Thursday, September 21, 2017

No Way, Jose

I didn't buy the t-shirt (of course there was one), but I did survive Hurricane Jose.

Which means when I got back tonight and saw a photo online captioned that it was Jeanette's Pier on Monday as Jose was bearing down, I could scoff. I was on that stretch of beach Monday and while the waves were fairly furious and creating all kinds of wild sea spray, it was nothing as dramatic as in that picture.

By the time I got home, the internet powers-that-be had already decreed the picture to be photo-shopped, but all they really had to do was consult with any of us in the Moonstruck cottage posse. Had they, we would've commenced imemdiate scoffing.

And while Monday and Tuesday were as gray, soggy and cloudy as you'd expect from a hurricane, yesterday and today were perfectly glorious: sunny, breezy and perfect except that Jose's grip on the ocean - unlike the skies - continued.

The red "No swimming" warning flags have been a fixture for four days now. My bathing suits never got wet above the waist. The heartbreak of that was how ridiculously warm the ocean water was, not that we could do more than walk along the edge of the breakers and hope for unexpected crashing waves to come to us.

On today's walk coming back from Jeanette's Pier, we watched as a lifeguard in an ocean rescue vehicle began blaring his horn to alert a man and child that they'd ventured too far into the surf. The guy looked angry at being called out and the child looked grateful to be saved from this idiot.

We also walked through a surfing competition, complete with a grandstand of judges and scores of people manning cameras with telephoto lenses. We were so caught up in our conversation that we didn't immediately realize that everyone but us was staring out at the ocean watching skilled surfers take advantage of Jose's leftovers.

But then, part of that conversation centered around peeping toms.

Let me explain: when I first went to use Moonstruck cottage's outdoor shower Monday, I was impressed because it had a small dressing/undressing area separate from but enclosed in the shower area. At least I was impressed until I looked up as I was undressing and realized that two upper windows in the house next door had birds' eye views of me or anyone else in the dressing area.

Fast forward to the next day as we're walking to the pier and critiquing cottage architecture, quality of (or absence of) screen porches and the like. I spotted a small, old school cottage in the shadow of a much larger house, but what caught my eye was that the small house's outdoor shower was so low and so open that there were at least 5 vantage points from upper windows next door where a peeping tom could get an eyeful.

That's when it hit me: maybe there's some creepy website somewhere where people who want exactly that situation can rent those two houses and indulge their, um, peccadilloes, with willing strangers.

Voyeurs rent the big house, exhibitionists rent the small one and everybody gets a little extra fun out of their beach trip this year. Twisted, but kind of brilliant, right?

As our first full day on the beach, yesterday was a day to indulge ourselves after Jose's damp start to the week, which means that by the time happy hour rolled around, we did it up right with an oceanside cocktail party.

That meant Schramsburg "Mirabelle" Brut (because a day at the beach requires good bubbles) and Pierre Prieur et Fils Sancerre Rose (and not just because it reminded me of being in the Loire last summer, although that certainly didn't hurt), plus the always-charming Aime Roquesante Rose (which, given the fish-shaped bottle, should only be sipped beside a large body of water) and as we headed in to shower prior to going out to eat, glasses of J. Mourat "Collection" Rose (also known as Old Faithful).

Our afternoon stroll included me taking a side trip to the Outer Banks Fishing Pier to suss out its worthiness for an evening meal. I met the owner at the bait shop cash register and he told me to go out on the pier, check out the restaurant and see for myself why I'd want to come back.

Let's see, tables located over crashing surf? Check. Covered for shade but open to the salty breezes? Check. Live music tonight? Yup. Owner swearing they that stay open till at least 1 a.m.? Oh, yes.

With that kind of report, it wasn't too difficult to convince the rest of the cottage's occupants that we were eating al fresco after happy hour. We scarfed fish tacos, shrimp tacos, a massive cheeseburger and a dog, while listening to the waves crash and a cover band serenading us with '70s and '80s rock hits.

Best recap of last night's meal came at breakfast this morning, when the Manteo-born queen of the beach announced incredulously, "I ate a chili dog on the pier last night!"

As it turned out, she hadn't done such a thing in at least four decades. Ditto for how long since she'd last seen waves the likes of what Jose was kicking up.

I always say, it's never too late for an experience update.

Today was every bit as beautiful as yesterday but with the ideal breezes for flying kites.

We must have passed over a dozen of them walking along the shore, including one guy who had two strings attached to his kite so he could do all kinds of flips and tricks by maneuvering the strings with both hands. Several people had gotten their kites to just the right height that they could simply tie the string to a beach chair where it flew unaided.

Best line from my hostess: "Thanks for loaning me yours," a reference to my date, who'd been good enough to play the role of helpmate - setting up beach umbrellas, digging out sandy walkways, playing chauffeur - to her until hers arrives tomorrow.

Always happy to share.

She did also threaten him with revoking his musician's card ("I"ll revoke your hippie card, too," she warned him) when he didn't know certain musical trivia about the Grateful Dead, but that was the wine talking.

Driving 19 miles up the beach road to leave with all the car windows wide open, we were greeted time and time again by the scent of grass being cut in yard after yard. It's not what you expect to smell at the beach, but there it was.

I'm usually a Kitty Hawk kind of a girl, always preferring more northerly beaches, but damn if I didn't have a fantastic time in south Nags Head this week. I liked that there were some older houses mixed in with the wanna-be-McMansions, I liked being with walking distance of two very different piers and I loved going to older places new to me to eat and drink.

Mainly I loved the slower pace and smaller crowds of off-season. I'm now wondering why I haven't spent more time down here when it wasn't summer. The ocean sounds and smells just as fabulous in fall as it did in summer.

"I can't remember the last time I drove for three hours with the windows down," my date commented as we approached Richmond, clearly as happy with the situation as he was surprised. All I'd done was roll my window down as we'd pulled away from Moonstruck and he'd followed suit.

Hmm, sometimes I think my job is just to suggest wonderful things and see who wants to do them with me.

What that t-shirt I didn't get should have said was, "I lived through Jose and all I got was four absolutely stellar days of storms, sun, fun and laughter."

October, anyone?

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