Close, But Not Close Enough
Driving southward through the Outer Banks of North Carolina inevitably leads to a ferry. I knew this. My beloved atlas (see “Traveling With Boys” from November 2011) told me so, and I was ready to set sail with Son #1 and my little car for the Tarheel mainland. Imagine my surprise when I learned the island road leads to two ferries. That put a kink in my travel plans. I had hoped to drive from Virginia Beach to Wilmington, and I had called ahead to reserve my spot on the Ocracoke ferry back to the mainland. I just hadn’t counted on this additional vessel at Hatteras.
In terms of a boat ride, the free ferry did not take long at all, but it did make me miss my reservation for the next floating leg of our voyage. When I pulled into the loading area at Okracoke, I proudly parked in the first slot to drive across the gangplank, but my scheduled ship had already sailed past the horizon. I sat patiently in my car for a spell, hoping to see a car-laden vessel pulling up to the dock, reassuring me that the ship had been tardy, not me, but the view across the inlet remained vacant. Shame on me for not knowing there were two ferries I would need to board on this day.
Making the Best of It
At less than two years of age, passing time with a little boy requires a plan, and clearly from my error in Hatteras, my plan had set sail without me. Once aboard the second leg of our watery route, my car parked front and center on the boat, and in front of my hood I spread out a blanket for my young passenger to stretch out for an afternoon nap in the sun. A better planner would have brought a blanket large enough for both of us, but still being in my early days of mobile adventure, I felt relieved just to be setting sail. I also neglected my sunscreen – an error I would regret for the next several days, too.
And although the first ferry lacked the lengthy duration of the second voyage, I still needed a way to entertain a little boy until we could get back in the car. And then, a brilliant passenger had the most simple of solutions: feed the birds. For nearly the entire voyage, with a full-size bag of tortilla chips in hand, one by one the man would reach into the bag, select a snack, and reach skyward, challenging the floating terns following our route to swoop closer and closer to snatch the complimentary snack gently from his hand. For a small boy obsessed with chasing birds, the simple activity mesmerized him. Note for future travelers: there are two ferries at the end of the North Carolina barrier islands; be sure to come prepared with a large blanket, sunscreen, and a bag of Tostitos.