Wanderlust

I remember as a kid, sitting in the front yard at home, watching the cars, trucks and Sathers semis drive by on their way to who knows where. I’d think about all of the places they must be going – places like the sandy beaches of California, the mountains of Colorado or the wide expanses of Texas.

What fun it must be to travel, I’d think to myself as my mind drifted off to adventures yet to come for these passersby.

What fun it must be to just get on the open road and go wherever it takes you. No appointments, no schedules, no worries – just freedom.

Somewhere in Iowa: I was driving on a four-lane highway and in front of us was a semi pulling a backwards semi tractor. We joked about how it looked like we were about to be involved in a head-on collision, and Mom snapped this picture from the back seat of our Buick.

I suppose one might say I have a classic case of wanderlust. My parents are not only lucky enough to have a daughter so inflicted, but are willing accomplices when I get the urge to roam.

For more than a decade I’ve hinted about the desire to travel to the Outer Banks of North Carolina – that’s OBX for the locals and the Outer Banks wannabes. What are the Outer Banks? Well, they are miles of sandy beaches reached by taking a bridge (there are a couple of options) from North Carolina’s mainland over the narrowest expanse of Currituck Sound or Croatan Sound. The southern Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island, is only accessible by ferry.

The Outer Banks is about 120 miles in length, stretching from Corolla on the north to the village of Ocracoke on the south. With the exception of a four-lane highway that stretches from Kitty Hawk to Nags Head, there is only one option of travel, the two-lane Highway 12.

On the Outer Banks, people don’t talk about how many miles it takes to get somewhere. Everything is referenced in minutes and hours. During the busy summer tourist season, I can only imagine the traffic jam (I had visions of Branson, Mo., traffic of about 20 years ago, when it seemed to take hours to get anywhere!)

Fortunately for us, an early October vacation meant the kids were back in school and the family vacations had pretty much ended. We had our choice of hotels, virtually abandoned beaches and no waiting at any of the vast array of restaurants. And the weather? Except for a rainy Monday, which was spent mostly traveling through Virginia anyway) and a somewhat drizzly Tuesday, we had beautiful sunshine with 60- to 70-degree temps.

I should mention that the timing of our trip was one of the greatest debates of visiting the Outer Banks. I wanted to go in the spring; my mom wanted to travel in the fall. The fall of the year is hurricane season in North Carolina, and that was one adventure none of us wanted to experience.

About two weeks before my vacation from work was set to begin, we took one last look at the weather forecast and made our decision. This year the Outer Banks. The alternative, the Michigan Lighthouse Festival, will just have to wait.

With that big decision made, there was still one more question looming. Do we fly or do we drive? I found an excellent deal on a flight from the Twin Cities to Raleigh, N.C., but my dad hadn’t been in an airplane since his Army days (probably his return home from Germany) and wasn’t too keen on the idea.

I told him that if 430 World War II veterans from southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa could get on an airplane to travel to Washington, D.C., he could endure a four-hour flight. It didn’t work.

At 7 a.m. Saturday morning, Oct. 6, with the trunk of my parents’ car filled with luggage, we were off on our grand driving adventure. Greta Garmin was plugged in, the State Farm atlas was passed between Dad and Mom and I was behind the wheel with a knot in my stomach.

Are we really doing this?

Yes … yes we are.

(Keep watching my blog in the coming days for tales about this 3,646-mile journey.)

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