Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Eight Things I Discovered (Or Rediscovered) On Spring Break Vacation

OK, if this post causes you to flashback to your middle school English class assignments (which I think they actually call Language Arts these days), I apologize. And if I write it as lazily and clumsily as you wrote your first college research paper, please forgive me. But it is what it is. goes nothing. Eight things I discovered (or rediscovered) on our Spring Break vacation last week:

1)  Spring Cleaning is hard work. We spent three days trying to deep-clean the house, in preparation to (hopefully sooner rather than later) get it sold. While we didn't tick off all the check boxes by the end of it all, we did a lot, and admittedly, a lot more than we had done in previous years. I'm actually proud of the way it looks, which is something I could never really say before. If we sell the house for even close to what we'd like to, then all this hard work was worth it.

2)  They ramp up the music on the P.A. system at baseball games when managers are fussing at umpires to prevent the kiddos from hearing whatever string of profanities the manager is spouting.  We went to a Carolina Mudcats minor league baseball game last week. The seats were great – right behind home plate. At one point during the game, the Mudcats' manager came out to argue a play with the home-plate umpire. The two of them were quite literally no more than twenty feet away, separated from us by only a transparent net. Suddenly the P.A. system started playing the music so loudly that we couldn't hear a word they were saying. As a point of reference, we could clearly hear every "ball" or "strike" call that the umpire made throughout the game, and even the occasional chatter between a batter and the opposing team's catcher.

3)  It's not really that bad of a drive from my house to the Outer Banks.  When you're a kid and get driven everywhere, every destination – especially the highly anticipated ones – seems SO FAR AWAY. We constantly barrage our parents with a string of questions: "Are we there yet? Is it close now? When are we gonna get there?" But this time, making the trip for one of the few times in my experience as a driver, I realize that it's just a tad bit over two hours away from where I live. We could actually make a day trip of it if we wanted to avoid the ridiculously overpriced hotel rates (although it wasn't too bad in the "off season"). Awesome!

4)  I love the Atlantic Ocean.  This is not an intended slight against the Pacific, Indian, Southern, or Arctic Oceans. Maybe I would like them better if I had ever met them, but I haven't. We spent a few hours just walking the beach and letting the frigid waters of the Atlantic wash over our toes and – on a couple of unexpected occasions – splashing us up to our waists. The brilliant blue color of the water at the Outer Banks (it doesn't seem quite as vibrantly hued on the Crystal Coast) compares only, in my limited experience, with the Caribbean. The sound of the ocean waves crashing relentlessly, as heard from our hotel room, was so incredibly soothing. Quite honestly, I wouldn't mind falling asleep to that sound every night.

5)  Mind-tripping on historical perspective is fun.  I know that sentence doesn't really make much sense, and I'm sorry. I know what I mean, but not quite how I want to say it. (The curse of a writer, I suppose.) What I'm trying to say is this: when you're at a location of historical significance, and you read about its history, and realize you are standing on the very spot where that history happened, it's kind of surreal and, well, trippy! Case in point: We visited the Elizabethan Gardens, which neither of us had been to before. The Gardens themselves were quite lovely, and the location right on the sound was nothing less than picturesque. Realizing that we were standing on the very land where some of the first English settlers made a home for themselves in the New World there on Roanoke Island was nothing less than amazing. Remembering that this "Lost Colony" of people disappeared without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again, gave me considerable pause. Seeing the Ancient Live Oak in the Elizabethan Gardens, purported to have been in existence even as far back as 1585 when the settlers arrived, was also a bit mind-blowing.

6)  Not all pizzas are created equally.  After visiting the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, we stopped at a "hole-in-the-wall" restaurant that had been recommended to us called the Garden Deli & Pizzeria. This place probably couldn't hold more than twenty customers at most, and was most definitely more of a hangout for the locals and not so much for tourists. We ordered a pizza they called The Rustler, which had pepperoni, Italian sausage, and ham on it. It also had cheese, marinara sauce, and a thin crust. I know what you're thinking: what's the big deal? A pizza's a pizza's a pizza! That's what we thought, too. But not all pizzas are created equally. Some are created with love. Which was definitely the case with the pizza we ate. Nothing fancy, no unusual ingredients, just honest-to-goodness delicious pizza. If you're ever in the area, you have to check it out. But don't blink or you'll miss it. And don't trust your GPS to get you there – ours failed us twice while we were looking for it. Just ask a local – and hope that they'll tell you the truth. They might not want their secret to get out.

7)  In another life, I might have enjoyed being a lighthouse keeper.  We visited the Bodie Island Lighthouse, which is currently under renovation. So you can't really climb it. You can't even see the glass-enclosed light at the top. You can only stand in front of it and look up at it. But it got me thinking. What is the life of a lighthouse keeper like? After listening to the ramblings of a very informative "old codger" of a tour guide, I still didn't have a clear answer. But I wanted to know more. I would think it might be a very peaceful life. Not one without responsibility, to be certain, but peaceful nonetheless. I'm sure there's a good spiritual application here, about how those of us who are Christians actually ARE lighthouse keepers, pointing people who have lost their way to The Light, guiding them to shore where they are safe and secure. But I'm not quite that profound. At least not this early in the day.

8)  There's no place like home.  It's nice to go away even for a little while, but it's always nice to come back home. Even if you don't particularly like (read: actually hate) your house. Even if the only reason the cats are happy to see you is because they've run out of food and water, because you stupidly under-prepared for the volume of food they could consume in just over 24 hours. Even if coming home means you have to go back to work the next day (or the next day after that, in our case). I tried to think of a clever and original way to end this, but I can't say it better than it's been said before:  Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

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