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When Life Gives You a Pandemic For Your Birthday

Updated: Oct 6

Roaming the Scottish Highlands, golfing in the birth country of the sport, and taking lots of pictures of castles and lochs. That’s what last week was supposed to look like. We had been talking about taking a trip to Scotland for my Dad’s 70th birthday for at least five years. Text messages between my mom, my brother, and I had been going back and forth for years containing AirBnB and HomeAway listings of castles and other neat locations we could stay. We were pricing out and saving up for flights and thinking about kid-friendly activities for all the little people that we would have in tow.

three boys playing in the ocean

Last year’s trip to the same house (October 2020)

Then 2020 hit and all our plans came to a halt. In the beginning, we had hope that we may still be able to pull it off. After all, it was over a year away! However, as time ticked by, it was becoming more and more obvious that this trip was never going to happen. So a few months ago we started thinking of different options on a lower, COVID-safe scale. My mom proposed that we all head down to the Outer Banks to the house we stayed in last year. Assuming we could, we would also have a family party for whoever might want to make the trip down. The trip itself wouldn’t be a surprise, but the extended family aspect would be.

Of course, my mom is a notoriously TERRIBLE secret keeper, not to mention the 6 grandkids, all 10 and under, who could innocently spill the beans at any moment. What was the feasibility that we could actually pull this off? As the day approached, my mom would sneak things over to my house or task my brother and I with bringing items down that would be too obvious for her to get down in the same car as him. Packing my car was like a game of Tetris and opening any door was taking your life in your hands as who knew what box, bag or iPad may come flying at your head.

Sunrise at the Beach (see more pics here)

Amazingly, my mom was able to pull off the surprise! They went down Saturday afternoon with the party set for Thursday, so instead of waiting that full week – not to mention trying to set up for it without him knowing – she told him he had to take her to lunch at an old favorite – Sanderling Inn. When they got there, his two sisters plus one of his nieces and her beau were there to surprise him! They then came down to our house the next day for lunch and again on Thursday for the party, so we got to spend a good amount of time with them.

As for the rest of the week, the kids did school, and I worked the first 3 days (literally the only good thing that has come of virtual school) and played at the beach. On Friday (my dad’s actual birthday), I got up early and made my dad’s favorite – Popovers- then we headed to the Currituck Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Wildlife Center. We couldn’t get Grammy to climb those stairs, but amazingly 5 of the 6 kids made it up with only a little coaxing. My vertigo usually kicks in when spiral stairs are involved, but I think focusing on talking the kids through it, helped distract me enough that it wasn’t so bad. This view was definitely worth it!

Popovers for Papi

See more of the climb and the view

In the afternoon, C1-3 and I hopped in the Highlander and headed up the road to the 4×4 area of the beach. If you haven’t been to OBX and you have a car capable of it, I highly recommend taking a drive on the beach. Pro-tip though: make sure you let the air out of your tires because when you hit the soft sand, that’s the only way you’re getting out! We made it down the beach, into the 4×4 neighborhoods (so cool – houses and streets, intersections and stop signs, all build on the beach and no pavement in sight), and back to the entrance without fail. As I was heading up the soft sand to the exit, a car that was about to come on the beach, changed their mind and made a U-turn blocking the exit and causing me to stop. That stop was the end of our casual drive.

Driving on the beach

After letting a significant amount of air out of my tires (a new experience for me!), rocking back and forth and some receiving some encouragement from the tow-truck driver whose entire job is to drive up and down the beach rescuing dumb tourists like me, we were able to get out and get free. We stopped at the closest air pump (free when you get off this area of the beach) and filled the tires back up. Now I only mention this because filling my tires with air is something that has terrified me since I was learning to drive, thanks to a drivers-ed class that warned that over-inflating could lead to tires blowing up in your face. Seriously, does anyone else have this fear or is it just me? This fear has been so ingrained in me that this was literally only the second time I’ve put air in my tires in the 22 years I’ve been on the road. I’m not sure the first time really counted either since it was an automated pump that shut off at a pre-set PSI. After holding my breath and staying as far away from the tires as I could reach (looking rather ridiculous I’m sure), I managed to fill them and get back on the road without any major disasters.

So, while it wasn’t anywhere close to the Scottish adventure we were planning, it was a nice vacation with family, fun, a little bit of adventure (for me anyway), and no trips to the hospital for a tire to the face! And hey, there is always his 75th!

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