It’s been pretty quiet over here at Life in the Circus for the last couple weeks. That’s because we’ve been on VACATION.
I feel guilty admitting it. I’m well aware that a beach trip is impossible for the majority of Americans. Especially Americans like us – the unemployed variety. Frankly, it would be out of the question for us too, but we have some very generous family. Crazy Aunt Charlotte (believe it or not, she picked that name) and Paw Paw Dan once again footed the bill for a week at Ocracoke. They rented the house, they provided the food, they took my kids parasailing and kayaking. They took care of almost everything. All I had to do was get there and back.
Guys, I had one job and I screwed it up.
First, a little geography:
Ocracoke is a tiny island on the outer banks of North Carolina. It’s fourteen miles long, and all but one mile is protected park land. The remaining mile is home to about 900 year round residents. It was settled by fishermen and pilots – not the airplane kind, the maritime kind who keep ships from sinking or getting stranded in dangerous waters. See, here’s the bit you’ll need to remember: Ocracoke is only accessible by boat – specifically ferries that zig zag through sandbar infested waters for an hour to travel the five miles from Hatteras. Ocracoke is remote and isolated (they even have their own dialect – the Ocracoke brogue) and difficult to get to.
It’s totally worth it.
I wrote last year about how much I love that little island, how our van broke down, and how disappointed I was when Jimmie was able to fix it and prevent us from being stranded there forever. You can read about that here.
Look at this place:
Who wouldn’t want to be stuck here?
Clearly, I’m in love. And I don’t think it’s too presumptuous of me to say that I think Ocracoke is just a little smitten with me too. That’s why it will NEVER LET ME LEAVE.
Now, you might say we just dropped those keys in the tall grass by the house, or maybe even in the trash can, but I’m telling you the island ATE them. We’d only driven the car once (cars aren’t really necessary in a one mile village) – to the beach and back, but the next time we loaded up five sunscreen drenched kids into the van, the keys were nowhere to be found.
Believe me, we looked. We moved furniture, disassembled the washer and the dryer, stripped beds, shook out every item of clothing, stopped by the sheriff’s office, the post office, the ice cream stand, asked Bones the pirate, tore the car apart. No keys.
And here’s the kicker: There was also no locksmith.
What’s a dingbatter ( brogue for dumb-ass tourist) to do?
Wake up at 7am to meet the wrecker that came over on the 6am ferry so that he can tow your van onto the 8am ferry which will deposit you around 9am on Hatteras Island and tow you to Buxton, about fifteen miles up, where you will wait for an hour for the Pop a Lock guy to drive down from Manteo (another hour up the coast) to program a new ignition key because for the first time in recorded history your twelve year old van is actually too NEW for something as simple as a cut key. Then you will pay said Pop a Lock guy $650 freaking dollars before turning around and waiting an hour for the next ferry that will take you back to Ocracoke, depositing you at 2:30pm which you decide is a perfect time for a drink because keys and last day of vacation.
The next morning you’ll load up your van with all the suitcases and all the children and drive away thinking Odyssey: 1 Ocracoke: 0 but kinda wishing you hadn’t won. Oh, you’ll regret wishing that, because in the thirteenth hour of the fourteen hour drive you’ll suddenly lose not your keys, but your fifth gear. You’ll put-put home on back highways and the next day, Harold will tell you that you need another new transmission, which seems radically unfair since wasn’t your car too new just a couple days ago?
You’ll realize suddenly that this was the most expensive free vacation in the history of ever, and when your family suggests that you rent a car next time, you nod and agree while secretly thinking that perhaps the third time is the charm and if you can just get that Odyssey down there once more, perhaps the ocean will claim it and you’ll be forced to live out the rest of your days in paradise. Ocracoke: 1 Odyssey: 0.