My wife, Patricia, and I were in a festive, relaxed mood as we drove through the wetlands between Wildwood Crest and Cape May the other day. The tide was so high that most of the wetlands were underwater, and the nearly-setting sun was glistening brightly over that wide expanse that it just made us smile.
We both felt fortunate to live in this exceptionally beautiful place these last four decades, and to have raised our family here.
We don’t feel this way because others tell us this is a dream of a place to live; this is, in part, our response to its proliferation of natural beauty. We simply appreciate being under the blue sky.
My wife is a gardener, and is never happier than when she spends endless hours in the yard, with her hands in the dirt or when she is dead-heading her flowers. She is so fond of her garden that there is no place in the yard for grass – it’s all flowers, bushes, and trees.
Needless to say, we love driving or riding our bikes around our county taking in as much of the openness as possible. We haven't biked in the Belleplain State Forest, but that is next. We love the ocean and the beach, both to admire and to play in the sand and the surf with our children and grandchildren.
We love historical sites and nature walks in Cape May Point, Diamond Beach, and Stone Harbor. We enjoy biking to the flower gardens of the North Wildwood lighthouse and walking the seawall there. Our children’s families delight in the varied appeal of Wildwood and Ocean City boardwalks, and the zoo.
We revel in the offerings of the countless restaurants and the wineries; my son and sons-in-law get out to the new breweries.
We try never to miss a play at one of Cape May’s theatres and the music, in the pubs, in the parks, at the Cape May Music Festival, and the symphonies in Avalon.
We appreciate the quaintness of the draw bridges spanning the captivating inland waterways. While we no longer own a boat, we fancy the thousands of boats, whether docked or chugging by as we sip a drink at one of our many dockside taverns.
We dine with friends on the deck overlooking the inlet behind the Reeds in Stone Harbor, taking pleasure in the paddle boarders attempting to row while standing. We love driving in the wooded areas and by the farms, and stopping at the farmers’ markets.
We have lived here long enough to see a wonderful transformation in many of the towns. When we purchased the former Avalon Herald in the late 1970s, it was still located in Avalon. At that time, the Avalon business district did not have a shadow of its current appeal.
We stroll to the easternmost point of the Crest Fishing Pier to experience the crashing wave and ocean breezes, and amble along the newly rebuilt Sunset Lake waterfront. Twice a week, we find ourselves taking in the charm of Cape May’s tree-lined streets and Victorian homes. My wife says - jokingly I'd hope - she’d like a second home there, or possibly in West Cape May.
We built our home when our children were young. I was in the construction business, and accordingly built it large for when the kids returned with their families. This July we had 20 at home for a couple of weeks.
Because of all of the attractions - and hopefully a desire to see the parents - Cape May County is a magnet, attracting the family home yearly.
The things we enjoy are certainly not all that our county has to offer. I have friends who golf three days a week, and others who frequent the fishing boats. Some go with their children on the sightseeing boats to catch sight of dolphins and occasional whales.
The ladies, in particular, shop in the quaint shops. Their pleasure in our county adds to my enjoyment of the place we call home.
That all said, do I feel like a blessed man? Absolutely. Do I lament many of the pleasures I enumerated going dormant with the approaching off-season? For sure.
Having spent over 40 years of the off-season here, I have never been bored – there remains much to do. I am thankful to call Cape May County home.