Days 78 and beyond   World’s Longest Book Tour on Break  (WLBT-B)

End of August, early September, 2018

by David Runkel

The whack-a-mole contest, with black electrical tape patching together season-worn mallets, is on the Boardwalk just where it was when The Tour visited the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware at least two decades ago. The horse race machine, first run for family members and close friends in the distant 1970s, is still sending them down the track hundreds of times a day.

Skee-ball, where a game now goes for a quarter, up from a dime, is in its

Day Seventy Eight of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Funland on Rehoboth Beach

accustomed place across from the bumper cars, where all our kids learned to drive. The scary haunted house along with all the other rides and games are there jammed into the same small place.

As always, the place is packed with families, young kids holding onto cheap furry prizes won by the dads (yes, it seems that women still haven’t caught up in this aspect of American life).   

Despite all the changes in our lives and in the world over the last 50 years, Funland remains the same. In fact, despite the second-by-second adjustments of the Atlantic Ocean, the sea, the sand and the coast are unchanged. The Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk takes your hand and time travels you back to another era.

Our Boardwalk night out also remains wonderfully familiar.  We drive up from

Day Seventy Eight of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Thrashers on the Beach

Rehoboth’s southern neighbor Bethany Beach, which also has a Boardwalk but without the flash, and stop for our friends in Dewey Beach, within walking distance of Rehoboth.  We’re older now, however, and unwilling and unprepared as we once were on a potentially stormy night to suddenly hit the sand if lightening brightens the skies and threatens to strike walkers on the beach. 

We stop first at Thrasher’s, the veteran French fry vendor, for a bucket.  The vinegar is out on the counter, for on this seacoast anyway you can’t have fries unless they are liberally doused with Heinz’s cider vinegar.  Next stop, one floor up, for a drink — we need to wash down those fries — and some other snacks.

Walking along the Boardwalk we review this year’s t-shirt selection.  Many of them, to our surprise, appear to have a conservative appeal, but others continue the humor-laced tradition.  Our favorite picks up on the local seafood seasoning, Old Bay.   The distinctive yellow can with red lettering is front and center with the message – “I put Old Bay on my Old Bay.”

We pass by the plastic buckets and shovels held together by the usual mesh, the

Day Seventy Eight of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Davis and friends at Thrashers on the Beach

boogie boards and  other beach items for sale to families with younger children or grandchildren.  One innovation: the hermit crabs (a popular “pet” for children to beg for and then lose somewhere in their beach rental) now feature elaborate decorations and sport team logos, and their accompanying cages are sold in three sizes: condo, house, and hotel. One boy on the beach had a fanny pack called a “crab pack.” We wanted to meet the denizen inside, but didn’t have the nerve to ask its owner.

Eventually we reach our destination —  Funland.   We start of course at Whack-a-Mole, which we remember being introduced many, many years ago.  Three rows of three plastic moles popping up at random intervals.  How many can you whack in a minute?  Greg wins with 25 hits; Deedie gets only two.

On we go to the skee-ball–bumper car alleyway getting in line for the cars, while Steve goes to buy five tickets for each of us, something like $9. Two young Funland staffers, -representing greater ethnic and gender diversity than 20 years ago y, direct us to our cars and make sure our seat guard is properly set to avoid injury.  She hits the ‘go’ button, while he directs us to circle counter clockwise.

No advice is given to avoid crashing into one another, and we succeed here. 

Day Seventy Eight of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie and David find Redemption

Bumping our friends, our family members and those we have never seen before and probably never again is the rule of the road here and we comply with abandon.  What fun, just as we laughingly remember.

It’s too short of a time. Should we do it again?  No, while some look for openings at the skee-ball machines, others of us watch as other families take over the bumper cars.  There’s the 10-year-old girl looking fearful circling on the outside trying to avoid any encounters, and the grandfather with a huge smile and bright eyes, driving directly into the car piloted by his grandson.  Many smiles, many laughs.

Skee-ball is a little like bowling.  You get nine baseball-size balls – now made of heavy plastic instead of wood.  One hundred points if your ball goes into one of the two small holes at the top of the target; 50 for getting into the hole in the upper middle and 40, 30, 20 or 10 if your ball goes into the bigger and thus easier holes, or zero if it goes in the gutter. Lights flash “winner” if you score 250 or above – the higher the score the bigger the prize.  Greg again demonstrates his eye-hand coordination skills.

At Alisa’s request he trades the three really cheap satin-covered eyeglass cases he wins for a grapefruit sized furry kiwi.  We all look with envy as a Dad presents a life size furry monkey to his daughter.  What did he score?  Or, how many small wins did he trade for the big prize?

Meanwhile, some in our group are carefully checking out what’s going on around us, tagging families whose genetic traits define their relativity to each other.  Grandparents clutching scads of tickets whilst negotiating options with yet another generation.  Various machines testing various skills capture lots of cash.  A pack of little girls scream as the least scary ride takes them up 15 feet in the air and quickly descends.  Many snapshots are taken, but in one change the Nikons are gone, replaced by cellphones.  Many smiles and laughs; a few bumps.

No one’s face is buried in a hand-held electronic device. 

Despite some agitation to complete our night out with an ice cream cone, Alisa and

Day Seventy Eight of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie Speeding in bumper car

Lucy, each just one side of 50, get in line for the flying saucer ride that takes them around in a circle, up and down in the air.  First they go forward, then backward.  They are on the older end of the riders, but having as much or more fun than anyone else.  They delight in shaking the car as it swoops up in a circle and back down, legs shaking, hair flying and smiles as big as they were when the two of them were little.

The picture of them will compete for best beach picture ever with the one of them as wee girls squatting and staring into a plastic bucket partially filled with water and who knows else.

The ride over, we moved to Rehoboth Avenue to visit the ice cream store that has been in business for 36 years and now offers more than 100 varieties, from sweet corn to peanut butter, to many exotic flavors, to vanilla and chocolate of course.  Meanwhile, Lucy has refilled our bucket of Fisher’s caramel peanut popcorn, which we all sample, some more than others.

All this and we’re “home” by 11.  The next day’s scales tell the story – it had been a truly successful night on the Boardwalk.  Now time for fasting and a long walk on the beach.