Going to the beach requires a lot of work.
Before you start throwing things at me through your computer screen, let me explain.
See, I live 45 minutes from the actual ocean. Yes, I’m luckier than most because I can still make it a day trip, whenever I want. But still….a lot of planning goes into a trip to the beach for me. There’s the weather watching, and the guesswork that goes into whether it’ll be worth an hour long car ride, only to get to the beach and be rained out. There’s the logistics of the thing: will I also have time to stop for groceries on the way home? Can I make it to the post office before it closes, or should I leave early and go first? I wonder if I can eat at that little cafe nearby in a swimsuit and cover-up?
Then comes the packing. Beach towels for me, an extra for a friend, and another extra because you can never have too many towels. Sunscreen: SPF 50 spray for my body, special baby formula lotion for my face, SPF 15 chapstick. Can’t forget my hat, my sunglasses (because I have to wear my real glasses while I’m driving), headphones, a book or two, maybe a magazine if I’m feeling so inclined. Oh…and the cooler. I’ve got to fill it with ice and add healthy snacks, tons of water, and a trash bag for use at the actual beach.
I load it all into my car as the sweat drips down my brow because HOLY CRAP it’s A HUNDRED FLIPPIN’ DEGREES OUT HERE.
I’m all loaded up, all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s crossed. I kiss my husband goodbye, grab my keys and my wallet, and hit the pavement. Twenty minutes into my drive, I’m ignoring the giant black thunderhead that decided to pop up in the direction I’m heading. It’s July in Charleston…if there’s a thunderstorm this early in the day, it’ll be a quick one. I forge ahead, determined to get my time in the sunshine.
There’s traffic; so much traffic my nerves begin to fray. A dude driving a giant blue pickup cuts me off (because it’s always a dude in a pickup), and those nerves snap. My “Yay For Me, I’m Going To The Beach” mood begins to turn into my “If This Poo Face Doesn’t Start Driving The Speed Limit I’m Going To Scream” mood.
And then, finally, my car crests the bridge over to the Isle of Palms, and I see palm trees, and wide expanse of sand, and an even wider expanse of blue, all the way out to the horizon. My heart releases in my chest, and the smile creeps onto my face without my realizing it. I grin at the giant pelican as he flies lazily over the bridge into the marsh below. I stop at a red light, gladly waiting for a few minutes because I know I’ve almost reached my destination. I allow a tourist, then another, to merge before I cross the street, since I know they’ve probably never been here before, and I want to share this little section of my world with everyone and anyone. I greet the volunteer at the gate and happily hand him my parking fee, and we chat, momentarily, about the weather and the tides.
Parking achieved, I unload the bounty that needs to make the trek across the sand with me: my beach bag, my cooler, my lounge chair. I strap it all around my chest, all twenty pounds of it, sweat dripping down my back, but I do it all with a song in my heart. I nod and smile and speak to all I pass: people are just happier at the beach. And so am I.
And finally, I choose my spot and set up camp. There’s no better moment than this. I whip off my cover-up, douse myself in sunscreen, don my hat and sunglasses, and take a seat.
It is always worth it, in the end.
Between you and me, friend, I probably won’t think about how much work it takes to get to the beach when I go again next week. These are the kinds of summertime woes I can deal with. And happily.