The rainstorm brought cool weather and we woke to a pleasant morning. The woman next door was looking at the hook up box, they lost electricity and A/C around 1:00 in the morning and their call to the manager went unanswered. She was off to the store in search of a new plug. The manager soon golf-carted down, inspected the box, and explained that he doesn’t take calls so late in the night. He said the box was fried, but I don’t think because of the loudest boom we heard during the storm. A hit that close would have thrown me out of the trailer. By the time I came back from my shower there were four people all looking at the box with the hopes of fixing it.
The shower facilities were nice and the cyber combination lock on the door lent a certain exclusivity we have not seen at other campgrounds. Of course, operation adds precious seconds during a late-night bathroom dash so one should commit the four-digit combination to memory. You always wonder what action prompted the many signs you will see hung around a campground. This one is no different and I wonder how many pet beds were washed in the machines before management deemed it necessary to hang an 8x10 computer generated sign. How many pairs of dirty boots were washed in the Washington PA, KOA before yet another sign was created. Do infraction tolerance levels vary from camp to camp so at some point I will not have to sneak Mabel’s bed for a wash? Something to think about, but if a sign results in a clean shower than I am all for hanging one.
Today will be focused on the Outer Banks. We cross the little bridge and head North to Kill Devil Hills to see the Wright Brothers National Memorial. There is no way I could be this close and not see the birthplace of modern aviation. The park is huge with a large memorial on the hill where they tested their theories using gliders as kites. The dunes were intentionally covered with a grass to prevent erosion and the spot where they flew four flights on December 17th meticulously marked. Weird to think a C-5 cargo plane is longer than their first two flights. See how far we have come? Mabel took a stroll around the park but it was hot so we headed for Kitty Hawk a few miles away and drove along the beach road. We couldn’t see the ocean but the houses, all looking to be rentals, made me want to spend a summer here. A quiet summer vacation full of the beach and reading the books I acquired on this trip. Late nights spent just looking at the ocean with nothing on the next day’s calendar. It is funny how optimistic we are at summer’s beginning, only to see it disappear the closer we get to Labor Day.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park is how the dunes at Kill Devil Hills looked when the Wright Brothers were there. Sandy dunes for as far as you can see. Mabel and I walked in, her getting lots of attention, me telling her story. I had to carry her as I waded through a small pond, she doesn’t like to get wet, and we visited the hang gliding school. Children and adults were given lessons with attendants helping them fly, and proud parents videotaped the event. It was a long walk but we went to the top of the highest dune, the view was worth it. Mabel was tired after the walk, her tongue almost dragging in the sand. But we did find a food truck in the parking lot and it had a sanitary rating of 100%.
I had intended to meet two old friends from high school for drinks at the end of the day but it was soon apparent that my time table wouldn’t allow it. So, I decided to travel the 60 miles down to the southern tip of the island. I could take in more beach and see a few lighthouses as well. The plan was to catch up with them later and closer to their homes. We travelled through Nags Head and stopped at Bodie Hills lighthouse. I opted out of the tour as heights don’t thrill me and I wouldn’t have walked around outside anyway. It was a nice lighthouse with two distinctive red bands and people seemed to enjoy looking out from the top. We travelled down Hatteras Island and pulled over at one of the many cut outs to walk over the dunes to the ocean. It was perfect; few people, soft sand, and the sound of surf beating on the shore. I could have sat there for hours. The iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, moved from its original position, loomed large as we came out of Buxton. Its distinctive swirls letting you know what light it was. I didn’t realize the entrance was so ornate, not what I would have expected for a lighthouse.
All three boys took music lessons with a man named Mike Storm. A great guy who made learning music fun and we looked forward to every year’s Christmas CD. He would spend part of his summer in a lighthouse either in Outstate Minnesota or Wisconsin. The solitude sounded divine but I couldn’t go outside the light if it involved height.
There is a gap on the map between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island and I thought a bridge provided passage. It was actually a ferry that took us on an hour trip to the other side. The ride was 15 minutes but after a hurricane the channel now fills with sand no matter how much dredging is done. The camper drew lots of attention and I felt like a salesman when showing a family from New Jersey my kitchen and sleeping cabin. A man came over and told me he has built two tear drop campers, one is in Utah with his daughter, the other with him on the island. He has lived on Ocracoke since 1973 when he bought two parcels for $1,500 apiece. “Those days are long gone.” I comment. “Yeah" he replies, “lots of changes since then.” He is 77 years old with a physique and a “let’s do this” attitude from years of outdoor activity. I wouldn’t want to keep up with him in a kayak. We talked about design and the kits he used from Chesapeake Light Craft as well as the type of camping they do. It sounds like he has a good time outdoors. The ride is almost over, another passenger has looked and the next/last ferry to Cedar Island is at 9;00, putting us on the mainland at 11:30. I wasn’t jazzed on the idea of finding a spot at that time of night even when someone said there was a nice campground just off the ferry.
We drove down the Ocracoke Mainstreet, some touristy places to shop and eat, and passed many golf carts on the road. This must be the preferred way of travel which was verified when we passed a rental agency. The ferry terminal is at the end and was deserted when we approached. I went inside which was also deserted to find info I could use to decide a course of action. An older man finally came out and we discussed my options. I could get on the 9:00 ferry or wait until tomorrow at 7:30. He didn’t think the morning ferry was full as they would have let him know and nothing was said. After talking with Mabel, we decided to go back to a National Park Campground we saw on the way in and catch the morning boat.
The Ocracoke National Park site backed up to the dunes and we chose a spot that provided beach access. There were no hook ups so we couldn’t use A/C, and the bath house was a little rough but the view was gorgeous. Mabel and I took a path from our site down to the beach, which we had mostly to ourselves. A family was far to our right and others were far away on our left. I tied her lead to my beach chair with the hopes of keeping her close. She found out quickly that it provided no such grounding and brought the chair with her down to the water’s edge. But Mabel didn’t go in the water, instead dodging the waves where the water receded. I stayed close to shore, content to let the small waves bash me, playing driftwood like we did when kids . The water was very warm which was unlike my experience in Lake Michigan. I eventually took Mabel off the lead; a big mistake on my part. She spied a shore bird down the way and was off, becoming smaller and smaller the farther she got until I could barely see her. No Baywatch run down the beach for me as I decided a firm calling of her name would bring her back. It didn’t and she got closer to the people on our left. Visions of tickets for an unleashed dog harassing protective species filled my mind and I was happy when she finally turned back, tired, but with a gleeful look in her eyes.
We stayed on the beach almost until dark. It was so peaceful and I realized how much I miss it. You don’t know how much you miss something until you get it back. The waves continued to slap the shore with the sand comfortable under my newly found beach feet. This is perfection, I just wish Sheri was here with me.
Back at the camper I cooked dinner. The bugs must have been hiding until dark because they were out in full force and they bit hard! My Thermacell was struggling to start up but once it did, most of the bugs stayed away. It was a perfect night with the stars coming out over the dunes and the low hush of the ocean in the background. Tomorrow was an early ferry ride and I wanted to see sun up so we went to bed early.