In roughly 40 hours, I will be surrounded by sand and ocean, leaving my worries (the non-family variety) at home. Come Saturday afternoon, the only things that will really matter to me are the following words: beach, seafood and vacation.
This is assuming, of course, that we actually get there.
My family (and when I say family, I mean pretty much the entire family as there are 13 of us going) and I are heading to a beach in North Carolina, marking the first time I’ve gone on a beach vacation since I was (I think) 7. This is a piece of history, I guess. It’s also a bit of a risk.
The last beach vacation, taken 28 years ago, didn’t go very well.
Dad had new tires put on our truck and camper the week before we were to leave for Myrtle Beach. If you don’t know Doc Hall, you should know this is not a man who leaves things to chance. Tires get checked. Oil gets changed. Driving routes get mapped. Order gets maintained. Everything gets in its right place ahead of time, ensuring a smooth vacation the rest of the time.
This is important to know.
Somewhere in Tennessee, a man drove past us, giving the “you have a flat tire” signal as he did so (yes, kids, people used to actually signal to other drivers to let them know a tire was going flat or that a light was out). Dad shook his head at the guy, knowing a flat on the new tires was impossible. Still, though, he stopped to check, leaving nothing to chance.
He looked at the camper – all was well. “Since I was already stopped,” he told me, “I decided I might as well do a walkaround on the truck.” He found the impossible was possible. – there was, indeed, a flat. It was a Saturday afternoon in rural Tennessee, where there was no place to get the original tire, so he put on the truck’s spare tire, and off we went.
We made it to Ashville, where we found ourselves in the middle of various obstacles, including, as Dad put it, “big-time construction” complete with “poor temporary road signs.” Somewhere, somehow, he missed a turn, but he thought it was “no prob – I will just to the next exit and find a road going south, which would put us back on track.”
It would have worked, too, except the road he chose became a narrow dirt path – “this was crossing Black Mountain (huge mountain, check it out).” Here’s what we faced: “VERY big, treacherous (mountain), unpopulated and just a dirt/gravel road going to who knows where.”
“I was very anxious about it the whole time,” my mom told me.
We toughed it out, though, and eventually found our way back on to the interstate, our destination securely in our targets.
We arrived in the middle of the night, finding a spot “right on the beach (per Mr. Linville Reed’s suggestion)” with only one problem: it as the tail end of a very bad storm. “Hard winds,” Dad said. “Sand stinging with every step. The pop-up camper was full of sand, the beds included. Everyone was MAD — hot and sweaty with sand in eyes, ears, nose, mouth and butt cracks.”
I remember us sitting around with bandanas (probably just extra T-shirts) wrapped around our faces, trying desperately to keep the sand out of our eyes and mouths. I don’t recall, however, any special precautions for our butt cracks.
We moved to an inland site the next day, and all returned to normal. For a while.
We headed out to an amusement park, and on the way, another guy alerts us to another flat tire. This time Dad found us with good luck – it was only half flat. He put some air in it, and away we go. We had to stop about four times to air it up, but we finally made it back to the campsite safe and sound. Now, though, the tire is completely flat, and we have no spare.
“We are just now really starting to have fun,” Dad said.
The next day, a neighbor who somehow had a truck like Dad’s, let us borrow a spare tire. Dad and my sister Deana headed out to find a place that did repairs, leaving me behind with Mom to play on the beach. I’m really not sure how Deana got saddled with that assignment, but since she’s six years older than me, she was probably a lot more help in the flat-tire situation than I would have been. That also holds true today.
Dad and Deana (mostly Dad, I’m sure) got the tires repaired, and they no doubt headed back to the beach full of visions of splashing and playing after having returned as Heroes of the New Tires. Unfortunately, they got delayed.
On the way back to camp, they had a blow-out. Dad put yet another spare on and heads back to the store. “It turns out, the place that originally put my new tires on had damaged my very nice aluminum wheels, causing them to leak,” he said. “The tires were actually OK.” First of all, let me say that I like the fact that Dad took time to note that they were “very nice” wheels. Again, if you know Doc Hall, you know he likes his vehicles.
He bought a new set of wheels (no word if they were “very nice” or even just “nice”), mounted the tires and head back, once again, for the campsite.
While Dad and Deana were gone, Mom and I had our own adventure at the beach, enjoying a nice stretch of it by ourselves for a bit. And when I say by ourselves, I mean, literally, no one else was in the water. There we were, splashing around, having a big time while watching four or five helicopters flying over us. Mom even pointed them out, and we stood in the water, waving up at the pilots.
After a good day of swimming, we returned to our camper. Along the way, Mom saw something that caught her eye. “I saw the sign up the beach that said no was allowed in the ocean until further notice because of the sharks,” she said. “So much for the beach all by ourselves.”
Dad was nonplussed about it. “Deana and I get back to the site only to find out Mom had been trying to feed you to the sharks – oh well, whatever.”
Things got back to normal – “VERY boring, ha ha,” Dad said – and at the end of the week, it’s time to head home. “Get everything loaded and packed and ready to leave,” Dad said, “and guess what – flat tire on the camper.”
“I was considering just leaving it where it was and getting home,” Mom said. “Deana said your dad changed tires more than he changed socks.”
So, no wonder it’s been almost 30 years since our last beach vacation. Wish us luck. And lots of good tires.