Monday, July 16, 2018

Five and Counting

It would have made the AAA map guy furious.

I'm talking about the person whose job was to draw the yellow lines on Trip-tik road trip maps back in the day, a job that is surely now done on computer. The person whose sure handed, easy-to-read map made clear how to get to each of the destinations along your road trip.

Oh, sure, he'd be fine highlighting the Northern Neck-bound route from Jackson Ward to Morattico for a Reuben lunch with my parents, the Reuben part a holdover from Father''s Day when he'd wanted one and something else got planned for lunch.

That I showed up in a Cubs t-shirt tickled my mother no end.

And while they were waiting for us on the screened porch, you'd better believe Wimbledon was on in a nearby room. Mom takes her tennis watching seriously. Still, I was very surprised when she told me that not learning tennis was a sincere regret. Funny, I always attributed my lack of hand/eye coordination to her un-athletic DNA. Maybe not.

The Trip-tik guy might have let it slide that when we left Morattico, it was to retrace our steps to Warsaw to go to Menokin's speaker series to hear architect Reid Freeman. Why double back, you ask? For no other reason than I'm the kind of bon vivant who chooses to spend a gorgeous Friday afternoon being lectured to about early Tidewater building techniques. Yes, I am.

Or at least that had been the planned topic when the series was decided 6 months ago, but as Reid said, now it all tied back into the wood frame classroom they'd built on Menokin's 18th century grounds. In researching local house-framing techniques before building it, he'd been sucked down the rabbit hole of old, local frame buildings (like smokehouses and barber shops), information which had informed the building of the classroom.

But where he scored major points was toward the end of his two-hour talk when he implored us, "Now, just let me dork out for a minute here," and took off running down an architectural rabbit hole with a faraway smile on his face.

Surely the Trip-tik guy would have scratched his head when we left Warsaw for the Trick Dog Cafe in Irvington because by now our route resembled a backward "Z" or perhaps just scribble-scrabble. There's tuna tartare and obscenely rich she-crab soup, asparagus and grilled shrimp but a very small crowd. It's my first time, so I know not what to expect.

The next morning, the AAA guy would be further perplexed as he drew yet another yellow line, this one needing to be drawn from Irvington across the river at the Merry Point ferry back to River Road, less than 10 miles from my parents' house.

Even the trees were starting to look familiar at that point.

But I'd do a lot more than retrace routes to get to the yellow cottage on the Corrotoman to stay with the only couple I know who refer to their time apart between the two stages of their relationship as "the terrible awful."

The captain had already promised me a boat ride (never mentioning he had a new power boat) but then delivered three rides, including one to scope out the view from the river of the house we'd just left, a leisurely tour of the western branch (with all its new construction) and a sunset cruise on a glassy river.

He also grilled salmon for dinner while my girl crush made shrimp and grits (the latter unfamiliar to the native Chicagoan, though he loved them) and a cobbler with fresh peaches for dessert. The topic was how hungry everyone was after an exhausting day doing little more than sitting on a boat cutting through the water.

My Mom used to say that children never sleep or eat better than at the beach, and maybe the same applies to river time for adults. All I know is, the four of us didn't do much beyond eating, drinking and comparing notes on our backstories the entire time.

And when it all became too much, there was my favorite screened porch for sleeping.

Sunday was basically rinse and repeat, with more of the same plus a test drive in a fast car done by two men with an affinity for high RPMs and show tunes. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Sunday was the first time "Camelot" was being belted out from a speeding car in Bertrand.

When it came time to bid farewell to the happy couple, it was to head back to Irvington, but naturally not by the same route we'd come the day before because the ferry doesn't run on Sundays. So back we went, practically to my parents' house, before taking the long way back to Irvington.

At this point, AAA guy's yellow line has begun to resemble a line drawing of a shrimp or crawfish with its mouth open and there's just no way to tell what any of the routes are because they've crissrossed each other so many times.

A first-timer to the Northern Neck would have looked at that map and given up. I'm talking people like John and Sharon, the nice couple from Frederick, Maryland sitting behind us after the next leg of the journey took us from Irvington to Topping for dinner at Merroir. They were NNK virgins, having succumbed to an enticing Travelocity package (who knew that was a thing?) to celebrate his recent retirement.

They were celebrating with Rochambeau oysters while I had to have Old Salts to accompany Vino Verde (and commemorate our occasion), followed by ceviche, fish tacos and smoked cobia and arugula. The ritual pineapple upside down cake followed for dessert before we took the last of the wine down to the dock to watch dusk settling in while fish splashed in and out of the river.

Fortunately, the drive back to Irvington added no new lines to the map. Nevertheless, Trip-tik guy's head has exploded by now.

Even today's drive home further muddied the waters since we came back via West Point rather than Tappahannock, as we'd done on Friday. This was no carefully planned route, this was a map covered in intersecting and overlapping yellow lines as we tooled around Lancaster County for days.

Not to mention, had a perfectly marvelous time doing it. Let me dork out for a minute here and share my favorite assessments of this brave  new world I now occupy. I was compared to a three layer chocolate cake, for one, but it's hard to beat what the boat captain observed to the newcomer. "She's walking a whole lot lighter now."

Without a map, I might add. Take that, Trip-tik.

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