Beach Birthday

There was just one nice day in the 10-day forecast, so with a bit of magic, Ouest’s 7th birthday moved up one week and we headed off to Holly Beach.

All birthdays start with balloons. A few of them with a dollar slid inside.

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When we got to the beach I scouted it out on foot first. It seemed plenty firm. But after three days of heavy rain, I think maybe it was an illusion. Once through the hard upper crust the sand was powdery.

As it turns out, I also pulled off the main track too early, placing myself firmly in the soft stuff. Fortunately, I thought, the trailer was only about fifteen feet from the hardpack, and I stopped the second I realized we were going to get stuck. We were pretty close to being out already. Plus, we were level, the sun was out, we were above the high tide line, and we had a birthday to celebrate. Digging out could wait for morning.

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Ouest got an Instax “Polaroid” camera. Enjoying the wonder of an actual picture developing before our very eyes.


“We need just one family picture, you two.” Thanks.

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Happy Birthday to Ouest, our sweet, smart, inquisitive, friendly, fun, patient explorer.


The next morning it was time to get out of the sand. First, I tried simply laying down some legos. You can see we barely sunk in when we had arrived. I figured with a little traction I could get us moving the 20-feet back to the hardpack.


It was like driving off a cliff. The truck just fell straight down into the sand. I dug out a couple of times and moved us a few inches with each attempt, but after each one everything sunk down a little further. I definitely didn’t want the trailer buried to the frame, so I gave up, and concentrated on just getting the truck out. We’d have to find help for the Airstream.


I could get the truck a couple of feet each time before it sunk. I would have gone on like this for an hour or two until I reached salvation, but a couple of guys who were building a house nearby came over and offered to help. One pull with the tow strap and the truck was free.


Then we hooked up to the Airstream. We figured the fatter tires and 4-wheel-drive would do the trick. He could move back and forth a few feet at a time, but eventually the truck just sank. We called it quits, figuring that a bigger pickup would have no problem. There had been plenty of them driving up and down the beach the day before, so we hunkered down to wait.


A couple hours later I spotted these guys and walked over to ask for help. They came right over, hooked up, spun their tires, and gave up after two tries, afraid of getting their truck stuck. Fair enough, but not a good sign for us.


Hours went by. I eventually called our insurance company and discovered our coverage had roadside, and a beach recovery was included in that. They got a tow truck on the way. He was an hour out, but I was still 90% sure that no tow truck driver was going to drive his huge heavy truck out onto a beach.

Then one of the original guys came back over and told me to hop in his truck. We drove around the neighborhood looking for help from the other locals. Holly Beach is only about six blocks long by four blocks wide. And it’s a summer fishing hang out, not a winter beach destination, so there were only a couple locals about. After a few stops we found a guy with a small tractor who was sure he could get it out.

It looked promising at first, but nothing we hooked up could build enough momentum to keep moving. We’d about given up on the tractor as well, when he thought that maybe if a truck pulled him at the same time, he could make it.


Enter our friends from the start. We tied a rope to the tractor and everybody pulled together.


Reunited at last.


What’s a birthday without a story to remember it by?

As a guy, getting stuck in the sand is a little embarrassing, but as a parent, having my kids see the selflessness of others is a lesson worth sucking it up for. When the kids asked why those guys came and helped us, it was nice to have a conversation with them where the simple answer was, “Because they could. They saw a family who needed help, thought maybe they could offer some, put down what they were working on, and came on over to find out.” The world is filled with a lot more selfless people than we give it credit for. It’s why I tend not to get too worried with any situation we find ourselves in. If I can’t solve the problem, somebody can. And when it comes time for me to “repay the universe,” I will.

The other night I was sitting in the truck with the kids waiting to pick up a pizza. We started to look at a world map and they both immediately, and excitedly, began to tell me about what they were going to do when they grew up. This was exciting for me because:

Last summer we took Ouest to a summer reading camp/school place. At her first lesson she was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She said she didn’t know, which to us is a perfectly acceptable answer. Why should every six-year-old girl have to answer, “I’m going to be a veterinarian.” A six-year-old, in our view, should be open to every possibility the world has to offer. So, when the teacher said to her, “Oh, that makes me sad,” she accomplished two things. One, to hurt Ouest’s feelings. And two, to make Ouest feel as if she is supposed to know what job she is going to go off and work at each day when she is forty. Needless to say, we had a talk with that teacher before continuing on with the lessons.

Anyway, we broke out that map, and both kids bubbled over with excitement. They both said at once—as if they had had this discussion many times—that they were going to drive motorcycles around the world. Lowe, on a three-wheeler, apparently. They were going to pull a trailer that is a boat, that has a bed in it to camp in, but can be used to go across rivers and lakes! Oh, and they’re going to have a helicopter that they can live in! And they’re going to go to Europe, and China, and that island, and that jungle! They were so excited, and so animated, and so full of ideas. And they were going to do it all together.

And to me, these were the types of things young kids should be dreaming of doing. There is more than enough time for kids to sit down and think, “Now, how am I going to pay for that.” Kids should have a dream first, and work backwards from there. If they start at mundane, then mundane is where they’ll end up. So, do I think that a life of motorcycle and helicopter adventures is where they’ll end up? Not necessarily. But it makes me happy that is where their dreams lie for now. Those are kid dreams. Kid dreams are worth building on, and building towards. Thoughts of how to pay the mortgage, and two car loans, and student debt, shouldn’t play into them.

I immediately began to think of designs to build that small-boat/tent-camper trailer for them.