Another Beach Post, A Different Ride

Charlie on the Drop Zone aka the Frog Hopper
Looking back over the past week's posts, we've been going a lot to the beach—last Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday and, yes, yesterday, Saturday. Guess we're making up for not going the previous weekend.

And, too, starting last winter, we got into the habit of weekend beach trips, let there be snow or not. Needless to say, it's very nice to be able not only to look at the water but to go in, and Charlie indeed did today, after tearing down the pavement and the sand.

He has usually been doing this but yesterday it was all the more understandable as a large sinkhole on the New Jersey Turnpike (which we don't take) meant the rerouting of traffic onto the Garden State Parkway (which we didn't take) but also onto various other local roads (including the one we did take). Consequently, the trip took almost 3 hours, with a certain amount of that time in stop-and-start traffic.

Charlie stayed all this with aplomb. Indeed, he had even gotten into the black (maybe dark blue?) minivan without protest or hesitation (just in time for us to return it tomorrow). But no one could blame him for zooming out of the back seat afterwards. (He has been doing such extremely fast out of the blue sprint-runs on and off of late. So far every one of these runs has been in a space with no one in Charlie's way, but, as ever, it behooves us to be, as ever, attentive. He is fast fast.)

It was a quarter after 4pm when we got to the beach; the lifeguards leave at 5pm. Charlie was already to run into the waves at the first spot he could on the beach but followed Jim's directive to go up to where the orange flag was without a fuss. He only did a few rides with his boogie board before having Jim unstrap the velcro and then Charlie was off into the waves—lately he really seems to prefer to swim. I went in, too, doing some strokes southwards (i.e., against the current). Charlie stood by in the shallows or almost on the sand as I swam, doing most of his serious swimming—very serious; he has sort of been throwing himself at a running leap straight into the water and has quite mastered how, while facing the sand, to jump up at just the right moment so that he's caught in the crest of the wave and my does he smile; he must feel like he's flying—when it was just him and some other kids in the water.

So my mom and dad and Jim and I (except for when I went back in for another swim) stood on the sand and watched Charlie running back and forth into the waves between energetic ocean swimming sessions. Jim and I reminisced about how, when Charlie was around 7 years old, he started to turn flips in the waves; other kids were very impressed. I remembered how Charlie also turned backwards flips in the swimming pool till he was around 9 1/2 and got too tall. My dad recalled how, when he saw Jim and I standing a few inches and then a foot or two away from Charlie in the town pool, he thought we were mean, but then he saw how Charlie learned to swim and, quickly, so well. 

And I reminded my dad how I still couldn't swim after eight or so years of swimming lessons and failed the swim test my first week at college. I only learned how to swim in 2004, because—Charlie loving the water so—I would take him to our town's indoor pool almost every night in the fall and winter and, as he was forever going into other people's lanes and swimming like a little torpedo into the ladies' water aerobics class, I had to chase him around the pool. At first I put on one of those wraparound-your-midsection foam flotation devices and awkwardly paddled after Charlie. Then I decided to go without and made myself swim shorter, and then increasingly longer distances to the wall (even in the deep end that I dreaded; Charlie could care less about how many feet of water was swimming in—water has always been water to him). I started swimming up and down the pool and (when there was no ladies' water aerobics class) laps while Charlie zoomed and splashed and floated around. When we back to the ocean after that winter, I was still extremely cautious in the waves but it was all a different story.

Yes, I owe being able to swim to Charlie.

We stayed on the beach for over an hour Saturday and, to no one's surprise, Charlie had a monster appetite afterwards. Two California rolls were gone like that and we made a WaWa run and left with a bulging bag. We got takeout to eat in the car (WaWa fare not being the favorite of the rest of our party, moi included) and did one more round of rides.

This time, Charlie, after getting the ferris wheel ride he'd very ardently asked for, said 'no' to the merry-go-round and asked for the swings. This particular little amusement park only has swings for the toddler set and Charlie handled our explanations
that he was 'too big' (if you saw the swings, you'd say that was a severe understatement) all right. Jim suggested he try the Drop Zone, the ride pictured at the top of this post—we actually call it the Frog Hopper as Charlie first rode a much smaller version of it with that name (and green plastic frog heads atop the seats) at another little amusement park we used frequently to patronize.

Charlie was dutiful about standing in line and handed over his tokens. He sat down in the first seat he saw at the edge and got up to sit, as Jim directed him, in the center; he also quietly took off his shoes when Jim noted that he should do that. 

Then the Frog Hopper (as I prefer to call it; creature of habit myself) went up. 

Up goes the Frog Hopper

Charlie did something he'd never done before: He turned his head over and up and looked at the top of the post, then looked forward again when the ride went down.

And then down

Every time the ride went up, Charlie turned his head to see how high they were going, as if he wanted to see what was going on, and maybe to get a sense of when the Hopper was going to go down.

And down!

He wasn't scared—never has been on this particular ride. When Charlie was little, he used to grin and giggle in fits of glee that often meant he'd demand to ride the Frog Hopper again and again and have to be carried/dragged away. Yesterday he smiled going down, but rather reflectively: More historicizing on Charlie's part?

The ride home up the Parkway was much shorter (hour and 45 minutes). Charlie wanted a walk but first had either Dinner #2 or a Big Snack. Then he was ready to be off on a walk with Jim (who kept a bottle of water in his pocket; much warmer where we live than down at the beach). 

And then, straight to bed. I can feel the effects of swimming in the waves and against the current in my arms and legs and I only stayed in for a fraction of the time that Charlie the beach boy did.

We have to return the van Sunday afternoon so we won't be going to the beach tomorrow and Charlie could probably use a rest, plus a break from the swimming-eating-rides routine. Hope you're not getting tired of these beach posts as I have a feeling they'll be many more—after all, I need to get in my share of ocean swimming too, following someone's fine example.

Jim and Charlie on the beach in late June

7 Responses to “Another Beach Post, A Different Ride”
  1. Jen says:

    I feel like I have to correct this… you live in Jersey, weren’t you down the shore (even if you went north to get there)?
    Looks like it would be so much fun if I could get over my sandophobia.

  2. autismvox says:

    Yes, ‘down the shore’—-I guess being from California I haven’t really mastered my Jersey-ese! Thank you—
    We have sand in our house now. I think I may start to call it a ‘beach house’ even though, as Jim points out, we’re a bit far inland.

  3. Jersey Mother says:

    What beach do you often visit down the shore? We frequent Seaside boardwalk and beach, but since “Jersey Shore” cast has arrived, we’re thinking point pleasant may be a better route for us now. It can get very crowded, even if it’s further away, it may be worth it.
    My child is an ocean swimmer as well, but isn’t at the point where he/she can enter the ocean without hand over hand supervision, or they’ll be gone! A good swimmer, unfortunely doesn’t realize when to stop swimming even when he/she is tired, which almost cost some serious drowning accidents!
    The frogger was always a favorite of mine too, Charlie has some good picks :~)!

  4. Barbara says:

    Not tired at all!
    I like to point out how midway rides are such a wonderful way for children to have a ‘typical’ experience – if they enjoy them. So worthwhile and much less expensive than the full-Disney. Have you seen my post on Morgan’s Wonderland? (link at top of middle column)
    I was thinking that Charlie’s head movements might have been directed by vestibular input instead of visual. Either way, very interesting.
    No. I won’t be tiring of your posts no matter how much sand is in your home.

  5. emma says:

    I’m enjoying the beach posts!
    and both the beach posts and others really help give a feel of how Charlie (and you and Jim:)) have developed not only skills but more confidence and independence over a period of time. How you go from the “don’t think we’ll ever be able to do that” to the “hey look! we’re doing it!”. Helps me a lot!

  6. autismvox says:

    I’ll email you about specifics — we used to go to Point Pleasant and Jenkinson’s pier a lot. But we’re not too wild about the beach itself.
    It’s really something to see how things have changed now that Charlie has gotten so much bigger—as in adult-size. We’re really trying only to swim when there’s a lifeguard around as Charlie has become a far better swimmer than both of us. Some of the past years were spent with him getting pretty mad at us when we tried—in the obvious name of safety—to ‘cramp his style’ by insisting he could only swim so far.
    reading the post right now!
    I wondered if Charlie perhaps remembered what it was like to be on the Frog Hopper and was thinking of ways to address all the sensory stimulation that they ride provides? I myself would never be able to get on it!
    Thanks much, plus! I really never thought we’d get to the point when Charlie could be in the water without us, and certainly understand what to do about the flags. That’s something I thought he would never get!

  7. Eileen says:

    Your most recent posts have been reminding me of when I first started reading about you, Jim and Charlie on your first blog. I can’t even remember what it was called now. Was it My Son Has Autism? That was it! Right? Anyway, it is so nice to be reading about Charlie on the beach and on the rides again. I remember reading about your adventures with him at a time when Andrew (only 3 yrs old at the time. Will be 8 tomorrow!) was nowhere near ready to be doing the things Charlie was. Your early posts gave me so much hope then. It’s so nice to be reading about adventures such as those again.
    P.S. If you ever don’t feel up to the drive that you do, you can always take a shorter route to meet up with us. Our lifeguards are there until 6:00 and starting on Thursday they are in the pool until 8:00.

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