SB '94: Beach or Bust

How I Survived My Encounter with Diseased Ticks, Foul Weather and Stunt Aeroplanes on Boston's Idyllic North Shore.

Here's something to think about: in the early weeks of spring, as Mother Nature pokes out flowery stubble and wide-eyed natural animals start to come out of hibernation and stuff, well, so too has the cycle of life begun again for the Northern Deer Tick.

In the symphony of rebirth there is chord of despair, For in these early weeks and months of its life, the deer tick is even more microscopic than usual. For outdoorsy types this spells one thing: Trouble with a capital T. Because the Deer Tick trades in slow incurable death: Lyme Disease... Disease with a capital D.

This is what Bob, my friend and fellow hypochondriac, was telling me as I contemplated spending close to one seventh of my spring break on Boston's famed idyllic North Shore. After reading one too many articles about fun lovin' college students cavorting around on those magical Spring Break `94 beaches, I sprang into "seize-the-day" mode. "Heck, I can have a Spring Break `94 my own," I said. "Beach or Bust" was my mottodu jour.

Needless to say, Bob wasn't interested in joining me on the beach (and I might add that his apocalyptic story of invisible harbingers of grisly death almost discouraged me entirely). But my friends Holly and Dave were ready to go. Rearin' at the bit, actually, SB `94, here we come.

We pointed ourselves toward the beach and off we went. We got faked out by a couple of exits but finally rolled into the idyllic town of Ipswich, Mass. The party had begun.

Dave busted out the cooler, which had some chips and salsa and stuff in it and--yes, oh yes--three ice cold ones. I decided to save my brewski until we hit the sand, and instead drank in the intoxicating fresh seashore air. We shelled out two bucks to park in the Crane's Beach parking lot, which was a pretty good deal...or so we thought. The guy who took the money appeared to be an actual park ranger, which we took as a good sign that we were really in nature.

The ranger guy, however, soon proved to be a messenger of doom as he handed us a little brochure about Deer Ticks and erosion. "Also," said the Ranger, "We close the parking lot at sundown. And lock the gates." The ante had been upped, but we had more than two bucks riding on this one: SB `94 hung in the balance. "No way, Ranger," we thought to ourselves, "Your negative energy hasn't phased us. Let's hit the Dunes!"

And this is where the plot thickened because here's where nature entered. The vicious, pounding surf seemed nothing like the magical little Spring Break `94 waves that my classmates were undoubtedly enjoying on Daytona Beach. The sun was also problematic, for though it shone not brightly it was showering us with imperceptible and deadly UV rays. Some black clouds were sort of hanging around on the edges of the admittedly huge and natural skyscape. As I knew too well, this was appropriate weather for a little dreaded hypothermia. And my legs were itching, let me tell you, hopping with invisible ticks although I had tucked my jeans into my socks.

But if nature is awesome in terms of power and might, humankind is totally awesome. Enter a mighty metal flying machine. A day-tripper, perhaps tooling above the beach in his singleprop vintage WW1 aeroplane. The plane chugged miraculously onward soaring like a machinated hawk. For brief moments we three wayward Spring Breakers were spellbound by this wonder of the modern world.

We headed towards the top of the main dune and the air temperature dropped perceptibly as we gained altitude. We summitted the dune and peered over, a magical Algerian land-scape stretching below. I started to think wildly about that movie "Lawrence of Arabia," and in a moment of glory I cracked open my Bud Lite.

Just then that aeroplane backfired overhead and I reflexively threw my beer into the air and watched it roll frothily down into the Saharan valley. But I payed my brewskie no heed because my eyes were glued heavenward. Holly, Dave and I stood agape, for humankind's wizardry had faltered. The engine of the plane had stopped.

For endless moments the plane drifted silently, coasting peacefully a mile above our heads. And than, before our wondrous eyes, the plane dipped and twirled like a leaf as it descended towards earth.

"Holy smokes! AHHHHHHHHHHH! Run!!!" I screamed as I gave myself up to my fight-or-flight mode. Faced with the prospect of watching a real fiery aeroplane crash, I leaped and tumbled down the dune, screaming in terror. In an instant we found ourselves at the bottom of the dune in a heap, huddling in morbid anticipation of the impending explosion that would spray bits of blazing metal to all corners of the idyllic North Shore.

Instead of crashing and burning, however, the plane pulled out of its tailspin and cranked up the engine. Our moment of anguish gave way as the little plane chugged onwards. Soon the sadistic pilot was at it again, tail-spinning towards earth, only to pull out of the dive at the last moment. Dave and Holly were starting to enjoy the show but I couldn't watch. Every time the plane cut its engine and began its dip, my legs twitched and I fled, helplessly, for a few yards. I was OD-ing on adrenaline. And I was beginning to question my judgment: why would I recklessly subject myself to the dangerous guiles of Nature, even for an afternoon?

Deeply shaken, I rallied my companions and we set off for the parking lot, Besides, ol' man sun was heading for the hills in a hurry, and we faced the prospect of spending the night with lyme ticks and the Red Baron if we didn't make the parking lot in time. As dusk settled, we stumbled into the empty parking lot and sprinted to the car. The prophet-of-doom ranger was just locking up as we screeched up to the gate. He approached us and, instead of getting mad or something, he said: "Around the next bend you'll see a deer making its way across the marsh towards the Great House." We had no time to decipher his ominous code language. Sorry, Ranger, SB `94 over!.