Driving to the ocean from inland, particularly in days without AC, one was sure to notice a change in air quality near the coast. As a kid, our ocean trips ran from mid Sixties to early Seventies. After that, as too often the case, things changed and our yearly tradition ceased.* But while it lasted, who could catch the first smell of the salt air, was forefront in our minds as we neared. It was a contest of sorts, one based on honor of course, since anyone could claim to smell the ocean back in, say, Nebraska. But that was fine. When I was a kid, the world still held things like honor.
To go from inland to the ocean proper, we crossed a bridge leaving the mainland. Once across, we were officially at the Atlantic. Those two things, smelling the ocean and crossing the bridge heralded ocean magic in the near offing.
*What ended these vacations for my family were inconsiderate neighbors who, purchasing mini-bikes for their kids, allowed them to buzz back and forth incessantly shifting quiet sea-side getaway to aggrevating suburb. (I was blessed with a mini-bike too at some point, but my parents were considerate of others around us and engaged in actual parenting.)