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Biking at Island Beach State Park
by Sam Snyder
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I HAVE to do some catching up here. Last weekend, on Saturday the 9th, I went biking at Island Beach State Park here in New Jersey. On Sunday the 10th, I was determined to write this entry and even posted the page with a short blurb to greet a few people that I met on Saturday and gave my business card to. But, being in the "Jersey shore mode" after being there by myself on Saturday, I took the kids to the boardwalk at Point Pleasant on Sunday afternoon, got home at 10 PM and had no energy left to write. Then, of course, life continued to happen the rest of the week. That's the funny thing about life, it won't wait for you to write all of your journal entries before it decides to move right along while you are looking the other way. Now, here it is, a full week since last Saturday. I was going to do a long bike ride again today. But the thunderstorms have me trapped inside so far. So, I tossed the new Black Crowes CD into the player, made myself a few slices of frozen pizza. I have to finish this entry before it gets too stale and dies in my "Drafts" folder like a dozen others.

AS A FEW of you know, I had intended to go away to Mystic, Connecticut for the weekend last week. I have been in desperate need of a break and a few days away! This little trip would have been a first for me. I have never taken a weekend off to go away just for the sake of having a little vacation. For so long now life has been work, kids, work, kids, work, kids- not to mention work and kids! I just need a minute to catch my breath! Since Connecticut is not too far from New Jersey, I thought I would go there. I had been to Mystic Seaport on a high school band trip in my junior year. I have a vague memory that it was a nice place. I also have an embarrassing memory of getting suspended from the band along with a lot of other kids on that trip. Ask Pastor B! He was the band director then. He will tell you! Better yet, let me tell you a little.

That was a crazy trip! It was like a good portion of the kids in the band just let loose! I remember seeing one kid falling down drunk on the stairs at the motel. A group of us took the sheets off our bands and ran around the motel in "togas." When we went into a bar at the place and were confronted by the motel manager, we knew we went a little too far. I ran outside and came into our room through the window. I made the bed, went back out through the window, came into the front of the motel. It just seemed like chaos at that point. The manager was running around yelling, "Where are the chaperones for this Warren Hills group?" I simply said to someone as I walked in, "Hey, what's going on?" I escaped trouble for the moment.

Later that night a lot of kids did more crazy stuff. One girl climbed out of her window and into the window of the room next to hers, which had been empty earlier. Well, someone had rented the room and grabbed her as she came in. Busted! A lot of kids were drinking and getting stoned out in the woods near the motel. The four of us in our room were pretty tame that night. But we ended up in the most trouble! Our room was on the ground floor. At some point close to midnight, two girls banged on our window and begged us to let them in because the cops were out looking for the kids that were partying. I remember that I was asleep but woke up when one of the other guys let these two fugitives in. All I remember was seeing two girls climbing in through the window and Johnny Carson's face smiling on the television. The girls slept in our bathroom. I went back to sleep. In the morning the girls left and within minutes our phone rang. They were busted! We were busted!

When one of the guys answered the phone that morning, we could all hear Pastor B yelling so loudly that it was as if he were in the room! When we reported to his room we were all scared. This guy served in the Marines! This guy has a scar that is so mean looking that it makes Frankenstein's scars look like beauty marks. I will never forget when Pastor B kicked the corner of the mattress on the bed and half of it lifted about four feet into the air! He sent us backed to our room and ordered us to be confined there. No breakfast. Nothing. Just sit in the room and wait for further orders. We were dead! We sat in that room until all the rest of the marching band had eaten breakfast, packed up their things and loaded onto the buses. A few merciful souls brought a few leftovers from their breakfast. At least there were no bars on the windows! Then the four felons were led out to the chartered buses filled with the somber faces of our band comrades. The decision of the court marshal was that the four of us were suspended from the band for the rest of the year. This was not a good thing since two of us were the bass player and the drummer for the jazz band, which had a competition yet while we were on that trip! But Pastor B, since he is one of those warm hearted Marines, lessened our sentence and decide that we were only suspended from the marching band, not the jazz band, and only for the duration of the trip, not the whole school year. Whew!

Time to change CDs. How about the new Electric Light Orchestra CD, "Zoom?" Be right back!

SO why didn't I go to Connecticut last weekend, you ask. Well, the weekend before that, T started getting sick. His throat was sore. His head was stuffed up. By Monday he was feeling pretty miserable. By Tuesday he was hacking up colors that I have never seen on this planet before! So I had to skip a day of Java class to take T to the doctor. The doctor was nearly convinced that it was mono. T's glands were huge, even in the back of his neck! He gave us antibiotics and the assurance that mono was viral and the medicine would not work. The doctor was betting money that we would be back in three days. Thankfully, T was much better by Friday. I should have taken the doctor's bet! But in the meantime I had to cancel my hotel reservations before I was charged. On that Friday, the day I had originally planned to leave for Connecticut, T was well enough to go to school. I was glad for that. But I was rather disappointed that my trip was canceled.

ON Saturday, while the kids were visiting their mom, I was determined to get away for at least that day. I got a New Jersey map out and finally decided to head to Island Beach State Park. The weather was perfect that day, not too hot, lots of puffy clouds in the sky. I took the scenic route down routes 611 and 32 on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, crossed over into Milford, New Jersey and followed route 29 down to Trenton. The rest of the way was all freeways. 120 miles and 2 and a half-hours after leaving home, I was at the gates of the park.

There was a very pleasant girl working at the gate. She saved me $7 by informing me that I can park my car outside of the park entrance, ride my bike in and not have to pay a thing. I got my bike ready, prepared my camera, put on my red Old Navy hat (my official biking hat), and chatted with the nice girl at the gate for a bit. She gave me some tips as to what to look for in the park. I gave her a smile and my business card with the URL for CONTINUUM... on it. Then I rode away into the park, realizing a quarter of a mile later that I did not think to ask the nice girl what her name was! Duh! Moron! In the "Single Guy Manual," finding out a girl's name is like the second most important thing to do, the first being "Do not spit on nice girls while speaking to them."

NOW the road through Island Beach State Park is one straight stretch for 8.2 miles. The park is mostly wild, lots of flowers, shrubs and small trees on the sand dunes. On one side of the park is the Atlantic Ocean. On the other is the Barnegat Bay. As I was riding along the road, I could catch glimpses of both now and then. It is not a hard ride to the end of the road by bike. It is straight and flat. The funny thing is that the road ahead of you in the distance always has the appearance that it is uphill. On my way in I was puzzled as to why it was steady uphill all the way. I thought, "Boy, it will be an easy ride back!" But on the way back it was the same thing- seemingly uphill! Weird!

Along my way through the park I took plenty of pictures. There were many nice flowers along the way. I got some nice shots of boats on the bay. About three quarters of the way through the park there was a pair of osprey high in a nice on a stand. That was the first that I had seen osprey. They were beautiful. While I was taking their picture, the male flew out of the nest and circled overhead while the female looked at me and screeched quite a bit. On my way back there was a fox trotting along on the opposite side of the road. I did not have my camera ready and could not get a good picture of him. I turned around to follow him in order to get a better picture. Then I decided that chasing down a fox might not be the best of ideas. What if he was one of those man-eating fox? What if he dragged me into the brush and ate both my bike and me? I let him be.

I spent about two hours biking and taking pictures in the park. It was refreshing to ride the 16 miles on such a nice day. The nice girl without a name was gone when I got back to the gate. If she ever does check out my website and see how crazy I am she will probably be glad that I don't know her name!

AFTER biking I was starving! So I walked over to a place next to the beach called the Atlantic Bar and Grill. It is a nice place, just a little on the expensive side- especially for a guy on the single-father-with-five-kids-budget like me. I ordered a margarita and a huge glass of water to start with. An older gentleman named Mike Gallo was playing the piano. "Play us a song! You're the piano man!" It was nice. Although I was still sweating from my bike ride, I did manage to sweat a little more when I saw that the cheapest dinner on the menu was $19.95- pan seared scallops with ginger/carrot sauce. I ordered that and another huge glass of water. It was served on an oversized plate. In total there were seven scallops and three tiny boiled potatoes surrounding a clump of cooked carrot, zucchini and yellow squash strips. Delicious, but definitely not filling! I thought to myself, "Man! I'm paying about $3 per scallop here!" But in the end the waitress did not charge me for the margarita. So I only paid $2.50 per scallop!

I finished eating just in time to walk back to my car, get on my bike and ride over to the bay. Within a brief 10 minutes I had clicked off 40 or so pictures. It was the perfect ending to the day. The sunset was beautiful! It was like God was writing His signature at the end of the day. I was satisfied. I had gotten away for at least a day. Then my cell phone rang. "Daddy, where are you? How soon will you be picking us up?" Work, kids, work, kids, work, kids. I wondered if God ever tired of making sunsets day after day. He did not have to answer my question. I went home refreshed, ready to add a little color to my children's lives.

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