Sunday, August 3, 2008

Settling into the Beach

It occurred to me yesterday, as I watched a storm churn the sound to something like a Coke float, that a blog was probably in order. It keeps things tidy in my mind, and lets me share the experience. So here, forthwith, is What We Did on Our Vacation.

We didn't get out of P'ville until almost ten o'clock Friday night. This is because we're us, and the last time we were expeditious about time management was, well, when the girls were born five weeks early, probably. Even Chip was a week late.

We got to Sarah's at one-thirty, a.m. and everybody except me was asleep by two. At 3:41 a.m., I looked at the clock in despair, but the next thing I remember was Sarah's wakeup call at 6:30. Do the math.

An uneventful three hours later, we were in Nag's Head, where things got eventful fast, as Hank slammed on his brakes to keep from rear-ending Suz, who had slammed on her brakes to miss Jeff, who had slammed on his brakes to miss somebody who cut him off. The kayaks, surfboards, and beach chairs atop our car chose this moment to come loose (a broken strap, we later discovered) and slam forward onto the hood of my Escape. They were caught, (and this was funny later, but not at the time,) by the rear bungee that miraculously entangled in the tower. Otherwise, we would have sent a lot of beach equipment into the back of Suz's new car.

Hank got off the road by peering around the tangle of boats and boards; Suz, Chip, and Trey came back to help, and relatively soon, we were off to Tortuga's Lie, where Sarah and Jeff had heroically gotten a table for seven. We are all getting suspicious of this behavior. Sarah and Jeff spend a lot of time "helping out" somewhere else.

Our check-in was SO painless. The kids went to the beach in Rodanthe while Hank and I drove to Avon for groceries. With the Escape so full of luggage and food that there wasn't room for so much as another Pop Tart, we stopped off at the realty office, and five minutes later were en route to the house with our keys.

It's a nice house; maybe even better than our beloved Surround Sound in some ways. I like it a LOT better than last year's house. The first floor is just an entry; the second floor has four bedrooms and a laundry room; the third floor has the kitchen, great room, breakfast room with wet bar, and a beautiful ell with the dining table in it. See photo at left. Our bedroom is on this floor, and the bath is a thing of wonder -- glassed-in shower, jaccuzzi tub, glass brick walls around the toilet . . .

We had settled in and were sitting around chatting and unwinding, when we noticed the huge black cloud rising out of the sound. It's seventeen miles to the mainland, and a thunderstorm, even one that doesn't have its mind on its job, gets quite a run-up in that distance. This one takes the prize for the most intense thing I have ever seen on the Outer Banks.

The wind off the face of the storm was so strong that Suzanne couldn't stand up against it. The sound churned into coffee-colored foam. (We heard later that the winds were 60 mph). We could see the rain coming, like a solid white wall advancing across the water. When it hit, it sounded like battering rams against the western side of the house. We discovered to our horror that every window on the sound side of the third floor was leaking, and three of the screens tore from the force of the wind. We fixed dinner (Hank and Suzanne made jambolaya), while the house swayed and rocked. Every Webb that I know would have been in a downstairs closet, praying fervently; we stayed upstairs, but prayer was still involved, particularly when the wind picked up full-sized Adirondack chairs and hurled them into the windows. Chip and Jeff went out into the fray and piled them up against the house to prevent further damage. As we sat down to dinner, the storm finally blew over, and the sunset slanted in underneath it. The sound turned calm again, and pelicans wheeled peacefully.

The second storm, therefore, surprised us like somebody getting mugged in a meadow. John Mowder* had just driven up out front (yay!) to say hello, and barely got in the door before the wind and rain were back to clobbering levels. This time we had even more thunder and lightning; we watched enormous, jagged bolts stab down into the sound. What does happen to fish and things in the water when lightning strikes? Hmm. I need to research this.

John stayed an hour or so, he and Sarah keeping us much amused by their little hate-party for the art of Jackson Pollock. I thought of him in his trailer, later, (John, not Jackson) with some concern, because at 1:30 this morning, the THIRD storm struck. The lightning never stopped, so that it looked like a very dim, occasionally very bright, day outside. The thunder, likewise, rumbled in one continuous, tumbling boom, for about an hour. Hank slept through it, except for one particularly large boom. I lay in bed finding the fireworks un-ignorable. Even with my eyes shut, I could still see flash after flash. I love a good storm; three is riches, but probably not at 1:30 a.m. when I'm still way behind on sleep.

Welcome, the weather said with a boom, to the beach.
*John is our friend from Pittsburgh, the artist who did the lighthouse and the "beach book" paintings that hang in our den and upstairs hall, respectively. He's recently been devoting his artistic time to civic sculpture, and you can see his work at I hate to blow his cover, but he isn't 40 anymore. None of us are.

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