Riding Down Memory Lane at the Shore

I went on an excursion down to the Shore, on Saturday, with the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia and the Suburban Cycling Club. We met at 30th Street station, loaded our bikes onto a moving van, and then we hopped onto NJ Transit, taking the train to Absecon, New Jersey. From there we took our bikes off the moving truck and then rode down to Ocean City, NJ, a 15 mile trek through Pleasantville, Northfield and over the Sommer's Point bridge, into OC, and over the Ocean City Bay Bridge. It was a perfect day for biking, warm but breezy, with bright sunshine to illuminate the day and bronze the skin (provided you had on enough sunblock to avoid a burn.) As we rode along the bay side of the Ocean City Bridge, a cool, salty breeze blew over us. It was refreshing and whetted our appetites literally for the delights awaiting us on the boardwalk. The riders comprised a group of 16 people, all of them friendly, helpful, entertaining and bicycle informative. While we didn't have much time to spend on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, only about 2 hours total, the entire trip was fantastic. It was such a treat to be able to ride to a far off destination, but not to have to pedal down the entire way. The 30 mile round bike trip was just enough for me, though I could have pushed and ridden at least another 10 to 20 miles with enough rest and snack stops along the way. The photo above is of most of the group once we made it to the Music Pier at Ocean City. That's me in the center. What a difference from where I was a year ago - 62 pounds heavier, without a decent bike, and in no shape to ride more than 5 miles in a day!

Above, are some shots of the bicycle and recreational trail that starts in Northfield, New Jersey and ends at the Bridge going into Sommer's Point. The trail is a clean, beautiful and well-marked. It's ideal for roller blading, biking, strolling or jogging. Riding along this trail brought back many memories. The only other time I've been biking along here was in the Summer of 1987. I was 20 years old, living in Pleasantville for the summer with some wacky people I had met that previous winter. To a 20 year old college kid with no other place to go for the summer, the opportunity to live at or near the shore sounded like a fantasy come true. The fantasy quickly turned into a nightmare. Pleasantville is the most inapt name ever given to a town. It was a seedy derelict town, suffering from its proximity to Atlantic City and all the social ills of the 1980's, as well as its lack of proximity to the actual beach, bay or other important body of water. The people with whom I was living were absolutely crazy. The guy, F. P., was from an old South Philly family with vague mob connections; he had delusions of grandeur and fame; he also had somehow recorded an album in the late 1970's that brought him a gold record from the bygone disco era. I remember F.P. getting some friends and I to sing with him, to see if we could somehow form a group to possibly record some songs. It seemed like fun at the time, but there was always a dark more insidious side to his temperament. That next record never happened and someone always wound up disappointing this man/child, which would cause him to fly into a rage. F.P. lived with his mother, Marie, a gravelly-voiced old lady who always talked about her imminent death and her dear departed husband, who was a saint and an old number's runner. I can still hear her cigarette tinged voice, sizing me up and down, "Ya know, yer no skinny minny, doll." "F. bring me another friggin' cup a cauwfee, and where are my cigarettes?." F.P. and his mother smoked non-stop, drank more coffee than Maxwell House could grind, and fought so much and so loudly that I wonder if either of them had any hearing, voices or lung capacity left by the time the 1980's were over. I lasted about 2 months in this den of insanity. I was young, poor, naive and eager to be out of Philadelphia's sweltering humidity for the summer. Sometimes you get more than you bargain for...

On my days when I wasn't working, sleeping off a hangover from my staying out all night at the gay bars in AC, partying with the vampires, I would ride my bike to the beach, to work on my tan. Those were the days before sunblock with SPF 45 and higher! We were still slathering on baby oil and squeezing lemons into our hair to turn it blond. Thanks to my legs of steel and youth, I could pedal fast to get through the rough and tumble parts of Pleasantville and Atlantic City before I could hit the safety of Margate, Ventnor and Ocean City. The bike trail, as it is now, was nowhere in existence back then. If it had been, I may have been persuaded to last longer at the shore; a ride to the family friendly beaches would have beckoned me to explore further parts of the South Jersey shore.

Food memories are so closely tied to my down the shore memories. The photo above is a detail from the Mack & Manco Pizza sign, with surly seagulls looking down at pizza buyers. Fine dining isn't the norm. Back then it was nothing but boardwalk fare. Then as now, there are several must haves on the Ocean City Boardwalk, but not all at once: Mack & Manco's Pizza; Kohr Bros. Custard; Curly's Fries; Johnson's Caramel Popcorn; the burgers & donuts at Browns; Fudge or any kind of candy from Shriver's. Rather than fall completely off my Weight Watcher's Wagon, I was wise and had a slice at Macks and a burger at Brown's. I brought fudge back for Liz, so she could enjoy a little piece of "downtheshore" too.

The Ferris wheel, at Wonderland Pier. At night you can see the Ferris wheel's lights shinning from as far away as Brigantine and over the causeway's for miles and miles. It's a really huge Ferris wheel. It takes 15 minutes for to ride the entire revolution. You get your money's worth and quite a bird's eye view of the surrounding shore towns.

The boardwalk in Ocean City is about 3 miles long. It's great for biking in the morning. I love to ride a beach cruiser or rent a surrey, with the fringe on top, and pedal along with other people in tow. It's such a laugh riot to be one of those bicycle carriages, you feel like you have pedaled back in time. In this shot, you can see the crowds already filling up the boards at 3:30 in the afternoon. Kites are flying in the distance, and the beach is still full of bathers and surfers.
The famous, Ocean City Flip Flop Sign. Immortalize yourself and family and pose with your head popping through the sunglasses!

I was really glad I had the chance to spend the day biking and hanging out with some new friends. The exercise and fresh air were so rejuvenating. I'm feeling ready to take on the triathlon this Sunday, August 3rd. I am delighted to have made the changes I've made in the past year (as well as in the past 21 years too!), as I've now lost 62 pounds and god only knows how many inches. I get a kick out of the fact that I can look back and laugh at my foibles as a young adult, and sigh with relief that I lived through those adventures and came out somewhat unscathed. Biking has been such a constant part of my life, then and now. I'm so happy to be able to reconnect to it and to have the leg and knee power to still ride. If anything got me through my teens and early 20's, it was biking, much more so than therapy and food and vacations at the beach. Well, almost...


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