A Day at the Beach

Hi friends, Liz here. Many of you probably know I am a total beach freak. I live for summer and harbor fantasies about living in a beachy place where summer is year round. Everything is better on the sand with the ocean in view.

But what does a day at the beach really entail? I know when I’m dreaming of my beach time, DunesI’m thinking of the moment when butt hits chair or feet hit water. But it’s not quite that simple. Here’s a look at the totality of a day at the beach, at least in my world.

The Day Before: Get excited. Find something healthy and yummy you can make and bring. Make said healthy yummy food. If really ambitious, gather chairs, umbrella and other paraphernalia for easy packing. Choose between Second Beach in Middletown, Rhode Island (2 hrs away) or Horseneck Beach, Westport, MA (1.5 hrs away). [Note: CT beaches aren’t our cuppa. The Sound is perfectly nice, but just not the same as the Atlantic.] Decide to leave at 9 a.m. to beat traffic, get parking, and claim a spot on the sand. Oh, and most important – choose books!

BeachThe Day Of – 7 a.m. Wake up excited. Even cleaning up cat vomit isn’t so bad with the promise of the sand in between your toes. Try to find favorite towels, but they seem to be missing. Grab replacements. Review reading choices to make sure they’re still perfect for the day. Horseneck Beach bound!

8 a.m. Realize that regardless of the food planning, you’re still missing the major component of your lunch. Get dressed and go to the store.

8:30 a.m. The grocery store on a Saturday. Need I say more?

9 a.m. Finally back home, but need to make the rest of lunch. Departure time delayed.

9:30 a.m. Lunch main course is made, berries are washed, cooler is packed and car is loaded. Not too far behind. Oh, wait. One more pile of cat vomit discovered on the way out the door. Stop and clean.

10 a.m. On the road. Realize you left the exciting healthy snack made the day prior behind in the fridge. Oh, and the road to the beach is NOT littered with Starbucks, just Dunkin. Yuck. Coffee-less at the beach.

10:30 a.m. Traffic. Depending on which beach, could be worse.IMG_1187

11:30 a.m. Arrive. Yay! Get into the (usually long) line to park. End up behind some woman who needs to have a 20-minute conversation with the attendant about something, probably that she doesn’t have the $15 fee. When she finally moves, you’re directed to the overflow lot.

11:35 a.m. Unload the car and try to figure out how to load all the things you “needed” onto the beach cart to get it to the beach.

11:45 a.m. Drag cart up the path, onto the sand and scan the area for the best spot, preferably not near small children or the dumpster. Unpack chairs, etc. Drop chair on toe. Realize the headrest to the chair fell off somewhere along the path. Retrace steps to retrieve. Find the bathroom.

Noon. Finally put butt in chair and sigh contentedly. Crack open book and dig in. After five minutes, realize you need water, which means unpacking the whole cooler to get to it.

12:30 p.m. The beach is filling up fast. A bunch of self-proclaimed still-drunk college kids camp out right in front of you. And keep multiplying. They’re still drinking. And the families with the little kids have come out too, and apparently the best spots are Right. Near. You. Eat what you remembered to bring for lunch and ignore it – you’re at the beach and life is good.

IMG_11861 p.m. Realize the sun has peeked around the umbrella without noticing and one shoulder/arm are totally burning. Adjust chair and keep reading. Because nothing matters when you’re on the beach.

1:15 p.m. Angry moms dragging kids through the sand because it’s super hot and their feet are burning. You could point out that they could just hand the kid their shoes, but whatever. You’re at the beach.

1:30 p.m. College students fighting. Stale Bud wafting through the beach air. Little kid next to us throwing shovels. A lady wearing a crazy fluorescent yellow wig and sequined bright pink bathing suit is trying to be a mermaid. Missed the photo op. Ah, the things you see on the beach.

2 p.m. Hit the water, finally. It’s beautiful! Reconnect with your inner mermaid. Hopefully there are sequins involved.

2:20 p.m. Back to the chair. Nap time, followed by more reading. The college students are alternating between fighting, sunburning and eating last night’s pizza. People are getting cranky. The lifeguards are trying to make the more adventurous swimmers come back to shore.Feet

3 p.m. Time to pack up and leave, unfortunately. It’s this morning, in rewind – pack up the cart, lug it back to the car, try to leave some sand behind. One last glance at the water and you’re already wishing it was time to return. Until next beach day, time to go home and clean up more cat vomit.

Readers, tell us about your beach adventures!

35 Thoughts

  1. What a day! Other than offseason, I haven’t been to the beach in ages for some of the very reasons you mention. But still, it sounds like quite the adventure with plenty of excitement beforehand and it looks like all the mishaps have already turned into fun memories. Thanks for sharing a slice of your life!

  2. Oh, my, Liz! My beach days start with 7 AM arrival at beach – and never on a weekend. All I have to do is vie with the surfers for a parking space, and they mostly clear out by 8. The sand is cool, the beach is largely deserted, and I can read and walk and swim without all that other stuff. By the time the sun gets to burning height at about 10, I pack up and go home (40-minute drive on back roads). Or, I time arrival at about 4 pm. I love being on the beach as it’s getting dark. I think I’ll go tomorrow morning!

    1. Hey Liz, great topic! I love the beach. I was born in Salem and lived my adolescence in Marblehead for years. I didn’t realize that when we moved to Tucson it would be so different a life. I had no idea how important those waves were to my sense of self. I’ve been away from the ocean before, but I’ve always been near swimming holes, at least. When I studied my family history I learned that my ancestors were mariners connected irrevocably to the ocean.

      Edith, what a good description of time spent at the beach by a person who is dedicated. When I get back home I’ll invite you to the return of my beach parties. I think I’ll be able to swim in salt water. If I can’t, I can eat beach food!

  3. Wow, you and Edith are making me jealous! I live in landlocked Ontario, far from any large water body or beach. A trip to the beach for me only occurs when I go on a coastal vacation.

      1. I wish I could come down to a beach in RI or MA, but it won’t happen this summer!

  4. Second Beach in Middletown! Now that brings back beach memories from when I lived in Portsmouth, RI. With three small children, and a family history of spending every possible sunny day in the summer by water for at least part of the day, I was a regular. Of course, my commute to the beach was 10 minutes – 20 minutes on a bad day. Hauling three children and paraphernalia to the beach was a different challenge and it was quite amazing how stripped down the effort could be when faced with getting it all from the parking lot to the sand. One of the biggest pluses of a Navy life – lots of time living near beaches!

  5. I am so blessed! LIve about ten minutes away from sixteen miles of Florida Gulf Beaches. I just grab a folding chair, towel, book, pick a beach and go. For drinks and snacks just walk across the street to convenient little stores or restaurants. I don’t do it as often as I could. Being careful of the sun, especially in the summer!

  6. I agree Dunkin, Yuck! I prefer Cumerland’s Bold, I think it is better than Starbucks. My last time at the beach was with my wife and 3 dogs up in Belfast, Maine. No crowds, no frantic kids – they were all at the tennis courts about 1500 feet away. Just quiet relaxation and, oh yeah, picking up poop!

  7. Hi Liz – So funny! I loved it…and alas, sometimes so true, too!

  8. Don’t envy you the cat vomit, but, oh, to have a day at the beach! Live in lovely land locked Indiana. Have explored beaches in California; Maine; New Hampshire and Florida. Loved Maine the best. Guess I will drive up to Lake Michigan, sit on the sand and dream of Atlantic Ocean. Love to read your thoughts.

  9. When I worked second shift, I lived at Seabrook Beach. I would get up at 7 or 8 and drive the 10 minutes to the harbor. It was quiet and peaceful and free parking. I would get a blueberry muffin and a cola for breakfast on the beach. There was a hot dog vendor and a popcorn guy. I would take a walk to the main beach and sometimes beyond to the beach with the houses overlooking the ocean. There was one house that had a cement curve to keep the winter waves away from the house. Others were built on pylons. I often wondered if they took for granted their view as they had their breakfast, lunch, dinner?
    After the two hour walk I would plop down in to the beach chair and relax. End of day when leaving took hours. I once waited until 6 PM and the traffic was still heavy.

    Now I live an hour’s drive away. On weekends the parking is filled by 8 A.M. The lots charge up to 40 dollars for the day and are filled. The meters on the boardwalk cost 2.00 an hour. I like the early morning and late in the day.

    I just went to the beach when it was 95. The water was icecubes. There was a nice breeze as I sat under the umbrella. 4PM time to go. It takes 15 minutes to get to the car. Timing it just as the meter runs out. Years ago it was 15 when the meter went out. If you didn’t pay the state in a timely manner the price would go up.

    Getting down to the beach on a weekday, I was late. It was 9:30 and most of the parking spaces were full. I got a space that was 300 ft to the closest stairs to the beach. Peaceful and quiet and the sound of the waves, the seagulls, the beach is very restful.

    There was the day where everything went wrong. It was windiy and umbrellas were tumbling down the beach. I had to hold the umbrella with one hand, and even then it would fly up out of the sand. The umbrella would collapse on me. After one struggle to get the peaceful under the umbrella, I noticed the umbrella spike had scratched me and I was bleeding. Get up and walk to the drugstore for bandaid, go to restroom and wash arm and then put bandaid on.

    Diagnosis: Murder has a lovely house on the beach. 🙂

    1. Yikes, Frances! But somehow it all seems worth it, doesn’t it? Just to be there on the water…bleeding is never good, though. And I love your diagnosis – could be a good book someday.

  10. We love the beach too! But you’re right, it is a production to get everything into place. We’re lucky we can stay nearby at a relative’s condo. We still load up a giant cart with all our goodies. Now I feel like going to the beach today!!

  11. Edith leaves the beach as you’re arriving, and I’m getting there as you leave. My pale skin (and I) love the beach in the late afternoon. People start leaving. It’s quiet and peaceful. On our family beach vacations, we have traditions–the early group establishes a beach head. The builders build castles with moats. The body surfers body surf. The cowards wear “wimp shoes” (swim shoes) and endlessly we ask the children, “Did you goop?” (put on sunblock)

  12. Liz, your recent beach experience sounds a bit like family vacations in Florida when I was growing up. I live a block from Lake Superior now — completely different experience. The water’s too cold to swim in even in July — although some people do– I only put my feet in the surf. And most of the summer it’s too cool for swimsuits. But it’s beautiful and I love wearing a light jacket and planting a chair in the sand to read. Hubs and I walk down by the lake most evenings. I even have a peek through view of the lake from the office window where I write. So lucky — of course there’s also the snow eight months of the year 🙂

    1. Lovely, Vickie – but I couldn’t do the snow part. I can barely do the snow in my neck of the woods….hence my dreams of full time summer.

  13. It is worth it. Getting back to our primal selves – hearing the roar of the water, feeling it, walking the sand, seeing the creatures. I live too far away to go often, but when we go, we rent waterfront for a week. Then you just put on swimsuit, walk out door. Any sitting and reading is a few steps away on your own porch. It’s heaven.

  14. I really enjoyed reading your post! I do not live near the beach. The beach where I long to be is Santa Cruz, CA a couple of hours away!! We spent vacations there when I was a kid. I love the sand, the ocean, the air, the shells…. Someday I’ll get back there!!

  15. I’m a Jersey girl- I know the horror! I introduced my Frequent Companion to OCNJ a few years ago and we try to go a few times a summer. The last few summers have sucked and we have not gone. But we are going on August 6! Cannot wait. The upside of Ocean City? No booze on the beach. The downside of Ocean City? No booze anywhere! No kidding-it’s dry town! But it’s beautiful and fabulous and even though it’s 2 hours away (with no traffic), we make a day of it! But only on Saturdays…. I need to rest after all that fresh air! 🙂

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