Before I get into any details, I want to say that next to the Isle of Palms vacation, I think this is the second best vacation I’ve ever taken, given the location, the quality of the beach, happiness of each individual, and overall level of stress involved. Even with the stingray incident (to be elaborated on in a little bit) I would DEFINITELY consider coming back. Needless to say I am totally bummed about being back here and having to <shudder> go back to work. Alright. So the goal here in this post is to chronicle the vacation as I remember it from start to finish. Any other details about the weekend or whatever will be dealt with in another post. Pictures involved, hopefully! I will warn in advance that I most likely won’t be able to do this in one sitting because I do have to go back to work today and for some reason didn’t think about doing this yesterday when I wasn’t at work.
Saturday Aug 24th, 2013: Day 1
Woke up early not only because it was planned, but because I was so darned excited! I had spent the last night pre-packing the car so that we could save time. Still, it was all a tight fit because the general inclination is to pack 3x more than necessary because you’re going away for a week. Hey, anything can happen, right?! We finally set out 30 minutes past the intended time (which was already impressive) with my brother, Gable and me heading down to the house first, and for my mom to go pick up my grandparents and grand-aunt. We get there in regular time, and so I had time to wander the property making sure my plants weren’t too dead and to see the results of my organic fertilizer while my brother went out to get ice and sweet tea from Chick-fil-a. Gable, who was freaking out during the packing and leaving part, was running around the yard snacking on crabgrass as usual, when I look over and see him barfing up his breakfast. Great. Just great. He’d worked himself up so much he threw up. My brother comes back and we sit in front of the TV waiting. And waiting. How it took my mom 2 hours to get there I’ll never know, but I did know that we were behind schedule. The old people arrive and take the bathroom break and obligatory tour of the house. Definitely behind schedule now, we all load up (or more accurately, squish) into the car hightail it to I-95. The original plan had my brother and I switch off driving, but he ended up driving the entire distance. There was a little drama trying to find a rest area between Richmond and North Carolina, but we ultimately took the much needed break at the NC visitor’s center (such a nice place!! Turns out the rest areas are all on I-295 which we decided to skip). The GPS’s took us on some little backroads in NC which 1) felt like FOREVER; 2) confusing and 3) was creepy! It prompted much talk about zombies and horror films and games and what we’d do in a zombie apocalypse. My mom got so confused that she backtracked somewhere and ended up 2 hours away from us, so my brother and I made it to check-in, got the key and unpacked the car long before they arrived. Old people. By that time everyone was so tired, but the house was very nice, spacious, well furnished and had a fantastic view out to the ocean. While waiting for them to catch up, I had taken Gable down to the beach to get the first look. Completely heavenly view.
The whole time, Gable was surprisingly well-mannered. He didn’t fidget, didn’t whine, thankfully didn’t drop too many bombs, didn’t barf, didn’t wet himself. 6 hours is a long time for a dog cramped to half the usual space and stuck all the way in the back away from the AC. I’d forgotten that he’s claustrophobic, but nothing came of it. Now in this completely brand new place, he was overstimulated and overwhelmed. I was afraid he’d mess the house, but he never showed any sign of wanting to do anything. The only real hitch was his initial fear of the steep wooden steps, but he made it up eventually. Walking on the little sidewalk next to the road also made him nervous and he was afraid to walk on the strange grass/sand native to the area (I later found out why). Couldn’t make a poopie that night.
Exhausted, everyone went to sleep because by the time everything was unpacked and dinner done, it was pitch black outside. My mom, Gable and I picked up flashlights to go on our traditional night walk on the beach, but by the time we made it out to the sand we found out exactly why people like this strictly residential beach. It was PITCH BLACK. I couldn’t see anything even with the flashlights. Flying things flew into our faces so we went back in. We were so used to North Myrtle and it’s semi-commercialism! There was always lights on somewhere! The house we chose had 4 bedrooms (King, King, Queen and 2 twins), but I chose to sleep out in the upstairs common area couch. Ironically, it was meant so I could sleep with Gable, but Gable always prefers to sleep with my mom. Oh well.
Sunday August 25, 2013: Day 2
I woke up around 6:30am to see my mom and Gable sitting in front of the window watching the sunrise. Immediately awake, I ran over to see the orange hue of the yet-to-rise sun. Beach sunrise!! How could I forget? I ran to get cameras and stood outside snapping photo after photo after photo, but I could never ever capture the true and stunning brilliance of the sun rising over the horizon. It’s something you just have to see in person at least once in your life. I could watch it everyday and never get tired of it. I can’t possibly post all those pictures on here for you, but here are some.
My mom and I set out at 7 to walk Gable on the beach. After having missed the beach one summer, it was just heavenly. Gable sure got a kick out of it too. The beach! The sand was great!!! One of the big reasons we don’t like going too far north for the beach is because of the sand quality! OBX and VA Beach sand are not good. I was so happy to see that the texture was very similar to North Myrtle in SC. One thing I did notice and was disappointed in was the lack of tidal pools. The water came up so high on the shore! However what I didn’t notice were people. There were a couple of people roaming around, but not much. Birds were infrequent in comparison. And the lack of the strong beach smell! Later in the week I came upon the realization that the lack of marine smell is what the beach is supposed to smell like. This beach is so clean! She confided in me that she didn’t want to leave later; her job that day was to tote my grandparents down to Cape Fear River to my grand-uncle’s beach house for his 70th birthday. Having gotten lost the day before, no one was keen on getting lost again, so we went over the route a couple times before they left around 9:30ish…about the time I was getting ready to head down to the shore!! The wind was unbelievable that day. I took our cabana tent out to set it up, but it kept blowing away, so I gave up and went up to get the umbrella and to deposit Gable in the house whereupon I met my brother who was (actually up) coming down to enjoy the water too (we ended up abandoning the umbrella in account of the wind). Like the incredible wind, the water, though pleasant enough, was unbelievably powerful. Just standing in knee-high water was a struggle and the little waves were strong enough knock both of us over constantly (and you know what a big guy my brother is). In fact, standing was a chore in and of itself! You could never just truly stand, because the current and the waves kept bowling you over. We struggled in the water for several minutes before giving up and heading back up to the deck of the house. I was disappointed in the waves, wondering if it was always like that (BTW there was no lifeguard anywhere, and even with everyone out it was so sparsely populated!), so we set up the cabana on the deck and I let Gable, who was doing well in the house by himself, out with us while we tanned. He didn’t much like being in the cabana being claustrophobic self and it was way too hot and windy so we all went in to shower and stuff. I spent the rest of the day on the deck lying on a deck chair, reading my most favorite book ever Living Hell by Catherine Jinks, with a makeshift umbrella holder (jammed between 2 chairs), moving down to the beach to read, but having the stupid neighbor kids play with their Velcro balls RIGHT BEHIND MY HEAD I could have reach out and caught the ball if I wanted while their parents just sat there and watched as at any moment they could have beaned me in the head, and then later storming inside to play on my 3DS before the old peeps came home. Turns out my Grand-Uncle’s wife thought we were coming so they made tons of food. Good news is that my didn’t get lost!
That evening before it got too dark, but too late to capture the sunset, we headed out again to walk on the beach with flashlights! My grand-aunt came along with us and Gable as we walked a short distance. It got too dark so we turned around only to see lots of little crabs scuttling along the sand. Gable caught sight of them and went nuts trying to give chase. I had to pull him back a couple times before one clamped his great big honker. He certainly remembered the smell of them.
Monday, August 26th, 2013: Day 3
Another beach sunrise! I can’t remember now if it was this day that I only was able to capture the tail end of the sunrise on video, or if I set it down and recorded the whole thing while I walked Gable. Either way, BEACH SUNRISE. By this time I’d found out why Gable was so cautious walking on the native plants on the sidewalk: cacti. Later we’d find out about the burrs too, but for the moment Gable had had an experience with a small ground cactus the perfect size to fit into the fleshy part between his paw pads (doggie paw palm?) jam in. The spines, of course were the size of the plant itself, so I had to pull the plant out and then the broken off spines. Gable’s usually a trooper with pain, so the plant was OK, but the spine must have really hurt because he whined and flinched when I picked it out.
Everyone was up today to enjoy the first full day at the beach with everyone here! I spent the morning rattling on about how unbelievably strong the waves were \, but we were pleasantly surprised that the waves were nothing like they were yesterday! In fact, the waves stayed low on the shore like a normal beach, exposing the tidal pools I was looking forward to. Even more surprising was that my brother woke up to set up the cabana outside on the beach because the wind was the normal, pleasant beach wind. All my disappointment at the short shore, the crazy current and waves, were dissipated AND we realized just how clear the water was! So untouched by pollution that there wasn’t a myriad of yellow foam and unmurky enough to actually see your feet. No where were there sewers emptying out into the water, nor were there signs saying “caution water unfit for swimming.” THIS. This. This was the pure beach. The real beach. The real beach smell, the real beach sounds, the real beach feel. No fake sand, no chlorine smells (there are no pools at the houses). In fact, my hair unwashed after a romp in the ocean felt somewhat soft; not crunchy and chemically like after you get into a pool.
Even Gable came down to the beach with us! For a little bit. Then I put him back in the house so that we could enjoy the waves without worrying about him. It was perfect. Just perfect. Ah bliss. And the cabana!!! What a great buy!!! My grandparents had a blast. And then later, my aunt, who happened to be at the same beach at the same time as us (just 30 minutes north) came to visit bringing the kids!! My aunt and uncle were completely enthralled by Gable as it was the first time they’d ever met him (his color does make him a handsome devil). The kids were afraid of him at first, but the youngest eventually wasn’t as scared after I made Gable stand up and punch and them give high-fives. He tried to ride him like a horse later, but Gable growled him off, lol. We played down in the water and sand with them, letting my older cousin try out my boogie-board which he just loved. I let my uncle watch Gable’s only winning race online before they left. Good times, man.
That evening, my brother and I took Gable out to walk the beach. I wanted to show him how Gable loved to jump into and out of the tidal pools, and I also brought my camera to see if I could get shots of the setting sun. My pup was having such a fun time playing in the pools that he tore his leash from my hand for a short time which freaked me out, so I called him back, only to try to catch a greyhound running offleash in my arms. BIG mistake. I caught his leash alright, but damaged my shoulder tendons in the process. Still hurts to stretch and bend it in certain ways… The price to see his happiness. Never did get a good pic of the evening sky.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013: Day 4
The day started out pretty much like all the others. Gable was still not eating his food properly, so I got mad at him and didn’t let him walk with us on the beach in the morning. It was just beautiful! My grandparents, grand-aunt and mom were all picking shells and yakking. Actually my grandpa was doing his daily jog while we were shell-picking and I was taking loads of pictures. We were going to walk all the way to the pier, but didn’t totally make it. On the way back, I noticed a little stingray trying to get back to the sea! My mom wanted to try and save it because there was a red spot on it’s dorsal side as if something pecked it or something, but I tried to push water at it to help since in the wild, only the fittest survive. Not much we can do. Didn’t think much about it at the time. Got some pics though!
By the time we made it back to the house, I felt bad about leaving Gable in the house, so our beaching for the day included Gable. This time I hooked him up to the harness and we got him out to the water to jump waves. He didn’t do too badly! Such a cutie pie. I sent him back up to the cabana with my mom to dry off, and looked back to see him lying in the sand with her! Gable only lies down when he’s comfortable! :D I came up and sat with him for a bit, then tried to bring him back up the house because he seemed hot, but he plomped back on the sand refusing to go up yet. Silly pup. My mom came from the water and said she’d seen a black tip of a shark. I wasn’t surprised given the schools of fish swimming around when we were wading. The rest of the day was relaxing. Just your typical day at the beach. ^__^ My grandparents got tired of eating at home, so we went to go eat at an Asian buffet which turned out to be surprisingly delicious! I haven’t eaten buffet in over a year and a half…every since we got Gable, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how to do it! Good stuff, man!
Wednesday, August 28, 2013: Day 5
Halfway through the vacation! It was a good day to wake up. By this time the initial magic of the beach was starting to fade a bit. Everyone was waking up later, going back to getting glued to the TV screen, and finding it less important to go swimming. I took Gable out that morning to see what happened to the shore because a rather fierce wind/rainstorm had blown through the night before. Talk about wind! The sand at the foot of the stairs leading out to the beach had covered up the last step! I took a billion pics of Gable walking on the beach with me…even one of him peeing on a dead crab haha (of course I had to include that).
AND THEN. Then. My mom and I went down to the beach for the usual, setting up the umbrella and blanket instead of the cabana. The wind was little more that day, but not nearly as bad a Sunday, most likely on account of the prior night’s storm. I didn’t go walking on the beach with my grandparents this time, voting to have my mom take some pictures of me and Gable since I have pictures of other people, but very few of me (the curse of being a photographer!). Then I sat on the blanket with Gable in the sand since he loved it so much the day before and took a truckload of pictures of him and his teeth (hee hee). My brother wandered down, so I brought Gable up so I could get in the water with my mom and brother. My grandparents had just gotten back and were sitting in chairs in the water’s edge. Grabbed my board since the storm probably would yield good waves. I got in the water, feeling the waves and judging the current.
I’d just started moving to the north away from my mom so that I wouldn’t hit her with the board, when I stepped on something smooth and cylindrical. A sharp pain punctured the bottom of my left foot and I yelped, thrashing away. I gave my board to my mom who was alarmed and hopped to shore. My mind reeled with what had happened. My first thought was that I’d been pinched by a crab, but that didn’t seem right. Maybe I stepped on a sharp shell? I didn’t have time to dwell on it. The wound was bleeding, so I one-foot hopped up the blanket to get a better look. By that time it was covered in sand and started to sting badly. I thought it was just the salt water and sand getting in. My brother helped my hobble up onto the deck of the house, but the pain was starting to get unbearable. My mom went up to get the first aid kit and my brother to get some Advil and glass of water. My foot throbbed and my mind went white with pain as my mom tried to clean and squeeze something out of the wound. I was crying and howling and screaming at that point with neighbors on either side present but I didn’t care. It was excruciating. My mom thought I was just being a big wussy and I believed it at the time, but that pain was something else! I was shaking by the time it was bandaged up. My mom and brother went back down to the water, leaving me on the deck to read my book. I tried. Oh I tried…but I just couldn’t for some reason. The pain was crazy. It was dull and sharp and came in waves. Shooting up and down my leg and throughout the entire foot, not just the wound site. I thought maybe the sun had something to do with making the pain worse, so I hobbled myself inside and upstairs onto my bed/couch to try and lay in comfort to read my book. The pain made it next to impossible to concentrate. I tried to sleep. I couldn’t. I elevated it, hobbled downstairs to get a thing of ice. Both tactics seemed to make it all that much more worse (later I learned that cold therapy has (disastrous results). Another Advil did nothing. I hobbled back downstairs after 30 minutes of Hell and constant crying (it felt like 5 hours), just in time to see my family coming back up. I hopped outside and gasped out between sobs that I had to go an urgent care. I had see someone. It just wasn’t right! I’d been punctured, scraped, bitten in the past and NOTHING had ever felt like this. Normal wounds feel better after a while. This was getting worse by the moment. My mom and grandpa still thought I was being dramatic, but my grandma was very afraid for me. I was firm. I HAD to go. I had to. It just wasn’t right! My brother was highly concerned and when everyone was ready, my mom and brother got me into the car and off we went. The whole ride had me fighting tears and the waves of pain. By that time we had all concluded that stingray was most likely the culprit and we even joked that it was that one I didn’t want to save the day before.
The urgent care closest to the beach turned out to be unable to see patients for AN HOUR. So much for urgent. There was an elderly lady after me who felt short of breath and they couldn’t see her either! wtf. We loaded back into the car and drove off to the next available place. The location we ended up at also seemed deserted, but took walk-ins and was actually open. The Advil had started kicking in by then, but the pain became more sharp and less dull so I was concerned. Paperwork filled and registered as a patient, they hustled me back and the medical assistant barged saying, “It was a stingray wasn’t it!!!!!” They took a look at it and exclaimed that it was more inflamed than they usually see. A bucket of extremely hot water was prepared and my foot placed in for 30 minutes. It’s amazing the immediate effect the hot water had. Suddenly the waves of pain dissipated. My foot almost felt numb. The PA came in later and decided that he wanted to cut in to make sure the barb was not still in there. Lidocaine, cutting, nice PA chatting with me as he performed minor surgery on my foot. He told me that all the dental hygienists he’s ever met have been pretty. I laughed and said that I hardly looked good with all the excitement so far (my clothes were grungy, I hadn’t showered, not brushed my teeth, and had become uncomfortably aware of the lack of deodorant). When I finally left, he had ordered me on Augmentin and directed me to radiology to make sure there was nothing left in there almost an hour away. I had been in there 2 hours!!!!! Unbelievable! My poor mom and brother were bored to tears. And hungry apparently. And yet there we travelled one hour away to Jacksonville, NC, getting a little lost, but finding civilization at last! Target! Wal-Mart! Fast food! The office there squeezed me in and was able to get me out in 15 minutes thank goodness. I was dying of thirst and hunger, myself. One hour back home, my thoughts wandered to poor Gable who didn’t know what was going on. After all the crying, I was exhausted. My mom as napping. We got a call then from one of my grandma’s other sisters who was visiting us. They were waiting for us to come home and everyone was very concerned about me. After picking up my Rx from CVS (I think my brother was tired too because he almost ran a woman over), we came home. A swarm of concerned old people accosted me with Gable thrown in the mix. MY grandma was happy to hear that I was laughing now instead of crying. She always gets so worked up and concerned about people. She had offered to help pay if the cost was too expensive, but we ended up using $15 preventative care on the insurance and $7 meds on medco. I think it would have been $100 if we were at urgent care. Funny how things work out, eh? Dinner with the visitors was fun. Gable had been an angel the whole time so I hadn’t needed to worry at all.
Exhausted, I wanted to go to sleep early, but my bed being in the common-room made that impossible since the TV was being used until 10pm which was actually fine because the PA called me around 9:30 to ask how I was doing and to ask about the radiographs (which they gave me on a CD btw and it’s AWESOME). I finally rolled into bed a little past 10. WHAT a day.
Thursday, August 29, 2013: Day 6
Having gotten little sleep, I was tired to say the least. My mom was nice enough to get up to walk Gable for me so that I could sleep a little more. To be honest, my foot really didn’t feel bad at all. It barely hurt. Maybe felt a little bruised, but I walked fine and it felt and looked just like a papercut on the sole of my foot. I went out and walked on the beach, sat on the sand, read my book, all the usual stuff. Eventually the wrapping gauze they put on it was replaced with a large bandaid and overall everything was good. Thursday was overall very relaxing. The highlight of it was going to Golden Corral for lunch which we’d found in my radiology adventure in Jacksonville. Good stuff, man. That night, I was introduced to my brother’s game Project X Zone for 3DS. I am HOOKED.
Friday, August 30, 2013: Day 7
LAST FULL DAY AT THE BEACH. NooOOOOoOoOOoOOoOooOo. I was prepared to utilize the day to it’s fullest extent. Even with a Bandaid on my foot, I made it out into the ocean. Not too far, mind you, but enough to play in the waves. My aunt finally made it back over with the kids (she had stood us up 2 days in a row so everyone gave up waiting for her and of course she shows up) so they played in the water, and I tried to impart on my older cousin some of the fun my siblings and I used to have in the ocean as kids. He and his brother are 3-4 years apart (I don’t remember how much) and in kid years that’s a very large gap. We punched waves, jumped waves, swam under waves, etc. I sat out with them for a while and then came back in to shower and try to eat as much leftover food as possible. I think I got the most tan that day alone. We started preliminary packing after dinner that night, same as when we left for the beach, to help us leave as early as possible the next day. Before the packing, though, I wanted group pictures which for some reason we hadn’t thought about the entire week until the last evening. Figures. The old people weren’t happy about it for some reason and my great aunt didn’t really know how to operate the digital cameras. We got mostly blurry shots, but some came out OK. More packing throughout, I issued target leave time the next morning and everyone headed off to sleep early, leaving a very concerned Gable. Pictures below!!! My hair looks like crap.
Saturday, August 31, 2013: Leaving
:( The commotion of packing everything up started early that fateful day. I took one last walk on the beach that morning with Gable just to take everything in. We sloshed through the tidal pools, ran as much as my foot could take, and at last trekked back to eat breakfast and pack things up. Gable was not happy with us zipping, packing, coming, going, because he knew that something was up and suffering from his eternal fear of being left behind. With everything packed and the final sweep of the house taken (thank GOODNESS because I almost forgot my camera charger in the wall socket), we dropped off the keys at 9:30am before they opened and left Topsail Island. My brother drove, and we made sure to take a more direct route instead of the back country where my mom would get lost again. 6 hours and not too bad of traffic later, we made it back to my house!!! Knowing that the grass needed tending, I immediately set about cutting the
weeds grass in the front yard. My first reaction stepping out from the car was OMG it’s HOT!!! With no sea breeze blowing, the humidity was unbearable!!! Of course, my brother was no help to me at all as I toiled and sweated. The old people car arrived and my mom set about making lunch of ramen noodles. They left after a brief stint testing out the queen airbed, leaving my brother and me playing Resident Evil 6 on the XBOX360. It was good because it gave us and Gable a mental and physical rest (especially where my boy wasn’t cramped in the back of a car, before we headed back up ourselves. Our dinner that night was Popeyes 8-piece dark meat fried chicken with fries, and my first taste of Chipotle beef taco. Now I remember why I don’t eat Chipotle. It was entirely too spicy for me. Good, but way too spicy. I shall not do that again soon. (Below: Gable being very concerned)
Aaaaaaaand that is the AT VERY LONG LAST the end of my Topsail Beach tale.
Overall: Fantastic vacation. Beach was all around awesome. Pros: No crowds, pure beach conditions, clean, not loud, no commercialism, no chlorine, beautiful house, 100% dog friendly, very friendly vacationers. Cons: No pool, stingray attack on foot, Un-Urgent care, lack of easy access to civilization. I would rate it 98 out of 100. Truly. My ultrasound tech later surmised that because of the relative lack of crowds stingrays like to congregate there. I think she’s right…they’re not in our world, we’re in theirs.