The American Chronicles: Emerald Isle

Our friends Ed and Christine and us have been going on beach vacations for a dozen years. Each year is full of laughs and relaxation, and usually some silly thing that places the trip in the memory hall of fame. One year on Ocracoke Island, the wind was blowing really hard. We moved Ed’s Jeep to the windward side of our site, wrapped it in a tarp, and thus prevented the sand from blowing on us so harshly. Our dog, Zeke, earned the moniker “sand flaps” because he buried his head behind his ears to stop the sand. Another year, we had parked too close to the ocean and frantically dug a moat around our site and the Jeep. For a while, it was touch and go, but we came out OK. This year, we went to Emerald Isle.

After driving a lot longer than we thought it would be—you know, sometimes Google Maps are just plain wrong, just saying—the first order of business after unloading into our rental house was a walk on the beach. With such a long drive, my back was bothering me a bit, so I didn’t walk as far as the others, but I caught them on the return and they all held hands and strolled along the beach to give me a picturesque shot—nearly sunset, along the beach, serenity, unity, and oh yes, world peace. We were hungry so we loaded into the van and drove to the only restaurant we thought we could get into on a Saturday night—the Plaza Mexican restaurant. Chris and I had eaten there this past winter coming back from Florida. The Plaza was a busy, busy place. A lot going on. I ordered a chili relleno with beans and rice.

We were munching down on the chips and salsa and a young man came by with fresh guacamole. For a tip, he would make us guacamole dip while we watched. By the time the food came, we were all pretty hungry. Here I am, with this beautiful chili relleno right in front of me. I love Mexican food. So I grabbed my fork and knife and cut off a fairly large hunk of the pepper and stuffed it into my mouth like I hadn’t eaten in a week. It was really tasty, the meat and cheese combining with the tomato sauce was delightful. Then the flavors exploded with the pepper. It was the hottest pepper I’ve ever had in a chili relleno. My mouth was on fire. My head started sweating. My eyes watering. Wow!  After about ten minutes of water, chips and salsa, things calmed down and I was able to finish, albeit in very small bites.

One of our beach traditions is morning coffee on the beach. It started out with us just bringing a cup of coffee and a beach chair. Over the years, it became more sophisticated. Chris and I got larger, insulated cups with non-spill caps. Ed bought a Yeti thermos. I usually prepare the coffee the night before and just flip the brew switch before we leave on a little morning walk on the beach. This year was special. Service Dog Charlie decided to dig deeper into the sand to keep cool and just plastered Ed’s cup with sand. As if that wasn’t enough, he turned directions and covered my lap in sand. Ed and I both got “sand baths” and Christine and Christy got another good laugh. John 16:24 says, “ask and you shall receive that your joy may be full.” A hot mouth, a cup of sand and a lap to match it, every year we ask for a joyful trip to the beach. And we get it, mostly!

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Bill Wilson