Beauty in The Virginia Hamptons (RE: NCPA “Beautiful World” Anthology 2023)

by Author A. K. Buckroth (aka: Andrea Roth-Ross)

Virginia is for Lovers.” As a recent resident to Virginia, I have seen this popular statement in one form or another throughout numerous retail areas here. Bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets, jigsaw puzzles, baseball caps, etc., are colorful and quick attention-getters, money makers and conversation pieces. Such items are inexpensive elaborations for a tourist’s memory and/or collection.

Totally different from the Long Island New York Hamptons for the supposedly lavish Hollywood types (the Long Island, NY, affluent), the Virginia Hamptons are shared with working class and numerous military citizens and their families. This area has been known as the United States’ epicenter of military activity. Diversity of the human race is abundant and apparent. I have never seen such an explosive mixture of ethnicities in one place. I have seen hard-working men and women laborers (lower – middle class) amid military retirees (an upper echelon) doing what they do best, whatever that may be (mowing, cooking, painting, nannying, etc.).

When first hearing the lovers phrase as a pre-teen in 1969, my imagination ran away with naughty visualizations of naked people running around on sectioned “nude” beaches up and down the east coast where I lived in Massachusetts. I never saw any of this. This slogan, however, came about in 1969 with the recognition of “baby boomers” along with that generation’s hullabaloo to get listened to by “the establishment”, also known as government entities for one reason or another. For one, I think the end of the Vietnam War remained fresh in many minds across the globe and contributed to further free thinking with ideas and actions of ‘free love’. “All you need is love” became a national mantra through Beatles vocalist and artist John Lennon. The ‘hippie movement’ enhanced such ideals.

The Commonwealth of Virginia continues to use the lovers slogan as a retail business marketing tool. Evidently it continues to work by bringing curiosity seekers – especially the ever- present working-class people and business entrepreneurs – to this state’s numerous waterways with soft sanded limitless ocean fronts. I have seen walkers, joggers and runners – often times with a dog or two – seemingly enjoying such activities. Not me. I enjoy sitting at the water’s edge listening to the ocean’s sounds. Quiet. Still. This is peaceful to me.

The Virginia Hamptons are no longer limited to the former thoughts of their being a bastion of societal elitism if they ever were. Recalling a childhood memory, my adult female family members (my mother, my aunts, and their lady friends) occasionally spoke of their dreams about visiting the New York Hamptons. Overhearing a conversation as the adults lay in chaise loungers on a covered back patio in a humble, Cape Cod, Massachusetts rental cottage, the subject of New York came up with the undertaking of a trip to the New York Hamptons. It ended up being an idea. Nothing more.

The front path to this particular Cape Cod ocean front rental cottage had been decorated with colorful seashells having pretty hues of faded pink and light green stripes. Along with the shells, different sized pieces of sun-bleached driftwood also adorned the pathway to the front door. I found it to be absolutely charming.

However, the purported financial escapade to any one of four ‘New York Hamptons’ and their hamlets remained a dream to these adults. They spoke of seeing a movie star if they were to go there, maybe a financier or a ‘fat cat.’ So, I wondered. My young imagination thought a ‘Hampton’ to be a place, a tangible piece of land with prodigious iconic homes having lots of gleaming windows overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, large grassy yards for two or three dogs, and swimming pools. Maybe indoor pools too. An attached hot tub would be an exquisite addition to such a relationship. Knowing how to swim since the age of six, I was ready. Oh, don’t forget, some house staff such as a gardener and a maid or two, and a cook of course.

I didn’t blame them for their dream. Eight children aged four to 17 with four adults in a two bedroom cottage with one full bathroom helped mental imagery to wander. The cottage rental price, split four ways, helped this particular excursion to be affordable in the summer of 1970. Overcrowded, sure. But cozy, happy, together made it warm.

I liked the summers on Cape Cod. I became familiar with walking to the beach with my siblings and cousins. We continued our adventures by locating a simple local general store that offered modest, yet necessary items such as toothbrushes, two types of tooth pastes, toilet paper, one brand of canned coffee grounds, sodas, bread, and plenty of different candy choices on display at the front counter. I could not fathom the adults wanting their summer dreams to change. However, my concerns were not addressed or even asked for.

The women in this illusionary group, aged 35 to 45, spoke of the wardrobes required to strut about a New York Hampton town ─ beach wear during the day affording cool comfort, showing skin in all the right places with open-toe sandals displaying painted toenails. Large framed, brightly colored sunglasses with a matching scarf, perhaps, or a floppy rattan hat, completed their attires. Sexy. Sexy to them. Comical to me. They laughed at each other and made fun.

However, I think they forgot they were on Cape Cod, not New York.

Their evening dress on Cape Cod included a spaghetti-strap mid-length or full length dark dresses showing off their newly tanned (sunburned) legs, feet, shoulders, bare necks and collar bones. They wanted to be there, wherever “there” lead them out the door. The shoes and purses with hair accessories matched their “evening costumes” with perfection. We children were left in the cottage in front of the television.

Well–planned, these single older women to include my mother and her sister and two of their friends, giggled and shared dreams while getting ready. It was fun to listen to until we kids – siblings and cousins – were told to “go outside!” We could still hear their chatter on the other side of the cottage walls. We chuckled and laughed out loud at them until we found another adventure to keep us occupied.

Glamorous beauty is in the mind, I mean the eye, of the beholder. .

The particular Hamptons of the Commonwealth of Virginia consist of seven cities: Hampton Roads, Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Hampton. These women were unaware of the Virginia Hamptons.

Hampton Roads is the specific name of the land and water masses that exist within each separate city. If I were asked “Where do you live in Virginia,” I could answer “Hampton Roads, specifically the city of Chesapeake.” Therefore, I have become aware that Hampton Roads is an inclusion of each city surrounded by rivers, an embodiment of coastal Virginia. Each city is known as a “Hampton Roads region.” Unfamiliar with such an ideal, I am familiar with its worldwide economic impact which is tremendous: bridges with connective railroad tracks in-between each city encompass a visitor’s journey. Don’t forget a map.

Newport News, another metropolis of Hampton Roads, is trodden with a naval history dating back to the 17th century. I have found this city to be a visual mixture of antiquity with an onslaught of modernism. To me it is confusing, unwelcoming, perhaps misunderstood. The Mariner’s Museum sparks my interest and could perhaps entice a visit to Newport News.

Unbeknownst to me until living here, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) became headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, in 2021. After more than 50 years of being a European entity, it has found a home in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia Beach is basically an independent resort city with an expansive beach with beach-front properties. Full of hotels, restaurants, boardwalks and boutiques, the Chesapeake Bridge attracts much attention. I found it to be quite amazing. For one, it is over four miles long. There are no exits, of course. It is ominous and frightening, similar to an amusement park ride.  The fee for me to cross it when I did was $4.00. I have also spent time walking under the bridge when visiting Virginia Beach’s Chic’s beach neighborhood. This bridge is very impressive.

Portsmouth, to me, is a dense, diversified city. Overcrowded through my brief visits there, I found it encumbered by concrete structures ─ mostly tall apartment buildings. Unimpressed at first, I found the Norfolk Naval Shipyard ─ located in Portsmouth ─ to be just the opposite. There is a historic and active U.S. Navy facility located in Portsmouth with a small park demonstrating in-ground memorial placards explaining certain ships with the activities of Navy sailors involved in various battles. Presently, the admirable behemoth Battleship Wisconsin is docked there, offering self-guided tours for under $20.00.

There are approximately 20 miles of land between each city. These land masses are intersected by rivers, creeks, streams and estuaries leading to the Atlantic Ocean. In order to cross from one side to another, bridges are a necessary accessibility. In fact, there are 90 bridges in Chesapeake alone, six of them are drawbridges. I know because I live in Chesapeake and have been amazed while driving from point A to point B, having to cross a couple of them.

I remain terribly confused with the highway system and avoid it as much as possible. The enmeshed routes from one Hampton city to another and the closest to me are as follows: I-64 with the “Hampton Roads Bridge and tunnel (HRBT)”; I-664; route 17; I-264; route 58; route 164; route 13; route 168 and more. The routing system is endless. Each routing number has a letter behind it: either an N, S, E, or W depending on where you or I want to go. U-turns are ever-popular.

Due to the continual infrastructure updates of each of these highways, my opinion of driving through orange cones, orange-and-white-striped-barrels, white painted lane changes and merges…I prefer to drive ten miles out of my way to get to where I need to be. This way, my blood pressure can maintain its normalcy and I enjoy the views of a grassy or forested Virginia suburbia to get to where I want or need to be.

The nearby blue Gilmerton Bridge is a huge, solid steel/metal conglomeration of rivets, beams and concrete with four lanes for automotive vehicles. It is a drawbridge spreading one mile east to west over the Elizabeth River. “35’ high, [this bridge] has a vertical height restriction of 16’.” I have been awestruck seeing that necessary metal monster move up and down allowing sailboats, tugboats, fishing vessels, barges, etc., to pass unencumbered. The smooth flowing Elizabeth River gives way with a sense of ease and calm while waiting people in their cars on the bridge 20 minutes for the bridge to come down.

Let me tell you, on a daily basis ─ multiple times a day ─ that bridge is overcrowded with vehicles, big and small, wanting to get to the other side. This road, Military Highway 13 North, leads me home and further into Chesapeake. If chosen, drivers may continue on to Portsmouth, Norfolk, and/or Virginia Beach.

Such visible strength is one price to pay for commerce. It amazes me.

I have also frequented the Deep Creek Bridge drawbridge which is the name of my immediate neighborhood. When people ask “Where do you live.” I say “Deep Creek,” they know exactly what I am referring to. This drawbridge crosses the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. It consists of a narrow two-lane passage, north to south, and is much smaller than the Gilmerton Bridge.

The Great Bridge drawbridge has a fantastic historical venue regarding the American Revolution and Virginia’s resident Patriots in 1775. In short, within an hour of battle, the Patriots overtook 100 British red-coated troops enhancing this area of Virginia to be free of British rule. I learned all this through a free tour on the outer grounds of the “Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways Museum” where this battle took place. I stood in the exact place where shots were fired.

In this area of the East coast of America’s world, not only do the bridges support transportation and commerce, but railroads are vastly commonplace. For instance, under the Gilmerton Bridge are daily operable railroad tracks traversing north to south with an uncountable amount of boxcars stacked two high. It’s a lot. The trains lug their multiple containers traveling from Norfolk, through Chesapeake, into North Carolina and beyond. So, after waiting for the bridge to come down, the first road on my left to get me home has me (and others) halted at a railroad crossing. Feeling greatly agitated, there is nothing to be done but sit and wait – again. Geez o peet! It’s a good thing I have crackers in the car with a water-filled thermos at all times. Two items I will not leave home without!

Virginia’s vast system of scenic rivers, salty tidal bays, and quiet inlets and streams provide opportunities for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts to leave the world behind, have an adventure of their own and explore nature on its terms.”

“Leave the world behind” is a key phrase.” Personally, a simple walk on the beach is fine for me.

The calmness and serenity of all the available waterways can be visited and enjoyed. They traverse throughout this state. In addition, the rich and lengthy history of these Hamptons is centuries old and worth learning about this part of a beautiful world.

Although a newcomer to this state, confusion continues to abound my mind. Yet all the Hampton regional cities and their numerous activities offered in, on and at the Atlantic Ocean is, simply why Virginia is for Lovers.  My mother, my aunt and their friends would enjoy an adventure or two in the Virginia Hamptons for sure if only they knew.




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