Four years ago, I celebrated my sixtieth birthday by going on an amazing adventure with a group of friends. I wish we were doing it again this year! It’s a sweet memory, so I wanted to share it with you.
As my sixtieth birthday approached, I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of celebration could top skydiving, which is what I did to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. I considered spelunking but the thought of having to stuff myself through a tight spot, underground, in the damp and dark, made me have trouble breathing. Having a panic attack at just the thought made it pretty clear that I wouldn’t be cave crawling. Ever, never! Sailing in the Caribbean was high on my wish list but unfortunately my budget was not big enough for that. I’m not sure how the idea came to me, but hang gliding became my activity of choice. A trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina would be fun and I knew that hang gliding off of Jockey’s Ridge was a possibility. What if some of my friends could go with me? How fun would that be?
Within the hour, I found Virginia Hang Gliding, located in Painter, Virginia, on the Eastern Shore. Rather that jumping off a sand dune, Virginia Hang Gliding towed the glider a mile up into the sky before releasing it. I would have to tandem hang glide but that was fine with me. The thought of flying through the air with the Atlantic Ocean on one side of me and the Chesapeake Bay on the other had me sold. I called, booked my birthday flight, and did a tap dance around my house. With a little more research, I found the perfect cottage to rent on airbnb.com and then used messenger to make my sales pitch to my group of forever friends. It was not a tough sale.
We stuffed ourselves into my Highlander early on the morning of September 4. It’s good that there are only five of us because the sixth seat was stacked with duffle bags, pillows, tote bags, boxes, hand bags, coolers and a couple of plastic bags full of miscellaneous necessities. Traveling with us was a jumbo insulated cup of unsweetened tea, a bottle of Diet Coke, one cup of coffee, one hot chocolate with RumChata, a regular Coke, and several bottles of water. Nobody was going to get thirsty on our road trip. I had also baked pepperoni rolls and butterscotch brownies to munch on because it was a pretty long drive and I wanted to get there before dark.
The drive to the Eastern Shore was uneventful until my phone rang. It was Virginia Hang Gliding and it was not good news. Something was malfunctioning on the plane they used to tow the glider and I would not be able to hang glide on my birthday. The disappointment was intense and I felt deflated. The owner apologized and said that the part would be delivered the next day and, if he got it fixed, he would take me up the day after that, the day we had to head home. It wouldn’t be the same.
While I was moping, I could hear plans being made from the back of the car. If I couldn’t go hang gliding, my friends were determined to find something else to do, something else that I’d never done before to kick start my list of “sixty new things while I was sixty”. After a half dozen phone calls, we were disappointed again. Deep sea fishing is something I’ve always wanted to try but getting a last minute reservation to do that was impossible.
By the time we pulled into the town of Chincoteague, we were starving. I was looking for Bill’s Prime Seafood & Steak and there I was not disappointed. I started my meal with a half dozen Chincoteague salts, freshly shucked oysters that were devine.
After a tropical shrimp salad, I spooned my way through a bowl of clam chowder while emptying a basket of hot, crusty bread. I was stuffed before the broiled seafood feast was even served. The meal was complete when I was given dessert, candle and birthday song included. The strawberry syrup was so good that I wanted to lick the plate. I didn’t, but only because the waitress took the plate before I had a chance. I didn’t know whether to subtract from her tip for denying me the bliss or to add to her tip for sparing me the embarrassment.
On our way to the cottage I’d rented, one of the fishing companies we’d contacted called us back. We were able to charter a boat and so we were going fishing in the Chesapeake Bay on my birthday. We stopped to buy groceries and by the time we got to the cottage, it was dark. We unloaded the car, divvied up the beds, and still we talked late into the night.
We early risers carried our coffee and tea down to the dock the next morning and watched the sun burn the haze off the water. I could have sat there all day, it was so peaceful, so beautiful. Instead, we went shopping. Our favorite store was the Blue Crab Bay Co. We had a quick lunch, then drove to the docks in Chincoteague to board our fishing boat. It was sunny and hot and the breeze from the moving boat felt good but when we stopped to fish, I felt like the fish were having the last laugh because I was the one frying. We caught around two dozen fish nuggets, seven different kind, but all of them together weren’t big enough to make a meal. I was by far the worst fisherman.
That night, we went to The Great Machipongo Clam Shack for dinner. It was open mic night and we were lucky to get a table. I had she crab soup and another broiled seafood platter, but no dessert this time. I’ve seriously considered driving back there just for another bowl of that soup. The best birthday present ever was when my friends, the fearless four, took the stage, introduced themselves as the JUGS, and belted out the happy birthday song. The whole restaurant joined in and I was laughing so hard that I forgot to record the performance. I didn’t go hang gliding on my birthday, but my emotions soared. It was a truly happy day and a birthday celebration that was just a few steps beyond normal.