To write about New Jersey. To write about Long Beach Island. It is easy to say, but harder to do. I have tons of photo and video materials. But given the fact that it was not completely my vacation, but partially a work week too, most of them are from the beach. And what would you like me to write about the beach? It was hot, sunny and sandy. But no, not all the time was spent on the beach. I got one full day for myself. I grabbed the bike and headed to downtown of Beach Haven.
When I say “grabbed the bike”, I mean literally. If you want to fit in with the local, ride your bicycle. It’s as fast as a car, sometimes maybe even faster. And when they say “lane for cyclists” here, it’s not just any piece of narrow roads that administration of local roads has graciously consented to mark with pictogram with stickman on a bicycle. It is a regular lane which could fit a passenger car into. So if you love talking while riding a bike, you’re lucky. In one lane you will fit three cyclists, and local lifeguards (who just take turns of their work shifts and must move from one end of the island to the other one using literally rocket speed) will still be able to overtake you. New Jersey lifeguards would be able to represent the USA at the Olympic Games in Rio. I believe it. 😉
When cruising down the street, you may notice that Hurricane Sandy, which visited the town in 2012, was really not taming itself. Practically you don’t see older houses since the island virtually ceased to exist for a while. Buildings that survived boast themselves with the inscription “I Survived Sandy” in all possible versions and designs. Here and there you can see a “cottage on legs” – wooden houses whose owners decided to protect them against future disasters by picking them up four meters above the ground.
Without any preparation or using maps I arrived in the center completely at ease during a quarter of an hour. It is not difficult to navigate here. There is one main road on the island only – Long Beach Boulevard. Then a few side roads named by other US states, and the rest simply numbered. It is virtually impossible to get lost here.
Immediately after the first stop, I plunged into the store with “souvenirs”. Yes, in quotes. Since in the Czech Republic, when we say “souvenirs” everyone imagines the kitschy and totally useless crap that will serve only as a dust collector. I must confess that a little bit of kitsch also appeared there, but the vast majority of the range found its use in everyday life.
A great example of “I survived Sandy” is a complex called Bay Village. Several houses were joined together built a few meters above the ground. Together they form a patchwork of raised decks, stairs and tangled streets at different height levels. If you miss the right steps, you’re out of luck. You have to tread it again. All buildings, patios, and streets are made of dark wood and everything is a little crooked. But it does not detract from the beauty, it makes a contrary effect. That imperfection makes this place one of the finest I’ve ever seen.
In general, it is said that people in the US are friendly. Or at least pretend so. Here it works one hundred percent. When buying ice cream I tried vainly to count the pennies, dimes, quarter dollars and possibly other coins, whose names I do not remember. This money is killing me. I do not understand them and there is not a real chance that I’ll ever do. On the other hand, it makes my every purchase high-adrenaline experience. Lady behind the window tried to explain me (and she wasn’t the only one since my arrival) how much pennies and dimes make one dollar while patiently picking coins from my palm. Then she added a note about the “slow” and “fast” money.
No one in the queue behind me protested even at the moment when she decided to have another talk with me.
Typical explaining where the Czech Republic is located, I had practiced as a poem. Just to say “heart of Europe”, so people understand that it lies somewhere in the middle. And it sounds nice. When you then attach a note of Prague as our capital city, the vast majority of Americans will begin to literally dissolve. Prague’s among the destinations number one on the list “places I want to see” of many, many US residents.