Day Two had me heading to Emerald Isle, the new home of my friend Byron from high school. While he’s on his fourth tour in Afghanistan, his wife Grace is in their new house at the beach, with their 14-month-old daughter Danica and their two dogs, Bella and Bandit. I’d promised to come visit their new house when they moved there in January, but of course the time filled up as my move loomed. Originally, my roommate Lumpy and I were talking about making the drive to CO together in just a few days and flying him back…but when his changing work schedule made that impossible, I decided to stretch out the drive and take my sweet time getting to CO.
Once that was decided, I’d further hoped to get a chance to drive down Rt. 12 South all the way through the Outer Banks. I’d never done it, and I figured this was my last chance for a while. All I needed to do was leave Norfolk early enough…and figure out ferries.
Well, ’twas not to be. I left Norfolk so late that my northern OBX detour was abbreviated at best…but I did still get to make it to Kill Devil Hills to see the Wright Brothers’ memorial site. I didn’t plan on that, but when I got to KDH, I spotted the sign and decided it was probably a must-see. And it was pretty cool. I didn’t stick around for the guided tour or the talk in the museum, and it was GODAWFULHOT, but I read all the markers and wandered the grounds where they’d conducted those first flights, and walked up to the memorial on the hill. It was pretty cool.
The OBX is a pretty cool little region of the States. It has its own flavor…and even several sub-flavors, it seems. I shouldn’t talk about it like I’m any kind of an expert…my sole experience with the Banks before this was 15 years ago, and the destination was the same: Emerald Isle. Anybody who’s anybody in Northern Virginia vacations in the Outer Banks…with family, with friends, with whomever…I’d only gone ONCE. ForEVER ago. Felt like kind of an outcast over this. But I guess while NOVA folks were in the Banks, I was in Italy or Austria or Spain or Australia or wherever. Hmm. Yeah. That works.
So I got to see some really pretty parts of NC on the way back inland and south to Byron and Grace’s. Partway there I got stuck in a downpour so torrential that I decided to pull over and wait it out…I couldn’t even see with my wipers on high. I decided it was a good time to play on FB Mobile, and jumped a moment later when I saw a cop car pull up beside me. I thought I was in trouble for a second, till I realized he was just checking to make sure I was okay and wasn’t stopped due to some kind of car trouble.
That was really the only eventful thing on the way there. I got in at about dinnertime, and Grace was cooking something fabulous, as usual…and had wine ready to pour, as usual…and the dogs were going nuts, as usual…and it felt like a second home. As usual. By and Grace just moved there in January, and the layout of the beach house was almost the same as the layout of their VA house they’d just left and rented out…so everything was in nearly the same place. It was like they transplanted the whole house.
Grace was having a time living there alone while Byron was overseas. It’s quite a feat to take care of a 15-month-old all by yourself. Add to that two large-ish dogs who may or may not EACH outweigh their human…and it was a lot to handle. Grace and I started wondering why neither of us thought to propose a longer summer stay at her house for me. I could easily see how much it would’ve helped her out. Hopefully, though, she’ll be able to ask a young relative of hers to come stay with her for a while and help her with juggling the dogs and the baby.
We had a great time at the beach. I went once with the dogs…and the morning after I got there, we went again with little Danica. Grace set up a beach umbrella and played with Dani near the water’s edge, and I headed into the surf.
NOTE. THIS is how you go to the beach when you’re 34 and are struggling with body image…particularly the kind that creeps up on you as you get a little older and can’t drop 5 or 10 or FORTY pounds just by thinking about it. You go to a beach where you don’t know a SOUL, and you go with an old, old friend who you KNOW loves you no matter HOW you look (or, barring that, someone married to such a person who is so awesome in her own right that the veneration transfers to her)…and a BABY. And you dig deep down into your soul and you find the 9-year-old kid who grew up in the surf, and whose dad taught her to bodysurf and dive headfirst into crashing waves and ball up underwater and let the current bob her around and pay attention to the direction of the undertow…and you CHANNEL HER till you ARE HER AGAIN. You remember how much that kid used to LOVE the ocean…and how nut-brown and healthy and strong she looked in all those old photos…and you focus on the joy of being sturdy and healthy and strong…and you throw your inhibitions and your friggin’ body issues to the wind and you go tackle the hell outta those waves.
And you forget just how much sand you can get in places you didn’t know you had places.
And you tell yourself you cannot, cannot forget that little trick. That you gotta use it every chance you get and can’t EVER forget how.
The rest of my day-and-a-half with Grace and Dani and Bella and Bandit were just as nice. The dogs and I went for walks…Grace kept cooking fabulous things…we sat in lounge chairs out on the deck off her bedroom in the steamy night air, and listened to the surf so close by, and drank red wine, and ate Ghirardelli chocolates, and talked…and it was so, so nice. I truly was sorry to leave. I loved being around the dogs. I loved seeing Byron in Danica’s little face. (Isn’t it a special kind of joy to see your friends in the faces of their children?? Particularly if those children were so long awaited??) I know one day she’ll probably look more like Grace, but Byron has been my friend for 20 years and I LOVE to see his daughter squint up at me and…there he is. I love it.
I drove out on Wednesday morning and headed across the long state of NC to Greenville, SC, where I would meet Trey.
Notables along the drive that day:
- signs saying “UNLAWFUL TO FEED THE BEARS” and “RED WOLF CROSSING: NEXT 10 MILES” and “ALLIGATOR CREEK: NO SWIMMING.” Whoa.
- And the Dare County Penitentiary Inmate Transport bus and all the burly, tattooed arms hanging out the windows.
- And the sandy roadsides and the scrubby beach vegetation slowly giving way back into the wooded Blue Ridge, Appalachian forest that spills down into Carolina from Virginia.
I also started Lord of the Rings that day. I’ve got Fellowship of the Ring on audio, and MY GOD is it taking forever to get this story off the ground. I never did read it (yes, yes, I’m a pariah), but I have seen the movie, and YES I KNOW the book will have so much more in it than the movie (DUH) but I can’t help picturing the movie and trying to match up the scenes to the book…anyway, it’s just dragging on a bit in the beginning. I’m sure it’ll pick up.
I shoulda planned more time at the beach.