Going to the Beach at 101

When my Grandma turned 101 in April, Laura and I decided that we would offer her an experience rather than a material gift. This was partially motivated by Grandma’s comments that she doesn’t need anything, as she has morbidly claimed from time to time that she doesn’t more stuff because she won’t be around much longer. Of couse, she has been saying that for about a decade, so we may need to modify expectations.


“Well, I probably won’t need all 12 months on this calendar.”

Grandma chose as her experience to go to the beach in the summer. When the school year ended, we looked at the weather forecast and picked a Thursday in June. We figured that a weekday afternoon would be best, and we headed down Thursday morning to Sandbridge, a beach just south of Virginia Beach.

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Although ultra-developed Virginia Beach is very close to Sandbridge, there is a Navy and Marine base and training center in between, which seems to have saved Sandbridge from being swallowed by the urban sprawl. For land developers, the small, two-lane road leading to Sandbridge had apparently rendered it impossible to detect.

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This is not the beach road you are looking for. You can go about your business.

As a result, instead of the souvenir shops, boardwalks, and crowded beaches of Virgina Beach, Sandbridge has more of an Outer Banks feel, with rows of beach houses. It hasn’t changed much since the last time I visited, over 25 years ago. We made our way to the park on the southern end of Sandbridge.


The beach at the park was wide and flat, which was great for kids. For people who are 101, it was less great.


We trekked across the beach to the surfline and set up camp.



Since it was mid-June, the water was still a bit chilly by summer standards in Virginia.


Although in Michigan, water this temperature is known as “bath water.”

The beach was very flat, and the ocean was as calm as I have ever seen it. Lakes often have more chop than the ocean did on this day; there were even people paddleboarding. My dad, who has lived in a state of constant fear that the ocean will suck a child out, would have approved.


It should be part of their advertising campaign: “Sandbridge – The Hypothermia May Kill You, but the Surf Won’t!”


It was calm enough that McKenna and Tabby were literally the only children with life preservers in the ocean.


After years of dealing with cheap beach umbrellas that collapse under windy beach conditions, I splurged for an umbrella rated for 35 mph winds. So, of course, there was very little wind.


Just in case there was a random high-powered gust of wind, we weighted the umbrella down with 50 pounds of sand.

Sandbridge is close enough to Virginia Beach that some of the oddness of overcrowded Virginia Beach spilled over. The cast of characters we saw included:


Patriotic hipters with their strumstick.


The newest X-Man whose mutant power was to burrow into the sand like a vole.


The zombie herd of Walking Dead extras who milled around in the surf.

Aside from experiencing the Sandbridge wildlife in its natural habitat, one of the things Grandma wanted to do while we were there was to feel the ocean on her feet.


Little did she know that the ocean was still cold enough that no one felt anything on their numbed feet.


At around 4:30, we broke camp and extracted the team from the beach. When we were headed to dinner, we saw that there had been an accident on the Hampton bridge-tunnel at around 3:30, but we assumed that it would surely be clear by the time we reached that area after our dinner of massive crabcakes.



We survived bad GPS directions and bridge traffic to successfully end another beach trip. We’ll end with that one time there was actually a wave on the very calm ocean.


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