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Weather Or Not

August 2, 2012

When you take a major road trip, especially when you do it with a 10-year-old, you need to miraculously marry meticulous planning with extreme flexibility. The planning comes naturally to me, but the easy-going flexibility, well, not so much. But today I needed to be an Olympic gymnast. Today we had a great plan that started disintegrating literally the moment I woke up and only got worse from there.

For starters, we got to bed pretty late last night so Sam wouldn’t budge this morning. I managed to shower and get us packed up while he got an extra hour–hour–of sleep, so we were only about 20 minutes behind schedule when we headed out. I wasn’t exactly as deft as the U.S. women on the vault, but I think I did OK.

We were on the road for a few minutes when it occurred to me that there was something besides pillows that I forgot to bring from home: beach chairs, or a beach blanket, or beach towels, or really anything that might be useful at a beach. This was a bit of a problem because the plan was to spend most of the afternoon at one of the beaches on North Carolina’s legendary Outer Banks. But soon we passed a Wal-Mart, which gave me an idea. We stopped in and bought a cheap king-size flat sheet to use as a beach blanket and found a beach towel on sale for $4. Ten minutes later we were back on the road all ready for the beach. Meticulous planning 0, Flexibility 2.

We had a few interesting stops to make before the beach, though. The first was a last-minute addition to the itinerary and the kind of thing we never would have done if the girls were with us: Digger’s Dungeon, home of the legendary monster truck Grave Digger. The place is right on the highway we had to take anyway, so it was a no-brainer. We posed with the truck, ogled a bunch of its awards, and even took a ride in a monster truck around a small dirt track. (I’d insert video here but I took it with my camera, which died a little later in the day.) So far, so good. Except that it was drizzling, which did not bode well for our beach plans. But what could we do? We hoped the weather would clear up later, and moved on.

The next stop was Kitty Hawk, which turns out not to be the site where the Wright Brothers took their first powered flight. That event was in the next town over, Kill Devil Hills, but apparently KDH was largely uninhabited in 1903 so the Wrights had to run over to Kitty Hawk just to find a post office where they could send news of their success. Anyway, the town of Kitty Hawk took advantage of the misconception in 2003 and, for the 100th anniversary of the first flight, dedicated the pretty impressive Monument to a Century of Flight, a Stonehengesque spiral of aluminum spires with plaques detailing the biggest highlights in aviation history.

Sadly, the monument is behind a parking lot which itself is behind the Outer Banks Welcome Center, so you really have to go looking for it. (See, that’s where the meticulous planning comes in.)

That was about when my camera’s battery died. And we didn’t bring the charger with us because we couldn’t find it when we were packing for our trip. Not to worry, I just started using my cell phone camera. I was improvising so well I almost applied for a job with Second City.

Up next was the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, where we learned about their research and inventions, saw a recreation of the shack where they lived for four years as they tinkered, viewed the markers showing exactly where their first four successful flights took off and landed, climbed up the biggest hill to a giant airplane-tail-shaped monument that doubles as a lighthouse, and laughed about how the Wright Brothers Pavillion looks like a couple of giant macaroons.

Unfortunately we also got SOAKED, because by this time it was absolutely pouring.

[Side note: if you have even the slightest interest in history or aviation you really need to visit this place. It’s inexpensive, the park rangers run lots of great programs throughout the day, and it really gives you a deeper appreciation for what the Wrights went through and how their developments begat a whole industry. It’s awe-inspiring to think that in 1902 there was no such thing as an airplane, and a dozen years later military planes were dropping bombs all over Europe, and within 66 years of the Wrights’ first flight we flew people to the moon.]

Thanks to Sam’s late wake-up, our Wal-Mart pit stop, and some pretty bad traffic we were well behind schedule by this point, but it didn’t really matter because the weather had pretty much ruled out the beach. In fact I was starting to worry that we wouldn’t even have dinner because the plan was to grill burgers at a random rest stop on the way toward Raleigh tonight. We were both pretty sorely disappointed about the beach, but since we were already in the habit of improvising we settled on a new plan: we’d head to the beach in a town called Nags Head anyway just to take a quick look and see what all the hype is about, and then we’d play mini-golf before heading west toward Raleigh. Now that we were in no hurry, I spotted a barbershop and we stopped off for badly needed haircuts. The afternoon may be a loss but at least we were being productive.

The barbershop turned out to be the best call of the day, but for a very different reason: it delayed us by a half hour or so, and by the time we got to Nags Head the rain had stopped. So we took our bedsheet/beach blanket and our $4 towel and set up shop. The beach, by the way, is beautiful. I totally understand the hype. The sand is nothing particularly special to look at but it’s super soft. The water, too, is not the clearest or the bluest but it’s warm and the waves are somehow both large and gentle. And the backdrop of dunes and wood shingle beach houses is so charming and timeless it’s like walking into a movie set in the ’60s.

And then, while we were bouncing around in the water, it happened: the sun came out! We soaked it up for as long as we could before it was time to head out. We even found a nicer-than-expected rest stop where we grilled up some delicious burgers, and we made good time heading west, to boot.

And yes, that is broccoli on his plate.

In the end it was a fantastc day. It was certainly not without its challenges, but we met every one of them with open arms.

Of course, I’m still hoping tomorrow goes according to plan.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2012 9:29 am

    I’ll be the first one to buy “How to go Cross-Country, Kosher Style” when you release the book.

  2. yehuda permalink
    August 2, 2012 3:57 pm

    With your ability to plan and adapt your first first year teaching at Flatbush should be a breeze.

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