Oh well. I was in the process of musing about slices of lemons. Those bittersweet vignettes that randomly overtake the day-to-day-workaday world to bring a bit of saccharine, sunshine or a sour taste into our lives. But the writing gods had other plans for my 'pen'.
B. Miller, the renowned author of dark fiction, mentioned in her blog this morning where she'd rather be spending her time today instead of where she is going to be (B's Blog) and transported me silkily back to the early spring of 1971 on a windy beach in the sparsely populated Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore to be exact. Our sought-after, secret destination after nearly 20 hours of driving through the night in sleet and winter mess along the eastern seaboard from colleges in the rarefied northeast. Sallie, Bob, Bruce, Mickey, David and I had set up camp deep in the wind-whipped sea grass covered dunes. Out of the line of sight from muscular, red-necked North Carolina troopers on patrol just hankering to put an abrupt end to the shenanigans of six upper middle class, weekend hippies from north of the Mason-Dixon line, the intelligentsia (the boys in their final year at Dartmouth) ... effete intellectual snobs as just described by Spiro Agnew our illustrious veep on the White House lawn. Gheesh.
We set up our mini-tent city, one brand new canopied LL Bean canvas yurt-like home for each couple. A fourth for our kitchen/mess hall. I sat quietly over on a far away dune contemplating nearly a week without a place for my toilette which I now realized would most likely be behind the sand mound I was leaning against. This rustic experience sounded like a fine idea before we left. Romantic evenings under the stars. Psychedelic-fueled survivor games that had more to do with us being the last humans on earth than who was getting voted off the island. All now totally foreign to this never-get-dirt-under-my-fingernails, much less sand in the hoo-hoo, girl who avoided Dad's fishing/camping jaunts to Bernheim Forest at all costs.
But here I was. Camping on a deserted national treasure. A felony for the trespassing. Death by shooting squad for the sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. Deep swallow. Transform my squeamish nature. Voila. I could get into this. Five days of roughing it in the treasure filled sands with my 6 foot, blond, incredibly smart and talented boyfriend. No cell phones (hey this was 1971 for god sakes). No cameras. No nothing. No links to home. Or civilization. Pirates! My gold hoops and lime green bandanna
Several days into our Hatteras adventure we piled into the back of the orange VW bus with the brown and yellow gingham curtains fluttering at the windows made lovingly for Bob by Sallie (they are still together after four decades ... wow ... I should have glommed on to her techniques as David is nowhere to be found ... but that is another story) for our first official outing. We carefully camouflaged our humble abodes. Put out the fire and buried it under the deep sand. Packed our gear into the tents. Swallowed synthetic mushrooms. And pointed our van south. To the island of Ocracoke floating off the tip of the cape. Separated from the land mass by hurricanes past. Attracting real pirates in the nearly unnavigable waters. Reportedly Blackbeard met his death here in the early 1700s. A storied, fabled, magical place. Twinkling in the spring sunshine. Sparkles dancing off the waters.
By the time we boarded the ferry our minds were abuzz with lightshows as preMTV videos scanned across our minds' eyes. Bob was playing his mouth harp while Bruce accompanied him on an old Martin acoustic. Sallie swirled. Her Indian print skirt floating gaily around her slender legs. We were blissed. In more ways than one. Swaying to the familiar rock and roll beat of folkadelic songsters.
Our island sojourn was amazing. Spanish moss drooped from the trees in the historic village of colonial homes and gas lamps. The wide sandy white beach flat and pristine. Too early in the season, there were few residents and no other tourists. We had the island mostly to ourselves and played merrily. Catching the last ferry back to the mainland, we stopped along the way to shower and freshen up and grab a bite to eat at the diner along the way.
We arrived back at our camp site sated, relaxed ... and WOW totally surprised. Our site was surrounded by what looked like an entire squadron of military personnel. Going through our things were a dozen of the meanest looking state troopers this side of Fort Bragg. They had spotted us from the air. A routine fly-over. Get the hell outta here. And we did. Tore down the tents and scurried as fast as our heart-thumping, psychedelic deflating minds would allow. Thank the lord we had taken the 'contraband' and left no trace behind.
Driving up the highway we had our very own motorcycle escort. Four uniformed troopers. Plus a NC Highway Patrol car leading the way. Headlights on. Blue lights flashing. Bubbas on parade along Route 12. Past Nags Head. Past Kitty Hawk where the first airplane took flight. Turn north at US Route 158 and head within the speed limit of course straight toward Virginia and the state line. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. With the strictest of orders never, and they meant do not ever, come back to the illustrious state of North Carolina.
I have visited the state often in the years since. It is one of my favorites. The ocean, the mountains, good southern cooking and gracious hospitality. Invested in an emerging tech venture. Financed two UHF television stations. Had a financial services consulting client in Morehead City. Visit Raleigh and my cousins every few years. But I always look over my shoulder ... just in case.
Cheers to getting out of good ol' boy North Carolina with nary a warning ... and not needing a passport or to meet stringent homeland security officers on re-entry!