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A Trek to the Outer Banks

Sep 28, 1998
Kimmy Sophia Brown
In May, we took a weekend trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. The Outer Banks is a narrow sliver of land that runs from the Virginia border down the face of North Carolina. Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers made aeronautic history in 1903, is among the little towns there. Of course, when we arrived the children said, "Where are the kitties? Where are the hawks?"

Roanoke Island lies just to the east, where Sir Walter Raleigh's ill fated "Lost Colony", was settled between 1584 and 1587. The one hundred and ten men, women and children later disappeared without a trace. South of the Oregon Inlet is Cape Hatteras, and south of that is the island of Ocracoke, former home of Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard the Pirate, (who was slain there in 1718).

We visited Roanoke Island for the first time during this recent trip. The village of Manteo is truly lovely, reminiscent of the villages on Cape Cod. I have to confess, it is the first I have seen of 'fishing village charm' in the mid-Atlantic area, which is so commonplace on the New England coast. (My Yankee snobbery is leaking through here.) Our family arrived at the Lost Colony (Fort Raleigh) on a Saturday evening, after a depressing day of rain. The weather was cool for mid-May, and overcast.

We walked along the lane marked with placards, telling the story of the early colonists. The place was thick with live oak trees; their low, gnarly branches beckoning the children to climb. The tranquil woods was hung with gray-green Spanish moss, giving one the impression of green air and a rather enchanted feeling.

We came upon an outdoor theater which was not yet open for the summer, with a stage and a large amphitheater of seats. Nobody was around, so we walked backstage where it overlooked Roanoke Sound. The boys began to play on the rocks, when a woman came from behind the set, announcing herself as the theater's resident nurse. She warned us that poisonous corral snakes lived in the very rocks where my boys' naked shins were in perfect chomping range. Not having packed a "snake bite kit", and never having sucked venom from poison tooth-holes, we did an about-face.

As we left the park, Peter took my hand and twirled me around, singing a silly little song about dancing beneath the pine cone moon. He plucked a pine cone from overhead and today it is sitting on our mantelpiece, in honor of that moment.

That night we went to a delightful restaurant called "Clara's" which overlooked the Manteo harbor. Peter and I had scrumptious tuna kabobs for dinner. (Our waitress told us that all their fish is locally caught.) It is truly lovely to enjoy the food and the ambiance of a place and not feel leached by the menu prices. The children munched hamburgers as if we were in the middle of Iowa, instead of where the fish go from the boat to your plate. (I baffled my parents in the same way when I was their age.)

The following day we visited the Elizabethan Gardens. It's a lovely walk through gorgeous trees, and beautifully landscaped shrubs, rose bushes, herb gardens and flower beds, situated around a green lawn. A terraced, fountain area hosted a wedding while we visited. John Denver songs played on a flute, filled the air. Our children ran screaming across the lawn, popping the idyllic bubble of the marriage feast. They climbed trees and peeked over the stone wall like little lizards, as the bride and groom said their vows, and while Peter and I excitedly (wildly, truly, deeply and madly) gestured at them to get the heck out of there.

Deep in the garden, there is a statue of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World (in the area which at that time was called, Virginia.) She is a noble looking young woman posing in the nude, bedecked with Indian accouterments. I thought this to be a bit odd, as I would have assumed that she would have been wearing the Elizabethan garb of the day. My daughter, Gracie, said, "Maybe they dared her to take off her clothes. So it was the first dare in Virginia! That's why they called her Virginia Dare!"

In the harbor area of Manteo, the Elizabeth II is anchored. It is a replica of one of the ships used in that same Sir Francis Drake era. As we toured the boat, my husband asked if we could sit on the poop deck. One of the guides, dressed in the garb of the day, explained that this boat only had a quarter deck at the rear, but that larger boats of similar design have a poop deck. (We all wondered where the name "poop deck" came from. There were many suggestions about the origin of the name, but I won't go into that now.)

So, settling for the quarter deck, we sat down in a little group. My husband put our smallest boy on his knee, and waxed poetic about how it would have been to sail on the ocean during the 1500's. The children, bored and restless with his soliloquy about the seafaring life, only wanted to ring the brass bell repeatedly.

Home now, I think back on our little trip in which we beheld so many historic places. I have discovered that we often drink in the beauty of nature and the curiosity of historic venues, in spite of our children. I think of my father and mother, driving my mother's youngest sister around the Adirondack mountains forty years ago. While they were pointing out the stag on the mountainside, or a breathtaking sunset, my aunt had her nose in books by Mickey Spillane, and only occasionally grunted in response to the natural beauty.

Somehow I hope that all the places we've taken our children will somehow imprint on their consciousness, so that when they grow up, they can appreciate where they went when they didn't really care.

Now I know why George Bernard Shaw once said, "Youth is wasted on the young.".

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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