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OBX FTW [Aug. 3rd, 2011|11:02 pm]
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I’d forgotten how much we like going to the beach.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve spent some time at the ocean almost every summer. One of my earliest memories is being at the beach with my parents, riding in the basket on the front of Dad’s bike and ‘helping’ mom make sandwiches for lunch. That might have been Ocean City or Myrtle Beach; I know it was in a big old beach house and I dimly remember being with another family. In grade school the beach was a weekend boat ride away on an island; in high school, my family went to Wildwood every year. In college, any nice summer day was an excuse tossing a beach bag in the car for the early morning drive to the Jersey shore and spending a day (or two) at the beach, coming home sandy and sunburnt and thoroughly satisfied with life. When J and I started dating we went to the beach often, and for several years after we were married we took a regular vacation week at Rehoboth Beach every summer with all the friends and family we could fit into the rental house.

Once we got the RV, we went everywhere but the shore! Making up for pent up demand, I think. The money we had been spending on a week at the shore went further at inland campgrounds, and we wanted to see new and different things. So it wasn’t until this year that we actually got to the beach in summer again. And even that was kind of a fluke, based on having to be near Raleigh at the end of July.

On the Saturday before we were scheduled to move to the Outer Banks, we decided to drive out there (an hour away on any other day) just to do a little sightseeing in the northern shores and check out the route to the southern half where we would be staying. Oops. I don’t know why I had not associated “shore towns on an island with limited access” with “shore traffic.” Doh! We spent over two hours in a creeping traffic jam that started west of the bridge and continued north through the town where we stopped for a very nice pizza lunch. Oddly, southbound traffic wasn’t nearly as heavy, but the time we’d allocated to go look at things evaporated in the crush. On the way home in the evening, the island-bound traffic was even heavier!

I’d forgotten about the beach rental changeover, always on a Saturday in my experience. Everyone who rents a beach house for a week has to come in on the same day and the result is tremendous gridlock. Especially with traffic lights which are seemingly set by imps of the perverse. When we actually came onto the island with the rig midweek we had smooth sailing all the way to our campground. Note to self: Never on a Sunday (ahh the ‘60’s) Saturday.

We were two weeks on vacation, half at Camp Hatteras Resort in Rodanthe, and half at Sands of Time Campground in Avon. They’re only about twenty miles apart, but very different. Camp Hatteras spans the island, with beach access on one side of the campground and sound access on the other. We stayed on the sound side, in the less expensive sites. Those sites are still about as expensive as Fort Wilderness at WDW. Full hook-ups, unshaded but also uncrowded, and we had a beautiful view of the sound although we weren’t right on it. The sites were more generous than I expect at the shore. The internet connectivity was good, and the bathhouse was great; important since we were trying to conserve water while still showering off salt and sand every day. We were conserving water because while we were there we used our fresh water tank (filled up on the mainland) instead of the campground water. We’d been warned that the campground water was bad (rvparkreviews.com comes through again) and they were right. Desalinated water if I am not mistaken. It was safe, just brackish, but we didn’t want to drink it or fill our water heater with it.

J and I rented a beach umbrella (even with SPF 50 I burn – an umbrella is a necessity) and a couple of good chairs; we bundled everything into the truck and drove across the main road to the beach parking area every morning. We’d spend a few hours playing in the ocean and hanging out under the umbrella; I put my kindle in a zip-lock so I could read at the beach, a favorite pastime. In the early afternoon we’d walk back to the RV for a lunch break, and then head back to the beach for another few hours of sun and sand and ocean. The beach at Rodanthe was very nice; not so wide as Wildwood nor so narrow as Cape May, with water which got deeper in a good progression, meaning we could be out far enough to be chest deep and bob in the waves while still close enough to the shore to keep my panic reaction about being “too far out” under control. The surf was really rough the first couple of days and the current up the beach was fierce. We took to walking down a hundred yards or so and letting the ocean sweep us back to our spot in short order. We had a little trouble getting back to shore only once; J figured out what was happening (not swept out but not progressing in either) quickly and went parallel to get out of the rip tide.

I overdid on sun one day, so we took the next day off from the beach and drove south to Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke and did a little sightseeing. I was fascinated to learn that the Cape Hatteras lighthouse was moved inland in 1999-2000. The Outer Banks are a moving target as the wind and the waves wear away the shoreline. The current light is a replacement for one now underwater, and it was estimated that the same thing would have happened to this one by 2018 if it had not been shifted. The visitor’s center shows a short film on moving the lighthouse, and it was very interesting. The structure doesn’t have a framework; it’s all brick construction, and the fear was that moving it would destroy it. They used great care, steel rails greased with soap, and hydraulic rams to gently push it to its current location, relocating the attendant buildings in the same orientation as the original. It’s the tallest lighthouse on the American Atlantic coast, 208 feet. I passed on the climb to the top; someday I hope to be in shape for 12 stories of steps in a narrow spiral, but not today.

We took the ferry over to Ocracoke and had lunch there. The ferry ride was great; ocean breeze and shade enough that I could stand by the rail and watch the islands roll by. It takes a funny dogleg route to stay in the channel, another indicator of the barrier islands’ mutability.