We woke early in the morning and got on the road leaving Little Rock, my mom in the drivers seat with my grandfather beside her, atlas in his lap, ready to open it up to help navigate, despite the new GPS system that was between them, attached to the windshield. My grandmother and me sat in the second row of seats with my two younger brothers behind us, all six of us crammed into my mom’s aging white Honda Odyssey van. Our destination was North Carolina, the beaches of the Outer Banks, a long drive ahead of us, with multiple stops along the way, a true american road trip. We passed through Memphis with ease as there was little traffic on that particular Saturday morning, but as we approached Nashville, traffic came to a stop. As far as we could see ahead, the interstate was deadlocked with cars and trucks alike, all desperately trying to move forward to no avail. It was at this time that I heard on the radio that Michael Jackson had died two days earlier. This was before I had twitter, so pop culture news didn’t come to me so easily as it does now. We drove on.
When we finally got through the traffic, which had been caused by a car accident, we made pretty good time the rest of the way. We stopped in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the childhood home of Andy Griffith, and went around town, visiting various places that had been popular in the television show he starred in, which was my granddad’s favorite. We ate lunch at the town diner, and I don’t remember anything about the food or even what I had to eat, but the place was packed, a popular tourist attraction. We stopped at the town jail, and posed for pictures, then left the charming North Carolina town and continued along the way. We stopped at Duke and the University of North Carolina, walking around the beautiful campuses that I would never attend as a student, then once again got back on the road, inching closer and closer to our destination.
When we finally arrived at the Outer Banks, we parked the van in front of the realty company while my mom went in to sign the papers and get the keys to the house where we’d be staying for the week. It was a really cool looking house, three stories high, suspended from the ground on large wooden poles. There were wrap around balconies on each floor, where you could stand and look at the ocean just blocks away over the tops of the other, similar looking houses, and hot tubs where you could relax on a summer afternoon, with a cool North Carolina breeze blowing, a nice contrast to the hot day. This was my first time at the Atlantic Ocean and despite being summer, the water was much colder than I’d been expecting. The waves were much more rough, and bigger than those of the Gulf of Mexico, that I’d grown up playing in. The vacation was full of lighthouse visits, where you could walk up numerous stairs to stand at the top, a thin railing the only thing between you and a long fall to the ground, and look out at the beautiful scenery below. We also spent some time at the sand dunes, which were very cool, nothing like I’d ever seen before. All in all it was a great vacation, and maybe one day I’ll get to go back. I miss the carefree summers of my teenage years, perhaps that more than anything.