October 1, 2010

Beach Week…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:58 pm


The world, as a rule, does not live on beaches and in country clubs.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

I don’t particularly care for the beach. Any beach. I can count on one hand the number of hours I’ve spent in my lifetime lounging on a towel, gazing at the ocean waves. I mean, it’s certainly breathtaking in power and majesty, and all that. But after a few minutes, ten at most, what more is there to see?

So I was dubious a few months ago, when my niece Janice called and invited me to join her and a few friends for a full week at the Outer Banks. They’d rented a big house. They would buy all their food and cook for themselves. For seven days. Beach Week, they called it.

“Ah, I don’t know,” I hedged. “I’m working on writing, and September’s batch will be due about the time you get back. So I’ll be pretty intense right about that time, working on it.”

She was undeterred. “Come on,” she said. “You can bring your laptop and write there. We have only one rule. No drama, from anyone. You can do what you want, when you want. Stay up as late as you want, and sleep in as long as you want. You can spend all your time writing if you want. We won’t bother you. We have only one formal meal a day. Dinner at night. You can join us for that. We’ll feed you.”

And I got to thinking. I have never done anything like that. Hanging out at the beach. Not for a full week. It would be nice, to get away. Concentrate on getting some writing done on my MacBook. And I thought some more. Meanwhile, Janice emailed me pictures of the house they had reserved. Three stories, with decks all around. Eight bedrooms. Seven bathrooms. Full kitchen, game room. Swimming pool and hot tub. There wasn’t a whole lot it didn’t have, from what I could see.

And I thought about it some more. Then I emailed Janice. Count me in.

YAY, she replied. And other than thinking about it occasionally, I pushed thoughts of the trip from my mind. It would come when it came.

And it did. They had rented the house from Saturday, Sept. 18 until Saturday, Sept. 25. The week approached. I caught up on all my projects at work. Prepared all the paperwork for my deliveries. Scheduled what I could, for my drivers.

I packed Big Blue on Friday morning, then headed to the office for a half day’s work. I left early that afternoon, heading south through Dover and Salisbury, MD. Beautiful fall day, clear skies. It’s always a great feeling of freedom and anticipation, setting out on a jaunt like that. It was a meandering journey. Traffic lights almost all along, except for a brief stretch of Rt. 13.

I approached the southern tip of MD, new territory for me. Then the bridge tunnel. I never even knew such a thing existed. I paid the $12 toll and drove out. Twenty-six miles of four lane bridge, stretching across the bay. Twice, the road tunneled right down into the ocean. It was the wildest thing. And right back up again. I marveled at the engineering feat. And the resources in brains and raw materials it took, to build something like that.

And then on into Virginia Beach, where I booked a room at the Hilton. Hung out and relaxed, ready for my final foray the next morning, on down to the Outer Banks.

I headed out in good time. Entirely new territory. I’d never been through the area before. Outer Banks. I’d always heard the word spoken reverently. Never paid much attention. The beach was there, and the ocean. Never tempted me one bit.

Of the group, I arrived in the area first. In Waves, NC, a little burg about halfway out the little finger of land that is the Outer Banks. Janice called; she and her friends Brian and Melanie were a half hour behind me. I stopped at a pub and waited for them.

They arrived. Introductions were made. I’d met Melanie before, but not her husband Brian. Seemed like a nice guy. Our house wasn’t quite ready for us, so we ate. Then drove down to the rental office. Melanie and Brian walked in and emerged with the house keys. Whew. Only a block away. We followed them to the site.

A bulky three story light blue beach house. Our home for the next full week. A huge place. We whooped with excitement and dashed in to explore. We quickly selected our individual bedrooms. Then unloaded our vehicles in the hot sun. The girls had already purchased enough food for an army. Everything you could imagine. Snacks, cheeses of every sort and flavor. Lunch meat, sausages, steaks. Chips. Juices of every flavor. I would definitely gain some weight around this place. We spent the next hour unpacking and setting up house. Everyone but me had done all this before. I marveled at the efficiency. Everything in its place, for an extended stay.

Later, we took a quick walk to the ocean, a quarter mile away. The waves were high and angry, from Hurricane Igor half a world away. That was the first of my three brief excursions to the seashore. None of which lasted more than half an hour.

My nephew Steven Marner and his girlfriend Evonda arrived a bit later. And then Fred made it down late that evening, around 10 or so. And that was everyone. It was one of the most relaxing feelings imaginable, the beginning of seven consecutive days, with no agenda.

No agenda for anyone, that is, except me. I’d brought my MacBook. And a wireless keyboard a friend lent me for the week. I had outlined the month’s batch for my book, and done some writing. But I’d have to hit it steadily throughout the week, or it wouldn’t be ready. I set up my station at one end of the vast dining room table, plugged in my MacBook, and that’s where it stayed all week.

Life was pretty much as Janice had promised. Laid back. Most of the others hung out by the pool, swam in the ocean, and took short jaunts to town. I joined the activities when I felt like it.

We ate when we wanted, pretty much what we wanted. Cold cuts, snacks. Janice found a little fudge shop and faithfully provided us with fresh fudge every day. We had one formal meal a day, each evening. Tacos one night. Steak the next. Fish. Scrumptious feasts, each and every one. As I’d feared, I gained at least five pounds. As the patriarch of the group, I was called on each night to pray the blessing before the meal. Which was a bit startling. Not the prayers, but the fact that I was the oldest by quite a few years. But it was cool.

We watched college football Saturday, and pro football all afternoon and evening on Sunday. Roared loudly for our teams. And on Saturday night, the boys unlimbered the poker chips. I’d been around the game many times, but had never learned to play. This time, they insisted. Whatever time I needed, they would teach me. We started out with Texas Hold’em. I stumbled my way through a number of hands. Counseled with Steven, who patiently instructed me on my options. And by the second hour or so, I got the basic hang of it.

And it was fun. A lot of fun. I see now why the poker craze has swept the country. It was plain old harmless fun. We played probably four good games throughout the week. I’m ready now for the next time someone invites me to sit in. Sure. Sure I will.

And Monday came. That morning, armed with my coffee and orange juice, I parked at my computer and stayed there, off and on, for most of the day. A most relaxing setting. Even when the others were bustling around, playing games or just hanging, I sat at the computer, half joining the conversation around me, half focused on my screen. Editing this, making changes there, adding a paragraph there.

The weather was perfect. Sunny. Windy. Warm. And the days flowed by. After Tuesday, the week was pretty much over. At least, that’s how it seemed. Each day morphed into the next. Each day, we’d think: We’re one day closer to the end. And time just whooshed by. It was amazing and a little sad.

I kept a tight schedule, writing. On Wednesday, I pretty much just hung out for the day with the others. But on all other days, I spent a good three to five hours at my computer.

There were a few traditions, apparently, from previous excursions. Badminton. Cornhole, or Bags. I hadn’t played badminton in probably thirty years. It was quite wild. We teamed up. A strong wind was blowing. From one side of the court, you could tap the birdie and it flew a great distance. From the other side, you had to smash it, and it barely made it over the net. Janice and I teamed up. We won a few matches, but not the championship.

On Wednesday night, Janice announced we were singing hymns. Also a tradition. Fred unlimbered his guitar and strummed. Janice had forgotten her old hymn book, so she googled the songs. The wonders of modern technology. And we stood there behind her and Melanie, seated on the couch, and sang hymns from her laptop. Many old classics. Fill up my cup. Nothing but the blood. And about a dozen more. I’m not a singer, and it’s been a long time since I enjoyed singing as much as I did that night.

The week’s end approached and people drifted away. Brian left on Thursday morning, for work. Evonda left Friday. And we all packed up by 10 AM on Saturday. Said our good byes and left. It was time to head back home.

We’ll all be back again, I think.


Melanie, Janice, Fred

Poker seminar. From L, Brian, Melanie, Steven, Ira

Steven and Evonda

Food, food, food. This is why I gained five pounds.



  1. Sounds positively fabulous! So glad you went. And yeah, that bridge is a work of art and more.

    Comment by Rhoda — October 1, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  2. Sounds idyllic! But the coffee and oj? Yikes- my stomach went into spasms just reading that… it didn’t used to be like that. Hold onto your tough stomach! :)

    Comment by Ann — October 2, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

  3. Just good to hear from you again, Ira!

    Comment by LeRoy — October 2, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

  4. I can’t imagine what it must be like to proceed underwater on that bridge/tunnel. You have to have a lot of faith in the engineering ability of the designers.

    The singing of hymns must have been a real highlight. It’s not every day you hear people outside a church building singing hymns. Once in the 70’s, we ran across people singing praise songs in a restaurant in New England and it still rings in my head.

    I am currently starting a week in Holmes County and looking forward to food like that shown in your pictures. Thanks for sharing the story of your Beach Week.

    Comment by Carol — October 3, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  5. Ira. I grew up in Va. Beach and still remember when the Bridge and tunnel did not exist. I was about 3-4 when we went on a trip and drove on a ferry tp travel across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. For the last 22 years I have lived here in Lancaster. I have traveled to visit family and friends in VA. by taking the exact route you took.

    I could picture the route and the Outer Banks. We used to travel down there several times a year when I was a kid. Thanks for a great descriptive recounting of your trip.

    Comment by Leon — October 3, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

  6. Great blog but so made me miss beach week:(
    we will be back next year, start counting down days!

    Comment by janice — October 5, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  7. Be sure to stay tuned for the official Beach Week soundtrack out soon;-)

    Comment by Fred Engler — October 7, 2010 @ 1:42 am

  8. If I recall, there is a rest stop about halfway along the bay bridge/tunnel that makes for a wonderful stop…I wonder if it is still open. As for Rte. 13, it’s nothing but stop lights and makes for a painful trip.

    Comment by John L — October 11, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

  9. i’m first in line for the soundtrack Fred

    Comment by dorothy — October 29, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

  10. Hi Ira,
    Still scanning the archives.

    The tunnel trip sounding cool. I remember the first time I rode through the tunnel to get into New York City. It was a tense moment to say the least. But after doing it a few times it wasn’t as exciting. I changed my focus, instead, to being charged to enter the City. Oh, such grumbling on my part. How dare they! But honestly, I’ve never been to a city that is half as amazing as NYC.
    I am not a lover of the ocean/beach. Almost everyone I know is crazy about it, so much so, that their at-home bathrooms become a mini version of Bermuda. Shell soap dishes, paintings of children at the beach from the 1930’s era, bath towels sporting starfish and seaweed all add to the decor. Why the bathroom? Must be because the bathroom spouts out and sucks down more water than anyplace else in the entire house. My own mother has fallen prey to such an idea- the beach bathroom.

    No, the ocean is too open, too wide, too deep and too flat for my liking. Trees, wood, deer, cabin, lake, campfire, marshmallows on a real stick. That’s my idea of relaxation. But, who asked me? More power to the ocean dwellers.

    Comment by Francine — December 26, 2012 @ 1:55 am

  11. Can’t beat fun with family! That’s what the ocean does, it mellows you out.

    Comment by Sho — November 23, 2018 @ 8:30 pm

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