I’m back from an eight-day road trip to North Carolina. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what I was doing before I left. The best thing about vacations is that they reboot your brain. You realize that the sky hasn’t fallen because you never did A, B, and C before you left for your trip. And since the sky hasn’t fallen, then maybe you really don’t need to do A, B, and C after all.
The best thing about this vacation is that it’s still going on. Steve took off today and tomorrow, which means that I can get caught up with my own work. It’s really sad, but we generally use Steve’s vacation time for me to write my papers. He has taken the kids to the swim club, and I’m at the library writing. OK, I’m taking a break from the paper to write a blog post.
I didn’t take my laptop with me on vacation, because the old girl is on her last legs. Couldn’t risk sudden death on the beach. Two hours into the trip, I was jonsing for it. After three years of daily writing, it’s hard to turn off the internal narrative. I was sure that some very clever sentences went flying out the window of our green Camry, but, after a few days, I realized that they probably weren’t all that clever any way.
So what did we do?
We drove through New Jersey and into the DelMarVa peninsula, which after a short drive south becomes miles and miles of corn farms and chicken ranches. It’s quiet and poor. Houses gently implode with decay in the middle of fields and the vines and weeds swallow them up. Two dollars smokes and fireworks by the bushel.
Along the ocean, some towns have rallied with tourism. We stayed over night at Chincoteague, which Jim tells me means “Lots of mosquitos” in Indian. This island was made famous by the 12 year old girl classic, Misty of Chincoteague and the town made the most of this free publicity. Damn pony pictures every where. There was a semi-interesting downtown, and we stayed at a decent motel with a clean pool. Got some very salty crab cakes from a takeout joint. The next morning, we went to the beach by driving through a long causeway through forest and marsh. There were some wonderful nature trails that we didn’t have time to explore. The beach was fine.
We spent the rest of the day driving to Crystal Coast of North Carolina, which is south of the Outer Banks. My in-laws have a vacation home there. Five days of family stuff and beach stuff. We pulled a red wagon to the beach every morning for two hours of water and sand. The boys couldn’t be trusted alone in the rough surf, so we were on guard the whole time. We did two hours in the morning, a nap for Ian in the afternoon, and then another two hours in the afternoon.
When did “family friendly” become synonymous for “food sucks?” Until the way back home, we didn’t score a great meal. Entire meals were deep fried and breaded. Hush puppies, popcorn shrimp, French fries, and okra. A little bit of deep fried food goes a long way with me. I generally need a nice salad to go along with all that fat, but that never happened.
The best meals we had were made at home, which is what I guess what other families do on the island. You can buy fresh shrimp on the side of the road and a short drive into the mainland gets you excellent tomatoes and squash at a road side stand. I made a scampi one night that I’m still dreaming about. My mother in law made a wonderful shrimp boil.
“Family friendly” also means few late night joints. After the kids went to sleep, the in laws gave us a night out. We went to a TGIF sort of place and played the trivia machine, but last call was at 10:30, so the bartender directed us to the Emer. Club, a cement bunker on the side of the road, where we danced to Lynard Skynyrd with the guys from the local army base.
On the way back, we stopped at “historic” Edenton. It has some ladies dressed in period gown giving tours of old houses. Had our first salad in days. Actually, I was so thrilled to find a chicken wrap and baby spinach that I took a ton of pictures of the restaurant. I guess I was a little giddy. We found a playground near the water. A good place to stretch the legs.
We stayed over at an awful motel in Wachapreague, Va. Brown pilled shag carpet and a complementary fly swatter. Why did we do this? Crab cakes. Across the street from the motel is a fantastic little restaurant on the water serving the gentlemen fisherman. They make the best crab cakes I’ve ever had. Also, in July the volunteer fireman run a semi-permanent carnival. The first time that we visited this little town years ago, we got killed at the Bingo tent. A ten year old boy explained that you can win not only be getting straight lines, but also by making certain patterns. Who knew?
The kids had a great time on the rides. On the way back to the motel, Ian began complaining that his bum was hurting him. I figured he might have a little rash from all the wet bathing suits during the week. I peeled off his shorts, but I found that his underwear was stuck to his butt. A little tugging revealed that the chewing gum that has mysteriously disappeared from his mouth after dinner had gotten stuck between his butt cheeks. Spent twenty minutes ungluing his butt cheeks. That’s my boy genius.
And then home again. A nice little trip. Just right in scope. We didn’t wear out our welcome, and the kids were well behaved. We’re shaking the sand out of duffle bags and sorting out dirty laundry. Always good to come back home again.