I have been to this part of the North Carolina coast at least six times now.
My first visit I was a chubby kid in elementary school. I can remember taking a ferry across Bogue Sound. We stayed in a cinder block beach house. My parents, my sister, and my mother’s mother, Granny, made the trip.
I spoke with my mother’s niece, Lora, a few days ago. She confirmed my memory about the ferry and the house where we stayed. Lora knew the family we rented the house from that week. Eventually, Lora and her husband, Graham, purchased a lot, and put up a home on the sound side.
From the Virginia and South Carolina borders, the North Carolina coastline offers a lot to its residents and visitors.
Somehow, these narrow strips of barrier islands and shorelines continue to beat the odds and hang on. At times, I ask how this fragile land withstands all that we humans toss at them.
I wonder what the wildlife thinks about our presence.
Maybe the cackle of the laughing seagull is really a laugh of dismay as they take in our appetite to gobble up every square inch of the coastlands for development.
I hope someone a lot smarter than me can figure out a balance. A balance that will protect this precious coastline for many generations beyond me.
If a person makes a visit to this part of the North Carolina coast without making a drive over to Beaufort, then I think this person should be banned for life from the old north state’s coastline.
Beaufort is a postcard.
It is a charmer.
I think all of the adjectives in the dictionary have been used to describe Beaufort by travel writers and tourist industry promoters.
My favorite place in Beaufort is the Fishtowne Brewery. It is unique.
The brewery is located in a narrow, compact building about the length and width of your pinkie finger. Even if you are not a beer drinker, you should poke your head in the door to admire the ingenuity of how the architect created this space.
We made three drives over to Beaufort during our stay at Atlantic Beach, two for dinner, and one just to mousy around.
I imagine that Beaufort with all of its charms isn’t immune from challenges.
Just a short drive out of the waterfront, local shops, and historical homes the landscape changes. That is the story for a lot of American cities and towns—the landscape changes as we move out of the pretty places that attract us.
Those landscape changes, gaps continue to trouble my heart. These very real gaps are more than the differences in the separation of city blocks.
I see the gaps between us in who wears a mask and who doesn’t. I see the gaps in the flags blowing on boats that pass along the Beaufort waterfront.
And I think about the engineering feats of the bridges in these coastal flatlands. They carry us to the barrier island beaches without too many problems. But, we still struggle to build personal bridges in our communities to help us with our on going challenges.
On Friday, I took a part and cleaned up my fishing equipment. I walked over to the dock where the stunt fish lured me, and I unloaded my remaining shrimp. The gulls on the dock pilings were thankful.
Two sad looking teenage boys affirmed for me what I had already learned—the stunt fish and bait stealers had conquered them too.
While the Commander Supreme and Elizabeth were in their happy place down on the beach, I took a long ride. I poked along the succession of beach towns south of Atlantic Beach. I made one stop to walk through the new Publix. My gosh that company must have deep pockets.
I took the B. Cameron Langston Bridge to carry me over the sound. Years ago that ferry I took as a youngster probably chugged through these same waters. My how the world has changed.
Soon, the bridge and the sound are behind me. I had only been on the mainland a few seconds when I note to my left a wide, long border of sunflowers growing in the hot July sun. They were spectacular.
At the intersection, I made a right turn on to North Carolina 24. This was a quiet ride back into Morehead City. And I thought about the people who live on either side of NC 24. I wonder how often these people take time to enjoy Bogue Sound and the beaches along North Carolina 58? Maybe they go when the tourists are gone.
Tomorrow is Saturday. That means packing and departing, and wrestling again with my travel friend the rooftop carrier.
Organizing for the packing went well. On Saturday morning, the rooftop carrier and I were on friendly terms. This time I made sure I snugged up the flailing straps.
Repacking the car went well.
We stopped at the Atlantic Beach Surf Shop for a quick walk through. This was a really nice store.
Next, we dropped off the keys at the rental office. Elizabeth navigated across the traffic to head us toward the bridge over the sound and into Morehead City. I noted a bit of disappointment from the driver and co-pilot as they took one last look at the sound in all its summer glory.
On the way out of Morehead City, we stopped at the Friendly Market. This is a dangerous stop as the store is loaded with all kinds of homemade items and in season produce. The cooler had been carefully positioned in the back of the car for loading up the yummy purchases.
Even though I was reluctant to make this trip, I enjoyed being away from home and work. Beach trips are hard work. But something keeps drawing us back to the sand, the restless waves, the salt air, and the best friend of all dermatologists—the sun.
Maybe next year, Lauren’s husband, Doug, and our son, Andrew, his wife, Kathryn, and their girls Josie and Ellie will make the trip.
We made it back to Raleigh, and eventually Richmond.
No blue lights pulled the heavy foots over.
I’m sure months from now a daydream will tug at me.
And that tug will take me back to the beach. It will temporarily remove me from the challenges and distractions that are consuming me.
And for a few brief seconds, life will be as calm and peaceful as the effortless glide of pelicans riding thermals over the constant churn of the breakers.
I’ll take that glide.
And at the same time, I will ask— why can’t we find the pelicans’ peaceful glide within ourselves and those who we encounter everyday?