When I lived in Tennessee I missed being near the edge of the country. Tennessee boasts some fine geography including the Smoky Mountains, Reelfoot Lake, and several rivers, but eight hours to the nearest beach is just too far for me.
Living in New England, my friends and I could make a quick decision and in an hour or so be at either the ocean or the mountains. With proximity like that, it is possible to wake up, look outside at the weather, and depart on an adventure.
That’s what happened today. Gal pal Nancy and I had soft plans for her next to last day in town -- we planned to do something, but hadn’t determined what. A few days earlier, we considered shopping, but I lucked out and she went on Sunday while I was deep in the excitement of getting new tires, which left Monday wide open for entertainment.
In the morning we confirmed we were still both available and interested in doing something. We just needed to figure out what. The potential ideas included shopping, a museum, tattoos or psychic readings (for which we lacked appointments). Or the beach.
Yes, the beach. In December. In New England.
It was sunny and 60 degrees out (just a few days after six inches of snow), and dammit, it was possible. We drove to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, even though there are many other options. Hampton is the default when we say “the beach.” Any other beaches are specified by name.
We took the longer, back roads route through some quaint New England towns and landed at the beach on a blue sky day. In December, there is plenty of parking at the beach and the pay stations were wrapped and covered for the off-season.
We drove down some of the side streets packed side by side with rental beach houses, trying to remember which rentals we and our friends stayed in during a very eventful beach week many moons ago, right after we’d graduated from high school. Then we parked the car in one of the gazillion empty parking places and walked on the beach. It was low tide and there were lots of shells.There were a few people on the beach with metal detectors and a few dogs and mostly it was beautifully deserted and quiet.
We took pictures of us in the wind. There is a photo from thirty-odd years ago on the same beach, on what we had desperately wanted to be a “lay on the beach” day. That day was cold and windy and in the photo we’re bundled up in sweat shirts and beach towels with no hope of gaining any sort of tan.
And after an hour at Hampton Beach, we left. We had visited, seen, reminisced, and taken photos.
Our next quest was lunch. That proved tricky. The only open place at Hampton was an independent take-out pizza place with no seating. We agreed on no chain restaurants, and a preference for burgers, pizza, seafood, or Korean food. Nancy knew of a Korean restaurant in Ayer, and as we approached the parking lot I kidded, “Watch it be closed on Mondays.” Sure enough, it was. I was starting to feel a little bit psychic. But there is a pizza and greek food restaurant up the street from the Korean place, where we had gyros and Tri Sum chips.
It was a great day to be at the edge of the country -- weird warm New England weather, the beach, a sand dollar, a locally-owned lunch spot with local chips, and a longtime friend.