Back at the Beach by Jamie Kirkpatrick


You may recall that at about this time every year, we head to the beach. It’s part military operation, part traveling circus, and part annual animal migration akin to one you might see on the National Geographic channel. The week prior to departure, Costco restocks its shelves to accommodate us, ice makers go into overdrive, and the weather app on my wife’s iPhone is consulted more often than the Oracle of Delphi. That’s just how we roll.

And yet, for all the strategic planning and advance work that this operation requires, it’s mostly about taming a creature of habit. Although I’m a relative newcomer to this seaside roadshow, I’ve learned from experience and ancient hieroglyphics that the same rituals have been performed at the exact same time, year after year after year. While I’m not at liberty to divulge the secret rites of this tribe, anonymous sources indicate a certain level of chaos is just part of the equation so I’ve learned to go with the flow and keep my mouth shut. Most of the time, that works; when it doesn’t, I go upstairs and take a nap.

This year, however, there’s a monkey wrench in the works, a wooden shoe in the gear box. (For all you Francophiles out there, that is indeed the derivation of the term sabotage.) It involves a mid-week deviation from the annual norm, a detour, if you will, that will propel my wife and I to Cape Cod for the much-anticipated wedding of the daughter of very dear friends. From one shore to another, ’til death do us part.

Here’s the AAA-approved plan: we’ll cross the Delaware Bay by ferry, motor up the Garden State Parkway, cruise on over the Tappen Zee Bridge, sail (hopefully) past the picturesque towns that dot the Connecticut and Massachusetts littoral, up and over the Bourne Bridge and onto the Cape, home of lobster, clam chowder, and cod. Waze will be our navigational star, routing us around any of those pesky summer traffic jams that can turn 95 into a carnival bumper-car ride. I’m figuring at least 8 hours of interstate fun; recommendations for good books-on-tape are welcome.

And then of course we do all this in reverse (well, not literally) four days later. What could possibly go wrong?

And while we’re on vacation from vacation, the show in Delaware must go on, although it remains to be seen if my wife will be able to disengage from all the children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, in-laws, and other honorary members of the family caravan who will be holding down Fort Rehoboth in our absence. I’m betting that she’ll somehow manage to straddle two states at once, separated only by a few hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

Maybe next week, I’ll let you know how it all turns out. Then again, maybe I won’t. God forbid I should leak any information that would surely be decried as “Fake News!” in the Chestertown Spy.

I’ll be right back. I hope.


Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is






Letters to Editor

  1. Michael Brunner says:

    Steve, me thinks you should rethink your travel route. The more direct path is GSP to NJ Turnpike, over the George Washington Bridge and then the well paved Cross Bronx Xway and up 95. I would also use the Cape Cod Tunnel instead of the Bourne Bridge, much quicker. Happy Trails!

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