I haven’t had a good road trip out of town – or ANY time out of town for that matter – in about a year.  OK, except for a couple business trips earlier in 2009, but those were truly just like getting off a plane and then working in a building with different scenery outside.  No time for any R&R to explore or spend time with relatives in those cities. 

I look back on the past 365 days or so and now I realize why I hadn’t taken any time away – the good ol’ job hunt.  I was so focused on networking, interviewing and finding a new job that I didn’t carve out time to get out of town for awhile and just relax.  It might sound silly now, but I know myself well…if I HAD forced myself to take a short vacation I would not have been able to truly relax.  I would have been stewing and wondering if that weekend or week I’d chosen to go off the grid – out of cell phone range, say – might have been THE time a wonderful new opportunity would have come and gone unbeknownst to me.  Especially in this still-shaky economy and all.  Job hunting WAS my full-time job.  And there still is residual networking going on; this new gig is now a few weeks under my belt and I am slowing merging in the traffic and getting in a groove.  I do hope I can hang my hat with this team for awhile but I’ve also learned that nothing is ever given or constant.

So, at last it was time for a long-overdue break! 

Funny though, I really don’t feel overly wound up or stressed about work just yet…when you’ve been at a job just a few weeks there still is a big element of “I don’t know what I don’t know.”  Typical ramping-up stuff.  Seriously…in just 5 or 6 weeks we’ve already had Memorial Day and now the 4th of July.  I don’t feel I’ve “earned” days off just yet but I’ll take it!

And what better place to take a long weekend than at one of the getaways most near and dear to my heart…Ocean Park, WA.

No, no, not Ocean Shores – Ocean PARK.  Take a moment to find it on a map!

How can such a tiny, mile-wide peninsula be packed with so many memories and so much love?  Yes, this magical place is full of generations of goodness. 

And getting there is half the fun.  I cut my workday short on Friday, threw the laptop briefcase in the trunk of my car and blasted out of town.  I’ve always loved road trips and never got tired of watching the world go by when we’d go to Ocean Park every summer when I was a kid.  I couldn’t wait to be old enough to drive – to drive that route myself.

Once I get off the main freeway full of RVs, campers and motor homes in the stop and go traffic and onto the more rural, 2-lane highways it starts getting even more exciting.  The highways zoom through beautiful farmland and mud flats…the extreme southern end of Puget Sound. I see political campaign signs for people I’ve never heard of.  Fireworks stands.  I’d forgotten to bring CDs for the trip but that’s no worry…I blast the radio.  I smile as I keep driving and the radio stations begin to sputter and fight with one another.  That’s when I REALLY know I’m getting away. 

I drive through the twist and turns of Highway 101.  How many hundreds of times have I driven or ridden this route – it’s new to me every single time.  Glorious.  I pass through miles of stumpy stumps – trees cut down either from logging over the years or that blew down during the big storms last winter.  I spot a turnoff for a now ill-fated condo/housing development – how strange to have its access road look so desolate.  Gone are the huge, promotional signs; all that remains is the street sign turnoff which I nearly missed.  And the access road is smack in the middle of the stumpy stumps.  But why does that road intrigue me so?  I always toy with the idea of turning off the highway and checking out side streets to the smaller towns for random detours…Brooklyn, Melbourne, Bay Center…even the logging roads which look both inviting and ominous.  Probably not a good idea for those steep, gravelly roads in my sedan. 

I arrive at the family beach home and bring my bag and extra tote into the mud room.  I turn around and whammo!  It’s my 3-year-old nephew ready to give me a big hug!  Melt my heart.  Follow that by my hugs from my other nephew and my niece and I tell you, YES this is going to be a great getaway for sure.

There is something about the sound of the ocean and the salt air; I always sleep like a ROCK at the beach.  Not that I have trouble sleeping in general, but out there I always feel extra refreshed and rested.  And when I wake up I smile…I could be 5, 15, 22, 35…I’ve been coming to this house nearly every summer since I was an infant.  The memories run deep.

I look out at the meadow in front of our family home out to the west toward the ocean.  I’m in awe at the changes the ocean and dunes slowly yet dramatically unfold over the years.  What was once open sand and a clear view of the ocean waves just a 1/4 mile walk or so is now nearly eclipsed by a whole new generation of growing sand dunes, covered in green beach grass.  In fact, the trail we used to walk through so many times to the ocean directly in front of the house is nearly grown over once you pass the mowed-down, groomed meadow area.  We use a semi-paved, public access road a short walk up the street to get to the ocean now instead.

Fabulous, slow-paced mornings coated in mist…morning mist so thick it’s hard to see where it ends and the ocean’s horizon begins. And it sprinkles so lightly on my sunglasses (I’m really sensitive to glare and wear ’em even on cloudy days).  I spent this time out jogging with my brother, sister-in-law and their 3 kids on bikes just cruising around the side streets of Ocean Park.  I remind myself I’ve got a 5K in Seattle mere weeks away! 

We had an amazing gathering at another family home in Oysterville – a small town on the Willapa Bay side of the peninsula about 5 miles away.  So wonderful seeing aunts/uncles/cousins and friends again to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my Dad’s cousin and her husband.  Great conversations, food, relay races on the huge lawn for the kids.  And…SUNSHINE!  The sun has been incredibly elusive this spring so far, but holy smokes if it didn’t bust out with some seriously blue sky mid afternoon.  And, as a result…my radiating (meaning, sunburned) forearms!  I’m one to bathe in sunscreen as a lot of you probably know, but the forecast was for heavy clouds and drizzle so I left the sunscreen at home. It felt good to feel warm sun especially since the Seattle area summer has been anything but.  Yes, my friends, yours truly can get sunburned even at 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon!

I watch the neighborhood fireworks sparkle and crackle against the soggy, grey, cloudy skies the next day and in the evening on TV after I get back home…like I told my young nephews and niece, the 4th of July goes on, rain or shine!  Happy Birthday, USA!!

So what to bring/wear at this laid back and fantastic, relaxing destination on the coast?  Key point:  LOW maintenance.

Now for me, “low maintenance” is always peppered with some luxuries…
What’s in my getaway bag and tote?

  • Burberry shimmer-check cosmetics case – the perfect size to hold just a few essentials.
  • Dior Day 1 sunnies – these are my first real pair of super nice sunglasses.
  • Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation (SPF 10).  Might sound a little silly to wear makeup at a beach home getaway, however this stuff goes on lightweight and evens out my super ruddy cheeks.  Plus, the sunscreen saved my (facial) skin that afternoon my forearms got sunburned.
  • Lancome Bienfait Multi-vital sunscreen, SPF 30.  This stuff is so light it feels like a moisturizer, not a thick, high-powered sunscreen. It goes under my foundation and does its job.
  • MAC Greasepaint Stick in Dirty:  a fun, thick taupey-brown liner with a tiny touch of sparkle.  Just a little on my upper lids is a nice, finished look without looking too “done.”
  • Makeup For Ever Smokey Lash mascara:  a little on the upper lashes is great.  A champ for travel.
  • A little lip balm and that’s it!
  • Hair products?  I keep it simple…and leave the flat iron AT HOME.  Ahh, relief!
  • A good baseball hat, windbreaker, polar fleece top, couple pairs of sweats, yoga pants, t-shirts and Merrell or Keen sandals and you’re good to go.

Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen…even on those cloudy days.