Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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Road Trip to the Beach: Part I
I saw the ocean for the first time when I was seventeen. It was a cold, gray day but the ocean seemed infinite and I fell in love. After many other beach trips, mostly sunny and filled with play, my delight in the ocean has continued to grow. The sea and the beach always call my name.

Luckily, the college I attended back in the sixties was in Greensboro, N.C. and only four hours from the coast, so weekend beach trips were entirely feasible and frequent. My friends, Crawford, Junie, and I packed for our trip on Thursday nights and headed out on the first leg of our trip as soon as classes were over on Friday.

We packed the trunk of Crawford’s dark green Pontiac Firebird with backpacks, a big tent, sleeping bags, coolers, food, lounge chairs, and floats. We like our creature comforts. Leaving Greensboro felt like a blast of freedom–no classes, no chores, and sea breezes to come. We chattered for the first hour of driving, catching up with each other. We never had to worry about directions because we made the trip so often. When the chit-chat died down, we began twirling the radio dial, trying to pick up a local station in every community we drove through. We hoped for the Moody Blues but would listen to almost anything. Music was paramount on a road trip.

If one of us did have a later class on Friday, we only drove as far as Junie’s family in Laurinburg. When we arrived, we drove down a sandy driveway through a pine forest, and got out of the car amidst a spill of hound dogs. There we piled in on her family at dinner time and sat down to a Southern feast of fried chicken, sweet tea, and field peas with often a dozen or more people (stray cousins or other friends always seemed to be there).

I loved these stops because the landscape in the Sandhills was so different than I was used to in the mountains or even in Greensboro. Laurinburgh was flat, sandy, with pine trees and the occasional patch of ferns. The land has its own beauty and seemed exotic in a way compared to the mountains I had grown up in.

Something was always happening in Laurinburg. If cousins weren’t having a party then everybody went to Johnny’s ocean, a local, isolated pond, for a nighttime swim. Somehow, despite our urgent desire to get to the beach, we always ended up staying up late, visiting, and running around. If the daylight stayed around, we would walk to the field in back of the house where Junie’s brothers had created a motor cycle track.

In the middle of the track was a field with a bull named Myrtle. Junie assured us all that Myrtle was harmless and that we could cut across the field with no problem to where her brothers had their bikes. About dusk one night, we were halfway across when I noticed that the bull was snorting and pawing the ground. I pointed this out to Junie and she screamed “Run!”

Sprinting, we made it to a derelict tractor that sat to one side in the field and climbed on top of it with the bull at our heels. Myrtle hit that tractor so hard that it jarred out teeth. Luckily, each time the bull hit the tractor, he knocked it closer to the fence. Finally, we were close enough that we could hop down and run for the fence. I still tease Junie about the Myrtle, the friendly bull.

Eventually, we would head for bed to get some sleep. We knew we were getting up early the next morning. Time at the beach still lay ahead.

Next week: Part II takes us all the way to the beach.

Remember I am inviting guest posts about memorable road trips to be posted in April. Send to dvllewellyn@hotmail.com 

Image: Courtesy of Mandi Bradshaw 

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