Sunday, April 24, 2005

The OBX vacation wrap up

Friday, April 15th
Aaron arrived at about 3:30pm and we chilled by the fire. I should have been packing, but the wine and the camp fire just slowed me down. After an amazingly busy week at work, kicking back was what my body wanted to do, even though my mind was racing with the things I needed to get done.

Saturday, April 16th
The alarm went off early, and I got out of bed and continued the work I should have finished the night before. Aaron helped out a lot, and before we knew it, 8am was upon us and we were leaving 2 hours later than we'd planned.


We stopped at A's parents' house in Connecticut to get fishing gear, and then had to swing by his uncle's house because some of the stuff he thought would be there wasn't. We spent a little over 90 minutes with Aaron's family, and then hopped back into the truck hoping to make good time as it was already noon, and we faced many hours ahead on the road.

We were fully raging down I-95 when traffic just stopped around exit 19... there was an accident at exit 15. It was a big assed parking lot, so we bailed and found alternate routage (thank you GPS) and lost an hour worth of time through the nutmeg state. We cruised right through NYC with minimal delay, and then hit New Jersey.

It was a parking lot too. Traffic reports said every southern route was slow, so it didn't matter if we changed highways, we were going to crawl like a great big fat red lizard down the interstate.

Once we made it to Delaware, traffic cleared up. We took Rte 13 and Rte 1 (consult a map if you're curious) from Wilmington over to the shore area. The sun was setting, colors were gorgeous, I got to drive for a while and that was good. The windows were down and we were in the southland.

What's great about getting off the highway is that you can see stuff. What sucks is that it takes ten bazillion hours to go anywhere. We cruised along with minimal traffic but it seemed like Delaware would never end. And once we got to Maryland and the dangly bits of Virginia (eastern shore area) time was not our friend.

The sun set just before we hit the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, and that bummed all of us out -- we all wanted to see the sunset there, and we missed it by about a half hour. I wanted to see the bridge, too, because it is one of those Discovery Channel super structure kinds of things that you see on TV all the time. I wanted to check it out in the light. No such luck.

There was a "virtual" geocache on the bridge, which means you read a sign, take a picture and email the owner. Kind of pimpy but it goes toward your bodycount, and it was the only cache we got in Virginia.

The wind was whipping like mad, and the waves were HUGE in the bay. I was freaking out. I could only imagine what the barrier islands would be like when we got there. In my heart of hearts, I was afraid that it would be a bad scene.

We got to Kitty Hawk at about 10:50pm, and stopped at a gas station to grab some beer (we didn't bring any, and we lucked out that places were still open and we could get some...). We then proceeded down Route 12 (consult a map) towards the town of Waves where our rental agency office was located.

On the way, we were crossing Pea Island and there was a sign letting us know there was water in the road. Okay, so there was a puddle or two. Ha! There was more than water in the road. There were sand dunes like snow drifts, and huge ginormous puddles.

At one point, Doug hit one of the puddles so hard I was convinced we had plunged into Palmico Sound. But we were alright. Nevertheless, it was a tad harrowing after riding for so long and it being so late. So close, but 15 miles from where we'd be settling into bed, and I didn't want to die a horrible death.

We got our key and went to "Our Spring House" as Geoff began calling it. It was in the little town of Salvo, and it was a beautiful place. I couldn't believe it when we walked in.

Four big bedrooms on the first floor, which was actually up a level so that the ocean could run under the house if necessary. Nice! The second level housed a huge living room with cathedral ceiling and fireplace, dining area, nice kitchen and a bathroom.

We unloaded the truck, the kids claimed their bedrooms, and we discovered the hot tub was warmed up and running.

The lonely beer filled the refrigerator, and we gladly brought some to the tub and jumped in, making the first batch of what we called "Human Soup" all weekend long.

We slept like the dead.

Sunday, April 17th
Doug and I were both awake at 6:15. Partly because we heard Geoff in the bathroom, partly because the sun pierced every inch of available creep-in space it could, and partly because there was this bush filled with crazy noisy birds right under the window.

We weren't mad -- we wanted to check the place out.

Geoff discovered the fussball table while we investigated things around the house and got breakfast going. Doug took the dogs out, and I investigated the neighborhood. There was a cool VW bus across the street, so I took some pictures for Dustin over at Westiewanderer... and there was a weird round house nextdoor to us. The neighborhood was quiet. The VW owners were residents, and the people to our back were too... with a garden and boat and pets. The rest of the houses were rentals, and none were occupied.

We had the place pretty much to ourselves.

We all took a walk to the beach, and the waves were huge. The weather channel reported that a storm had gone through on Friday night and part of the day on Saturday, which explained the sand drifts and the water on the road as we came south. They had huge snow plow trucks, and it looked like winter in Maine in places where they were plowing the sand out of the way.

There were public access trails to the beach near our house which were fully flooded, and north of where we were staying on our little road, the water still hadn't receded, and homes were under about a foot of water. Except homes were up on 20 foot high stilts, and only the first steps or storage sheds at ground level were in danger of being wet.

If this was just a regular storm that came through, Jebus -- I wouldn't want to see a hurricane and what the results would be!

We drove up to Kitty Hawk/Nags Head and did some exploring, especially in the form of Geocaching. We hit three in the Kitty Hawk area, and they were all painfully easy. There aren't a lot of long hiking trails that we could see at that point, so caches tend to be about 100 feet from where you park. The dogs had a good swim in Palmico sound, and we ran around looking at stuff all over the place north of where we were staying. We enjoyed the day to its fullest and had a huge early dinner.

Then, we discovered Brew Thru. A drive-thru beer distributor. It was like finding the lost temple of something ancient and wonderful. And they had funny t-shirts and stuff. We didn't buy those. We just bought beer. Their website has a funny flash animation opening, but there isn't much to it past that. But. They sell beer. And you drive in, and they put it in your car. And that's awesome.


We drank more beer and made more human soup that night. It was very good.

Monday, April 18th
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in North America. And we climbed to the top.

It was cool, and while I didn't do it all in one straight trek up... I made it to the top with little struggle. Took a breather on a few landings, mostly because the view through the small windows grew more and more spectacular as we rose up.

We spent a huge amount of time at the lighthouse, and Geoff worked on and completed his National Parks Service Junior Ranger badge. That was tons of fun. The ranger swore him in much to the surprise of a group of kids who didn't want to do the Junior Ranger work, and he got a badge and beamed with pride. Nicely done Geoff.

We drove towards the Ocracoke ferry, and opted to pass on going across on the 40 minute ride... knowing we'd have a 40 minute return. We opted for food and beer back at the house.

And Human Soup.

We also flew kites that afternoon. After the high seas and huge winds on the shore right outside our door, the weather settled down quite a bit and the wind was just right. We took Aaron and Doug's kites down to the beach. Jessica came down to the beach reluctantly (there's no TV down there, you know) and got to fly Aaron's kite. She was instantly hooked, and wanted to try Doug's which was a little more advanced. She ended up crashing it miserably and getting the line all coiled up, but she really wanted a kite and I promised her that I'd get her one, since she was so interested in something (hell, anything she's interested in I'm going to encourage. It beats the hell out of "meh" in regards to everything in life...).

Tuesday, April 19th
One of the things that one is supposed to "not miss for love nor money" in the Outer Banks is Jockey's Ridge. It is a higormous, gimungous sand dune state park, and people hang glide off of the dune.

We went, we hiked it. It was hot. It was spectacular. My legs still hurt.

Seriously -- Jockey's Ridge was amazing. We didn't just go and look at it either. We did the nature walk. So we learned stuff. I'm glad we brought the sunscreen. And I'm glad the sand wasn't heated up to Kiln Hot so our exposed feet were blistered beyond belief.

Going there in like August would be suicide. But April was just right. And it was tremendous.

Afterwards, we went up to the Wright Brothers' Monument and National Park Site, where we walked more, and I stepped in a hole and twisted my ankle. That'll learn me to walk across grass instead of using the pathway.

It was a fun place, but my foot hurt like a bitch when we were done. There is a virtual cache there, so we took the picture for the credit and we went out to eat at a place Doug saw advertised in a brochure. He wanted Oysters. They had Oysters. He wasn't disappointed. The food was good, but what was better is the place had the AC cranked beyond belief, and that felt really refreshing after running around on the Dunes of Death.

And we went to Brew Thru, because. You know. Beer goes well with Human Soup.

Wednesday, April 20th
More Geocaching. This time, we started with a cache in Nags Head and didn't know exactly where to go to find the entry point. We eventually found it after trial and error, and it was deep in a Nature Conservancy Park which bordered private land. There was a lot there that we could have explored, but some of it was kind of sketchy, and we didn't want to trespass and get in trouble.

Boundaries are to be respected when you are deep in strange woods.

There was a spooky little shack right at the parking area where we accessed the cache. And this was the only cache we did that had us walk more than 10 steps to find it.

We went over to Manteo and hit more caches there. I was seriously not impressed with the quality of caches in this area. Too easy. Walk up and open. But... it is all about the rising total sometimes. And there's something to be said with spending time doing other stuff instead of 10 hours in a swamp getting eaten by bugs when you're on vacation.

After visiting Fort Raleigh and being terribly disappointed in it (it was boring, and the only thing we wanted to see there was the garden and you had to pay to get in...) we stopped at the Weeping Radish restaurant on the way out of town. We wanted to get dinner, but they were closed for the day so all we could get was a quick Weiss beer and a rest in the sunshine. And a really funny picture of Doug and Aaron.

We went home and had food and beer there. Stupid restaurant closing for the day at 4pm. Pfth.

There was more kite flying, more beer, more fun and more Human Soup that night.

Thursday, April 21st
Got up early, again. And the boys wanted to go fishing. We drove down to Frisco Pier and dropped them off with their bait and poles and wished them luck. Before we drove away, Geoff said "this is going to be the most amazing day of my life."

I couldn't help but laugh.

Aaron had tried his hand a few times off solo during the week and found there was no one biting anything due to that storm earlier in the week. Folks had said the farther south the better, so without going over to Ocracoke we figured Frisco would be the best as it's on the flat, southern end of Hatteras Island.

Jessie and I went out and bought a kite. She picked out a really nice stunt kite and I told her that she'd better freaking fly the damn thing more than once.

We did some sight seeing on our own without the boys, and eventually returned to the pier to find that all they could catch were sand sharks, aka "dog fish" and a couple of skates. Geoff lost interest because he couldn't cast (Aaron and Doug thought that would be ill advised off the high pier with tons of people around) so he was more interested in running around and checking out what other people caught, and naming the dog fish.

Hey, whatever makes ya happy kid.

We spectated for a while, and then when the boys were sufficiently tired of catching nothing too thrilling we went home to fly kites.

The wind was very light, and would not cooperate with us. So we opted to pack the kite up and wait until later or Friday.

Friday, April 22nd
We opted to hang around the house instead of heading out anywhere. The only things that we figured would be left to do would be to go to Ocracoke, or drive up to Duck and Corolla. There were a few geocaches up there that we could have done. But...

There were kites that begged to fly. And we wanted to honor that wish.

We headed out with the new Jessie kite and Doug's kite, and she flew her kite twice and it crashed to the earth, snapping the center support post clear off the T brace in the center. Irreparable. Dead.

Doug, on the other hand, was having a field day. He was flying his kite like a mad man. Doing tricks and letting the incredibly powerful OBX wind pull and tear at the hapless nylon body of the poor thing.

After a couple of hours, I let him know that we really needed to take Jessie's kite back to the shop and see if the guy would exchange it for her. Doug reluctantly packed it in, and we went to Avon to the kite shop to exchange the poor, busted beast.

The guy who worked there said that he couldn't repair it, and exchanged it for her. He let us know when we got home where to try and obtain third party replacement parts, and gave her some more pointers on how to use the line bridle so the strings don't get hopelessly crossed and messed up (like they did -- twice).

We headed next door to the Dolphin Den restaurant, because they had a funny TV commercial and Doug wanted more oysters. The food wasn't as good as we hoped, but. It was better than me cooking.

Saturday, April 23rd
Crap. Time to leave. In some ways, I was ready. In others, leaving the beautiful house knowing I'd be going back to utter chaos and a huge mess was really bumming me out.

We cleaned, packed, and hit the road at about 8am. The going was cake up through to southern New Jersey where we once again ran into the Parking Lot of the North East. It was like that all the way into Connecticut, again. And then it started raining.

We stopped at Aaron's folks' again to drop off the fishing gear, and then stopped by his uncle's to get a meat smoker that he was getting rid of and told Doug he could have.

We made it home at Midnight. Tired. Cranky. Very.

This morning, Aaron left early to head home and we got settled in to life back at the dump. I mean, our house. I miss "Our Spring House" greatly. I miss listening to the surf. I miss how everything smelled at the end of the day, with sunscreen and warmth.

All week before we left to go there, Aaron and I were checking the weather forecast and we were upset to read cloudy and lower 60s each day... it was nothing like that. It was in the 70s, sunny, bright, hot, windy -- perfect. And I miss it.

Overall, it was a fantastic week. I'd do it again, just maybe not so far south. Like perhaps Rehoboth Beach Delaware or something like that.

For now though, spring and warmth and sunscreen will come to these shores soon enough. Until then, I've got a great big canvas bag filled with seashells. I'll play with those.

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