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It was time for a break. Time to relax. Time for some fun. Time to exercise. Time for…Ocean City! As for so many other families, our traditional summer vacation was a trip to the beach. With the boys grown and other priorities intervening, it had been a long time, ten years, since my wife and I had an ocean holiday. This year would be different we vowed, and indeed it was. Just a brief respite, depart Thursday and return Monday. But, oh, so much fun.
Six hours from central Pennsylvania, Ocean City Maryland is an easy day drive – even if you stop at virtually every Panera or Starbucks en route (will power is way over rated!). Passing by Harrisburg, Baltimore and Annapolis we followed Maryland Route 50 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge onto Maryland’s eastern shore. This is beautiful country rich in cultural heritage. Every time I pass through I want to read James A. Mitchner’s Chesapeake again. Maybe I will. It’s time well spent.
How the trip has changed over the years. The various drawbridges and traffic bottlenecks are gone, replaced by modern highways. And the once barren stretches where one wondered if the next gas station would show up in time are no more. Yes, the quaint side trips and interesting attractions are still there for those so inclined, among them a stop in St. Michaels and its Maritime Museum is strongly recommended. But we were on a mission to the beach. There would be no side trips this time. While for us traffic was indeed moderate at most and the roadway unencumbered, for those inclined to long narrow parking lots travel eastbound on Friday evening and westbound on Sunday evening is always an option!
Ocean City is on a long narrow barrier island separated from the mainland by bays. Route 50 enters Ocean City at its southern end near The Inlet which separates it from Assateague and Chincoteague Islands to the south. Plan to visit these natural refuges to learn about the eastern shore ecosystem and its wildlife – including the famous wild ponies. We were there last time, so this trip was all about the beach and boardwalk, but we shall return to these beautiful islands…
UPDATE: How time flies! For some reason I never got around to publishing this post in 2012. Finding it again just now I can’t help a chuckle as I reflect upon memories of that trip and my projection above. Reconnecting with our past turned out to be much more compelling than I realized. Not only did we return to Ocean City in 2013, but again in 2014. Yes, three years in a row following a 10 year hiatus! We even stayed an additional day, Wednesday to Monday, the last two years – just can’t get enough.
The boardwalk is 2 1/4 miles long and we walked the entire length at least twice each day. With the gorgeous ocean and beach on one side and delicious “boardwalk food” stands every few feet on the other it was walk, grin, chew; walk, grin, chew; walk, grin, chew… What delightful fun! Gastronomic highlights included Bull On The Beach sandwiches; Dough Roller pizza and pancakes; the Phillip’s Crab House buffet; Harrison’s Harbor Watch sea food; Dumpsers Dairyland milkshakes; and Candy Kitchen fudge.
In a year that also saw trips to Washington, DC; Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia, the beauty and relaxed pace of the beach more than held its own on the enjoyment scale. Ocean City, MD turned out, once again, to be a fitting dessert for the year’s travel palate.