“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote the French philosopher Blaise Pascal.
I live on an island. It is about thirty miles long. We are one mile from the western end. Sunsets descend over Bear Island or Hammocks State Park, another barrier island. The beach at the end wasn’t a beach at all unless you count sandbags. Only a few years back you could safely dive off them into deep water. When we became permanent residents (retired ding batters according to local “hoi tide” knockoffs), little did we foresee the god send coming.
The channel between Emerald Isle and Bear Island connects the Atlantic to the inland waterway. Dredging the channel to provide deep water access caused a tremendous change in our neighborhood. Sand in huge volume created a whole new end of island. Now you can drive on our new beach with the shoreline hundreds of yards from where the sandbags were. Now four wheel drives can enter and navigate for 13 miles.
One sad fact is that former beach front properties are now “way back” from the now beach. Or the “our beach” as was staked out by boaters who quickly realized any number of fun possibilities dawned: Fishing, swimming, families cooking out, port-o-pots no less, BBQ, and boom boxes. Some weekends, 100 boaters. Shades of Jimmy Buffett.
Too far to walk grandma and the inflatable shark to shore, “the point” became mostly the boater’s haven, with exception of labor day to memorial day. Driving time!! For 100$ and a 4wheeler you can get a sticker. 60$ for residents and zip for us 65 and older property owners. Picnic day for teddy bears.
Once Margaret (wife-type) had ridden on the beach it was pretty clear I had to find a 4wheeler… I knew where to look. Joe Robinson sold me “Joebelle”, a classic jeep Wagoneer popularized by The Big Chill. What an engine. Even though it smelled like Joe’s lab, it was a work horse. Which leads to one of the more interesting facts of beach driving. People get stuck. We got stuck. People do crazy things that get them stuck. Many don’t understand the tide and the wind. Bad mistake (s). Double bad is to get stuck in exit/entrance. Double that if the red drum are biting and Billy Bob can’t get to em. Here are several scenarios about getting stuck:
A. Once Margaret realized what a tow stud Joebelle was, she looked for stuck ones. We bought all the shovels and boards and tow ropes it would carry. One fundamental about getting stuck is that” they” are always there. You may not see “them” at first, but like throwing bread to invisible seagulls, it won’t be long before “they” appear. “What’s wrong there? See you got hung up a little. Roy–go get the tow rope. Here–let me driove er .”(hio tide for drive her.)
Only once were “they” stumped. A pickup up to her axle in the exit. Nothing budged it. Dark approaches. Margaret volunteers for the third time. Same answer- “-little lady we’ll have er out in minute.” Not so, and finally she is up.
With Joebelle already outside, and spotting a grid of thin boards on the top of the exit, Margaret got the wagoneer’s back tires on these boards. She made a good first try but still a tough mire to conquer. I noticed an older man approach Margaret. She nodded and together they located Joeballe with an added ten yards of slack in the tow rope. Margaret revved up dropped her into ultra low, and put the pedal to the metal.
It sounded like the bottom frame was being yanked off and for a moment I feared the jeep would pull the pickup over itself and Margaret. She did a Nascar like peel off, and acknowledged the applause of of grateful gathering of off/on waiters. The old guys shook her hand and she hugged them. I don’t think I’ve seen her happier.
***If you get stuck and don’t know what to do, or don’t have a needed piece of gear, don’t panic. just walk around the vehicle, look puzzelled, scratch you head.”They” will wander out of the dunes. Hey fellow, need some help?
B. Last week a youngster drove through a tidal pool too fast. Took an hour to get him out. Drew a crowd of 100.
C. A yankee knew not the tide . A Red jeep totally under.
D. One caught on fire. No way. Black frame all that remained.
E. Two personals to admit. Watched a deep sunset. Newer red 97 Jeep Sport (Joebelle fizzled) would not crank. Had to get beach wrecker to get to exit, another to get to repair.(250$)
Last week we over worked Red at high tide. Overheated, she quit right in the Black Skimmer exit. Let er cool and she will go again, but we are blocking the exit. Performed the wander around method mentioned above and sure enough a young marine drove up and volunteered ” I’ll get you out” and he did. Margaret tipped 15$. ” He said it was his birthday.”
*Local tip that worked on Joebelle. If your radiator leaks try this: Pour 4 oz. of ground black pepper in the radiator. Start the vehicle and let it run a while. Pepper will rise to the leak and plug. I swear it worked. For a while.
One elderly couple drove their Chevy in to the sand. No sticker, 4wheel drive, nothing. Only us there, the glow kicked on in Margaret’s eyes. Hi Oh Silver. I knew it was bad and wistfully watched as another Jeep with a young couple rounding the dune. I could quickly see and recognize the “I want no part of this look” on the driver’s face. But then his conscience got him and he drove over. Neither of the couple exited the Chev. We three approached them to volunteer when it became apparent they were both deaf and stunned. Communication limited at best. Nothing worked. Plus a game plan was difficult. We finally decided to rope the two vehicles with the young ones dragging seniors backwards. We convinced the old man the Jeep would drive as hard as he could. As the lead jeep gunned off Margaret and I began to scream as loud as we could. This, of course, did no good and in horror we watched the Jeep tear out south as the confused Chevy took off due North. As the rope distance ran out of slack both vehicles bounced straight up about a foot. Both of the old ones were crying when we got there.
Finally we found a solid path. Jeep driver told them just to sit still and put the car in neutral. He turned to us and whispered “…I am going to drag them to the exit as hard as I can and just maybe I can pop them to the top”. I told him he needn’t whisper.
By god it worked. As the Chevy crested the exit top it wobbled down to asphalt. The old man gave the young man some money. All drove off. Margaret said “…you know he gave him a 100$ bill!” I said —twenty minutes ago he would have paid a thousand to get back to New Jersey.
A big moment last week was taking Bubba John McClean riding on the point for the first time. While his granddad, W.B. McClean, was the ramrod that led seven piedmonters to buy from Salter Path to the point, Bubba said he was afraid to drive on the beach. Surprising, as Bubba is a master deep sea diver and a diver at the local aquarium. Bubba, two weeks from having the dreaded bends, liked the tour and hopefully he’ll beach ride now.
**Locals will think I dissed W. B. He was a trip. Get Bubba or his Dad to tell you about Mr. McClean. The one I liked was when he bought the lion from the Hoke County Carnival.
Bubba is like all of us. We know we’ve got some dangers nearby. “If you can see the ocean, it can see you.” Think they call it Bear Island for nothing? Just wander around the nearby Croatan National Forest. Alligators? A 17 and 1/2 footer got hit by a car near Camp Lejuene. Had to get a forklift to get him off Highway 17. One man asked a garden store worker if that alligator yard ornament was for sale? The clerk jumped over the customer when the 7 footer blinked at them. (“probably came up out of the white oak river”)
When you go in the ocean you are no longer at the top of the food chain. Sharks are showing up more, But still rarely. Sting rays are real. Nothing compares to rip tides. Sadly our area has its victims. Still, dolphin are abundant. One lady calls them daily, Swears she can communicate. Once in a while a whale is spotted. The birds are the stars of the show. Pelicans, Seagulls, Geese, All kinds of patterns and migrations are delightful.
When I first got down here, before beach driving, I wandered around on Bogue Banks Pier. Nothing beats seeing young girl or boy catch their first fish. When a school of Red Drum come through, it is close.
One morning at 11am I walked up the pier and the Mullett were running. Forty yards across the green sea was black. They came down the shore line but would not swim under the pier. Around the end, back down the other side of the pier and on down the shore line. I asked how long they had been running and a man said “I’ve been here since 8am. They were coming then”.
An old technique of the local fishers is to put a large net (100yds?) out offshore. Leave it overnight. When the mullett run comes they loop one end around them, attach both ends to tractors and pull the net, loaded, to those who shovel the fish into truck loads. I’ve seen it once. They don’t advertise.
Back to the point and the points. Nature provides blessings and burdens. We have a new, free playground. It is beautiful and fun. Kite surfers do flips and bust the speed limit (20 mph.) Fishing, or looking like you are fishing. Bocce Ball, bait fishermen from the north with coolers and nets. Kites, Lakes formed by high tides. Tidal pools when they subside. One five year grandson started in the shallow pools and now body surfs with his Dad. He has his his own wetsuit and goes in through now (Late November). True, it scares me.
I suggested earlier that there are some more points. True the virus has made us look for ways to wait it out. I believe I contact local owls. I am dough popping the dog ass online Pokerstars free game. We housed a ton of carpenter bees that I fought daily with a badminton racket. Deadly backhand got a lot of them. Then, there is and I bought the last carpenter bee trap from Ace Hardware. Kept a daily tally and watched the battles in the trap jar.
The most important point is this: We are witnessing two opposite meteors. as the virus spirals out of control, the best scientists in history are predicting a cure. Soon.
Hopefully the vaccine will be a reality.
One fisherman’s tee shirt read “I really like fishing, and maybe three people!”