Sunday, July 25, 2010

Invaders on the Beach My last post covered just one event in the first week of my 14 day hiatus from railroading. Needless to say, there were others.

Looming large on the list was a trip to hot and sunny (really, really hot and sunny) Virginia Beach. It's been a lot of years since Chris and I last took a jaunt down thataway. A couple of offspring, a house, a career change and middle age have all intervened. And this time around it was a luggage-stuffed mini-van with kids in the back and bicyles on the rack instead of a screaming red Shovelhead with garbage-bag-lined gym bags on the sissy bar. Times they do change.

At least when the usual enroute monsoon opened up on this go-round, we didn't get drowned and beaten half to death as was normally the case on the Harley. Hitting rain on the bike headed to the shore always seemed like riding through Heaven's own urinal flush; the sky would get dark, lightning would flash and then the Big Guy would zip up and pull the lever...
Every time we rode to Norfolk or VA Beach, we'd UPS our clothes down ahead of us because we knew nothing would arrive dry enough to wear no matter how many Heftys we used. Once the downpour started, there was no rain gear short of a space suit that could withstand it. There's just no describing what it's like unless you've done it yourself. You could volunteer as a target for fire department hose practice and that might be close but it probably wouldn't last as long. I've been more than suprised a few times that the Big Twin could gulp down that much water and keep the plugs firing. It sure looks different through windshield wipers.

Unconcerned with dodging tropical weather this time and hoping to miss at least some of the heaviest beltway traffic, we hit the blacktop in the wee hours of the morning. The kids promptly crashed in the back and I never heard much except music and tire hum until daylight. A breakfast and gas stop in Harrisburg displayed the first cracks in the plan as we got nailed by the morning rush hour trying to get out of town. The ETA display on the Garmin kept creeping further and further into the future as 6 lanes stuttered slowly southward. This was frustrating but also merely a warm up for the main event. The real fun came in the neighborhood of DC...pretty much as I remembered it from every time I've ever been near the place. Construction, detours, gridlock, attitude; yep, nothing's changed here. I95 was an 8 lane, 15 mile parking lot which only accelerated above 3 mph after we passed the crunched plastic and glass remains of someone's artery-clogging 'oops'. My lack of sleep before departure began to display itself as a lousy disposition which finally led to surrending the wheel for a while to catch a nap. Another hour slipped away.

Eventually the traffic jams, rest stops, thunderstorms and brake lights all blurred together until at last, signs appeared advertising an approaching beach. The screen on the GPS showed nothing further east but blue so I knew we'd either reach our hotel soon or have to find out if a fully packed Toyota will float. Fortunately, the road took a left before the blue line and we didn't have to test the van for seaworthiness. But we did need to offload and get all that stuff out the hatch and up to the 5th floor. Long intervals passed waiting for the single bank of elevators to have room for our travelling show. When the van was at last safely parked, the last coolers and suitcases had made it to the room and all hands were accounted for, I finally got a look off the balcony and realized we really were here again. The ocean was a smooth hazy blue fading to mist where the clouds touch the water, just as I remembered it. The beach looked toasted, edged with slow breakers and boardwalk. Late afternoon storms were still rolling around in the heat so the sky was moving, dropping lightning and rain squalls as the weather moved out to sea. I'd forgotten that big horizon over the Atlantic. It drops right off the edge of the world taking ships and thunderheads with it. There's places and things in life that can still make me stop and stare. The sea meeting the sky in it's eastern home is one of them.

We slowly got settled into our temporary digs and wound down watching those short, vicious little thunderstorms blow off shore. The ships out on the sea lanes disappeared behind sheets of rain only to pop back into view a few minutes later as the squalls passed. In between every blast of wind and lightning, the Navy fighters doing touch-and-go's at Oceana would roar overhead, coming in low with gear and flaps hanging out. Mean looking little devils sneaking in through the overcast with a touch of afterburner to stir up the neighborhood. Things were looking up.

No comments: