This memory comes from our last night on the Outer Banks, the reef of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. We had taken the free ferry from Hatteras over to Ocracoke, the last island making up the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Landing at the top of the island, we wound our way down, about 12 miles, to Ocracoke Village. The village is ruled by golf carts and bicycles, both of which you can rent, and is populated with non-chain motels, surf shops, food markets, and gift stores of every kind. A favorite spot of Blackbeard the pirate, this small town is teeming with people in the summer months, looking to take advantage of the beautiful beaches, surf the waves, soak up the history and explore the back roads and byways of this quaint town. It reminds me a lot of Bar Harbor.
This is the real start of my story.
We were in Ocracoke only one day and night and stayed the National Park a couple of miles from the village. We decided not to pitch a tent since we were only staying one night and the breeze was strong, meaning sleeping in Elsie wouldn't be so hot. What we didn't take into account: the massive number of mosquitos waiting for us. When sleeping in Elsie, we use the mosquito net my brother Rob gave us and put it over the hatch and tailgate. It doesn't quite secure but we tuck it in enough to make it work. Problem was this night, that the skeeters were already out and in the car as we were putting it up. They were everywhere.
As such, we were forced to share a dinner of jerky, tortilla chips with cream cheese and a warm coke, cramped inside Elsie since we didn't dare step outside to cook or even get more rations. As it was, I hardly drank anything since I always need to pee in the middle of the night and this night, I wasn't willing to risk it. So we ate, killed mosquitos and sent them to what we dubbed the Mosquito Graveyard of the Atlantic. Having just visited the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, which features ship wreaks from the Outer Banks, the name seemed funny at the time. I was on skeeter watch with my little flashlight and Julz was the gravedigger. We laugh about it right now but at the time it sucked.
But as with all things in life, with the bad comes the glorious, the amazing, the wonderous, the all that is right with the world. Flashlights out, heads back on the pillows, we took in the dark night sky and all her stars, through Elsie's big back window. It was so dark; skeeters and stars, there ain't nothing like it.
About 3:30 AM, mother nature let loose with the more amazing heat lightening storm. Layer after layer of clouds lit up as electric fingers reached out across the night sky from horizon to horizon. I just laid there in awe, scratching and cursing the bugs, and feeling grateful for just being there in that very moment of my life - the lightening, the high moon and bright stars, the skeeters and their graveyard, Elsie our sweet work horse, and my love, beside me scratching away in his sleep. If grateful not now, then when? I decided at that moment that the when has to be every minute of everyday from here on out.
Not sure how much sleep I got, but we up about an hour and a half later with full bladders and a car full of damn skeeters. My forehead was sporting a bite about the size of a quarter. As we rushed to pack up, praying they would let us on the earlier ferry to the mainland, we were given on last Outer Banks gift - a glorious sunrise for our one year anniversary. I can't remember the last time I saw the sunrise; why have I waited so long. As the oranges, hot pinks, yellows, salmon, white hot ball of life that provides so much rose effortlessly as it has done millions of times before in its lifetime, we marveled at the color, the splendor, our luck, slapped more skeeters and scampered off in the car in search of coffee.