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          We went to Virginia Beach, much changed and civilized since our honeymoon there in March 1972.  Ron got a hotel with a balcony, right on the beach.  It was cold, but we left the French doors open a bit at night to hear the surf.

          Our first stop was the Virginia Aquarium.  Although under construction in some parts, we enjoyed learning about our riparian/ tidal environs.  There is an exhibit which takes you “underwater” along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  You walk down a ramp next to a huge fish tank, which gets deeper and deeper, simulating walking on the seafloor as it deepens.  Sea critters living in each level are easy to see.  This opens into a room with a petting tank of rays.  These are much smoother and smaller than the bat rays of Sea World in CA.

          There are volunteers throughout the museum with touchy-feely exhibits, e.g., a sting ray tail.  It has hooks like teeth around the tip.

          We also enjoyed an Imax 3-D movie about creatures of the seas around the world, narrated by Johnny Depp, of all people.  He’s everywhere these days.  The 3-D was actually quite good.  As we get older, we take in more sit-down stuff like Imax, as well as taking tea in the afternoon.  Sometimes coffee in the morning.  We just need more sit-down time, alas.  But so civilized.

          All-in-all, the exhibits are well displayed, so you can get close-up.  There are many hands-on parts as well as places to sit and stare at the huge fish tanks.  The lunch room is reasonably priced; we had fish and chips.  We did wonder if we were eating the deceased from the tanks.

          We finished up around 4 pm and went on to the hotel, where we looked out over the ocean as the sun set behind us.  Fishing/pleasure boats were racing in to port before dark and a few brave souls were walking on the frigid sand.

          We were brave enough to walk the boardwalk to go to supper.  Ron had done research on TripAdvisor.com, so we went to Timbuktu, right on the beach.  He had roast duck in plum sauce and I had fresh Penne Primavera.  We started with crab dip and had yummy bread too.

          We noted the broad beach, as opposed to the amount of beach we remember from 1972.  VA Beach dredges the shallows and brings the sand up to the broad concrete “boardwalk.”  They maintain this as a buffer for hurricanes, so that the hotels can build tall without so much risk of being destroyed.  The boardwalk dates from 1981.  I can remember stories from my high school days, when one of my teachers told us how her front porch had been carried off by a hurricane.  There are no houses that close to the beach now.  And the hotels are no longer allowed to keep large swaths of the beach as private for their guests only.  We used to have to search long and hard for the public beach access when I was a girl.  (It used to be a 3 hour drive to VA Beach in my youth; thanks, Mom, for all that driving and patience.  Some of my grandest memories are of the ocean.)

          Walking to the hotel after dinner, we stopped into a gas station and bought baked sugar-and-grease in various forms for breakfast.

          Next morning, we ate the above with in-room coffee and dozed around awhile.  We then walked down the beach to the Seatack Life-saving Station—now Coast Guard.  Seatack either comes from people yelling “Sea attack!” or from sailors who counted the Chesapeake as the place where they had to tack to get out to sea. 

(Tacking consists of sailing back and forth toward the direction of the wind.  You catch the wind on either side in turn, allowing the wind to draw the boat along with the lift created by the shape of the sails.  Square rigged vessels must tack frequently to sail toward the wind, as they cannot sail closer than as much as 90 degrees.  By contrast, a fore-and-aft rig like ours can go as close as 35 degrees.)

We had a very detailed tour of the facility by a retired Naval officer, who had much information to tell us, but did not want to listen to the things we had to teach him. 

With our brains full, and short of sleep, we headed home for a nap, feeling like we’d been gone a week, not a day and a half.


cMarch 2009 Carol Kerr Buckles