I know, it’s been too long, and I’ve missed you too – but you can’t have a triumphant return if you don’t take some time to gather your mojo now and then.
Besides, today is an auspicious day. 21 years ago today, SOBUMD and I stood up in a church in front of family and friends and made promises until death did us part, and to our surprise no one said anything when the priest asked the crowd, “If anyone feels that this marriage is not in the best interests of baseball, speak now or forever hold your piece.” At 21 years, our marriage can now go pick up beer at 7-11, but it looks so young that it would still get carded.
But rather than reminisce on the last 21 years, I’m going to focus on the last 4 days. To commemorate those blessed nuptial celebrations, we woke up before the crack of dawn this past Sunday and drove to North Carolina’s Outer Banks – wheels up at 0430, and as Adrian Cronauer said, the “0″ stands for “Oh my God, it’s early.” We were packed and loaded for bear, by which I mean I managed to bring 4 different pairs of shoes, because I’m a girl.
Driving pell-mell down the coast in the gathering sunrise, stopping only to fill the car’s tank and empty our own, we made Stack ‘Em High pancake house by 0900 – good time by any measure. It turns out I can’t stack ‘em as high as I used to, but I still put a respectable dent in my hotcakes. Pancakes were followed by finding the hotel, and since we couldn’t check into our rooms until four, we used their access to the beach and headed for the open water – stopping first to apply sunscreen in greater or lessor amounts. Everyone enjoyed the beach, including myself and Number One Son, who is starting to be old enough to notice that some of the bodies on the beach make grown men think of wardrobe malfunctions, and prison terms. We enjoyed the beach for several hours, by which I mean the Human Tape Recorder and I went out and got lunch and brought it back to the beach, and we hung out until we could check in. Lunch, for those scoring at home, was from a place called Ten 0 Six, which was great – nice people, good food, neat local art for sale on the walls.
But I’ll skip to the lesson here – the kids burned. Well, that’s not wholly true. Number One Son burned. The Reigning Queen of Pink didn’t burn so much as boil. (Note to self: do not let small pale pink things apply their own sunscreen.) Of course, once applied and everyone was frolicking happily in the surf, no one gave it another thought – we HAD applied sunscreen, pretty liberally, all over, after all. The Human Tape Recorder is in pretty good shape; she got a little pink but not too burned. Number One Son’s nose is a study in epidermal conflagration, and the RQoP has blisters on her cheeks and chin. The only positive here is that neither of them will ever again question anyone telling them to put on more sunscreen. To say that we feel terrible would be gross understatement.
Dinner was a quick jaunt to Armstrong’s Seafood, which boasts a few tables, a big local fish selection, and a waiter who could get a smile out of a burnt prune. The food was good, plus they had Black Radish beer, from my beloved Weeping Radish brewery – a taste I’d been missing for the past 14 years or so, that being how long it had been since we’d gotten to the Banks. We hit a Brew Thru on the way back to the hotel, mostly because the kids didn’t believe us that there were places like that, and got to watch a particularly amazing lightning show from a large storm just north of us. The storm had no chance of keeping us awake, however.
A little after 3 am, though, I woke up enough to step out onto the balcony of the hotel, facing the Atlantic, and looked out at the waves. That being the prime night for the Perseids meteor shower, I was graced with the spectacle of distant lightning from the receding storm, the pounding surf, and a couple of shooting stars, all displayed for my viewing pleasure. It was amazing, and I was asleep again inside 5 minutes.
Breakfast found us at Bob’s Grill (motto: Eat and Get the Hell Out!), and should you find yourself in Nags Head, you should find Bob’s as well. Great food fast and a very friendly staff, motto notwithstanding. Since the order of the day was to try to stay out of the sun, we found things to do that were not the beach – to wit, the Wright Brother’s Memorial.
There is a bowl on the top of the memorial that at times holds a marine beacon like those used in lighthouses. The beacon wasn’t there when we saw it, making it look like there was a large salad bowl on top of 1200 tons of granite. There is also a set of doors, wonderfully wrought with stylized images of the conquest of the air. There is no information anywhere to suggest what might be inside this vault, leading one to all sorts of dreadful speculation about what horrors it could hold, and wondering if the bowl on top were to be filled with the blood of human sacrifices, would some creeping eldritch terror from the dawn of flight come flapping out of the vault below to consume all the Piper Cubs in the world?
On December 17, 1903, Wilbur flew for 59 seconds. His girlfriend back in Dayton, on hearing the news, was heard to remark: “59 seconds? Sounds about right.” But the memorial does make you think about a world where flight was impossible in one decade and routine the next. In 1903, the trip from Kitty Hawk to Dayton took 7 days. This can now be made in less than 11 hours by car, and flown in several hours less than that. There was a small piece of the Kitty Hawk plane that went up to the moon and back with Neil Armstrong. As a nation – heck, as a species - we went from the standing on the ground wondering how the hell birds did that, to the surface of the Moon, in just 66 years. That is more technological advancement in the space of a human life than there was in any other two thirds of any century, ever.
I’ve decided the Outer Banks is a magnet for engineers. Proving this, our next stop was the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. I took a quick picture of SOBUMD at the top of it, and she remarked that it had been 17 years since I’d taken her picture there. I told her that I’d never taken her picture there. It took her a minute to remember that the lighthouse had been picked up and moved 2900 feet west in 1999. I mean, sure, it was going to be eaten by the ocean, but that’s a fate that pretty much all of us are going to share eventually. Who the hell just picks up and moves one and a quarter million bricks, stacked 187 feet high? We do. We’re crazy like that. Since it’s mostly decorative in today’s age of GPS and lighthouse apps on the iPhone, you would think as long as they were moving it they could have made the damn thing a little shorter, or put in a lift while they were at it. All this engineering magic and I still have to haul my ass up 257 stairs? Sheesh.
We got back down again and headed for the hotel, and some rest. By rest, I mean that 257 stairs notwithstanding, the HTR and I still took our pet kite (Joe) for a walk on the beach – if you can’t fly a kite at Kitty Hawk, you can’t fly a kite at all. Joe the kite went up easy, and I tied him to my belt. If you think having a kite 200 feet in the air tied to your belt would look odd, you’re pretty much right – it looks just as odd as you think it does. We returned in time for – you guessed it – more walking, this time to the Red Drum Taphouse for dinner.
Here’s a neat thing about walking to a restaurant for dinner – if you get there and the wait is 40 minutes, you’re still going to stay and wait, because you’re not walking back. With the magic of the hat, and a few well placed “wow, these kids are troopers to have walked here” comments, a 40 minute wait suddenly became 10 minutes, for which I am eternally grateful. In addition to good food, the waitress at the Red Drum also had a sense of humor about the name of the place – you can’t tell me people don’t pronounce it “Redrum!” all the time. I understand the head chef is a guy named Dick Hallorann. Walking back to the hotel proved worth the effort, as the last of the Perseids fired a few shooting stars overhead, and we made one last stop on the beach to watch them before bed.
The following morning rose with the dawn, and the HTR and I took Joe the Kite’s sister Betty the Kite to the beach, early. If you can’t fly a kite on the Kitty Hawk beach, it could be the lack of wind, but we decided that Betty the kite is afraid of heights. After a few dips and dives, first by the kite and then by us, we headed back to check out and find some Duck Donuts, which are every bit as good as you think they are. The lemon icing is particularly amazing, and the coffee’s worth the wait by itself.
We made a few stops along the way out, first to pose the RQoP next to a horse even more pink than she is, with wings, of course, because what’s the point of a horse that can’t fly on Kitty Hawk, and then on to Kitty Hawk Kites, to find a new kite who might serve as a therapist for the clearly neurotic Betty.
It began to rain as we left, proving that even the weather was sad to see us leaving. SOBUMD got her final island wish granted as we headed west over the Wright Memorial Bridge to the mainland, as a large pod of dolphins broke the water to frolic and wave farewell to us, with a flashes of fins and something that sounded suspiciously like, “So long, and thanks…”
If the island was weeping for our leaving, it could only have been weeping like the Radish weeps for my tasty beer at the Weeping Radish. I’m not much for lagers, but the Black Radish is one of the best. The best part of that stop was that I was the only one to eat the sauerkraut, unlike the last time we were there, 14 years ago, when we fed it to the baby, who loved it. Driving home 2 hours later, we had the windows down and tears in our eyes, and we didn’t love it quite so much.
But all good things come to an end, and thus our trip started as it began, later in the day but with the mighty tires still turning the earth beneath us, bending the planet around to where we wanted it to be. It is interesting to me that two of the best known tire brands are called Bridgestone and Firestone. What’s with that whole “stone” thing? We haven’t made tires out of stone in thousands of years, or at least since the invention of the bumper sticker. Despite bumper stickers being the main source of idea sharing in America these days, there were only two notable bumper stickers from the road trip home: One that said “If you’re going to ride my ass, at least pull my hair,” and another that boasted “This car is running on clean, renewable bacon.” Now THAT’s engineering!
And so today, as SOBUMD and I celebrate 21 years of church-sanctioned Hey Hey, I bid you, gentle reader, Hello Again. Inspired by the Wright brothers, I’ll try to keep this thing off the ground a little more this year.