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Notes from OBX

This is our second time traveling to the Outer Banks. Henceforth OBX. The first was seven years and two children ago, when I attended a grant-writing workshop held at an upscale resort in Duck, NC.

We were further down south this time, in Kill Devil Hills, Yes, these are actual town names. There is also, of course, Kitty Hawk, as well as Nags Head. I’ll take those over European place names — looking at you, Vienna VA — any day. in accommodations that were decidedly more homely — and it was great!

  1. Not sure how general knowledge of OBX is — I certainly didn’t know anything about them before coming — so I will summarize the geography thusly: a thin strip of sand oriented north-to-south parallel to the Eastern coast of North Carolina, famous for being the Wright brothers’ chosen site for their glider tests and, ultimately, humanity’s first flight.
  2. That thin strip of sand is perilously close to perishing: there was a moderately severe storm on our first day and parts of the road closest to the beach were half-flooded for days; waves are picking at the beach little by little, often helped by clueless beachgoers who make coastal erosion into a family event, little shovels at the ready; so, you’d better see it while it’s still there.
  3. And there is more than the beach there to see: the Wright Brothers National Memorial, for one, but also Jockey’s Ridge state park which was even better for being so unexpected (we found out about it by my scrolling around the map and wondering what the big yellow splotch was — incidentally, a random scroll around the map is an excellent way of semi-spontaneous trip planning, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron).
  4. I still find it amazing that, with everything else being commodified and price-tagged, the beaches of North America are still mostly free. And that there are so many of them. Yes, the Mediterranean see is warmer, friendlier, better to swim and wade through, and just plane nicer. But the beaches, on top of being hostile to feet, are also much more crowded and much too often open only to those who can pay for a lounge chair.
  5. Last month the digitizer on my 5-year-old iPhone Xs Max stopped working and I could no longer postpone an upgrade. What a good thing that I did! It turned out that the touch screen was not the only broken part — the image stabilizer was also dead for who knows how long and I thought I was just very bad at taking sharp photos. Anyhow, this was a well-documented trip.
  6. Photo processing has… changed in these 5 years, to the point that this is probably the last time I would bring a DSLR on vacation. I barely got it out, I still haven’t transferred the few photos that were there, and I shudder to think I will have to process them myself — mostly by lightening the shadows beneath the glaring sun, something the 14 Pro Max that I got can do much better on its own and without being asked. It’s magic.
  7. Sun blocking technology has also changed. Yes, the sunscreen is now amazing, but the better news is that you don’t have to use that much of it with all the clothes and headwear protects from the sun without being uncomfortable to wear or (this is the new part) get wet. My pale-skinned easy-to-burn 10-year-old self would have loved going to the beach a whole lot more if these were around back then.
  8. To the last two points, here is some of that breakthrough technology in action:

On vacation in Jockey's Ridge state park, sun-block mode activated, shot on an iPhone.

Photo of the author standing on a sand dune wearing a large sun-blocking hat and sunglassess. Several tiny figures are in the background.

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