Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Long Way Home

The first phase of our bi-coastal living experiment is coming to a close, as we prepare to leave the shores of the Atlantic Ocean for awhile, hoping to catch the beginnings of spring along the banks of the Edwards River and other Galva-centric waterways for awhile, before doing it all over again later on this spring. Looking for warm March weather in the midwest is an iffy proposition, we know, but we're hoping to drag some balmy temps that way, just as the snow followed us to North Carolina on our way out.
We've loved our experience here, though not without some longing for what we left behind. I was thinking about what I miss--and don't miss--about home the other day and came up with few thoughts.
Things I've missed:
Friends, neighbors and colleagues at the Star Courier, kids and coaches, my own bed, Kitchen Cooked potato chips and Max, the cat.
Things I haven't missed:
February weather, late-night drives from far-off basketball games and last-minute basketball deadlines, my snowblower...and Max, the cat.
You'll probably note that Max made both lists, which just fits the love/hate emotions his surly personality inspires in me.
We're not, of course, planning a direct route home. Instead, we'll take the long way and wander down the Atlantic coast, with stops planned in Charleston, Savannah and Hilton Head before spending a couple of days visiting family in North Florida. After a last bit of warm sea air, we'll head north, zig-zagging our way home. Our not-so-direct traveling strategy is one we plan to continue as we go back and forth between both our homes for the next year and beyond, wishing to see as much as we can see for as long as we can see it. Next week's column will be written from the road with, I hope, something interesting to tell.
Riding the whale.
"We're keeping it simple," she said, as we considered what to bring and/or buy as we worked to make our unfurnished beach abode habitable.
So we did.
I've already recounted the thrift-shop purchases we made to provide ourselves with places to sit, and I think I mentioned our decision to go with blow-up mattresses instead of hauling or investing in standard mattress-and-box-spring beds. We've had an inflatable unit as part of our tent camping gear for several years and it's been comfortable and durable, so we thought, "why not?"
Why not enjoy the luxury and comfort of sleeping on air?
More importantly, why not avoid the expense of buying a "real" bedroom set and the extreme effort of dragging it to the top floor of a 4-story beach duplex?
Why not?
Here's why.
The bed we purchased for our own use is (was) an elevated queen size with a built-in electric pump. Like any air bed (and even the air mattresses folks use to bob around in the pool on hot summer days) it is (was) made up of a series of heat-welded chambers that keep the surface of the bed relatively flat and stable.
Now, before I tell you about my own middle-of-the-night experience, let me share some advice I unfortunately found after the fact.
"One of the things you should do to keep the life of your double air bed longer is to never overinflate it. Yes, some people like to have a bed that is a little firmer, but overinflation can stretch the materials and burst the seams, no matter how thick the material is or how good the seams are welded."
On the night in question, I had, indeed, added a little air to the mattress, bringing it to a level of firmness that was pleasing to a back made sore by bending over to pick up seashells and other arduous tasks. She was sleeping soundly, of course, enjoying the much-deserved rest of a giving grandmother who has done her all to make every day special for her beloved grandsons. I, on the other hand, was a little restless, wondering, perhaps, if the greedy little buggers had beat me to the last of the chocolate chip cookies again.
Suddenly I heard something I had never heard before.
Now, the combination of crashing surf from our ocean-side windows combined with the hunt-or-be-hunted squawks and splashes from waterfowl and other night critters who live in and around the inlet in the back has made for a new kind of nightsound that is new noise for someone who grew up listening to the endless WOOT-WOOT-WOOOOOOOT of the stream of freight trains that barrel through Galva.
But that wasn't it.
The sound coming from the bed was not unlike the muffled explosion heard after a naval destroyer launches a couple of depth charges to try and sink a U-boat lurking beneath the waves.
"KA-THWAP," rumbled the bed from deep within its air-filled chamber. "KA-THWAP."
I think I can say without getting too personal or boastful, that the earth truly has moved once or twice over the years while sharing a bed with my spouse, but what happened next was exceedingly different. The surface of my half of the bed suddenly expanded, creating a giant bulge that literally rolled me onto the floor. I battled back, dragging myself back on top of the yet-to-be-seen protuberance and hung on for dear life to the sheet and blanket.
It reminded me of trying to take a ride on the back of a humpbacked whale. I was pretty sure that wasn't exactly what was happening, but something was most definitely wrong.
My desperate scrambling finally disturbed my slumbering bedmate, who has, over the years, likened sleeping with me to sharing a bed with a restless raccoon.
"What are you doing?" she said, somewhat tersely.
"Well," I said. "I think there's something wrong with the bed."
"Why don't you turn on the light?" she said sensibly.
"Uh, I didn't want to wake you up, but I guess I did," I muttered, as I flipped the switch.
Revealed by lamplight, the swollen half of the bed was easily three times its normal dimensions.
"IT'S A TUMAH!" she cried in her best possible impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Kindergarten Cop. "IT'S A TUMAH!" she laughed.
Come to think of it, she's still laughing.
And now you know why I miss my own bed.
Things are pretty quiet on the north end of New River Inlet Road. It's the off-season now, so the area has yet to become besieged by bevies of beach lovers. But even when the real summer weather hits, this end of the island is less busy than the rest, as there's not much in the way of restaurants, go-carts or miniature golf. So we were surprised to encounter a bit of a traffic jam the other day, as a line of trucks and vans made its way up the road and into a parking lot across from a palatial beach house.
Later in the day, we drove by again and saw some of the lights and equipment I was accustomed to back when I wrote and produced television commercials and videos.
"Somebody's shooting something," I said, and wondered if the crew was there for a film, a tv show or a commercial.
"Can't be Home Makeover," she said. "That house is already about as good as it can get."
We knew who to ask.
Nothing important gets past the ladies who run the cafe at the shore end of the fishing pier down the way, and, of course, they knew the scoop.
"One Tree HIll," said one.
"Wait until this summer, they'll be here all the time," added the other.
Like many of the other soap operas and reality shows I've never seen, One Tree Hill is quite popular with many, including my daughter-in-law, who now vows she'll sneak in for a closer look once production starts in earnest.
"You may have to bail me out, but I'm going in," she said upon hearing the exciting news.
Apparently, the natural beauty and relatively slow pace of this little corner of the world has drawn some attention from the film and tv communities, as both Dawson's Creek (never seen it) and Nights in Rodanthe (slept through it) also shot segments nearby.
I've considered catching some online reruns of both tv shows, just so I'll know what's going on.
Or maybe not.
Why change now.

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