Rising with the sun in the Outer Banks

atlantic ocean outer banks north carolinaKILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. — I write this—longhand, as always—with frozen fingers. I have been chasing the sun for nearly two hours.

We told the baby we were going to see the Big Water, but when we finally arrived in the Outer Banks it was already dark. It’s a very dark dark here, and though we stood on the beach we could make out just the barest shape of waves reflecting the moon. The sound was incredible, angry, reverberating in our chests. That familiar salt-fish-sand smell blew past and through us.

We were back at the seashore before 6 a.m. We had a blanket under us and two around us, over our winter coats, with just our hands peeking out to hold coffee and tea. It was 6C, but frigid with the ocean wind on our cheeks.

“Oh. It’s a big water,” Jilly breathed into the salt air. “Where’s the sun?”

“The sun is still sleeping. We have to wait for him to wake up.”

“Wake up, sun! Wake up!”

Cloud cover and fog meant the sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as it might have been. Except that we were bundled up in the sea air and we were talking to the sun and staring at Venus and we were together. And that, my friends, is rather spectacular.

Ducks, trucks and muck in the Outer Banks

ORCACOKE, N.C. – Orcacoke, like most tourist towns, isn’t overly friendly, and the carpet – red or otherwise – is rolled up promptly at 6 p.m. Getting there is a blast, though.

A two-lane highway cuts through the dunes of the narrow Outer Banks and high tide covers parts of the road, making driving wet and wild and crazy-laugh-inducing.

There’s so much to do here, it easily merits its own week-long vacation. The Outer Banks are home to one of our favourite Monster Jam trucks, Gravedigger, making for some kind-of-awesome photo ops. We played at Flippers for nearly an hour on $10 worth of tokens, flipping a few of the 51 pinball machines and trying to remember how to win at Ms. Pacman. Trev played Tron and Space Invaders and a couple of games designed in this decade.

We took two ferry rides – 45 minutes for the first crossing and nearly three hours for the second. That nearly three hours is exactly what I need at this point in the trip: Quiet, with nothing to do, not behind the wheel, not worrying about anything beyond catching up on a couple of blog posts and looking through our pictures. There are only two other cars on the boat. The moon is nowhere to be seen, but every star created is there for us and the Milky Way meets the wake of the boat at the ocean’s horizon. There is no way to blog how beautiful that is, no way to Tweet or Instagram the quiet.

I need the break after nearly wetting myself giggling so many times today, like when we saw the sign for the chain restaurant: “I got my crabs from Dirty Dicks,” or when Trev and I had this conversation after leaving the beach:

“I’d better put a shirt on.”

“What? You’re a Sherpa?”

“Yes, Mom. I’m a Sherpa. I’m going to go live on Everest. Goodbye, world.”

“Well, it’s cold there. You’d better put a shirt on.”

I don’t want to call today perfect, because as I write this the day still has a little more than hour on this ferry, then two hours of driving to the hotel.

But we played pinball and watched a truck being built. We walked across dunes and were smacked by Atlantic waves. We met baby ducks and watched a Medevac helicopter take off. We did it all under cloudy skies, so we aren’t sunburned, and we boarded the ferry at sunset.