We left the Revolution and the original colony and the past behind. We piled back into the truck and headed down the highway toward the salty breeze of the Atlantic. We followed the overhead signs toward Virginia Beach and the ocean. We are not beach people. Sand is not one of our favorite things. The little crystals that invade every little nook and cranny are not our friends. It is a rare occasion that we visit a beach. A few months ago, however, the pull of curiosity fueled our children to inquire about a beach visit and on a spur of the moment decision, I veered the truck toward Sandy Hook and the lighthouse there.
The Hook is not a great beach, rocky and rough and full of ocean debris and crushed, sharp shells. The bay is protected by mosquitoes and rocks and jagged shoreline. The surf is rough, bashing beach-goers. It is not a perfect place, but it was a quick trip in a few spare hours before a mandatory family event. And it was enough to feed the curiosity. The kids now begged to visit a nice beach, to play in the waves and feel the sand between their toes. With these nagging requests filling my ears, I followed the highway toward the eastern horizon.
Virginia Beach was hosting a concert and a fishing tournament as we neared the tourist town's exit. The traffic became increasingly oppressive. Our movement was halted just short of the city. We took a family vote and turned the truck northward to find less people and more open road. The Cheasepeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is only a few minutes north of Virginia Beach and kept us on the road north. It is a cool feat of infrastructure, a bridge that halfway across surprisingly dives into the depths to become a tunnel. Out in the bay is a man-made island equipped with a rest area. There are bathrooms and a café and a fishing pier and a view of the seemingly endless ocean horizon. It was a nice diversion from the road and the traffic and allowed us to stretch and talk to some local fishermen as they pulled their bounty from the sea. The lone stretches of highway that seemed to float on the choppy bay caused some distress to a few of the truck's occupants but the detour was worth the memories.
Another hour further north brought us into Ocean City, where the party never ends. The current population seemed a little too inebriated for a family stop. The police presence, on foot and on bike, bespoke a rowdy atmosphere and not worth the effort. Our family enjoys a quieter experience and so another vote kept the truck rolling further north. We crept along the main drag of Ocean City, watching the partiers stagger along, every once in a while catching a glimpse of a drunken vomiter or hung-over balcony-sitter. The music was loud and followed us down the road. One large bridge later and the neighborhood quieted and the beach became inviting. We settled for the night off the main strip of Rehoboth Beach.
As the sun brightened the day, we found a parking spot close to the manicured beach. The sands were softer than the Hook. The people more relaxed than Ocean City. The crowds were much smaller than Virginia Beach. The boardwalk is not as bustling as a Jersey spot. Rehoboth is a small, peaceful place with everything a beach should be while keeping itself respectable. They have the arcades and some rides and plenty of ice cream and fries and T-shirt shops. They also have a brewery and some restaurants and plenty of scooters. The lifeguards are pleasant and professional. The beach boys are more than happy to run you out a chair or umbrella. And the surf is rough enough to ride but not crushing. The kids had a wonderful day, as did the parents. We do not visit the beach often. I really have no use for chafing sand and salty hair. I do not see the point in visiting a place where one needs to carry their own shade with them and a nap will turn you into a French fry. But on this day, the salt in the air was just right and the smiles of my children were worth the sand grinding between my legs and burning my toes. The beach rarely calls us but Rehoboth can call anytime.