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06/25/2003 Entry: "Hatteras Beach Trip 2003 - The Trip So Far..."

I wish this had been able to be updated all week, bit sadly, I am forced to do this as one massive dump because indescribably, no one could find the phone cord that went with this laptop, even though my wife uses it for work all the time, it had just been used, and we had a thorough search of the house. Not only that, but any phone cord I could find was either to small (less than a foot in length) or attached to other computers we had, and somehow had managed to snake under heavy desks so that to extract the phone cord, massive movement of boxes and furniture would have to take place, which, by the time we discovered the laptop phone cord was missing, we didn't have time for such a huge coordinated effort. Now, the irony of this is I build wardialers for a living. At work I have more pre-cut phone cord in assorted lengths that anyone but a thieving Kender* would know what to do with. In fact, when I had wardialers at home, some of it got left behind because phone cord for our group is like those metal with paper twisty-ties: you always have too many, but you don't want to throw them away. But those were missing as well. It was like gnomes went through my house and took all the available phone cords we had. It must be, because the phone cord that we have for this laptop is incredibly long, so even when bundled up, it takes up an enormous amount of space. How could it stay hidden? I am mad because my daily entries are hindered by a mere $5 cord, which is often the story of my life. I might have to go to the mainland at some point and find one, because the phones in this beach house all have "proprietary wires" hooked up to them. There's a computer downstairs, and a fax machine, so maybe I'll find wire there I can use. I sure hope so.

Anyway, the beach trip is going fine, which is the important part.

On Friday, we started the mad packing. I had already packed most of my stuff, because being a guy, I don't have to pack much. Women really get the shaft sometimes. It takes them longer to pack because they have so many extra things, like makeup, beauty supplies, and odd clothing. My clothing? Four parts: shirts, pants, socks, and underwear. Sometimes subdivided into "dress shirts" and so on (which I forgot to pack, but that hasn't really hindered us). Any women? They have stockings, hair things, several pairs of shoes, and dozens of other things to worry about. Christine packs less than most women, but she still has to worry about scrunchies, hairbands, hair clips, makeup, cleansers, and stuff. My stuff for a week packs into a small duffel bag, hers fills two suitcases. It also takes longer for them to go to the bathroom, which was illustrated during our rest stops: lines to the women's bathrooms were long, while the men's didn't even have them at all. Men have this luxury of "dump and go," while women do not have that luxury. This year, we were smart, and bought a lot of stuff the week before, and it was already packed: liquor, sundries, snacks, and assorted equipment.

By Saturday, we had gotten most of our stuff packed, and people started to arrive. Sara had been with us since the night before, because she went with Christine to see our friend Anne's boyfriend's band play in Baltimore. I finalized a lot of stuff, but a lot of "pre-trip house prep" was unnecessary, because Rogue is staying at our house while we're gone. My only regret is that in that last 45 days, it had rained 37 of them, and I couldn't even get to mow the lawn. My lawn is long and shaggy. Now I will be gone for a week, and I'll probably come home to a Savannah grassland in my yards. Rogue had already left to be with some friends that weekend, so the guest room was free, although there was a lot of Rogue's voodoo stuff lying about. Brad was the next to arrive, with his dog, Bandit. Bandit... is huge. I knew that, but knowing that a purebred Saint Bernard is huge and then actually SEEING it are two different things. Luckily, Bandit, like Brad, is very laid back and gentle, but I am glad I only read Steven King's "Cujo," and never saw it on the screen. He's loud, and one thing you have to realize with dogs this size is they are loud doing everything: walking, breathing, snoring. They can't help it, of course, and Bandit's sweet personalty and calm demeanor have won him over with us, anyway. Later on, April made it, from driving all the way from Ohio. A seven hour drive. Add to that the additional six hour she was about to make to Hatteras the next day. Finally, after talking about driving out the next day, we all went to sleep.

Sunday, we got up early, and left late. We always are late. We planned to leave 7:30 - 8:00am, but we left shortly before 9:00. We did have a time limit, we had to get to the rental office before they closed at 4:00pm. So we drove. And drove. And drove. Each year, the trip seems shorter for some reason, but it's still a long drive. We had rented a van, a Chrysler Mini-van of some kind, but the cargo space was a lot less, so Sara ended up riding with Brad and Bandit, April drove in her own car, and Christine, CR, Dominic, Ahfu, Widget, and I were in the van, with stuff packed from floor to ceiling. The trip was long and uneventful. Widget, despite vet-recommended Dramamine, got car sick anyway, and drooled heavily as he always does when he gets car sick. CR and Dominic played on their new Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP and Pokemon Sapphire. Christine and I played music or talked, but we got to play Weird Al's Latest album, "Poodle Hat," which is like most of Weird Al's albums: funny and strange, with some songs that were totally hysterical. We got to the shores around 2:30, and got to Hatteras proper at about 3:15.

One of the things about Hatteras is that "Hatteras" is really a series of towns along a thing strip of coastline that stretches like a thin thread of beach about 20-40 miles away from the mainland called "The Outer Banks," or just "The Eastern Shore." It's really a series of islands, and the towns are named things like Duck, Nag's Head, Manteo, Buxton, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Cape Hatteras, Frisco, and Okracoke. Our house has been, in the past, up north like Waves and Avon. This time, it was way down south in Cape Hatteras. It's not really too terribly commercialized, except up north near Nag's Head, but even then it's nothing like the mess of Ocean City or something. No boardwalk, no huge skyrises, nothing like that. Just a lot of gray houses that weather a lot of hurricanes.

It took us a while to find the rental agency, and then a bit longer to find the house. But when we got there... wow. This is a damn nice house. I mean, the houses we have been at before have been nice, but this house... woah. Part of the niceness of this house is the attention to detail. A lot of the beach houses are pretty generic things. They all have the same exterior look, and while they have different floor plans and amenities (hot tub, pool, and so on), the insides all have the same carpeting and the walls have the same stucco or paneling. The pictures are sparse and generic, the furniture is typical "low-maintenance rental" stuff you'd find in hotels. Not this house. This house is more like a home, and the attention to detail is amazing. I used to decorate furniture showrooms, and this house is done like that. A lot of unique collectibles, wallpaper, trim, and stained glass windows decorate this place. I mean, I know we say this from the pictures, but to see it is just amazing. The place has pool, hot tub, billiard table, and TVs are everywhere. Our master bedroom has a huge whirlpool bath, and every bedroom has its own private deck. This house was expensive, and I don't know if we'll ever be able to afford to come back, but wow... it's the best we've ever rented.

Sunday night, we had to do a huge food shopping at the only supermarket on the islands: The Food Lion. They generally don't run out of things, but then again, we have usually done a Saturday-to-Saturday thing, not Sunday-Sunday. So we found out that on Sunday night, they are out of things. Not a whole lot, but enough to be a little bit hard to do shopping if you're picky. Truthfully, I don't know how they manage to keep in what they do, because they are the size of a normal supermarket, but they have the volume of so many vacationers packing the walls with their sunburnt beer gut bodies screaming after their barefoot kids with mullets. I mean the place is open 24/7, is the only major source of shopping for 120 miles around, and even at 10pm, they are packed. Plus they also serve the interests of people who live here, who are probably the majority of those sporting mullets or buzz cuts. By the end of the shopping, which was done by a list made in the order people thought of things and not by any grouping of where things might be in the store, Brad and I were exhausted for doing the shopping. Brad was more than 50% of the sheer brain power that got me through that night. When we got back, the kids (CR and Dominic) hauled up the groceries, and I took a whirlpool bath before I went right to sleep.

By the way, Widget and Ahfu really get along well with Bandit. Bandit is really like any other dog, except he's the size of a Shetland pony, and weighs the same I did when I graduated high school. He also sometimes steps on your foot which REALLY hurts, but he's always sorry he did it because he has the soul of a lamb. We took Bandit to the beach, and you'd think a big ol' dog like him would love the surf, but nope, he hated it. He ran away. Ahfu has seen the surf and doesn't care for it. He splays all his feet outwards and holds back, and it's like dragging a sea turtle. Ahfu likes to dig, though, and digs a lot of holes, sniffing deeply into each one until his face is covered with sand. Widget didn't like getting wet in the surf, but he got mad at the waves and chased them back, snapping at the foam. Sometimes Widget loses his tiny Pomeranian mind and barks at bandit, but he does that with people, too, so that doesn't mean much. At least he's becoming more socialized to different people, places, and dogs, which has been a big problem with him.

Monday morning, we slept. Then we bummed around. I spent most of the day reading and finishing the latest "Harry Potter" book, which was good, as always, and while I won't give away any spoilers, I did correctly predict who dies by the end of chapter two (JK does some things I do when I have to kill off a main character, accidentally foreshadowing a character she has trouble with letting go), even though the death doesn't come until near the end. The book is definitely a stronger, darker book, I think perhaps reflecting a change in JK's writing style. She's maturing, and when you read about a lot of stuff in her first book versus this book, the tone and mood or so different, when a lot of stuff from the first four books are actually referenced in book five, you think, "But that was ages ago... written another, more cheerful way." Harry is definitely pissed, gets a lot of illusions broken, and many characters make some serious mistakes in their choices that seem realistic. Fred and George? My heroes. But besides the book, CR got a little sunburnt, but brushed it off in true style. April made yummy steaks and some sort of potato/onion thing that was also great.

Tuesday marked the 14th year since Christine and I got married. It was very hot and hazy, so we didn't go out until the evening. I got stung by a wasp, and over the next 24 hours, this would be a common thing. I am not allergic to bees (or wasps), and truthfully, while the sting hurts like holy hell, the sting lasts about an hour, throbs some more, then a few hours later fades to nothing. I hadn't been stung since a Renn Faire many years ago, where I got stung *seven times* in four hours by various bees and wasps (I went home early, I said, "screw this!"). But wasps had started to make a home on the Eastern side of the house, which was one of the entrances to the private swimming pool. Later, Christine and I went down to "Dirty Dicks" crab house where I had some okay "crab fingers" (really, just the lower part of a crab claw, breaded) and over-salted fries. While Christine partied into the night with Sara, April, and Brad, I retired early because my asthma had gotten really bad, and my medicine knocked me out. Christine conked out around 5am.

Wednesday, there were more wasps (Dominic got stung just over his eye, but he's fine), so we went out and bought wasp spray. I sprayed about six nests, got stung twice more, and later, Christine got stung while she was in the pool. There are less wasps, but the ones that came back after I sprayed and saw their homes in ruins were MAD! I soaked again in the whirlpool bath, but wanted suds. I didn't find bubble bath anywhere on the island, and so I used Dawn Dish washing soap. That worked GREAT! Lots of suds. Maybe too many, but it was the first time since I was a kid I had suds that came to my head. And my skin feels smooth and soft! I want a deep whirlpool tub (pout). Then I finished writing this diary entry, and in the process of looking for a phone cord, I found one right next to my bed! How cool is that? I also just finished a book I got for the trip, The Idiot Girls' Action Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro, a hysterical series of essays much like a blog of a writer who has a painful past and an uncertain present. Also to read next, Robert Asprin's latest "Phule" book, "A Phule and His Money."

After I upload this, we're having some grilled Lime Chicken, I am going to try and be bartender, and hopefully have enough energy to party into the night. In the next few days, Roberta and Anne are supposed to come by, and April sadly has to leave on Friday to see some friends in South Carolina. Then she's actually driving back to Ohio, only to drive back down to DC for Castlecon over 4th of July weekend. Man.

* Did he just pull out an obscure Dragonlance reference? Yes, yes, I believe he did...

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