I am back in Ocean City, NJ for the annual pastor’s conference for our region of the English District. With a few exceptions, this is where we usually come. We have been in Lancaster, PA and Niagara Falls, NY, but this place is my favorite.
Which is an interesting phenomenon. I live at the beach. Well, not at the beach, but only ten minutes away. So why do I enjoy coming to another beach community?
For one thing, I love the boardwalk. The boardwalks here, in Atlantic City and some other Jersey shore towns is unique to many of the places I’ve been on the east coast. It is an awesome place to run in the mornings (I did 5K at sunrise today). Though some of the shops are closed for the season by the time I get here, enough are open to make you feel like you are in a completely different place. The assortment includes T-shirt shops, frozen custard, salt water taffy and fudge, french fries, some arcades and amusement areas, and a smattering of breakfast and lunch restaurants. I wander into a few stores, stop to look out over the ocean, get something to eat, feed a few crumbs to the seagulls who watch you eat your snack and watch the wide variety of people doing the same on an early fall afternoon.
It also reminds me of home, at least the Philadelphia home where I grew up and some of the summer vacations spent here. The food includes cheesesteaks and hoagies, the t-shirts are for the Phillies and Eagles, I listen to WMMR (93.3) when I drive the Atlantic City expressway from the airport, and I am at the “shore” rather than the beach or the coast.
It also reminds me of my high-mileage running days when I lived in Neptune and worked in West Long Branch. By high-mileage, I mean fifty to seventy miles per week, with a five mile road race each weekend throughout the summer. I ran a couple of half-marathons here in the early eighties, finishing right where the music pier is. My runs feel just as good, but have gotten much slower for some reason.
This is where you vacationed (if you vacationed) when I was younger. My dad’s work would close up for two weeks each summer, and that’s when vacation was. We used to think that it was a horrendously long drive to the Jersey shore from Ridley Park. It’s not, only a little over an hour, but it seemed to take forever to get here. Of course, we had no AC so we ran with the windows down. We had three kids, so we fought over the window seats. We had no seat belts, so we could sleep in the back of the station wagon. We had an AM radio in the car, so stations came and went as did the towns along the way.
So it’s nostalgic, relaxing, cool yet comfortable, and a few days away from work. It’s some time with brothers in the ministry, and a few hours enduring some decent and some ho-hum presentations. I am not sure if we’ll be back. They want to raise our rates and some want to visit some other areas of the country (like St. Augustine in 2016). But I would be very happy coming back here a few more times.