OBX Marathon Weekend

IMG_3995

Thoughts of last year’s OBX Marathon and Half Marathon sent me to my Shutterfly book of photographs and text that I put together afterwards. The above picture was taken at Jockey Ridge, the largest sand dune on the east coast, and is on the cover of the book. I’m lifting the words below from the last page, hoping to get my family and friends energized and motivated for next year.

What an awesome day. I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe November 11, the day of the OBX Half Marathon.

From the moment I heard “God Bless America” at the start until I watched my brother Mike and his wife Lisa dance in Big Als’s afterwards, sights and experiences too many to describe took place. A second cousin, Emily, also participated in the event. Wait, no, she did more than participate. She ran like the wind. John David, my nephew managed to whiz by her at some point, and my brothers weren’t too far behind. Me? I walked along like an automaton, pausing long enough to take some pictures.

Along the way, I saw some interesting sights. There were women of all ages wearing tutus and colorful skirts, and I thought, “Maybe next near for the skirt, not the tutu.” As I reached the top of the bridge leaving Nag’s Head, I passed an older man in a wheelchair giving it all he had. Loved his indomitable spirit! I also saw and appreciated hundreds of people along the route who gave water, Gatorade, and plain old encouragement.

In Manteo, we reconvened for some photo ops, including one inside of a ship in the harbor. We then headed to Big Al’s for lunch, something that’s become a tradition. The sweet potato fires and the ambience keep bringing us back. Mike and Lisa danced on the dance floor, but Chris, Becky, and I confined our dancing to table dancing…or as Chris called it, “Shoulder dancing.” We also sang along to a couple of songs on the juke box before going to back to Big Bird, the house we had rented, for some R & R. Later, four of us walked down to Jennette’s Pier before going to see Argo.

Monday morning we all arose early to have breakfast at The Dunes before parting company, a delicious way to say farewell.

Put November 9, 2014 on your calendars, Y’all (appropriate for a Southerner to say). It’d be great to have more family and friends there next year.

Outer Banks Experience

What an awesome day. I know that awesome is overused, but honestly, I can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe this November day. My brothers, one of my nephews, and I participated in the OBX half marathon this morning, and from the moment I heard “God Bless America” at the start until I watched my brother Mike and his wife Lisa dance in Big Al’s afterwards, sights and experiences too many to describe took place.

Oh, and one of my second cousins, Emily, also participated in the event. Wait, no, she did more than participate. She ran like the wind. John David, my nephew whizzed by her at some point, and my brothers weren’t too far behind them. Me? I walked along like an automaton, pausing long enough to take some pictures. Of course, I was the last one of my group to cross the finish, but my age (yes, I’ll admit it) and my knees prohibited a faster journey from Nags Head to Manteo. I’m still happy to be able to go the distance without undue stress or strain.

Along the way, I saw some interesting (nice all purpose word) sights. There were women of all ages wearing tutus and colorful skirts, and I thought, “Hmmm, maybe next year for the skirt, not the tutu.” As I reached the top of the bridge leaving Nag’s Head, I passed an older man in a wheelchair giving it all he had. “Yay! Love his indomitable spirit,” I thought. I saw water, water everywhere and took lots of pictures of it. I also saw and appreciated hundreds of people along the way who gave water, Gatorade, and plain old encouragement. The folks who lived in the super nice neighborhoods that we went through came out in full force to cheer us on.

I heard lots of cool things too. For instance, part of the way I listened to Amelia Earhart’s story on my iPhone and learned that she had been tomboy as a child. Walking/jogging for 13.1 miles requires something a little peppier than a book, however, so I also listened to Adele, the Beatles, and various other artists. I also listened to a few hymns, and I found it a bit humorous that Josh Groban’s “The Prayer” was playing when I began that daunting ascent of the bridge. While I don’t really think of that as a hymn, it was quite appropriate for the situation. I also heard lots of snippets of conversation, and among other things, learned about how painful having one’s ACL repaired can be.

But the absolute best part of an experience like today’s was sharing it with other people. I mean, really, who would enjoy moving along for 13.1 miles all by herself just for the heck of it? The other people, all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and levels of fitness are what added to my “moving” pleasure. Some people were so fast! In fact, when I was on the bridge at about mile 10, the first of the marathoners sped by me. Others were barely putting one foot in front of the other, especially towards the end. But they did. They just kept on keeping on. Some were basically alone like yours truly, and others walked, jogged, and ran with partners.

After I crossed the finish line in Manteo, all eight of us reconvened for some photo ops. Last year our favorite shot was beside a ship with some flags, one American and one pirate. This year, the couple had taken the flags down and were about to move out of the harbor when someone mentioned how much we enjoyed that location and background last year. Generous and gracious, they replaced the flags and invited us to get into the boat for the picture. How nice is that?

After taking several dozen photographs, we went to Big Al’s for lunch. That’s become a tradition. Love those sweet potato fries and the music. Mike and Lisa danced (right on the dance floor), but Chris, Becky, and I confined our dancing to table dancing…or as Chris calls it, “shoulder dancing.” We also sang to a couple of songs on the juke box before going back to Big Bird to rest for a while before walking on the beach and visiting Jeanette’s Pier. What we especially enjoyed was seeing people fishing on the beach and on the pier. I’d describe their attire (including their knee boots and hip boots) and intense concentration, but I’m too tired.

Just wanted to get something up for my brother Mike who asked at several points during the day, “Are you going to blog about this?”

More Path Crossing

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about seizing the special moments in life with the realization that you “may never walk this way together again.” A couple of things have reemphasized the truth of that statement, one being a wonderful conversation with my friend June last night and the other this picture hanging on the wall of one of our bathrooms. It’s a half bath right off the kitchen, and I find myself darting in and out of there often for scissors, cotton balls, or quick mirror checks

This photograph ALWAYS makes me smile when I walk into the caramel colored little bath. It was taken on a pier in Manteo, NC on November 13, 2011. My brothers, Mike and David, and I had just completed a half-marathon and were happy to be finished! The two young women, Elizabeth and Sarah Beth, had participated in an 8K the day before, and the handsome young man is my nephew Chris. He had arrived just that morning to cheer us on and was the first family member I saw as I neared the end. With a charming smile, he said, “Looking good, Aunt Jayne! The others are right around the corner.” The two other women in the photograph are my sisters-in-law, Lisa and Becky, our biggest supporters and the ones who kept all of us straight. That morning they had arisen at the crack of dawn to take us to the race start a couple of miles away.

Introductions and background complete, there are dozens of things that looking at this picture brings to mind. When I see it, I remember so many of the things we shared and did together in the Outer Banks that weekend. While we all have our individual memories, we have our shared ones too. In no certain order, here are some of mine:

  • Getting in a little fender bender on the way back from the Expo that first night. My brother David was driving, and when the light changed to green, he inched forward. Unfortunately, the car in front of us didn’t move, and he gently bumped it. Being honest and upright and all that other good stuff, we pulled over to a parking lot and called the police. There were no nicks or scratches on either car, and yet the woman driving the other car claimed that the incident had shattered the glass in her back of their small station wagon. Mysteriously, there was no sign of glass anywhere…not even in the window! Although the police report said there was no sign of damage, the couple filed a claim. David and Elizabeth and I were in the car at the time, and we all decided that it WOULD NOT spoil our weekend. There are fraudulent people everywhere, and we just happened upon two of them.
  • The delicious meal that Becky prepared on Friday night. Six months later, I can still see and taste the salad that she prepared for us. And the spaghetti was delicious too! During the scrumptious meal, we talked and laughed around the table, and afterwards we adjourned to the living room for more conviviality (Mike will love that I used that word).
  • The shell covered horse statue at the school where Elizabeth and Sarah Beth began and ended the 8K.
  • Our excitement as the girls crossed the finish line and had their picture made with a pirate.
  • Lunch at Big Al’s. Loved the food and atmosphere.
  • The afternoon spent shopping, browsing, and sightseeing in Manteo.
  • Trips down to the beach to collect shells and marvel at the majesty of the ocean.
  • Standing in her bedroom while Becky showed me her collection of shells.
  • The lights on the pier seen from the strand.
  • Thinking of parents and feeling their influence on us. Seeing their DNA reflected in my brothers, daughter, niece, and nephew.
  • Missing my sis and wishing she could be with us.
  • David preparing a small pre-race breakfast on marathon morning.
  • The sights and sounds along the marathon route, including a crazy looking lady cheering us along. She was really a man dressed like a woman.
  • Finishing the half marathon and seeing Elizabeth at the finish.
  • Aching feet. In fact, in the picture my shoes are unlaced, and I’m standing on the backs of them. I remembered that when I looked at the picture and wondered why my legs looked so misshapen.
  • Watching people get beer from a beer truck. Kind of funny.
  • Chowing down on a free barbecue sandwich.
  • Laughing and chatting with my family as we got caught up in the post-race excitement around us.
  • Stopping for the brief shining moment (above) on the pier before leaving Manteo. We loved the flags, especially the American one that was blowing so beautifully in the breeze that day.
  • Topping the weekend off with lunch at Big Al’s.
  • Packing up and bidding everyone farewell.
  • Driving/riding down that long, long, long road back to civilization and taking in the coastal, marshy scenes.

Since that day, there have been changes both large and small. Nothing ever stays the same, right? I began a grandmother again with the birth of Ethan Paul Crolley on March 4, and Chris graduated from law school on May 6. It’s nice having a new baby and a new lawyer in the family!

I’m so glad the eight of us were together for these moments in time. I can’t speak for the younger set, but I’m pretty sure that my brothers and their wives and I will be on that pier for yet another photograph this November. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even convince my husband that it’s worth the seven hour drive.

Untied Shoes and Barbeque Sandwiches

It’s time to write  something about Sunday’s OBX half marathon. As I sit here thinking about it this afternoon, I keep thinking of the lessons inherent in such an event. Is that the school teacher part of me? Can’t I ever just enjoy something without trying to turn it into a lesson? Apparently not!

Lisa, one of my sisters-in-law, drove us to the race start. She’s a trooper, a stalwart supporter, and had gotten up and dressed to make sure that we arrived before the 7:00 a.m. gun sounded. Once we got out of the car and sauntered (yep, we were taking it easy then) to the start, we were inundated with the noises that accompany pre-race excitement. And the music. Wow! It was loud and energizing. Plus, there was the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on our right. What a feast for the senses!

Almost immediately, the three of us separated, and I went to the back of the pack with the other slow folks (walkers).Interestingly, it was called “F.” While that didn’t make me too happy, I came up with lesson #1. It’s crazy to start in a category for which you are unprepared. You’ll soon find yourself out of your league and floundering as you realize that you’re being passed by those with more experience.

That brings me to lesson #2. It’s closely aligned with the first one and has to do with preparation. A person who doesn’t put in the time and miles is not going to make it. Sure, he or she might finish the course but will suffer consequences of serious soreness, all over fatigue, strained muscles, and so forth. Preparation is key in most life events.

The gun sounded for us, and people took off running. Huh? I thought we were supposed to be walkers in Category F! I jogged along beside them, letting the crowd surge push me forward. That was another important lesson, #3. Sometimes, for better or worse, the crowd mentality can get a person stoked and involved. I slowed down after about a mile, however, because I knew I’d be in trouble otherwise.

After a few miles on the highway, we branched off into a nice neighborhood, and I took a few pictures. Soon I saw a child wrapped up in a sleeping bag in a driveway. He had a pot over his face and head, and his father reminded him that he was supposed to be making noise with it. All along the route, people were ringing cow bells, playing music, shouting encouragement, and blowing horns.  I could hear all this despite the fact that I was listening to Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life on my iPhone. It was awesome to walk/jog in this beautiful setting and listen to a great Southern author read his book about the effect that reading had on his life.

We rounded a curve, and there I saw a person dressed like an old lady who kept running out in the street yelling at people. I think she was shouting good stuff, but I’m not sure. It was a little bizarre. I also saw some water in the bay and some beautiful homes. Breathtaking. Lesson # 4 There are always some unexpected treats along the way of a journey. It might be something like the bubble gum that a woman was offering the walkers and runners or it might be some of the beauties of nature.

We walked and jogged on the highway some more and then through another neighborhood. I’d like to say, “THANKS!” to all of the people who came out of their homes to cheer us on that morning. It’s amazing how much difference encouragement and an occasional, “You can do it!” can make. Oh, and the people providing water and Gatorade were wonderful too. That was some of the coldest, most refreshing water that I’ve ever tasted. Some tables offered power gel, but I relied on my power bar for energy bursts. Lesson # 5. People need people.

Soon I found myself looking at the bridge signaling that I was about to leave Nag’s Head and enter Manteo. One of my brothers had told me that the bridge was the ten mile mark so I was feeling encouraged. Hmmm. Did he say that the beginning of the bridge marked ten miles or was it the end? This was a major question because that bridge was daunting! Long, steep, and noisy (because of the cars passing and the wind from the sound), I just had to know. There was no sign, however, so I just basically took off thinking, “I can do it…I can, I can, I can, I will, I will….”

People on all sides seemed to be struggling just as much as I was. Some were in even worse shape. Still, I trudged on, knowing that it was the only way to Manteo and the race finish. Lesson # 6. Crossing a bridge will take you from one destination to another, in “real life” and in a half marathon.

Bridge behind me, I turned right towards Manteo. I needed a potty break, and since I hadn’t heeded Lisa’s warning about the perils of wearing new shoes on race day, my feet were hurting. I was tired and running out of “juice.” Then Elizabeth called asking for my location and told me that my brother Dave and his son Chris were stationed along the way looking for me. That was something to look forward to.  I soon spotted them, sights for sore eyes, and a signal that I was within a half mile of the finish.

Lesson #7. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. By this time, my left shoe had come untied, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to cross that line!! I rounded the corner of the last leg and spotted Becky, my other sister-in-law, smiling and waving me on. Just before crossing the finish, I saw the rest of my support group: Elizabeth, Sarah Beth, Lisa, and Mike. Someone put a medal around my neck, and then off I went in search of my free barbeque sandwich.

The eight of us walked around gawking at the sights and taking pictures. It had been an arduous trek, but the sights, sounds, and feelings afterwards made it worthwhile. Will I do it again? No doubt about it! Lesson #8: Setting a difficult and then accomplishing it is sweet.

Lessons and Lavender Flowers

The grown-ups were sitting in Dunkin Donuts at the Outer Banks when I got the text from Elizabeth that she’d just passed the halfway mark of her first 8K. Since she was walking, and her cousin Sarah Beth was jogging, I knew that SB would soon be nearing the finish line.

“Let’s go Y’all,” I said, wrapping my pumpkin muffin and heading for the door. “If Lib’s halfway through, then Sarah Beth is probably getting close to the finish line, and we don’t want to miss that!.” 

We hustled to the car and rushed back to the school where the 8K had begun 30 minutes prior. Jumping out of my Highlander, we scattered in different directions: David to the race course to spot his nieces along the route, Becky and I to the inside gate of the track, and Mike and Lisa to the finish line to see Sarah Beth cross it.

I loved waiting there with Becky. We were both charged with the happy anticipation of seeing the girls come into view, feelings intensified by the gorgeous day. With temps in the 60’s, a gentle breeze, the sunshine on our arms and faces, we couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day. Then too, there was music, laughter, squeals from children, and the smell of popcorn wafting across the center of the track.

My phone rang. It was David. “Elizabeth sighted,” he said in his best military officer tone. Then he added, “She’s looking good. Strong pace.”

A few minutes later, Becky and I spotted her in the distance, and I couldn’t help but feel a mother’s pride. She had done it! She had stayed the course and completed what she had set out to do. As Elizabeth came through the open gate and onto the track, she asked me to join her in walking towards the finish line. LOVED doing that!

Earlier that morning, I had reminded both girls of one of my favorite terms in psychology, self-efficacy. Loosely defined as one’s ability to make something happen despite challenges and difficulties, I told them that self-efficacy was actually more important than ability. There are plenty of folks out there of average intellect and ability who believe in themselves and their goals so much that they work like crazy to achieve them. The moment someone decides, “I can’t,” she’s right.

As Elizabeth and I walked that last lap together, I asked, “So, was there ever a moment that you let doubt creep in? Did you ever find yourself wondering if you could do it or not?”

“No Ma’am. I knew I could do it. A couple of times, I just thought, ‘I don’t really want to.’”

I had to chuckle a little. Isn’t that often the case? We know we can. We just don’t want to. We’re tired or stressed or bored. We’d rather be stretched out in a hammock somewhere. We’d rather be doing anything than what we’re doing. And yet, there are times when quitting is not an option. We all have to do things that we don’t want to do whether it’s performing our jobs, getting up with a crying baby, paying bills, doing our homework, or completing an 8K.

At the finish line, we saw Sarah Beth with her parents. Happy and sad at the same time, she had achieved a personal best and yet there had been no one there to witness it. Since no one knew what a little speedster she had become, we misjudged her estimated time of completion. We all hated that, and I hope that she doesn’t let our poor judgment detract from her accomplishment.

Although they don’t know it, Elizabeth and Sarah Beth provided examples of some important life lessons:  belief in oneself, going the distance, and doing what’s required whether there’s anyone there to take note of it or not. Sometimes those private, inner victories can be sweet.

And here’s another lesson from Elizabeth. Along the course, a little girl ran up to her and gave her a tiny lavender flower. It was one of those unexpected treats that made the journey a little more enjoyable. Lavender flowers are everywhere. We just have to look for them.

Outer Banks Part II

Mural in Manteo

IMG00558

IMG00560

IMG00561

IMG00565

After a tossing turning night of fitful sleeping, I was already awake when our alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. last Sunday morning. We quickly dressed and headed downstairs to grab a banana and juice on our way out of the hotel and onto to Kitty Hawk. Much to our surprise and pleasure, the hotel management had prepared bagged breakfasts for all race participants. It’s those little things that mean a lot to customers, and we both heartily recommend the Hampton Inn in Corolla, NC for anyone visiting the area.

We rode through the predawn darkness down a long, narrow, two-lane road surrounded by some sort of dense vegetation. It was spooky but nice, especially when coupled with the anticipation of what was ahead. By the time we left the two-lane road for the four lane one leading into the more populated areas of Kitty Hawk and Nag’s Head, the traffic was already becoming quite congested. DH dropped me off at the race start on Memorial Drive and headed out to meet our sister-in-law Becky. 

The pre-race moments are always awesome. It’s something I can’t explain. Listening to the banter around me, I love picking up snippets of conversation. There’s always a feeling of tense excitement—love it. I walked over to look at the beach and was delighted to see so many photo shoots going on. Fun. After that, I stretched a little and sort of ambled about amongst the crowd. To no avail, I looked for my brother and his son. Never did spot them, probably because they were in what was dubbed the first “corral,” and I was in the last. Then there’s the fact that there were 3500 people mingled there.

Time passed, and I heard the strains of the National Anthem over a loud speaker. The crowd grew hushed, and everyone turned to face a small flag flying from a beach house. It was an emotional moment, and I felt so thankful to be there with my “fellow Americans” to participate in a event that would take place at the absolute edge of our continent.

The gun fired three times before the slow pokes like me in the third corral were allowed to take off. I don’t have time or energy to write about all my thoughts, observations, or impressions of the morning. Suffice it to say that they were all good. Sure I was tired. Sure I thought I’d NEVER get over that darned bridge crossing over to Manteo. But still, it was memorable, every single mile.

Okay, some quick recollections include:

  • The way the entire community came out to support us with water, Gatorade, cheers, and enthusiasm. Even within the neighborhoods, people stood in their yards, some dressed in costumes. The most original group included some people dressed in black and white “chain gang” outfits holding signs warning that dropouts would be put in the stockade or forced to walk the gangplank. I needed a good laugh about that time.  In one driveway, I saw a little boy with a parrot next to him. Cool.
  • The awesome splendor of the beautiful day. Sunny but not hot. Cool but not cold. Breezy but not overly so. And everywhere I looked, it was blue blue blue blue blue. It was one of those mornings that makes you think, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.”
  • The variety of people I passed and who passed me.  Young, old, in-between, skinny, chubby…you name it, they were there. One man with whom I paced myself was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Growing old is inevitable; growing up is optional.” Nice motto.
  • The little signs along the way that kept you moving along to see what was next.  One of my favorites was, “What do you call a fat chimpanzee?” 100 yards later, there was the answer: “A chunky monkey.
  • The well-marked route and the numerous water stops.
  • The local hospital and its clean restroom facilities.
  • Listening to my iPod. A week later, I’m remembering Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love” as I finally came out of the last neighborhood before getting to the bridge.
  • Coming into the last stretch listening to “Sweet Inspiration” when my brother David came sidling up to finish part of the last leg with me.
  • FINISHING at last and getting two bottles of water and a peanut butter sandwich. There were bagels, bananas, apples, and oranges too.

After soaking up the atmosphere and taking some pictures, we made our way back to the car. Problem. We couldn’t leave. The car was parked right near the finish which was good, and yet it faced the road where the walkers and runners were still coming in. Becky, John, and I sat in the car while David turned lemons into lemonade by cheering the finishers who passed in front of us. Otis went over to talk to the policeman about helping us get out when there was a gap in the finishers. I got out of the car to take some more pictures of the finish line and of the lovely town of Manteo.

FREE AT LAST, we freshened up and dined together before heading in separate directions. They had an hour and a half drive in front of them. We, on the other hand, had around seven. It was a long, long way home, and yet I have to admit that parts of the trip were pretty memorable. Like when he asked me to sing “Amazing Grace,” and then after two verses asked if we could listen to tunes on my iPod. That’s when the fun really began because we sang to most of the songs, and man did we belt it out!

Tuckered out, we arrived in good old Camden around 10:00 p.m., and I think a good time was had by all. Will we go back? I don’t know about the “we” part, but I will. It’s too beautiful of an area and too grand of an event not too. Maybe you can join me next year. At least think about it.

Outer Banks Arrival

This time last week, DH and I were already on the way to the Outer Banks for the OBX Marathon and Half Marathon. Although I LOVED every moment of the weekend, I can truthfully say that I’m content to stay right around town this weekend. Getting to and from the destination was a bit of a marathon adventure in and of itself. How many times have you been in a car for 15 hours??? As much as we enjoy each other’s company, after a while we felt a little cuckoo.

But I digress. The purpose of this blog post is to share a few highlights of the trip and spotlight some of the cool attractions of the Outer Banks area. Never having been there, I was like a kid in a candy store. For someone like me who loves a beach no matter where it is, I was in heaven. No matter where we were, there was water and sand. At some points, I could see it on both sides of us. Divine.

After a few stops, one for the best boiled peanuts we’ve ever tasted, we finally arrived in Nag’s Head around 3:00, and after many consultations with Jill on our GPS, we located the EXPO. Talk about high energy! Wow, I loved the atmosphere of the place. Everywhere you looked, there were locals dressed like pirates and other seafaring folks, and everyone seemed to be friendly and in a good mood. We picked up the race packets for me, my brother, and my nephew, and then we did a little shopping. My sweet husband bought me a race poster, and he convinced me to get a long sleeved shirt “in case” the weather changed. Good thing he’s so persuasive because what I bought was perfect for Sunday’s event.

Our room was in Corolla, a little town/village/hamlet just slightly north of Duck, NC. Can you believe there’s a town called Duck? There is…and it has a lot of charm too. One day I hope to return and shop in some of those quaint little shops and eat in one of the restaurants. On the way to Duck and Corolla, we passed through Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, and I could see the Wright Brothers Memorial and also the biggest sand dune on the east coast. It was awesome to see. Next time I’m going to get out and walk on it. Locals say that there’s a miniature golf course buried beneath it.  All along our way north, I enjoyed looking at the storefronts and local attractions. While they were the same as probably any other tourist area (there was even a Wings), they didn’t seem so garish and “in your face.”

It was dark when we arrived at the Hampton Inn in Corolla, one of the nicest places where I’ve ever stayed. From the shell exhibit in the lobby to the soft towels in the bathroom, everything was Nice with a capital N. A definite plus was having WiFi. We freshened up and went out for a bite to eat. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but that’s a good thing because I couldn’t recommend it, and I don’t want to berate it. Let’s just say it was overpriced and barely adequate.

On Saturday morning after a scrumptious breakfast in the Hampton Inn dining area, I went for a walk on the beach. Awesome. It was sooooo beautiful, and I felt so exuberant and upbeat that I soon lost track of time. I was so into the exhilarating beauty and experience of it all that I walked 20 minutes or more beyond where I knew I was supposed to stop. Let me explain. The beaches there have HIGH sand dunes, and even if you walked up the steps of the accesses to get your bearings, all you’d see is beach house after beach house. They all looked alike. About this time, my husband called to check on me, and when I confessed that I didn’t know where I was or how far away, he gave me some great directions. “Walk towards the sun,” he said. Good advice anytime, but especially that morning.

After my walk and shell collecting, we headed to Nag’s Head where we met my brother David and his family.  The five of us spent the rest of the day getting caught up and taking in the sights. We went to Manteo to see where the race would end the next morning, and we ended up visiting a church bazaar where Becky, my sister-in-law, bought a denim vest for only $2.  We both love sweet deals like that. We decided to dine at Big Al’s, and that was a wise decision. The atmosphere was upbeat, and the food was fantastic. Plus, there were other marathon participants in there, and it’s always fun to exchange “war stories.”

Fortified by our French fries and sandwiches, we strolled through the quaint waterside shops of Manteo. I fell in love with that little community and hope to visit again someday.  We met some colorful characters, including a dog who was “working” in one of the shops. I’ve been on a sea glass search for the last couple of months, and Becky and I found an artist who collected it and made jewelry from it.  She also explained why it’s so hard to find these days. People use more plastic and other disposable materials now, so there simply isn’t as much glass being thrown overboard into the ocean. Plus, there are more people (like yours truly) who are searching for it, thus making it more scarce.

Leaving Manteo, we headed for Nag’s Head to do some shopping at a Tanger Outlet. I got some Christmas bargains, and Becky and I enjoyed looking at the beautiful orange sunset over the water. Shopping and browsing complete, we shared light refreshments before separating for the evening.

This post has gone on much too long, and I’m not even to the BIG EVENT yet.  It’s so important and memorable that it deserves a post of its own.