Summer in the city obviously looks nothing like this beach picture. If it did, we would all be flocking to the city.
There are a couple of things that I remember as being nice during a summer in Reston. One was that traffic thinned enough to be noticed.
The other was city life itself seemed to back off from its normal intensity just a little. Of course the morning rush hour was still there on Wiehle, and there was still plenty of traffic for most people's tastes.
It is hard not to say that there are better places to be than the Washington Metro area in summer. The truth is that almost no one wants to be in the city during the summer. To measure the truth of the statement, just get on one of the main roads out of town on a Friday before a weekend.
I used to try to leave my Reston office on Thursdays during the summer just to stay off Interstates 66 & 81 on Fridays. I doubt it has gotten any better in the five years since I stopped working in Reston. I know that during our spring visit, I was impressed with the amount of road upheaval. To an outsider it might look like the guts are being changed in the area's infrastructure. However, they didn't live through the mixing bowl construction.
My theory on summer in the city is simple. Streets, buildings, and concrete all absorb heat and then radiate it at night. In spite of Reston having more trees than many urban areas, it is impossible to escape the heat. Of course all the trees help stop any thought of cooling breezes.
Having the buildings act as a giant heat sink could be useful in winter, but unfortunately I don't think it works that way. All the concrete seems to absorb cold and intensify the cold during the winter.
So it is that everyone looks forward to getting out of the city in the summer. People just want to get away from the heat, roads, people, and traffic. Ideally you want to find a lake, beach or some body of water, and Reston's manmade lakes really don't count.
Virginia doesn't have a lot of lakes so there is no quick escape like Lake Norman provides for Charlotte. Of course there is the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, but somehow a real escape seems to demand a little more travel and a little less traffic.
Crossing over to Maryland's Eastern Shore and perhaps heading to Rehoboth Beach or one of the other Delaware beaches is an option that can be done in under 3.5 hours if there is no traffic according to Google maps. Taking the trip to four hours can get you to Virginia Beach, but it is almost as urban as Reston.
About four hours will get you to Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke. Four hours will also get you to Kerr/Buggs Island Lake which is the middle of lot of Virginia countryside. All those venues have their advocates, and they certainly have the advantage of relatively short driving times.
A couple of more hours, give or take a few minutes, will get you to some serious North Carolina beaches. Most people from the Reston area are familiar with Corolla, Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Nags Head. Add another hour and you can be on Hatteras Island waiting in line for the ferry to Ocracoke.
Depending on the traffic gods, you can probably get to North Carolina's lesser known Crystal Coast in about six hours. My wife and I have made it from the Wiehle entrance on the toll road to the stoplight by the Emerald Isle bridge in six hours at least a couple of times even with the inevitable traffic in Fredericksburg.
I won't pretend to know about Rehoboth Beach or any of the other Delaware beaches, but I do know the North Carolina beaches very well. I grew up going to them, and never stopped visiting until I managed to find a spot near the beach where I could live.
The area south of Ocracoke Island is sometimes called the Southern Outer Banks. Cape Lookout National Seashore is part of the area and is only accessible by boat. There are 56 miles or so of wild isolated beaches there.
The real attraction of the Southern Outer Banks is the Crystal Coast which stretches from Beaufort, NC to Swansboro, NC. The heart of the area is a strand of beach which runs from Fort Macon State Park near Atlantic to the Point of Emerald Isle.
The area has about twenty one miles of beautiful beach with a population density of about half of what you would find in one of the Delaware beaches. The area is even on the doorstep of the 158,000 acres of the Croatan National Forest. The National Forest and the National Seashore keep the area from becoming just another over-developed beach area.
There are a wide variety of accomodations available on the shore, but the majority of what you will find are single family homes available for weekly rentals. There is one small oceanfront motel in Emerald Isle and a couple of larger ones up by Atlantic Beach. There are some scattered condo complexes, but nothing like the wall to wall highrises in Myrtle Beach.
The area differs greatly from Myrtle Beach. The main activities on the Crystal Coast are walking on the beach, fishing, boating, or visiting some of the area's historical sites. It is a peaceful area where stress is not part of the daily equation.
The Crystal Coast gets its name from the crystal clear waters that are usually found on its shores. I have visited beaches from Assateague Island all the way to Myrtle Beach, and I think some of the best beaches on the east coast are within the town limits of Emerald Isle. I have walked all the miles of beach within Emerald Isle's corporate boundaries at least three times since spring, and I am always amazed at the beauty of the beaches, and how there always seems to be space to enjoy the beach.
One of the unique things about the area is that the beaches face the south. Having the ocean to the south instead of the east is a little different, but it has its advantages especially during the cooler months.
If summer in Reston has finally gotten to you, or if the 104F or 106F high temperatures in the forecast towards the end of the third week of July 2011 have you considering a quick exit from town, you can check out our forecast temperatures for Emerald Isle.
The water has been warm enough for dipping in since the end of May so it is nearly perfect now. You can check water temperatures for much of the east coast at this link. You will find our surf temperatures in the mid-eighties which is just enough to cool you off and to keep those super hot temperatures at bay.
Our area also has the advantage of being a great area for boating whether you choose the sound or one of the big coastal rivers. Our traffic even on July 4th doesn't really compare to what anyone from Reston sees on a weekly basis so you can drop that worry because we are already past the season's peak traffic.
If you are planning on visiting, you can read lots more about the area at my Emerald Isle Travel Guide.
It is a unique area which has a real year round population. So while you get the advantage of being at the beach, you don't have to give up any modern services.
If you are a regular to Northern Outer Banks, you will be surprised at how much vegetation surrounds the homes in our beach communities and how laid back life is here on the Crystal Coast.
You might just the discover why the almost secret beaches that native North Carolinians have been enjoying for years are such a great place to live and visit.