We had to run a quick errand in Chapel Hill Sunday morning. We had meant to do it Saturday, but didn't, so by the time Sunday morning came, we felt some urgency. We fed the animals, let the dawg out to do his business, and with a whoosh of kisses all around, we darted out.
We had originally thought we might motorcycle ride somewhere fun and exciting, but we had awakened to an amazing display of window-rattling thunder, bright lightning and a remarkable deluge as the rain came down in sheets, darkening the sky to a murky dusk in spite of the promise of great sunshine the hour before. When the rains had started to subside, we had snuggled deeper in the covers--it's going to be incredibly hot and humid, we commented back and forth, as the near-100-degrees predicted for the day would evaporate all that water back into the steamy airsoup. The air conditioning was a welcome reminder of how much I love living in the 21st century.
So by ten, which is a rushed rising time for us second-shift workers, we were in the car, heading to Chapel Hill to drop off a few items with a friend. Once that was done, we headed back to the main road, at which time Bill looked at me and said, "which way?" He ended up going right, and we drove through a delightful stretch of woods and farmlands, that then opened out beautifully onto Jordan Lake. The sun had completely recovered his position of sky dominance, and the wet world simply gleamed and sparkled as the intense July sunlight hit the rainwashed vista.
I learned during our motorcycle trip a few years ago how much I love scenery after the rain. The browns of the natural world--branches and tree trunks--darken and contrast beautifully against the greens, which take on a jeweled intensity when swollen thick with rainwater. I also love wooded lands that have grown such that you can see the areas between the trees at eye level while the branches and leaves of the treed areas stretch overhead. On this stunning day, the outer edges of the wooded areas were bright with yellow sunlight, and then shadowy and magical on the inside, where the damp areas were still cool and dark. We passed a farm of a few Angus bulls, their black coats gleaming extra shiny and fresh.
Soon enough we found ourselves at a familiar intersection in Wilsonville, just down the road from home, and Bill pulled into the "Grill and Go" parking lot. It was a little after 11 and we hadn't eaten yet--we'd watched this establishment go up and eagerly awaited its opening; now here it was, and we ordered a hot dog for me and mini corndogs for Bill. It took about 38 seconds to nosh down these delicious treats, and in the end, we decided I would drive so Bill could navigate the most interesting rides. We agreed, we had nowhere to be and neither of us was motivated to return to the chores waiting for us at home.
It was another right that led us out into deeper country roads, over our favorite Pea Ridge Rd bridge and into the wilds of the area, with the well-leaved trees pushing their way closer and closer to the roads, the wooded areas suddenly opening out to pasture or expanses of tobacco fields. We ride out through the farmlands often enough to have watched the tobacco grow from tiny sprouts of just a few leaves to the several-feet-high, large-leafed, healthy crops they are now, with wide, poofy leaves, dark green in the folds, and looking healthy and well fed. For years I've passed tobacco fields and wondered how long they would continue to dominate the landscape, and now I realize they will soon be replaced with marijuana plants, as it's probably only a matter of time before weed/grass/maryjane is legalized in our fair state. How strange will it be to pass these fields a few years from now and see those spindly plants stretching before us?
Bill picked the turns, using a complicated matrix of the maps app in his hand, a general sense of which direction we might want to go in that moment, and which roads looked like they held the most promise of interesting scenery, previously-untraveled territory, and adventure. We went left, we went right, we passed white farmhouses with black shutters, an RV park, and much of the classic NC scenery. I cannot say often enough how much I love the North Carolina landscapes. We have beautiful farms, rolling hills, adorable homes, woods, cows, goats, and turkeys. Our roadways are simply gorgeous, and I love to just ride along and take it all in.
After many turns and farms and goats and horse fences, I noticed the landscape change, the soil starting to look sandy, and the fields start to have a more barren look. We were in the Sandhills, I realized, a part of North Carolina south of us, and remarkably inland, that was the original coastline of the state. Bill directed us through two-lane roads here and there, and eventually we were in Fayetteville, one of the original destinations we had considered, to pop in and visit some friends. So we did, pulling into our friends' driveway and happy to see their truck parked in it. They had not yet answered our warning text, but we were prepared to leave a note of greeting, the time not wasted, of course, as the ride had been magnificent.
But they were there, and we visited, being greeted by the powerful force of three dogs in total competition for the most possible love that can be given. Cuddles is a beautiful dog a little smaller than Eddie, with a shiny black coat. She was more likely to hang back and accept love as it was given. Roscoe is a brindle pit bull who demands total adoration and will lick every bit of exposed skin to get to you. But hello, what is this? Bella was a shiny black great dane, tall enough to practically look you in the eye while standing. She is clearly young, with spindly legs that look impossible to stand on. She is trim and fit and beautiful and enormous. E. Nor. Mous.
I remember my dad raised great danes before I was born, and as I grew up he would tell stories of those days, how their biggest danger was to clear a coffee table with their tales. I watched as Bella did just this, staring down at me (down!) as I sat on the couch and she considered me with her large brown eyes, curious about my odd behavior as I sat, completely uninterested in the fascinating and wonderfully odiferous Kong ball in front of me. She stared.
Bill and our friends chatted pleasantly while Roscoe, with great patience and not much ado, licked absolutely every bit of my exposed skin and then continued on to lick some more.
We eventually left and it was about 3:00. Again, we came to the main road, and we went right. Bill consulted the map. "Are we ready to go back? If we're ready to go back, tell me now and I'll turn around. Otherwise, we're going all the way." I agreed we could keep going. Nothing at home was so important we needed to rush back; we were headed to the beach. I think we'd both had the idea separately but neither wanted to voice it. We were still two hours away but in no hurry.
And so this is how I found myself in a Wings store, buying a pair of pink shorty shorts and a black tank top with a skull and crossbones on them, the cute little "Carolina Beach" script on both items. Bill sought out swimming trunks, and since he is allergic to the sun (right? how is this possible??), he also purchased a t-shirt, and off we went. We changed in a public rest room near the beach itself, and a few minutes after 5:30, we were out past the breakers, hopping up rhythmically to float on the swells. North Carolina beaches probably don't have much to offer those who like to surf, but for me, a little old lady who is afraid of water, I love to bob up and down in neck-high water, riding each swell a little to the north. It was perfect.
We had to get out after a while, when we could no longer see the landmarks of our entry point, and walked south down the beach a bit. We came back to our things--Bill's boots, his hat perched atop, and my sunglasses--and got back in the water. Once bored of the wave bouncing, we walked a bit on the hard-packed sand while we dried off, but not really, because when we headed away from the beach, we were still soaked through and nearly dripping. We found a restaurant right there and went in for a bite. The waitress noticed our look and asked if we were just at the beach. Surprisingly, everyone else in the restaurant was dressed in street clothes and none looked as though they had come off the water, even though we were so close to the sand. Bill and I, however, were literally dripping under our chairs.
We drank a little bit (something called a pain killer had quite a few types of rum and something delightfully coconutty in it as well), and ate. I looked over and realized for the first time since we had left the Wings that Bill and I had chosen the same shirt design--his in a black t-shirt, mine a black tank. How had I not noticed sooner? Now we were ridiculously wet, my hair looking like I had ridden in on a broom, and we were matchy-matchy. Sigh.
Eventually we got back in the car and headed straight home. The clock showed 11 when Eddie and I crawled into bed and slept beautifully. It was a perfect day.