Once we finally completed our southern migration to escape winter and pulled into Brunswick, GA for a month-long stay, the first thing we did was…drive back to Virginia. One of the last hurdles we had to being free and clear to do what we want was getting Dave’s knee fixed, and so we needed to make a THIRD and hopefully final road trip back to Virginia Beach for Dave to have arthroscopic surgery.
And so…MIDDLE-AGER ROAD TRIP!!!
You know all the prep we all do when we’re going on vacation? Holding the mail, letting the neighbors know you’ll be gone, emptying the trash, locking everything up, etc. Well leaving a boat even for just a week is twice as much work. Seacocks/valves need to be closed so if there’s a storm water doesn’t come in. Extra lines need to be rigged also for any possible storm while you’re gone, gas and nav equipment turned off. Special thought goes into how food is stored, because bug infestations happen fast if things are not double wrapped or air tight. Condensation can lead to mold in just a few days, so thought has to go into dehumidifiers and things prone to dampness. We spent two days cleaning the boat and doing all the necessary prep, letting the marina and nearby boat owners know we would be gone and giving them our contact info, packing up what we needed to take, picking up a rental car, and checking everything off on the several lists we had made.
We left on a Sunday morning. Shortly after getting on I-95 in southern Georgia we began seeing marquees warning of potential ice and snow on roads from a storm that had passed just north of us the night before. We knew it was only going to get ‘freezier’ as we headed north. Patchy snow began appearing in South Carolina. Fortunately, the interstate was clear and we had no delays. It felt a little weird to be driving a long distance after having been on the boat so long. It was especially weird to be seeing signs for towns and places we had been to by boat in the last few weeks. In eight hours we drove what had taken three weeks by boat. But we saw way more dolphins on the boat than we did on the interstate.
One thing we (fortunately) did NOT see while traveling by boat was the infamous and annoying South of the Border signs. South of the Border is to I-95 in the Carolinas what Wall Drug is to I-90 in South Dakota. While it has a campy faux-Mexican theme, the border it is actually south of is the one between North and South Carolina. Dating back to the 50s – and I don’t think it’s been updated since — it’s a collection of souvenir shops, restaurants, and amusements that attracted a lot of tourists making the drive between NY and Florida. But the most annoying part of it is the density of billboards that start 100+ miles before and grow increasingly frequent as you get closer. Besides featuring ethnic stereotypes that really have not aged well and should be retired, many were the epitome of randomness – usually under the guise of rhyming words.
"Virgin Sturgeon and Unused Bagels"
Huh? What does that even mean? Is someone out there selling used bagels? And what is the standard by which to certify a sturgeons previous romantic dalliances or lack thereof?
That’s just blatant pandering.
Not to be outdone, some personal injury lawyers apparently decided that anyone interested in South of the Border would also be in need of an attorney, and their equally kitschy billboards were tucked in there.
“Injured in a car accident? Don’t scream, call Akim!” followed by a phone number that was all 7s. Which apparently led to Akim’s jurisprudent competition erecting billboards featuring their phone number which was all 9s. However, their name did not lend itself to any words that rhymed, thus dropping them a notch on the kitsch-o-meter.
Rounding out the Theme Triad along the Billion Billboard Boulevard were those of the proselytizing variety. “REPENT” in large red letters on a bright yellow background. Does that actually work? Would love to see some outcome analysis data on that one; I’ll bet that things like feeding someone who is hungry is way more cost effective. But should Behavior By Billboard prove beneficial, then I’m going to install a huge sign outside Jeff Bezos’ house that says ‘GIVE KAREN $1MILLION.’
It was with great relief that we finally passed South of the Border with its giant sombrero in the sky and entered North Carolina, though still had to put up with another mile of billboards telling us to turn around and go back. Gotta say it looked kind of deserted.
Checked into a Residence Inn in Virginia Beach for the week. Roxy lost no time claiming the single armchair as her domain and left us with the lumpy sofa. At least we beat her to the bed. Was nice to have a little kitchenette so we wouldn’t have to eat out every single meal. It actually was a pretty comfy set up, and we realized we had more living space than we do on the boat.
Dave’s surgery went just fine. It’s actually the sixth time he’s had arthroscopy on one o f his knees for torn cartilage, so he knew what to expect. Roxy and I spent three hours in the car, as I couldn’t leave her in the hotel room and she wasn’t allowed in the surgery center. Fortunately, the temp was in the low 50s, so we were able to take a couple walks and she could roll in the several inches of snow that still covered the ground from the storm a couple days earlier. I went in to the recovery area to get instructions and wait with Dave until his anesthesia loopiness had worn off, and when I returned to the car to move it around to th pickup area discovered that Roxy had pulled a Ziploc of dog treats out of a travel bag we carry with miscellaneous items and made quick work of those. Nothing else was taken out of the bag, just the treats she had dug out. She was totally unabashed about it, too – I think she was miffed at having been left in the car so was being ornery.
Dave is a really fast healer, because he never even used the crutches they gave him and was getting around the hotel room very well the next morning. Less than 48 hours later, he was out in the parking lot playing with his new electric scooter, because apparently now that the right knee was fixed he could start working on messing up the left. I’m pretty sure when the post-op instructions said ‘weight bear as tolerated’ that did not include scooters. But he and both his knees survived. He had minimal swelling, and the pain he had been experiencing for the past three months was already almost gone by the third day. If it wasn’t for his post-op follow up and physical therapy appointment a week later, we probably could have headed back and he would have been just fine getting around the boat. It was too cold and blustery to get outside much the whole time we were there, so we binge watched The Queens Gambit and a couple other movies, read, and took Roxy out a couple times a day for a walk and more snow-rolling. We did take care of a few life-maintenance things like haircuts for all three of us, NFL playoff-watching at Chuck’s, donating blood, and I found a dog-sitter for when we return in May and will be traveling abroad.
Dave saw the orthopedic PA who said everything looked great and the physical therapist gave him some exercises, which he had no intention of ever doing. But normal boat living and clamoring around cabins and decks and engine compartments will use all the muscle groups of concern, so no real worries.
The next morning, we loaded up the car to head back to Georgia. Besides the scooter, we had picked up a bunch of other stuff at Chuck’s we had ordered. It took some creative packing to get it all in, and ended up with Roxy having to share the backseat with Dave’s suitcase. The sheer indignity of it. We made good time, and the temps slowly rose from just above freezing as we got further south – a very welcome relief. For some reason there were way fewer South of the Border signs as we approached South Carolina, and apparently less need for an attorney and fewer sinners heading to Florida as opposed to coming from Florida. We got back in time to get to the grocery store while we still had the car to restock the pantry and fridge, which we had left quite bare.
The boat was as we had left it. There had been a couple of sub-freezing nights that we were a little worried about, but all our preparations paid off. The only exception was that we didn’t put the twirly device on the deck to scare the birds off, so we had a bit of bird poop on the foredeck to clean up – lesson learned. But we needed to wash the boat anyway, and all in all you’d hardly know we had been gone.
Not knowing what Dave’s recovery needs would be, we had scheduled our stay in Brunswick for a month. Hopefully it will start warming up soon, as we are still finding that magical 70 degrees we are chasing to be elusive. There is a thriving liveaboard and cruising community at this marina, with thrice weekly happy hours, dogs everywhere, a daily exercise group, and a planned Super Bowl party. We’ve already met several fellow Loopers and found common ties with other cruisers. Historic downtown Brunswick is nearby to explore, and will also give Dave lots of opportunities to use his new scooter. We have a growing list of boat projects to complete, mostly in the ‘maintenance and preservation’ category, and will use this time to whittle that list down.
Our next adventure will be to head to Jacksonville, and from there cruise up the St. John’s River (which is actually south – it’s a weird river) for two weeks. Pretty sure Dave’s already strategizing on how to race alligators on his scooter.