Saturday, July 14, 2012

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend

If you’re old enough to remember that song line, you’re about my age.  It comes from the theme song to a TV show from the late 60s called The Courtship of Eddie’s Father starring Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz.  (When I looked it up, I was surprised to find the song was done by Harry Nilsson who had a bunch of other great songs including Everybody’s Talking, one of my all-time favorites.  Something about the line “Going where the weather suits my clothes” always hooked me.)
Bill Bixby, Brandon Cruz, Myuoshi Umeki
The Courtship of Eddie's Father 1969

Anyway, when I started to write this post the song came into my head because that’s how I want to begin this entry.

First, we all went to the beach….

Last week MB and I traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina again but this time we went with friends instead of family.  We had been invited by a friend of ours to spend the week with four other couples in a large beach house in Corolla.  Now, I’ve known all the guys for a long time; we’ve all worked together at some point, play poker together pretty regularly, and genuinely enjoy hanging out.  Our wives, despite having met before a time or two, hadn’t spent any time together.  When the Ringleader (he usually holds the poker games at his house and has rented the beach house with his family for a few years) sent out the invitations, all of us had basically the same thought, “My wife won’t want to do this.”

Showing how well we all know our wives, they all immediately said, “Yes!”  It was a great source of humor the first night we arrived and helped to set the stage for an incredibly enjoyable week.  We ended the week as much closer friends than when we arrived – I’d call that a successful vacation.


One of the friends on the trip was Clyde.  (I can’t give him a nickname.  He’s just Clyde.)  He and I have been best friends for a long time.  In fact, we realized during the week that we’d known each other the longest of anyone, a total of twenty five years.  (After posting a picture of the two of us on Facebook with the caption “25 years of bad jokes and lame golf swings” someone congratulated us on our Golden Broniversary!  How precious.)

Why are we best friends?  Well, we’re about the same age; he’s about a year older than me.  We both like to play golf and have played together many times – usually when it’s too hot, or too cold, or raining but occasionally when it’s perfect.  (Clyde’s a better golfer than I am these days.)  We both like music although our tastes are not the same.  He’s far more cutting edge than I am but we both like the classic rockers, too.  We both like comedy, comedians, and have a pretty good sense of humor ourselves.  Clyde is the funniest person, with the fastest wit, of anybody I’ve ever known.  (We were driving in a car outside of Allentown PA. Alongside the highway was one of those oddly shaped buildings holding chemicals to be put on the road in snow storms.  Clyde looks over at it and says, “I see the first half of the Madonna museum is finished.”  For those of you who weren’t around in the 80s, see the pictures.) We can crack each other up, sometimes with just a look or a word from the past, and that’s kind of rare.
See the mounds in the background?  Yep.

He’s a terrific musician (professional for a while) with a great soul for playing the keyboards, the harmonica, and singing.  I’m a barely adequate guitar player who grew up singing every song so, I think I can sing.  (Clyde’s description about the singing and amazingly accurate.)  We’ve had some jam sessions that were awesome.  And hysterical.

We’re both parents although my kids are slightly older than his.  (My youngest is a junior in college, his oldest just is a sophomore.)  I think we’re both good fathers and have done a good job at raising kids that take responsibility for their actions, expect to work for what they receive, and do a good job because it’s just what one does.  

Both of our oldest are boys and I feel pretty good about how those two are going to treat the world around them and about the mark they’re both going to leave.  I think all of our kids are something special, frankly, and I can’t wait to see what kind of adults they turn out to be.

We’re worked together, played together, eaten together, gotten drunk together, been stoned together, laughed and cried together.  We can go for months without seeing each other, sometimes without speaking to each other due to travel, and when we reconnect, the conversation begins again as if it never ended.  We’ve learned from each other and taught each other. But why are we friends?

Well, I don’t ever recall a cross word coming between us.  So I guess one of the things that make our friendship work is that we don’t judge each other.  We just have always accepted each other for what we are.  That allows me to be the real person that I am and that freedom is something I really treasure.  (MB provides me with the same thing and since she’s around me all the time she gets the award for most patience.  In addition to being my bride, she’s also my best friend.)

I have his back.  I think he knows that if there’s anything he, or his family, needs that I’m going to be right there.  I know the same thing about him.

I can’t come up with anything else about our friendship so I’ll just say this.  I’m glad he’s been a part of my life for a quarter century.  Thanks Clyde!

Meanwhile, back at the OBX…..

Back in May, MB and I spent a week in Kill Devil Hills.  This time, we went to Corolla which is in the same general area but not so much.  When you come across the bridge to get to the Outer Banks, you come to a traffic light.  If you make a right, you’re going to head south to get to Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Hatteras, etc.  This is all the southern end of the barrier islands. 

If you turn left at that light, you go north to Duck, and Corolla.  This is the northern end of the barrier islands.  If you go far enough, even driving on the beach, you’ll eventually wind up in Virginia again.

We went about twelve miles north of the traffic light and stayed in Corolla, a lovely little town in Currituck County.  The house we stayed in, and there are thousands around here, was called Quality Time.  (Hmmm….that’s another song title.  Bankie Banks, I believe.)  It was a six bedroom house with a pool, great kitchen, a home theater room, and only a short walk to the beach.

The weather was beach like, if your beach happens to be on the surface of the sun.  The temperature was in the upper 90s all week with humidity that made you think you were going to grow gills.  There was the occasional breeze but it was seriously hot.  I couldn't wipe the sweat off me as fast as my head was  producing it.

I took my road bike with me, again, as I wanted to keep my mileage up.  (I got in 177 miles for the week.)  I don’t get many mid-week chances to ride and the luxury of riding every day was exciting.  I road five days straight, in the early morning before the temperature got too stupid.  

One thing I did encounter was a bunch of flat tires.  Having not had one for over a thousand miles, it's rather surprising when you finally do get one.  I had two at the beach and another when I got home; the good side is I'm getting really fast as repairing them on the road.  I switched out a new inner tube on the rear, pumped it back up to pressure, and re-installed the wheel in less than five minutes.  That's with a little frame pump not one of those CO2, instant inflation, deals.  (Although if this trend continues, that may be my next bike accessory purchase!)

In addition, I was interested to see the difference in riding during the height of beach season versus pre-season.  I also wondered about the differences in riding on the northern island area versus the southern.

Northern versus Southern

As I said, the section we were staying in is called Corolla.  There is one road, and only one road, that you can take to reach it.  It’s NC Route 12 and it’s a two lane stretch of blacktop that winds back and forth along the spine of this barrier island with houses on either side.  When the island shrinks, you suddenly find yourself riding next to the beach on the ocean side or right next to the water on the sound side.  That part is actually kind of cool!

The road is in excellent shape and has a reasonable shoulder that makes riding enjoyable and safe.  Oh sure, the occasional car or truck would get a little too close for comfort but, that was the exception.  (I did notice that vehicles with Pennsylvania plates consistently gave me little room when passing, New York was a close second.)   I did have one moron scream at me when passing because I was blocking traffic; I was doing about 22 mph in a 25 zone so I wasn't blocking that much.  It was a van with graphics on the side, too.  Blind Man and Son, remodeling company, was the name.  Why would you yell at people who might be customers?  Are you just a dumb ass, or what?

Since the entire area is on the shore, hills are non-existent.  According to my riding software, my largest climb was thirty one feet during a forty mile ride.  That’s very pleasant!

The only real drawback to riding up in the northern section of OBX is having to ride through the town of Duck.  There is a stretch of about a mile where the speed limit is 25 mph, both sides of the road have a “bike lane” and there are all kinds of shops and restaurants to peruse.  One would think this would be cycling heaven except that there are many walkers in this area, many “big tire” cyclists too, and no one is following the rules of the road. 

People walked both with and against the traffic in the “bike lane.”  People riding the beach cruisers rode them with and against the traffic in the “bike lane.”  As a result, riding a road bike through town was a bit dicey.  If I rode out in the vehicle lanes, I was told to move to the “bike lane.”  If I rode in that, I was dodging walkers and beach cruiser cyclists who never saw me coming and, frequently, were wearing headphones and couldn’t hear a warning.  I lost count of the number of times that I called out “passing on your left” only to have the walker turn left into my line.  I managed to avoid hitting all of them but it was close, several times.

After a few games of “dodge ‘em”, I changed my technique and just moved out into traffic and sprinted through this part of town as quickly as I could, matching my speed to the vehicles which was remarkably easy.  Then, I moved into the shoulder area and went back to my normal cruising speed as the speed limit increased to 35 and then 45 mph.  This served to piss off the fewest number of people and make for a good workout for me, too.

Three days I rode south past the split and into the Kill Devil Hills area.  This gave me a chance to compare traffic and conditions on a real time basis.  I can tell you that the southern section is far more conducive to cyclists.  There is more room, less traffic, and more frequent places to stop if you need supplies like water, or food, or energy drink.  The view is not quite as grand down south but that is the only drawback.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where you stay.  If you ride far enough, you can get to either area and enjoy the view or the lack of traffic whichever you want.

Pre-season versus In-season

No contest on this one.  If you’re a cyclist and love the beach, you should come here as late in the pre-season as you can.  Our first trip was the week before Memorial Day and it was perfect!  The traffic was much thinner, the temperature was cooler and drier, and the beach was still very nice although a little cool for swimming.
I haven’t been to OBX in the fall to cycle but my guess is it’s very much like the pre-season experience.  I do know that the water is warmer in the fall than the spring (at least that’s what MB tells me as I don’t swim) so if you’re a real beach-goer this may be the best option.  The one caveat is that it’s still hurricane season until the end of October and the outer banks has been racked by bad storms over the years.  Plan accordingly.

When it's all said and done, this is a great spot for relaxing, enjoying the beach, riding any kind of bike, and enjoying some Quality Time with friends!