Last Days On The East Coast
Aug 1, 2012
|After a fantastic weekend in Pennsylvania, we headed back to Westmont and Uncle John’s place to pack all our stuff up and spend our last week down in Ocean City with our east coast family. It was hard to believe that in less than a week it would be all over for us on the east coast - the time had gone so, so quickly.
Just prior to leaving, Uncle John got a call from Alison to say that the fridge in the holiday house had just died. Uncle John and Billy loaded up the spare fridge that existed at John’s place, courtesy of their new kitchen refurbish, and prepared to ship it off to OC. Safely on the back of Uncle John’s pick-up truck (pick up is what American’s call utes), we all headed off to the shore.
Ocean City is billed as “America’s Family Resort,” courtesy of its early beginnings, having been set up by the Methodists as a place to holiday and relax. They wanted a place that maintained the same standards and values that they believed God wanted them to live by in everyday life and subsequently, to this day, the island still holds those ideals and standards. It is not permitted to consume alcohol outside private homes or licenced restaurants and indeed no alcohol is even available for purchase to take home from any store anywhere on the island. It is widely agreed upon that it is an effective method and a way of controlling the consequences of abuse. This restriction makes for a safe and friendly atmosphere in which to holiday. ……pity the same logic doesn’t apply to the issue of gun availability over here……but that’s a whole other, and very touchy, issue.
After arriving at OC, Uncle John and Billy began the task of getting the old fridge down (and the new one up) a narrow, steep and very tight set of stairs and landings. After dismantling doors, on both fridge and building, and engineering guide rails, the heavy lifting began and in no time the changeover was complete - time for an arvo swim down on the beach and another leisurely stroll along the famous boardwalk!!!!
The boardwalk is an amazing place that really has no Australian equivalent and is difficult to find words to accurately describe. It is an eclectic combination of unique food stalls, amusement parlours, side shows, shopping alcoves and stores selling all sorts of amazing things. You can get anything from fudge, pizza and caramel popcorn to funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos – deep fried anything actually - and enough sweet treats to keep weight watchers in business well into the next millennium. After the food crawl, venture in to shops that sell all manner of clothing, tee-shirts and every possible souvenir available. Once done with shopping, try mini golf, go karts, a ride on a surrey (a family sized pedal-powered cart), a spot of baseball pitching or water slides. No matter what your interest is, how old you are, or what your tastes might be there will be something to amuse, distract or entertain everyone.
On Wednesday we decided to give the beach a break, - it wasn’t providing the appropriate standard of waves our kids wanted for good boogie boarding – and check out the beachside waterpark. In what proved to be a fantastic day out with their cousins, the slides provided the kids with a nice change from the sand and sea water, as well relieving their concerns about rips, under currents and tides sweeping them out to Portugal or Morocco. Both Bec and Sharon really stretched themselves, trying all sorts of new rides that they would not normally go on and enjoying all the water park had to offer.
Early on Friday morning we all got up to go and ride “surreys” on the board walk. Surreys are pedal-powered 4 wheel devices that are a bunch of fun to ride…unless it is 80% humidity and you are trying to negotiate 4000 runners, 2000 shoppers and 500 other Surreys all battling for the same stretch of real estate; at that point the fun gives way to “let’s not hit anyone and get sued !!!!” On top of that, the challenge of trying to peddle in unison with four kids and a wife who has ducks disease made for an eventful morning full of laughs. We concluded the morning’s activities celebrating “communion” together with the breaking of…..cinnamon donuts. We soon headed home and began preparations for the weekend and our last days in OC.
The highlight of the week for Liam began on Saturday when he had the chance to play in the beach soccer tournament known as “Beach Blast” at a place called Wildwood – similar to OC but a little further south. The excitement of being able to play alongside his cousin Sullivan and be coached by Sully’s parents, Uncle Kevin and Aunty Heather, was almost too much for Liam, and the rest of us, to bear. The constant sentence muttered repetitively from a very excited little boy was “I can’t wait for Saturday” “I can’t wait for Saturday” “I can’t wait for Saturday”.
Beach Blast is the second biggest beach soccer tournament in the world and has 60 full basketball court sized pitches aligned side by side on one section of beach. Games are played in 3 x 12 minute periods and each team has 10 registered players. Only 5 play on the park at any one time and 5 others are substitutes, which is not a problem as anyone who has ever played any sport on sand will attest to. Every sub is needed as the torturous heat, humidity and soft ground take their toll as even the fittest of players, or in this case, the youngest and most enthusiastic, soon run out of steam and need a break.
On this weekend 406 teams were registered to play in all age groups, boys and girls competitions, so with 10 people per team, parents, other family and spectators the numbers in attendance were well over 15,000. Locals were quick to point out to Billy that he should have been there 4 weeks earlier, for the really big tournament, which had over 1000 teams registered and 100 fields on the go all weekend, so with well over 25,000 in attendance it is a logistical sensation to see unfold and participate in.
The team Liam was a part of was called the ‘Haddonfield Bulldawgs,’ and, yes, that’s how it’s spelled. They got off to a fantastic start with a 14 – 1 win, which gave the boys a good chance to play together for the first time and get to know each other, namely the new international signing who had a weird way of speaking!!!!!. Their second game proved more difficult, but the whole team showed incredible resolve and character to fight out a great result and provide great all round entertainment to all of us standing on the sidelines. After conceding an early goal they bounced back to finish the first period on level terms: 1-1. The second period proved a tough battle with the Bulldawgs conceding two goals and staring a defeat in the face. Step up the Little Aussie Wonder. Subbed in and playing in the midfield with his cousin Sully, the two of them showed a work ethic and commitment that inspired and lifted the whole team and took control of the game. In a frantic three minute period, Liam made one goal and scored two. With some fantastic hard work in defence, the team led 4-3 with only a few minutes to go. But, true to form, the game had one more small twist left to deliver. After an “overenthusiastic” challenge from the little Aussie inside the penalty area, the referee (strange breed those referees) awarded a penalty. Step up Oicin (pronounced O’Sheen) to play the final part. The penalty kick was a good one, hit hard and low. Oicin’s eyes never left the ball and he managed to not only save the ball, but hang onto it as well. After a quick throw, the whistle blew for full time and the game was over. Inspirational for all who watched and fun for the whole team, who could now spend the rest of the afternoon swimming, relaxing and waiting for the next day’s game, knowing that two wins in the bag meant a draw would see the guys through on goal difference.
We headed home and made preparations for the final game on Sunday, as well as beginning the process of packing to head north on the next leg of our journey.
Sunday began as Saturday left off with excited kids and no talk of anything but soccer. We arrived at Wildwood early and, after setting up, headed off to see Sully’s older brother Max play his final group match. Needing a win to qualify for the final, the boys took control and never really looked in doubt, and so, in true sporting fashion, the boys played the game out in gracious spirit without humiliating their opposition, really playing the game in the spirit it is meant to be played in. One down and one to go. We headed off to prepare for Liam & Sully’s game and give the boys some last minute instructions and encouragement, informing the boys that a win or draw would see them through, based on their better ‘for and against’ goal difference. About 10 minutes before kick-off we were informed that, contrary to all standard practice and protocol ever followed in formal competition, the team that had conceded the least goals and not the team that had scored the most would, in fact, go through to the final. This meant that the boys had to win to progress and a draw was now no good. Going ahead early, they then conceded 3 goals to trail 3-1 with about 10 minutes to go. 4 minutes into the last period they pulled one back and the last 8 minutes of the match were frenetic, furious and intense as these 8.y.o boys gave their all and then some in the last minutes of the game. In the stinking hot and humid heat of the New Jersey day, the boys, in the end, came up just a little short. After a few tears, some consoling of very tired little boys, and richly deserved pats on the back, the Haddonfield Bulldawgs – Matt, Liam C, Andrew, Ben, Oicin, Tommy, Sully, Danny and their little Aussie import Liam W, celebrated with their coaches with a well-deserved treat of famous boardwalk ice cream. Just for the record, though, while the boys were playing their hearts out in the last game, Max’s team had a massive turnaround from their last year in the competition, where they struggled and didn’t win a game, and went on to win the final and earn glory for at least one Haddonfield team.
With the weekend done it was time to head home and pack before beginning the first stage of our trip back across the US, an 8 ½ hour trip north into upstate New York and into Canada to see Niagara Falls…..more from there soon……