Hurricane Fodder

NC Coast-110As far as I can recall, I have never spent any time visiting or thinking about Wilmington, North Carolina.  Yet, I must have thought about it at some point, because it was not at all what I expected.  For some reason, I had a vague vision of a slow-moving, sleepy place, evocative of an earlier era, dark and overhung with Spanish Moss.

Wilmington is anything but sleepy–it’s bright and buzzing with lots and lots of people.  It has the feeling of a town struggling to handle its burgeoning population—the same feeling we had in Kelowna, British Columbia and Bend, Oregon.  They all had similar clusters of every imaginable chain store and restaurant–newly built with the latest village-like architectural style–and nightmare-inducing traffic.  In Wilmington, except in the early morning, it was nearly impossible to take a left hand turn out of our campground.  We had to take a right and then turn around at the next convenient road.  Ridiculous.

I have never seen so many political signs in my life.  The Hickey guy had the most.  I was dreaming Hickey signs.

I have never seen so many political signs in my life. They were everywhere.  Hickey outdid everyone else on signage by a big margin.  I intend to follow up and see if he wins.  Just curious.

The area was too crowded for us, but provided a convenient stopover to our next destination and a place for some beach time with our grandkids before we left North Carolina.  Our first morning there, we woke to brilliant sunshine and the combined smell of ocean and paper mills.  Not necessarily a bad combination to me, because it reminded me of St. Simons in Georgia, one of our favorite getaways when we lived near Atlanta.  The paper mill smell is unique and unmistakable, almost as if you are baking something sweet and chemical-laden, with sulfur overtones.  It comes and goes, depending on the wind direction.

We arrived in Wilmington a few days before the grandchildren.  On our first day, we checked out dog-friendly Kure Beach, about half-an-hour drive south.  We maneuvered heavy traffic through streets that alternated between a tacky 1960s beach town feel and newer mostly upscale beach houses jammed together as closely as possible.  Kure Beach is at the end of a barrier island, with Cape Fear, a treacherous headland for ships and part of the Graveyard of the Atlantic, on an island just offshore.  The island peninsula includes an old civil war site, Fort Fisher, an aquarium, and a state recreational area with undeveloped beach.

Beach bums

Kure Beach bums

It was a weekday and the beach was uncrowded, except for the area allowing 4-wheel drive vehicles on the beach.  Big trucks bristling with fishing poles arrived steadily, staking out their territory for the day.  For some reason, there were no women fishing and it felt like a man-only zone when Zoe and I ventured into it.

The high testoterone area of the beach

The high testosterone area.

The non-vehicle part of the beach.

The non-vehicle part of the beach.  Zoe’s carrying a piece of driftwood in her mouth.

Zoe has become a total beach hound.

A total beach hound.

Pelican acrobatics

Pelican acrobatics

NC Coast-105

We spent another morning in downtown Wilmington on the banks of the Cape Fear River.  It has a smallish downtown, wide, tree-lined streets with lovely old houses, and a riverside area with old warehouses now converted to shops and restaurants catering largely to tourists.

Beautiful brick warehouse

Beautiful brick warehouse


Street after street of meticulously maintained old houses

The rooster weather vane seemed a bit  incongruous on this church steeple

There is a rooster weather vane on the church steeple.  It seemed a bit incongruous.

It was a chilly day and the river was a gorgeous deep blue and running fast.  We had lunch at The George restaurant, based on its name and dog-friendliness.  We sat on the outside deck with Zoe, watching the river and tourists on the boardwalk.  The food and service were nothing special, but the setting made it worthwhile.


Our view from The George.  The USS Carolina, now a museum, is across the river

Our view from The George on the Cape Fear. The USS North Carolina is across the river.

The USS North Carolina was a WWII battleship in the Pacific fleet.

The USS North Carolina was a WWII battleship in the Pacific fleet.  It’s now a museum open for tours.

When the grandkids arrived, we headed to Wrightsville beach.  It also was dog-friendly, which doesn’t mean that dogs can run free—they must be on leash.  The dog laws apparently are strictly enforced with high fines.


The beach at Wrightsville was beautiful and broad, with a long stretch of fine sand, a fishing pier, and what looked like some decent surf breaks.  But it amazed us that, in such a hurricane prone area, there was so much building right on the water, at sea level.  The area was absolutely packed with houses that looked like they would be devoured by a serious storm surge.  Flirting with disaster.


Our middle munchkin ecstatically running in the waves.

One of our munchkins ecstatically running in the waves.

Another worked on a sand castle.

Another working on a sand castle.


Superman and his sister

There was a beach photo session underway by the pier—something we’ve encountered before on the trip.  This one was a video of a teenager performing some awkward pop and lock-style dancing to the accompaniment of “Landslide.”  It did not look like it was going too well.


Lifeguard Tower 6.  Only tiny dunes left and beach houses covered every square inch of available land in the area.


After the kids and Zoe had their fill (well, almost) of the beach, we found our first restaurant of the trip that allowed dogs inside.  Tower 7 (named after the lifeguard tower on the beach behind) had two sides, one dog-friendly, one dog-free.  The food was surprisingly creative.  I had a grilled shrimp, bacon, and pineapple enchilada, a delicious combination that I intend to recreate in the RV.   We headed home full of food and sunshine.

Zoe loved lying on the cool tiles inside at Tower 7.  She's a restaurant pro now.

Zoe loved lying on the cool tiles inside at Tower 7. She’s a restaurant pro now.

This did not inspire confidence in the ability to keep the power going in a hurricane

Would you want your power to be dependent on this tangle in a hurricane?

Rusty wind bells


NC Coast-113As an addendum to my last post, in which I noted that two ducks at our interstate campground appeared to watch the sunset every night, here a two photos taken after I wrote the post.  As you can see, most of the ducks were going about their business.  But in the second photo on the right you will see the duck couple I mentioned, sitting on their spot on the shore looking out toward the sunset.