7/4 Virginia Beach, VA ???? Miles

Up very early. Very, very early. And this is a little town. So little that Starbucks has not yet invaded, so I do not get my usual 3 shots of espresso masked in milk, ice, and hazelnut syrup. Everyone we asked told us that it would take 90 minutes to go 40 miles. In the rest of the world this would seem absurd, but since we were in the time -travel twilight zone, we decided to trust them. Fools we are. It takes about 40 minutes to go 40 miles, even here. The drive was very pretty, right along the shore for most of it. We even had a nature moment as we drove around a bend and came upon a black bear loping across the road, very exciting for two city girls. We also saw many rabbits, and I wondered if the bear ever ate a rabbit, and if he liked it.
We got to the Cedar Island ferry with about an hour to spare, so we occupied ourselves exploring the beach. I found beetle tracks and bird tracks and pointed them out to Jen who expressed the appropriate amount of interest. Our next nature moment happened with the attack of the kamikaze beach bees. These are some sort of mutant bees that desperately search the beach in vain for flowering plants with nectar. They are so diligent in this fruitless search that they thoroughly investigate everything, even the people. And though bees have a special dance to tell other bees of the lack of food found, this group had not yet been taught. Each and every bee had to come over and angrily buzz all over me, inducing a standard panic response. I fought my instinct to cover my head and fall to the ground whimpering, as I figured that would only alarm the other ferry passengers waiting up at the gift shop. I did not scream, swipe or blow at the bee, as I know these are all ways to make a bee want to kill you hard with his poky ass. Bored with the beach, we returned to our car and waited to board the ferry.
I’ve never been on a car ferry, and this was pretty damned cool. First of all, everyone who worked on the Cedar Island Ferry was exceptionally pleasant and ‘Enrique’ stood out for being both pleasant and hot. Thanks for the entertainment, Enrique. We sat outside for a long time and watched the ocean go by and when the sun got too hot we went in and wrote postcards. Some of you got these nifty postcards, the rest of you will learn to suffer in silence. We mistakenly assumed that the ferry would feed us, but it did not. So we were left with trying to entertain ourselves without having eaten breakfast. Outside to watch the ocean, inside to watch the people, repeat as necessary.
We landed at Ocracoke Island (which is a lot of fun to say, Ocracoke, Ocracoke) and marvelled at its utter cuteness and headed up to the Hatteras Ferry. The Hatteras Ferry was staffed completely by people who hated other people and had no reason to hide this hatred. Luckily, it only takes 30 minutes to get from Ocracoke (Ocracoke, Ocracoke) to Hatteras. We found a little place on the beach and ate lunch (mmm, shrimp) and watch the ocean and made fun of most people. Afterwards, we saw the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, which has a long and colorful history which I am sure fills people with an excitement I can only pretend to understand. I took a picture and left.
We drove up the Outer Banks and marvelled at its beauty and at its narrowness and continued northward. We saw houses on stilts and wondered what people did with their cars during storms so bad that stilts are necessary to protect your house.
The northern part of the Outer Banks are more touristy and commercial, but Kitty Hawk is there and if you are not tired or bored, you can go see the place where the Wright Brothers learned to fly. Woo.
At this point, my late bedtime and my early rise and my lack of caffeine kicked in and I was too tired to drive anymore. Jen took over, we popped in a Tool CD, and I took a nap. She woke me in time to visit the most redneck gift shop ever put together. You could purchase any item imaginable with the confederate flag (provided, of course, that it was not so technologically advanced that it confused the poor bubbas. I’m not kidding here, they had confederate flags on everything, and you would think that mouse pads would seem like a natural idea, but no, there were no mouse pads available). I spent about 10 minutes in this shop but could no longer maintain my sanity and had to leave.
We headed into Virginia Beach and back to civilization. Virginia Beach was crazy busy and it took us forever to get down Atlantic Avenue to our hotel. It did not help that the AAA guide was incorrectly marked and it took us longer to get to our hotel than it should have. Feh. Our hotel room was located on the ground floor and you could open the back door in the room and step directly onto the beachfront. At first we were slightly disappointed that we did not have a balcony, but a few minutes out on the lawn next to the beach and were were happier with our situation than we would have been with a balcony. Had sushi for dinner and came back to explore the giant jacuzzi in the room. Then we stepped outside, sat on our patio and watched fireworks. I have not seen fireworks in 10 years, and I felt like a kid all over again.
A long but fun day, and it is time for bed.

7/3 Morehead City, NC 2132 Miles

Up in the morning and back into Charleston for the City Market, a protected open-air market for vendors to hawk their wares. It’s really everything you want in a city market: covered from the sun, huge diversity in products, a bustling and movement that you just don’t see in other places. The spotlight in South Carolina is on sweetgrass baskets made by the local women. The baskets are handwoven and beautifully designed, and these women know how to haggle. I did not purchase one of these baskets because they were just out of my price range for baskets. This is not to say they are not worth the prices charged, they are. They just cost more than I can comfortably justify for something that won’t get much use in my house.
A quick and pleasant drive up the coast got us to Georgetown, SC. This is one of those small towns with some sort of historical significance, but at this point everything I have seen is just oozing with humidity and history and it all sounds about the same. Lunch at The Rice Paddy, a trendy little spot with good crabcakes and sweet iced tea. During lunch, a cockroach the size of a VW Vanagon came cruising by on the windowframe. Now, be assured he was in fact on the outside looking in at me, but it was still a disconcerting experience to see a bug larger than my own vehicle looking in the window at me, begging for a bite of crab or a sip of tea. I sat quietly and watched his movement around the windowframe while still trying to look as though I can’t actually see him asking me for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. Now, I know that in the south they try to make things seem more genteel, so they give things new names: your wife is called kin; under-educated, truck driving racist assholes are called rednecks; and gigantic,thunderous cockroaches from hell are called palmetto bugs. Here in the north (Yes, Cletus, I did see the bumper sticker on your Ford that expressed that you did not care how things were done in the north. Just crawl on back to your cousin, I have things to explain here) we call a cockroach a cockroach because it is a cockroach. We can not make up lies about something just to hide the fact that it is an epidemic. We have winter up here and it kills off many of the outdoor bugs each year. You don’t, so they just continue to grow and grow and grow and eventually are given their own express lane on the freeway and special discount cards at Krispy Kreme. God, I hate cockroaches. I hate them. And I hate how calm you are about the one thing that will survive the next major extinction event.
Up to the family vacation spot and ‘Branson East’, Myrtle Beach. The big moneymakers in MB are the ‘free’ hermit crabs, mini-golf and outlet malls. It’s all about the family in MB, and I couldn’t escape fast enough. Unfortunately, traffic conspired against us and it took us 76 hours to move 32 feet. I combined common swear words with obscure body parts to create new and exciting ways to express my displeasure with the situation.
Eventually I got past the pecan logs, the peaches, and the fireworks stands and found myself at the world’s tackiest gift shop ever. Not Wall Drug, even better: SOUTH OF THE BORDER! 24 buildings make up this complex of gift-buying fun. Presents were picked for friends, and then we entered a zone of mystery and confusion and the world became a different place. We went into the adult toy section (The Dirty Old Man Shop) and decided to pick out a special souvenir to commemorate the trip. Features were balanced against price, and a toy was chosen. The somewhat elderly but decidedly no-nonsense cashier was ready to help us at the counter. She surprised us by opening the package, showing us how to insert the batteries, and demonstrating its settings to us. This woman could have been my grandmother. Satisfied, she popped out the batteries and completed the sale with a smile. Not the creepy smile of someone who is thinking about what you will be doing later that evening, but the warm, gentle smile of a person who takes pride in her work, even if her work involves the secret pleasures of others.
The ride out of South Carolina and into North Carolina was not noteworthy except that, like Texas, distances and time in North Carolina are deeply warped and the problem is exacerbated by low speed limits. I have noticed that the states with little or nothing to offer me near the roadside seem to have the slowest speed limits. I think this is some sort of special torture just for me, just like people with no cruise control. Look, if you don’t have cruise control and you are somehow mentally incapable of maintaining a consistent speed, then once I have passed you, don’t speed up and pass me and get in front of me and slow down. I have cruise control and anyone who has ridden in the car with me can testify that I would rather eat my own femur than switch off the cruise, so I can guarantee that I am staying at the same speed (generally 9 miles over). You don’t have to prove your dick size to me by trying to race my car. First of all, your dick is pointless to me, I just bought a substitute from a woman who understands doily patterns and secondly, your dick is of little concern when you are driving a car with no cruise control and no air conditioning. I am not going to think “He drives faster than me. He must be a good mate, and I won’t let his poor car-buying choices detract from his obvious skills at erratic velocity maintenance.” If you don’t have cruise control, just let me pass you and be off, because after awhile I can’t be held responsible for what I do to you or your brethren.
Our goal was Morehead City, NC, and as I stated it was taking forever. I mean absolutely forever. Time and distance were being calculated in relation to infinity. We eventually got to Wilmington, NC, where we stopped at a place called Kiva for dinner. The food was good, and I had a lot of fun noting the hatred the husband had for his wife at the table next to ours. I hated her too, and I secretly wished him luck in dealing with this nasal beast.
15,000 hours later we finally made it to Morehead City and would have been excited by our view of the ocean, but it was late and we had to get up in the morning and drive 90 minutes to catch the 8am ferry the next day. So there was no fun for us, just sleep.