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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

East Bound and Gagged

Part Two of Nights in South of Rodanthe

Car trips can be a bit overwhelming to some. I know my Mother-in-Law was dreading the 12+ hour trip to the Outer Banks before we even left the driveway. Me, I like a good road trip. I don't care where we're driving to, I just enjoy getting there...until the last hour.

Here are the notes I made while at the beach during the week. They are broken down by day over the next few posts.

Day 1 – Saturday

PA Turnpike
After an initial snag and abort to our launch, we are on the road. We hit the PA Turnpike around 1:45 AM and were supposed to meet up with my wife’s sister around the Donegal exit on our way to Breezewood. The iPod was scrapped as a road trip mix tape, mainly because of the lack of interest by my In Laws in the selection of music but also because I went off road into the rumble strips near the Jersey Barrier after bumping the iPod and being distracted by the display. I’m so glad I spent three days uploading and updating it for this trip.

Our first stop is Breezewood, the truck stop Mecca of the Turnpike. From here we will depart PA Turn Pike 76 and head onto Rte 270 East. It’s just before 3 AM as we get onto the second leg of our journey. A Sheetz Cuppuccino will suffice for the time being as I did not get my usual nap before departure. For the time being, I’m still high on the electricity of being on the road. Standing there, topping off my French Vanilla Cup of Goodness, I thought about it. I’m out on the road. I’m heading down South for a week. I’ll be in another state. There is something about driving on through the night that just makes me beam with delight. The idea that when the daylight hits my sunglasses, I’ll be somewhere else. It’s as if I’ve been lead into a room, blindfolded, and when my eyes open I see a surprise party in the form of another state with all its splendor laid out before you like presents. I must be delirious from lack of sleep. I’ve been up since 7 AM the day before.

Rte 270 through Maryland
Getting back out onto the road, we all hunkered down for what was to come. My wife, riding shotgun, provided a second set of eyes on the road and map checks for our turns. In the second row of the Family Truckster sat my daughter in her car seat and my Father in Law next to her. My Father-in-Law's main job is to man the drink requests from the small cooler and snacks for the little one. His other job is to man the DVD player with that dreaded purple dinosaur. My daughter's job is to be good and sleep through most of the trip. I think it may be more than she can handle. In the last row, my Mother in Law is set up like a queen being hauled on the backs of the slaves from place to place. In all actuality, that was the idea. This trip was a near bust because she’s been dealing with some health issues. She is due for surgery to remove another tumor from her abdomen and blood clots in her lungs put her in the hospital over Mother’s Day weekend. She has to keep her feet elevated and move around every couple of hours. I set up the back seat so she could stretch out and prop her feet up. Her job is to just be comfortable.

We just made it through the Beltway around DC. I don’t know why everyone has a problem with it. It’s not that bad when you hit it before sunrise. Just get into the lane next to the far left and stick close to the speed limit. Why? A lot of times your exit is on the left and it’s easier to just be there when it comes. Yes, there are a lot of lane changers and tailgaters but it is no worse than any other city loop. Oddly enough, the entrance and exit to the beltway are considered the two worst bottlenecks in the nation. The reason is that everyone uses this road to get onto I-95 from North of Washington D.C.

Once off the beltway, you are on I-95 and the first of three huge stretches of road that slow things down a bit in the fun department. An hour South of D.C. we stopped for breakfast at IHOP. This is the highlight of my entire trip. I will plan a route to anywhere in the United States as long as I can intersect an IHOP at some point, if for no other reason than the fact that I love the Butter Pecan syrup that you get among the speed rack of syrup flavors. There just happens to be one off of I-95 in Fredericksburg, VA.

From IHOP back to I-95, we headed to Rte 64 which goes around Norfolk and under the bay. My M-I-L has never been to the ocean let alone under it. If she can handle the tunnel, she can handle anything.

Entering North Carolina, it geographically appears that you are very close to your destination. This would be a grave mistake. Once we get over the bridge on Rte 64, we are then in for a treat, an hour long trek to Avon through little beach villages at 35mph. Some of the highlights to this part of the trip come in the form of the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head which is home to the largest natural sand dune and offers a hang gliding school, The Bodie (pronounced Body) Island Lighthouse which is said to be haunted, and the Oregon Inlet/Bonner Bridge which crosses over the Oregon Inlet between Pea and Hatteras Island.

We stopped at a rest stop before crossing over the sound to the Outer Banks. This is our last stop before our destination. I didn’t want to jinx anything, but the little one has gone almost 18 hours with less than a half hour nap somewhere in Virginia. Loading her back into the car, she unloaded in a huge meltdown that would have dwarfed Chernobyl. It took an extra helping of Barney DVDs to calm her.

Summer’s Song
Our destination. We have arrived. The house, rented through Sun Realty is pretty much as it was detailed online. I have stayed in the OBX before and the last house was a little different than the pictures. But this, this was pretty neat. The house, like most in the beach communities, has three floors. The bottom floor is usually the equivalent of a mud room or sand room as it were, featuring an outdoor shower, grill, and tables. The inside usually provides a bathroom and a few amenities, and maybe even a bedroom or two. This place had a Queen Bedroom, a twin Bunk Bed room, communal bathroom and a game room on the bottom floor. In the game room, which was a new addition this year, we had a pool table, wet bar, and flat screen television.

The second floor is the main bedroom area and laundry area. Ours featured a King Master with bathroom, a Queen Master with bathroom, another Queen room, a two twin bedroom, laundry room, and additional bathroom. The Masters also had porch access with a stairway down to the first level.

The third floor is usually the living quarters with another bathroom, kitchen, living, dining, and sometimes another bedroom. Ours had an open floor plan with a kitchen, dining, and living area. Another table was situated in one corner that doubled as a game table for bumper pool. The kitchen had a bar. The dining area had a huge glass table and the living area featured a huge flat screen television, surround sound, and multiple chairs and couches. Two sliding glass doors opened on to either a screened in porch with picnic table or the main balcony with ocean view. Another floor existed in the form of a crow’s nest with a spiral staircase off the side of the balcony up to it. From here additional views of the sound and ocean were available. I was impressed.

I was also exhausted. I was ready to crash. I hadn’t slept in over 32 hours and the caffeine was providing the bare minimum of faculties. I was basically running on emergency lighting. I crashed out on the couch for 10 minutes and then attempted to put the crib together for the little one while my M-I-L and wife went shopping for food and my F-I-L and soon to be B-I-L went on a beer run. Apparently, no one asked me to check out the local ABC stores online before they left as they ended up driving an hour back to Nags Head instead of a 6 mile jaunt down towards the end of Hatteras. I wonder what’s for dinner. Now, back to that crib.

Note: Do take a look at the pictures on the Sun Realty link to the house. They are just as good as any I could take and there is little difference between their pictures and what I captured.

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