image6 – Google Maps – Looking at places on a map gives you an idea of where they are and the relationship of places to each other, but how do you know how long it will take you to get from say Chicago to the Black Hills? This was the position we were in when planning some sections of our trip, and we found an easy way to get a ball park estimate was to use Google Maps. Enter your starting point and your destination, ask for directions, and it will tell you not only the mileage but give you an idea of the driving time. Now, we know that it’s not fool proof, but we think it’s a good way to get an estimate so that you can make some decisions based on facts.

7 – Hotel Apps – If you have a smart phone or a tablet you can travel with, hotel apps are a great way to see what’s available and even to make reservations. At the present time, I have apps from Best Western, Hilton Honors, and Choice Hotels on my phone, but there are many others. If you’re going to be traveling a lot, not only do these apps help you find lodging, but by joining their programs, you may even get free stays!

image6- GPS – While we like printed maps, we always travel with a Garmin GPS on our dash. It’s very handy when you are trying to find a hotel or site that you have an address for, and good to give you an idea exactly where you are. In addition, ours tells us what the local speed limit is, how fast we’re going, and also keeps us updated on traffic. We don’t depend on it totally, as we always try to have maps as a reference, and I’ve read on the internet that using a GPS in the American Southwest is iffy at best, as they are notoriously inaccurate there for some reason, but it’s a good tool to have in your tool box.

So there it is…some ideas from us, and how to go about planning and executing your trip of a lifetime…or perhaps just a trip down to Florida in the winter to avoid the January and February freeze! Probably the next time you hear from us, we will be on the road, but now we have to continue packing up the Ocean City house, and get ready for 2 weeks of trip preparation!

Summers at the Beach

imageIn 1955, when I was 5 years old, we first came to a Jersey Shore town I have come to think of as my home away from home, Ocean City, NJ. Growing up and still living on Long Island, over the past 61 years I have been asked time and time again, “You live on Long Island, and you go to a Jersey Shore beach?”. Well, the story is simple. In 1955, both my Mom and Dad were singers in New York’s Metropolitan Opera’s Chorus. In those days, the Met’s season was very short…something like 40 weeks including rehearsals and the spring tour. The rest of the year, they got by courtesy of New York State Unemployment Benefits. So, with all this time off in the summer, and having a 5 year old child, it was the Summer of 1955 that they took the advice of people they worked with in the Met Chorus, and the D’Elia Family journeyed to Ocean City.

Walter and Kathy were another married couple in the Met, and my Mom and Kathy had been friends in Chicago. Walter, on the other hand, was a Philly boy, and his family had a summer cottage on Asbury Avenue and 32 Street in Ocean City. They arranged for us to rent a room next door in Dorothy’s “boarding house”, and for the next 5 summers, Ocean City, NJ was our address! I grew up on the beach and boardwalk of Ocean City, forever forming in my mind the image of a beach town in Ocean City’s likeness.

The story of our connection to Ocean City picks up in the spring of 1980, shortly after Susie and I were married. After those first 5 years, my Mom and Dad started working more during the summer, and our trips to Ocean City were few and far between. After being away for years, in 1980, Susie and I came down to sample the new gambling Mecca, Atlantic City, and our trip included a wonderful trip down memory lane for me in Ocean City, wandering through town and on the boardwalk, and that was the beginning of an ongoing relationship between Ocean City and our family.

Every summer, since 33 year old Bill’s first in 1983, the D’Elia Family has spent part of every summer in Ocean City! When his younger sister and brother, Krissi and Kenny came along in 1986, we continued our tradition of having babies on the beach and boardwalk of this great town. Some years we were able to rent a house for a week or two, some years it was a couple of day’s stay in a motel, and other years we camped in our Pop-Up trailer just off the island on Route 9, and made day and night trips to our beach town. Then, 11 years ago, in January of 2005, something changed for us. Thanks to a fortuitous real estate deal in Las Vegas, Susie and I found ourselves in a position to live out our dream, and we did! For the past 11 years, we have been proud owners of our dream home, on Pennlyn Place in Ocean City, NJ. Since then, weekends, spring weeks, summer weeks, holiday vacations, and whatever time we could steal have been spent here.

Then something else changed for us on January 29th, 2016…I retired and joined Susie, who had already left the work world, and now our time was ours, and less others. Now, what would you do if you owned a beach house? Yep, spend as much time there as you could!! So the past 4 months have found us traveling as much time as possible to Ocean City. Our trip down to Florida in late February did take some time away, and unfortunately the rather cold spring we’ve suffered through, and some ongoing health issues with Susie’s Mom has prevented us from having the kind of first spring in Ocean City I dreamed about, but all in all, it has been great! We no longer have to travel back and forth on the weekend, the beach is still only 500 feet down the street, so we go whenever we want, our great neighbors and friends are still steps away, and our life is settling into the routine we’ve dreamed about for years. It’s mid June, our daily dress is shorts, T-shirts, and flip flops, and we’re already tan…what could be better!!

One of the best parts of having a place that you love is being able to share it with people you love, and this past weekend was a banner example of that! Early Saturday morning, our oldest son Bill, his wife Lori and our two beautiful grandkids Layla and Henry joined us at the shore. They brought with them our favorite daughter, Layla and Henry’s Aunt Krissi, and the family was almost complete!! (Just missing youngest son Kenny, who is presently performing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean…not a bad deal!) It was a great weekend!

We could get very use to having these little shoes in our house!

We could get very used to having these little shoes in our house!

Layla is a little over 2 years old and such a beautiful little person. Henry is just shy of 8 months and starting to crawl. What a wonderful continuation of family tradition to see these two beautiful children in a place that I still so remember their Dad in at their ages. After the excitement of Layla exploring the house, finding her room, and helping Daddy unload the car, it was time to get changed and get to the beach. First there was a trip down to the water, and although it was cold, Layla would have stood there all day. Each time the ripple of water would wash over her feet, she laughed and splashed and loved it. Then it was sand castle time. She and Daddy dug a big hole, Dad went and got the obligatory pails of water, and Layla had a great time dumping them into the hole. Then all thoughts of sand castles disappeared and Layla discovered it was more fun to stand in the hole and have Daddy bury her legs in the sand. Meanwhile, Henry was busy keeping Aunt Krissi, Mommy and Grandma on guard, as his real desire seemed to be to get down on his knees and crawl all over Pennlyn Place Beach! And what was I doing you may ask? Taking pictures, watching the unfolding family tableau, and smiling ear to ear!

By afternoon, it was time to get the kids back to the house and prepare everyone for a trip to the boardwalk. On Layla’s agenda was some french fries (perhaps this little girl’s favorite food), and rides! Sounded like a solid plan to me, so as soon as the 7 of us were changed, off we went! One of the great parts of the location of our house, is that we just need to walk down the block, get on the boardwalk, turn right and walk 6 blocks south, and we’re at the commercial part of the Ocean City Boardwalk! As we walked by Wonderland Pier, Goofy Golf, Johnson’s Pop Corn, and the Old Time Photo place, my son Bill’s plan became clear. “How ‘bout we head down to Hamburger Construction Company and then go next door to Playland?” Playland is one of the two large amusement park areas on our boardwalk and Hamburger Construction Company has been a favorite meal stop for the D’Elias since Bill was Layla’s age!

Memories!

Memories!

The kids have a great stroller that both Henry and Layla can ride in, and that made the mile or so trip down the boardwalk easier, as it would have taken a toll on those little legs of our Granddaughter…lord knows it was taking enough of a toll on her Grandparents’ legs, but we did survive and landed at Hamburger Construction Company! As we sat down, stretching across 2 booths in the back, suddenly I was back in the early 90s, and was sitting there with my kids and not my grandkids! That’s the great thing about Ocean City…some things just never change! The cheese steaks, chicken cheese steaks, french fries, birch beer, and even Layla’s hot dog were exactly like I remember when it was our little kids ordering. Heck, the same guy is even still manning the grill…he’s no longer the young life guard looking stud I remember, but it’s him! About the only thing that seemed different was the Garbage Fries that Bill ordered. A paper plate of fries, cheese sauce on top, and then it’s topped with cheese steak meat and fried peppers! Looked good…but I didn’t try it!

imageThen it was time for the rides! First was the Merry-Go-Round, where Layla, Mom, Dad, and Aunt Krissi selected horses and enjoyed their ride, while Grandma and Grandpa watched a sleeping Henry. Layla’s next choice was the helicopter that Daddy went on with her. Luckily, there was a bigger seat in the back for Dad to sit in, and Layla loved going round and round, especially when Daddy showed her that if she pulled the handle back, the ship went up in the air! After that, she and Dad sat down at a water gun shooting game called Stinky Feet, and they won a stuffed tiger for Layla. Then Layla and Aunt Krissi went on a ride that spun and went up and down and Layla was all smiles…Aunt Krissi not so much! Next, Layla picked the surf buggy car ride, and everyone could go on this…even Henry. Layla liked it…no comment from Henry! (Grandma and Grandpa babysat the stroller!) After that it was a ride on the train, but as it only made a small circle, that didn’t seem to be a favorite….I think Henry slept through it! The last ride was another car ride that she wanted Aunt Krissi to go on with her. It looked harmless enough, but when it started up, we realized it was a new incarnation of a ride that her Dad loved when he was little that was called The Whip. Layla loved it as the ride “whipped” you around the corner and she laughed at every spin. The look on our daughter’s face when she got “whipped” around at every corner gave us the clear indication that Layla enjoyed it more than Aunt Krissi!!

The Merry D'Elia Family at Playland

The Merry D’Elia Family at Playland

Then it was inside to the arcade and a few games before we headed home. Daddy showed Layla one of his favorites that has not changed a bit since he was her age, the Shooting Gallery. Populated with tomb stones, crows, old bottles, rail road signs, and even a “green guy in a box” (a younger Billy’s description), the object is to hit the electronic bullseye with your rifle “shot” and make things move or make noise. While Daddy was transported back in time by taking his turn with the rifle, Layla didn’t seem to be thrilled and moved on to play some Skee Ball with Mommy and Aunt Krissi. Meanwhile, Grandpa decided to put a $10 bill in the coin changer…I’ve still got about $8.50 in quarters…anyone need change?

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“Sit on the couch Grandma, next to me.”

The kids (and the old folks) were getting tired, so after a brief stop over at Kohr Brothers for some ice cream, it was back to the house. Why is it that when you are walking like this, the return trip always seems longer? Could it be that it was late afternoon and the temperature had been steadily rising and the sun was out in full force? Could it be that we’d just spent several hours walking all over the boardwalk and Playland? Could it be we’re not used to keeping up with a two year old? Well, whatever the reason, we all made it home in one piece, and everyone started showering and changing. Grandma was done first, and was sitting on the front porch couch when her favorite Grand Daughter came out all sparkly clean in her cute jammies and put her little chair right next to the couch so she could sit with Grandma. As the rest of us would come and go, Susie would occasionally get up to do something and Layla would say, “sit on the couch Grandma, next to me.”.

Layla had a little bagel with “dip dip” (cream cheese) and Henry had a bottle, and before long we had two pooped kids who were ready for bed. There were kisses and hugs all around, and the little guys went off to bed. Then it was time for the adults to decide what to eat for dinner (take-out seafood won out) and what card game to play (May I was the game of choice). Unfortunately, the day had taken it’s toll on us too, and we never got through the entire game before it became night-night for us too!

I woke up the next morning to the smell of coffee, and as I opened the bedroom door, Layla looked up from picking up her little shoes in the living room and said , “Grandpa’s up”. Just thinking back to that moment and hearing those words, I have a big smile on my face. You love your kids with all your heart, but there is just something about that little girl, her beautiful face, and adorable voice. She owns my heart!

Unfortunately, Henry hadn’t had a good night and was all stuffed up and on top of that, Daddy’s work phone had been exploding because of the Orlando shooting, so it looked like Sunday was going to have to be cut short, but in the end, that didn’t matter. We loved having two of our three kids and our daughter-in-law with us and we really loved seeing the littlest D’Elias on our beach and boardwalk, and seeing the D’Elia Family’s love of Ocean City continue for another generation! All around just a great time, but Susie and I both agreed that having children is definitely a young person’s game. We were exhausted, but as our summers at the beach go on, these kids (and hopefully more) will get older and they will love visiting Grandma and Grandpa at the beach as much as we love having them!! If our plans work out as we hope, by this time next year, this Ocean City house will be our permanent home, and there will be lots more visits in the future as we all grow older. Till then, we have great memories of a wonderful weekend to start off our first summer at the beach!