After enjoying such a nice slice of wilderness, we were bound to be a little disappointed returning to the crowds.
As we headed back to the coastline we found ourselves among two peculiar breeds of American tourist, spring break partygoers in rented convertibles and snow birds in massive RVs.
To provide maximum contrast between wild and crowded, we headed first to a place called Topsail State Park and RV Resort. And yes, it really was an RV Resort — full hookups, pool, the whole bit, but inside a state park. It was the strangest campground we’ve been in and not really our scene you could say. When my wife asked if there was a trail to the beach the woman at the counter looked at her like she was crazy and apparently the first person here to contemplate walking a whole mile. There was naturally a road, complete with shuttle, that could take you to beach.
The minute Corrinne said there was a pool I knew I’d never see the beach anyway. For the kids, at this point, white sand beaches happen pretty much all the time, but pools? Pools are exotic and enticing, even when they’re the coldest pool any of us had ever set foot in.
Topsail certainly isn’t a destination for Spring Breakers, though we drove through plenty of that crowd on our way, especially in Destin. Topsail drew in the snow birds. I lost count of midwestern license plates, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and South Dakota, but those are fulltime people1. And there were some truly massive rigs, with square footage well over the average Parisian apartment. I’ve nothing against big rigs really, it seems very limiting to me, but hey, to each their own, still, it was odd to be around such mammoth vehicles.
I’m not really sure how we ended up with a spot here in the first place. Corrinne had been refreshing the reservation page the whole time we were at East Bay and finally found something, a cancellation we were able to snatch up for a couple of days.
The pool entertained the kids, and we did make it out the beach one afternoon. We walked. It was a nice beach, though pretty crowded with people and high-rise hotels just down the shore in either direction. But if you stared out at the sea and squinted a bit, it looked more or less like Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The influx of Northerners and Midwesterns brought a return of what I call the stone-faced walk-by, which I thought we’d left behind in California.
Imagine you’re walking down a trail, or a path, a nice sun-bleached wood plank boardwalk over some dunes say, and someone else is approaching you. Now nearly everywhere I’ve been on this planet, in dozens of cultures, with dozens of language barriers, in nearly every case, everyone at least smiles and maybe attempts to exchange pleasantries, even if the latter are not maybe completely understood.
In parts of America though there’s another approach: the stone-faced walk-by.
In this scenario you not only don’t smile or exchange pleasantries. Instead you don’t acknowledge the other person at all. You completely avoid making eye contact because you’re very concerned about something over… there, anywhere really, except the direction of the approaching person. You find this spot to stare at, like it’s the guiding light that will get you through, past the terror of interacting with other people, without actually interacting, like a child who closes her eyes and momentarily pretends that nothing around her exists. And then you slide on by the other person without acknowledging their existence in any way.
It’s fascinating to watch, bizarre and a little disconcerting to experience. It helps to narrate the whole thing in your head using the voice of David Attenborough. Sometimes I swear you can almost hear the approaching person’s subvocalization: please don’t talk to please don’t talk to me please don’t talk to me.
It’s strange, very strange. But then maybe it’s the place, not the people. I didn’t notice it the time, but I ended up with pictures of the kids looking hilariously (and unintentionally) angsty while playing on the beach.
Different places bring out different things in you. I have a post about that, but that’s for another day. For now I’ll just say that Topsail was an oddball place; we didn’t dislike it exactly, but I think we were all ready to move on when our three nights were up.
A lot of full time people make South Dakota their state of residence. Just as Delaware attracts corporations with tax breaks and easy incorporation processes, South Dakota has (purposefully or not, I’m not sure) made it easy to be a resident, and even get mail, without needing to actually be in the state more than once every few years. So when you see an RV with South Dakota plates, chances are, that’s a full timer. ↩