A big coastal view
I took in an article this morning from the NY Times, "America the Overfull," (subscription required). Paul Theroux, the author, laments about an overcrowded America.
I wonder if I should send Mr. Theroux an invitation to visit the Crystal Coast. While there were plenty of stores open today along the Crystal Coast, there were a number that were closed. It seemed pretty peaceful, perhaps with the exception of the Maxway store in Cape Carteret having a going out of business sale. People today were out washing their cars and talking to neighbors. I don't get the feeling that Carteret or Onslow counties are very crowded. We took the Stella road over the headwater of the White Oak and then cut on another road over to Route 24 where Route 172 intersects it. I was impressed with all the agricultural land tucked in around the White Oak.
I grew up in a country of sudden and consoling lulls, which gave life a kind of pattern and punctuation, unknown now. It was typified by the somnolence of Sundays, when no stores were open. There were empty parts of the day, of the week, of the year; times when there were no people on the sidewalks, no traffic in the streets, no audible human voices, now and then no sound at all. In this hushed world, a bumblebee was a physical presence, the sound of a cicada could dominate an August afternoon.
Though no place can lay claim to having stopped time. I find that the Crystal Coast strikes a pretty good balance between growth and retaining the feeling of years gone by. Certainly some of preservation efforts here have resulted in some interesting main streets surving. I certainly don't feel the same traffic pressure that I do on Interstate 81 in Virginia or Interstate 40 near Raleigh. When were driving down late at night earlier this week and turned off Interstate 40, I got that feeling that we were practically alone on Route 24. We could see some red lights in the distance but there was very little traffic. I almost felt like I had gone back in time to those days in the late sixties when I drove nearly deserted highways between Chattanooga, Tennessee where I was in military school and Mount Airy, North Carolina which was home. We picked up traffic as we got close to Jacksonville, but driving through Swansboro was pretty peaceful at 11 pm.
At night when I walk out on our deck, there is no ambient noise unless there is training going on over at the base. Typically I find myself alone with the stars and very little else. This afternoon when I was enjoying the last free day of saltwater fishing, there was little noise but some birds, the wind, and my fly line. I feel immensely lucky to live in such a beautiful place even if there are a couple months of tourists. The rest of the year, there aren't a whole lot of traffic jams. Perhaps it's fortunate that Mr. Theroux isn't singing the praises of our coastal paradise or all of New York would be down here.