Monday, May 24, 2010

An Introduction to the Outer Banks, N.C.

I may not have mentioned that I’m a writing beach bum. Unfortunately, I can’t live at the beach full time yet, but it’s a goal! All of my family members are also beach bums. Since my parents were born in Philadelphia, PA, we spent our summer vacations in Ocean City, N. J., as many Philadelphians do. I remember the thrill and anticipation of driving over the causeway bridge from Summers Point and then just before the bridge ended, catching a glimpse of the Flying Pony or Flying Saucer, two retrofitted WWII PT boats used for tours around the island, before touching down in Ocean City. My priorities as a child included the ocean and beach, and included all those stores on the boardwalk especially the rides at Gillian’s Fun Deck, my favorite-the Tilt-O-Whirl.

The beaches we visit now are those on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where I set many of my stories, including my new novel, Sparkle Days. My priorities are only the ocean and beach. My husband’s priority is surf, sound and off-shore fishing (more about that later). He introduced me to the Outer Banks by way of our honeymoon. The only summers that we’ve missed going there were due to our children’s births, both born in August. To this day, our poor timing stupefies us.

Our children’s vacations were much different from my own, as only Bodie Island, where Nags Head is located, actually has rides, water parks, and other commercial amusements. Instead, our children experienced raw nature, fishing, warm ocean water for bogie boarding and camp fires on the beach surrounded by friends (since we often take our Virginia neighborhood with us). As we age, we spend more time there and relish each visit.

The Outer Banks is a collection of beautiful barrier islands, which lend themselves to my stories because those islands are also dangerous. But before I scare you, let me take you on a virtual tour and show you the sights over the next few weeks. I’ll post pictures of those amazing islands, some history, tips from an expert-me, along with sites of interest and Internet addresses for rental homes because you may want to visit yourself. I’ll also explain the dangers.

Note Added: The spouting oil well in the Gulf is worrisome. If the oil passes the tip of Florida, the Gulf Stream will take the oil north as far as the Outer Banks, the experts anticipate. I’m praying that isn’t so. The destruction will devastate the area. Hearings are now ongoing to discuss the area’s big issue of beach driving. Facing the possible destruction of the environment by the oil spill renders the issue of beach driving superfluous and I hope under this new threat, the ban on beach driving is suspended. It’s a complex issue, which I briefly mention, but one that has pitted the locals and many vacationers against the Federal government.

Expert Beach Bum Tip #1-How to Apply Sunscreen Properly (No, I’m not kidding, skin is important and if used properly, sunscreen can really save pain, damage and disease.)

Apply to naked body before leaving for the beach. Use SPF 55 or higher. This is especially important for small children. Never allow small children to apply their own sunscreen. The reasons:

1. Applying sunscreens naked will increase your chance of not missing an area of skin. Often people don’t want to mess up their bathing suits with the greasy stuff, but then burn around the edges of their suits. Avoid this problem by putting it on before your bathing suit.
2. Sunscreen needs time to activate because it is absorbed into the skin and that absorption takes time. The more time you allow, the less sticky your skin will feel because after it is absorbed, less remains on the surface. If applied at home before leaving for the beach, it will have time to absorb and activate by the time you arrive. Your less sticky skin will also pick up less sand.
3. Even waterproof lotions will wash off if applied just before jumping into the ocean. Like mineral salts in a bathtub, ocean salts clean and scrub skin. When absorption takes place prior to arriving at the beach, more protection will remain in the skin and enhance those spotty secondary applications.
4. All of the above applies doubly for children and saves parents from chasing after their screaming kids on the beach, looking ridiculous and causing people around you to sneer.
5. Remember to apply sunscreen to the top of your feet, which are also exposed. Yes, there is a story behind that statement. Sweating causes sunscreen to run into the eyes, which is very irritating and impedes necessary beach reading. Avoid applying to the forehead and wear a visor or low fitting hat to cover that area.
6. Get an umbrella made of fabric that screens UV light and sit under it. I tan sitting under an umbrella. Just make sure you plant the umbrella deep enough since the Outer Banks can be windy.

Lather up, and we'll hit the beach next week.
E. B. Davis

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