THE OUTER BANKS NORTH
The bridge over the Currituck Sound from the North Carolina mainland was quite similar to that over the Albemarle Sound, but an impressive dual carriageway. At the side of it were the remains of an old ferry landing station. But there was absolutely nowhere to stop to take a photograph, and when you finally do get to be able to stop, you can't get a view of anything to photograph. You can probably imagine that I wouldn't have minded having a sail across on that ferry. As you know, I'm seriously into ferries, even more so than bridges.
First thing you notice as you hit the island however is a big sign advertising a "Home Depot" at Kitty Hawk (or is it Kittyhawk?) just a mile or two down the road. A rather amusing thought went through my head, to the effect that I wondered if that was where the Wright Brothers bought the bits to build their plane?
But at least the presence of a "Home Depot" was reassuring. I'd fuelled up and bought some food and made myself as comfortable as I could be in a car, as I had no idea what to expect here on the Outer Banks - would there be any petrol, food and shelter? The presence of of a Home Depot was certainly reassuring. Not that I had any qualms about sleeping in the car on a deserted beach somewhere, but I didn't really need it.
THE FAR NORTH
First thing I did though, seeing as it was still quite light, was to head northwards as far as I could go, to see if there might be a motel up at the far end of the island. As long as it's something like light, my aim always was to keep on driving.
And keep on driving I did, but I was to be disappointed. Nothing at all that resembled a motel up here. Rows and rows and rows of houses - there was an endless stream all the way along the north-east shore, but they all looked mostly closed up. Another holiday home area along here, so it seems
In the absence of anything half-decent to listen to on the radio (one of two good-enough reasons not to move here - the other being the lack of soil to grow anything) I was listening to NPR, or National Public Radio. It was talking about India's highly-educated English-speaking workforce, which is a big advantage to many people when it comes to outsourcing call-centre work. But sounding a warning (presumably to those same businessmen, one suspects) about a case of corruption that was uncovered in a banking call-centre.
This, heavily disguised as a news item, seemed to me to be some kind of subliminal seed-sowing to put into the public consciousness the idea that everyone outside the USA is some kind of crook who will stop at nothing to steal all the hard-earned funds of the good old boys from the US of A. Like this kind of thing never happens in the USA, of course.
Rather like all the criticism of the United Nations "oil for food" scandal. The Americans have conveniently overlooked the fact that in order for someone to accept a bribe, there has to be someone else offering it. And some of those someones have been American companies. No thought, of course, of cleaning them up. And not to mention the British Goverment's encouragement of bribery in the Middle East.
And while the bushbaby and his cronies are lashing out at the so-called corruption of the United Nations, they are conveniently keeping quiet on the fact that Republican congressmen and Republican former state officials are simultaneously being imprisoned for corruption, White House officials for lying, perjury, and obstructing justice. How about cleaning up and reforming the Republican Party? Clearly the bushbaby, the his political advisors, pillars of his government, family and his supporters still at liberty for the moment are speaking with forked tongue.
I finally made it to the end of the road here, as you can see. I'm not going to risk taking the car any farther though, especially as seeing that it's a hired car.
Well, at least I may not but other people think they can. While I was taking these photographs, someone in a Jeep drove straight past me and went full-tilt straight off the road, onto the sand, and then disappeared around the corner.
I reckon I'll just sit here a few minutes and wait for him to come up to me and ask me to pull him out with the Focus. Wouldn't be the first time that something as unusual and unlikely as this had happened to me, and I'd been able to sort it out.
Well - sit there .... sort-of. can you see all of these "no parking" signs? The whole of the north end of the island was like this. That was what I called depressing.
And there was no motel either. This was a real shame. I'd spent all this time driving up here to arrive at this conclusion. What was worse was that if the Currituck Ferry had been running, I'd have been here two hours ago and I would have only been going one way, instead of turning round and having to do a return trip.
Worse still was the fact that if I had come straight to the Outer Banks from Bayview I'd be leaving the island now, not arriving here. And if I hadn't have forgotten my mobile phone at Rhys and Gretchen's, I'd have been long gone from here. Those missed minutes have cost me hours, if not days. But there's no point in getting all upset about it now.
History records that there used to be a big hotel up here, but it was swallowed up by the shifting sands. Apparently they say that in the final period of its existence, you received a discount on the bill if you shovelled your own way to your hotel room through the sand that had drifted inside the hotel.
Having a poke around where and when I could, and reading all the notices plastered up everywhere, it seems that there are all kinds of restrictive covenants on the area and on all the houses around here. This is another good reason for me not to come to live here. I couldn't see me living with a sheaf of rules and regulations like this.
These factors above probably go a long way to explaining why there aren't any budget motels up here at this end of the island. One can't of course let the price of property slide by encouraging the "racaille" to come up here. And as for nowhere to park either, well one can explain this by the price of land, one imagines. So how do you get to have a good walk round either? Do a bit of sightseeing? Spend some of your money? I have never ever seen anywhere with so many rules and regulations.
There's a nice, interesting lighthouse just around the corner a way from where I took the two photographs above. It's the Currituck Beach lighthouse, but it is so surrounded by trees that it's impossible to get any kind of shot of it from anywhere where there's public access and/or fre parking. There's just one good angle to get what could well be a really good picture, but you have to pay to go down there. What was I saying about the "Land of the Free"?
But just so that you know, the lighthouse was built in 1875, which makes it the last major Outer Banks light. It's 150 feet tall. Unusually for a lighthouse in the USA it's not painted but remains in its natural brick colour. I don't know if you understand the significance, but every lighthouse in the same area is painted in a different pattern. This is so that mariners, on looking at the light, can see which one it is and hence where they are, and know what are the hazards in the area.
On the way back southwards towards Kitty Hawk, I started musing again.
One thing I'd noticed ever since I'd been here, and in some places more than others, was this steady, constant wind that was blowing relentlessly, off the sea onto the land. Now, thinking out loud to myself, it's Thursday. That means I've been here 8 days. And I've not seen a single wind turbine.
The Wright Brothers and the shipwrecks would testify to the efficacity of the wind off the sea onto the Outer Banks (what do you think they are doing here?) and I would have a hundred wind turbines up along here in no time at all given half a chance. They would pay a handsome dividend without any doubt, but I didn't see a single one, whether on the Outer Banks, any other island, or on the mainland either.
Sightings of solar panels were too many to index, so that made me realise that there was some kind of energy consciousness, so why on earth not even one wind turbine? Nevertheless, this constant wind made me realise why the Wright Brothers came here. Anything would fly in the winds round here.
I Bet Frank Zappa Never Had This Trouble
By the time I'd finished musing to myself, I was back on the edge of Kitty Hawk. This of course means I'd yet to find a motel anywhere further north from here. Considering this is supposed to be one of the most historic places in the United States, what with the Wright Brothers and all of that, I'd been driving around here for over an hour and I'd yet to see anything that resembled a motel. This was somewhat intriguing, to say the least. I found a K-Mart, which was even more reassuring than a Home Depot vis-a-vis the budget I was hoping to slide into, but still no motel.
It was now starting to get dark too, and I was starting to get fed up. I'd had enough of this. So leaving the main road and taking to the coastal road between Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, I eventually came across a motel. But it was closed, and half falling down. I was starting to get - well, not worried, not concerned, but, well - even more intrigued by this time.
But another 10 minutes up the coast back northwards towards Kitty Hawk eventually found me a motel. $39 plus tax, or $43 and some cents. And it would have received a recommendation from me just for being there, I suppose, but the fact is that even had it been surrounded by a hundred others, I would still have been glad to have found this motel. No complaints at all about the value. It was one of the nicest economy motels I've ever slept in. I can thoroughly recommend this place to anyone staying here.
So, if you're looking for a good-quality budget hotel here on the Outer Banks, look for K-Mart on the main highway near to the southern boundary of Kitty Hawk, turn down towards the beach, and then head north for a mile or a mile and a half, until you arrive at the "Buccaneer Motel".
Now, for those of you who don't appreciate my sense of humour, well for once I actually managed to find someone in the USA with a similar sense of humour to mine. Take a look at the number plate of the minivan of the owner of the motel, in the photograph here on the left. Yes, yet another good reason for recommending this motel.
I was reminded of the old story about the two pirates who meet each other on a deserted island. One said, in a beautiful Devon accent "Arrrrr, Long John, where are your buccaneers?"
The second replied "They're underneath me bucking hat"
And while we're talking about pirates well, at least one of us is, in my self-employment as a free-lance writer and desktop publisher I was working on a contract in connection with a Work-Life and Diversity Conference for the European Union in 2005. They were discussing all sorts of opportunities for employment for "differently-abled" people in the workforce. And, amongst all the interesting job opportunities that they considered, they missed out the obvious one.
It was left for me to pipe up with "piracy".
They all looked at me as if to ask what kind of tree I had just fallen out of.
"Think about it" I urged. "Take Blind Pew. He was visually impaired. Then there was Long John Silver. He was mobility-challenged. Then there was Captain Hook. He was dexteriously-challenged. Then the crews of the ship were totally drunk as newts half the time. But they coped with alcohol impairment. It is also well-known that one of Blackbeard's crew was a woman dressed as a man. So there was even a role for the transgendered. They were all financially-challenged yet they carved out a career all the same. And they were extremely good at it, that's why their names have gone down in history."
"Yes, there's a lot to be said for piracy as a career involving a great deal of Diversity in the Workplace. Let's hear it for the pirates".
It goes without saying that my ideas were not adopted by the European Union. But I feel that they missed out on a golden opportunity to help out the differently-abled and promote a new career. Think of it, let the Americans fight all the wars for oil that they want to fight. Let them ship it all on these supertankers back to the USA. We just send out a few environmentally-friendly sailing ships manned (or rather, "personned") by the differently-abled to capture the tankers on the high seas, and ship the oil back to Europoort. I think there's a lot of mileage in this idea - it's plain sailing as far as I can see but the European Union has completely missed the boat.
And while we're on the subject, it is also a fact that some matelots are described as "able-bodied sailors". This implies that the remainder are not otherwise impaired.
So there you are. If you are differently-abled, go ahead and take the opportunities that a nautical life has to offer.
That was the motel sorted out. I was glad about that. Next task was to sort out some food. It was dark, almost 9:00, and I've talked so much about the communal battery and the 9.00pm curfew in the United States that it really doesn't bear repeating, so I would have to get my skates on if I were going to get an evening meal (I was beginning to think that it was a good job I'd stocked up on the supplies at Elizabeth City. We all remember what had happened at Wilmington a couple of days ago).
Food For Thought
Now, It had been a while since I'd had a pizza. Most unlike me in the USA where all I ever seem to eat are pizzas, and I'd driven past a takeaway pizza place on the main road as I drove south out of Kitty Hawk. Seemed like a good place to visit, if you ask me. Take it back to my room, and what with some root beer (I was hooked on this root beer, wasn't I?) it would be a repast fit for a king. So off I duly headed.
Nine o'clock it closed, and I was there at seven minutes to nine (I made a careful note of the time) and quickly made my choice. But then the bombshell -
""I'm sorry, but we're letting the ovens cool down now"
"It's not 9.00 yet"
"I'm sorry, but we're going to turn off the ovens"
After a short discussion along these lines, the guy looked at his watch, said "It's after 9.00 now, sir" and turned off all the lights.
Now what the hell was that all about?
Just up the road was a kind of Mexican restaurant called La Fogata, or something similar. Now, if you think that the pizza place was bad, this was even worse. A total waste of time. I waited 15 minutes like Piffy On A Rock at a sign that said "wait here to be seated" and no-one showed me to a seat, even though there were several waiters and the like wandering up and down inside the place. Total shambles. I just don't know what happened to Kitty Hawk.
I've never had service like this anywhere else in the USA in the whole of my life. What happened to this famous American service? It's a good thing that this wasn't my first experience of the USA or I would have been so disappointed. I've had nothing but excellent customer service in most places in the USA (Medicine Bow being one of the very few notable exceptions) . Yes, the odd hiccup you can expect what with human nature being as it is, but two similar experiences like this within a couple of hundred yards of each other within a five-minute timespan - this was simply outrageous. It was just like being back in Belgium.
It wasn't until later that I worked out the answer to this conundrum. In most places of the USA people have had to struggle and fight to get there, braving the weather, Indians, all sorts of perils. And, of course, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Here, with this being the graveyard of the Atlantic, many of these people are descendants of those washed ashore from a shipwreck, and who lacked the courage to move on.
By the way, as a brief interjection, if you want to comment on this, then please .
I stormed out of the restaurant straight into a couple struggling to get into a pickup truck. They obviously could see the look of thunder on my face. They asked me what was the matter so I told them, without pulling any punches. They were so apologetic, that it immediately restored my faith in the area.
I told them about how I was worried that now I wasn't going to be able to find anywhere to eat.
"No problem" they repled. "There's the Black Pelican"
So they directed me across the road and down one of the streets that leads to the Ocean. There, on the corner, was the Black Pelican. Yes, we have to talk about the Black Pelican. I was really pleased that those people showed me where it was. Here, I had one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten, the pizza in the town whose name I have forgotten near Strasbourg on the Franco - German border notwithstanding. Absolutely excellent.
There was a nice marine type olde worlde atmosphere here that I hadn't encountered very much anywhere else I had visited in the USA. The food was really good and the service was okay. I was more than happy with that. I was tempted to order myself another coffee and hang around here awhile to soak up the atmosphere, and anyone who knows me well will realise what a rare event that would be, but discretion ruled the day. I was dependent upon getting early nights throughout my stay, so that I could use the early morning for sightseeing purposes. And there were a lot of sights to see. Nevertheless, as the Duke of Wellington remarked after the Battle of Waterloo, "it was a damned close-run thing".
Now, a few words about the Black Pelican, because it has quite an interesting history. It is a former Coastguard station built in 1876 on the beach across the road, and it was moved a couple of times along the beach during its history, to save it from the encroaching sea, finally being moved across the road onto the inshore side. At the turn of the 20th Century it doubled as a telegraph station, and was from where the Wright Brothers sent the signal announcing to the world that they had made the first succesful flight. This is what has given rise to the misleading impression (that persists today) that they actually flew from Kittyhawk, when of course, as any fule kno, they did nothing of the kind.
Now there is another reason why legend has it that they flew from Kittyhawk, as a reader was very kind enough to explain to me. And that is that at the time the Wright Brothers were, the township of Kill Devil Hills didn't exist. The only inhabitants either lived in straightened circumstances in and around the woods, or merely came here for the summer.
This reminds me. I really like to receive feedback from my readers, especially the sort of local knowledge like this. If you would like to correct anything I have written, add some local colour, or merely pass an observation, then don't be shy. E- with pleasure.
So having eschewed the opportunity of a good night's entertainment, I had a sort-of early night, and hence one of my usual early mornings. Outside, across the road, up on the dyke, and a couple of photos.
This picture is looking northwards in the direction of Kitty Hawk (or Kittyhawk, or whatever). I had to walk up there a fair way in that direction to take the photo of the Black Pelican.
It was also from here that I took the photo of the motel above,
This photo is looking southwards down the beach in the direction of Kill Devil Hills, and the direction in which I would shortly be travelling.
One thing I noticed that I was in fact right by milepost 5, or, seeing as how I'm in the USA, mile marker 5. Presumably this is 5 miles from the bridge across the Currituck Sound, but don't take my word for it.
You can see from the sky that the weather has changed from yesterday, and not for the better either. This was ominous. I'd better get a wiggle on. Back in the car, back up to the main road, and straight into a 7-11 for some food and some coffee. Who cares about the impending storm? Must get my priorities right.
Apparently I have to stop saying things like "a bit" and "a lot". I am reliably informed by a bunch of Americans who criticise my site on a regular basis that it makes me sound like a Brit. Obviously there are some people at the back who haven't been paying attention.
So as a major concession, a short way down the road I arrived at the border between Kitty Hawk and kill Devils Hills.
Now Kill Devil Hills, as you can see here on the left, proudly proclaims itself as "the Birthplace of Modern Aviation", as indeed it might. It was indeed here that the Wright Brothers actually flew.
Just across the road is the sign for Kitty Hawk, as you can see in the photograph on the right. Now if you look carefully at the sign here, it says quite simply "First in Flight". This is of course making no claims about anything in connection with the Wright Brothers legend, but merely making allusion to its place in modern folklore. In fact, "First in Flight" is the official slogan of the state of North Carolina.
Now, I had visions of the worthy citizens of each of the townships massing here in groups while they were erecting their township sighs, and hurling rotten eggs and putrefying cabbage and the like at each other. Inter-town rivalry must be pretty intense round here.
I am of course reminded of another famous inter-town rivaly, between the neighbouring towns of Waterloo (of famous battle fame) and St.Genesius Rode here in Belgium.
Now for those of you who don't know your Belgium, the country is divided effectively into two parts, Flanders (the northern, Flemish speaking area) and Wallonie (the southern, French-speaking area). Hatred is too mild a word to describe the rivalry between the two zones. Their attitude towards each other makes the Hutu-Tutsi rivalry in Rwanda look like a Sunday morning love-in. They would have massacred each other long ago if it hadn't been for the fact that the Flemish need the economic market of the Wallons, and the Wallons need the taxes of the Flemish.
Now, the towns of Waterloo and St. Genesius Rode are either side of the linguistic divide in the country (one of the oldest permanent boundaries in the world and which separated the limit of the permanent Roman Empire from the neighbouring colonies). The story was that the worthy inhabitants of Waterloo erected a sign that said
"Welcome to Waterloo. Here, we speak French"
The inhabitants of St.Genesius Rode, not to be outdone, erected a sign that said
"Welcome to St.Genesius Rode. Here, we work".
A little further down the road was another good reason to stop. This was because of the local Chrysler garage just here.
As you can probably imagine if you've read the rest of my website, and in particular the pages of my classic car collection, there aren't very many contemporary cars that interest me. I might settle for a Chrysler PT or a Chrysler 300 but not much else.
Nevertheless, I just had to stop to take a look at this machine. I mean - you would, wouldn't you? (Well, I would, anyway). It's certainly not a vehicle that I've ever seen on sale in Europe
I could easily get quite excited by a pick-up such as this. What with the nice large and secure load bed underneath the cover, I could carry all sorts of exciting stuff in there out of the way of prying eyes. Then, with a large roof rack on the lid of the pickup bed, I could carry all sorts of other large stuff on top.
The colour, too. That's my colour almost exactly. Anyone who remembers my taxis from my Crewe, Cheshire days (I get quite nostalgic for A1 Radio Cars and Sandbach Station Taxis every now and again) will recognise the Daytona Yellow colour in which they were usually painted.
I have a thing about cars that are bright yellow. If you've visited some of my other pages concerning my voyage to the South-West USA in September 2002, you'll remember the Mustang that I hired. I'm definitely going to have to see about adding one of these to the fleet.
The only disadvantage is that I can't sleep in it easily. If I'm planning to fit a roofrack on the load bed cover anyway, why not fit a roof locker on that? Then I convert the roof locker into a coffin-like bed.
As well as the attractive exterior lines, you can see inside the cab area here that there is this nice minimalist interior that fits in with my minimalist lifestyle. This pick-up suits me down to the ground.
Of course, the obvious and habitual question presents itself. Do they do a diesel version? I'm just puzzled as to why I didn't go inside the garage to get myself some leaflets on it.
"It was closed, Eric"
While I was there, I couldn't resist going further down the forecourt to take a photograph of this car. It's another vehicle that I've never seen on sale in Europe. According to the signs on the car, it's a Chrysler Crossfire. Not that the name means much to me.
It's not even that I find the car particularly attractive, but it's appearance is certainly different - different enough to make me notice it, and different enough to break the mould from the normal run-of-the-mill types of car that these days all look the same and so hard to tell apart.
I don't know what it is or why it is, but something seems to have come over the car designers that Chrysler employs. In contrast to the boring stereotyped rubbish that Europe, Japan and most of the USA is turning out, they are starting to design cars that appeal to me.
It surely can't be just coincidence that the PT, the 300 and the pickup just above, the three vehicles that appeal to me the most right now, are all Chryslers.
Now just have a look at the interior here on the left. This is again nice and minimalist, with brushed steel centre console. This interior is me to a tee. "Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged", as Robert Browning would have said.
My friend Paul made a few enquiries, and he tells me that it's simply a rebodied Mercedes SLK, and that all the mechanical parts are interchangeable. It's now taken quite a high position on the Humphries "cars I absolutely must buy" list.
But despite whatever Ian Anderson might say, it's going to be most unlikely that I'm ever going to be Caught in the Crossfire, on Princes Gate Avenue or anywhere else, for that matter. This just isn't for me. I'm going for the pickup
Back on the road heading south, and past the K-Mart that I found yesterday evening. And there on the car park I noticed that there were some huge RVs - huge Winnebago kind of bus things parked up on the car park there. They were there last night too. Now .... that gives me ideas, particularly when I saw a couple of Dodge Caravan type of mini-RVs, you know the type of thing I mean, parked up on the Food Lion car park across the road and advertised for sale. Yes, that gives me plenty of food for thought. Can you get diesel-powered Dodge Caravan mini-RVs? I can be in business here, I reckon.
But I didn't have much time to hang around. I came to the USA to attend the wedding of my friend Rhys, as well as follow the route of Grant's Overland Campaign. But apart from these, probably the most important destination of my whole voyage was just around the corner, and that's where I'm heading next.