Always Wear Sunscreen…seriously.
Long forgetting the advice of Mary and Baz, I recently agreed to go on vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with my good friend, Ben, to visit his brother. During our initial conversation, the idea seemed perfect. A free week-long beach vacation away from work, school, family, and all basic human responsibilities? Um, yes, please. Although I hadn’t been to the beach for over ten years, I thought myself intelligent enough to pack the correct beach essentials, including a bikini, beach towel, flip flops, my iPod, trashy summer romance novels, and a low SPF sunscreen to ensure both sun protection and tan development. I was convinced this vacation was going to be relaxing and stress-free and I would return to the real world a better woman. Sadly, wishful thinking was only the first of a series of mistakes that turned my dream vacation into a beach nightmare.
Ben decided we should drive through the night in order to beat traffic, reassuring me that he’d done it before and would have no problem staying awake. He bribed me with uninterrupted sleep in the car and a full day of fun in the. Being the sucker I am, I agreed, and arrived at his house at 10pm, car fully packed and ready to go. To show some type of contribution, I agreed to drive for the first three hours of our ten hour trip, but when the time came to switch drivers, Ben admitted he was tired and would need loud music and my incessant chatter to keep him awake. Four albums of Foo Fighters, and five cups of coffee later, we arrived at the beach, sleep deprived but ready for the sun.
When we got to his brother’s apartment, I learned that I could either sleep on a couch that dated back to 1978, or a squeaky $15 air mattress from Wal-Mart. I chose the air mattress, mostly for sanitary reasons, and begged for a small nap before going anywhere. After trying for nearly 45 minutes to fall asleep without success, I went to the kitchen and threw back a shot of Maker’s Mark Whisky at exactly 9:47am. (I swear I’m not an alcoholic!) The whisky did the trick and I was soon enjoying a much needed two hour nap. The rest of day one was relatively uneventful. We spent it grocery shopping and unpacking and never did make it to the beach. It was ok because the next day nothing was stopping me from turning my albino-like extremities into sun-kissed perfection.
On day two, (or I suppose our first REAL day of vacation) the sun was shinning bright in the sky, luring me in. I slapped on some SPF 15 and sprawled myself on a towel for a few hours, interrupted only for a quick swim in the ocean to cool off. A few hours later, I was getting hungry and a dinner of fresh tuna steak was sounding delicious. When we got back to the apartment, I took a quick shower to wash off the lingering sand and salt. It was then I noticed my skin. It was burned. No, it was fried. Never before had I seen such a shade of red. My thighs, my shins, my back, my chest, my arms, hell, even my butt was red. And oh my God, the pain. Why hadn’t I felt this at the beach? Instead of the sun-kissed glow I was so hopeful for, the sun had taken me in a back alley and beat me senseless.
Ben and his brother took pity on my crispy condition and assured me that the next day would be spent out of the sun and in the confines of one of the Outer Banks’ many indoor tourist traps. The next morning, because of the pain, I downed three Advil, lathered myself in a gallon of lotion, and wore just enough clothing to cover my “goods”. The three of us piled into an old red pickup truck and headed to Corolla to the Whales Head Club museum. The minute we stepped outside, the heat and humidity nearly took my breath away, upon which the boys casually commented that it was easily the hottest day of the year. Super. But at least we were headed to an air conditioned museum, keeping me out of the sun’s death rays, right? Well, true, the museum was air conditioned, but it was as if the minute we arrived that both of them “forgot” that the day’s mission was to stay OUT of the sun. Instead, we parked the truck as far away as possible from the museum and walked all over hell and back. The guys took their time and snapped what seemed like hundreds of photos (of ugly sea gulls and sweaty tourists) before remembering me and my unnatural shade of red.
After we left Corolla, we headed north to the 4×4 access only beach. Of course, we weren’t more than 2 miles down the sand road when the truck’s four-wheel drive died and left us majorly stuck. I thought to myself, seriously? Could this day get any worse? After 30 minutes, and several failed attempts to push us out, we found a man with a tow truck who offered to help. Wouldn’t you know, that jackass charged us 150 bucks for only 10 minutes of work? With that, we went home. Defeated.
The rest of my vacation was relatively uneventful. I bought a beach umbrella and SPF 70 and spent my days at the beach completely hidden from the sun. By day 5, things were looking up and the three of us decided to go to Okracoke Island via ferry. The island was cute and touristy, but the bugs were thick as a blanket. I think we spent all of 20 minutes there before driving the two hours back to the apartment.
That night, I began to notice that my right foot felt a little off. Because I was already in pain from the sunburn, I hadn’t realized my foot had swollen up to twice it’s normal size. Upon closer examination, I saw a distinct bite mark below my big toe that looked just like a spider bite. Of course, seeing it’s massive size, I was convinced that my foot was going to have to be amputated. I mean, that far south, who knows what kind of scary, deadly spiders were lurking at every corner, ready to attack? I began asking the guys ridiculous questions about whether or not one could die from a venom filled foot or become permanently paralyzed. I think they were less concerned about my foot and more concerned that I had gone bat shit crazy. With no help from my male traveling companions, I calmed myself down and chose to elevate and ice the crap out of my foot, citing frost bite as the best cure for spider venom. My technique gave little success, so I finally just gave up and went to bed.
By the following day, our trip had all but officially ended. Remembering how ridiculous our car trip to the beach was, I tried to convince Ben to leave a little earlier than 10pm, but the best I could get out of him was 8. It was better than nothing, so I took it, and by 8 that night, we were on our way back home! (hooray!)
In a nut shell, we drove and drove for a million hours, hit tons of overnight construction, and had to physically hold our eyes open to stay awake (my first attempt to keep us awake by obnoxiously singing 80s power ballads for an hour didn’t work well). Ten hours later, we were home. When all was said and done and I was back at my apartment, I thought to myself, despite the ass kicking I received from the sun and not listening to a word Mary and Baz said, the spider bite and swollen foot, the Wal-Mart air mattress, and the complete lack of sleep, this was one of the best vacations I had ever experienced. And with that, I went to bed…no shot of whisky required.