By Brook Stockberger
Las Cruces Bulletin
An elevator in a three-story house? How decadent.
For a bunch of hillbillies from Appalachia in southwestern Pennsylvania, the fact the rented house at Lewes Beach Delaware had an elevator seemed quite fancy.
Plus it was invaluable when hauling all the beer my mother bought to the second-floor kitchen. This was a family vacation a long time in the making.
In June, eleven relatives ranging in age from six to 73 who hardly see each other spent a week at a beach house
As for the beer, grandma – or “Bub” as she is affectionately known to her grandkids – apparently thought we were a bunch of frat boys on spring break; we barely had room for the food after all the cerveza was packed into the fridge. Needless to say, much of the beer was still chilling at the end of our vacation.
My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and, instead of a party, they along with my brother’s family and mine all planned for months and finally gathered in The First State and fished, swam, ate and, yes, had a few cold ones while resting on one of the house’s four decks.
Back to the great Commonwealth
My wife, Terri, and I flew into Pittsburgh with the two teenagers and our six-year old. The excursion to the beach was bookended with several days in my old stompin’ grounds on Chestnut Ridge outside of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
TIP: If you’re flying a good distance, do not be afraid to check out prices for the Albuquerque International Sunport. The last two times I’ve taken to the skies to return home I’ve driven to the Duke City’s airport because the savings were so great. In fact, with this past trip, the difference for the five of us to fly round trip to Pittsburgh and back was nearly $1,000 between Albuquerque and El Paso. The savings was more than worth the drive up and back.
We were greeted, as always in Pittsburgh International Airport by life-sized statues of George Washington and Franco Harris near the escalators.
The next three days were a blur of:
Planning for a party to celebrate my son Tyler’s high school graduation
Watching Stanley Cup hockey at a sports bar with cousins I have not seen in years
Shooting deer rifles, shotguns, revolvers and even an old German Lugar
Mingling with many, many relatives and friends at Tyler’s party
Sharing sips of homemade moonshine straight from a Mason jar (I have a good source who has a good source and I put in an order about a month before we flew back.)
Eating as much pizza from Jioio’s in Latrobe where you get the best pie around
On to the beach
Early the morning after the party, the 11 of us loaded into three vehicles and set off for Delaware. I drove my dad’s car and took the lead. When we stopped for breakfast in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, my 20-year-old niece asked me why I was driving so slowly. I said I did not want to lose anyone following along, but now I would kick in the butt and see if she and my parents in their truck could keep up. But I still went slower than usual. Being lead car is quite a responsibility.
TIP: If you find yourself taking to the roads back east, remember that east driving and west driving are worlds apart. Whereas out here the population is sparse and states are large and flat, back east there are many hills and ups and downs through the forest and twisting past farms and bypassing large cities. It takes longer to get anywhere back there, so plan accordingly.
Fishin’, eatin’ and such
The house we rented was in a community that has a private pier. Fishing at night was peaceful. The sound of the water gently lapping against the posts and a gentle – some thought chilly, but I liked it – breeze enhanced the experience. I did not technically fish myself, but I helped, Grant, our six-year-old, keep his line in the water. He didn’t catch anything the first night and was very frustrated, but would eventually reel in an ugly horseshoe crab and an even uglier toad fish later in the week.
One of his highlights, though, came when he got to hold a tiny shark, still alive, that his big brother caught.
My 14-year-old daughter, Jessie, latched onto something big the first night and it had her pole bowed way over. I stood by to help in case her arms gave out, but whatever it was swam under the peer and the line broke.
Cousins Nick, Elyse and Sierra are old hands at ocean fishing and laughed and helped out my kids a bunch. Of course, Uncle Eric had to razz Tyler about his inability to catch a stingray when everyone else had already done so; but Ty hunkered down and put all his concentration into just that very task and eventually joined the crowd.
TIP: Squid turned out to be the most successful bait. A hunk of squid with a decent-sized sinker, plopped out next to the pier worked the most magic.
One late afternoon for dinner, we decided to hit a Chinese buffet. (Hey, you can’t have seafood every night.) The problem, though, was the cost was $16.99 per person, which, along with drinks, makes for a hefty bill. I tried to point out the price, I’m not sure most of our group even paid attention, but my warning was lost in the hustle and bustle of the who-was-sitting-where discussion and who can squeeze past who etc. (My family is, shall we say, not quiet.)
Anyway, the problem came when the hefty bill arrived and gratuity was already included in the price. Some members of my family do not appreciate the practice and complained long and loud at the front counter. I grabbed Terri and Grant and slipped out the front door embarrassed. Still, that was the only real hiccup of the entire week, which is pretty impressive if you ask me.
Even though we ate many of our meals in the house, the restaurant we enjoyed the most was place called Crabby Dick’s just down the road in Rehoboth, Delaware. Terri and I ate there for lunch on our ninth anniversary and I had awesome crab cakes. We went back that evening for dinner with the whole crew and Grant ate two bowls of shrimp bisque. I was impressed.
Now, Crabby Dick’s sells a variety of t-shirts with every innuendo based on its name as you can imagine and the entire family circulated through the racks and shelves giggling. I’m not sure how much was spent on apparel, but the teenagers had a blast, as you can imagine.
Back in Pennsylvania, my uncle Terry drove over to my parent’s house in the morning on his small tractor with a wagon and three dogs trailing behind. He announced one of his hens had new chicks, which brought his overall total of chickens to about 80. His rooster or roosters – who can keep track – often woke my wife with their crowing through the woods. Country boy that I am, I could sleep through the sound, but it drove my wife batty.
After a few more days, we packed up the car and my dad prepared to drive us to the airport in Pittsburgh. The Mason jar still has some ’shine in it, but I knew I could not bring it on the plane, so I left it in the capable hands of my folks. After one last stop for pizza at Jioio’s, we headed back to Pittsburgh for a night at a motel and the flight home.
TIP: Make sure to check your boarding pass to see if you have been selected for prescreening by the TSA. As we were walking toward the long security line, an agent was reminding people to check. We did so and we ALL were selected, so we bypassed the long line and zipped right through security. Pretty awesome.
Brook Stockberger may be reached at 680-1977 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.