Colorful Calm Shell

Travel Log

Here is a day by day log of what my family did on our ten day vacation in mid-September to Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
I hope you find our relaxing days at the shore inspiration for your own trip to Stone Harbor
(or your favorite relaxing vacation destination.)

day1 day2 day3 day4 day5 day6 day7 day8 day9 day10 Travel Log Calendar

Day One

Friday, September 10, 2004

The rented mini van was packed up last night so we can depart at 7:15 a.m. in the morning. As the alarm rang out at 6:30 a.m., I felt like I was getting up to head to work. But this was no ordinary Friday. First, my cousin Art, who typically runs late, was on time with the van. We joke that he operates on Artie time--slightly behind the rest of the world. And we were not heading to work via the HOV lane, but rather using it as a launching off point to a destination further east--Stone Harbor, on the coast of the Garden State, New Jersey. My mom, Bev, was joining us for this extended family vacation, as was Art's mom Dorie and his brother Paul. We started this tradition of vacationing at the beach last year.

It was foggy last year when we left and this tradition lingered with us this year. The sun looks like a giant hole of light in the sky, it's kind of eery, but also cleanisng and mysterious. I think it's fitting weather to depart in since the ocean also has many of these characteristics.

The ride was about six and a half hours and along the way we each had our parts to make sure we had a safe and fun ride down. Art drives, Bev navigates and doles out snacks and lunch, I serve as an extra set of eyes (looking for cars in the blind spots and cows out to pasture) and encourage the game of highway bingo, Dorie has the change for the tolls and Paul serves as the disc jockey with his extensive and diverse CD collection, including Bruce Springsteen and the Mamas and the Papas.

We are on the Pennsylvania Turnpike most of the time, bypassing the corn farms, windmill farms, Breezewood, driving through the Allegheny Mountain, Tuscarora Mountain, Kittatuny Mountain and Blue Mountain tunnels, waving our regards to Gettysburg and Harrisburg and driving through Philadelphia (always a stressful time becausing we are getting anxious to be at the beach and have to handle city traffic). Yet, Philadephia rewards us with the Walt Whitman Bridge and and its great docks along the Delaware River. We enter New Jersey, tranverse the Atlantic City Expressway and the Garden State Parkway, to the Great Egg Harbor Bridge and then Stone Harbor.

We pick up the key to the rental house, located on 121st Street, load the fridge up with groceries and crash on the porch. We're happy to be here, and will check out the beach tomorrow.

Day Two

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Our first full day in Stone Harbor and I think we are all anxious to get to the beach. It's a bit cloudy and windy, but the beach is a comfortable temperature. Art and I assemble the two beach shades we brought along with us to shield us from the sun but also the wind. It was windy when we were here last year and we had a hard time getting the beach umbrellas to stay in the sand without blowing away. The shades are like cabanas, with a large opening in the front. A few jokes pass between Bev and Dorie asking Art and I to deliver umbrella drinks since we are the cabana hanlders for the trip. Art and I quickly dispelled that silly idea by spending the whole day sitting on the beach and only moving to point to the random sailboat on the horizon or the propeller plane above with an advertisement trailing behind for a Volvo or a Harley Davidson.

Rainbow with Sun As the day winds down, we notice a rainbow in the clouds that circles around the sun. I am sure there is some sort of meterological term for circular rainbows, but all I can say is cool. I never saw a rainbow that went in a circle--I guess the pot of gold was the sun itself.

Our evening wrapped up with the longest Uno! game I have ever experienced. I think we could apply for a world record. It last for nearly two hours when we called it with no apparent end in sight.

Day Three

Sunday, September 12, 2004

It's a beautiful day! The clouds have disappeared and it is very sunny out. It's peeking in the bedroom early but I ignore it for a few hours to sleep in. After all, it is Sunday.

We plan to make the most of the sunny days and spend them on the beach because the weather in September can be so unpredictable (right now Hurricane Frances is hitting the South and we are not sure how it is going to impact us.) It's hot on the beach and we are thankful for the beach shades. Instead of disassembling them each night, Art and I carry them back to the house and store them in the garage. It makes for some extra walking back and forth to the beach each day, but it also make our time by the ocean more comfortable.

The beach is crowded today (by September standards). We later learn that this Sunday is the last day of the summer that the beach will be protected by guards, as we watched the beach patrol pick up the guard chairs the next day.

In the evening, we play cards. After last night's experience with Uno! Dorie and Paul request another card game. We all agree and they teach us gin. Turns out that beginner's luck held true for me and I win!

Day Four

Monday, September 13, 2004

We shake off sleep early today to get to the beach. The weather reports that it is going to be another hot and sunny day. And it is! Even the sea gulls are trying to cool off. We watch several ride the waves. Sure, they could have been looking for lunch but we suspect that they were enjoying the cool ocean water and trying to escape the hot sand. The neighborhood dolphins are also playing in the water off shore.

Inspired by the dolphins and gulls enjoying the water, I decide to get up out of the beach chair and walk along the water to collect some shells. Tide was low so there were a lot to choose from. I prefer whole shells and find a few whole clam shells (both sides still attached) and a bunch of single ones. I also encounter a horse crab that appears to be alive yet it's beached so I am not sure if I should risk touching it to save it or not. As I debate, two little boys come by with their shovel and lop it into the waves. If it was alive, hopefully the impact did not hurt too much. But they do have hard shells.

Clam Shell Drawing

Day Five

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The window blind is flapping around this morning and since we are about a block and a quarter back from the beach, I know that it must be windy down on the shore. The remains of Hurrican Frances are heading our way so we are expecting a few days of rough weather. There are lots of clouds but they do not look too menacing. So we pick up one of the beach shades and our pants and long sleeve shirts and head down to the beach. Dorie decides to stay at the house and rest, but we are pleasantly surprised that even though the wind is strong, it's not cold.

The waves are crashing and the wind surfers have a great day. I wonder if they realize that they kept us entertained for most of the afternoon. Over the weekend, We had seen the kite/sail type thingy they use but did not know what they were. We sit and think how much pain we would be in if we participated in such a sport. We cower inside our beach shade (wind protector is a better description today) instead and dust off the sand that accumulated on us when we return to the house late in the afternoon.

Day Six

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Well, it's raining. We had a good stretch of weather so far, so the rain is not too disappointing. I suggest that we pull the ponchos out of the suitcases and head down to the beach anyway, which is met with a few snickers. Instead we decide to head down to the main shopping area in Stone Harbor, 96th Street. It has all the tourist type shops and I imagine that very few of the local residents actually shop there. But I feel that you have to go at least a few of the beach shops while at the beach and I am perfectly happy to do it on a day that's rainy instead of a sunny one when I could be relaxing shore side. One of the great things about going to the shore toward the end of the season is that all the stores are having sales. Is the rain lightening up I think as I pick up a few bargains. I'm the last to arrive back at Vinnie. That's what we named our mini van. It was inspired by the movie My Cousin Vinny and Vinnie van sounds almost like mini van.

We return home to 121st Street and have leftovers for dinner. We play cards and my mom wins. While shuffling around town We rented some videos. The rest of the evening we stay inside sitting in front of the television.

Our family vacation's more than half way over. It's hard to believe that it has been moving so quickly. I wonder if there was ever any type of study done to see if time realy does move faster at the beach?

Day Seven

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Seagulls on the Beach The rain stopped overnight and it's a clear day. The weather reports that this will be the last clear and dry day before we leave on Sunday so we're going to the beach. The water is incredibly calm and the only traces of the rain from yesterday are the circular marks in the sand. The few waves that there are crest (I cannot even say crash) so quietly that you feel like you have ear plugs in with ear muffs over them. It's like Neptune turned the volume down today.

All of the sand pipers are flocking together in the area of the beach where we are today. I walk over to take a picture of what I think is 50 birds and see that as I get closer the sand slopes down and more sand pipers are there too. I guess there had to be nearly 300 sand pipers together and there were a lot of sea gulls as well. They all flew together a few times (once while being chased by a small child) and it was unbelievable to see.

The beach was so relaxing today that I took a nap in the beach shade. I do not think you can sleep on the beach overnight in Stone Harbor, mostly because I am sure that a lot of people would because it is just so darn relaxing.

Today was really a bird day because as we were sitting on the beach a flock of pelicans skimmed along the water.

Day Eight

Friday, September 17, 2004

The air was very still last night. It's so quiet here that it almost frightens you. We could not hear the waves at the house and no birds or crickets were chirping. There are not even that many cars since we are toward the end of the island. I am actually glad to hear a car drive by because I then know there is some life outside of the house.

It was also very humid. When I went to put my clothes on today, they felt like the were taken out of the dryer a little too early and were damp. It's gray but warm so we go down to the beach early thinking that we might be able to get some beach time in before the rain starts. Turns out that we were right--it did not rain at all and the sun even shined a few time during the day.

The water is churning though and the waves are rough. Neptune is making up for the calm of yesterday. We are entertained today by not birds, but by surfers who did well in the turbulent waters. There were also dolphins, closer to the shore today than when we saw them before. Because we are monitoring the weather so closely, We keep hearing reports of Hurricane Ivan and its effects. We know it's headed our way so we considered today the ultimate bonus beach day.

Day Nine

Saturday, September 18, 2004

I spoke too soon. Today was the extra ultimate bonus day at the beach. We woke up, and since it was not raining, just threatening, we grabbed the beach shades and headed to the beach. The clouds and blue sky were clashing and for a little bit I thought the strong wind coming off the water would blow the clouds away. The ocean wind was not strong enough, and soon clouds covered the sky and met the water. It was warm enough to stay on the beach so we did.

I walked down to the annual surf contest that was taking place at Nun's Beach--no nuns on surf boards (although that's what they have on the logo advertising the contest.)

The water was coming up high on the beach today and at some points it was actually rolling uphill where the beach sloped. I could not tell it is was because of the force of the waves, the wind or a combination of the two.

While on the beach we got two phone calls from friends and family in Pittsburgh reporting on the conditions from the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. We hear that a lot of roads are closed and that businesses closed early on Friday. We are going to check in tomorrow before we leave to see if any of the roads we will travel are still closed.

We only stayed on the beach a few hours. When we decided to head back to the house for lunch, we disassembled the beach shades. Art compared it to taking down the Christmas tree--one of those things you hate to have to do.

It started to rain in the afternoon and the wind howled all day and into the night. Another frequent noise was the porch furniture siding across the wooden deck. All the noise was just was eery as the quiet nights before. We started to load suitcases and other items into Vinnie and straighten up the house for our departure tomorrow.

Nun's Beach Surf Contest Logo-Nun Riding a Wave

Day Ten

Sunday, September 19, 2004

We hear Pittsburgh is drying out and cleaning up and that most of the roads will be open. It's clear, sunny and cool here, with a nip in the wind. We finished our chores, cleaned out the fridge, took out the garbage and locked the doors and windows. We are not sure if another family is coming to the house after us, but I hope if someone is they have as nice a week as us.

On the ride home we passed by the same attractions to Paul's soundtrack of the Doors, Marc Anthony, the Supremes and the Carpenters. We stopped less and drove faster, anxious to get home and unload the Vinnie van. It has more stuff in it now that it did before, and I am not sure how that is possible. But I guess one of the mysteries of vacations is that most anything is possible. Car Loaded With Luggage

Image of Footprints in the Sand

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