48 Hours

Friday Afternoon and Evening

It was about 3:30 Friday afternoon when we left the house for the second time. We’d swung by the co-op to get some groceries for our weekend getaway to Ocean City, and while we were there, we’d picked up a few staples Noah wanted and dropped them back at the house before hitting the road. I felt light-hearted and happy. Beth and I were embarking on our first full weekend alone in twelve years. (Our last overnight was in Pittsburgh in 2016 during a visit to Beth’s family in Wheeling.)

It took four hours to drive to Ocean City, mainly because there was a surprising amount of traffic for a random weekend in February, mostly between Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. There were some compensations, however. Beth had been wanting an Oreo Shamrock Shake since we saw them advertised during the trip to Providence and we stopped at McDonald’s and got one. Also, around Easton there was a beautiful sunset that stained the sky with oranges, reds, and purples. We were driving over the Choptank River around six, near the tail end of it, and that was a gorgeous sight.

When we got to Ocean City, we drove straight to the pizzeria we’d chosen for dinner. It was late and we were ready for dinner, so it was a pleasant surprise that service was remarkably fast. We were eating our fried mozzarella and mushroom and spinach white pizza within fifteen minutes of setting foot in the place. It was quite festive in there, too, all decked out with sparkly green St. Patrick’s Day decorations.

After we ate, we went to the condo where were staying. It was on the eleventh floor of one of those classic Ocean City high rises, with two glassed-in sun porches, one in front with an ocean view and one in back with a bay view.

After unpacking a bit, I stood on the front sun porch, looking down at the ocean and trying to decide if it was worth going back down eleven floors for a quick stroll on the beach when I already had a very nice view of it. Go ahead and guess what I decided. Yes, that’s right, I went.


Saturday was the nicest day I can remember having in a long time. Beth happened to get up to go to the bathroom as the sun was rising and when she opened the bedroom door, red light poured into the room. A few minutes later I stumbled out to see the dramatic sunrise from living room, though I was too sleepy to think to take a picture of it, and then I went back to bed.

About an hour and a half later, I had breakfast on the sun porch, watching the waves as I ate my eggs, veggie sausage, and oatmeal with bananas and walnuts. Rain was predicted in the morning, but there was just a little drizzle streaking the porch windows before we set out on our day’s adventures.

We drove to Berlin, where we got coffee (me) and hot chocolate (Beth) at a café. For Valentine’s Day I’d promised to take her out for hot chocolate and ice cream (two of her favorite treats) on this trip and I’d researched the best places to get each in the greater Ocean City area and gave her several options. She chose this one because it has dark hot chocolate. She was not disappointed.

From there we went to the always lovely Assateague Island National Seashore. We started off with a walk on the beach. There were gulls in the sky, sandpipers on the sand, and surfers in the water. We walked all three trails (forest, dunes, and marsh). We saw a blue heron in the water, and a pair of bald eagles in a tree. We speculated that they were checking it out as a prospective site for a nest. We didn’t see any of the famed wild horses on the trails, but we saw some by the side of a parking lot, by the side of the road, or in the case of one horse, in the middle of the road between two lanes of traffic. As we got close, I could see someone in one car had rolled down her window and was petting its nose. You are not supposed to do that because they are wild horses, but people will take stupid chances sometimes.

We’d had a long ramble in the park, and we’d worked up an appetite for lunch. We went back to Berlin, where we ate at a farm-to-table restaurant run by the same person who used to run one of our favorite restaurants in College Park (when I was in grad school there) and later in Rehoboth. It was a long wait to be seated, but worth it. I got a vegetarian cheesesteak with mushrooms and Beth got an eggplant sandwich and they were both very good. We ate on a pretty enclosed porch.

After lunch we walked around downtown Berlin and browsed in various shops. We bought some aged Gouda, sour cherry jam, and dark chocolate. It turned out the ice cream parlor Beth had selected was closed for the season—I tried to check for that, but not all the websites were up to date—so we drove back to Ocean City and got hot fudge sundaes at Dumser’s Dairyland, which was her second choice. We sat at the counter and admired the displays of antique ice cream dishes in different colors of glass and metal. I don’t usually eat maraschino cherries because they’re not my favorite, but on the drive to Ocean City the day before we’d listened to an episode of Poetry Unbound (one of my favorite podcasts) that featured such a joyous ode to the bright red preserved fruits, that I felt I had to this once.

By this time, it was late afternoon, and we were ready to go back to the condo and relax. I read for a while on the sun porch. That night we watched The High Note on the couch where we ate the prepared food that we’d bought at the co-op on our way out of town. (I had a spinach and cheese pie and falafel.)

Sunday Morning and Afternoon

In the morning, I jokingly told Beth I had enough of my diabetes medications to stay another day. (I always travel with extra just in case I get stuck somewhere) and she noted that she could work from anywhere. In fact, she had to work a little that morning because a New York Times story about organizing at Microsoft came out and as the Communications Director of her union, she’s always on call to communicate with the members about things like that, vacation or no.

But we did not stay. Before leaving we took separate walks. Mine was on the short side. I walked about six blocks north on the beach (from 114th St. to 120th St.) and then back along the path that runs through the dunes parallel to the ocean and connects all the beach access paths. It was cold, in the low thirties, with ice on the puddles in the condo parking lot, but it was sunny, so after walking I was warm enough to sit in the sand for a little while in front of our building and watch the waves before going back upstairs to finish packing.

We left the building at ten and found an open Candy Kitchen—some were closed for the season—where we bought candy for the kids (and some not for them). We picked gummy mermaid tails for North because they are fond of gummy candy, and this was a novel shape. For Noah we got chocolate-covered pretzels covered with mini–Reese’s Pieces. Right before Valentine’s Day I’d seen chocolate-covered pretzels in a banner on the Nuts.com website marked “For Her,” and as this is one of his favorite confections, we’d been teasing him about that. Seriously, though, why do pretzels need to be gendered? In case you were curious, the featured “For Him” product was a box of mixed nuts. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?

Next, we headed to the Ocean City boardwalk where we took another stroll. Most everything except t-shirt shops was closed, but it was fun to walk there on a pretty day and people watch and look at the stilled roller coasters and Ferris Wheel and the shark statue emerging from the wall of Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the dinosaur skeleton statue on the beach, and the front of the shuttered haunted house and, and the very eclectically decorated façade of the Ocean Gallery, and of course, the ocean. I only thought a little about the time we lost the kids on this boardwalk (but I will probably always associate it with that terrifying day). I went and got my boots (and my socks) wet and said goodbye to the Atlantic until summer and then around 11:30, we got in the car to drive home.

We made a pit stop in Cambridge, first going to a café where we got coffee and cake—I recommend their limoncello-olive oil cake and Beth recommends the chocolate-pistachio cake. We took the food to the Choptank River Lighthouse grounds where we had a picnic lunch of dinner leftovers, a mandarin, and cake. Then we strolled over to the lighthouse. It’s a replica (built in 2012) of a classic Chesapeake style lighthouse that used to be on the river nearby. It was closed for the off-season so we couldn’t go up to the top or visit the museum, but I like lighthouses, so it was a scenic place to eat lunch. While we were eating on a bench by the water, I listened to a couple have an extended argument about the composition of a photograph of the lighthouse one of them was taking. It’s interesting what other people will fight about sometimes.

We got home at 3:35, almost exactly forty-eight hours after we left. We were reunited with our offspring, who survived the weekend without us, and gave them their candy. I told Noah that his pretzels were called “Peanut Butter Explosion,” and I thought that sounded sufficiently macho for him to eat them. He laughed and then when he bit into one and some of the candies fell off onto the kitchen floor, North said, “I can hear the explosion.”

It was good to see them again, but it was also good to get away just the two of us. We will be empty nesters someday not so far in the future, so there should be an opportunity to do it again before another twelve years goes by.