A Surprise Trip to the Shore

The back story: My brother wanted to go to Six Flags with a bunch of friends from Governor’s School. However, since Great Adventure is about an hour and a half drive from our humble town, my mother wouldn’t let him drive myself. And my mother, who didn’t want to be by herself for an entire afternoon, dragged me along for the ride.

“We can go to the Safari thing and see giraffes!” she said.

The Safari thing my mother was referring to is Safari Off Road Adventure, Six Flags’s attempt to lure nature enthusiasts to spend money at their theme park. Next to the roller coasters is a giant wildlife preserve where giraffes and other safari animals roam. While my favorite animals happen to be the ones that call the Serengeti home, I was unsure whether either I or the giraffes on-site would be very happy about frolicking the wilds of central New Jersey.

As luck would have it, Six Flags is also conveniently located in Ocean County, and some educated guessing will lead you to conclude that yes, Ocean County is located next to the ocean. A half hour after we drop my brother off, my mother and I arrive at the shores of Point Pleasant, armed with a new beach umbrella bought at an end-of-seasons sale (probably at K-Mart), towels, and a bottle of sunscreen that happened to have expired a few months ago but remains surprisingly effective.

Because we did not have a real address, it took a bit of navigational tomfoolery with the GPS to reach our destination. We wound up on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, which features a small offering of amusement park rides, fried food, and ice cream.

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As you can see, it was a clear day. The sun was out, but the temperatures hovered near the low eighties. With the constant breeze, it almost felt chilly. (My preferred beach weather is sunny to the point where it’s a little uncomfortable but not impossible to step on the sand with bare feet.)

I didn’t really go swimming today either. The water actually was not that cold, but the surf was especially rough. No one else was doing anything besides wading in up to their knees, so I took it as a sign that venturing out further was not the best idea. Since it was a weekday, most of the beachgoers were kids with their grandparents/parents/babysitters. The sea-soaked children had a grand time running into the waves and flinging sand and saltwater as they sprinted past. The different caretakers were content to observe from a distance and got up occasionally to rescue their young charges when they were knocked over by a particularly strong tide. The people watching was not particularly exciting, except for one family who decided to feed the wildlife and attracted a swarm of laughing gulls to their blanket.

A laughing gull.
A laughing gull.

Instead, I spent a lot of time watching the ocean. Generally, nature is not really a point of interest for me, but I have an affinity for oceans and for waves in particular. I like how the water curls in on itself and all the foam that creeps towards the shore and the chilly saltiness of the spray. I like the surprising violence of the surf–how the sea slams into the land hard enough to make a sound and how it can knock you over if you’re not paying attention.

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Unfortunately, real beaches require a couple hours driving distance from DC, so I’ll have to spend another summer without the Atlantic Ocean within easy reach. But luckily, another nice thing about oceans is that they’ll always be there.

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