Wednesday, May 06, 2009

from the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Finally, I have time. At this moment, I have nothing pressing, nothing requiring immediate attention, nothing that has to be done today or tomorrow or the day after.

I can write in full sentences.

I’m on a pseudo road trip. To my law students, I would say it is a constructive road trip. It has elements of it, so let’s just call it that.

We’re on the east coast because Ed again has to review storage crates from his family belongings in New York. It struck me that a detour to the Outer Banks of North Caroline might distract him, especially since the man loves sailing more than life itself. And there are some mighty cool catamarans and trimarans to be had (or rented) down there.

But, my time, as always, is tight. And so we drove crazily, without attention to roadside anything, just so we could fit in a handful of days on the islands and then proceed up north to give more attention to estate issues.

We didn’t quite make it to Chapel Hill the first night (we were, I think, wise enough to call it quits after 850 miles, even though we had only 75 miles to go), but early the next day, we toddled in (en route to the islands) and, thanks to Ed’s friend who lives there, took a look around.

The UNC campus -- one of the oldest in the south -- is lovely, especially at this time of the year. The grass is truly greener here than on Bascom Mall. And their Mall trees have robust flowers!


(As does the garden of Ed's friend.)


We ate Carolina shrimp at the Carolina Inn…


…then waved good-bye and headed due east. Past lowlands and forests touched by swampy canals. Past meadows of poppies and cornflowers.


Do you know the Outer Banks of North Carolina? A thin strip of islands, reached by ferry or, from the north, by a series of long bridges? I found a place to stay at the very southern tip of the Banks – in the hardest to get to island (and therefore, I am hoping, the most beautiful of the lot).

A drive here at dusk is both exhilarating and a little disturbing. You feel like you’re putting a lot of distance between yourself and the rest of humanity. People who live here like the separation from the mainland. Me, I need a minute to adjust.

We cross the bridges, one after another. The day has been full of rain, but now the skies have settled. The air is warm and humid. The water is reflecting the still gray skies.

We pick up the one road that snakes down south from one island to the next. There are villages with small, weather beaten houses and a few stunning vacation rentals. Sand dunes rise to the left – the Atlantic side. But really, there is sand everywhere.



We reach our motel at Hattaras Island. It’s the kind of place I remember staying in when we took road trips across America in the 60s, in the family Chevrolet. It’s dark now. In the off season, you don’t see many people on the road. We pull up the rusty nose of the truck to our door. It’s quiet in our room. Except, somewhere in the distance, I hear the hum of the ocean.

In the morning, I am up at sunrise. I take the truck out to look around.

The lighthouse. The tallest in the country. Easy to find.


And right behind it, the ocean.


The morning mist blurs the border between sea and endless miles of sand. It is a canvas of such soft colors! I stand and watch the water chase the birds up and down the wet sand.