Nags Head Vacation

by John Delach

It was during our family dinner on Sunday, July 14 that it hit me, “This beach vacation is as close as it comes to being perfect.”

Sunday was our first full day on the Outer Banks (OBX) our three families having driven down on Saturday from Fairfield, Connecticut, Brooklyn and Port Washington, New York. Advertised on Google as an 8-hour and 14- minute drive, it took over eleven hours.

Our son, Michael, his wife Jodie and Drew, Matt and Sammi arrived first in a driving thunderstorm just before six pm. Our daughter, Beth, her husband, Tom and Marlowe and Cace arrived about a half-hour later almost simultaneously with Mary Ann and me. Mike and his family watched quite a light show as numerous lightning bolts struck the ocean.

The storm added to the chaos of so many new arrivals that eating out was a non-starter and take-out was overwhelmed. Mary Ann, Beth and Jodie chose instead to hit the Food Lion, the local supermarket, for frozen pizza that was devoured by this tired and hungry crowd. We didn’t last long and split up into the five bedrooms on two floors.

We had first reserved the house more than a year earlier after I suggested that we make such a trip to celebrate my 75th birthday. Our five grandchildren ranged in age from 19 to 12 so a beach vacation seemed well-suited to our needs. I suggested OBX. Mary Ann and I made our first post-retirement road trip down the East Coast from Ocean City, Maryland to Savannah in the spring of 2000 and had enjoyed a pre-season stay there. My only demand was the house had to be on the beach with an unobstructed view of the ocean.

After a minimum of electronic searching, Beth found such a house through VRBO on the beach in South Nags Head. It was available for the week of July 13, 2019 at a price that wasn’t off-putting, so we booked it by making a 50% down payment.  (I chose not to buy the hurricane protection they recommended as the cost was too high and the house looked old enough to have weathered several storms. I rolled the dice and won.)

Strange as it may seem I am the only member of our family who is not a beach person. I burn, not tan, I hate the feel of suntan lotion, my face is sensitive to even special lotions, I don’t like the feel of bathing suits and I prefer to read in peace on such holidays. But I really enjoy being by the ocean and watching the world go by.

I spent part of Sunday on the beach and even went into the water twice. The ocean was pleasant both as to temperature and wave action. The house also came equipped with a small pool and hot tub. Since I never saw a pool boy or a hot tub boy nor did I see anyone ever test their cleanliness or balance, I considered them off limits for myself even though they looked pristine. I didn’t discourage others from using them (except when I told Matt (17) that it would make him sterile.)

On Sunday night we decided to dine at a café built on a pier located as Mike described it, “A seven-iron away from the house.”

We sat at adjacent tables, five grandchildren at one, six adults at the other. Jodie and I made the mistake of ordering margheritas without looking at the menu. We agreed they tasted different and seemed inordinately weak. Jodie asked the waiter who politely replied, “Our menu notes that we don’t have a spirits license and we make them with Saki instead of tequila.” Live and learn, while Jodie enjoyed hers enough to order a second from then on it was beer or wine for me at the Fish Head Café.

The food was good, the conversation better. Everybody was over the top about the house and in one day our stay was being voted best vacation, ever. It didn’t hurt that the house had excellent central air as it turned out a heat wave was about to envelope the Eastern Seaboard for the remainder of our stay.

Plans to rent jet skis, beach buggies or to go hang-gliding all seemed to evaporate under that heat and the OBX sun. I was involved in the two excursions. The first was with Beth and her son, Cace, to visit the sand dunes in Jockey Ridge State Park. The biggest dune is 90 to 100 feet tall, the highest on the East Coast. I decided my climbing days are over, I contentedly sat in the shade watching them climb to the top while instructors assembled four hang-gliders for that day’s class. We met the class on our way back to information. There were over two-dozen souls carrying helmets and harness vests heading for the dunes from their orientation class. All I could think was their standing around in the heat waiting for their turn. I hope it was worth it. 

Then, Mary Ann and I took Marlowe, Samantha and Cace 44 miles south for lunch and to visit the Cape Hatteras Light House. They climbed the 257 steps to the top while we waited in the shade. Later we presented them with certificates recording this feat.

I also participated in several minor adventures, one with Tom to bring home BBQ from Sooey’s, a big hit on Monday night, another with Mike to Brew Thru a drive-through distributor that specializes in beer, gear and wine. I also made a lunch run with Drew, Matt and Cace to Five Guys and picked up pizza with Mary Ann, Matt and Marlowe.

People did what they wanted to do. Jodie was the most prolific beach goer with Mary Ann, Tom and Beth distant runners-up. No one seemed bored and the week went by without even a minor blow-up.

The Briggs left a day early on Friday as Marlowe and Cace were off to a camp in New Hampshire that Sunday. The final two families departed between 7 and 7:30 am Saturday morning. Everyone reached home without incident ten plus hours later.

As an old friend once said: “Everybody was still talking to each other at the end, so we broke even.”