CapeMay.com Blog

Unquestionable Beach Belief

Sometimes finding the inspiration to write is difficult. Writers often live in a perpetual state of writer’s block. I know I do, and the last few days and weeks have been no exception.

But as I sit on my screened in porch at my home in Virginia, the 80 degree weather and accompaniment of the August issue of Cape May Magazine sent me into a frenzy of needing a pencil and paper to write down why I like to write about Cape May.

If you’re reading this blog, you must have some interest or a connection to Cape May. Just as I gravitate towards writing about Cape May, there are plenty of people who enjoy reading about the small beach town. Cape May has a je ne sais quoi that draws people in and does not let go.

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For me, growing up – most of my assigned writing projects for school featured Cape May in some way. Whether it was poems, short stories or opinion pieces, Cape May always showed up in my writing. I’ve often been told that writers write about what they know, which is why I wrote about the beach town I love so much.

It was too easy for me to write about the town where I have so many childhood memories. Every memory could easily spark a story – which is why I never hesitated to use Cape May as writing topic. Even when it came to standardized tests or writing descriptions when I was learning French, Cape May was the easiest topic for me to write about because I knew it like the back of my hand.

I’ve always dreamed of a future that included spending more time in Cape May. But it is only recently, this summer, that I realized that I want to have Cape May as my full time life – not just a vacation destination.

It should come as no surprise to me that everyone in my life has come to expect that my future will involve Cape May. I think my friends and family knew that before I consciously accepted that fact. It was not until this summer when I started blogging for Capemay.com, that I realized how much I want Cape May to become my future.

As I mentioned in my first blog post this June, My Cape May Past, Present and Future, I’m ready for my future to not only hold Cape May, but I want my future to be Cape May. The reality of moving to Cape May is that it will no longer be a vacation destination spot for me; it will be my new home.

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I want to not only write about the town, but I want to live and breathe all the things that make Cape May, Cape May. It will be exciting to see the gradual change of the in season to off season, especially when the town quiets down from summer to fall and then ultimately to winter.

Writing about Cape May gives me the sense of peace I feel when I am there. Writing takes me to another place, and if I write enough details, I can close my eyes and picture myself sitting on a chair on the beach.

As I go into my senior year of college, I know a lot of people my age are uncertain of their futures and plans. But Cape May has always held a pull on me. And I’ve come to realize that I need to let go and allow Cape May to pull me in and embrace me.

I’ve never been as sure of anything as the hold Cape May has on me. And come graduation, I am coming home.

Connect with Rachel on Twitter @capemayrachel.

Home

Home is one of those unique words that has one dictionary definition but a varying personal definition to anyone that you ask. Google defines home as, “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household,” but that sounds more like a house to me.

Home is one of those words that I have attempted to define countless amounts of times for school papers, as well as having it as a general thought. It’s like Jell-O; as soon as I think I have a grasp on it, it slips away through my fingers. As I pack my clothes, shoes, and bags full of books for college, its true definition is finally starting to form in my mind. Home is where your heart is happy.

My heart has been, is, and always will be happy along the sandy shores of Cape May. During my childhood years, my days consisted of late afternoons on the beach, staying so long that we would order pizza to the Cove and watch the sunset. Family and friends were abundant and oblivious to the outside rush of life that existed where the concrete street started. During these past few years, the beach has been my escape. I flock there with my friends during the day, retreating as we find happiness in salt water.

Beach HomeMore than just a place to hang out, the beaches of Cape May have introduced me to lifelong friendships. Ask me two years ago what The Tent was and I would have looked at you like you had three heads, but now some of my closest friends are from The Tent. Even though we all go our separate ways when fall rolls around, we keep in touch and reunite every summer. When we all come back and everyone is joking around, too happy to care how loud we are or what time it is, that is home.

When I’m covered with salt water and sand and in good company, that is home. When conversations last until the early morning and I’m laughing while half asleep, that is home. Cape May will always be my home, regardless of where I live or go to college. I will miss the shore and dabbling my feet in white foamy waves, but can look at my jars of sea glass in my dorm and know that Cape May will always be waiting for me.

The Tent at Steger Beach

I am a creature of habit. I wake up every morning, have a glass of water, eat my chocolate Special K cereal, shower, and then continue on with my day. Just as I like having my morning routine, I like having my beach routine. Steger is my favorite beach, and there are only two places on the beach where you can always find me: at the tent or at the Steger stand. Some people might not have much of a clue what either of those two things are, so I’ll break it down.

On just about every beach in Cape May, there is a Steger stand. Each one is run by a Steger boy, who rents out umbrellas and chairs for the day. As far as jobs go, it doesn’t get much better than that. They sit on the beach all day and get up every once in a while to give out a chair or umbrella. I sit at the stand on Steger beach with a good friend of mine, George. I’m not sitting with him just for the free use of a beach chair or the lovely cooling shade of his umbrellas, but that definitely never hurt anything. I’ve been sitting there for so long I even know the prices! It’s $7 for a chair, $35 for the week, $12 for an umbrella, and $60 for the week.

It’s a perfect place to relax, as well as having a full view of the beach. For a some extra shade, I even dug a little cave under the stand with my friend Maddi. It was even deep enough to fit beach chairs under there. I’ve tried to convince George that I should be hired as a Steger girl, but I don’t think he’ll have it. At least I tried. Who wouldn’t want to be paid to be on the beach all day?

George, me, my sister, and Maddi taking cover in our cave under the stand

George, me, my sister, and Maddi taking cover in our cave under the stand

Just across the sand is another favorite of mine called ‘the tent’. The Steger boys also rent out these big blue tents, and that is where my group of friends always hangs out. We have the benefit of both the sun and the shade, as well as our own personal space to chill out and relax. We circle up our chairs on the sunny days, bronzing our skin until we can take no more. Then we either dip in to the shade of the tent or run down to the water. Even when it’s cloudy out, we throw a football around or just sprawl out, taking advantage of a cooler day.

A cloudy day at the tent

A cloudy day in front of the tent

When I think of places that remind me of summer, the tent and the Steger stand will always be the first to jump in to my mind. Running from the water, to the stand with George, and back to the tent is how my days at the beach are spent. We are all tan, light haired, and constantly smiling, and that is always how I will remember my summers in Cape May.

Vote now in the Best of Cape May

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We’ve run the Best of Cape May, an annual survey that celebrates the best Cape May has to offer, since 2005. We can’t wait to see who wins this year, and if there will be any overthrows of local icons! But we can’t do it without your votes.

The survey takes about ten minutes to complete and asks you to nominate your favorite businesses. One nomination per category, one submission per person. All entries are hand-screened. We’ll toss duplicates.

Submit your votes now through August 26th at bestofcapemay.com

Cool Summer Reads

Cracking open the spine of a new book and inhaling that crisp, new page scent is perfect. But being able to open a new book on the beach?  That’s the life.

I’ve always been an avid reader, something I can thank my family for. My parents and grandparents started me off reading books at a young age, and I have not been able to stop since. One of my favorite memories of reading in Cape May was picking out books in Whales Tale on the Washington Street Mall.

Whales Tale has a great selection of children’s books, in addition to many other types of products for sale. Perhaps my favorite book that came from Whales Tale was Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore. I loved reading about Sid’s six different families and adventures.

Some of the books I read this summer, on the beach.

Some of the books I read this summer, on the beach.

As I grew away from the children’s book section of Whales Tale (which I still visited with my younger brother) I began to shop in the young adult section of Atlantic Books, and at the local antique stores for Nancy Drew mysteries. Even though I brought more than enough books on vacation with me, I always needed to check out what I might be missing.

Reading is one of my favorite relaxing activities I get to do in Cape May, especially while I’m on break from school. This summer I spent the majority of my free time reading (well, when I wasn’t working at Cape May Magazine or binge watching Orange is the New Black).

How cool is it to see my summer spot in my book.

How cool is it to see my summer spot in my book.

This summer, I brought The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski to Cape May and was very excited because it was set in New Jersey, post Hurricane Sandy. Cape May was even mentioned in the book. Even though the book did not take place in Cape May, the small New Jersey town had many similar feelings of the local area.

Another book series I’ve read that mentions Cape May is Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. A series of sixteen books and a popular television series, the cast is often shown or mentioned visits to Cape May. A week in Cape May is very important to the final book in the series, as well.

Spending time at the shore can always be made more interesting with a great book to read. All ages will appreciate the literary options at Whales Tale and Atlantic Books. And if you’re lucky enough to be a local, The Cape May County Public Library has a great selection of books to enjoy in the summer sun.

Connect with Rachel on Twitter @capemayrachel.

Guard the Stand

When you first walk on to the white sandy beaches of Cape May, the first thing you think, besides “oh my gosh, my feet are on fire,” is “where am I going to sit?” You could sit by the water, where it’s cooler and more crowded, or farther back in the sand, with more room to wriggle your toes in the sand but less of a breeze to keep away the intense sun. And then you see it: the red and white lifeguard stand towering in the distance, high above the crowded beach with the perfect view, and still close enough to jump in the water.

Of coarse lifeguards need the view to save lives and all that good stuff, but I think there should be more stands with a view like that for us common beach goers to use. Everyday when the final whistle blows around 5 o’clock and all the lifeguards leave, the kids scramble to the stand in a first attempt to get dibs on it. When I was younger, we all took shifts sitting on the stand to make sure that our spot wasn’t overtaken. It’s a serious business. If you were the one responsible for the loss of the stand because you got distracted and some kid with a bucket ran over and took it, let’s just say you got the cold shoulder while everyone was building sand castles.

Even now, as a soon-to-be freshman in college, I still run for a lifeguard stand every time that I see an open one. Often I go to Stegers beach because it’s right by all of the food, but every once in a while I switch it up and go to Headquarters, where my friend’s dad is a lifeguard. We hover around the stand, asking what certain gestures mean, why blow the whistle this time and not last time, and, of coarse, what stands all the cute lifeguards are at. There’s nothing wrong with pretending I need a little help if I can get some nice arms to carry me out of the water.

Life gaurds

At the end of the day when the sun is sinking below the ocean and the humid air starts to cool, the stands are the hardest to get a hold of. But if you can find one, it’s so worth it. There’s just something about sitting high up above the water, looking out at the endless horizon that makes me feel like I’m one with the ocean. There’s water below, sky above, and I’m sitting somewhere in between. The salt air calms my mind and the view from the stand never fails to make me feel at home.

Movies on the Beach

Spending hours at the beach cooking in the sun is tiring work. As a result, I sometimes find myself having a lazy day and staying in so that I can regenerate for the next string of continuous beach days. I sit on my couch, watch movies, and eat far more than my fair share of candy with no remorse. As much as I love the comfort of my home, I’ve discovered that there’s a far better way to enjoy a movie, which is to watch it on the beach.

My whole childhood, and current teenage years, has been spent running around in the sand, so watching a movie there when the sun goes down seems like the next best thing. The movie is set up on Stockton beach, just to the side of the Convention Hall, every Thursday. I remember before the new one was built that there were swimming whales painted on the back of the building. I can’t believe just how much has changed.

As dusk starts to set in, the beach explodes with people, chairs, and blankets. If you think the beaches are packed during the day, you’re in for a shocker when nighttime rolls around. Everyone crams in for the best view possible, chairs are practically bumper-to-bumper and the smart ones lay a big blanket out in front of them for a little extra foot room. Kids are running around dancing, playing, and partaking in limbo while the parents get some down time to relax.

Beach Movie

In the mean time, I’ve discovered a way of cheating for better seats. The movie is projected on what seems to be a giant, blow up screen. But what no one realizes is that the movie isn’t only projected on to the screen, but through it. When you walk around the screen, you might be surprised to find a few smart families sitting there. Why might they be doing this? From behind the screen you can still watch the movie, with practically no crowd and plenty of food room. Because it’s behind the screen the image of the movie is flipped, but I would totally say it’s worth the change. A new perspective never hurt anything! This week ‘Jaws’ is being played, and the beach is so full you can’t even see where the people end, so behind the screen might not be such a bad idea.

When the beach chairs are set and the movie finally starts, you can still hear the lull of the waves and see the stars above your head. You have the comfort of your friends, the entertainment of a movie, and the beauty of the outdoors. A Thursday night can’t get much better.

Summer To Do List

I am a huge supporter of lists. To do lists, grocery shopping lists, random lists, really anything in list form. So it should come as no surprise that when I plan my time in Cape May, there are always lists in accompaniment to my vacation.

Relaxing on Trenton Avenue beach, age 4.

Relaxing on Trenton Avenue beach, age 4.

I thought my creating to do lists was something I acquired later in life in order to be efficient, but apparently not. Recently I was looking through one of my mom’s Cape May albums. I stumbled across a cute to do list that I had made in 1997, when I was four years old.

To do list, summer 1997.

To do list, summer 1997.

My first to do is “beach” which is definitely the same priority I still have when I go to the beach now. You can never sit on the beach enough! Each summer I try to beat last year’s visits to the beach too (and I successfully did that this year).

I have to laugh at a few things on that list, particularly “bicycle,” because that was the year my parents rented a surrey and drove me around in the basket seat. Note: it was not on the Mommie et al list either – probably not a popular choice, especially with me ringing the bell every few seconds.

The few things we have in common that have checks next to them are the “arcade,” “candy,” and “ice cream.” These are three popular family friendly activities to do in Cape May, especially with young kids.

My to do list for this summer consists of activities of a twenty one year old:

  • Beach
  • Reading
  • Baking
  • Scrapbooking
  • Watch the sunrise

Of course the beach is still number one and always will be, because truly I am four at heart. I love to read and try to read as many books while I am on vacation as possible. It is nice to get lost in fictional worlds that take me away.

Before I come in to intern at the office of CapeMay.com, I bake a new creation every Sunday night. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies, but only when I can share my creations!

I’m also a huge fan of scrapbooking – which I started doing because of the albums that my mom kept. For many years I had heard about the famous Cape May albums and it was the reason that we saved scraps of paper, receipts and restaurant menus. My mom kept an album from 1992-1998…so she is a little behind and needs to catch up.

The last item on my check list this summer was a source of contention between me and my internal clock. I’ve had “watch the sunrise” on my Cape May to do list for years, but it was never a serious plan. I knew this summer I was finally going to get up early enough to see the sunrise, despite that the sun rises much earlier than my body is used to getting up in the morning.

Sunrise not quite visible on Sunset Beach.

Sunrise not quite visible on Sunset Beach.

And on June 19, 2015 I really did get up at 5 am to see the sunrise at 5:30 am.  It was beautiful and such a fun experience. My mom was so surprised that I actually was able to get up and go!

Of course, I did go to Sunset Beach to see the sunrise and take a walk – I was not thinking that Sunset Beach was called Sunset Beach for a reason. It is better to see the sun set there, not necessarily the sun rise!

Having a summer to do list is really fun and is a great way to plan vacation. To do lists gives you something to look forward to on your visit to Cape May. It brings together all ages and can be fun for the entire family.

Connect with Rachel on Twitter @capemayrachel

The In-between Times

Just as there is a calm before the storm, there is a calm before the beach is flooded with sun seeking, ocean craving people. The waves continue to lap against the shore and the gulls still cry out to each other in search of hot dogs to be stolen, but those are the only noises. There are no hollering toddlers or life guard whistles, no chairs being set up or music being played. I am left alone with my thoughts and the sea.

Before the masses come, I have the beach all to myself. I practically own it. At eight, nine, and even ten in the morning, there’s only one or two other beach goers, so I take my towel and my chair and sprawl them out as widely as I can. It’s the perfect time to stake out my little spot on the beach while nobody is around, because soon enough there will be chairs, tents, and umbrellas surrounding me on all sides.

Empty Beach

Cape May Point in the early morning

The best days are when a large group of us arrives early, seeking out the best spot to set up camp. There are a couple ways to go about this. We can either set up the chairs in a straight line, which is no good for talking, or we can circle up, which gives us our space and creates a feeling that this is our part of the beach. So circling up usually win and we sprawl out on our chairs and towels, taking up as much room as possible..

We get there when no one is around, stay through the day, and remain even when the crowds start to thin once again. When we have the beach to ourselves, whether it’s in the winter or in the early hours of the morning, that’s when we realize how lucky we are. Instead of a crowded beach in Miami or a rocky beach in California, we have the perfect sand, warm water, and a wonderful place to call home. Every person I see on the beach is happy and smiling, unless they’re upset about having to leave.

This is all ours; the calm mornings, the hours upon hours of talking, and the refreshing dips in the ocean.

Hermit Crabs: A Live Souvenir

Picking out the absolute best souvenir to bring home from Cape May, was one of my favorite parts of vacation as a kid. Shopping is one of my favorite activities, so I always spent a fair amount of my vacation time perusing the stores.

Two weeks in Cape May was usually the right amount of time to find the perfect souvenir to bring home. And by far, my favorite childhood souvenir I brought home was a live one; a hermit crab. I was so excited that my parents trusted me with a live animal that was mine and that I could take care of by myself.

Very proudly showing off my first hermit crab, Hermay.

Very proudly showing off my first hermit crab, Hermay.

I picked out a crab in a purple shell and decided to name it Hermay – “her” because I decided it was a female crab and “May” for Cape May. I brought her back to our rental house and was so excited to share with our neighbors my new pet. Hermay’s cage was filled with rainbow colored gravel, she had a sponge that was to be misted every day and a little coconut hut to sleep in during the day (turns out hermit crabs are more active at night).

Everywhere we went the next few days, I proudly boasted that I had my own hermit crab to take care of and call my own. A nice lady at the Victorious Store (when it was still in Washignton Commons Mall) told my family and I how she had a hermit crab that lived for fifteen years. If Hermay lived fifteen years, I would have her through college!

One time when we were visiting my cousins in Ocean City, NJ, we saw a giant hermit crab (much larger than I’ve seen sold on the boardwalk there) just strolling down the sidewalk. We watched him for a while and I really wanted to take him, but my parents thought he was probably somebody’s pet. We regret not taking that giant crab!

Certificate of Adoption from the boardwalk in Ocean City.

Certificate of Adoption from the boardwalk in Ocean City.

I had Hermay for two years. She lived in a few different cages and switched her shells a few times (really cool). At home in Virginia, I would play with her in a bowl of water. In addition to feeding her hermit crab food, the guidebook I had gotten when I bought her said it was okay to feed her other things – so she also got cheerios and pieces of cut up fruit.

Hermit crabs in captivity have variable lifespans depending on their care. But I think our house was too cold with our air conditioning, which is probably why Hermay only lived for two years. After that, my brother and I had quite a few hermit crabs in the years following, always from Cape May. They never lived as long as Hermay did.

And eventually, after a cannibal situation where two crabs became one, we were done with the live souvenirs. My mom and dad were definitely over the crabs, because despite it being my responsibility, I was not always the one taking care of my hermit crabs.

No matter their size, hermit crabs are a responsibility like any other pet.

No matter their size, hermit crabs are a responsibility like any other pet.

After the last year of hermit crabs, I always joked with my dad about getting another one. He and my mom really did not want me to get anymore and they tried to dissuade me by telling me I had to use my own money to buy any new hermit crabs. So that was the end of that!

Before I left Cape May this summer, I noticed lots of kids on the Washington Street Mall with cages containing hermit crabs. It reminded me of so many memories and my first real pet responsibilities. It made me smile, and think of a simpler time in my life.

Connect with Rachel on Twitter @capemayrachel.