The Abbott family vacation on Hatteras Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks would be a bit later in the summer in 2017, during the first full week in August. This ended up to be a fortunate bit of timing, since the company building a new bridge to the island managed to severe all three power cables to Hatteras, prompting this:
On the plus side, the electric company working on the repairs was a model of efficiency and communication, frequently posting updates like the one below.
The power was restored about a day and a half before we were to start our vacation, and we were cleared to enter the island. We made it to a beach that was sunny but a bit windy due to a storm off the coast.
The kids went in the somewhat chilly water anyway, although their months of swimming in other bodies of water had left them unprepared for the ocean.
The adults, on the other hand, had an easier time readjusting to beach life.
The next day was an almost perfect beach day – sunny, with none of the high-powered wind that sometimes tosses around beach umbrellas at the Outer Banks.
A few tumbles in the surf by the kids prompted Wave Generalissimo Scott to take charge and direct the children in wave safety.
The direct sun was warm enough that some people took drastic measures to stay cool.
The children later transported much of the sand from the beach to the beach house and deposited it in this hot tub.
That night, we decided to take the kids to a nearby ice cream place named Happy Belly.
The trip to Happy Belly was not all that happy. Still, as bad as the trip was, it wasn’t in the top five worst trips for ice cream at the Outer Banks, and the gold standard for awful visits to an ice cream place remains the time when two of my brothers got in a fight at the Avon Dairy Queen. The fight was started when Mark said out loud that hanging out at Dairy Queen sucked, prompting this immortal rejoinder by a local: “You talking bad about Dairy Queen?!” The trip to Happy Belly wasn’t in the “Brawl at Dairy Queen” category, but it was noteworthy. Here’s what happened:
- Walking into the parking lot, Jodi, carrying Kyle, fell, causing gravel to become embedded in her knees. When they fell, Kyle wondered, “Why are we on the ground?” Kyle intuitively understood that rolling around in gravel was not a promising start to the ice cream trip.
- Once in the store, Kyle got his cone and promptly dumped one of the scoops on the ground. As any parent can tell you, this is a sign that things are going to take a turn for the worse. I’m pretty sure I saw other patrons fleeing the establishment the way people do in Westerns when a gun fight is about to break out.
- The veteran Happy Belly staff immediately replaced the lost scoop of ice cream, but it was already too late to salvage the situation. After we went outside, Kyle began to express outrage that the summer heat was melting the ice cream. We had now entered the “tired child angrily contests the laws of physics” phase of the breakdown.
- Increasingly incensed by the melting ice cream, Kyle inadvertently head-butted the metal table. At this point, emergency measures for extracting the children from the ice cream place were enacted by the parents with military precision.
The next day, a trip to the local grocery store in Hatteras Village only went slightly better.
By Monday, a series of storms had worked their way up the coast, so we had to find some rainy day activities.
Having learned our lesson from the worst trip to Happy Belly in recorded history, we opted to make home made sundays in the comfort of the beach house, safe from treacherous gravel and unforgiving outdoor tables.
The next day, the rain was supposed to pick up. There was a brief time in the morning with no rain.
The kids entertained themselves during the rain by planning a talent show. McKenna had participated in a show in Michigan, where she designated her performance as the “grand finale,” and she brought both her experience and ego to bear in planning the Hatteras talent show.
There was trouble in paradise as competing visions emerged about how to manage the talent show.
The show did go on, though, and a synergy of different talents was produced.
By this time, the adults had resolved that no amount of rain was going to trap us in the beach house for two straight days.
This spring, a new island had formed off of the Cape Point of Hatteras Island near the town of Buxton. We decided to risk the weather to check out this new island, which, given the amount of rain, could very well be a temporary development.
The new island was near the lighthouse, which, conveniently, was where we could buy a permit to drive along the beach near Cape Point. Before going out to the point, in an effort to wear down the pent up energy of several of the children, Mark took them to the top of the Hatteras Lighthouse, climbing its 268 steps.
Our initial plan for reaching the new island, accessible only by offroading in a vehicle with four wheel drive, was to take two cars to the island, which meant we would need two passes. When the credit card scanner went down at the station selling the passes, we went to Plan B – using one pass and shuttling everyone down in Dad’s Jeep.
Finally, we made it to the island, which had been named by a young child “Shelly Island,” once again illustrating an iron law of nature: children suck at naming things. McKenna has demonstrated this law on a regular basis, naming stuffed animals things like “Beary the Bear,” “Ducky the Duck,” and “Froggy the Frog.” Even by the time kids reach high school, many children have not outgrown this tendency, which is how our state-title contending varsity girls basketball team ended up naming one of our plays “Sploosh.”
The new island has developed rapidly over the last few months. In May, the channel separating the new island from Hatteras Island was about 50 yards, and authorities strongly recommended crossing to the island using something like a kayak. Now, at low tide, the channel was ankle to knee deep.
I will have to admit in defense of the child who named the island that Shelly Island was, in fact, filled with shells.
The island was crowded that day. We ran into the Travers, who live 20 minutes away back home but who we somehow only see in Hatteras.
By Thursday, as the video below shows, hanging out with Scott had either taught Kyle how to swing his head around without nailing tables or had totally corrupted him. Possibly both.
In the morning, a second attempt to put on a talent show only produced this.
Thankfully, the forecast on Thursday called for only a 20% chance of rain, and the storms seemed to have subsided by around noon.
Now that the weather was good, the kids could let loose and do all of the beachy things they wanted.
Our last day down at the beach was finally sunny. Mostly. This gave Scott a chance to break out his best beach shirt.
On the last evening, we packed up to leave the next day and then took a walk on the beach.