A Jersey Girl’s Ode to the Jersey Shore

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opening1“’Cause down the shore everything’s all right.” —Tom Waits, JERSEY GIRL

Some see the Jersey Shore as a travel destination, a place to take the family for a couple of weeks each summer. They covet the warm relaxation of a stretch of beach under the midday sun, the smell of ocean air and the sound of the waves cresting toward the shore. Or they long for the sounds of laughter pealing from the top of the highest coaster, their hearts pounding like the waves as they drop over the edge and fly toward the unknown.

They save their money and spend their hard-earned vacation time seeking the restoration found in the smell of fresh roasted peanuts and cotton candy, the beauty of a sunrise over the Atlantic, the rest found snuggled under cool sheets with the sounds of boardwalk life outside the open window of a Jersey Shore rental home within a block of the beach.

Roots at the Jersey Shore

Yes, there are many who will tell you that the Jersey Shore is in their blood. And I stake claim to that, and even more, for the Jersey Shore is in my very DNA.

OK, maybe that’s a little overboard, but the truth is I wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the Jersey shore. You see, my parents met on the boardwalk in Wildwood, my mom a pretty Catholic High school girl shelling iced drinks at a Lime Rickey stand, my dad a vacationer the same age who seemed interested in more than a beverage. He asked her for her number; she sneaked out the back door at closing time. But they met again on the beach the following day and from there, a family began.

I cannot imagine my life without the towns that make up the Jersey Shore. I grew up summering in Wildwood, where my maternal family lived year round. As the older generation passed away, the younger generation tried out other shore towns nearby, hoping to make new memories with their growing families. My immediate family started vacationing a bit north, in Ocean City, while mom’s sister tried Stone Harbor.

opening2In college, I spent my summers in Cape May, waitressing mornings and evenings while saving my afternoons to work on my tan and perfect my body surfing form.  I’ve seen New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen in Asbury Park, I’ve rested at women’s retreats in Harvey Cedars, I’ve lost my share of cash at a roulette table in Atlantic City. And in those places, and all the places in between, I’ve fed my soul in a way that isn’t possible inland.

In the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

So after Super Storm Sandy did her voodoo dance over the area last October, I visited the area. When I asked how I could help, I heard the same thing over and over: “Tell the people to come back here. Tell them we’ll be back.”

So, being a traveling mom, I proposed a series about the Jersey Shore towns. It would be a love letter to this place that made such an impression on me in so many ways through the years. A place that was now hurting beyond what I ever imagined.

I planned this series with a sense of hope. I wanted to profile the restoration of each town, to detail what was new and what was gone, to show it was, we were, bouncing back. Most of all, I wanted to let TravelingMom readers know we were ready. And to make sure we were, I visited the towns I wanted to write about.

It broke my heart. Despite hearing, “We’re back,” and seeing hopeful “Summer Rental” signs in front of some beach houses, there are parts of the Jersey Shore that are still too broken to be recommended as summer vacation spots. Not this year, and maybe not for awhile.

Not All Ready for Summer Vacationers

opening3Houses that were ripped apart still stand like broken shells dotting the sand. Patrol cars ride up and down the avenues, watching for looters and warning visitors that the structures are unstable and unsafe. That iconic roller coaster in Seaside Heights that ended up in the ocean after Hurricane Sandy? It’s still there, a sad reminder that no one will be dancing over waves at this beach any time soon.

So this series won’t be as long-reaching as I first planned. Still, there are many towns that saw minimal damage and are ready for visitors this season. I will be profiling each of these, one a week, and linking to a master calendar of events that will highlight what you can do at the Jersey Shore this summer.

Other towns are rebuilding, nearing total recovery. These will be profiled as well. The summer season there may look a bit different than in years gone by, but will still be worth checking out. Hey, nothing wrong with discovering something new at the Jersey Shore this summer, right?

So I hope through this series, you find a reason to visit the Jersey Shore. It may not look the same, but I can assure you, there are blessings to be found on these beaches, even now.

 










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