The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Coastal North Carolina
June 2007
"How does Pamlico Sound?"

We are still refining our requirements for retirement property. While leaving the Ireland option open, we decided to explore other alternatives. We thought coastal North Carolina should offer some nice views of water, but maybe not the extreme heat of Florida, and be less complicated than purchasing property in Ireland.

There are three airports near the NC coast that are serviced by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, the Delta Connection Carrier. Flights to all three looked pretty full for Saturday morning, so we reserved a car in all three places, planning to return from Wilmington on Sunday. The New Bern flight left first, so we stood by for it. We ran into a friend who was trying to get to Fayetteville, North Carolina to see her father for Father's day. The airport was teeming with soldiers flying to Fayetteville, so when we heard the gate agent asking passengers to give up their seats for the soldiers, we knew she would not get to Fayetteville. She decided to try for a Myrtle Beach flight, so she hurried off to another gate.

We stayed to see if we would get on the New Bern flight even though it looked extremely unlikely. Surprisingly, at the last minute, we were given boarding passes! I was given a window seat and right after I sat down, two customer service agents brought a lady in a wheelchair down the aisle and positioned her in the seat next to me. We began to talk and I asked her how she had been injured. She said that she was riding her bicycle one morning down her quiet street in Morehead City. Her mind was on the trip she was to take later that day to meet her family to distribute her mother's estate when she ran into the side-view mirror of a parked car and flipped over the handlebars of her bicycle. She said she knew right away that her neck was broken because she is a nurse who has worked with spinal cord injuries and has taught nursing in that discipline. The accident had occurred 3 years prior and she was just returning from a third round of intense therapy at Shepherd's Spinal Clinic. She had a small amount of use of her hands and arms, but was technically classified as a quadriplegic. It was very uplifting to see her positive attitude and great spirit. She said that she is sure she will walk again some day.

We talked about North Carolina as a place to live. She loves it and said that the people are really nice and supportive. She told me about when she came back from the hospital and there were purple and yellow bows up and down her street. When it was time to deplane, I sent Tony to rent the car since I couldn't easily get out of the seat. We continued to talk until the Customer Service Agents came to get her off of the plane. When it was time to say good-bye, we hugged and wished each other well.

Tony and I drove north in our bright red Chevrolet Aveo, targeting Washington and the Pamlico Sound area. We first started driving down every street that led toward the sound, but later revised our plan to only drive down streets that had real estate signs. Unfortunately everything we looked at was out of our price range. Houses were priced from around $500K to $900K and the lots we saw started at around $350K.

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We drove down one street to see a couple of houses that were for sale. We stopped to write down some information and then turned around in an adjacent field where some boat trailers were parked. When we got back on the road, we saw a man approaching and gesturing. Thinking he wanted to talk to us about the houses that were for sale, we stopped and lowered the window. It was then that we found out that he was yelling obscenities and making rude gestures as he yelled at us for turning around on his property. Tony apologized, but that didn't make him happy either, he continued to yell and gesture so Tony apologized again, but he was still yelling and gesturing as we drove away. I thought about how different this was from the positive experience in Ireland when we had gotten into a bit of trouble with our rental car and four men stopped to help us get out of a ditch. I am trying not to let this one rude man color my opinion of living in North Carolina.

We continued to drive toward Rest Haven, planning to take the ferry across to Aurora. We arrived at the ferry dock at 3:30PM and the ferry had just left at 3:15PM. The next ferry was not scheduled until 5:00PM, so we decided to drive back around the mouth of the river and along the other shore to Aurora. We saw a number of houses for sale, but still none in our price range. The drive took us much longer than we had anticipated, so before we made it to Aurora, we decided we'd turn around and head for Wilmington. As we were driving, I googled "The best seafood restaurant in Wilmington" and found Elijah's. We put the address in the GPS and headed straight for it, arriving around 9PM. We had a most delightful meal. I had the mixed grill with salmon, mahi mahi, and shrimp and Tony had fish and chips. After dinner, we enjoyed a glass of wine out on the boardwalk overlooking Cape Fear.

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Our hotel, the one star (a generous rating) Econo Lodge, had free wi-fi, so we made a quick check of the flight before going to bed. The 8AM flight was looking pretty tight, so we decided we'd better go for the 6AM. The room at the Econo Lodge was small and sparsely decorated but very clean and extremely convenient to the airport. It was missing one essential item though, a remote control for the TV.

We decided to skip the shower in the morning in favor of a few minutes more of shut-eye, so we got up at 4:30, and got to the airport in plenty of time for the 6AM flight. While we were waiting, the gate agent announced that the restroom on the plane was inoperative so everyone should use the facilities before we left.

We thought we were both going to get on, but at the last minute, a confirmed passenger on the 8AM flight decided to switch to the 6AM, so the gate agent asked us if we would split up. I had several stops to make at home, including the all-important Father's Day visit with dear old Dad, so I waved good-bye to Tony and boarded the plane. We had an uneventful flight home. With the restroom inoperative, I was surprised when the flight attendant served drinks and snacks, even offering the full can of soda instead of just a glass.

Tony made it out on the next flight but had to find his way home without the car since I was already in Athens making my rounds visiting a relative in the hospital and then on to Gainesville for lunch with my father.

Next time we have a free weekend, we're going back to take a look at the Neuse River region.

Happy Trails!