Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sans Pink and White Checks

I got an unexpected invitation to take a road trip to Colonial Beach.

Not to get too sentimental, but my very first road trip in life was to Colonial Beach when I was two weeks old.

I've got the pictures to prove it - my impossibly young-looking (and proud) parents in bathing suits holding me, naked except for a pink and white checked diaper.

Since then, I've returned several times, always for my annual sister trip with four or five of my sisters (depending on who was unhappy with whom), so I knew it was a pleasant enough drive up 301.

So when I got asked today, I thought, hell yea why not?

I'd interviewed the curator I needed to, I figured I'd be back in time for my meet-up with friends, and the lure of a quick road trip was irresistible.

We made a stop at a farm to admire young chickens, a spoiled horse looking for treats and the most magnificent hedge I'd ever seen.

It resembled a scrunched-up caterpillar with a wild, woolly head of hair.

From there it was on to downtown Colonial Beach, a place where off-track betting ships sit out in the river, the better to serve the gaming needs of the golfcart-riding locals.

But our destination was the highly-recommended Lighthouse, an unlikely name for a Thai/French restaurant.

And by Thai/French, I don't mean a pastiche of the two, but a menu that is half Thai and half French.

And that's besides the extensive chalkboard menu of specials you have to read on your way in.

But I read it, knowing full-well I wouldn't remember it all, before being seated at a window-side table in the dining room, where we had a great view of the outdoor deck (with one couple on it) and the marina.

It took us all of a minute to notify our waiter we wanted to sit outside.

Perched at a red table and chairs, we inquired of the deck's only other inhabitants if bugs were a problem.

They insisted that an occasional raindrop was as unpleasant as it got.

Honestly, I wouldn't have wanted the weather to be any different than what it was - cloudy, warm and smelling like the river.

After ordering splits of bubbles, my companion informed me that the rockfish on the special board had his name on it.

I felt the need to recheck the board, since I couldn't recall if anything had my name on it, so I walked back inside.

To my disappointment, the softshell crab already had an "86" next to it, so I turned to our server who was hovering near me and asked what his favorite was.

"The scallops with bacon are my favroite," he quickly replied. "Those two ladies just had them, too. Ask them."

You know, I think I will interrupt a stranger's meal.

The two had nothing but praise for the scallops, but one warned me that there was lots of bacon, so I should be prepared for that.

Honey, I was born prepared for bacon.

The other told me that she'd had the scallop dish here last night, too.

Two nights in a row? Now there was an irrefutable recommendation.

Outside, we sipped our bubbles admiring the nearby osprey nest, the school of jumping minnows and the boathouse with a steeple just across the water.

Bad jokes about the lord's boats ensued.

Our salads arrived with the reddest tomatoes I've had this year and an array of lettuces, a fine start.

When our entrees came, they definitely qualified as tall food with a stack of grilled vegetables next to our fruits de mer.

My scallops were large and beautifully seared and, yes, there was an abundance of bacon to complement them, so the ladies were right on.

I can't speak to my companion's rockfish but it disappeared completely, always a good sign.

Over two more splits, we watched boat masts bobble in the wake of passing vessels and discussed art collecting, Walmart versus Washington, DC and mutual friends.

Walking back through the dining room to leave, the two women summoned me over for a report.

Not one to mince words, I assured them that their praise of the scallops had not been unwarranted and asked if they were locals.

I was surprised and delighted to hear that they were sisters, in from out of town for some shared time together.

In other words, a sister trip. Perfect.

Riding back down 301 enjoying conversation with my companion as dusk descended, bats swooping overhead, I thought how easy and comfortable the trip to Colonial Beach had been.

It's almost like I've been doing it my whole life.

Oh, wait, I have.

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