Friday, 18 March 2016

below the Mason-Dixon Line

Thursday, March 10. 2016, 8:00am: Sitting in the passengers’ lounge aboard the NC Highway Dept ferry, CEDAR ISLAND making the crossing from Ocracoke Island to Cedar Island.

This is our second ferry crossing: first one only an hour from Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke Island, then a few more miles on Highway 12 to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island. It takes two hours to cross the Pamlico Sound, part of the Intra-Coastal Waterway. Last time I crossed this body of water was aboard IB on my way back to Ontario from Antigua. Both ferries are part of the NC highway system, the first one was free and the 2nd, a whopping $15 (US , of course... so about $20 in hoser bucks).

First observations: few passengers get out of their vehicles, most sit and scroll, amenities consist of a few vending machines, heads and not much else!

The Hatteras outer banks are a spectacular, very narrow band of sand dunes sitting out in the Atlantic Ocean that have claimed countless vessels over the past two centuries; the Cape Hatteras light house is one of the most recognized and “feared” lighthouses in North America. Most recreational sailors avoid “going outside” and try to enter into the ICW somewhere in the Carolinas.

Sadly, from my perspective, this lovely barren stretch of land is now bisected by a four lane highway that is even being increased to six lanes in some sections. So, what used to be a two lane transportation corridor for mostly local fisher folks has become the “highway of
the hurried.” Our steady 80K (50mph) created trains of vehicles behind us that required us to pull over and wave them by. I’m sure that our current pace of travel has lead to the demise of most “mom and pop” stores, restaurants gas stations, motels and other businesses to give way to the franchises with their huge signs and “come hither” logos.

“Rosie” has behaved in an exemplary fashion, started up many friendly and interesting conservation's, been snapped constantly and  elicited dozens of thumbs up from passing traffic, primarily bikers.

Friday, March 11, Charleston, SC. Warming up, beautiful city, stunning architecture and a real “rebel” vibe. Even in March, the throngs are filling restaurants, B&Bs and tour buses. What most of us don’t see are the areas of poverty that sit to the side of and below the interstate. We made a navigational error and wound up “touring” several of those neighborhoods.

Yesterday, another navigational error resulted in the discovery of a relatively new micro-brewery in an old hardware distribution centre and door factory. Waterline Brewing Co., Wilmington, NC, started up by a couple of 50 somethings who had combined all their retirement funds to get the business up and running. They offered about 8 selections on tap. We sampled most. Their delivery vehicle was a 60s Ford Falcon to which they were planning on adding a funky van of some sort down the road.

Destination achieved: Amelia Island late Friday afternoon. Still managed to get in a walk around of an interesting display of vehicles by Nostalgia Cars. Many were “evocations” in plain speak, copies or reproductions. The top estimate for their auction was in the mid half-million range. Pikers, given the offerings from the major auction houses!

Rosie continues to impress us with her willingness to maintain a steady pace all day long. I had anticipated she might overheat as the weather warmed but so far so good. She is a magnet for conversation except, and this is most interesting: when we pitched up at the Nostalgia marquees and parked amidst their various offerings, two of their staff wandered out for a smoke and chat, stood right next to Rosie, never so much as glanced at her, asked us a question or looked over their shoulders when we fired her up and backed away. They’re hustlers, or in car auction speak, “investment advisors,” not motorheads.

Saturday morning, March 12, we pointed the Citroen towards the big auction and concours d’elegance. A bajillion bucks worth of four wheeled fantasies were laid out in all their glory all over a golf course, strewn around the main auction tent and quite a few sprinkled in the various parking areas. Impressive, yeah, I guess. Over the top would be more accurate. Enjoyed a conversation with a serious Bentley collector who said, “I wish I could do what you fellows are doing. When I asked why he couldn’t drive any of his cars, he said that he didn’t have time and was constantly trading up and had to keep working to support his habit! He even restored a wooden Riva power boat, one of the most beautiful marine creations but he never even got it wet!

After listening to the auction for an hour and right after a car crossed the block for well over a mil, Chris and I decided that it was time to hit the road again. So we pointed Rosie south and within a half hour came across the Callahan Cruisers of North Florida show and shine in a mall parking lot. We spent a delightful hour or so checking out the local hardware and answering copious questions about the Citroen. Friendly, tough and engaging Florida Crackers who were more animated and interesting than some of the bloated bags of money at Amelia.

Monday the 14th, 10am, aboard AMARA ZEE in LaBelle, Florida, virtually in the middle of the Okeechobee swamp. We were greeted by Paul and Nans at 11:30pm last night waving flashlights at the entrance to a very dark driveway that lead to, what turned out to be, a quite modern marina tucked away adjacent to the Okeechobee Canal.

The drive from Cocoa, after an early dinner with Jeanette and Peggy, old friends of my mum's, was uneventful but mostly in the dark. Managed to get in a nap on Jeanette’s porch overlooking Lake Worth; something I’ve enjoyed several times over the past 30+ years. Her house, over 100 years old, is one of the few remaining real “Florida houses:” cyprus, pine, huge screened porch (now glassed in) and perched on cinder blocks. They have had a clear view of Cape Canaveral's NASA launch pad for all the significant events in the US space program.

Great to see Paul and Nans again to sit in AZ’s salon, catching up with recent history and meeting new crew members. It always feels like coming to my second home.

Tuesday, March 15, pointed Rosie south again towards the megalopolis of Miami. Destination: Bay With No Name south of the city in Biscayne Bay. There we were welcomed aboard CICINDELLA, a 26’ bilge keel boat that Chris’s daughter, Hannah had sailed down from Belleville. Two days of lolling around, a couple of dinghy races and the required drive along Ocean Boulevard, the Art Deco stretch of Highway A1A were all I could handle of Miami.

Thursday, back behind the wheel and back to LaBelle for a fascinating dinner aboard AZ with a few of the marina denizens sitting around the AZ’s exotic main salon. Friday, mostly a day of hanging out on AZ, getting one of the main engines running, watching a couple of the young crew chip away at rusted segments of the decking and catching up with Paul and Nans’ adventures.

I will head for Sarasota via Fort Meyers on Saturday. Will stop in at meeting of the Calossahatchee River Watchers in the morning. The two organizers were aboard AZ earlier and I got a chance to tell them about the DocFest screening of WATERMARK last year and the Q&A that followed. Early Sunday morning, I fly to Pearson to meet Penny, daughter Allsion and son-in-law, Phil for a week in the Dominican. I’ll continue my Florida road trip on the 28th. Stand by...

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