Because of Covid-19, Bill and I continue to be very cautious in everything we do – from exercising to trips to the grocery and from dining to sightseeing. We are truly each other’s best friend, and at times it feels like each other’s only friend!
This week we decided to travel to the Outer Banks – a place where Bill has visited but to which I have never ventured. So, you may be asking, what does one do on the Outer Banks two weeks before Christmas? Well, four ferries later, along with two lighthouses, mammoth sand dunes, the Wright Brothers, and of course, the beach, we’ll tell you exactly what to do – even in the midst of a pandemic!
Our adventure began on Friday, December 11, as we boarded our first ferry on Cedar Island at 7:30 a.m. for a 2 1/2 hour trip to Ocracoke. This was a toll ferry ($15) that holds about 40-50 vehicles – today we counted 10! Ocracoke was really blasted in Hurricane Florence two years ago, but the sleepy fishing village appears to have landed on its feet and is still fighting back!
When we arrived at the end of Ocracoke Island, it was time for our second ferry, a free 40-minute trip to Hatteras. This stretch of road was amazing in that the sand dunes begin right on the shoulder of the two lane road that took us up to our first lighthouse – the Cape Hatteras Light Station. Of course the lighthouse was closed to the public, but the Visitor’s Center was open and we had it all to ourselves! The volunteer on duty shared that a major renovation of this 268-step structure is scheduled, using a newly discovered procedure that will strip all 210-feet of the brick lighthouse with dry ice!
We continued our journey, cruising through Buxton, Avon, where we stopped to investigate the fishing pier, and then on through Salvo, Waves and Rodanthe, taking periodic stops to walk to the beach! Our next stop was the Oregon Inlet and Bodie Island Lighthouse, which is actually the third lighthouse on this landmark. It was electrified in 1932, before that being lit by oil that the lighthouse keeper would haul up the stairs in buckets! Still today, the Bodie Island and Hatteras Lighthouses “keep silent watch watch over the treacherous waters known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
Now, from my words and recollections, it may seem that the Outer Banks can be experienced quickly, when in reality the string of islands runs for about 130 miles. Although our day started very early, it was almost 3 p.m. by the time we got to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, a 427-acre park that hosts the tallest sand dunes on the east coast – no wonder Orville and Wilbur found this area perfect for their determination to fly! Bill and I hiked up the dunes and from afar we watched several people learning how to hang glide. We added another Christmas tree to our pictorial collection as we found a solar-powered structure on the very top of the dunes. Again, three were very few tourists in this area – I can only imagine what a normal summer season is like!
A few more miles up the road in Kill Devil Hills was the Wright Brothers National Monument, a beautiful and very peaceful park containing reproductions of the Wright’s living quarters, their workshop, the 60-foot monument atop what was originally a 90-foot sand dune, an amazing sculpture, and a boulder on the location of the first flight. That 12-minute flight took place on December 17, 1903 and is remembered by locals every year – we were just a few days early. This area provided everything that the Wright Brothers needed – wind, sand and isolation. They were actually assisted by several townspeople, represented in the sculpture, including a sixteen year old young man. Overall, the inscription on the monument says it best…
In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius. Achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith. These words are wrapped around the monument and can be read from any starting point – very cool.
Our day trip ended with a drive through Duck, NC, where many years ago, Bill had vacationed with his daughter, Sarah. We found the Duck Deli, and Awful Arthurs, which brought back great memories for both of them! The latter provided way too much food for us!
We couldn’t leave the Outer Banks without a stop at the original Duck Donuts on Saturday morning! So as not to retrace our steps, we took a circular route home, including passage through several wildlife refuges and another free ferry from Bayview to Aurora, NC. We took the rainbow we spotted as a good luck token and then watched the sun set on our final ferry ride from Minnesott Beach to Cherry Branch!
So, as you can see, careful travel is possible. The shoulder season is often the best time to visit many places as we discovered in the Outer Banks!
Stay Calm and Travel On..