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Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter at Virginia Beach

In the middle of last week BD suggested we run away to the beach for the weekend. Actually what he suggested was taking a week off and heading to the Caribbean - or New Orleans or someplace south - and warm - to which I answered with a shriek and then a garbled and totally useless explanation about how I am in technical overload at work and I am the head geek. It was garbled mostly because the moment I mention technology in connection with my job I get the lecture about libraries are books and card catalogs (and silent) and what is the purpose of technology in a library and usually that is where the conversation stops. Unanswerable questions get silence but the lead up to them sometimes gets a turkey gobble.

Still - Someone is sensitive to spousal tensions and kindly backed off the idea of a week's vacation 3 weeks after a 2 week Christmas vacation with the suggestion "How about a weekend at VaBeach?"  - which got a much more enthusiastic response. So once I got to a stopping place at werk on Friday we tooled down the highway to that strip of sand along the southern foot of the state. 

It's seriously off-season this time of year - as far as I could tell, the only thing going on this weekend was a kiddie beauty pageant and I only know that because I saw a family checking out on Saturday with an arm full of prom dresses for an 8 year old. Atlantic Ave and even Pacific Ave, one block in from the ocean, were pretty much deserted all the time. Left turns were a breeze and you could drive the 60 blocks on cruise control and never tap a break. Enough restaurants were open to feed we few hungry souls and the boardwalk was steadily occupied with strollers, joggers and bicycles, but never crowded. and of course, off-season prices made ocean front rooms fit nicely within our budget.

One think you better look out for, though, when visiting VaBeach.The handicapped parking spaces along the road are NOT easy to see - the signs face out rather than towards the unsuspecting driver, as she pulls up to the curb. Also, the curbs are NOT painted with a distinguishing color. And though the streets are deserted by tourists and locals at 9 o'clock on a Friday night, there are still patrol cars every 3 blocks, just as if it were summertime. Ask me how I know.

Eh. I do not $weat the $mall $tuff. Or even the Big $tuff when I am on vacation.

We were driving around so late at night in part because it was so easy to. BD loves to bargain for a hotel room and in January at VaBeach, it's easy to pull in and out of parking lots and ask. In the end we settled for a Holiday Inn Express because it had an ocean front room on a top floor with a king size bed, pool and hot tub and nice breakfast setup. We took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere to scout out other hostelry and we found an older motel with some interesting amenities that are tempting us to go back down there next month. Not for Valentine's day or President's Day weekend - which we did once years ago, only to find that rates jumped up, rooms filled up and restaurants, the few that were open, were very crowded, but certainly towards the end of February when even the library director will be ready to run away to join the circus or walk the beach.

Which is my favorite thing to do at the beach after swimming and just one step ahead of feeding sea gulls stale white bread. Bess's Beach Rules start off with - Whenever visiting the beach, feet must step into the surf. Here is proof that I am a good rule follower. We walked about 8 miles on Saturday and maybe 2 of them I went barefoot. I won't do that again. The sand was cold and my feet were numb when I got back to where I'd stashed my shoes.

This is what you see at VaBeach - while strolling towards Ft. Storey - cargo ships leaving Cape Henry.

The sand looks almost empty - but there were actually a good number of people enjoying the sunshine. A few surfers. Lots of very well behaved dogs with even more responsible owners. Nothing nasty anywhere I stepped.

We went first up the beach, away from the blazing winter sunshine - from about 29th street to 60th and back. Then it was off to one of the few sandwich/pizza places for lunch (Chicken chipotle sub for TheQueen) and an afternoon stroll from the hotel to Rudee's Inlet to watch the boats go in and out - a dredger, which was in full sucking operation


the whale watching boat which we did not go on. BD seemed to lose interest in the extra ticket price after we'd had our encounter with VaBeach's Best Blues. It was okay though - we saw lots of dolphins capering in the waves. That was enough wildlife for me.

There's a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in visiting the beach. Time was (decades ago), after Easter, the first girl to convince her parents to drive a carload of friends down to the beach for the day was given instant Coolest Chick Status. We could usually count on Myra Medina's parents, Cuban exiles who really missed the ocean, to take us down 2 weeks before Memorial Day weekend. With extreme pleading I could sometimes get Daddy to drive us down too. The object was to get as sunburned as possible so that you could prove your claim when you went to school on Monday. Remember those Copertone ads? Baby oil as a suntan lotion? Then you probably also remember when there were a lot of buildings that looked like these:

One of the oddest things about traveling is how .... everybody is someone you don't know. Here, at home, in my little world, I am TheQueen of TheLibrary. I'm just me and everyone is comfortable with that. When I get out in the world - where nobody knows me at all - I realize - I am an old lady. At least - I look like I might be somebody's grandma. I look around and see what hot young things look like - nope. not me. And I look at the young parents ... nope - not that either - and then there are the really old folk, you know, white hair - glasses - wattles. That can't be me, can it?

hmmm. okay. Yes. I guess it can be. Well. Not the white hair but that's because I am such good friends with the L'Oreal and Clairol boxes. But it is a surprise that I might not look like who I feel like inside. BD doesn't think about that kind of thing and luckily, his eyesight is so bad we're all soft and fuzzy with, in my case, a sort of peach colored glow. Guess I shouldn't care either, hmmm?  Both of us are great fans of playing with the sea gulls. These guys got to know our balcony and even long after the loaf of bread was gone, would swing buy the window, just in case, you know?

After a day of beach hiking -  about 8 miles altogether - we flopped down in the hotel room and watched television. Once upon a time television watching was a high point of all our travels. Because we don't get TV reception at our house we would often stay up all night long watching whatever was the current version of Hawaii 5-0 and Mary Tyler Moore Show. We even enjoyed the ads because they were all fresh and new to us. But then along came cable TV which didn't even have ads and we were charmed - even if the same movie about a Droid girl in tight leather pants who was being chased by robot killing thugs with spiked chokers around their necks seemed to be on every channel. I am sure I watched some version of that movie for a dozen years. But now, TV is ... well, I'm sorry to say but it's such an experiment in living life with ADD that I found it hard to focus on even the most erudite BBC-esque cultural offering.

Dinner was a completely unnecessary, but wickedly fun, trip to Captain George's Seafood Restaurant where a large buffet topped off a week's worth of caloric need.

And then it was Sunday. Instead of doing a repeat of the hike - or even driving up to 60th street and walking up the beach to Ft. Story - we decided to drive west through Chesapeake and Suffolk and take the Jamestown Ferry home. You also get to drive through some of the best ham country in VA. At Smithfield we hit a traffic snarl but at Surry we made a left onto 31 to go just enough out of our way to get the world's best ham sandwiches at Edwards Store.
mmm. mmm. I'm still tasting that smokey salty goodness.

It's just a scant bit of a way from Ham Heaven to the ferry where there are More Hungry Birds. I shared my second bag of white bread with 2 kids traveling with their Dad and we had a ball. This free trip across the James River, right past the sight of the original First English colony,  is a delight. You pass the obelisk, the archaeological site, the reconstructed ships and then you're heading up the highway to West Point where you can cross the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey without paying a toll like you do on the York - and you miss all the shopping and sprawl in Gloucester county.

Home again, jiggety jig by 4 o'clock to get the first good cup of coffee in 2 days. My own dogs, ever forgiving, cuddled up against us (Jack is a great one for siting on your feet). A quick scroll through my email and a pot of chicken soup pretty much finished off the weekend for TheQueen. It's back o werk werk werk for now.


  1. Right in my back yard! Next time you come down this way you should let me know! If you have time for it I can show you one or two of the local yarn places.

  2. What a lovely weekend! Up here, you'd be *skating* on that water (well, not really -- it's ocean after all -- but inland, we're skating, or ice fishing...)

  3. What a fantastic, relaxing weekend after your stressful week!

  4. Hi,
    My name is Sarah and I'm with Dwellable. I was looking for blog posts about Virginia Beach to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, drop me a line at Sarah(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)