Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

On the Outer Banks

It was interesting, this time around, that "going on vacation" actually meant a great deal more than usual. Ever since the flood, John's been working a pretty steady work week, sometimes even including Saturdays when local churches offered work parties for jobs that were available. So these last two weeks were really "time off" when it hasn't been that way for a long time.

As a quick starter: these enormous Filley-Rostykus reunions started way way back, and had their roots in the times when Isabel and George would take their four boys across country in a station wagon to go back to Isabel's mother's home. Walt, John, and Isabel were all sibling and they would gather whenever the Rostykus clan made its way to the East Coast. One of the earlier ones I knew was when Isabel's mother turned 100, and as much of the clan as possible would gather. This particular reunion started about a year ago, and had its seeds within the reunion that myJohn organized in the Rocky Mountains a couple years ago.

Walt was the oldest, and the only child he had was Anne. John had four kids: Bruce, Susan, Brenda, and Joanne. Isabel married George and they had four sons: Paul, David, Walt, and myJohn. Yes, the repetition of John and Walt (and a little later David) was mildly confusing, but both of Isabel's brothers have since passed away. Bruce moved to Australia, married, and had kids, of whom one, Leah, has come back to the US. She's creating quite a theater career for herself all up and down the East Coast. All the other kids have had kids and/or relationships. Anne married a different David (and had 2 kids), Susan married Dorsey (and had 2 kids), Brenda married Tim, Joanne adopted a kid. Paul is with Jan who adopted a kid, David has two kids and is now with Mary who had her own kid, Walt married Cathie, John married me. *laughs* And with all the kids folded into the mix, it's an enormous and amazingly fun gathering.

At the Rocky Mountain gathering, Brenda, Susan, and Joanne proposed the Outer Banks, as they all live in North Carolina, and it's close to them and they could do the organization and food gathering that John did here in the Rockies. Joanne did a lot of the scheduling and setup, including renting two houses on the Outer Banks for us for an entire week, rather than just the few days we ventured out here.

We flew in on Saturday the 21st of June, and we all met up at Joanne's house, since she lived right next door to Louis, her mother. Everyone gathered in Joanne's dining room and we all ate a wonderful pulled pork with rice and black beans and salad and had some amazing fruit for dessert, but most important we got some time with Leah. Leah had originally planned to come to the reunion, but she'd gotten a job in Maryland that required her to be there on Tuesday, and since it was a several hour drive out to the Outer Banks there wasn't really any way she could go out and get back and pack all her things to go, too.

So we got to see her for dinner that night, and it was marvelous to talk with her in detail. She leads a fascinating life, including just finishing nearly a year long tour with about two dozen people. They were doing one of three plays in all kinds of venues, mostly educational, doing their plays in school gyms. They had one performance at a prison, where they got the best reception of all, they were the most attentive, polite, and really wanted to meet the actors. That was very cool to hear about. She isn't in the picture, as I wanted to just give her some privacy when with family... but she's a lovely person.

Susan's Studio
One of the cool things about having Lulu, Susan, and Joanne all in the same area (Brenda lived nearly an hour out of town) was that there were multiple houses we could stay at for the night. Susan took us in, and in the morning fed us and showed us her pottery studio. Ceramics has been her vocation for all her life, and it was amazing to get to see where and how she worked.

She gave us all small cups to take away, and there were some amazing colors. The one in her hands is a brilliant red.

We also got to meet her "pet horse", who really is kind of dog like, in that he came right up to us for pets and attention. He hung out with us while we talked, and put his head where he wanted to get scritched. It was pretty funny and amazing for an animal that is that big to be that affectionate.

We had a little shuffling of people in cars, and we went back to Joanne's to get Isabel, and then we were off to the Outer Banks themselves. John drove. I slept most of the way.

The Outer Banks is just this tiny, thin strip of mostly sand that lies just off the eastern shore of North Carolina. There's a pretty fierce current that goes north from the Gulf, and there's a steady wind from the north west that blows around Cape Hattaras, the elbow near Buxton. A lot of old sailing ships had to wait until the wind was right in order to actually go south instead of just get pushed around by the current and the wind, and, of course, quite a few were wrecked out there.

It's also a place that gets flooded a lot, and Arthur was just the last of a string of storms and storm surges that sweep over the sandbars masquerading as islands.

Back Home
So all the new homes in Salvo are built like these rental homes. This neighborhood is probably 99% rentals, and they're all built on stilts that are at least a story tall. And our house, right in front of the boys, is three stories tall above the breakaway panels on the stilts. On these islands it seems that the value of the land is directly proportional to how high it is above sea level, because it will just take less damage that way. The older homes, across the street on the ocean side of the island, were smaller, still on stilts, and usually with sleeping porches with mosquito netting.

So our house was called Prevailing Wind, and we had another house, closer to the beach that was called Surf Dogs. Since John and I got our fees in first, we got the King suite at the very top of Prevailing Wind, which turned out to be next to the main kitchen for the whole setup! It proved to be very convenient in a lot of ways. Jet got one of a set of bunk beds down in the bottom floor, by the pool, and he didn't like sleeping in it when there was no one else there, but was happy to when the other boys arrived. Since Joanne's little boy didn't want to sleep there the first night, Jet slept with us, on the floor of our room.

The days were all pretty much the same, we'd get up, have some amazing breakfast, go to the beach on the ocean side of the island (a five block walk including trekking over a few sand dunes), have some lunch sometime, maybe go back to the beach or play in the sound side waters which were much calmer or swim in the pool attached to the house, and then have dinner and enjoy the sunset from the porch outside the kitchen. And we'd talk and talk and sometimes go for ice cream at the ice cream shack a three block walk away or go down to the beach at night with very small, quick dips in the pounding surf. Sometimes we'd mix up the order of what body of water we'd hit and later in the week Dorsey brought his power boat and there were some real adventures.

Kite Surfers
When I say pounding surf, I meant it. I'd only seen surf like this once before in my life, and that was on Barking Sands beach in Hawaii, which had the same physical characteristics of this beach, i.e. a very steep slope right at the beach's edge. So steep that when the waves came in they'd slam you into the ground if you weren't careful or if the waves were especially high or rough. High tide was just painful. On top of that I'd never seen so many waves crashing in at such high frequency.

At low tide, however, one could still keep ones feet beyond the breakers and in the rollers. That worked out all right and when the sea was very calm on Thursday, but it changed every day and depended entirely on the speed of the wind. When we rolled in on Sunday, we all headed to the beach, and while it was really active, as you can see, it wasn't high tide, so we were able to go out and actually enjoy the roller coaster on the most part. On Wednesday, John and Jet discovered a sandbar a good distance from the shore. The sand would drop out form under your feet and then it came back up again, so that you could stand on it in waist-deep waters and the waves were much more mild on the long incline of the sandbar. So it was much more like the long, slow waves of Pacific Beach or La Jolla Shores on a normal day. That was a really fun day. On the last day we were able to go to the beach, though, it turned violent, and everyone that went out got pounded. John was riding a boogie board and got slammed, face-first, into the bank, and he had bruises for a week afterward.

A very fickle sea. And we all got a lot of sand in our swim suits. *laughs*

IMG_2072Grilling OystersIMG_3669Dinner!Shrimp BoilKatarina and the BratsIce Cream!Triumphant Fishermen

The food was amazing. All around. Joanne made a schedule for the whole week, and let people jump into make things. Everyone took some part of the meals, whether it was prep, serving, or cleanup. The lovely part of it all was that she added specialties like Susan's Shrimp and Grits, Brenda's biscuits, Cathie's cookies, John's cilantro-lime coleslaw, a meal to eat up the fish from when the boys went fishing, a low country boil (which is similar but quite different from a Biloxi shrimp boil, many of the same man ingredients, but the spice level is far more bearable), and best of all brats and sauerkraut for the Germany vs US World Cup match, which Joanne had our resident Germans prepare.

When myJohn was in high school, he and his parents (the older three boys were out of the house at college and beyond by that point) got an exchange student from Germany named Bernd, whom Isabel now calls her fifth son. Bernd has lived all over the world and is a travel guide. He's now living in South Africa after having lived in Paris and other parts of the world. Bernd's sister married and had a family, and Bernd brought that whole family to one of the Rostykus reunions out on the Oregon coast. His nieces and nephews travel with him around the world, and this time he brought Katarina with him. Bernd and Katarina prepared the sausages and Bernd remarked, "You people make me more German than I've been in long time."

It was fun to nibble a beautifully caramelized, smoking hot sausage with plenty of sauerkraut and mustard while watching the game, and since the loss didn't knock the US out of the round of 16, all was good.

One of the things I really treasure was that Brenda was happy to show me how she made her biscuits, and I was surprised to find that she used coconut oil and wheat germ as well as Southern Biscuit flour instead of White Lily. She was quick to aver that it wasn't a *traditional* biscuit, but she liked them, and everyone loved them. The other magical thing was that she showed me her sack of Old Guilford Mill white grits. On the back was a map to the place, and she said that she always got them from there or had someone pick up a sack when they were going by it to bring to her. John and I vowed, that very minute, to go to the mill and get some for ourselves.

Trying out the Pool
The pool turned out to be an unexpected blessing for me. I wasn't really expecting to do anything with it with an ocean Right There to swim in. Live water is always more exciting to me than captive water, but with the frequency and power of these waves it was really nice to just splash into something cool, clean, and still for a while. The funny thing was that the water in the pool was probably cooler than the Gulf Stream warmed Atlantic, and the first time we jumped in it was shock after a very hot and sunny day.

I ended up visiting the pool every day after fighting the ocean for a while. I'd duck into the outdoor shower (which was broken, but the cascade of water from the pipe could be used to rinse off under), get the worst of the sand and salt off of me, and then jump into the pool. By any hour after noon, the pool was also in shade, which was a different kind of blessing all together, and I could just float, face up, and relax after the adrenaline rush of the surf. It was also something of a refuge from all the people. I love them a lot, and really enjoyed interacting with everyone, but sometimes I just needed a little time by myself to recoup. So the cool stillness of the pool was very good for me in a lot of ways.

Sunset AgainAnother sunsetObligatory SunsetMolten Copper SunsetsAnother OBX Sunset
Yes. The sunsets were spectacular, and all different. It's going to take me a while to paint them all.

And it was worthwhile being outside every evening, even when the temperature and humidity outside were stifling compared to our dry Colorado weather. There were relatively few mosquitoes that far up, but some of them still found us. Joanne rented another table for the outside area, and we used it every night.

So those were all the things that were mostly the same for the whole week. And now for all the differences...

Boat House
Not nearly as far as we thought it was from our house, the Chicamacomico Rescue Station was established before the Coast Guard, and there was a museum of all their stuff and one of the various rescue stations they had up and down the Outer Banks. They went out in the surf to rescue people from sinking boat wrecks. The thing on the right was a machine that could be sent out to boat and it would ferry people back in a ring. The site had a handful of buildings, including a house with bunks upstairs, and a kitchen below. There was a bigger house that housed most of the collection with a watch tower in the very top, and the chimney effect of opening up that top cooled the whole house in the sea breezes.

The last thing we explore was this boat house, which had one of the big row boats that in certain kinds of surf is absolutely necessary. It used to be right on the beach, and they moved it and everything else to save them from the sea. They still do reenactments of taking the machine on the right out every Thursday morning. Since there were so many wrecks on this coast, they got good at rescuing people. Eventually the Coast Guard was formed, and these organizations were folded into the bigger organization.

Another thing we did for a while was crabbing. Nearly the whole family went out to the dock on the sound side, and started throwing chicken wing sections tied to strings into the water. The trick was to put the chicken into the water, and then gently pull the string in, and if a crab had taken a liking to it's food, it would hold onto the piece of chicken tenaciously enough for the netter to scoop them up. This does work if there are crabs. It was a fun thing for everyone to do together, and the sound is pretty still. But for all our efforts, we only netted two crabs that were of legal size to take.

There just weren't that many crabs that close to this shore at this time.

Cape Hatteras LighthouseCape Hatteras Lighthouse

Another thing we did was climb the lighthouse on Cape Hatteras. Brenda said that it hadn't been open the last several times she'd been there, and it had been closed to being climbed. But we were lucky. It had been moved not that long ago from the very edge of the sea to a location about 1500 yards from it's old site (using a steel platform and train tracks and small hydraulic engines), but the island keeps shifting with the sea and weather, and so they'll have to move it again eventually.

Still, the day we chose wasn't exactly ideal, as it was hot hot hot. The ambient temperature within the lighthouse was close to 98 degrees (37 C), and the chimney effect was pulling hot air from the ground through the tube to the higher air, so it wasn't helping. So they warned us in all kinds of dire terms about the difficulty of climbing the lighthouse. So some of us sat in the shade of the trees by the rangers' station and the rest of us trooped up the stairs of the brick-solid lighthouse. It was made entirely of brick, and the staircases were all of cast iron. So even with hundreds of feet on the steps, there wasn't the slightest tremor under foot. I was entirely impressed, even at the very top it was dead solid all the way through.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The wind through the windows at every level and at the top felt amazing. We got to see everything around us and a great deal of it was water. Cape Hattaras is surrounded, underwater, by the Diamond Shoals, which is also really treacherous for ships. This lighthouse had a matching one on the mainland too, for the ships in the sound. It was fascinating to listen to the park ranger up there talking about how during the Civil War the beacon's mirrors were stolen by the Confederates and taken away. When the Federal troops took it all back, they had to buy a replacement for it, and when the bought a used replacement, they found out, from the serial numbers on the item itself, that it was actually the one that had been taken from the lighthouse.

On Thursday night we feasted on a low country boil that Tim made out on the balcony. It had shrimp, potatoes, sausage, fresh sweet corn, and mild spices all boiled together in a big pot and served in big bowls all over the tables. There were a lot of side dishes and we ended with fresh churned ice cream. I actually made the custard much earlier in the day, so that it could be chilled to be frozen. I love a cooked custard for ice creams because it doesn't have that icy mouth feel, but it get harder to churn sooner, too, since it's thicker. Jet said that he loved sitting on the churn to keep it down while other people worked. *laughs*

A Little Night Music
That night, since several people were going home the next day, we had a little musical fun. Brenda, Tim, and Dorsey played for us, and Emma Lee, who is David's daughter and normally plays a harp, was happy to borrow a guitar and join in for the fun. The trio have played together for a very very long time, and Tim makes custom instruments in his woodshop. They're beautiful banjos of all types, and he gets paid a good deal for these works of love and art.

It was amazing to hear them sing the ballads of their region, and we listened for a very long time before they encouraged us to join in on the singing, and we all sang along until well past midnight, enjoying the warm night, the company, and the shared making of a joyful noise.

Going Out
On Friday, early in the morning, Dorsey took David S., his son Kirdan, Dorsey's son Gabe, Jet, and Bernd out fishing on the ocean side. Dorsey's power boat is very solid, and eventhough it was raining like crazy when they left the dock, they went out and followed another boat for a while. When they were about to give up, the other boat stopped. They were a good twenty five miles out. So they set out all the lines, and started trolling toward the other boat. And a mile into it, they first fought and tried to play in a bonita tuna that got away. And then suddenly, they got two mahi biting on their hooks. In the craziness of landing those fish, none of them noticed exactly the moment when they crossed into Gulf Stream waters, which run turquoise just off this coast.

Dorsey says that that's why so many people fish off the Outer Banks, because it's a relatively short trip out into Gulf waters, and that's where all the fish are.

Triumphant Fishermen
The crew ended up catching a fish for every member on the boat. Jet got to reel his in first, and it was fun having everyone say that Jet got the first fish. They put them on ice, brought them all back safe and sound, and then used the fish cleaning station in the outside garage to fillet the fish from the bones. David S used to do a lot of sea fishing when he lived right next to the Atlantic in New Haven, but he hasn't had as much opportunity now that he's in Vermont. So he happily did the duties of cleaning the fish and teaching Bernd how to do the work.

We ate some of it raw and they broiled or baked the rest for our dinner.

Standing BoardStanding Board
That day I mostly went out on the sound side of the island, and I found it very very squishy. *laughs* The bottom was quite yucky, but the water was warm, calm, and salt, so it was very easy to swim in and float in. A bunch of people actually came out with me, some in a kayak, some on floaters, and Joanne had rented this standing board and everyone had to try it out for a while. *laughs* Including me.

When Jet came home, he and John wanted to try out the sound side for a while longer, and he tried the standing board as well. I found it to be more stable than I feared, but less stable than I wanted. It was easy enough to stand up, but with the way the whole board tilted when I tried to move a foot, it was harder to shift my stance than it was to make it in the first place. It was really fun on these smooth waters, but I don't know if I'd ever take it on moving water. Brenda wanted to go into the ocean after the sticky warmth of the sound side, so Jet and I went with her.

The waters were actually quite calm, but I was tired enough that I wasn't sure I wanted to go out to the sand bar, and I now regret that decision. It was probably the best and last time we could have actually done it, and Jet was mildly disappointed in me, but I was just too afraid to get all the way out on my own steam. So we didn't.

That night a bunch of us took glow sticks to the beach. I also brought along my Luminaid for the more uneven portions of the path to the sea, but kept it off once we were out on the sand. The water pretty calm, but we all made sure that all the kids that went wading had light sticks on so we could see them if anything happened. There was much laughter, several games of pick-up-sticks where the sticks scattered in the wind, and the stars were so clear I felt like I could touch them.

Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers
On Saturday morning, after seeing several people off to the airport, a group of us went out to Kitty Hawk to see the Wright Brothers' museum, their old cabins, and a reproduction of the plane used (and destroyed) by their first four flights. The picture shows the stone markers that show where the plane landed after each flight. The definition of "flight" included landing on a spot that was higher than the starting point. The first three flights were all 12 minutes or less, the fourth lasted nearly an hour, and then a gust of wind flipped the plane and destroyed the engine and structure. Yes, it was going quite slowly compared to the airplanes of today.

One really interesting thing was that when the Wright brothers were here, this was all bare, blowing sand, and the main reason they decided to come to the Kill Devil Hills was because of the constant 10-20 mile per hour winds. They needed the constant wind in order to get the kind of lift they needed in order to fly. In order to preserve the spot, they planted all the grass to keep the sand more locked down. There's a huge monolith on a hill, and the hill used to be right next to the rail, and it was where they'd done all their glider tests. They'd hauled everything to the top of the sand dune, and they'd launch it into the wind. The hill is now hundreds of yards from these markers, but it used to be right next to them, and was possibly one of the reasons they decided to do the laying down of grass.

Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers
I loved seeing the rail they'd used to launch the plane, and having it be right there was amazing to me.

We also climbed the hill, looked all around, and there was another recreation of the plane that flew at the bottom of the hill. Also, over the fences around the monument, was a small municipal airport. It was fun and a little funny seeing the planes lift off from there and fly so easily after the struggle the brothers went through to get the first flight in control and underway. The museum had a lot of information about the problems they had to solve before they could actually get the plane even built, much less flown. They solved a lot of the wing shape problems on the glider, as well as a good deal of the controls for changing direction, lift, and the attitude of the vehicle itself as well as enabling it to respond to changes in the air.

Many of the North Carolina license plates say, "First in flight", and it seems odd, to me at least, to have a state claim for itself the accomplishment of a very few men. The brothers had their father, sister, and three friends who all helped create all of this, and they carefully managed their publicity and what information was published. They were pretty canny business men, and got most of the patents for the ideas they'd come up with. It was a very fun visit. What was funnier was that in the middle of looking around, Kirdan nudged Bernd and said, "Brazil and Chili are tied." And they and a full car load of people ran off to find a sports bar to watch the rest of the game. We caught up with them after we were done and the game was still tied 1-1, and soon after we arrived, it went into overtime, and then into penalty kicks. Brazil didn't look nearly as brilliant as they were supposed to be, even then. And it all gave us time to eat our lunches and enjoy the game.

That afternoon we all went one last time to the beach, but the surf was wild with the wind, and nearly everyone got pounded into the beach. John was riding a little boogy board when the wave he was riding slammed him, face-first, into the beach. He had mild abrasions. I got my left leg knocked out from under me and I did the splits, but still managed to go out for a few waves until enough of them broke over my head to make it less than fun. I got back ashore safely, but definitely took some time to swim in the pool after to just calm down from it all.

Dinner was everything out of the fridges. It was a very tasty and lovely hodge podge, including the last four huge fillets of Mahi, and given the late night on Thursday, everyone was in bed before 10. I was impressed.

Packing Up to Go
On the very last day there was a skeleton crew of people left, and we had to check out at 10 am. The checkout requirements including gathering all the linens, dumping all the garbage and recycling, vacuuming every room, and, well, packing all our Stuff. *laughs* There was breakfast, and then all the NC people grabbed the remaining food, which was considerable, and packed all of that away.

I decided that I was just going to vacuum, since our stuff was relatively easy to pack up to go. John and Jet helped out with other things, and I just happily went from room to room with the vacuum that was housed in the laundry area. Simple mindless work.

When it was all done and I put it away, I was the second to last person out of the house. It was kind of sad, but also kind of amazing, all in all. David R. said it best when he observed that some people don't even have a real relationship with their siblings, and here he's blessed not only with a great relationship with so many and with such depth most don't even conceive of having. I agree with him. It's amazing when so many people in a family not only get along, but love being together. We all hugged, said our goodbyes or more see you laters, since John, Jet and I were going to spend the Fourth of July with Brenda and Tim and probably the rest of the local clan, and all got into our cars to go.

John and I, as usual, didn't really have too much of a plan, but we wanted to wander further South, and see what there was to see and experience what we found there. Charleston, NC was highly recommended by Susan and Joanne, and we had some thoughts about getting as far South as Georgia, as we'd never set tire or foot in just that state, yet. But we weren't too sure how much we wanted to push, especially since we had a friend, Rodney, we wanted to see in the Raleigh/Durham area before going to Brenda's, too. And I'll write about our meanderings in the next chapter...
Tags: travel

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