Sunday, July 27, 2014

New Bern (Fleeing, Part Two).....

When we were planning our vacation we pulled out an atlas (a real map made of paper, for those too young to know) and planned our stops.  Some things we knew we really, really wanted to do (Williamsburg, The Outer Banks, Charleston).  Some of those things were so far apart that we needed spots in between to make the journey more bearable.  New Bern was one of those spots.

New Bern is in North Carolina, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, which empty into the Pamlico sound.  The second oldest colonial city in NC, (and the home of Pepsi) it is full of well-maintained historical homes and museums. We arrived about 5:30 PM, earlier than planned because of the earlier ferry ride.  We drove straight downtown, discovering that most the things we wanted to see were closed for the day, but willing to hunt down dinner.  Across from a Tryon Palace we spotted a small seafood restaurant, and with the what-the-heck spirit that comes at the end of a long day of travel, we took a chance.

It was a good call.  That bucket of crabs was $12.  And all the food was fabulous.

The next day we toured a museum, some old homes and Tryon Palace (the colonial governors mansion).  No photos were allowed inside the mansion, but to give you some idea of the level of luxury, here's the stable:

The mansion (note the sky):

The privy was a six-seater-in-the-round.

Each seat faces a wall, with a divider of sorts between. 
Don't ask why I care.  Odd bathrooms fascinate me, obviously. 
As we were touring, the docents were subtly moving antiquities away from the windows, and demonstrating that the old built-in shutters still work!  I overheard someone asking, "Are you going to set your alarm for 1:30 AM so you can experience the eye of the hurricane?"  About this time our phones started pinging with updates on severe storm alerts and all sorts of impending doom.  Apparently New Bern was the new Ground Zero for Hurricane Arthur.  Since our next planned stop was Myrtle Beach, which would have sent us down the Atlantic coast (at 5 feet above sea level on average) directly down the throat of the beast, we decided to swing inland, catch 95 south and maybe skirt the worst of it. 
Here's what we drove toward:
The worst of it was the idiocy of the tourists fleeing the storm.  We saw accidents that required helicopters to get people out.  We resisted the temptation to stop at this attraction (not sure how - I mean, America's Biggest Pork Display? How will we forgive ourselves?):
We skipped all of our beach destinations, and arrived someplace? outside of Charleston? by dinnertime.  The sun was shining as we put up the tent.
We got rained on for a total of about 20 minutes.  Seriously.  Hurricanes fear us.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fleeing the Hurricane......

The Outer Banks are lovely, but they are prime territory for hurricane damage.  Our campground had had to fully rebuild after hurricane Irene took out almost the entire place.  The updated bathrooms had a "Hurricane Irene Flood mark" on the wall.  I assure you, it was higher up than the roof of our cabin across the street from it. 

The weather during our brief stay was absolutely beautiful, but we began hearing people murmuring about an approaching storm while we were touring Kitty Hawk.  We were pretty disconnected from news and such, so we just kept on swimming and stargazing.  Having driven several hours on a narrow two-lane road onto a sandbar that is 17 miles by boat from the nearest shore, I did contemplate just how insane the word "evacuation" might make things, but, hey, no worries!  We're on vacation, right?  Despite our ongoing propensity for beaches we've managed to never run into a hurricane.  So far, anyway.

On our last morning on the OBX, I caught a glimpse of the Weather Channel on TV as we were checking out. It looked.....interesting.  I watched long enough to figure that we might want to consider upgrading to a cabin at our NEXT site, but since that one was a bit more inland, it looked like we were headed toward safer ground. 

Since we were continuing south on the OBX, we were heading toward the storm.  The only way off of the southern end at Cape Hatteras is to take a free ferry (45 minutes) to Okracoke Island, drive down the island and catch a second  ($15, 3 hour) ferry to the mainland.  Our plan was to dawdle down the sandbar, see the lighthouse at the cape, find a good seafood restaurant for lunch and enjoy our boat rides.

The lighthouse was beautiful.  Breakfast was seafood omelets in a tiny place called The Gingerbread House (we took some gingerbread men to go).  The ferry from Hatteras to Okracoke was peaceful.  The town of Okracoke reminded me of Nantucket minus the hills - tight, twisty streets, ocean views everywhere, pelicans on every pier post.  We figured we'd buy ferry tickets, and then explore the town.

Notice the sky?  Not looking too 'hurricane-y' to the south yet.  The view to the east wasn't too threatening either:

As I was asking for tickets for the three o'clock ferry, a TV tuned to the Weather Channel showed that Arthur had picked up speed, and been upgraded from "Tropical Storm" to "Level I" and then "Level II" hurricane status while we'd been shell hunting on the beaches. The (only!) sales clerk paused to answer the phone while I waited.  After the call was finished, she said, "I can't sell you tickets. The one o'clock ferry is sold out. The later ferries are now free because the state just issued a voluntary evacuation notice.  It will be first-come-first-served.  I suggest you get in line."  Oh.  Dear.  I guess I'm going to get to see first-hand how crazy things get when the e-word gets tossed out there. 

Matt and I did a huddle.  Pros and cons of exploring the town versus being aggressive about staying with the truck to hold a place in line?  Meanwhile, the one o'clock ferry is loading.  I went to check on procedures with the people who were in charge of that process.  "Lady, I got one more spot on this boat if you want to go!" 


If God gives you a spot on the sold-out boat, get on the damned boat, right?  And here we are - almost hanging off the back of the ferry.

We didn't find our awesome seafood restaurant.  But we had baby carrots, smoked cheddar, mayo, mustard and whole wheat in the cooler.  We got more than one envious look from hurricane refuges reduced to snacking from the machines.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Outer Banks....

After enjoying Colonial Williamsburg, we headed out to the ginormous sandbar known as The Outer Banks.  I've been there before, at the northern end.  The tourists flock to that end - it is, after all, the part of The Banks that is actually connected to the mainland by a couple of bridges.  We toured Kitty Hawk, amazed by how NOT far the original flights of Orville and Wilbur were in reality! 

Instead of going north, we went south to Rodanthe.  The houses and shops got fewer and farther between, and mile after mile of sand dunes and sound views rolled by, until we arrived at our campground.  We had rented a one-room cabin, thinking that setting up a tent on a treeless sandbar in  southern state might not be the best of fun for vacation.  Since the cabin had an air conditioner and the temp was well over 90 it turned out to be a good call.  Staying in a place where I could hear the ocean behind me while I washed dishes to the sunset over the Pamlico Sound was amazing. The distance between the ocean beach an the shore of the sound was about 100 yards, and we were 17 miles offshore.  But the most amazing thing was the darkness.

We are so accustomed to background light that we can scarcely imagine not having any.  But at sunset, the only lights were from campfires and a few local homes.  And when the locals go to bed....nothing.

I sat on the beach, bathed in starlight.  Overhead, the milky way glowed, horizon to horizon.  Stars stretched down to touch the water, a million miles away.  Despite the fact that there was no moon, I could clearly see my star shadow, floating at my feet.

Some moments contain eternal magic.  However brief they are in reality, in the heart and memory they are windows into the soul of God, and they never fade.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Recovering From a Good Time.....

Contrary to all appearances here on the blog, we did not perish during our vacation.  The trip was delightful, the truck reliable, the weather (for the most part) cooperative and the hurricane was a non-event for us. 

I discovered soon after we left that I had left my computer charger behind.  After a few moments of mourning, I decided that it was, actually, a gift from God.  Oh, I checked in on Facebook on my iPod once in a while, posting a picture or three along the way, but typing a blog entry from the iPod is enough of a pain that I released myself from the obligation.  It was a nice break, actually.

We successfully met up with the church's mission team in Virginia to serve a week for the Appalachia Service Project ( and came home on schedule.  My next few posts will share moments from both our personal trip and the team's adventures. 

I am, however, increasingly amazed by how long it takes to recover from a good time.