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Winter in Cape May
by Bill Hawksford
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Austin 7 was a good recommendation for the vacation to Cape May. There was ample room for the luggage, with my wife sitting on my lap taking turns steering. The vehicle held up well through torrential rain and there was no evidence of a leak. On arrival, the topic of conversation in the lobby was the weather, with people reporting snow blizzards on their way from Philadelphia. The situation prompted my wife and I to question our sanity for deciding to visit the seaside in inclement weather during winter. “Why are we here?” demanded my wife, and I couldn't think of a good answer! The hotel staff that relies on tourists, created a subdued atmosphere, with their natural concern about all the room cancellations. In a bad attempt at humor to cheer things up in the lobby, I registered my wife as my niece, but the nuance was lost on the little old prim and proper lady behind the counter.

Our third floor room overlooking the ocean was ideal with the exception of the toilet-bowl; holding so much water that my pendulous parts got an ice-cold dip each time I sat down. And the flush was so ferocious; there was a danger of losing the family jewels if I didn't stand up quickly enough.

Rain was still pouring down the following day, and the bitter wind whipped up white caps on the water and sent us scurrying to buy thermal underwear. Naturally, we had neglected to pack them. To our dismay the local shops only sell winter garments in the summer and summer stuff in the winter, so we were out of luck and had to endure. The next day the rain was gone leaving us at the mercy of the wind, which continued to restrict our activities. Reading was the order of the day, and we polished off everything in sight, starting with newspapers, then magazines, two books, brochures, menus and something we found in the room called 'Directory.' This last publication is recommended for anyone interested in communication and although the plot eluded me, it was well structured with plenty of characters and the Browns and Smiths taking prominent roles.

On the third day the wind had subsided, the water was calm and the sun came out like an English summer day. There was rejoicing in the streets with all the tourists sightseeing before there was a change of venue. We visited the ferry terminal, which is always a delight. Over a cup of coffee, we watched the large vessels spill out their vehicles and take on new ones in a 15-minute turn around cycle. There was so much to see on this delightful day, that we decided against the usual two and a half hour round trip to Delaware, which is like an ocean voyage.

Cape May lighthouse area with the fish hatchery and the bird sanctuary over looking the beach was always a pleasure. There were no birds with the exception of a hungry noisy crow begging for food because they had all migrated by this time of the year. Without the birds, we were deprived of observing the serious bird watchers, whom we previously found interesting in their waistcoats of many pockets. Their equipment, which included special chairs, cameras, binoculars and telescopes in all sizes, was also intriguing.

The sun brought out the beach people with small children building their kingdoms in the sand. Watching the kids from the comfort of a bench seat in the shelter, my mind wandered to another time when I was a boy at Clacton-On-Sea. Recalling the excitement of the sandy beach and sailing my small boat on the pond, I was jolted back to reality by my wife. Shattering the magic of the moment, she announced, “Come on, we can't stay here all day.”

The cuisine at the Cape May restaurants was the usual high standard and only exceeded by the wine. For whatever reason, my wife was compelled to inquire how it compared to the fare provided by the British army. I suspected she was torturing me again and I refused to speak to her for two days! The variety of fresh fish at our favorite eating place, The Tuckahoe Inn, was exceptional and there was ample raw meat to satisfy the locals. On the way out, the bar was very noisy, which prompted me to whisper to the matre d’, “The natives are particularly restless today!” She looked at her watch and with a wry smile replied, “Yes about this time!”

We naturally had our share of mishaps; spilling a container of coffee at a road side stop, getting lost returning from The Tuckahoe Inn, where we had dined many times before and exiting the hotel elevator at the wrong floor on three occasions. There was also the time I switched on my oxygen machine with out connecting it to my nose, and another occasion I connected the hose to my nose and neglected to switch on the machine. However, as I explained to my wife, it's all a normal part of life and should not be confused with advancing years. “Have you seen my glasses?” I inquired of my wife. To which she replied in her endearing way, “You're wearing them, you bloody fool.” Was she casting aspersions on my mental state or just amusing me? The vacation was as enjoyable as ever with the tranquility causing my wife to fall asleep on the return journey, forcing me to drive all the way back without her valuable advice. Arriving home, the Austin 7 was shampooed, stored on a shelf in the garage and the engine put back on the lawnmower until the next trip.

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