Thursday, September 8, 2016

Set Free for the Wild

In June, it was Kitty  Hawk, in July, Kill Devil Hills and today it was Nags Head.

At this rate I'll be in Ocracoke by Thanksgiving.

What was markedly different was the state of the beach road as I made the trek south for 15 miles, far beyond where I usually land when I'm here.

How far, you say? The closest ABC store is in Manteo.

But cruising along the Kitty Hawk stretch this afternoon (accompanied by the plaintive sound of Wilco's "If I Ever Was a Child"), hemmed in by turbulent-looking gray clouds on all sides (after a mostly soggy drive down) was far from business as usual because of all the sand and standing water on the road.

Even the 35 mph speed limit was unattainable because of all the dodging and weaving required to navigate the sorry state of the beach road. Honestly, it felt mighty adventurous, especially along that terrifyingly narrow section of beach around mile post 5 where Black Pelican sits.

That was some deep sand on the road.

But once I made it to Kill Devil Hills and the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" began playing, the roads were mostly dry and clear, although more than a few houses had missing swaths of siding.

Down at the 13 mile post, giant puddles reappeared, a fact that hit home square in the face when a car headed north splashed through a puddle the size of a pond, sending water into my car's open windows and leaving me wet-faced with water dripping off my sunglasses.

Welcome to the beach on a variably cloudy day.

My eventual destination was the sky-blue Sand Pebble, an 8-bedroom, 10 bath behemoth situated on the oceanfront, for this week headquarters for Pru and Co., all of whom were well established in their various rooms when I rolled up to find every door locked and no one answering the bell.

Or repeated knocking.

Ever the sleuth a la Nancy Drew, I investigated possible entry points, winding up in the sandy lot next door gazing through pool fencing only to spot some toes reclining on the mid-level deck.

Peering through the fencing, I called out hello. Without even disturbing her oceanfront reverie, Pru half-opened an eye and called out, "Who is it?" not that she was expecting any other guest besides me today.

Inside, I was lucky enough to be assigned an oceanfront room (added bonus: it was conveniently located not far from the outdoor shower), which I immediately customized by opening the sliding door to the deck, closing the door to the hallway and covering both a/c vents with beach towels.

Volia! A seaside room warmed by outside air and serenaded by surf tucked into a larger, much cooler house with no inconvenience to others. Can't we all just get along?

Despite the volatile weather that had dogged me down and left souvenirs along the road, by the time Pru and I had done an abbreviated catch-up session on my bed, the clouds were breaking up into a burgeoning gorgeously sunny afternoon.

Adjourning to the beach, we were met with a sand fly contingent that insisted we position ourselves in the surf or they were going to bite us incessantly. No choice there.

The combination of the tide coming in and residual roughness from yesterday's storm ensured that I was eventually knocked down and under, thus providing the ritual beach baptism that rightfully inaugurates every good ocean visit.

Just as appropriate was a rainbow that made an appearance just under the crest of a good-sized wave before disappearing into foam.

I got in a walk that spanned north and south and netted me several conversations with fellow beachcombers, including a young woman who asked if she might find sharks' teeth on this beach. No clue, I said.

"Well my Mom has found hundreds, but I've only found four in my whole life," she shared. Um, okay, then I guess you can find sharks' teeth on this beach, honey.

Over near the Spur (the western connection at the beach eludes me) where a series of small guest houses were lined up like kids at an ice cream truck, I asked a guy with two surf lines in the water what he was catching.

"Nothin' yet, prob'ly cause of that storm yesterday. But thanks for asking!" I like it, gratitude for nosiness.

When I made it to the pier, I found two guys leaning against it ("We're holding up the world," one joked invoking major corn), and since my hosts hadn't known what pier it was, I asked these guys. Turned out to be Jeanette's Pier, complete with windmills.

"Thanks for stopping by!" one called out nonsensically as I waved goodbye.

Are you kidding? Monday, you can hold your head, Tuesday even stay in bed. But it's Wednesday and I'm at the ocean.

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