Category Archives: Coastal Cruising

Unexpected Folly Beach

After our boomerang start, we are now finally settled in the condo in the Folly Beach area of Charleston, SC. Remember when I said here we’d have easier access to higher ground? Well, I had forgotten that this area is called the Low Country. There’s a reason. It’s just as low and flat as the Outer Banks. Dry so far, though, unless you count the humidity that requires using the windshield defogger ten times during every twenty minute drive.

Wednesday evening, we drove out to the actual beach of Folly Beach, just as the sun was setting through the fog:

Foggy Folly
Folly in the Fog

Foggy Sunset on Folly Beach

Palms in the Fog Vertical

Very cool and kind of surreal. The state park at the southwest end closes at 5, at least at this time of year, and we didn’t get there until about 4:45, but the ranger we encountered on our walk said he was leaving the exit gate open since he couldn’t find everyone in the fog. The whole thing seemed sort of Twilight Zone, but bonus, we got to stay a bit longer.

David on foggy Folly Beach
David on foggy Folly Beach

We LOVE Folly Beach for walking. It’s flat, wide, firm and practically deserted. We saw lots of interesting shells, and a surprisingly large number of sea stars–maybe thirty or forty–stranded by low tide and either playing dead very convincingly or actually dead. I know many sea stars live in the intertidal zone, presumably on purpose, so they must have figured the whole high tide / low tide thing out, but I’m not sure the plan was working that day.

At the other end of the island the surfers were out in full force . . .

Surfer on Folly

. . . um REALLY? It’s DECEMBER, and this is NOT Hawaii. There were probably thirty surfers practically within arms reach of each other, granted, all in wetsuits. One young guy returned to the car in front of where ours was parked on the side of the road and was trying to strip out of his wetsuit and apparently change into something else, inside a smallish towel he had wrapped around his waist, just as I was obliviously brandishing my camera around. Awkward. I snapped a few quick blurry shots of the surfers IN the water and we got in the car and left, tout de suite!

Later, after wandering around tiny, quirky “downtown” Folly Beach, we stopped in here . . .

The Surf Bar, Folly Beach
The Surf Bar, Folly Beach–not actually red inside in real life!

. . . because, really, how often do you find a place like this? It just seemed to go with the weird vibe of the evening. While there, we were surprised to hear the bartender–a young, white woman– mention that she’d be singing with a gospel choir at a Christmas concert Saturday night. We overheard enough to find tickets online to what turned out to be the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s Gospel Christmas concert, last night at a nearby large Baptist church. Surprisingly, the first half was classical and choral, but they put on the robes after intermission and the swaying and clapping we’d been expecting finally started. The whole thing was impressive, but we liked that part best.


Also unexpected, not to mention disturbing, to see this next to the condo parking lot . . .

Yikes. Yet more evidence we’re not in Colorado at the moment.

Speaking of the condo, the complex is nice and seems to be pretty new, and it’s very posh inside, as well as being conveniently located to both the casual, surfer-hip Folly Beach and classy, historic downtown Charleston (next post, I promise), but I’m not too sure about at least one of the neighbors. On two separate nights around 1 a.m. there has been crazy loud crashing and thumping, I think in the condo above us, as if the furniture were being thrown around or knocked over. No yelling last night, and it only lasted two or three minutes, but the first time this happened there was also a guy doing a lot of shouting, and then someone stepped out of the condo across from us and yelled up toward the thumper-shouter. Yikes. I really expected the cops to show up. But five minutes later, all was quiet again. Weird.

So . . . things are . . . um . . . different here (although I really should have expected the Low Country to be, you know, low). But what’s an adventure without new experiences? And this does continue to be a most excellent adventure, that’s for sure.

Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season, and that your surprises are all of the very best kind.

And on this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, above all I wish you peace. Many thanks to those who have sacrificed for our freedom.

Do I Hear an Echo?

We went to Wilmington , , , went to Wilmington . . . .

Yup. We spent the weekend in Wilmington, North Carolina, on our way to Folly Beach . . . and then today we went BACK to Wilmington to get the leather jacket I’d left in the hotel room closet. Sheesh. Nearly eight hours of driving today by my saintly husband (I’m often the navigator in unfamiliar territory). Well, we know the way now!

It WAS pretty nice, with lots of historic homes and buildings, some seriously stately, like the Bellamy Mansion. We walked by before it was open, but it was a bit of a hike, so I’m afraid we did NOT make it back here.

Bellamy Mansion
Bellamy Mansion, Wilmington, NC

There’s also a popular Riverwalk lined with shops and restaurants:

Riverwalk, Wilmington, North Carolina
Riverwalk, Wilmington, NC

Brick and LampElsewhere in the downtown area, lots of beautiful red brick with black iron lamps everywhere, one of my favorite looks . . . .

. . . not to mention pretty horses decked out in silver, patiently waiting downtown to tote tourists around . . . .



Horses of WilmingtonOur favorite spot, though, was a little pub called Paddy’s Hollow . . .

Paddy's Hollow, Wilmington, NC
Paddy’s Hollow, Wilmington, NC.

Seriously. How could you NOT go in that door? And inside . . .

Paddy's Hollow Interior

. . . all cozy with copper pillars and Christmas lights. We stumbled on this place Saturday evening on our exploratory ramble. Fortunately, it was just about cocktail hour, since it was a perfect spot for a glass of wine. We liked it so well, we went back the next day.

We also saw a fabulous home decor shop with everything from old wood propellers to a giant cushion that said, “Je t’aime plus qu’hier mais moins que demain.” (which means “I love you more than yesterday but less than tomorrow.”) and even a huge leopard fur wing chair and ottoman. The shop was closed by the time we saw it Saturday evening, but looking in the windows, we liked it so well, we went back the next day.

Anyone sensing a pattern?

Wilmington has a thriving film and TV industry (Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, Iron Man 3, among many others), but we didn’t see any celebrities. Our waiter at the hotel restaurant told us he’s an actor, auditions all the time, and had one line in some movie (I forget which one), but I don’t think he counts. He apparently likes acting well enough, though, to keep going back for more, in spite of limited success to date.

Here’s hoping when you go back for more, it’s not because you forgot something hours away, but because you’ve found something you like well enough to make the trip. Happy returns!*

*. . . and before you leave, double-check those closets and drawers!


Surf’s Up!

Herbert C. Bonner Bridge to Hatteras Island
Herbert C. Bonner Bridge to Hatteras Island.

Here’s the bridge I drove across in a raging storm last week, as I mentioned in my last post. The speck you see just to the right of the peak is a truck, to give you an idea of scale. And yes, the bridge continues both to the left and the right of where this photo ends. It’s 2.7 miles (4.3 km) long and the only driving route to Hatteras Island that doesn’t involve a ferry.

Life here on the island is lived mostly either in the water, on the beach or . . . on stilts. Really. Nearly all the buildings on the island–and even the air conditioning units–are significantly above ground level. Hurricanes hit the Outer Banks more than any other place in the United States, and even when it’s not a direct hit, flooding is common, with storm surges and something a bit more tame sounding called “overwash.” I don’t care how tame it sounds, this is just what you think it is–the Atlantic meeting Pamlico Sound on TOP of Hatteras Island. No, thank you.

Sunday marks the end of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, and according to the weather service, this year was pretty quiet. Only one hurricane made landfall in the U.S this year. Guess where. Here. Right here.  On the 4th of July, Rodanthe experienced wave surges up to 5 feet high. David and I looked this up because we kept noticing debris trapped in shrubs and trees as much as chest high. Have I mentioned this island is FLAT? Yikes.

And this was not the only storm to flood Hatteras. Hurricane Sandy never actually hit here, but still caused extensive flooding. Some businesses seem to have given up . . .

Rodanthe, NC
Rodanthe, NC, part of a now defunct amusement complex

This was part of a now defunct complex of pools, mini-golf, plus a number of super-cool, complicated go-cart tracks and who knows what else. Now all abandoned. The sea won.

So why come here?

Because sometimes it looks like this . . .

Evening Over Atlantic
Evening Light on the Atlantic

I know a photo doesn’t quite capture it, but trust me, this stunning undulating silver- blue was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Wow.

Of course, at other times it looks like this . . .

David checking out the wild waves
David down checking out the wild waves

This was after a night of howling winds and intermittent heavy rain. We’d never seen it like this before, so David went down early one morning to check it out.

And then, a few minutes later, this . . .

Sun's up over the Atlantic
Sun’s up over the Atlantic

Happened upon this the same day:

The seas have lifted up, Lord, 

    the seas have lifted up their voice;

    the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. 

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,

    mightier than the breakers of the sea–

   the Lord on high is mighty. ∼Psalm 93: 3-4

And then some days, like yesterday, the surf is perfect. All day long we watched surfers out on the water, and I was struck by how important timing is in surfing. Not to take away from skills earned after hours–or years–of practice, but no matter how much skill you have, you can’t surf without being in the right place at the right time to catch the right wave. The wave itself is a gift, but you have to choose it, and then you have to ride it for all it’s worth.

This Thanksgiving week, David and I are thankful for you, dear friends and family, and also for the timing that made this journey possible. Here in Rodanthe, we’re grateful for the peace and very likely the best views we’ll have all year. Saturday we leave here and make our way down to Folly Beach, near Charleston, South Carolina, but there we’ll be on the first floor and a mile from the ocean. So fewer stunning views, but much closer proximity to an interesting city to explore (not to mention better access to higher ground).  I promise we know all of this journey is a gift, and we are definitely trying to ride it for all it’s worth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Beauty and Danger

Sunrise over the Atlantic
Sunrise over the Atlantic

The sea is very beautiful, especially at sunrise and sunset, as you can see from these sunrise photos taken from our deck (a fourth floor balcony).

Sunrise over Atlantic
Sunrise over Atlantic

Here on Hatteras Island the sun rises over the Atlantic and sets over Pamlico Sound, as you saw in the last post.

Even during the day, the waves are mesmerizing to watch:

Wave Curl

Wave Mist

Wave Foam

Wave SandBut the sea is also dangerous, of course, and not just during storms.

Lightning over Atlantic
Lightning over Atlantic

Best shot I could get of Monday night’s lightning before deciding I’d rather be INSIDE!

One of the biggest dangers around here is actually sand. Cape Hatteras marks the meeting point of the southerly-flowing cold Labrador Current and the northerly-flowing Gulf Stream, resulting in great deposits of sand, called the Diamond Shoals, which are dangerous shallows which extend up to fourteen miles out into the Atlantic. So many ships have wrecked here, this area has earned the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Hence all the cool lighthouses.

Bodie Island Lighthouse
Cape Hatteras LIghthouse

I learned a bit about lighthouses from the guide at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. (Landlubber Alert! Extreme ignorance ahead!) It was news to me that each light has its own signal pattern, also called the “nightmark.” For example, the signal pattern for Bodie (pronounced “body”) Lighthouse is 2 ½ seconds on, 2 ½ seconds off, 2 ½ seconds on, 22 ½  seconds off. I also did not realize that some lights use different color lights like red and green, as well as white. And lighthouses are painted so distinctively–the “daymark”–not just so they’re beautiful, but so ships at sea can easily identify exactly which lighthouse they’re seeing, whether day or night. Okay, I know, DUH, but I had no idea of any of this. I will spare you all I learned Googling for more info during an hour of insomnia during the wee hours the other night. Super cool. LOVE learning new things!

I had my own tense moments of wishing for a guiding light late Monday afternoon, driving alone back to the condo from the north, on the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, 2.7 miles of narrow two-lane roadway, sweeping WAY up over an inlet between the Atlantic and Pamlico Sound. Just as I approached the bridge, the storm increased in intensity, blowing almost horizontally and reducing visibility to super-scary. The car in front of me kept drifting to the center and staying there, over the double yellow line, directly in the path of oncoming traffic. I backed way off, hoping to avoid being part of whatever accident he was about to cause, but that bridge seemed to go on forever.

At the end of the bridge he pulled over and I had a split second to decide whether to stop there, too, or try to make it home, but it was nearly 4:30 and the sun sets here around 4:45, leaving me still half an hour away on dark Highway 12, so I decided to keep going, although I was now in the lead, visibility about one car length. Worse, David and I have been on this road in the rain, and standing water is the norm during any precipitation, so you can imagine it during a torrential downpour such as this. And just to keep things interesting, there was a tornado watch for northeastern North Carolina until 6 p.m. Yikes. Seriously. YIKES. There was a whole lot of praying going on! I’ve never been so glad to finally pull into a parking lot in my life.

Just as I was getting my heart rate back to normal, and I was checking the news for any word of a tornado, I realized this condo is on the fourth floor and there is no such thing as a basement on this entire island, since it’s basically a giant sandbar! Ah, peaceful life at the beach. Not every day, apparently!

So here’s wishing you a terror-free week, or at least safe passage in spite of fears that may come.

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is much in the world to make us afraid.  There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid ~Frederick W. Cropp

There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.  ~André Gide

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ∼ Plato