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July 27, 2005

A Quiet Family Nags Head Vacation - Part 1

Kevin E. Dayhoff

As I keyboard this, I am on a private, intimate and quiet vacation with my wife, and, uhm, 15 members of my extended family, in a "small vacation cottage" in Nags Head, North Carolina, a favorite vacation destination for many folks. I guess "private, intimate and quiet" are relative terms. All right, it is NOT private, intimate or quiet, but I sure am enjoying myself.

Understanding that many folks from the Frederick area also vacation on the Outer Banks, I decided to take advantage of the uninterrupted free time and explore a little of the history of the Outer Banks, the current sky-rocketing real estate boon that is occurring there, and some light current events and summer reading.

One of the oldest members of the family on this pilgrimage is the patriarch, my father-in-law. He is affectively referred to as "Grandpa" by everyone.

David S. Babylon, Jr., is now 82 and has seen healthier years. Mr. Babylon - or as I refer to him, "Mr. President" - was a Westminster Common Council member for 1964 to 1989. Most of those years, he served as the Westminster Common Council President as was his grandfather in Westminster in the 1890s. He refers to me as "Mr. Mayor," most of the time.

At other times, he calls me "Sam" or "George." I have come to understand such nicknames as terms of endearment for psychological reasons I have no interest in exploring. I just enjoy the delusion of thinking of them as terms of acceptance.

That said, considering that the legislative and executive branch are separate in the City of Westminster; and the two branches of government have historically had all the commensurate tension and suspense that accompanies the appropriate checks and balances; and the fact that I married his daughter; I've never, ever been really able to figure out whether "Mr. Mayor" or "Sam" is a convenient term to provide respectful distance or a term of endearment. Mr. Babylon is a member of three or four generations of successful mercantile and banking patriarchs of the community and in his younger years, he had a reputation as being rather, uhm, forceful.

Before I became an elected official in Westminster in 1999, from 1989 until 1995, the tension between the executive branch and the legislative branch in Westminster tried to reach the level of acrimony and hostility currently found in Frederick's City Hall.

What changed? A new mayor took office in 1995, chosen from the ranks of the council members.

In Salisbury, the level of acrimony in 2002 and 2003 was alleviated by the election of three new council members in fall of 2003.

Frederick, take your pick, it is your turn! The rest of the state is watching you and your upcoming election. Too many great opportunities for a super town are being wasted on petty personal hostility.

Meanwhile, and far away from the tensions of Frederick, the oldest family member on my pilgrimage is Aunt Betty. She is 86. The youngest of the 17 members of the family is Melissa, at 14. The Frederick County Commissioners know of Melissa and her sister, Jamie, who colorfully testified before them on some land use issues in February 2004.

Fifty per cent of those present at this year's sojourn to Nags Head are below 24 years, so this is great week for catching up on contemporary pop culture, like how my cell phone works, or learning new tricks with my computer. The greatest distance traveled is the retired military (two retired colonels) family contingent from Alaska.

I really enjoy spending time with the family, especially the nieces and nephews. Not that I am a doting uncle or anything, but I certainly think that they are special and they give me great hope for the future.

Our "small vacation cottage" is a three story, eight bedroom, five bath, ocean front behemoth with its own zip code, cathedral ceilings, a pool, a hot tub and a great deck with a wonderful view of the ocean. It is protected from the rigors and whims of the ocean by a dune system erected in the 1930s as a result of a WPA project. I simply find it wonderful to go roughing it in the pursuit of quality time with the family and exposure with nature. A former Marine, this is about as close to camping as I ever want to be - ever again.

Indeed, at the beginning of the week, we had to rough it, as we had no high speed Internet access. We had to wait until Monday for the service to be restored. It had been knocked out over the weekend during the severe thunderstorms that rolled across the Outer Banks.

Nags Head is an inherited vacation destination for me. My wife and her family have been coming down here since 1984. For me, this is my 11th trip. Until my first trip to Nags Head in 1995, I was barely familiar with the Outer Banks. I've always been an Ocean City kinda guy.

Nags Head is an interesting place. It is low key and very family oriented and consists mostly of cottages, mega-vacation rental homes and hotels. There is a well-developed commercial area out on the new bypass. The new Outer Banks Bypass reminds me of the multi-lane highway that runs through northern Ocean City, which stands in stark contrast with the older "Main Street" portion of Ocean City; much the same as the NC State Route 158 Bypass on the Outer Banks stands in stark contrast with the old Route 12, the "Virginian Dare Trail - Beach Road," which is the old historic access road for the Outer Banks.

I have always preferred Ocean City for a vacation destination. I like keeping my discretionary spending money in Maryland. However, in the give and take comity of 'family politics,' I'd rather not sacrifice the family harmony in the greater-good big picture to gather the necessary votes for a change in family traditions. (I just wish House Speaker Mike Busch understood these concepts.)

In Part Two, I'll explore the history of Nags Head and do some comparison and contrast with Ocean City.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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