Thursday, June 28, 2012

Parting Scenes in Cape Henlopen State Park and Crab Cake c/o Surfing Crab

The last day of a camping weekend is always a sad thing for me. My feet are inevitably very filthy, sand can be found in my hair and all my clothes smell like smoke, but my emotional balance is better than it often is in the city. I think one of the reasons I find myself happier when alone in pretty places is that the pressure is off. Cities remind me that there are so many folks out and about, living their lives...sharing similar interests, falling in love, eating, drinking, holding hands while walking the streets, having compelling conversations about things I've never heard of, dancing well or poorly, watching movies in parks on blankets, gathering together in kitchens to bake bread. All that stuff. And sometimes I feel like I'm not really doing any of that in my own life ... even if this blog might try to convince you otherwise.

So when I'm camping by myself, or spending a long weekend in the country by myself, I usually don't have that same falling sense of emptiness or loneliness that sometimes overwhelms me in the city. Though technically more alone in these environments,  I am not as concerned with the ways my current life doesn't quite match up with the life I might have imagined for myself five or ten years ago. I am not as caught up with the sense that I'm treading water while most of those around me - friends and strangers alike - are streaking by me with purpose and intention.  I am contented with a warm spot to sit with a good book. Or I am more contented than when I'm reading a book in my room, with the sounds of the city right outside my window. No place or scene can completely sooth the less positive thoughts in my head. On this camping trip I encountered at least a few moments of longing. That I was at a point in my life where the kids riding bikes in circles around the campgrounds were mine, or that I was one half of one of the couples taking twilight strolls with flashlights in their back pockets. But that was not the main tone of the weekend, which was one of independence and peacefulness.

So the last day of camping is a sad one because this sense of solace - this sense of worrying a little less about the things I feel are absent from my life - it starts to slip away. There is the business of striking the tent, taking trash to the dump and shaking the sand out of the towels. There is the decision process of whether to walk to the beach one last time in swim suit, or whether to forgo that particular activity in favor of sitting in the shade reading a book (it may not surprise you that I chose the book). Eventually there is the bittersweet driving away from the campgrounds and the greater Cape Henlopen State Park, and with every mile between me and the campsite, reality seeps in: three weeks of laundry to do, four months of bills and credit card offers to shred, a kitchen floor in need of a good scrubbing.

On this particular trip I learned a few things about the park that I hadn't know previously. These things included: there is a place where you can go and pet sea creatures (I imagine mainly horse shoe crabs), one can rent a bike for free (this state park is one of the few environments where riding a bike seems like a really appealing option to me), and there is also a 'frisbee golf' course. I ended up driving around the park a little before leaving, and found this second beach area, which seemed to be the go-to spot for trucks and fishermen.
It was a little cloudy and blustery on this last day, which made my choice not to suit up a little less fraught.
I decided that I would stop at the Surfing Crab after I departed Cape Henlopen. All the friendly ribbing about how I'd regret not trying their crab cake had gotten to me...I don't like to miss out on tasty things. No. No I do not. So very soon after they opened I rolled on into their gravel parking lot. I was greeted by a friendly and rather cute young man (does it make me creepy to note that this kid was attractive? I imagine he was in college, not, like, high school). The youngster then ushered me into the empty dining space and allowed that I could sit wherever I liked. I took a seat at the end of one of the large and long tables and took a quick look at the menu. I was interested in trying a half and half of their Maryland crab soup and their cream of crab soup, but they were out of the one and somehow I didn't want all of the other. After getting a lager I placed my order: the crab cake sandwich with vegetable side. The vegetables on this day were asparagus and were serviceable if not very memorable. But let me tell you what. This crab cake lived up to the hype. I didn't bother with eating it like a sandwich, which would have ruined some of the crabbiness with bread filler, and just ate the cake with a fork. It was nice and crispy on the outside, and creamy crabby on the inside. Scarcely any filler. Well flavored. Lovely large morsels of lump crab meat.

Comparing this meal's simplicity and friendly server with Claw's far less satisfying dinner of the night before is perhaps unfair. Having already had one good meal at the Surfing Crab I was predisposed to expect good things. Though, actually, I was predisposed to think the Claws' association with Fin's was going to be lead to good things. And I really do know that it's not fair to compare the manner of two 20-something young men as servers when one was dealing with multiple tables during a busy time of day while the other was faced with only two tables in the middle of the afternoon. And yet. I wonder. For many people serving tables at restaurants is a summer gig or only a temporary state of being; something you do while you're getting your college education, or something you do while supporting an artistic pursuit of some kind. I don't know where I was going with that. That both servers were young men, but that one referred to me as 'friend' at the end of the meal and encouraged me to sit and read my book even when my plate was cleared...while the other gave me my check without asking if I wanted another beer or anything else. Shrug. Friendliness counts for something. But then I feel bad because I have worked in the food service industry. I know how hard it can be to give a shit about your patrons when the kitchen and you are completely in the weeds. I know what that's like too. Yeah, I've lost my point. To conclude: Surfing Crab, you do a good job of making a girl feel welcome and your food is good.
Then I got back on the road. The remaining pit stops I made included this farm stand, where I bought two things of flowers (one geranium, one mystery), which I planted in a bigger pot and haven't yet died after a week or two (I imagine they'll die any day now, a green thumb is not one of my qualities/appendages).

I also bought three ears of corn. And then finally, unpictured, I stopped at the last fish market on Route 1 before going inland and picked up a few soft shell crabs to make my future meals a little more interesting.
And that concludes my Delaware/Cape Henlopen/Rehoboth Beach camping and eating adventure. And some stray thoughts on service and loneliness.

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