That is the only word to describe the excitement I felt while standing nearly 200 feet in the air with the ocean breeze blowing through my hair looking out into the Atlantic.
I was atop the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks with my nephew, Michael West, taking in the spectacular views and marking my half century on this planet in August 2016.
I kept saying that someone must have made a mistake on my birth certificate. I can’t possibly be that old. Unfortunately, I have a very good memory and recall nearly all of those 50 years.
But what they say is true… you’re only as old as you feel. Well… in that case, I’m in my twenties. I certainly don’t look my age. Before all you haters out there even open your traps, you can zip it or I might just give you a what for.
At any rate, my nephew told me I don’t look or act my age. I’m not sure what he meant by the “acting part.” LOL!!! But I took him at his word and that was reason enough to bring him along for the ride to mark this momentous occasion.
Our adventure began on my birthday with a three and a half hour road trip up Interstate-95 to US-64, a route that I had taken more than a few times over the years.
I first went to the Outer Banks in 1982 when we stopped to visit friends on our family vacation which took us to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I returned there again seven years later when I landed my first teaching position.
When we arrived in Manns Harbor, I took the old bridge to Roanoke Island since we were stopping at The Lost Colony box office to pick up our tickets for that evening’s production of the outdoor drama.
While there, we visited Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. We looked at the indoor exhibits and watched the 17-minute video about the story of the colonists that came to Roanoke, before meandering to the actual site discovered by archeologists.
Then we hightailed it to the Elizabethan Inn to check in before rushing over to Roanoke Island Festival Park. Can anyone say, “time crunch?” We went aboard the Elizabeth II, a replica ship the colonist arrived on in the New World. We also talked to a guy portraying a smitty in the settlement site and toured the Adventure Museum.
From there, it was over the bridge to Nags Head for my celebratory birthday dinner at Outback Steakhouse with just me and my nephew. I didn’t even make him sing to me. If I had, he probably would have crawled under the table like he did when he was a little boy.
We arrived at The Lost Colony in plenty of time to get a decent parking place and get inside the fortress of the outdoor drama to find our seats. Dang! I forgot the bug spray at the hotel. Lucky for us the mosquitoes weren’t biting that night.
The outdoor drama was magical and better than I remembered. During the intermission, they announced that the cast members would be available for a photo opportunity following the event.
My face lit up at the thought of taking a selfie with Chief Manteo and Wanchese. But sadly, my glee was short-lived. Due to the heat and the cast’s heavy costumes, the paparazzi event was cancelled. It was a good thing though. Because unbeknownst to me, Michael surprised me by taking me to see Suicide Squad in 3-D.
With 15 minutes before show time, we ran like the wind.
Staying up way to late after the spectacular comic book inspired flick, we ended up cancelling a few attractions before dragging ourselves out of bed the next morning to drive down the narrow strand of islands where we kayaked in the sound.
I didn’t realize the currents were so strong on the sound side. But that was after I foolishly challenged my nephew to a race. Do you even have to ask? Of course Michael won. I somehow ran aground twice before making back to our starting point. LOL!!!
I’m just glad I didn’t tip the kayak over. Because I didn’t bring a change of clothes. I also forget my cell on the hotel bed. I couldn’t “check in” anywhere all day. I was ready to blow a gasket.
Next, we shot over to Buxton and climbed all 257 steps to the top of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. That’s an equivalent of climbing a 12-story building. You better believe I took a rest on each and every landing 31 steps apart.
Guess where I left my walker? At the base of the lighthouse. Surely, you didn’t think I was gonna drag that thing up those spiral stairs. I would’ve made it to the first landing and then went backwards bouncing on all 31 steps with my head to the bottom.
That ferry boat to Okracoke Island was longer than expected. All we had time to do was eat at Jason’s Restaurant and buy a few souvenirs before hightailing it back to the other end of the island to make the next ferry off the island.
We were going to stop for a blizzard at a Dairy Queen on the drive back to Roanoke Island. Never mind who’s idea it was. All I know is they just turned off their “open” sign when we pulled in the parking lot. You could hear screams coming from the car and it wasn’t Michael.
Sunday morning I took my nephew to Wanchese Assembly of God where I attended church and taught school while living there more than a quarter-century ago. It was so good to see many old friends.
After showing Michael some of the sites from my old stomping grounds, we stopped for lunch and picked up a T-shirt before bidding the North Carolina coast a fond farewell.
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton.