25th Anniversary

I met my two best friends in sixth grade — Twenty. Five. Years. Ago.

In an effort to not feel obscenely old and to kick some excitement into the current world-situation, I reached out to both girls, KP & KF, to see if they wanted to go somewhere to celebrate this anniversary of our friendship with a girls’ weekend.

They readily agreed, and we began scouring the internet for road-trip accessible destinations that we’d be able to visit once we all received our COVID vaccines. Finally settling on a cozy cottage adjacent to a small winery in Ripley, NY, we made the three hour drive on the first weekend in June to relax and enjoy a few days away from our husbands, pets, jobs . . . and the nightmare that was 2020.

The drive north was impeded only by nearly three straight hours of an absolute DOWNPOUR. It rained so hard we could barely see the road at times and had to stop twice to settle our nerves. Still, we made it to the winery without incident, checked in, received our complimentary bottle of wine, and set about to explore the charming little cabin that would be our home for three days.

The place was perfect — the kitchen was well-equipped and the living room was cozy, complete with plush chairs and an entire wall of built-in bookshelves that made all three of us drool. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms gave us plenty of space, and while everything was comfortable and reasonably modern, there were also old fashioned charms like uneven, squeaky floors, sloped ceilings, and soft, faded area rugs that gave it a turn-of-the-century vibe.

On that first night, we chose our rooms, unpacked, and headed to the grocery store to stock up on snacks, coffee, and alcohol to last throughout our stay. We sat up late, talking and laughing about work, family drama, and sex, reminiscing about each other’s weddings and hilarious or painful middle and high school memories. We discovered at some point that we were only about ninety miles from Niagara Falls, New York, and decided that the state park would be our destination the following day.

The drive north was relatively pleasant, and we had no trouble finding a place to park so we could wander through the blocks of restaurants and gift shops before hearing the rush of the rapids and the falls that made up Niagara Falls State Park. We spent hours gazing at the water, walking through the pretty, lush grounds, and taking in the beautiful summer day. What started as a chilly, gray morning eventually gave way to a sunny, humid afternoon, and by the time we’d had our fill of the falls we were grateful to sit in an air-conditioned restaurant and enjoy a late lunch. On the way home we stopped at a massive indoor outlet mall, where we spent lots of time and money ducking in and out of a variety of stores — my favorite of which was the Lindt Chocolate Outlet store. Drool. We also stopped to get drinks at Tim Horton’s (my first time)!

Our plans for day two took us to Erie Beach, about 45 minutes from where we stayed. We found Presque Isle easily enough, and I took the time to climb the tiny Presque Isle Lighthouse, where I very nearly had a panic attack when I realized how tiny the damn thing was and became claustrophobic while scaling the steep stairs and gazing out over the narrow observation deck. I’d been in lighthouses before, and always enjoyed the climb and the view, but this teensy tower was not like the hulking giants found in my frequent jaunts to the Outer Banks. Glad I had the experience, but just as glad to never climb those particular stairs again.

For the rest of the day, the three of us lounged on the beach. It was sunny and warm, and my Aquarius-self absolutely had to get in the water. After applying sunscreen and baking for awhile, I headed to the water’s edge — and nearly peed myself.

The water was ICE COLD. Looking back, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that water this far north hadn’t had a chance to warm up yet so early in the summer, but I was so looking forward to splashing in the waves that I couldn’t bear to stay on dry land. So I gritted my teeth and plunged in as far as I could manage before my skin puckered and my teeth chattered and I hurried back onto the sand to warm up.

And warm up I did. Over the course of five hours, I alternated between sunning myself and wading in the frigid lake. I noticed that my skin was taking on a slight pink tint, but I wasn’t concerned. My body hadn’t seen the sun like this in over a year, and besides, I was wearing sunscreen. We talked and laughed and munched on our PB&Js and veggies with hummus as the sun moved across the sky.

It wasn’t until we left, and I ducked into one of the bath houses to use the facilities that I realized how red my skin actually was. Still, I felt fine on the ride home, and was excited to get cleaned up and head to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I showered and shaved my legs, looking forward to an evening of chips and salsa, margaritas and memories.

Then I tried to get dressed. All of a sudden, my skin was absolutely burning. Not pinching like normal sunburn. Burning like I’d laid myself in a frying pain of hot oil. Denim shorts were not an option. Neither were leggings. I managed a bra only by loosening the straps. Frantically, I thought about the bottle of aloe sitting in my chest of drawers back home. Instead I grabbed the bottle of sunscreen I’d taken to the beach and double checked the SPF strength — 50. What had gone wrong? Then my thumb felt the raised numbers on the seam of the bottle — it had expired six months prior. And I hadn’t reapplied it after my icy dip.

Jesus.

Luckily KP had brought a sundress with her. I delicately pulled it over my head and breathed a sigh of relief to have the loose garment flowing around my legs instead of clinging to them. We headed to the Mexican restaurant and placed our orders, and I promptly began fishing ice out of my water glass to apply to my thighs that were still on fire.

“Note to self — don’t shave overtop of sunburn,” I muttered to my friends.

“Why would you shave?!”

“What were you thinking?!”

“It didn’t hurt when I was in the shower,” I answered. “I didn’t even think about it. I shaved out of habit.”

Sadly my margarita didn’t do much to dull the pain, so we stopped at the store on our way back to the cabin so I could buy aloe. I also purchased another cotton sundress to get through the next day, and went to bed covered in green slime and only managed to sleep after downing a couple of Advil.

The ride home was pretty rough — it was ninety degrees and sunny, and I couldn’t escape the sun’s harsh rays beating down on my legs through the car windows. To add insult to injury, at one of our rest stops, I stubbed my toe on a huge, metal door, splitting it open and bleeding all over my sandal. Great, I thought, limping through the parking lot. If I don’t die of skin cancer in a few years, I’ll die of gangrene. Good thing I got a tetanus shot last summer!

At long last, I arrived home to be greeted by my over-enthusiastic doggos and husband, who could only shake his head at my bright red skin. It was certainly the absolute worst sunburn I’d ever had. The only plus side was that I had the following day off work — good thing, too, because I could barely manage to get dressed. I also discovered Sun Bum Cool Down lotion, which feels like magic, even when your skin isn’t on fire, and immediately purchased their sunscreen, lip balm, and dry shampoo. At the risk of sounding like a lifestyle blogger, this is one very satisfied customer.

Despite the horrendous sunburn, I’m really glad my friends and I got together for a much-needed getaway, as quick as it was. KF asked why it had taken us so long to take a trip together, and all of us agreed that it was something we’d definitely have to do on a more regular basis.

Fine by me!

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