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South Jersey: Part two.

When we visited earlier this summer, I sadly did not get to see too much of Ocean City because we were focused on the music festival in Atlantic City. This time around, we were focused on soaking up Ocean City and the beloved "Bay House" for the last official weekend of Summer.
View from dock at Bay House

Sunset at the Bay House

Sunset at the Bay House
Inside the dock house
Brooke's Sister, Holly, and I arrived at PHL Airport around 3:30 Friday. The sky was overcast but we have not a worry in the world, as everyone knows it never rains at the beach. Mr. Robinson, who swiftly became my new favorite elder, happened to be flying in around the same time and offered us a ride since he was going to the "shore" for the weekend of Labor as well. Mr. Robinson is the father of OC family friend, Steve. As we crossed the bridge that lead us out of Philly and our introductions and brief background stories were wrapping up, Mr. Robinson starts raving about Crabby's Bloody Mary Mix. Knowing this holiday weekend will deliver massive headaches, he suggest we stop in and grab a cocktail and a gallon of mix on our way into town. Of course, we oblige. Crabby's is small, quaint and located on the edge of a not so busy road. The inside is adorned with wooden tables covered with newspaper instead of tablecloths, captain looking wooden chairs and stools, the smell of fresh seafood and Ole Bay, people yelling at one another from across the restaurant and the best Bloody Mary Mr. Robinson has ever had (I had a feeling he's had a lot in his day). After our cocktail we retire back to the car for the last 30 min of the drive.

As we approach Ocean City, I'm was not sure what to expect. This weekend is not just Brooke and I. This was, I soon found out, the last weekend Brooke's Portland family will be at the Bay House. After many long discussions and lots of contemplating, they decided to sell the house. Brooke's mother's family is from Ocean City so luckily she (we) will have other places to stay during our future visits. But the Bay House, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh the Bay House. There are not many left of its kind. She has been in the family since the early 1900s! She sits right on the Bay, rugged, sturdy, old and with walls that surely have a story or two to tell. She is surrounded by new, enormous, fancy houses but at the end of the day she has more character than them all combined. The people that have filled this house over the years are just as wonderful and this Labor Day weekend, I got to meet them.
Old Bikes at the Bay House

11th and Bay

When we finally arrive to OC we head to the Beach Club. Mrs. Gleason, that sweet lady, got us a room there so we could have our own space for the weekend. After a quick freshen up it was off to the Bay House for sunset cocktails and a meet and greet with family and friends. The sunsets from the back porch and dock are out of this world. The view sticks with you and its something you wish you could lay our eyes on each night. Brooke's dear friend, Shannon, arrives from Philly via the Atlantic City casino bus. For a mere $20.00 you can get a lift to and from Philly and Atlantic City and as a bonus you get to make the acquaintance of a very interesting group of folks heading to the casinos! After searching for a taxi that could fit all 13 of us, I finally found Dave the taxi driver. He had this new white 15 passenger van, ac, great tunes, drinks and smokes allowed... it was perfect. He was our new BFF. We all piled in after he promptly arrived on time
( good sign) and headed to Maynards about 10 minutes away.
We have a few drinks and at 2am pile back in the white van. Once back at the Bay House, Holly and I decide to stay for late night. About 3 minutes after Dave and the girls drive off into the night, we realize there is no late night to be had. Tristan retreats to his tent in the side yard. Abe and his friends pull out two bikes for Holly and I and we bike the 4 or 5 blocks to the Beach Club. Bikes seemed like the smart and safe thing to do at the time. However once arriving at BC we realize the TINY elevators would not hold our bikes so we had to haul them up the steps (not fun intoxicated or hungover).
Brooke and I

Side note: For some reason, I have a knack for finding what I think are the best cab drivers in each city I go to. I like to find one on the day of arrival and use him the entire trip. This works out just marvelous for cases such as getting lost, leaving stuff behind in the cab, needing to be picked up the next am and not having to call and wait on other taxi drivers. If you get this taken care of on night one, it takes a level of stress or worry out of the equation. So, if you need a taxi in a cool city, chances are I've got one for you.
The girls at Maynards

Most of the crew

The next morning we draw back the drapes and let the sunshine into our cold dark cave. Brooke and I decide it is time for Voltacos! It's one of the best breakfast bacon and cheese sandwiches I've ever had (the other being in South Hampton, NY). The pork roll is what most local folks order, but I am not quiet there yet... Since we have our Bay House bikes in the room, we decide we should ride them. One has basket that our sammys will fit perfectly in. We get outside (after the nice manager tells us we are not allowed to have bikes in the room) and its just a beautiful day. Sunny and high 70s. Basically the day was perfect for lounging poolside on the OC Boardwalk. I am not sure if its just because it was a holiday weekend, but OC has that old school beach town feel to it. Small family owned businesses line the streets. Stop signs take the place of stop lights. The boardwalk is one the most well-known boardwalks in the world and is almost 3 miles long. Cars are more or less replaced by beach cruisers. Lifeguards still use old wooden boats which they must row, no motors for these guys! It is the type of place where you have no choice but to feel happy and relaxed. After bronzing ourselves so we are sun kissed for our night out, we rally from the pool and get ready for sunset drinks at the Bay House, round two.
Hilary, T-bone, Emily & Holly at Maynards

Rocking my "Bay House find" that Brooke generously gave me!

Tristan and I showing off our new hats

Saturday night was quickly upon us. There are about 20 or some people of a couple different age groups at the Bay House. We talked, laughed, listened to music, watched the sun drift behind the clouds and told stores. Saturday was our "big night in Atlantic City". Taxi Dave picked us up around 8pm and we were off to Caesar's Palace.On the way I noticed Tristan had an amazing hat on. He tells me it was his "Bay House find". Brooke then plopped a vintage red Columbia hat on me and to our surprise looked adorable ( not sure if adorable is what one hopes to look like while venturing into AC, but oh well). Brooke was thrilled and started taking pictures of "Emily's Bay House find". We arrived at Caesar's Palace and made our way up to Game On to watch all the college football games. We rented out the VIP section and began ordering food and drinks. After the games we started our bar hopping down the strip. After being rejected from one roof top bar because Nick had "athletic shoes" on and a few choice words from none other than Brooke Gleason to the bouncer and manager, we moved on. We moved on alright... to Tropicana Casino. Here we found a tiny karaoke bar, Planet Rose It is amazing. It is just what we needed after our little words with the bouncer incident. Red walls, animal print couches, booths and chairs were the backdrop for the mostly horrible voices bellowing out the front door. With drinks still flowing rather quickly, Brooke and Tristan - aka: T-bone or Javier ( Brooke's Portland cousin) start signing up for songs. Next thing I knew they are front and center yelling slash signing. It is hilarious, almost as hilarious as the next scene. There was a private room you could rent for your private karaoke needs. "BOOM Brooke" sashayed her way into the private rented out room. Asians were singing Hakuna Matata. Yes, that would be Hakuna Matata from the Lion King. Brooke grabs the mic and starts in with them.They were amazed that she knew each and every word without looking at the screen (I secretly was as well). A round of applause is given at the end. After another rousing song by N'Sync, in the rented private room, we exit.
GAME ON! in Atlantic City

Inside Planet Rose

Emily, Hilary, Tristan at Planet Rose

Adam, Tristan, Abe

Gleasons lovie the karaoke.

T-bone and his main squeeze of the night.

Side note: Brooke, our friend Maggie and I just saw the Lion King 3D this past Sunday. Maggie is crying before the second scene starts, Brooke is again singing word for word along to the soundtrack ( in much more of a whisper than in the private room) and I am sitting in between the two with goose bumps. We were by far the oldest adults in the theater without children.

3 am was now upon us. We start to gather the troops as our faithful taxi Dave was set to pick us up at 3:15 am. Late night was the talk of the ride home. Kalley, Adam, T-bone and I were 100% set on having late night. With or without the other troops, who seem to be falling rather quickly?! We dropped the Bay House residents off who proclaimed that they "are biking over really soon" and we drove off. Before we can change clothes and brush our pearly whites, they come a knockin'. We had a drink and chat in the room before heading to the beach for an early morning swim. If you are in need of some free exhilaration, just take a 4am dip in the the Atlantic... clothes are optional.

Here comes Sunday. Sunday was a bit cooler than the rest of the weekend but the sun is still shining and we were in excellent spirits. We were to attend a Labor Day cookout at Brooke's cousin's from her mother's side of the family. After socializing a bit and eating some delicious dips and her Grandmother's mac and cheese, of course home made and with zero calories, we make our way back to the Bay House before going to Reggae night at Baia. Reggae night at Baia includes a great Reggae band on the water and the whole town on Ocean City signing Bob Marley. We were all lagging a bit from the past two nights but knew we had to pull our selves out of the struggle box, which we managed to do.

Last time Brooke and I were in OC/ AC we met 3 awesome peeps at the music festival. Kristin, Pat and Mike. Pat and Mike own Hatrley, a beautiful Sail boat. We have kept in contact with the crew over the past couple months and after talking we realized the boys would up around that weekend as well! We decided we should meet up at Baia for Reggae night. These two are quiet the pair, never a dull moment. That Sunday night proved to be no different. Once Baia kicks everyone out around 11pm we all (the group has doubled in size) proceed to walk over to Big Buoys- a dance club. This place is legit. It is huge, packed to the rim an people are still lined up to enter into the madness. I have never seen so many white people dressed like white people in one place dancing to hip hop. There was not a stationary soul in the bar.
Ocean City Board Walk

Hartley, Labor Day morning

OC Boardwalk

The girls and Aunt Karen

Atlantic City Boardwalk


Reggae night

late night dingy ride to Hartley

The girls and Mr. Robinson

Mike Rybas, Em, Pat Ryabs

Brooke and Emily with Rybas Brothers

Pat and Mike have two friends in town and after lots of dancing at Big Buoy's we think it is a grand idea to have late night on Hartley. The 5 of us pile into the dingy and make the 25 min "boat" ride through the darkness. After my first mate duties were done of tying us off, we somehow managed to climb aboard, though it was low tide. Once we are all secure, drinks were poured and tunes were turned on. Thinking back this was probably not the best idea, since hotel check out was at 11 am, but it seemed like the BEST idea at the time (Thank you Shannon for packing my stuff oh so neatly in my suitcase). I awake from my swaying slumber after a boat zoomed by and rocked Hartley hard. I looked around, I am the first one up. I made my way to the deck passing a dozen or so beer cans, ipods, snacks that were left out, couch cushions not in their place and clothes thrown astray??? Explanation for clothes and cushion: Pat feel asleep on the deck, peed on the deck, then passed out on the couch, peed the couch. Once making my way to the deck, I smiled.The skies looked like they have been painted by a water-colorist in shades of grays and whites. It is peaceful. I then looked around and thought, 'this is not going to be an easy exit'. Mike is currently the only one living on Hartley so we have 4 people going to 3 different location and we are in the middle of the Bay. Knowing there was nothing to be done in that moment I lay on the deck and look up and become completely content in that moment. I send a picture of my view to my inner circle of gals suggesting that they all at some point opt for late night on a sailboat.... then I dose off. Sometime later, Mike taps me and says in a very chipper non concerned voice, "let's go to breakfast" - I was down for breakfast and some O.J. He wakes everyone up and we pile in the dingy and head to shore. We ate at this awesome joint at the marina. We were sight to see. Still in the clothes from last night, even though causal, I keep my aviators on. The entire time. We walked up the dock and join the families and children also indulging in the deliciousness of the huge omelets on the outside back deck. After several glasses of water, coffee and good grub the group piled back in dingy and heads back to Hartley to gather our belongings. Had we thought this through, we would have done this step the first time around. Once that task was done, back to shore we headed. Mike kindly drove us each to our destination. Waiting for me at the Bay House were all my favorite people.

Monday is a bit of a somber day. The house is being packed up. The skies are still grey and the air is much cooler. There is minimal talking. People are just doing their own thing... sitting, swimming, cleaning, reading, listening to tunes- taking as much in as possible of the last day ever to be had at this Bay House. Wow, that sounds so final and disheartening when written out. After lunch we say our "see you later-ers" to the Portland Gleasons and head to PHL.
Taking a dip in the Bay

Brooke and Abe Gleason

Best Gleason cousin picture to date

There have already been quiet a few plans a brewin' for our next get together with this wonderful crew... Mexico for New Year's ?!? Sounds swell. I would love nothing more than to ring in the New Year and welcome 2012 with wide open arms in Mexico, with a tan, sun-kissed, fishing, building sand castles, watching surfers, taking photographs, having dance parties, exploring a new locale, basking in the sun ( ideally in a hammock), drinking yummy drinks, eating fresh made meals and falling asleep to the sounds of the Pacific.

Over all, one hell of a weekend of not so much labor.
Bikes and the Bay

-Emily Ballard


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