Home > fun/hobbies/recreation, life > How I Spent My Summer, er, Autumn Vacation

How I Spent My Summer, er, Autumn Vacation

Thursday, October 21, 2010, 03:44 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

With all the effort I expend informing the uninformed and entertaining my readers, it was inevitable that I would need a break, which (frequent readers already know) consisted of a week in a place with warmer temperatures and an ocean around the corner. That was after a 15 hour drive (including periodic stops to fill the gas tank, eat, pee, and stretch), which sounds worse than it was because my friend Sandy kept me company and shared the driving.

There are three kinds of vacations: relaxation vacations, recreation vacations, and socializion vacations. Most vacations are a combination of the three. In my experience, most people don’t understand the difference between recreation and relaxation, but that’s another story for another time. This particular vacation was primarily, but not entirely, of the relaxation variety. We pretty much did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it, and we didn’t do anything we didn’t want to do. What we wanted to do most days was go to the beach and eat.

My toes on the beach in Surf City, Topsail Island, NCWith daytime temperatures consistently above normal all but one day, we did a lot of lying on the beach. We stayed at a house that is literally a three minute walk to the beach, but because there is no public parking in that vicinity, the beach is never crowded. That made it easy for us to pick a spot, plant our beach chairs, and vegetate. I did a lot of vegetating. And some swimming, because even though it’s October, the Atlantic Ocean down around the Carolinas is still quite warm. And taking pictures, even though I had only the 3.2 megapixel camera on my BlackBerry Bold 9650. I managed to creatively get myself (or at least a couple small body parts) into the first picture I took of the beautiful beach (above). Yes, those are my toes in a pair of cheap flip-flops. BTW, you can click on this and any picture in this post to see a larger image. The rest of the pictures do not involve my feet.

Fused glass pendant by Tommy JBesides basking in the rays, one of the first things we did was stop at Mystic Treasures Jewelry to visit jewelry designer Tommy and his partner Judy, who also owns the Topsail Art Gallery next door. I know Tommy via my brother and sister-in-law, who are long-time frequent customers. Alas, both Sandy and I fell under Tommy’s spell and bought jewelry from him. Sandy chose the Armada Hook bracelet, one of Tommy’s original patented designs. I went with a slightly less pricy necklace and earring set, also hand-crafted by Tommy of fused glass with sand from the nearby beach fired in.

Dr. Rootbeer's Hall of Foam, Sneads Ferry, NCA less costly venture brought us to the mainland to visit the venerable Dr. Rootbeer and his Hall of Foam. Part soda fountain, part museum, it’s loaded with vintage (and some reproduction) root beer memorabilia from around the world. Apparently this business venture was a way for Dr. Rootbeer to display his vast collection in a way that didn’t drive Mrs. Rootbeer to divorce court. As for the edibles, my personal favorite menu item is the key lime float, made with vanilla ice cream and Lime Rickey soda. He also sells six-packs of his own recipe root beer plus, much to my delight, two other eclectic beverages I enjoy, Moxie and birch beer. No Dr Pepper, though.

Marina Cafe, view from the deckAlso close to the island are two U.S. Marine Corps installations, Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station. I have always thought that our Declaration of Indepencence should have included one additional self-evident truth: that Marines are hot. Some of them may have fugly faces, but from the neck down, there isn’t a one of them I’d kick out of bed for eating crackers. So naturally, we had to do dinner out one evening near the installations so we could do some Marine-watching. We chose the Marina Cafe, which wasn’t much to look at but had fabulous seafood. Dining on the deck at twilight, we selected one healthy entree (grilled mahi-mahi) and one not-so-healthy entree (fried seafood platter) and shared both. Thus it was that I had fried oysters for the first time in my life, but I hope not the last. The exceptional food somewhat made up for our disappointment over the fact that all the Marines we saw happened to be there with their pregnant wives or girlfriends.


At some point, we realized that the famous resort area of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was only a couple hours’ drive south, and as it happened Sandy has old work friends there. They invited us down for an overnight, and on the way, we stopped at South Carolina’s famous Willard’s Fireworks. It wasn’t that we had any particular desire to shoot off fireworks; we merely wanted to pick up some sparklers to bring home, where the state legislature doesn’t have anything better to do than take our money and our fun. I suppose I am now officially a smuggler, although I came close to crossing over to the dark side about ten years ago when I briefly contemplated bringing back some Cuban cigars from Montreal. Anyhoo, I am now ready to rip next summer.

Myrtle Beach, SCAfter arriving at Sandy’s friends’ house, going out to dinner with them, and enjoying a comfortable night’s sleep, we slowly made our way back to the other Carolina, stopping at heart of Myrtle Beach to check out, you guessed it, the beach. It was much more crowded than what we had been experiencing on Topsail, but then Myrtle Beach is teeming with high-rise hotels and condominiums. Think a mini Miami Beach or Waikiki. Not my bag. But the beach was beautiful, and because it was a warm and sunny day (we’d had nothing but at that point) we kicked off our shoes and poked around the water’s edge. This is probably the ideal time to be there if you like the area because the water is still warm enough for swimming, the sun is strong enough to get a bit of a tan, and the sun-worshippers are relatively few. My understanding is that Myrtle Beach draws thousands in October, but they’re golfing, not swimming. You couldn’t pay me enough to be there before labor day or during an April school vacation, when the beaches must be jammed with bodies.

The Den Mother on Surf City PierOur streak of unseasonably warm weather ended on Friday, when it was only in the low to mid 70s. It was still sunny, though, and perfect weather for walking. We set out for a late morning walk to the Surf City pier, a perfect location for people-watching, especially if one enjoys watching people fishing off a quarter-mile long pier. It costs a dollar to walk onto the pier and $3 to fish; the money collected pays for beach refurbishment after storms. A worthy cause, I thought, and it was the best dollar I spent all vacation. I’ve never liked fishing, but it was surprisingly fun to watch those who did. It was also windy. Sandy was lucky to get the above shot of yours truly without hair blowing in my face. The next time I go, perhaps on a less breezy day, I’ll bring a folding chair and a book and hang out for a couple hours.

Sunrise over Topsail Island, NCAll good things must come to an end, and so it was for my vacation. With another 15-hour trip ahead of us, we headed out early Saturday morning, but not before making one last trip to the beach. It was shortly before sunrise, the ocean was unusually calm, and a couple early risers had beaten us there to fish or walk their dogs. There is something awe-inspiring about watching day break over the Atlantic, knowing that it’s already mid-day on the other side. But rather than feeling dwarfed by the sea, I tend to think of it in more intimate terms. For most of my adult life, being at the ocean has evoked memories of being on Cape Cod with my long-distance boyfriend. This time, before I walked back to my car, I imagined a day when I would be with him again. Maybe I’ll be able to show him this very beach.


Those readers who know me personally are welcome to view the other 45 of the vacation pictures I took on my phone. Go to www.ITookThisOnMyPhone.com, and when you get there, type my first initial and last name onto the end of the URL. For example, http://www.itookthisonmyphone.com/dmother (except that my real name isn’t Den Mother). Sorry, if you don’t know my name, you’re out of luck. I have pictures there of other people that I’m not comfortable making public. Don’t take it personally.


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