August 6th, 2011


Greetings from Newport News

Friday morning was our last at the beach, and though we didn't have time to swim and shower before we needed to check out, and the water was as rough as we'd seen it all week with cooler temperatures than the past several mornings, it was the best beach morning I've ever had. We walked in the opposite direction than we had the past couple of days from where the boardwalk deposited us past the dunes. Because it was overcast, there were dozens of baby ghost crabs scuttling around in the sand -- no big ones, I guess they could tell that it wasn't really night, but little transparent ones half an inch across all over the sand. After walking maybe a hundred yards, just past the tide line, I spotted what I thought was a dead baby sea turtle lying on its back. When I flipped it over with my flip-flop to look at it, it started to move. My first instinct was to get it into the ocean, but Paul said we should ask the lifeguard first and went to find her. When she arrived, she contacted someone by walkie-talkie who asked questions about the turtle's beak and tail -- probably trying to determine whether it was a loggerhead or a Kemp's ridley -- and they said they would send someone from N.E.S.T., the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles in Kitty Hawk. The lifeguard was instructed to keep the turtle by her chair till they arrived to stop seagulls from pecking it, so she scooped it up in the sand with her flippers.

We had to check out before we learned the fate of the turtle -- we are hoping they will e-mail with news -- but we got to see several other turtles in the afternoon when we stopped during the drive home at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, which is entirely focused on natural life in Virginia and has large indoor sections devoted to the piedmont and coastal regions, plus an outdoor wetlands, aviary, mammal enclosures, butterfly house, gardens, and amphitheater where we got to meet a snake and a screech owl. We had brought a picnic and ate it outside surrounded by cardinals and sparrows before going first to the aviary for the shore bird feeding (pelicans and herons grabbing fish), then on the boardwalk through the woods past the wolves, foxes, deer, eagles, and sleeping possums. My kids were too old for most of the activities, but since most of the museum has live animals, we stuck to the habitats, which include everything from alligators to rattlesnakes to bats to chipmunks. We stopped for dinner in Fredericksburg at the Mexican restaurant Carlos O'Kelly's and were home before 8 p.m., giving me time to start the multiple laundries before Torchwood (which is doing exactly what I thought it would, both in terms of the plot and in terms of how the characters are treated, but now that I know from "Children of Earth" not to get emotionally involved in the storyline, I am enjoying the politics quite a bit).

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