Plymouth was the second traditional small Southern town after leaving Dare County. On the way there I drove through Columbia to get a feel for another town that was used in my book but I knew I had to see the replica ironclad in Plymouth. It was easy to find, following a direct roadway into the traditional small downtown that brought back memories of Manteo in the old days. And I was glad to see that rather than tearing down and replacing the buildings, they have been fixed up and it looked great. Who needs all the concrete and glass when you can have a touch of Americana right in your local backyard? The same was found with many of the old white clapboard houses with inviting front porches. Many, just like a lot of the farmhouses on the open road, were given new siding, roofing and other touch ups and memories of the 1950s surfaced in my head.
Right at the end of the downtown area was the local museum, the repository for the ironclad replica of the CSS Albemarle, tied up on a pier at the dock on the fast-moving Roanoke River. I thought back about how it must have been to operate the craft under very hot conditions and cramped quarters as well as what the battle for the city must have been like back in the spring of 1864. I was pleased to see how North Carolina has restored and maintained so many sites from those Civil War days. It's about heritage, not hate and it is history. Whether you like it or not, learning about how things really were are the best way to learn from the past and not repeat the same mistakes. Sadly, many today don't seem to care.
Leaving Plymouth and driving toward Rocky Mount, all was well until a large tractor trailer truck pulling an oversized trailer carrying sand or dirt for construction had flipped on its side, blocking traffic for quite a period of time. It was while waiting and listening to the radio that l learned that the next morning would likely bring a major weather risk for massive thunder boomers and possible tornadoes. Going to visit my sister in the Research Triangle area for the afternoon and one night, I realized that I was headed right into the heart of the danger zone. I hadn't seen her in a number of years and I knew I needed to do that, so I kept on trucking, arriving at her house in the mid-afternoon.
I was hungry after eating nothing since breakfast, so the two of us opted for an early dinner at a place I always like, Cracker Barrel. She enjoys it as well since it is one place you can count on to maintain its quality everywhere. Then we went back home and I enjoyed the beautiful blossoms in her back yard. The azaleas were in full bloom and it almost looked like a public garden with all of the colors, the birds singing and the pines whistling in the breeze. It was a hot afternoon and the sky had a strange milky color, an omen of what would be coming. We just talked and talked with the TV on mute, showing the area weather with updates in captions. The storm likelihood was growing, so I called home and my Charyl suggested I wait until Saturday morning to travel. She said the same weather pattern would be in Florida, so that decided it. The last thing I wanted to do was find myself stuck in traffic on I-95 with a twister approaching. Worse still was the likelihood of heavy winds flipping a tractor trailer with its high profile to straight line winds while weaving down the highway. That settled it, I decided to stay another day.
Friday morning dawned with an eerie sky, a kind of milky green which is common when severe storms are expected. The air was still in the morning and the clouds began to thicken. Checking the weather maps on the computer there was a curved line forming from Western North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida which was the leading edge of the storm. As the line moved slowly eastward it showed darker colors meaning more moisture and turbulence. We got through the morning okay but in early afternoon, the winds began to gust and squall like showers began to grow. I knew my wife was at work in Florida so I decided when the leading front passed my home area, I would call my neighbor back home. As the more dangerous looking part of the front passed on the screen, I called him and he told me they had several strong gusts and a short burst of rain but it had quickly calmed down. That reduced my worry about the home front but joining my sister in front of the TV, the red blips signalling rotation in the clouds began popping up all over the area. It was a nerve wracking period until about six p.m. when we finally got the all clear. At last check some seventeen twisters touched down with the big pines causing some significant damage to homes and parked cars. At the time no one had been killed but I believe there was one casualty, a young boy killed when a tree fell on his home. I was thankful that no twisters came within three miles of our location but felt sorry for those not so fortunate. But there was something amazing that happened to take my mind off the storm.
To my surprise, my sister came into the room with an envelope full of pictures. Some were of me as a boy and others were of my father and mother at varying times of their lives. I always wondered where they were, for I remember seeing them in my childhood days but I thought they were all lost. Mom had sent me some pictures before she died but I had no pictures of her and I told my sister months earlier on the phone about that. So, she went through those that she had and gave me many which I will now reproduce and return them to her. Those pictures are so important to me and now I have them and feel very blessed. It was the icing on the cake of my whirlwind trip back to Nags Head and my past. And the extra day with my sister gave us the time to discuss so many things about our childhood and bounce our memories off one another to determine who was most accurate. I think it ended in a draw.
On Saturday morning I got a head start on a busy traffic day on I-95. The weather was cool, breezy and filled with sunshine, a much better option than I would have found the day previous. I was amazed at the speed that people drive while tailgating and it's a wonder that many more aren't killed than statistics show from highway fatalities. But my fortune held up, for we were only slowed a couple of times, never to a complete stop, all the way to Florida and I was tired and glad to get home. The two big dogs, Val and Sal, were waiting at the gate and my dear wife ran out as well. I know she loves me and was glad to see me but I also know that she was glad to have her animal caretaker back in town. Oh, the life I lead as the oldest two-legged resident of our landlocked Ark. It's truly a great place to be and a wonderful place to return after my visit to the land of my youth. I'll work on my sciatica, however, before I do that much driving again.