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What I Did on My (End of) Summer Vacation

Tuesday, September 26, 2006, 01:36 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

[Updated with pictures]

Sunday, September 17

7:15 am: I’m off for a week of sun and fun on the Carolina coast! As I embark on the long drive from central Massachusetts to Topsail Island, North Carolina, I decide to keep notes of some of my experiences and observations.

8:00 am: Interstate 84 in northern Connecticut. On the other side of the highway, there is a huge convoy of FedEx trucks! Semi cabs, box trucks, vans. Obviously some sort of mass delivery.

9:45 am: Interstate 684 in Greenwich, Connecticut. Many trees down along the side of the highway. Was there a big storm I missed?

10:51 am: Garden State Parkway in northern New Jersey. Saw a water tower, one of those that looks like a bubble atop a thin column. I called Den Teen and said, “Save Ferris!” He said, “Nice!” If you don’t know what this means, rent Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and submit a 500-word essay. (Picture from the village of Sturtevant, Wisconsin.)

11:57 am: New Jersey Turnpike. I feel myself unwinding, which would be perfect if I didn’t have nine hours of driving left.

12:41 pm: Delaware Turnpike traffic just came to a screeching halt. I knew this trip was going too well. At least I can be glad I filled the gas tank on the NJ Turnpike at $2.55 a gallon. It’s $2.59 here.

12:52 pm: That wasn’t too bad, once I got past the place where the state of Delaware, in its wisdom, closed two of the four southbound lanes.

1:33 pm: Just had a lunch stop in northern Maryland and took an Aleve, which the cashier looked at but didn’t charge me for. I must look like I have a headache.

2:20 pm: Came out of the Fort McHenry tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland. There is a mattress in the breakdown lane.

2:26 pm: Listening to the Orioles vs. Tigers game on the radio. The O’s announcers are making a big deal about Daniel Cabrera wearing glasses instead of contact lenses. So what?

3:08 pm: Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River, Maryland/Virginia line south of DC. I like the view of the Washington Monument from here.

3:20 pm: Heavy traffic in northern Virginia. It’s Sunday afternoon, for crying out loud. Grrrrrr.

3:40 pm: Potty break. The farther south I go, the toaster it gets. This makes me happy 🙂

5:28 pm: Need cheap gas? Go to WaWa (yes, that’s really what it’s called) in Petersburg, Virginia. $2.22.

6:17 pm: The speed limit on Interstate 95 in North Carolina is 70 miles per hour. I like North Carolina. (Image from SignMart.com.)

6:41 pm: “Angie,” one of maybe two Rolling Stones songs I don’t hate, was just on the radio. I had an epiphany about the song structure. It’s A-A-B-A. I always thought it was just a bunch of verses with a chorus thrown in randomly. Usually I’m much more musically perceptive than that.

7:03 pm: I’m bored. Just passed a car with Florida plates and a pickup with Michigan plates. We’re all a long way from home. I wonder if they’re bored, too.

7:20 pm: There’s a billboard on I-95 for the Bible Factory Outlet. It’s official—I am in the South.

7:39 pm: Subway sandwich shops in North Carolina don’t have seafood salad subs. Isn’t this an Atlantic coast state?

9:35 pm: Arrived at my destination to a warm welcome from Mama and Papa Den after 836 miles, 13 hours of driving time, and an hour 19 minutes of breaks.

Monday, September 18

Slept like a log and woke up to warm weather, sunshine, and an urge to hit the ocean. What else do you do when you’re on vacation a mere two blocks from the beach?

After last September’s vacation down here, when we saw tremendous beach and dune erosion from hurricane Ophelia, the town rebuilt the dunes. The rest of the beach sort of rebuilt itself, the ocean eventually putting back what it had taken away. But a couple weeks ago, tropical storm Ernesto came up the coast and pushed back the dunes again. It isn’t as bad as last year, when some of the stair supports that went into the sides of the dunes were left hanging there in mid-air.

Anyway, the water was warm, the surf relatively calm. I swam. Can’t do that up in Maine or on the Cape without turning blue and numb.

I also helped Papa Den paint. He and Mama Den do some work every year for the Den Brother, whose house we are visiting. PD painted one of the bedrooms, I painted the closet. The closet has no light in it. I painted by Braille.

Tuesday, September 19

The forecast was for rain, but except for very early morning showers and about five drops in the late afternoon, it was a fine beach day, if you don’t mind some clouds. As calm as the surf was yesterday, it was wild today. I got my first beach wound from being knocked over by a big breaker and dragged along the bottom.

That was the first beach visit of the day. We went back in the afternoon, this time with kites, to take advantage of a stiff and steady wind. There are few things more fun than flying kites on the beach.

Did you know that fat old women are in vogue this season? Neither did I, until Mama Den and I (60-something and 40-something respectively, and different degrees of overweight) were hooted and honked at not once but twice on our way back to the house.

Wednesday, September 20

What I like about digital cameras is that I can take many pictures and then decide later which ones I want to keep. I took lots of surf shots, since it’s hard to capture the thrill of the surf in one try. I also got a pic of Mama Den’s Marines (that’s what she calls them—her Marines) patrolling the coastline.

Did a little more painting for the Den Brother—two more bedroom closets, these with lights.

One more thing I’ve done each day is play Scrabble. Neither Mama Den nor Papa Den is interested in playing with me, so what I do is play Scrabble solitaire. It’s played the same as regular Scrabble, but every turn is yours and you play for the highest score you can get.

Thursday, September 21

If I woke up with amnesia and didn’t know where I was, this would be proof that I wasn’t in New England: the ocean is warmer than the air. It was in the low to mid 70s today, but the water must have been closer to 80°. A half dozen surfers were out trying to catch a wave, a few succeeding for seconds at a time.

As I sat watching, the most interesting butterflies flew around me for a few minutes while I tried in vain to get my camera ready for a picture. They were the identical color of my beach bag.

The Red Sox game was on ESPN2 tonight. I tuned in just a minute too late to see David Ortiz hit his 51st home run of the year, setting a new single-season team record. Chris “Windbag” Berman is doing the play-by-play, giving me the sudden urge to jam screwdrivers through my eardrums.

Friday, September 22

I came here with a list of 27 post cards to write, and as of this morning I had written one. So after my usual morning beach visit, I banged out the other 26 and bought stamps for them at the temporary post office, which isn’t an office at all but a United State Postal Service truck with a window in the side, like an ice cream truck. This town is too small for its own post office.

In the afternoon, we went to Dr. Rootbeer’s Hall of Foam, an establishment that is part soda fountain, part museum, decorated floor to ceiling with vintage and antique metal signs advertising various brands of root beer. Dr. Rootbeer himself is a former computer programmer from Connecticut who got downsized once too often and decided to chuck the rat race. Mama and Papa Den both got root beer floats with the Doctor’s own secret recipe brew, and I had a key lime float which consisted of lime rickey and vanilla ice cream. (Picture from HomegrownHandmade.com.)

Saturday, September 23

The weather forecast looked good enough to warrant squeezing out a half day at the beach before I left for home. They lied. After a couple overcast hours romping in the surf, flying kites, and reading, I gave up and packed up. The sun came out just in time for my departure.

3:00 pm: On the road again. I went through the coolest car wash on my way out of town. It’s a totally automated self-service operation. You drive into the bay, then a mechanism that applies soap and high pressure water jets moves all around and over the car. Now I just have to put a little air in one tire and drive until I get tired. I’m giving myself a break and splitting the trip home over two days.

5:43 pm: A billboard in Nash County, North Carolina, says, “Get the U.S. out of the United Nations. Join the John Birch Society.”

6:11 pm: It’s comforting to know that wherever I go in this big beautiful nation, I can get Garrison Keillor on the radio on Saturday evening.

7:15 pm: I just filled the gas tank in Colonial Heights, Virginia, for $2.09 a gallon!

8:01 pm: Just north of Richmond, VA, there are fireworks east of the highway. I don’t know why.

8:20 pm: About 20 miles south of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and for some reason I’m picking up Cincinnati Reds radio on AM 700 WLW. The Reds have committed six errors in seven innings so far against the Cubs. Good Lord.

8:40 pm: Now I have Cleveland Indians radio on AM 1100 WTAM.

11:23 pm: I got as far as Joppatown, Maryland, before I hit a wall, figuratively of course. I’m now at a Super 8 motel that is more expensive than it should be. ESPN News says the Red Sox lost today, thereby eliminating themselves from the playoffs. Hansack stared for the Sox and took the loss. Who is Hansack? [P.S. I found out.]

Sunday, September 24

8:15 am: Checking in after dark as I did, I failed to notice a pretty little pond with ducks outside my room. Anyhoo, I’m out the door about 15 minutes later than planned, but what the hell? It’s Sunday and I’m only six hours from home.

10:14 am: New Jersey has a way of rudely smacking you back to the reality that sometimes the world sucks. $2.43 for a gallon of gasoline.

12:34 pm: Gas in Danbury, Connecticut, is $2.56. Connecticut is even worse than New Jersey.

2:43 pm: Stopped in to the Connecticut state veterans’ home to visit my uncle. The residence is run like an actual military barracks, which means (among other things) no visitors, especially women. So instead I saw him in a downstairs smoking room. Apparently he figures if his emphysema can’t be cured, why quit smoking?

3:39 pm: The flags on the Mass pike are flying at half staff. Who died? [P.S. I found out. It was former Governor Ed King. Picture from Boston Neighborhood Network.]

4:23 pm: This trip put a total of 1,737 miles on my little car. Now I’m back at home sweet home. The leaves have started to turn. As much as I enjoyed my beach vacation, if I lived there I’d miss the autumn season.

11:14 pm: After unpacking, reading my e-mail, opening my snail mail, and watching a DVD with Den Teen, at last I can settle down for a good night’s sleep in my own bed! Tomorrow morning it’s back to the grind, dammit.

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