The beach of my youth is now the beach of my children’s youth.
The greatest part is that my kids—ages 10 and 13—have enjoyed many of the same experiences I did while growing up in Lewes in the 1970s and ’80s. They’ve scavenged tidal pools, dangled their legs from the Paratrooper at Funland, and burned their palates on foil-wrapped Nic-o-Bolis.
As a kid, I pedaled my bike three miles to frolic at Lewes Beach. Now living in Newark, I’m forced to load the family in a minivan and drive for an hour and 45 minutes to reach sand. Still, when we get to Lewes, it’s my beach—or I should say, our beach.
There’s the familiar red-and-white sign that welcomes us to Dairy Queen. The Lions Club shack still sells snacks and rents umbrellas. And, of course, sunbathers, swimmers and sailors enjoy the best beach on Delaware Bay.
We head south into Cape Henlopen State Park to re-create more of my childhood. You can always spot a white-tailed deer at the sprawling parade ground, although the quail and muskrat are few and far between these days. A little farther and we’re at the cape.
Erosion has changed the area’s topography, but the view is largely the same. There are two lighthouses. The red one is much closer than the white and seems to watch as we shuffle, ankle-deep through chilly tidal pools in search of sinister-looking, black skate eggs, spiraling, translucent conch egg cases, nomadic hermit crabs and slimy black snails. As a kid, we found starfish here, and I swear we once caught a live seahorse in a seine net.
It’s lunchtime. We’ll have to dig for sand fleas and collect shells next time. I mean seriously, kids, how many chipped lady slippers do we need?
We arrive at Rehoboth’s famous boards and note the aromas of popcorn, pizza and cotton candy. At Funland, youngsters still hand green tickets to teens who operate the same cars, fire trucks, planes and boats that I rode in the ’70s and my kids were thrilled by in the 2000s.
We now face the toughest of decisions: Nicola or Grotto? This time, we’ll tackle Nic-o-bolis in the window booth of the original location, then we’ll head for home.
Ah, the good old days. Except home isn’t 10 minutes away. It’s 90 miles. I can’t believe I’m a tourist. Well, at least Newark has Grotto Pizza and a Dairy Queen. Besides, the box of half-baked Nic-o-bolis the kids are guarding in the back seat will weather nicely the trip north.