Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sea kayaking entry 1: the trip to NC

First in a series...

Today starts a series of blog entries recapping a sea kayaking scout trip I organized. Thirteen boy scouts (including my son) and five adults left for the coast of North Carolina for a 10-day trip on Friday, July 16. We were headed for Pamlico Seabase.

Leaving middle Tennessee, we had good driving weather…until. Monstrous thunderstorms greeted us as we hit the North Carolina state line. Rain was pounding as we approached the National Guard armory in Clyde, NC where we were scheduled to spend the night. The parking lot was full of cars. All doors were locked, however, and no one seemed to be in the armory. I left voice messages on every number I could reach but still no luck. We were in a tough spot - in the rain - 10:30 at night - 2 vans loaded with teenagers - without a planned alternate place to stay.

We drove to a local gas station to ask for suggestions. Employees were as nice as they could be (I love small towns). They suggested we try the local fire hall a few doors down and offered us a hot cup of coffee as we pondered our situation.

The hall was an unmanned volunteer department so a Plan C evolved. We found Clyde Municipal Building – home to city hall and the police department - another block or so down from the fire hall. Once again - and as expected I guess at 11:00 PM on a Friday night - no one was in the building.

My co-pilot in the van spotted the end of a cigarette on a porch behind city hall. The rain had begun to taper off a good bit, and he jogged over to talk to them. Turns out Chuck and Margaret were enjoying the evening with a cig and late night beer. They knew the police captain personally, called him on his cell phone, and then told stories about doing maintenance and repair work on the police department's vehicles.

Within a few minutes, Captain Mike arrived. After telling him our dilemma, he phoned the Clyde Chief of Police and received permission for us to stay in city hall.


Captain Mike had his K9 dog with him who answers to the name of “Booger”. He brought the dog into the room with the scouts where he wagged his tail, panted, and enjoyed everyone scratching behind his ears and patting his back.

The Captain then took him into the hall to show us how well trained he was. Booger is trained to respond to single word commands spoken in Dutch. With just a single word, Booger immediately was before me barking fiercely, snarling, and seemingly on the edge of ripping me to shreds. I tried to remain as calm and collected as a Ken doll. Inwardly, however, I was quivering and on the verge of forming a puddle around my shoes. I can't exactly remember, but its possible I may have even uttered "mommy!" under my breath.

One additional command and the intimidation was over. Immediately, Booger came to me, wagged his tail, pranced full of life, and wanted me to pet him once again. Captain Mike and Booger left us, and the crew settled in for the night. We had a long drive facing us Saturday.

The next morning I couldn't help but be amused by the mayor's name.

Luchenbach. Clyde. They're probably both about the same, right? Considering the thunderstorms we'd endured Friday night in the rolling Appalachian mountains of eastern North Carolina and looking at the name plate of the town's chief executive, Hill Country Rain by Jerry Jeff just seemed right.

Saturday brought a lot more road miles including a stop for a barbeque lunch at The Pit in Raleigh. The place was recommended to me a day or two before we left. I found the restaurant on Twitter, told them our crew size, and asked if they were ready. The manager soon tweeted back with "Yeah bring it on."

So we did. The service was great, and everyone enjoyed their meal – ribs, pulled pork, Carolina Q, turkey, etc. Our server told us he too was a scout when he was a teenager.


Our initial dinner plan for Saturday evening was to eat in the mess hall at Camp LeJeune US Marine Corps base. However, we arrived in Jacksonville, NC too late, too tired, and too full from lunch to go to the base. So we settled in at a local church, played a bit of frisbee, rested a bit in the A/C, unpacked gear, etc. A couple of hours, the kids who were then hungry again demolished a buffet of food at Golden Corral and earned hundreds of tickets on video games at Chuck E. Cheese.

Shortly after entering the GC, it was apparent the place was a popular Saturday night dining experience for many Marines. Suddenly, I noticed one wearing a Schaefer beer shirt! For those who read Bench Racing from the Volunteer State, my racing-themed blog, you know I'm a founding member of the Schaefer Racing Hall of Fame. I approached the Marine (mindful of my experience with Booger the night before) and told him I was proud of him - both for his service and for supporting Schaefer.

I clearly caught him off guard. This Marine who is trained to be a fighting machine wasn't quite sure how to react when I complimented him on the shirt. I asked him to sit tight for a moment so I could get my camera. A picture of a US Marine in a Schaefer shirt - it was as good as posted on my Bench Racing blog. By the time I got back though, he and his buds were already gone!

Not to worry. Life is lived in Plan B - we were reminded of that truism just 24 hours earlier. After dinner while the kids were racking up skee-ball tickets at the Mouse House, I made a trip to Wal-Mart for a couple of last minute supplies.

And there I found it. My own Schaefer shirt! God bless the United States Marine Corps. I'm so grateful for the protection and defense they provide. But when it comes to Schaefer swag, it was comforting to know I was in control of my own destiny.

Next: on to Pamlico and our first day on the water.


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