I don’t have tell you that mocking New Jersey is a national pastime, but this isn’t the time or place.
In October when the East Coast took a beating from Superstorm Sandy, New York got a lot of attention, but New Jersey really took the worst of it. The beautiful and beloved coastline was destroyed in many places. Homes were turned into piles of rubble. The boardwalks blew away. Residents were left without power for days or weeks. The beloved roller coaster at Seaside Heights was relocated in the ocean.
I never went “down the Shore” before the storm, but I got my first drive along Ocean Avenue this weekend.
Miles and miles of gorgeous coastline were open to sunbathers, diners and runners, bicyclists, etc. It didn’t take me long to stop cracking Jersey jokes and stare at the beauty in awe. Meanwhile, my Jersey-native friend looked forlorn out at her beloved surf towns. “There used to be a house there. There was a nice restaurant there.”
As we drove, we saw piles of rubble, entire homes that had literally been jacked up and were now on 10-foot stilts. We saw shuttered businesses. Sand still filled backyards blocks from the shoreline. Some houses were still standing, but crooked off their foundations. (I didn’t take pictures of the houses. I didn’t want to be that kind of tourist.)
As we enjoyed a perfect late-summer day at Avon Beach and Seaside Heights, we chatted with waiters, ticket sellers, bartenders and others. They all expressed sadness that visitors didn’t return to the shore this summer. After the storm, people rethought summer plans. They weren’t sure if the shore would be open or if motels and cabins would be rebuilt and available for rent. They were missing out, because the Jersey Shore was drop-dead gorgeous.