Gerri and Frank Ardino didn’t know anything about buying a recreational vehicle when they got their first one five years ago. Now, on RV number two, the couple insists they are living in their dream home away from home. From May through October, they enjoy beach days and bay sunsets at Strathmere’s Ocean Beach Trailer Resort, living within a close-knit community.

“It’s like a family,” Gerri said. “You’re close because you’re about 15 feet away from the next trailer, but everybody’s friendly and accommodating. We all watch out for one another.”

“All the stress disappears when you get down here,” Frank said. “You just sit down and look out at the bay, and it’s so nice. I like not having to use my car — I bike all over the place — and I can walk across the street and go to the beach.”

The Ardinos, both retired, upgraded their RV last year when their daughter got her own spot nearby, and they no longer needed a second bedroom. Now, their 42-foot Salem Grand Villa destination trailer includes one bedroom, one bathroom, a loft where guests sleep, and a wide-open living area with an electric fireplace and an upgraded kitchen.

Gerri and Frank Ardino in the kitchen of the trailer, which has plenty of living space.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Gerri and Frank Ardino in the kitchen of the trailer, which has plenty of living space.

“We have a kitchen with an island and a whole lot of living space,” Gerri said. “It’s beautiful, and I don’t feel like I’m camping. We spend more time down here now that we have more living space, with a queen-size sofa bed and two recliners. That’s where we chill and watch TV.”

Up a short flight of stairs is the small loft — just three feet high, with two mattresses and a small closet for guests. “You just crawl in and go to bed,” Gerri said. “You can’t stand up and get changed in there; it’s just to sleep.”

Frank’s favorite spot is watching the sunset from his easy chair through front picture windows that face the bay. “It’s a million-dollar view,” he said.

Gerri Ardino opens the blinds of the trailer at the Strathmere resort. The view looks over at the bay.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Gerri Ardino opens the blinds of the trailer at the Strathmere resort. The view looks over at the bay.

The pair typically come to Strathmere from their home in Franklinville, Gloucester County, on Wednesdays and stay until Monday or Tuesday, going home in between to do laundry and check the mail. They spend most of their time outdoors, at the beach or on their patio, with a table, bar, and seating for 12. Cooking generally involves the grill, and the menu sometimes includes the striper or flounder Frank caught that day.

“I keep my fishing cart under the trailer, and my poles stacked up under the cart, so all I have to do is pull them out, stick them in my cart, and go across the street,” Frank said.

They appreciate Strathmere’s quaint and quiet lifestyle. Before moving into the trailer park, the couple rented a house in nearby Sea Isle City for 20 years.

“We spent probably the same amount for five months here as we did for two weeks for an oceanfront or bayfront property in Sea Isle,” said Gerri, who goes back sometimes for the “hustle and bustle.”

The couple entertain at their outdoor bar and often grill fish that Frank Ardino has caught that day.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
The couple entertain at their outdoor bar and often grill fish that Frank Ardino has caught that day.

A fixture in Strathmere for about 60 years, the Ocean Beach Trailer Resort accommodates 96 RVs for seasonal rentals and usually has a waiting list, park manager David Ernst said. This season, residents paid $10,000 for the pad and electricity.

“Strathmere makes it popular,” Ernst said. “It’s a quiet little town, close to the ocean and bay.” Residents come from as far away as Michigan. “It’s mostly the same people each year, so when you come back, you know who you’re there with.”

It’s the sense of community that keeps people coming back, Ernst said. “As soon as I sent out an email for the fishing club’s Fourth of July food drive, I must have had a dozen to two dozen responses almost immediately,” he said. “Everyone is close, friendly and caring.”

With so many people living in such close proximity, neighbors must adhere to rules regarding such things as quiet time, decorations and pet and guest policies. “It keeps things civil,” Gerri said.

The community gets together in the winter, too. “We are closer to the people who live in this trailer park than we are with our neighbors at home,” Gerri said. “It’s five months of joy.”

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The 42-foot Salem Grand Villa destination trailer includes one bedroom, one bathroom, a loft where guests sleep, and a wide-open living area with an electric fireplace and an upgraded kitchen.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
The 42-foot Salem Grand Villa destination trailer includes one bedroom, one bathroom, a loft where guests sleep, and a wide-open living area with an electric fireplace and an upgraded kitchen.