The Legacy of the Sunday Drive

This morning my husband came to me and said “let’s go for a ride.” It is a bright, beautiful and clear Sunday morn in the brilliant Bitterroots of Western Montana. Still, in late May, you can see frost on the tender spring grass, a hint of nip in the air, but the sun rising in the cerulean blue sky holds the promise of an earth warming breeze.

As we packed up water, pups, and a few snacks, I was reminded of the days of long ago, when a Sunday wheeled adventure was the norm, not the exception. As a child, it was a family ritual to load the car on Sunday to take our “Sunday Drive.”

In New York, that drive took on different hues, depending on the season. In summer, it meant heading to Jones beach with a blanket, watching the sea and stopping to grab an orange Nehi and a Coney Island. In spring we’d head to Connecticut to visit my grandparents, who ran a cottage motel. In the fall, the Catskills were alive with autumn splendor.

And my favorite ride, in winter months, with ice skates and a broom packed in, was a trip to an iced pond – either nearby, or if we had time and funds for fuel, to Westchester county. My Dad would spend considerable time and energy brooming snow off the frozen surface to make way for a day of skating, followed by an afternoon of hot cocoa at a nearby coffee shop.

When we moved west, to the mile high city, I fondly recall visiting the Rockies for the golden glow of autumn aspens. Or my most cherished place to visit, Tiny Town. Tiny Town is now a park, with train ride and admission charged, having been rebuilt after a disasterous flood destroyed the town in 1969. But back in the 1959 Tiny Town was a hidden place of magic and wonder, a place to spur the imagination of the 6 year old I was back then. A complete pint-sized town created in the foothills just west of Denver, we’d ride through the streets admiring the intricately crafted homes and businesses, and I would imagine what fairies and elves inhabited the buildings.

Once we landed in San Diego, my mother’s favorite Sunday Drive was La Jolla. A new navy wife by then, she would take careful note of the stunning homes, jotting down her ideas, and snapping photos on her Kodak Instamatic for future reference.

When the folks finally settled into the desert of eastern California to forge their forever home, the Sunday Drive became less frequent, with more babies and bills, swim meets and school projects, life and responsibilities taking its place.

Years later, when I moved home to help Mom when she fell ill, she’d look at me on Sundays and say “let’s take a drive.” Into her Buick we’d go, driving the streets of her desert town, looking for new housing developments, “scary” roads, stranges structures, and trying to get lost and found again. A faded memory revived, and looking at the glean in Mom’s eye, a memory that perhaps she missed as much as I did.

As we drive through the ‘Roots this fine Sunday morn, watching the river run, water rushing down sides of mountains and hillsides, feeling the sun on my face, crisp scent of pines and firs, I can’t help but feel that this lock down has taught us something important. It’s not the grand gestures that make life special. It’s the little, inconsequential things that, once you look back on them, you remember how grand they truly are.

So turn off the TV, stop streaming, posting and tweeting, and take a Sunday drive. Be free and make memories. Revive the Sunday Drive.

Life’s a Beach

The rain has settled in on the great Pacific Northwest. I’m looking out my office-slash-bedroom window and the drizzle of autumn has replaced the “bluest skies you’ve ever seen” that is summer in Washington State.

And all of a sudden I’m assaulted with those beach memes … and I’m sure you’ve seen them all …

 

Basically – I hate the beach. There. I’ve said it. Nobody I know would ever admit to it, but I have the sneaking suspicion that there are more of us out there.

When I was just a baby and not even walking yet, my mother took me to Jones Beach – our preferred spot on New York shores. She tells me that she put me on the sand and I immediately crawled towards the water whilst my mother ran to save me from the massive waves that often crest in the Atlantic – which, of course, is never unless you are running towards an 8 month old baby and everything is a threat.

And I’ve been like that ever since.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the “look” of the beach. I love the thought of the beach. Kind of how I love the thought of sleeping outside under the stars. Sailing around the world. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Running a marathon. They all sound so romantic. But the reality is far grimmer. It’s the whole activity of “beaching” that I just can’t tolerate.

When I was in college in Southern California, I was a quick 30 minute drive to the ocean. I’d pack in with my dorm mates and head “to the beach.” Making sure you had no classes on Fridays was a necessity and if you were clever enough to work magic on your schedule, you were assured a three day weekend every single week. And that treasured Friday off was mostly reserved for the beach.

I’d sit on my towel with my girlfriends, all who had the required-at-the-time crocheted bikini, bouncing around, bored, sandy, and waiting for the first one to get up, run to the water and jump in. Nobody would ever make a move. As they once told me “we’ve never gotten our suits wet.” Wait – you go to the beach and don’t go into the water? And they looked at me in horror and said “you actually go IN the water?”  And there you have it. Not a beach person. Water, definitely. Beach, no.

For 14 years we lived on an island. And like all islands, it was covered on all sides by beach. I never laid out on the beach. Not once. Not once in 14 years. Don’t get me wrong. My surroundings were gorgeous and beaches are beautiful to look at …

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Yes, this was what I used to put myself through every single morning

But it is the “being on the beach”  that annoys me. It’s all that sand. I used to exercise by taking long walks on the beach, but in my tennis shoes. Barefoot? Gross. The sand underneath my toenails and clinging to my feet? Not happening. And you can NEVER get all of it off. You rinse one foot, which is great, then you have to put it down to rinse the other one, and the first foot gets sandy again. It’s a never ending story. So you are stuck with gritty feet and sand in your toes and you have to climb in your car and drive with that squeaky, grainy sand all the way home, and I’d have to practice out-of-body experience to stop myself from screaming on the whole drive.

Yeah. I never made mud pies as a child either. Dirt under my fingernails? Not in my wheelhouse.

When we lived on the island, for 10 of the years we lived on the beach. Directly on the sand. 20 steps to the water. I’d swim and snorkel a lot in the warm South Pacific seas. But it was a constant attack of beach. It got everywhere. It clung to your bathing suit, your shoes, your entire body. As much as I swept and showered and vacuumed there were still small particles between our bedsheets. For the entire decade I was uncomfortable in bed. Every night I’d sit at the side of the bed and brush the bottoms of my feet together, hoping upon hope that this one night would be a night of sparkling clean and sand-free sheets. And every night I could feel the grains of sand attaching themselves to my legs and ankles.

I also never could understand all the “beach people” who would sit on a lawn chair or repose on a towel “sunning” or “tanning” as if it were an activity in and of itself. And reading.

Do I love to read? Yes! But not on the beach. If I’m going to tuck into a great novel, I want to be settled into  a cushy armchair. I don’t want to have to stop and swat at things crawling on me. I don’t want to constantly dust the sand that’s getting on my person or sneaking into the binding of my book. I don’t want a sun glare on the pages. Or on my Kindle screen. I don’t want to lie on a lumpy patch of sand. Or a stiff lawn chair. I don’t want to scratch my head and get grit under my fingernails. I shudder at the thought.

My favorite time on the beach is winter. In the Pacific Northwest. Why? Because nobody expects you to baste yourself in oil and place yourself in nature’s rotisserie, turning every 15 minutes so you’re broiled on all sides. Or sit under an umbrella in a sunhat, and do nothing but plop. Or doze. Or, worst of all, have a picnic. On sand. So now it’s on your feet, your hands AND your food. Yum.

The beach in winter is a marvelous thing. You don’t take your shoes off. Nobody is around and if they are, they have a sense of purpose – clamming, oyster hunting, fishing. You wear coats and gloves and boots and all that outerwear comes off when you get into your nice heated car. It’s magical – a match made in heaven – a perfect blend of sand that stays where it should, foggy skies, mist on your face, air that is almost cold enough to hurt your nose, but not really, the scent of the sea AND – as an added bonus, we have the LONGEST BEACH on the west coast, and the longest driveable beach in the nation – right here in Washington.

 

So, when I see all the inevitable “Who wants to shut off their phones and head to the beach?”memes, I am tempted to reply “not me.” But then it’s like saying you don’t like John Wayne (he can’t act) or  bacon (it’s ok but really? On cupcakes? Or ice cream?) or the Walking Dead (zombies are stupid) or Titanic (omg barf) or cute kitty videos (not so much) or shoes (I don’t get the allure). It’s kind of like you become “that person.” The one who doesn’t like “normal stuff.” Un-American. Weird. Contrary.

And I am “that person.” I spend my day in men’s sweats. I talk to the TV when I’m alone. Or the dogs. Or the food processor if it pisses me off. I got angry at a key lime pie once and threw it at my husband (ok, it was my husband I was mad at. But the pie annoyed me as well). I like gelato better than ice cream, and fish better than steak. I’d rather buy kitchen stuff than a new pair of shoes. I have tennis shoes, ugg boots for the winter and 2 pairs of sandals for the summer. Anything else is excess. I prefer rain to sunshine. Winter to summer. Snowy days to blue skies.

And, I don’t like the beach.

bad beach