Ocean City Air Show
10.06.2011 - 11.06.2011 87 °F
As a kind of end of the school year celebration, we headed to Ocean City, Maryland for the annual Air Show. To make things a little easier, we drove down on Friday evening, stayed at the Spinnaker in 17th Street for the night, and then drove home after the show on Saturday afternoon. In restrospect, after considering the preparations for a family of five to stay overnight and the cost of the motel compared to the quality, I'm not sure the plan was really that easy. In the end, it did save us from hours and hours of driving on top of hours and hours on a hot beach in the sun all crammed into a single day.
Our drive down was destined to cause aggravation. We left later than we had hoped which put us right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Getting out of Pennsylvania was a true test of patience. I always enjoy the drive through the river hills of southern Lancaster County. This time of year, the pastures are still a deep green and the fields are beginning to push crops of corn. The houses and yards are tidy and decorated with a profusion of colorful flowers. The humid air hangs like a veil giving everything a muted, ethereal quality. While I was enjoying the scenery, Jay was having a stroke. We managed to get behind a tractor trailer that did about 10 miles an hour up the endless hills. At every passing zone, cars coming the other direction stole his opportunites to put the pokey eighteen-wheeler behind us. Even after the tractor trailer became a memory, traffic continued to slow us down until we got to Route 1 where it bypasses Dover, Delaware. When traffic ceased to be a problem, the kids took this as a sign to start fighting. By the time we got to Rehoboth, everyone was sick of each other and sick of being in the truck. Amazingly, the magic of being at the the beach began to infuse our Pathfinder, and the last half hour of the drive was spent in relative peace and harmony.
The beaches of Delaware and Maryland are a dose of nostalgia for me. Driving through these areas is like cruising into my past. Some of my earliest travel memories involve a tent at Holly Lake, the waves at Dewey Beach, and soft custard cones from Kohrs Bros. on the boardwalk at Rehoboth. As a teen, many summer days were spent doing day trips to Delaware State Beach, bodysurfing all day and getting burnt to a crisp. Those were the days when "sunscreen" equated to oil that had an SPF of 2 and smelled like a pina colada. The very first vacation my family ever took that didn't involve a tent, a camp stove, and a state park was to Ocean City, Maryland. My parents rented a tiny two bedroom apartment on 41st Street for a week. It was there that we were truly indoctrinated into beach resort life.
Much has changed and nothing has changed since that first stay in Ocean City. Shops and restaurants come and go. Buildings are torn down and replaced with spiffy new hotels. One of my favorite restaurants, The Hobbit, was sold to a developer who put condominiums on the spot where we used to get the best ever roast prime fillet. But, people still ride bikes and walk on the boardwalk every morning. It is still easier to get a hole-in-one playing miniature golf in Ocean City than it is at home. Cheap souvenirs are still available everywhere on the boardwalk. Traffic is still horrible in the evenings. And the beach and ocean are still free.
When we finally arrived in Ocean City, we were road-weary and starving. Our first destination was Dumser's Dairyland Drive-In. This is a tradition for my family and a mainstay of Ocean City. The food is just regular, good diner food - chicken fingers, fish and chips, cheeseburger subs, macaroni and cheese, etc. What makes the stop worthwhile for us is the made-to-order milkshakes so thick they come with a spoon and the fountain sodas flavored with vanilla or cherry syrup. Dumser's also makes their own icecream and it is delicious.
After our Dumser's ritual, we checked in at the Spinnaker. Our room was a standard efficiency unit with a tiny kitchen, one bathroom, two double beds and a sleeper sofa. Nothing outstanding - just the typical efficiency found in so many motels and hotels in the area. Our small balcony looked out onto 18th Street with a very limited view of the beach if you leaned way out over the railing. It was very clean and suited us for the one night we needed a place to rest our heads. Because it was well after 10pm and we were all exhausted, we nixed the mini-golf plan and just relaxed in the room. I spent awhile on our tiny balcony, entertaining myself by watching the intricate and complicated mating rituals of American young adults on the street below.
We slept in until 9am. Being the exceptionally cool wife and mother that I am (snort), I supplied my family with ample little boxes of sugar-coated cereal for breakfast and bottles of prepackaged apple juice. When everyone was suffciently buzzed, we lathered on the sunscreen, put on our beach attire and packed up our stuff. After we checked out we headed to the beach for the purpose of the whole expedition - the Air Show. The official viewing spot for the show is at 14th Street. Many special events happen here and tickets are required to get in. We chose a spot on the beach between 17th and 18th streets and watched the whole show for free. When we arrived on the beach there was ample room to spread out without encroaching on anyone else's space.
The kids wasted no time getting in the clear, sea-green water. Sixty-three degrees was brisk but refreshing.
As the time for the show drew near, we broke out the Swedish Fish and settled in for the fun.
The show began with Team RV and the US Navy Seals Flag Jump, followed by the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles.
Team RV, made up of 10 Cesna planes, performed alone after the jumpers landed.
The C5M Super Galaxy came for a visit. This is a ginormous plane! It can carry approximately 224,000 pounds of cargo. It reminded me of a dragon flying out of the mist.
A quick and satisfyingly noisy Yak-9 was up next. Unfortunately, it darted around so quickly we couldn'y get any good photos.
The thick haze of humidity gave the illusion that the planes were materializing out of thin air as they flew down the coast. It was a very cool natural effect. And never more powerful than when this machine made its appearance, coming all the way from Missouri. A B2 Stealth Bomber called "The Spirit of Maryland". It was so stealthy, the camera couldn't focus on it. If this was a dragon, it would most definitely be a Night Fury.
This guy did some crazy aerial acrobatics.
Next up, a P-51 Mustang and an A-10 Warthog.
The very nice thing about being at the beach for an air show is that boredom is impossible. When the kids needed a break, they just got in the water. We snacked, read, played cards and were entertained by the flying marvels all afternoon.
We watched a Red Bull stunt helicopter.
Then this beast appeared - the C-17 Globemaster III. The winglets on the tips of this plane's wings are 9 feet tall.
By this time, the beach had become a writhing mass of humanity. People were everywhere. Finding a path to the water was like trekking through the dense Amazon rainforest. When I finally made it down to the beach, this is what I saw. For the few minutes I was at the water's edge, I was plowed into by a boogie boarder and almost run over by a couple of walkers. It was pure craziness.
When I finally made it back to the safety of my beach chair, I realized the camera battery was dead. With no charged battery to replace the dead one, I was unablel to visually document any more of the day. Which is unfortunate. Because an AV-8B Harrier jet performed a very loud demonstration, hovering above the ocean for what seemed like hours. The patterns of exhaust from the plane would have made for some very interesting photos. The Red Bull Air Force team jumped. And as the finale, an F-18 Super Hornet flew by at a little under 700 miles an hour. The sound was phenomonal, reverberating off the hotels and rumbling in my chest. It was a great show, made exceptional by the surroundings. The beach emptied quickly when the air show was over. We stayed around and just relaxed until the life guards forced everyone to retreat due to an approaching storm. We gathered our stuff and headed for the truck.
The ride home wasn't much better than the ride down - minus the fighting kids. Route 1 traffic in Ocean City on a Saturday night in the summer is mind-numbing. It took us about an hour to make it to Fenwick Island just outside of Ocean City - a drive that normally takes 15 minutes. We barely made it to Bethany Beach before we had to stop for supper at Grotto Pizza. The pizza there is very good. We like the thin, airy crust and the way the pizza comes with the sauce on top of the cheese. Two pizzas and several sodas were scarfed down in record time and we were quickly back on the road. Thankfully, traffic was light the rest of the way. The only other stop we made was for gas. The Shell convenience store had a Dairy Queen attached to it so we felt obligated to buy Buster Bars and Blizzards. We arrived home to a powerful thunderstorm with torrential rain, continual lightning and rumbling thunder. I think we were all relieved to finally be out of a moving vehicle and home, safe and sound. We threw our tired, sun-crisped bodies in the shower and then in bed, sleeping like dead people until the next morning.