I can testify: Virginia (Beach) is for Lovers

Column by Jim Bishop

VIRGINIA BEACH – Whether to the mountains, the beach or another destination of choice, it’s just good to get away, rest a spell and catch up with yourself (and with others important to you).

That’s exactly what my wife and I were able to do last week – t’was grand, but over too quickly.

We’d earlier decided to forgo our annual pilgrimage to Ocean City, N.J., this summer, owing to (pun intended) obscene gas prices and ever-accelerating charge on the rental unit where we stayed in proximity to the beach.

We opted, instead, for three days and two nights in Virginia Beach. The oceanfront hotel we ended up in, about 13 blocks north of the place we’ve usually stayed, proved more to our liking than expected. This was a quieter part of town, with less traffic and fewer people, both on the sidewalks and on the beach. Perfect.

The weather is often a major player in a beach junket. We were fortunate to enter a “window of opportunity” with pleasant conditions to begin and end our excursion, a brief thunderstorm injected in the middle. Sunshine on my shoulder makes me/us happy.

Checking in, we noticed that our room was designated “handicapped access.” We weren’t sure why we were given this room, but perhaps the reservation person thought we needed the special features, given that Anna asked for a senior-citizen discount, which indeed we qualify for.

For ourselves, we ask (aloud), what could be finer than sitting on our little balcony overlooking the ocean, the surf providing background sound effects as the morning sun glistened over calm water, nibbling on a Danish and sipping coffee, enjoying each other’s company without just an occasional hint of conversation – all the time knowing that we’re not in a hurry to be somewhere else. Almost heaven.

On Monday, we were enjoying the hotel’s outdoor pool when a man approached us and asked, “Aren’t you on the faculty at EMU?” He introduced himself as the father of Brad Parkes, standout player for the Royals’ men’s basketball team and a member of the class of 2008. The entire family, from Winchester, was staying at this same hotel for the week. Brad came over later, and we had a long, engaging visit. He was soon moving to Charlottesville to begin a position with an insurance company there. It’s a small world.

I am impressed with apparent efforts to make the beachfront area inviting for temporary residents like us. The “boardwalk” is concrete, not the wooden structure we’re used to at our Ocean City, N.J., haunt, but it’s well-maintained. A separate path runs parallel for the many bikers. Personnel are out early on the beach with their equipment, raking and smoothing the white sand for another day of hard use.

Both nights we were there, local bands gave free concerts at a beachfront pavilion. Many people sat or stood and clapped along, while others, like us, got up and boogied like no one was watching. Tutti-frutti, all-rootie!

Wouldn’t you know it – a sunny, clear and pleasant temperature day greets us when it’s time to check out and head back to the Valley.

As we motor northward on I-64, top down on the Miata, the importance of the occasional getaway, to step back and view things from a distance, to move into the deceleration lane, hits home. Even more importantly, this is what creates memories to last a lifetime. Those day-long or week-long simple but fun excursions, many to the Jersey Shore, are what I remember most fondly from growing-up years in my family of origin.

The main drawback to being gone – voicemail messages awaiting at home and at work, mail to open (mostly bills), back newspapers and several screens of e-mail to read and respond to, grass that needs mowing, a whiny feline and screeching parakeet scolding us for abandoning them, outdoor plants needing watering, running to the grocery for milk and orange juice.

I ask for no pity party. Yea, verily, it was good to be gone, even better to be back home.

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