Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prelude to Fall

When the hurricane season appears and school begins, fall isn't far around the corner. As a Florida native, I thought I had left hurricanes behind when I moved to Pennsylvania. Irene was one of only a few that I have experienced in 45 years in this region. Fortunately, my personal experience wasn't as dramatic as the problems that other people encountered, but I never underestimate the power of even a category 1 hurricane or a tropical storm.

I know from experience in the South that hurricanes can be devastating so I did not object when officials and weather people warned that we should get prepared. They did a good job in preparing for the worst case scenario. It is good that the storm didn't intensify and I don't mind that I prepared more than it turned out that I needed. I would rather do that than needing something and not having prepared. I didn't feel it was "over-hyped". We were just lucky it didn't get worse. It is unfortunate that some people lost their lives and some had awful flooding problems. They probably don't think it was "over-hyped". Kudos to those responsible for emergency preparedness. I'm celebrating that it wasn't worse.

We had only a little dampness in our basement, but the whole community lost electrical power. We were lucky that it only remained off for 27 hours. We had planned to head for a motel if it stayed off for a second day. When the stores sold out of batteries in advance, we were able to order online and get them shipped overnight express. They arrived in a nick of time. We prefer using flashlights and avoiding the danger of candles, but we played scrabble by candlelight one night. It is a good reminder to appreciate the basics.

I was very nervous about our trees; fortunately, we had small branches blown down but nothing major. There was no sleep for me Saturday night and I stayed downstairs in case a tree fell on the house. Maybe the strength of the entire forest held up the trees. Isolated trees seemed to have more damage.

In an all electric house, it's good to have power again--warm showers, warm food, flushing toilets. Now that we have made it through Irene, I don't want to go through another one. We had a busy week with an earthquake and a hurricane just days apart. I was three times lucky--we made it through the earthquake with no damage, the hurricane wasn't devastating, and I won $150 at the casino.

I didn't take any pictures of the hurricane since I had used my memory cards to store videos of the house in case they were needed for insurance purposes.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August in Atlantic City

We day trippers in my region find this month to be a great time to drive east to the coast and Atlantic City is the closest shore point but not as the crow flies. Southern New Jersey is expressway-challenged in the east to west directions so we Pennsylvania natives cross the nearest bridge over the Delaware River and head south-east on the Atlantic City Expressway. When traffic is good, which isn't guaranteed in the summer, it takes about an hour to drive to the coast.


Atlantic City offers beautiful, wide, well-tended beaches and is one of the few free beaches in New Jersey (Some charge for beach tags). The Atlantic Ocean has beautiful surf and nice crashing waves at times, for anyone addicted to the sounds of the shore. We like to look at beaches but find the boardwalk and the mall to be fun also. Atlantic City is very crowded during the summer with tourists on the boardwalk, in the casinos, on the beach and in the mall.


The three floor mall that stretches far into the ocean on a pier located across the boardwalk from Caesar's Hotel/Casino contains some unique shops(LeSportsac) and restaurants(Phillips Seafood). Along one side of the mall are floor to ceiling windows to overlook the ocean and the boardwalk. 

Visitors can have a sanitized beach experience in air conditioned, bug-free comfort by sitting in the Adirondack chairs and sinking their bare feet into the sand. Restaurants are located behind this area so diners can enjoy their lunch and the ocean at the same time.


Entertainment is as close as the end of this mall/pier with an outside deck to view the ocean and the rows of casinos. Also at the end of the pier is an indoor dancing fountain show stretching three floors up, complete with colored lights and lively music for about seven minutes beginning every hour. Restaurants also line the boardwalk and our favorite is Pickles, open only in the summer. They serve bowls of assorted pickles for appetizers, and ten-inch tall slices of cakes for dessert. Who cares about the main course!


The casinos are a big draw for tourists, and a small part of the Atlantic City experience for us. We like to spend a half hour to an hour on a few of our favorite slots. There are so many different casinos and interesting sights, it is just part of the variety of the day. The music from the beach bars drifts up to the boardwalk and the long walk up and down the boardwalk is a never ending parade of people just walking and enjoying the weather. That is about all of the activity we can pack into a day but not the end of the many activities available with beaches and communities stretching north and south. It is never boring at the Jersey Shore.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lucky People

In the past, when we have traveled to the beach with friends and played games of chance for large stuffed toys, I'm not the person who wins. On one occasion, we were with two friends and the guy won a large purple, stuffed elephant which he and his wife stuffed behind them inside a convertible MG, vintage late 1960's, and proceeded to drive home. It was so much bigger than our friends, you had to look twice to tell that there were two humans in the front. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of it, but the mental image will never leave my memories; however that is a whole other story.

I've never considered myself to be a particularly lucky person, but upon reflection of several events in my life, maybe I am lucky. I've had a few "narrow escapes" and some time after the event, I was struck by the feeling of having escaped disaster. One particular event occurred in 1968 when hubby and I went to Estes Park, CO. We decided to try horseback riding into the hills as part of a group trip from a local ranch. We had never ridden horses before and they were very tame which was why they were used for tourists with no experience. The guides told us, "They know what they are doing, you're just along for the ride."

We rode into the mountains and the trails narrowed more and more as we ascended. Then we met another group on horseback coming back down the mountain on the same trail. Their protocol was that the group headed down the mountain got to pass to the upside on the mountain. We were passing to the outside of the trail which also was on the edge of a cliff.  At one point, the horse I was riding seemed to step to the side of the trail which put his rear hoof toward the downhill side. I knew nothing about riding horses, but my natural inclination was to lean forward and shift my weight to the uphill side. The horse caught his footing, the other group had passed and we moved on up the mountain to a beautiful mountain lake as blue as the sky and as smooth as a mirror but cluttered with jagged dead wood.  We let the horses drink while we relaxed and wandered around.

We returned to the stable from the mountain trail. As I handed the reins to the guide who was traveling in the rear of our caravan behind me, he said, "I thought we were going to lose you up there." I asked what he meant and he said the other group needed too much room and the horses could barely pass each other. The horse I was riding seemed to catch his balance and nothing happened, but I couldn't see this event from behind the horse I was riding. The guide saw the whole thing but said nothing until we reached home. Then I realized I could have been lying dead at the bottom of a steep cliff if the horse had lost his footing and the two of us had tumbled down the cliff. Dumb luck!

Being young and stupid, it didn't occur to me to question the unwise practice the tour group had of bringing two groups on horseback on the same trail to pass each other. I wasn't screaming my lungs out at the time, I just assumed that they knew what they were doing. It has only been in retrospect that I realize how lucky I really was. It taught me a valuable lesson to the effect that when I go on vacation, I shouldn't leave my common sense at home. I tend to apply an abundance of caution about the things I am willing to do all in the name of "having a good time". It wasn't the first time I've had a "narrow escape" but I try to minimize the number of those occasions.

Never having won "things" my greatest win has to have been my life, even though I don't even do extreme sports.  I'm still alive and healthy so I am the luckiest person I know.