Roanoke Island beckons...


Brilliant sunshine woke me up the morning of Wednesday, June 30th, Day 9 of our trip. Donna, Nick and I walked down to the deserted beach to look at the sun. That may have been when we saw the dolphins  --hundreds of them, their fins arching up out of the water and then disappearing beneath the waves. That area of the beach must have been part of their morning cruise. Donna talked about watching me play in the surf, and said, "I'll never forget that for as long as I live." We walked back, and after a quick shower Donna cooked me some breakfast.
 
I drove over to Kitty Hawk to mail my postcards. Across the street from the post office, I spotted an army surplus store. Next to it was a Christian bookstore... with Internet access! It was $3 for ten minutes, but that was long enough for me to update my online journal and scan through what my friends were doing back home.
 
After that, I drove back to Kill Devil Hills and found some gifts for folks back home. Lunch was hot dogs grilled on the open balcony. One of the kids had been grumpy all week. He was mad about the trip taking so long. I'd planned on us taking three days to drive home after that Saturday, but that would mean we'd be on the road on the Fourth of July. The kid griped on and on about having to miss the Fourth of July with his friends back home. He stomped around the rent house,  slamming doors. I went downstairs and told him that if he behaved himself and settled down, I'd take him to see the movie "Spider-Man 2," which premiered that day. He agreed, and indeed acted more like himself the rest of the day. I called my Mom back in Oklahoma from the banks of the Atlantic Ocean.
 
That afternoon, we loaded up the vans and went over to Roanoke Island. Local businesses like to call Roanoke "the crown jewel of the Outer Banks." Nestled between the mainland and the shores of the Outer Banks, Roanoke enjoys a unique environment. 
 
There were lots of things to see on Roanoke, but we ended up at the North Carolina Aquarium. It was huge and really neat. They had all kinds of fish and animals, including huge sea turtles, flourescent jellyfish and playful otters. I got to pet a manta ray! We hit the gift shop and got stuff for everybody. We drove around trying to find the Maritime Museum, but it wasn't where the map said it was supposed to be. We ended up downtown. The little downtown area was quaint and interesting, right on the waterfront. Several boats were in dock, advertising sight-seeing tours and dolphin watches. We even found a bookstore. 
We all met up at Fort Raleigh, a pre-colonial historical site. (The guys kidded me that I'd promised to not take them to any more battlefields; what I promised was that I wouldn't take them to any more Civil War battlefields.) The fort itself wasn't much more than a big, run-down square pile of earth. Of course, it had been there for 400 years. We looked over the spot they said the colonists first landed. In the late 1500's, Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh made the first attempt of English colonization of the New World. The experiment failed, and 117 men, women and children disappeared without a trace.
The earthworks of Fort Raleigh
From Fort Raleigh, it was a short walk over to the Elizabethan Gardens, which Donna really enjoyed. The flowers and plants were beautiful and fragrant, and the garden itself was serene. I think even the kids liked it. It's a traditional English flower garden, with fountains, pools and ancient Italian statuary. There is also a statue of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. She disappeared with the other members of "The Lost Colony." Local legends say she was adopted by nearby natives, and that her spirit now wanders Roanoke Island in the form of a white doe.
 
 
We met up with Dianne and Donna's folks, and decided on finding some place to eat. Down the road, we found a place called Darrel's, which had lots of stuffed fish on the walls, including huge blue marlins. We were amused by the misspelling on the menu: "crabmret." It was a wonderful seafood meal, and everyone got stuffed. Dianne insisted on paying for it all.

From there, we went back to Fort Raleigh to see a play, "The Lost Colony." It was a locally-produced play, like the "Trail of Tears" in Tahlequah, but it was the longest-running such play in the country. When darkness fell, the audience heard a familiar voice: Andy Griffith. They got him to voice-over the introduction for the play. He was like royalty in North Carolina. There's even a statue of him in Raleigh. Along with the play we saw during out trip down in Palo Duro Canyon in 2000, it was the third such play I'd seen concerning Native Americans. The depictions were respectful. Some of the stage effects worked very well. It looked like there was a ship docking just beyond the stage. The play was mostly historically accurate, except maybe for the ultimate fate of the Roanoke colonists, which remained debatable.

The road back was very dark. We needed some milk from the store, but all the way to Duck everything was closed. It was barely 11 PM, but even the bars were closed. We decided to try the road north of Duck, but the story was the same. Nothing. Still, it was a nice evening, with an almost-full Moon in the sky. On the way back to the house, we came up with a compromise with the kids. We would leave at the appointed time and then drive like hell to get back home by the Fourth of July. We'd cram three days of driving into two. Well, okay,  I'd cram three days of driving into two...

 
 
 
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Day 8 -- Day 9 -- Day 10 -- Day 11 -- Day 12 -- Day 13 
 All original content copyright 2004 (c) by Tim Frayser