Author Topic: venturemc - 2011 New England Pt. III  (Read 761 times)

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Offline venturemc

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venturemc - 2011 New England Pt. III
« on: August 03, 2011, 01:25:05 PM »
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  • This is Part III of a 4 part trip report.
     
    July 15
    The sleeping pills helped me to get to sleep, but didn’t help to keep me asleep. So when 5:00 rolled around, I got up and decided to just have breakfast in camp. I had kind of planned on it the night before and had grabbed a couple of muffins and some milk. I boiled some water, made some oatmeal and tea to go with a muffin and milk.
    I decided to burn of the rest of my firewood while I was having a relaxing morning and pretty much decided to not deal with campfires the rest of the trip. The weather has been so warm, and it gets dark so late, that evening campfires have been more work than leisure. The wood I was getting just wasn’t quite ready and it took so much effort to get the wood burning properly, that by the time it was going, it was time for bed. Enough of that nonsense.
    After the leisurely morning, I looked at the issue with my highway lights. It turned out that it was an easy fix and was done in no time. I had about 4 hours until my kayak tour so I decided to try to check out the west side of the island. I had no particular plan, just try to get to the water somewhere where there wasn’t any development. No dice. I went around the highway that loops the west side and found the same issue as I did the day before – all roads tended to lead to private property or a harbor.  Somehow they managed to hide the ocean from the general public.
    I did manage to spot a hawk (or similar) hovering over a small pond, posturing itself to dive for a kill. I stopped to watch for a while, camera in ready. As soon as I stopped it moved away from the area, but I could still see it in the distance. I decided to sit for a few minutes, hoping it would come back, because there had to be something in that pond that had it’s interest and after all, this was exactly the kind of thing that I was hoping to see. I sat there patiently for about 15 minutes and it just wasn’t coming back. Oh well, on with the show.
    That little adventure ate up maybe an hour, but I decided to head to Bar Harbor and poke around in the shops and have some lunch. The town was already pretty congested but I managed to find a 2 hour spot on the street. I decided to get lunch out of the way so I grabbed a table at a little diner.  I opted for the fried clams for lunch. I was surprised to see what they brought me when my food arrived. Every time I’ve had fried clams before, they were just strips of meat, breaded and deep fried. What was on my plate was much different – the clams were whole, neck and all. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it but I dug in. The first couple I ate were okay, but then I ate one that still had some of it’s “waste” left in the system and that was not very appetizing. I choked it down and tried to remove that when I found it on following clams. I got near the end of the plate and got one that just did not seem right. I managed to choke it down, but not without having to fight my gag reflexes. I’m not sure how I managed to keep from spewing. I got it down, but was definitely finished with my food. I paid the tab and left, hoping that I wouldn’t have any issues later in the day from the food.
    I hit a few t-shirt shops and bought a couple, but I still had n hour to kill before the kayak tour. I wandered around the town a little and then moved my bike to a three hour lot near the kayak place. I was a bit concerned about how I was going to deal with parking restrictions; my kayak tour was scheduled for three hours and the longest lot I could find was for 3 hours. It would be impossible to do the tour and park without exceeding the 3 hours. I figured they must be a bit lenient on the regulations.
    As I walked down to the kayak place to see how I should be dressed, what to bring etc, I saw a parking enforcement guy walking around chalking tires and writing tickets. This worried me a bit, so after I checked in and figured out how to prepare for the tour, I wandered back and forth between the pier and the parking lot, to see if I had been chalked, so I could move if needed. I saw no sign of chalk as of 2:45, so I figured I’d be okay.
    I was a little worried about my ability to handle the whole kayak trip. I’d been very tired overall because I hadn’t got any real sleep in almost two weeks now. Add to that that my physical prowess (as it were) is not what it used to be and my left arm has been going numb at almost any time when seated or lying down. But I was going to go for it anyway, since it was a “no prior experience needed” tour. Our tour guide (Pete) got us set up with life jackets and “skirts” to keep the water out of the kayak. He went over the basics including how to deal with a possible spill over.
    Pete was a real fun guy with a line for everything. “ how can you tell when your kayak guide is lying?” I responded to the old joke by saying “When he’s talking?” and he agreed. The weather was just perfect for this activity and we had a nice relaxing paddle around a couple of the islands. We didn’t get to see much in the way of wildlife (bad time of day and tide timing for that), but Pete kept things interesting. He had a different answer for how Egg Island got it’s name than the nature tour guide had, but I didn’t call him on it. I’ve done a little kayaking before, but not in one that had a rudder. The pedals worked backwards than what seemed natural to me and I spent most of the trip correcting my turns. We ended up paddling over 6 miles in about 2 hours and all in our small group seemed to have a good time. We got back to the shop at exactly 6:00 and by 6:15 we were out of our kayak gear and out the door.
    I approached the parking lot with a little trepidation. Seriously it would take some pretty unlucky timing to have gotten a ticket for a three hour lot in a three and a half hour stay, but as I got closer to my bike, I saw something that didn’t belong. Sure enough, the parking Nazi managed to time it just right to nail somebody who might be on a three hour tour. I was really angry and if I could have found the little weasel I probably would have gone to jail.  I just don’t understand why they would treat their bread and butter that way. It was only a $15 ticket, but it’s the principle of the thing.
    I stuffed the ticket in my bag and went off looking for some dinner. I had seen a steak place on the main highway and decided I’d treat myself to a nice dinner. Well, the place was a bit of a pose. They had steaks and such, but it was really not as fancy as they thought they were. The quality of the food and service was very subpar, more disappointment to end my day.
    I got back to camp and tried to catch up on my journal and gas log and despite wearing ear pods and listening to music, my neighbor kids were just too loud. I finally went over and asked them to keep it down. That seemed to work as I didn’t hear them the rest of the night.
    July 16
    I was back on the road, this time heading for Middleboro, MA. On my first night in Bar Harbor, I had a neighbor who warned me about very ugly construction traffic on the interstate in Portland, ME. I had pretty much planned on staying off the interstate anyway as I wanted to follow route 1 along the coast for a ways anyway, so that news just made it for sure.
    I cruised along route 1 hoping to hug the coastline a bit, but it really didn’t. There were a few ocean sightings, but nothing like I’m used to on CA 1. That would have been fine, but it was one of those routes where there was a little village every five miles and slow traffic and congestion to go with them. I decided that I would get on the interstate after Portland.  Well, route 1 merged with I-95 just before Portland and before I could do anything about it, I was on the freeway. Luckily, there weren’t any problems and I continued southward. I had kind of thought about stopping in Salem to check out the witch stuff, but my map wasn’t folded to where I could see where I needed to turn and ther were no signs so I just kept going.
    I took I-495 to go around Boston as I didn’t want anything to do with that mess. I had a couple of adventures trying to find gas. There were signs on the freeway saying there was fuel at an exit, and when I’d get off, it was nowhere in sight. On one attempt, I wound up in some residential neighborhood and turned around. I finally found an exit that got me to some gas, but even that took me a couple miles from the freeway. For some reason, in this area, they don’t tend to have services right off the freeway and you can’t see what’s going on because both sides of the freeway are bordered by trees. Very frustrating.
    The traffic was still pretty bad even though I was 30 miles from Boston and by the time I got to Middleboro, I had decided to cancel my trip into Boston to see Fenway – I just didn’t want to deal with the mess. I found the KOA (after a couple U-turns) and went in to get a site. They didn’t have any tent sites. Really? “We do have some open RV back in sites for $48 if you like.” I wasn’t pleased, but I was too tired at that point to go find other accommodations. I took one of their RV sites for two nights instead of three (this solidified my cancelation of the Fenway trip) and went and got set up at the glorified tent site. (They had about 100 open site like I got – why they couldn’t have let me use one at a tent rate was pretty annoying.)
    I was right across the road from a bunch of cabins all occupied by families and none of them quiet. Great, I get to deal a bunch of screaming kids again. On top of that, people were using the empty site next to mine as a path to get to the other side of the camp, so I got lots of foot traffic wandering around my site. Not very relaxing.
    I went and grabbed some dinner and came back to see them setting up a movie screen about 100 yards from my camp. Wonderful. It turned out to be not too bad as that actually quieted things down for a while. I went to bed and planned to visit Cape Cod in the morning.
    July 17
    I got up early, found a place for breakfast and then headed east towards the Cape. On the way there, I realized it was a Sunday (keeping track of days had gotten troublesome by now) and figured I had better make a quick exit from the Cape as it was very likely a “home from the weekend” for may locals and there was only one road on and off the Cape.
    I got off the main road going in, again hoping to be able to access a little coastline along the way in. Another strikeout on that front. I had hoped to maybe avoid having to go all the way to the end of the Cape, but after a while, I got back on the main road and decided to do the whole thing. When I got towards the end of the Cape, I found a visitor’s center that was actually open and tried to figure out what the deal was. I got a pretty good view of the dunes along the east coast form the visitor’s center and found out that that was pretty much what I was going to see. There was also a little bit of salt water marsh type terrain and the guy at the center said I could get a peek at some of that at a certain spot that didn’t require paying for park entry. Since I was pretty much in a hurry, I opted to do that. I found the location he showed me, took a couple pictures and started to head back.
    It was only 10:00 and already the roads were becoming congested with folks heading home. While I wished things were a little different and I could have got a little bit of quiet time on the coast, I was really glad that I made quick work of the place. I had tentative plans to go to Pawtucket, RI to catch a AAA game that night, so a short day was a good thing. I did take a little detour to go up to Plymouth Rock for lunch. I expected a tourist trap, but it was only half a trap. All the shops were on the west side of the road, with most of the ocean side open. I had lunch at a little café and made sure to have some chowder. It was very good and different than what I get on the west coast. It wasn’t better or worse, just a little different. It was a lot creamier and whiter than what I’m used to getting in San Fransisco or Bodega Bay.
    I went down and saw the “rock” in an enclosure that I’m sure protected it from people messing with it. It looked like it was in jail though and I kind of wondered what it had done to disserve that! I wandered through a couple of the shops, but nothing tempted me enough to part with any money, so I got on my way back to camp.
    When I got back to camp, all the families in the cabins had left which was a good thing. I noticed that the AAA game was a day game, so that didn’t work out. I saw that the campsite had some sort of shuttle service to Boston, so I enquired about it thinking I might add the night back and go into town. It is Fenway after all, one of the oldest ballparks left in the majors, and it was worth a little effort. I found that the shuttle deal wasn’t going to work, but the lady at the desk told me about the transit system and how easy it was. After my dealings with the public transportation in Chicago last year and the way my lck was running on this trip, I just couldn’t deal with it.
    When I got back to my site, I noticed a group of teenagers in a church group were unloading into the cabins. Perhaps they were old enough to have a little respect for people around them. For the most part they were quieter although they made quite a bit of racket doing a bunch of “rah-rah” stuff at dinner time.  They were fine for a while, but as I was in my tent getting ready to climb into bed, a pack of them wandered right by tent on their way back to their camp. I said something about them being “rude little brats”, just loud enough that if they were too close, they could hear it, They heard it and smart mouthed back something about “We’re not rude, we’re with the church”. Nice. Get me out of here!
    July 18
    I decided to grab a quick and light breakfast on my way out, since there were several places kind of on the way. The first place I spotted was a Dunkin’ Donuts. Not the best solution I’m sure, but it seemed simple enough. I don’t frequent these establishments at home (not sure if we even have them back home) so I’m new to their game. How hard can it be? I ordered the #6 meal. One of the girls behind the counter asked me “How’s your coffee?” No I had an idea what she was trying to say, but it’s my nature to be a bit of a smart alec and replied “I don’t know, I don’t have any yet!” Expecting a polite laugh or something like that, I was quite surprised to go down a whole other route.
    “So you don’t want the combination?”
    “Yes, I’d like the #6 with the coffee.”
    “How’s your coffee?”
    At this point it became a challenge to make her talk English. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are asking.”
    “You have several choices for your coffee, hot, cold, black, white, sweet…”
    “I’d like it hot and black.”
    “What size would you like?”
    “Whatever size comes with the basic deal.”
    “You can have any size you like.”
    “Then I’ll have the small.”
    “You can’t have small with a meal…..”
    This wasn’t fun anymore and rather than asking here if there was anything at all inside her thick little skull, I just held up my hands and walked out. How hard can it be to order a breakfast sandwich and coffee? I headed up the road a ways to a fast food joint. IT said it was open, but the door was still locked. Apparently, only the drive through was open and this just doesn’t work on a bike. I guess breakfast will have to wait.
    I was originally planning to head into PA for the night, but since I had an extra day in my pocket, I decided to have a shorter ride and just went back into NY. Someone had mentioned the Orange County Chopper’s HQ was just a few miles away from the Newburgh, NY KOA, so I decided to head there. In my efforts to avoid interstates, I got on route 6 for a while. I quickly discovered that route 6 was much like all the other non interstate routes I’d been on back here – littered with little towns every 5 miles and no progress to be had. I got to the KOA eventually. The skies were threatening rain, so I decided to get a cabin instead of dealing with fighting the rain. I got unpacked and headed up the road to see if I could find OCC’s place.
    I found it and wandered around for a few minutes checking out many of the bike’s I’d seen them build on the show. I seem to remember from one of their shows that they had a window where we could see some of the work in action, but I couldn’t find it. So I meandered about the t-shirts and stuff but couldn’t find anything that I needed, so I grabbed some lunch and went back to the cabin. I couldn’t get the wi-fi at the cabin so I had to go up to a community room to use it. I checked the weather and took care of my internet business for a bit. On my way out, I noticed thay had a stack of DVD’s just sitting around and discovered that I could borrow one. So I grabbed an old Eastwood movie (“Hang ‘em High”) and took it back to the cabin for the evening.
    It turned out that it didn’t really rain much, so the cabin wasn’t necessary, which really sucked, because this cabin lacked some of the amenities that I’ve had in the past. The cabins I’ve used before had some sort of air conditioner and some have even had a TV. This had nothing but two bunk beds, a door, a little table and two windows. I figured out a way to use my little DC fan to move some air and it wasn’t too bad.
    July 19
    From Newberg, I headed to Hagerstown, MD. I chose that location because they had an A ball club and it was reasonably near Gettysberg, PA. I had an extra day and planned to use it there. I made my way through NJ before going back into PA. I was still not happy with PA from a couple weeks ago and wanted to make sure I got fuel in NJ so I could give PA the absolute minimum. Well NJ had the same deal that encountered in MA – they say there’s gas at an exit, but it can never be found. I got off two or three times, went on wild chases through residential neighborhoods and finally decided to use my extra fuel and wait until PA to fill up. I didn’t come on this trip to see every single house in NJ - very annoying area this east coast.
    So I wound up giving PA a little more than I wanted, but I got my gas, had lunch and got to Williamsport, MD (where the Hagerstown KOA actually is) and secured a nice quiet site down by a lazy stream. What a nice spot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the wi-fi down there so I did a bit of hiking up the hill to use it. I checked the weather and then took a quick dip in the pool.
    It was so quiet down by the stream, that I finally felt like I was on vacation. I relaxed a bit watching the swallows or sparrows (or whatever they were) chasing after insects above the water. Every once and a while something would strike the surface and later I figured out it was either small or large mouth bass.
    I had hoped to go to the ballgame that night, but they weren’t playing and had to settle for tomorrow night. I went up to their little camp “restaurant” and got a pizza for dinner and breakfast the next morning. After dinner, I just sat and watched the stream flow by until it was time for bed.
    July 20
    Having no pressing business until the evening, I did as leisurely a breakfast as I could muster. I had some oatmeal and tea to go along with my leftover pizza. I noticed four geese floating in the stream near my site so I tossed them some chunks from my crust. They were all over that and when it was done, I saw they came ashore appearing to want more. They hung out for a while but finally gave up when they figured I didn’t have any more for them. I went up to the facilities, took a shower, checked my email and the weather and headed back to camp to figure out the day.
    I noticed that the Antietam battle field was much closer to the camp than Gettysburg, so I decided to go check that out rather than truck all the way to Gettysburg and back. I was real glad I did.  The morning turned out to be oppressively hot and I didn’t get much out of the experience. It was neat to see some of the artifacts and see the actual grounds where the most lives were lost in a single day in the war, but touring the area just wasn’t working for me. I’m not sure what I expected, but I got nothing out of riding around, looking at statues, monuments and plaques commemorating each of the military units involved in the day. I decided to go and grab some lunch.
    I found a Cracker Barrel and wanted to check them out. I’d seen them before, but always thought they were more of a store with cheese and crackers and such. I’d heard that they were also a restaurant, so I wanted a taste. As soon as I opened the menu, I wanted some of everything – it was just my kind of place. I was real tempted to have a nice big breakfast plate, but I decided that I better get some greens in me and had a nice big salad. I planned to return there for breakfast in the morning.
    I noticed an outlet mall across the freeway and decided to go check it out. Both of my travelling jeans had developed some tears in them, and I figured I might as well replace them here as anywhere. They actually had a Levi’s outlet and I found the shop. When I found the style I was looking for, I found them to be more expensive than what I paid for mine retail. No thanks. I headed back to camp, hoping for a nap and some relaxation.
    The nap never really materialized, but I did lay down for a bit. Since sleep wasn’t coming, I went up to the facilities for a dip in the pool and to check the internet stuff. The rain threats were done, so I was able to put away my tarp. I just chilled in the shade at my camp and watched the activity on the stream. I thought I saw some sort of hawk or other predatory bird take a pass, but it disappeared before I could get a good look. The other birds were busy taking care of the bugs. I could see my geese buddies paddling around downstream and I spotted a turtle in the middle of the stream, diving up and down as it drifted with the current. I could do this all day.
    Eventually the clock rolled around and it was time to head for the game. I was running low on cash, so I had located an ATM near the park and headed for that first. The ATM never materialized, nor did the street it was supposed to be on. I was a bit lost for a moment, but then I saw the road that the stadium was on and decided to head for the stadium. I found out that they had an ATM in the stadium so I was set.
    I splurged for the $11 seat in the shade and went and got some cash at the ATM. I grabbed a beer and a dog and explored the park a little. That didn’t take much doing, so I went and found my seat and hung out. The stadium capacity was about 5,000 and there couldn’t have been more than 1,000 people there. It was so hot I couldn’t blame anyone for not being there. One thing that always amuses me about these types of places is that people will sit in THEIR seat no matter what is going on. I noticed that there were people sitting in the seats next to mine, so I plopped down in another seat nearby. Another couple people had the seats on the other side of those people and they sat right down, shoulder to shoulder with the other people. Really? You don’t have the imagination to spread out a little? I mean, yeah if people come to claim their seats, and the park fills up then you take the seat you bought. But why they all crowded together like that on such a hot and muggy evening is beyond me.
    One thing that I wished I had known before going to the park (so I could say that went there because of it!), was that Willie Mays played his first professional game there. A couple other notables did as well, but being a Giants’ fan, that was kind of neat. It turned out that the Hagerstown Suns were playing one of the Giants’ farm clubs (the Augusta Green Jackets) which was a surprise as well. (I still rooted for the home team!)
    The play was as bad as I expected but the umpiring was even worse. Just awful. But it was all good fun, and although I had to limit my beer consumption, I had a great time. I left after the 7th inning, as the game was dragging on and I had a pretty decent day ahead of me tomorrow. 
    July 21

    I was to meet up with my buddy in Virginia Beach today, so I was hoping for an early start. Wouldn’t you know it; it was the only morning so far this trip that I actually slept past 5:30 and it was about 6:15 before I got out of bed. I didn’t bother trying to rush the breakdown, because I knew it would just take me longer. I got under way, but felt that I should pass on the big breakfast and decided to grab something quick at my first fuel stop. I figured there would be plenty of opportunities to hit a Cracker Barrel somewhere else along the road.
    As I was getting on the onramp, I heard a sudden nasty scraping noise behind me and figured I better stop to see what it was. I looked at the hitch and everything was in order and proceeded around to the back and found that the rack that I had my solar charger and battery mounted on had broken a weld and was just dangling from the wiring. Murphy strikes again! I guess those rough roads took their toll. It took me a while to figure out what to do, but eventually I grabbed some duck tape and… seriously, I got some of my rope and managed to secure the whole assembly to the trailer using the tie down cleats I had on it. It was reasonably solid, but I wasn’t crazy about it. I figured after some road time, I’d come up with a better solution and off I went.
    I needed to get through DE, so I had to cross over the Chesapeake Bay near DC and then back again at the southern tip on the east side of the bay. I managed to miss both DC and Baltimore and got across the bay. Once in DE, I headed south. I HAD come up with a better concept for the broken rack and wish I’d thought of it right when it happened. I decided to get some tie down straps from Lowes or similar and really strap it on. There was a Home Depot right where it broke, but it hadn’t occurred to me then. Once in DE, I started looking for a store to buy what I needed.
    The heat was really bad this day and made for miserable traveling. To make matters worse, the route I was on was another of those annoying roads that had a town every 5-10 miles and all the annoying traffic to go with it. I eventually spotted a Lowes and grabbed everything I could possibly need and went back out to the parking lot. It was just too hot to be sitting in the middle of the parking lot dealing with the fix. I scanned the area for some shade, but the only thing they had was the lumber loading area and I didn’t figure they wanted me parked in there for a half an hour working on my stuff. I opted to move on a bit more, hoping to find some shade.
    I stopped a bit down the road for lunch and gas and still couldn’t find a suitable location to take care of my business, so I pressed on. While on the road, my phone rang, but I couldn’t answer. I figured it was my buddy checking in on my progress. I eventually found a rest area that had some shaded parking and pulled in and set up shop.  After about a half an hour, everything seemed to be nice and secure – more than I had even hoped for.
    I checked my phone and it was my buddy calling. I called him back and touched bases.  I had checked my maps and figured that I was still three to four hours away. I told him I’d call when I got over the big bridge in Norfolk to give him a better idea of my timing.
    As soon as I got on the road, I saw a road sign that indicated that I was actually only two hours out instead of three or four. That gave me a huge burst of much needed energy. I’m not sure how I miscalculated my time that badly, but didn’t really care other than the fact that I felt kind of stupid. 
    As I approached the big bridge that connects Cape Charles to the west side of the Chesapeake Bay, I could see it in the distance. Very impressive. I noticed that the signs kept referring to it as “bridge/tunnel”. Are there two ways to traverse the bay?  I would have my answer in a few minutes. As I got on the massive bridge, I immediately felt the temperature drop maybe 10-15 degrees. I would have paid the $10 toll for that alone, but it was pretty spectacular to get out far enough on a bridge to not be able to see land in either direction. About a third of the way across, the road went from two lanes to one and we entered a tunnel that dove under the ocean. Aha! We went for a couple of miles and it climbed back up onto a bridge again. This pattern repeated once more and 20 miles later I was on land again.
    Part of the reason that my timing was a bit miscalculated was that the highway lands midway between Norfolk and Virginia Beach. My distances were based on having to go 10 miles after Norfolk. (That doesn’t account for two hours, but it was partially to blame.) I used my GPS to get a basic bearing on where I needed to go and figured I’d just follow the directions as best as a I could. If I got lost, I’d just give my buddy a call.
    I found myself on a fairly busy “tourist” road for about 8 miles. While that didn’t thrill me, it wasn’t too bad. I managed to make it through the residential roads and landed in front of what I thought was the house. My jaw must have dropped when I saw the place – a really nice Tudor home – not quite a mansion. Wow. My friend has friends in high places! Before pulling in, I called my buddy. He was out making a beer run and after a few minutes trying to decode my “mansion” reference he said “Oh, not that place. It’s the one next door. I’ll be back in ten.”  I turned around and waited on the street for him to get back.
    As I was sitting there, a guy who was doing some yard work on the place next door came out to the street and asked if I was looking for this house. I said I was and he told me to drive on in and park anywhere. I scoped it out figured out a suitable place to keep my rig out of the way and parked. I cracked a beer that was slightly cooler that the ambient temperature and slugged it down. Ah!
    My buddy rolled in and immediately apologized for the condition of his friend’s place. “When we were a couple years ago, it was in great condition, but it’s a big mess right now.” I told him not to worry and if need be, I could always set up the tent and sleep there – it’s almost more comfortable for me anyway. He said we’d figure it out.
    We went inside that he minute he opened the door, the house smelled of wet dog. Not particularly refreshing after a day on the road. We made our way up a tiny spiral staircase to the living quarters and it was a sloppy mess. My buddy said that one of the bedrooms was just unusable because of a “stench”. I didn’t find out for myself. The other open bedroom had a tiny little twin bed and even that was buried in stuff. Hmmm, the tent is looking mighty inviting. We decided to give it a go – he’d take the couch, and I’d deal with the bed. The plan was to head over to another of his friend’s homes to hang out by the pool. We did and it was wonderfully relaxing to hang out in the shade by or in the pool sucking on beers. I was off the bike for three nights and had nothing to worry about until Sunday – I was the passenger and perfectly content to let my buddy lead me around for a couple days. As we sat there, a couple other of the old gang dropped in. Well, they weren’t my old gang of course, but my buddy’s and they went on recalling the glory days and a wondering how they managed to live through some of their adventures. I got the impression that they were quite the rebel-rousers in their day.
    As the night progressed, a couple of the guys started dropping some racial “jokes” which in my world were completely inappropriate. I just shook my head and politely chuckled (I was a guest in someone’s home) , but my buddy tried to shoot them a hint in a non-confrontational way  that perhaps  those comments were a bit out of line. One of them said something about “Hey, this it he south.” as if it wasn’t just his right to make such comments, but his job. I was definitely experiencing a cultural clash. Thankfully, we moved on to some more high school stories.
    It was a week night and the host needed to work in the morning, so we took off to go grab some dinner.  We (my buddy and lodging host) found a little place where we had some prime rib and cocktails. It wasn’t the best I’d ever had but it hit the spot. We headed back to the place where we were staying, sorted out the sleeping arrangements and went to bed.
    July 22
    We got up the next morning and went and found some breakfast. It hadn’t been the most comfortable night, but I actually slept a little better than I had in a while. We stumbled upon a great little diner a few miles from the place. It wasn’t even 8:00 and already it felt bad to get out of the car. It’s gonna be a hot one. We had an outstanding breakfast with a great waitress.
    After breakfast, we mostly drove around a bit. He hadn’t lived here for nearly thirty years now, and the place had obviously changed, but he was able to make his way around. “Here’s my old school, here’s my old house, here’s Bobby’s old house. Remember the story from last night about the lawn job? Right there.” He said pointing to a really nice formal, multi tiered lawn. That kind of stuff. We went down to the beach proper and I was extremely surprised to see that it was the tourist trap of all tourist traps. Several miles of t-shirt/souvenir shops and many high-rise hotels that didn’t used to be. For some reason, I never pictures Virginia Beach as that type of destination. If it hadn’t been that a buddy is from there, I might never have even heard of it before. This place was Honolulu, Myrtle Beach and Niagara Falls all rolled into one. I was kind of disappointed as I was expecting the area to be a more natural setting.
    As we drove around, I asked my buddy about the big bridge, why the tunnels were in place. He said that it wasn’t possible to build a bridge tall enough for some of the bigger naval craft to get under and Virginia Beach had a huge Navy base. That made sense so the mystery was solved on that count. I needed to do an oil change while we were there, so we looked around for the product I needed. It didn’t come in quarts, so after a bit of combing the town, I got a 5 quart jug and planned to leave the balance for my host. I wasn’t worried about leaving some oil behind, it was the measuring that I was worried about. The jug had a clear strip on the side that indicated the volume, so I’d just have to take my time.
    We cruised around a bit more, made a supply run and headed back to the house and waited for our host to get home from work. I sat down in a comfy chair and it didn’t take me long to kind of doze off for a little bit. I was just exhausted. It wasn’t so much from the day (the heat didn’t help), but I hadn’t had any decent rest in three weeks. I just let nature take its course while my buddy was checking some stuff out on the internet. Upon waking, we had the local news running and it turned out that Virginia Beach set a record high for that day – 102 degrees. The heat index (temperature plus humidity) was near 119! That explains why it felt so brutal to go outside. I had begun to hate doors as each time I opened one to step outside, I was just bombarded with heat. Uggh!
    When our host got home, we took off for a sports bar to have a little lunch and some cocktails. The “social” hour had begun. After that place we headed out looking for somewhere else to go, but we wound up back at the house and started making dinner plans. I needed to do laundry, so I did while we were figuring things out. They were getting a bit ancy to leave about 90 minutes into my laundry cycle (even though we hadn’t figured anything out yet). I told them I was just fine staying behind, if they wanted to take off – I really would have enjoyed just doing nothing (even less than the nothing I’d been doing for the last 24 hours!) for a couple hours, but they waited.
    Our host finally decided where to take us. It was a place about 20 minutes away that he frequents. It was a bit further than we expected, but off we went, with our host giving directions along the way. The directions were a bit “playful” as in not as efficient as they could have been. We’d already had a few cocktails and my buddy was getting pissed that he was messing with him that way. We weren’t smashed or anything, but the last thing we needed was to draw attention to the local’s finest because of playful directions. We finally found the place and I knew immediately that it wasn’t the type of place my buddy had in mind. It definitely was not a place that I’d choose to hang out at, but they had food, alcohol and A/Cl, so we went in. The place was slammed with a noisy younger crowd. They had one section that was clearly more family oriented, a private room and a room with the bar and some tables. There was a guy setting up a P.A. system, we figured for karaoke. We managed to eventually landed a place at the bar.
    We had our drinks and wolfed down some awesome burgers. I wasn’t very social at this point. It was so loud I had trouble hearing my buddy who was sitting next to me. I just sipped on a few beers and watched the trivia game and let life roll on around me. Like I said, I was exhausted. On the way home, our host was kind of playing the same playful direction game and my buddy was getting really irritated. It really wasn’t the time or place for that kind of nonsense. We made it home and dropped into bed.
    July 23
    I got up early as usual and went right out to deal with my oil change. Our host was kind enough to let me use his oil pan, so I got out there while it was only eighty-something degrees and took care of business. Everything went fine and I was done in no time.
    When I came back inside, my buddy had received a call from one of his buddies who said he was going to take the boat out and do some fishing. “Just a short trip, we’ll be in by noon.” My buddy knows his friends pretty well and decided to pass as “noon” meant three or four o’clock in reality and we did have plans to visit another of his friends that evening. And sitting out in the sun for several hours did not seem like a good idea anyway, even though it was supposed to be a little cooler than yesterday. Our host thought it would be a great idea to get out on the water and he was out the door in no time.
    I jumped in the shower, checked my internet stuff and then we headed off to breakfast – you got it, the same place as yesterday. As we were sitting down, the same waitress greeted us and asked us if we wanted out milk and juice before or with the meal. Are you kidding me? Most servers can’t remember to bring my milk 15 minutes after I ordered it, this gal was remembering what we ordered yesterday! I wanted to wrap her up and take her with me for the rest of my trip. We had another great breakfast and made the mistake of opening the door to go outside. Man, that is brutal and it’s not even 10:00 yet.
    Yesterday, we spotted an aquarium and we decided to go and check it out. It was too hot to do any outdoor activities, so this seemed like a good idea. It was a pretty nice aquarium and I got a chance to see what it looks like under the ocean on this side of the country. It wasn’t as good as the Monterey or even the San Francisco aquariums, but I didn’t feel ripped off either. The place was just a little too kids oriented with lots of hands-on stuff for them to do. I don’t mind that too much, but it was just a little too much. The aquarium had two sections, the ocean stuff and then a salt water marsh exhibit a ways down the road. It could have been walked, but we opted to drive down to the marsh section because of the heat. Unfortunately, the bulk of that exhibit was outdoors. We plodded through one section but even the animals wanted nothing to do with the heat. So we made our way back inside, checked out what they had to see in there and headed back to the house. The aquarium was a nice pleasant kill of a few hours.
    Once back at the house, I again napped out for a while as did my buddy. The heat and the “refreshments” had taken their toll on both of us. After a bit, we headed to the store to grab some stuff to take over to where we were having dinner. As we were coming out of the store we noticed a thunderhead building. I’m so used to seeing that with nothing coming out of it, that I just ignore them most of the time, but my buddy said to expect some pretty good rain. After we got back to the house, I ran by the gas station to fuel up for tomorrow – I figured I’d help get them some rain. I didn’t get hit, but I wasn’t back at the house five minutes before it came down. And it came down good for a few minutes. We got a pretty good lighting show for a while and then it let up a little. The storm dropped the temperature enough that we went out on the porch and watched the lightning show.
    My buddy indeed did know his friends well. It was after 4:00 and we learned that the fishermen were still not docked and were having trouble getting into the harbor because of the weather. He was real glad he declined the invitation. Our host was supposed to join us for the dinner fling, but he was still on the boat. Maybe he’d meet us later.
    We headed over to our dinner host’s place who happened to be the parents of one of my buddies friends. He was coming up from the “outer banks” in NC for the evening and was bringing some soft shell crabs with him. I’d heard about them, but never had them and was looking forward to something new. We got to their house, did all the introductions, had a cold one and lounged in their pool for a while. I talked with the father for a bit. He is a Veteran and spent 8 or 9 years as POW in Nam. We didn’t talk about that stuff, but it was good for me to spend some time in the presence of somebody who’d dealt with type of adversity serving his country. He was quite a character as was the mother.
    They queued up some shrimp and fried the crabs. Very tasty.  When hearing my buddy talk about the soft shell crabs, I always thought they were just a species of crab. It turns out that they are actually Blue Crabs and they happen to catch them as they shed their shell (I didn’t know crabs shed their shells). It pretty much has to be done in a farmed environment as the crabs get a hard shell within the day after shedding. My buddy’s friend tried to talk me into taking an extra day and heading down to his place for a night. I would have really loved to, but just did not have the flexibility to do that, complete my goal and get home on time. It was great to meet some new people and try some new food. I had a really great evening. We got back to the house and vegged for a few minutes before going to bed. I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow.

     

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