It’s June 7, 2018, about 8 a.m. I’m sitting in a unpainted, worn rough, grayed rocking chair on a deck facing Delaware Bay. We’re staying at 219 Shore Drive in the back cottage. It’s North Cape May, NJ — more specifically Historic Town Bank, birthplace of South Jersey, established 1635. There are nearly a dozen boats, varying sizes and speed, most moving north up the Bay. Gulls fly back and forth. ” Aaake, aaake, aaake.” Then silent. Mockingbirds flit from chimney to tree. There are some small black birds and mourning doves — “whooo, whooo.” Dolphins regularly pass and there is a steady stream of walkers, joggers and cyclists on the new shore road and sidewalk. Many are seniors like us.
This is our third morning. And we have an easy routine. Awake about six. Morning ablutions, pills, coffee, email, electronic paper, check stocks and weather, journal. Just like home. Diane takes Nala, our black, part border collie, lab maybe, Alabama rescue for a short walk. She sits with coffee in a small enclosed porch with sun and bay view. I sit on the outside deck.
We all break for breakfast about 8 or 9. Then take a walk. The road and sidewalk are pristine, construction finished about a week ago. There are some smaller older homes like our white picked fenced cottage and main house. Many are newer, larger, brighter with landscaped lawns, second floor decks, garages. Some are rentals. Although a lot of people pass; it’s still off-season and there are many empty homes.
We can walk north or south on the thirty to fifty foot wide sandy beach or the sidewalk. A newly planted low dune separates them. Going north we pass the Harpoon restaurant, the only commercial property on the street. Wasn’t opened until Friday and was so crowded, we couldn’t get seated. In front of the cottage the beach is dog friendly but a block away signs warn no dogs Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11 to 4. Traveling with Nala makes us totally attuned to dog friendly places. The internet provides some guidance. This morning I discovered an article, “How dog friendly is Cape May?” The conclusion was mixed. Although some B and Bs and restaurants with outdoor seating allow dogs, they are banned from the central mall area, the boardwalk and town beaches. There’s a dog park but we haven’t looked for it; Nala can run free in our fenced yard.
If we decide to walk north on the sidewalk, it and the street ends in about 1/2 mile. A property cuts down to the beach — intrigued I asked a local who was washing his car. He explained that Cox Creek ran there and historically fisherman drove whales up the creek to be processed. Although the end is of the creek now flows through pipes, the property owners retained rights along the creek down to the bay. Road ends.
This morning we walked north on the sidewalk for about 3/4 mile. Nala had one encounter with another black pup who was runnng free on the beach but came up to see her. The owner ran following, calling for his dogs return, apologizing to us, finally separating them. A friendly encounter. I posed Diane and Nala for a picture and an elderly woman on a bike stopped and offered to photographs all of us. I accepted since we have few recent “family” pictures. Mailed it to Jenny.
We have walked along the beach. It’s near the end of horseshoe crab egg laying season. Dozens of crabs can be beached. The larger are females and some have crawled along leaving a trail; some have burrowed into the sand to lay eggs; others are stranded dry until the next high tide. The Delaware Bay is a stop off point for birds flying north. The crab eggs allows them to gorge and gain weight for the rest off their flight north. Although Red Knots, Oyster Catchers and others can be seen on some beaches; so far, ours have been mostly laughing gulls. We try to remember markings to distinguish specific species. Otherwise the beach is pretty clean. There were no more than a dozen people on the beach during today’s morning walk.
As we left our local historian the other morning, he asked, “you a neighbor?” I responded, “no just renting up the street.” He quipped, “Retired, so your not on vacation, just traveling.” I liked the distinction. Vacations can be so frenetic, must see, must do, only have a week, maybe two. Travel is slower, nothing specific to see, to do. More a serendipitous explore. Just living. Yes, we were traveling now.
No rush. What should we do? I look at possibilities and plan but . . . today we decided to just take our beach chairs and sit in front of the cottage. Not a person in sight, just birds. We sit for an hour, a bit more. Birds, small bay waves, ships in the distance, the sun. It’s noon, plus. Should we go out for lunch or raid the refrigerator.
We lunch on leftovers. The blue fish from the night before stilll tastes good. About 1 o’clock we leave tor the Cape May National Refuge. I’d read a chapter about birding here. It’s a 20 minute drive, south — some of these roads are becoming familiar. Google maps lead us to a beach access point in the refuge. Nala could have come but she’s probably happily resting. We walk. Mainly laughing gulls. There are a few terns, dowitchers, and maybe a ruddy turnstones with them. All gouging on the horseshoe eggs. We drive a few miles further to Reeds Beach, mentioned in the book. There is an old marina, a rock jetty, lots of yellow blooming “prickly pear” cactus. Further along are dozens of small turtles sticking their heads above water. Several roadways are signed, “turtle crossing.” Not sure but possible loggerheads, found in southern Delaware Bay. And there are more flocks of gulls.
Each day we debate, dinner out or in the cottage. This day we decide to buy seafood and eat at the cottage. We head back toward Cape May. We stop at Cape May distillery. Two years old. I like to support local breweries, wineries and now there are distilleries. Rum is their speciality. I buy a bottle of “Barrel Rum,” after tasting several. Their Blueberry was actually rated high on Yelp. The night before we stopped at Nauti Spirits distillery and bought a bottle of vodka and Willow Creek winery provided us with a bottle of white (Wilde Cock) and red (Baccus) — expensive but the property was quite manicured, very exclusive looking.
Before buying seafood at the fish market at Fisherman’s Wharf, we stopped at Beach Plum Farm (next to Willow Creek winery). Another upscale, expanding enterprise. There were gardens, a trail, small kitchen for breakfast and lunch, some produce and gourmet items. We bought some jars of preserves, granola, and delicious small turnips to go with dinner. At the Lobster House we got scallops and some clams casino. We had a nice dinner at the cottage and watched a blue sky sunset.
Vacations tend to limited, a brief escape from the regular — usual work. Traveling can be, should be more footloose, longer, just living in a different place. For years I used the expression “Nantucket time.” For ten years (yes, it was basically a vacation) we visited the far away Island. In the first few years we did a typical tourist vacation on Nantucket. After that we “traveled” and on day one we were totally relaxed. One of my get to sleep dreams is sitting outside our Nantucket cottage, listening, watching song birds and listentig to chimes, enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine, sitting on the beach, buying local seafood and a blueberry pie, bike riding, beach sitting, historic explores.
Retired now I try to constantly be on “Nantucket time.” At home or traveling, enjoy the everyday, the simple joys. This week at Cape May we spent a lot of time on the cottage deck. Ironically we were directly connected to home, up river to Yardley, about 140 miles. One afternoon I recalled sailing on the Gazelle out of Philadelphia. I was at the wheel that morning, guided by a pilot who left at Lewes, DE. We continued out of the bay into the ocean, sails up, while I was still at the wheel. Amazing. Now I’m watching the ferry head to Lewes.
Travel can involve the familiar and the unfamiliar. This week we returned to the Lighthouse Park at Cape May Point. We spent a week nearby about ten years ago. Even took a bird walk with Peter Dunne, Audubon Society New Jersey, writer, birder. This year we took a 1 1/2 mile walk through woods and marsh. Familiar territory. The National Refuge and Reed’s Beach were new territory. Lunch with Nala on the deck at the lobster house was familiar; Louisa’s Cafe off the square was new ground. So was the Beach Plum farm were we walked and then lunched from their kitchen. A beautiful farm reminiscent of Stone Barn along the Hudson in NY.
Louisa’s downtown was good but our great dinner this trip was at the Black Duck on Sunset toward The Point. It was recommended by Barbara Rillings. My duck confit app was amazing and for a main I had pork belly and scallops, with mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli. Wow. Diane had salmon — not local but quite good. We shared a strawberry shortcake. For our last day at the cottage we found H and H seafood between Cape May and Wildwood. We bought prepared shrimp for lunch (lots of our garden greens left) and flounder and clams casino for dinner.
We drove a bit in downtown Cape May. Diane went in a shop and I bought some Cape May peanut butter. But we were happy hanging out, walking, eating well, bird watching, and sun soaking. On the weekend we watched the Cape May Triathlon. Saturday, swimmers jumped off the ferry and swam past the cottage to the ferry landing, 3 miles. Sunday although delayed due to fog, they swam, ran and biked. Probably over 1,500 entrants. Pretty amazing. We were at the mid point.
Monday morning we packed the car. Walked Nala. We drove back roads, stopping at a park and historic site. No hurry. We weren’t on vacation; just traveling. Time now for some home time until our next travel.
Some more photographs.