Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Off to the Beach



The rejuvenation I wrote about in my last post has continued throughout the month of April. Spring has sprung in the Carolinas and most of the winter blues have passed over me, allowing me to finally enjoy my full time life to the fullest. May is already promising to be quite interesting with new changes, challenges and more fun awaiting me. It's time to look back on the last half of April here in Tammy World and catch y'all up on what's been going on.

April 15th I began my twelfth month of HRT and I am really starting to see my body begin to catch up to my mind as far as being female. On the morning of the 17th I put my dogs in the kennel for three nights, drove to Total Hair salon in Raleigh to get my hair colored and got highlights for the first time, then drove south to Carolina Beach to meet up with my good online friend, Pamela West (whom I had never met in person but consider a sister), and enjoyed my first beach vacation in a year and a half.



Leaving the salon with my first highlights
Off to the Beach

Interstate 40 from Raleigh to Wilmington, North Carolina is a wide open 4 lane highway with a 70 mph speed limit and the 132 miles takes about 2 hours to drive, non stop. From Wilmington it's about another half hour to Carolina Beach, driving through town with all the stoplights, and I crossed the bridge onto the island about 5 o'clock. Pam was in town with her boss working at a conference on Tuesday and Wednesday and she had finished up a couple hours before I got there. She had her room booked through Friday so we had 2 nights and one full day to enjoy the beach before heading back home.

The conference had been held at the Courtyard by Marriott oceanfront hotel and her/our room was on the 8th floor. This was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed at and definitely the finest accommodations I have ever had on the coast. I believe it is the biggest and nicest hotel on Pleasure Island too. When I pulled up to the hotel Pam met me in the lobby and we proceeded to get my van full of stuff upstairs. As usual, I packed enough clothes etc. for a week's stay but I did really want to fit a week's worth of living into those 2 short days and I think we did a pretty good job of that.


Room with a view: this picture shows the hotel pool, parts of the historic boardwalk, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Carolina beach is sub tropical but the water in mid April was too cold for a swim.


Another view from the deck of our hotel room of cottages, condos, the beach and The Atlantic Ocean.

When I got settled into the room we decided to go the bar across the street to meet up with Pam's boss and some of the other people from the conference. The little bar across the street, The Fat Pelican, was quite a contrast to the elegant hotel. It's a little beer joint/dive bar but it does have an outside area with sort of a beachy, tiki bar feel. I introduced myself to the table full of people and we sat down and drank a few beers with everyone. Besides Pam's boss, I think all the other people were from North Carolina and a couple were from Tarboro, the next town over from where I live. In the past, I always felt uncomfortable and hated sitting down at a table of strangers, especially having to introduce myself to people, but now it doesn't seem bad at all and I was very comfortable in that situation even though everyone knew I am trans because of Pam being out at work. Feeling comfortable with myself seems to make me more comfortable around other people whether I know them or not. Hopefully this will open more opportunities up for me in the future and make life a little more pleasant.

Pam's boss is a trip, he sort of reminds me of my old friend Mack with the way he drank beer after beer, talked a lot and never wanted to eat dinner; but this man is successful, has a very responsible job and is married so he is not that similar to Mack. Everyone was very nice and some had been there awhile drinking before we arrived, so they were very relaxed. I was impressed with how Pam is accepted and treated by everyone. She teaches classes (sometimes with hundreds of people in them) to professionals working for the state or private companies who need certification or training on specific issues in their field. This was her first trip teaching out of town since she transitioned last fall and the fact that she is so well accepted by people with various backgrounds and belief systems, even here in the bible belt, is refreshing. So naturally, I was well received myself and had a good time at the bar, although I am a little bit of an outsider so I mostly listened to everyone talk about the conference and their work.

After awhile another lady from the conference came up and pulled up a chair, squeezing in between me and Pam's boss. Everyone pretty much knew each other but she was a big talker and became the life of the party. Her name is Rene and she works with a company out of Charlotte, NC and was apparently there by herself. When it started to get dark, Pam and I were really ready to get something to eat and Rene wanted to go out and grab a bite too. Actually, everyone at the table was supposed to go but it must have must have been hard to pull themselves from the cold beers there at The Fat Pelican, so the three of us went next door to a nice seafood restaurant and sat down at the bar. Rene wanted to buy everything, so she ordered us all beers and shots of some type of liquor. As ya'll know from reading this blog I really do not drink hard alcohol anymore and Pam wanted no part of her shot either. I did bend my rule for the night (we were at the beach after all) and drank my liquor shot while we sat around and talked.

Being away from the group, Rene sort of opened up to us and told us she was fascinated by us but she did show us much respect. It is no surprise, but she had never met anyone trans before and she asked us some questions about our transitions and so forth. She even had a few tips for us from her own perspective and I could tell that Pam had impressed her earlier in the day, as Rene had been in her class. After looking at the menu, we decided this place was too expensive for us to eat there, so we left the unfinished beers and headed on down the road. I like Rene's style, when she is ready to go she just gets up and goes whether the drinks are finished or not. They will always serve us another one at the next place.

We ended up at a Sushi bar down the block and after we ordered our beers we looked at the menu and tried to figure out what to order. Rene is a lot of fun and a real character; she ended up getting the staff to make her up a special sushi dish that was not on the menu. I ordered some "cooked" tuna, and what came out was very interesting, and Pam got the old standby, a chicken sandwich and french fries. My tuna was not that good, but it was edible, and we ended up sharing the sushi dishes anyway. The special sushi was quite good although we never got the staff to explain exactly what it was. Rene ate some of it, but I think she had been drinking with some others before she met us and was sort of tired, so she got up and left at some point and left Pam and I to finish the meal. She did pay for everything so we thanked her and before she left she took our picture with her cell phone and got our email addresses. I sent her an email back when I got hers and she gave me her information and said if i was ever in Charlotte to look her up and she has a little place at Myrtle Beach that she invited me or us to as well. She is just good people and a real Carolina girl so I know if I ever see her again she will treat me like an old friend.

Pam and I left the sushi bar, took a walk through the quiet boardwalk (its not beach season yet and most of the businesses are closed) and made it back to the hotel in time to get a Starbucks coffee from the Bistro before it closed at 10 pm. Pam had been up since like 4 am for work and I had sort of a long day too so we were in bed before midnight. In the past it would have been hard to stop me from drinking and I might have been like Pam's boss and keep ordering "one more" beer until last call. We did hear later that he did make his plane in Raleigh the next day, but barely, and he didn't feel too good. He did have a good time at the beach after the work was done and so had I on that first day. Pam and I hit it off like old friends and we remarked later how comfortable we were around each other the whole weekend, just like real sisters must be.

Day at the Beach

Thursday was a full day at the beach and I woke up early, hoping to see the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean. I missed the sunrise but we still got up before 8 and Pam wanted to chill in the room awhile before getting ready to go out for the day. I had a slight hangover but after a long, refreshing walk on the beach I felt great. I had been bothered by some back problems in the days before this trip, a recurring issue for me, but they seemed to fade away for the most part in the salt air. We rode out and got some breakfast at McDonald's, then rode around a little bit and walked out on the fishing pier. Being on the pier is always a breath of fresh air for me, as I have spent countless hours on them fishing and watching the beach. Its a great view anyway, being 1000 feet out over the ocean, and after that we drove back to the hotel and walked back down the boardwalk. I wanted to get some of the famous Britt's donuts, but at this early point in the year they were only open on weekends. Pam had already gotten her shower and did her makeup while I was walking on the beach, so we went back to the room, I got my shower and we got ready to go out on an afternoon adventure.


View of Carolina beach from the pier. The Courtyard by Marriott hotel is the large building with the blue tower, just to the left of the middle of the picture.




Brown Pelicans.
Pam and I left the hotel and rode down to the south end of the island to the ferry terminal at Fort Fisher. Being from Oklahoma, Pam had never ridden a ferry before and I was a child the last time I rode the Southport- Fort Fisher ferry. Seeing that we had over an hour until the next ferry, we drove back up to Kure Beach to have lunch at a nice little restaurant I knew about. Lunch at Jack Mackerel's was awesome and I had fried grouper bites while Pam had her first ever fried flounder dinner, complete with the classic french fries and cole slaw. The ferry ride is about 30 minutes each way and crosses the lower Cape fear River. As we approached the landing, a man on the ferry pointed out a very old, little lighthouse on the riverbank and told us a little bit about Price's Creek Lighthouse. I had never heard of it, so it just goes to show you learn something new every day. We spent some time in the quaint, historic town of Southport, riding around looking at historic homes and going to a few shops before riding the ferry back.



Pam and I at Jack Mackeral's



Price's Creek Lighthouse





On the ferry

On the return trip, we caught the second to the last ferry of the day so it was pretty crowded and the afternoon winds made it a little bit too cool to spend the entire ride on the observation deck upstairs, as we had on the way over. After that outing, we went back to the hotel, sat on the balcony overlooking the beach, had a few beers and talked while enjoying the ocean breezes. A few rain showers moved in so about dark we took umbrellas and walked down to a little surf shop and grill where I enjoyed a really good Mahi sandwich. After dinner, we walked down the boardwalk again and saw a couple of gift shops we planned to come back to the next day for souvenirs. We made it back to hotel before the 10 pm closing time of the Bistro and Starbucks, so that I could get my nightly frappuccino. We were not in the mood for any more beer, so we called it a night pretty early again after a fun filled day. The best part of the day, and the entire trip for that matter, was spending time with my sis Pam and getting to know her better. As I have written in earlier blog posts, Pam and I have a lot in common. We starting talking online when we were both in therapy and much of our transitions so far have sort of mirrored each other, with her usually a step ahead of me. I know I have a friend for life in Pam and I am glad we finally got to meet in person and enjoy this little vacation. Hopefully we will get to meet again and in fact I am sure it will happen.



My van on the ferry with the return ferry in the background



Beach bum: chilling on the balcony with a cold beer.







Pam with a beer and a Big smile.

Last Day

Friday was the day to check out and make the 2.5 hour drive back to my home in Rocky Mount. Pam's had to catch her flight out of Raleigh on Saturday afternoon, so we would stay at my house Friday night and make the one hour drive to Raleigh on Saturday. We still had a lot to do before leaving the beach. We wanted to do a little gift shopping, go to the aquarium and visit the USS North Carolina battleship in Wilmington. I missed the sunrise again but got up before 8 and had another long walk on the beach while Pam started to get ready. Being the older sister (by a mere 14 months) she takes a little bit longer to get ready but it takes me forever too, so we had to start early if we were to both make it before check out time, considering there was just one bathroom and shower. As it was, we got late checkout at noon and then walked down to the boardwalk for lunch and some souvenir shopping at a couple of gift shops.


On the Carolina Beach boardwalk Friday.

Shopping at one of the boardwalk souvineer shops.


The boardwalk on a windy and sort of cloudy day on our last day at the beach.

After lunch at a boardwalk sub shop, we headed off to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. We spent about an hour there looking at the fish and exhibits, then it was off to Wilmington to tour the battleship USS North Carolina. We got to the battleship at 4 pm and were told that it closes at 5. I figured it would take about an hour to see the aquarium and an hour to see the battleship, but it turns out the battleship was actually bigger with more to see than I had remembered when I was last there as a child. Pam has a son in the Navy and is really into the old war ships and stuff, so I wish we had a little more time there, but they didn't close right at 5 and we actually stayed until 5:30 pm. The USS North Carolina was nicknamed "The Showboat". It was involved in the Pacific theater during WWII and was even hit by a Japanese torpedo. After the war it came back to Wilmington, was retired and now serves as a museum and historical reminder of a great era for the US Navy. The ship is impressive visually and was very fascinating to me. I will let the pictures describe the battleship and the aquarium, but suffice it to say we had an awesome afternoon touring both, before grabbing one last seafood meal at famous Hieronymus Seafood in Wilmington and hitting the road towards home.


Pam and I in the large atrium area which houses the fresh water fish and reptile exhibits. Below is a picture of a rare albino alligator. North Carolina is the northern most range of the American Alligator.


We timed it right for the Dive Show.


The large Cape Fear reef exhibit during the Dive Show.

Me inside the jaws of the ancient Megalodon.



Jellyfish exhibit.

Tropical reef












Tam and Pam at the USS North Carolina



The Showboat



War medals for the USS North Carolina

There are alligators in the marsh surrounding the ship.



Below decks...



Pam is happy to be at the showboat. She has toured a couple of other battleships, but this was her first time on "The Showboat".




In the engineering room

Part of the Marine Corps exhibit. Marines were the only people on the ship that had firearms.

Taking our turn at the helm, with Pam at the wheel.

Sleeping in the Big House

On the way home we drove through a storm front with tornado warnings, nothing unusual for Oklahoman Pam, and finally got in about 10 pm. Pam got to see my house and we watched a bit of television in the little house before bedtime. Something fairly major happened that night. I had not been able to sleep in my own bedroom in the main house since around Christmastime so I have been sleeping on a futon here in my little house. I was putting Pam up in the guestroom in the main house and I didn't want to abandon her by making her stay over there alone, so I actually slept in my bed in the master bedroom that night for the first time in months. When she was getting ready for bed, I had a little moment of emotion, but nothing major, and when I hit the sack I went right to sleep. I woke up a few hours later after having a weird, bad dream, but was able to go right back to sleep and had a good night's sleep after all. Thanks Pam, for forcing me to get back into my own room again. Well, she didn't Force me but the situation kind of pushed me into it and I am glad.

The next morning I was at the dog kennel minutes after it opened so I could pick up Buddy and Nightingale. They were Very happy to see me and I took them to walk in a park, then stopped and picked up breakfast for Pam and I. We took our time getting ready, as usual, and I had fun doing most of her makeup before we left to go to the airport. We barely made it too as she got there about an hour before the flight left, but with security and everything, the timing was close. Like I told her, everything will work out in Tammy World, even if its a close call.

After dropping Pam off, I drove straight back home in an hour. Twenty minutes later, Mitch showed up and we had a great romantic date at my house and went out to dinner. It was the first time we had ever made love in my own bed in the main house, but in the couple of weeks since that has become our spot. During the week I am sleeping in the house alone, but Buddy has been keeping me company in the bedroom on his pad while Night sleeps on a chair in the office. She is important like that..:)

Overall, I had a fabulous week with meeting Pam, the beach trip, finally having my boyfriend stay with me in my main house and moving back into that house full time making this the best week of the year so far. It is going to be hard to top that wonderful week but I will be back to fill ya'll in on what has gone on during the rest of April and what's in store for May. Spring is bringing much change here in Tammy World, not just for myself during my transition, but in my life as well and I look forward to every bit of it!!



Mitchell and I on the couch, in the "big house".


Romance on the couch in My house. What a way to end an awesome week!!!