It has been a long time since I have written anything about regarding the life on the WQS Pro Surfing Tour. We all face roadblocks. I have had many experiences that to me were just fun and entertaining. However, it is the times when things go off plan that help shape you as a person.
Time to Head North!
Starting in August, there was a short series of surfing contests that basically gave you almost an event every weekend. I had a job and I could not attend them all, so I picked out the local one and then picked out a few others that I could attend up north in a short amount of time to ensure I kept up my ratings points. Going over the calendar, I figured I could easily make the Heritage Pro in New Jersey and then the next week shoot down to North Carolina for the Outer Banks Pro.
As my plan began to take shape, I decided that as usual in that time period that I would drive up. I put in the time off request at work and it was promptly approved. Then I started to call my group of travel buddies. Oddly enough, none could go on that stretch. I made a few more calls and then just gave up. I would go alone. Which at this point was not a big deal because I knew plenty of hotels and I also had friends in New Jersey to stay with.
So the day came and off I went! Driving from state to state I kept a close eye on the news. It was the end of the summer season and it was prime time for tropical activity. True to form, there was a system moving up through the islands and taking aim at the East Coast of the United States and it was well on its way to becoming a hurricane.
We Are Off!
The event was nothing grand. The opening heat was in normal surf and I did not have to do much to advance. The next heat was good. The third heat I had to step things up and barely missed the cut. Done and out of the event, I had to head to Belmar, New Jersey to stay with my buddy Wild Bill. The problem was that separating myself from home was now a hurricane and it was expected to make an impact in the Outer Banks. I needed a place to sit things out.
I arrived in Belmar and the conditions had already started to ramp up. Big sets were coming in beyond the jetties. I paddled out and picked off a few bombs. Towards the end, the wind started to pick up as well. Bill and I ran back to the car to head home.
Waking up the next day, the news showed the devastation around Kitty Hawk and the contest site. It was painfully obvious that a surf contest was not in the cards for that area. Outside the window, the rain and wind began to hit the house. The news spoke about flooding on I-95 and portions of the highway being closed. For the moment, I was blocked. It was 10:30 a.m., and I had to just wait.
So Bill and I drove down to Eastern Lines Surf Shop and we made a day of it. We drove to take care of some errands and late in the afternoon, we returned back home. Watching the news, I saw my big break scroll across the ticker along the bottom of the news screen. I-95 is now open! Oh yes!! I grabbed my bags, gave some hugs to the family, and was off. Just outside Belmar, I stopped at the gas station and filled up the gas tank.
So at the time, I just had a cheap cell phone with no internet access. Who knows if Goggle Maps was an option at that time. It was now night. I was making good time although remnants of the storm were still on hand. The cities rolled by. Philadelphia through to a rainy run through Washington D.C. and then across the state line of Virginia. I wearily looked at the scenery.
Running on Empty
I pressed on and was starting to feel tired. I soon saw the 95 loop for Williamsburg and made my way onto it. I noticed the gas gauge was getting low so this would be my big priority. I would just have to find the next exit and get off and fill up! The big question was how much longer should I drive? I cleared my eyes and fiddled with the radio. Suddenly, I saw a road veering off to the side and my headlights light up a sign. What?? An exit? I kept going. Then it happened again. They just came out of nowhere in the pitch black. Why were they not illuminated? This was not going to happen again. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw cars lined up behind me. I seemed to be leading an auto parade. Once again, my headlights caught the green of an approaching sign and this time I turned off and made the exit. As I came down the ramp, I was greeted with…nothing. Black outlines showed in the distance. As my eyes adjusted, I saw the outlines of buildings, stores, and a darkened gas station. Why would they be closed? I looked at the gas gauge…Close to empty. Cars lined up behind me. I turned and made my way back to the highway. This played on over and over. What was going on!!!
I pulled off to the next exit and was greeted by yet another pitch dark town. As with every exit, there was a usually thriving gas station that was abandoned. I pulled up next to the pumps. The line of cars swooped around and kept on. Then it became clear. The hurricane hit the Outer Banks and moved inland and up into the Chesapeake area and that included Williamsburg. The storm had demolished the power grid. Everything was out. I picked up the phone and began to make some calls. Then I thought of my friend Jamie who lived in North Carolina. I called Jamie and he had an idea. He would get gas and drive up in the morning and he would give me enough gas to get going. So that would be it. I would just wait it out for the next day. I took in the situation. Out of gas. In a strange town, in a city with no power. Stranded. Despondently, I laid down in my car to try to sleep.
Over the next hour or so, I would try to sleep but would be interrupted by cars pulling into the station in desperation. I would lay down again. Then a car approached and the lights shown into my car windows. I looked up. A police officer!
I rolled down the window and greeted the officer. I spilled out my tale and how my car was below E. The officer looked at me and then told me that I was in luck! He knew of one local gas station that in a miracle was open 24 hours and had power. Literally, the only one in his area that he knew of. I could not believe my luck! The police officer told me the directions and I just had to turn right and drive several miles. With an escort, I felt better. The officer slowly pulled out of the lot. I turned the key. The gas gauge barely budged. My car crept forward. Then he turned onto the road…left.
I drove to the right. Why would he not show me the way!! So I pressed on. Stay steady to conserve gas. Minus the power, the night was dead black. I scanned the dense forest for a sign of a gas station. Only twisted trees. Come on! Suddenly, I passed a single lane veering off into the forest. Oh well. The trees cleared and off in the distance was a lone illuminated gas station sign. Was that the exit! What do I do! Thankfully it was late at night and the roadway was abandoned. I was now going about 10 miles per hour on the highway. In the dark, I saw the onramp winding down a hill coming to meet my highway. I quickly made a disjointed right turn straight onto the onramp and drove the wrong way towards my destiny in the distance. Please make it! Please!! A few more turns on the wrong side of the road and then a fast burst of speed straight up to the pumps!
I went inside and bought some snacks and drinks. What a relief. I was exhausted. It was now after midnight. I really should just call it a night and find some place to stay for the night. After filling the tank, I jumped back onto the highway and set my sights back on I-95. I rejoined the line of cars.
Empty to Full
Yawning, I pressed on. Soon, came an exit. I pulled off with the line of cars. Some were looking for gas but now I joined a new group which was the group searching for a room. The line nervously headed towards the first hotel. No power – No vacancy. We all moved to the highway. Once we got off the loop, after several miles on the highway came the first illuminated billboard. Power! Then a highly illuminated road sign. Off I went down the ramp. We all eyed the hotel. Some cars drove to the other side of the lot to try to shake the others. People jumped out of cars and ran to the door…and came out. No vacancy. Then off to the other hotel with the same result.
This went on for exit after exit after exit.
Then came yet another exit with people jumping out while I was trying to find a parking space. I drove to the side of the parking lot with still no open spots. Then I hit an elevated spot that looked over to a nearby town. I looked at the buildings. The stores. Then my eyes caught it…Best Western! I punched the gas.
I nervously looked in my rearview mirror. No one noticed me making a break towards the town. I pulled into the town and headed towards the magical sign. A quick turn into the Lobby parking area and I ran off to the front desk. The doors opened and the bleary-eyed agent greeted me.
Well…I only have one unit left. It is an ADA (a unit with disabled amenities) unit so would this be o-kay with you?
YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!
After finally getting a shower, I laid down into an economy room that felt as good as a stay in the finest 5 star resort. I sent out one message before shutting my eyes.
Thanks Jamie! No need for the gas. Talk to you tomorrow.
I have had worse experiences for sure. But times like these help one understand that things do not always go to plan. You have to calm down and press on and get past it.
Any travel disasters that would give me a chuckle?