I’ve been pretty stressed out lately. Actually, this entire year feels like one big, hot pressure cooker. I’ve tried to open up about it in my writing. In some ways I have. But I just couldn’t seem to get far enough away from my life to get a good perspective on it. I’m still working on that…
Mid-September, my schedule slowed down just enough for me to realize that I’ve earned 99 hours of comp time at work. If I don’t take those hours before December 31, I will lose them. At the same time, my Mother teaches at a year-round school and is in the middle of a two-week break. In a brilliant moment of clarity, I realized that I could carve 20 hours off my work week this week and run away to go play with my Mom.
When Mama and I get time off, there’s never really any question of where we’ll go—the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. And it’s also a given that we’ll be joined by Mama’s favorite partner-in-crime/traveling buddy, Ruby. So, on Wednesday morning, we hopped in our cars and headed East.
We stopped over in Downtown Historic New Bern and ate lunch at a wonderful little restaurant and bakery owned by Mennonites. (It’s quaint and we love it! They have the most awesome Dutch potatoes and turnovers!) And when we got Downeast, we headed straight to Oceanana Fishing Pier at Atlantic Beach. Got our fill of sand, sun, and salty breeze. Then, we watched the sunset over Black Bean Nachos, Cheeseburgers, and Spicy Crab Fritters on the patio at Finz Grill in Beaufort. What a perfect day!
But by far the best (and most interesting) part of our vacation was the Thursday boat trip to Shackleford Banks. This little barrier island off the coast of Beaufort is only accessible by boat and this time of year, there is only one ferry service that’s running to the island. Mama, Ruby, and I managed to get spaces on the 11:45 trip, but we were purely running to make it on time.
When we reached the floating dock (read: not steady or stable in any way) to board the boat, our sweet 70-something Ruby was a little less than steady. I was behind her carrying our two bags and I had a hand under her elbow, hoping to keep us both from falling off of the floaty little dock.
And then, Prince Charming arrived.
Okay, not Prince Charming… But rather, Captain Charlie. Our ferry captain (the gorgeous twenty-something Coast Guard rescue swimmer) walked over and picked Ruby up and sat her gently in the bottom of the boat. (I had to suppress the urge to suddenly get lost at sea…)
After a lovely fifteen minute cruise to Shackleford, our boatload of passengers hopped off the front of the boat into the shallow water to walk to shore. Captain Charlie scooped Ruby up into his arms and carried her ashore. My Mother (who evidently isn’t afraid to say anything) then says, “Wow, Charlie, the rest of us are envious!” I managed not to pinch my Mother or elbow her in the ribs and Charlie managed to accept the comment gracefully.
It was no great surprise that when Charlie returned to take us back to mainland, he hopped off the boat, scooped Ruby up and carried her onboard. And when we got to shore, he unloaded all of the others, then scooped her up and carried her off the boat, up the gangplank, and onto the boardwalk. At that point, my Mother sent me with the digital camera to ask Charlie for a picture. He sat in a deck chair, pulled Ruby into his lap, and let me snap the picture. Mama and Ruby cackled and crowed about Charlie all the way back to the car. And that night at supper, I swear I heard somebody say, “And God bless Charlie!”
After our boat trips with Charlie, nothing else on our agenda could quite live up to the same level of excitement… But we sure did give it a try. Today, I got to spend a chunk of time in my favorite new and used bookstore in the world where I got 5 books for a grand total of $4.85 (thanks to $18.50 in credit I had saved from a previous trip). And I got to spend a couple of hours at Oceanana Pier (both walking on it and sitting under it trying to focus my thoughts enough to write them down in my beat-up old black notebook.)
And now that I’ve written a whole lot of nonsense about nothing important, I’m going to inflict upon you the torture that you had probably hoped to avoid. A few of my vacation pictures. Enjoy them! (I did!) And at least I’m not showing you all 101 that I took!
Following the hoofprints of some of the 121 wild horses on Shackleford Banks… That’s the Atlantic Ocean on the left and Mullet Pond on S.B. on the right.
Looking at the “diamonds” on the water this morning from my perch atop the Oceanana Fishing Pier in Atlantic Beach. That’s our sweet Ruby on the bench just beyond me.
I (with a sunburned neck) had the good sense to get out of the sun to do some writing. Mama sat to take a break with me. The two pictures below are what I could see from my chair…
And finally, because my family is so weird that we go to cemetaries for fun, I’m posting one pic of the cathedral of live oaks at The Old Burying Ground in Beaufort. Are these just not the most gorgeous trees you’ve ever seen? (Just say yes. You know I’m right.)