Sometimes in life...ya just gotta do what ya gotta do. In the case of Team WestEnders, staring down the calendar at the impending approach of doom--um, I mean "the new school year"--and sensing the last precious few bits of Summer melting away, this meant only one thing: GET. TO. THE. BEACH! We couldn't very well slide into Autumn without first experiencing at least a little taste of sun, surf, and sand. Besides, as newly minted North Carolina residents, we have a novel coastline to explore, and it was calling our names. (Fortunately, those voices in my head...are waves...)
So we decided to take a simple overnight jaunt to the nearest spot-on-the-shore. It would just be me and the kids, as Husband was unfortunately chained to his desk (but fortunately, not literally...) with meetings and...stuff...he couldn't miss. That left it to me to work my Internet-research-magic, book us a hotel room, and...well, that's really about all I did to prepare. The plan was to leave our house fairly early in the morning, (and by that, I mean "in Johna-scheduling-language", thus NOT at the crack of dawn...) drive to Wrightsville Beach, spend as much time as we wanted until we'd had our fill, then retire to our lodgings in the nearby city of Wilmington.
After several consecutive days of cool, rainy conditions, Beach Day (as it shall be known to us...or "Wednesday" to the rest of you, if you prefer) dawned clear and bright. (Yaaayyyy!) With a cooler full of beverages and snacks--and only a scant half-hour behind "estimated departure"--the 3 of us hit the open road. Annnnd, we made it approximately an hour before I had to pull over and caffeinate, having suffered from very poor sleep the previous night. Iced coffee (and of course 2nd breakfast for the hobbits...I mean "beloved sons") did the trick, and the rest of the journey transpired without further...yawning and/or nodding off...incident.
Happily, Wrightsville could not have been easier to find. We breezed right in, found a parking spot mere steps from a Public Access point to the beach, paid the meter the proper amount for a "Day Pass", and POOF, we were ready for our rendezvous with the Mother Ocean. Now...I have a somewhat complicated relationship with...the Atlantic. You see, although I grew up in Maryland, visiting Ocean City and generally tolerating the cold-ish water, I then got spoiled when I began regularly traipsing down to Florida to visit my Great Aunt Renie. Once I got a taste of tropical-feeling-surf, it was all over--I never wanted to find myself damp and chilly again. Therefore it was with great joy that I discovered--at least by this time in August, anyway--the North Carolina water is just fiiiiiine, thank you very much. Naturally the fish-boys leaped right in, cavorting gleefully amongst the waves. But even I spent quite a bit of time...frolicking...chest-deep in the salt water, doing my own version of wave-jumping.
Overall, it was deeeelightful. At about 4:00, everyone was satisfied (and sunburned--more on that in a minute), so we packed back up and headed to the hotel...where the crazy kids promptly asked if they could swim in the indoor pool. Suuuuure, why not--that means I get the shower first, and can de-sand-and-salt myself in peace and quiet. Now for the Bad Mom Confession. As very pale people of Western European descent, we are usually absolutely vigilant about the sunscreen. However, we also tend to gravitate towards shade whenever possible, cover ourselves with protective clothing, and just kind of naturally avoid the height of the most-potent-sun hours. What I'm getting at is: it's highly out-of-character for us to go to the beach at high-noon and spend 4-1/2 hours out in the blazing Summer sun.
So while we did of course apply--and re-apply--the lotion...we probably could have done with ONE more lathering. Bottom line, the boys ended up with very pink faces, and found it to be both unexpected and uncomfortable. The silver lining, however, is that even though I've told them repeatedly why the protection is important, and how much it sucks to get burned, they still often give me a hard time about sunscreen ("it's slimy, I don't waaaannnnt to put it on, it makes my face all white" are some of the popular whining rants). But having gained personal, unpleasant experience, Riley actually said, "Okay, I get it now...I don't ever want to feel this again..." So I guess we can chalk that up to an important Life Lesson, anyway...)
Then, since several hours had passed without sustenance for the bottomless pits, we needed a dinner agenda. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity of our hotel, (save a Japanese steakhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings...obviously not vegetarian-friendly) so we voted to get all crazy...and see what downtown Wilmington had to offer. The answer, as it turns out, was "quite a lot". Stunning sunset views of the waterfront (Cape Fear River, in case you were curious, which you can enjoy from a rustic wooden boardwalk), a charming mix of historic buildings, one-of-a-kind restaurants, quirky shops...and...camera crews and film trucks all over the place. (I looked it up later and learned that the 2nd season of Fox's show Sleepy Hollow is currently shooting in the city!) We chose to dine at a deli called Chops, that was on the list provided by our hotel. The sandwiches were, in a word, yummy. Then we strolled the streets for a while, taking in the atmosphere and appreciating the balmy evening air.
When we returned to our cozy inn, pleasantly full from our meal and worn out from our activities, we had one more marvelous surprise: Orioles vs Yankees on ESPN. Yes, Day 1 of our mini-vacation was successful, and complete! Now all we had to do was figure out how to spend Day 2 before making the trek home...zzzzz (that would happen the next morning, over the complimentary hotel breakfast...Part Dos to follow....)