|Wild Ponies near Beaufort|
Here is the conclusion of Running Up To Beaufort where we get Victor and his boat (and his dog) to Beaufort and I go crashing back to Florida on a Greyhound Bus.
I was born in the backseat of a
Rolling Down Highway 41!
The Allman Brothers Band
(actually, it was mostly I-95)
During the day on Sunday, Cheryl and I traveled back down to the boatyard and picked up her car and Victor’s truck. Victor had some things to do on the boat and arranged for another night at the dock. Back at the marina where the boat was, the three of us ran up to Beaufort, our destination, to drop a vehicle there. The plan was to get the boat to Beaufort, then backtrack to collect the other vehicle. Victor had to be to work Tuesday and Cheryl would drop me off at the Greyhound station in Fayetteville; a fair bit out of her way but sort of on her way home.
The marina where we holed up for the weather was a little rustic but serviceable. There was work being done to recover from some recent hurricane damage. Several boats languished in the yard. As usual in a boatyard like that one, more than a few of those boats will not likely ever get back in the water. The travelift crane was parked over a shrimp boat and I wasn’t sure either of them were operational. Regardless, we had a pleasant stay hanging out at Swan’s Point Marina; Victor, Cheryl, Link the dog, and me.
During the day Sunday, a powerboat came into the marina and got stuck on a shoal right at the entrance that we had somehow missed the night before in the dark. Actually, the dockmaster was shouting at them as much as he had at us. “STAY TO THE RIGHT AT THE ENTRANCE.” They were simply not as good at listening as Victor was. Then along came a catamaran who might have had a reservation. They tried to sneak in the entrance thinking they could squeeze past the stuck boat. The dockmaster told them in no uncertain terms to stay out until the first boat was free. They got frustrated and left to find another dock – during a small craft advisory.
We had a wonderful dinner aboard as the weather trailed off. Cheryl’s big cooler was magic for the copious amount and variety of food she offered us. It might have been possible to make some miles toward Beaufort Sunday evening, but we opted to stay; a wise decision I think.
Monday morning we were raring to go. After another big breakfast, Victor cautiously turned the boat around and headed back out into the ICW. The first obstacle was crossing the New River. There are many rivers that cross the ICW along the Southeast U.S. coast. Their currents interact with the tides and the result is ever shifting sandbars and shoals. The Coast Guard doesn’t use permanent channel markers, they deploy buoys and move them regularly as the sandbars shift. A few years ago, on another boat going the opposite direction, we went hard aground at the New River. But we did fine that day. The channel was clear and the buoys were well laid out.
We cruised toward Beaufort with lots of wilderness; more salt marshes to port and low islands to starboard. At Swansboro, we ran into civilization again. Most of the way into Morehead City there were houses along the shore. Some of the houses were palatial, but others obviously housed working watermen and their families. Morehead City is just west of Beaufort and we were in the home stretch by then. Bogue Sound is wide and open along here. Lots of deep water and lots more houses along the way. We passed some industry as we approached the city. The Morehead/Beaufort area is home to a port and lots of marinas and marine industry infrastructure.
Approaching Beaufort, the ICW goes to the left of Radio Island and then north up Adams Creek to the Neuse River and on toward Norfolk, VA. We went to the right of Radio Island, curved up and around Horse Island which contains the Rachel Carson Reserve and some wild horses. We spotted a few ponies on the way right into downtown Beaufort. Victor had a slip at the Beaufort Town Docks while he waited for his permanent slip to open up at the marina where he was headed.
As we approached downtown, Victor hailed the marina on the radio. They directed us to a spot on the seawall at the end of a fairway full of high dollar fishing boats. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to even attempt it, but Victor had no choice. There was a current moving perpendicular to the entrance. Victor went on by and turned around to make the approach heading into the current. He gurgled the boat slowly past millions of dollars of fiberglass and stainless steel and planted us right in our spot.
Cheryl and I tended the dock lines and tidied up the boat as Victor went and checked in with the marina. Beaufort is a great spot, though it sounds like the slip he got to is even better. I might soon visit on Ruth Ann while I’m waiting to gauge whether hurricane season is done this year.
The three of us, and Link the dog, piled into Cheryl’s Tesla and we headed back to Swans Point; grabbing a bite along the way. We dropped Victor at his truck and carried on. I got to drive a Tesla for a couple hours.
With some trepidation, I approached Fayetteville. I was getting on a Greyhound bus to get to a trucking job in Florida. Years ago, I had been stuck at the Fayetteville station for eight or nine hours. We either lost a driver or a replacement driver never showed up, but fifty or sixty people were stuck in an old cinder block building with two vending machines and a couple small restrooms. The station was a relic of the past that could have been a sheriff’s office or a prison at one time. Nothing but cinder block and terrazzo with institutional colors and hard benches. Looking down the street in both directions, there were no lights nearby; not a sign of life. I spent half the night against a wall, on the floor, leaning against my duffle bag. I was not looking forward to my return to that station.
I didn’t remember where the bus station had been, of course, but we followed Google Maps into town. It was almost midnight but I could tell I was in a new spot. Under the streetlights, there was green space, sidewalks, office towers, a hospital, and a new transportation center. Many municipalities have built nice central bus stations for their local buses and made room for Greyhound. Gone are the days of a stand alone bus station; many that had restaurants and even barbers. Fayetteville had done it up nicely, though there weren’t many lights on.
Cheryl dropped me at the curb. After a hug goodbye, I assured her I was all set and grabbed my bags after waving again. With two large duffels, a bookbag, and a ukulele, I lurched and stumbled toward the dimly lit entrance set in a rampart of glass and aluminum. I dropped a bag and grabbed the door handle – locked. I picked my bag back up and wandered around the corner. It was quarter to midnight and my bus was scheduled to leave at 1:00 AM.
Luckily, on the other side of the building, I saw the old grey dog on a sign over another door. With some relief, I trudged to my salvation and tugged on the door … but it was locked too. Now, I became a little concerned. Was I even in the right place? Then I noticed the sign on the door “Back at 12:30.” I wasn’t really dressed for Fayetteville at Midnight in December so I leaned into the alcove of the entry to stay out of the wind. This might be a long night.
At 12:20 or so, a couple employees (or people who appeared to be employees) showed up. None of them had a key apparently and they all stayed in their cars. A bit later, another rider showed up with a couple bags. Finally, someone approached, walking with purpose and authority – and no baggage – and proceeded straight to the door; unlocking it for us all.
Inside, the ticket counter was a tiny room with a single door that went into what looked like the municipal side of the station. There were no signs about lining up or where the busses might arrive. So I sat down with my heavy payload. The one passenger I had seen sounded like they were headed some other direction than I. There were more employees than passengers milling around. Soon the little room was empty and I waited for an announcement of some kind. Employees wandered in and out of a back office; appearing behind the counter, fiddled around, and disappeared again.
It was getting really close to 1:00 AM and I wondered about my bus. Just then, one of the Greyhound people walked in and caught me with a startled look from behind the counter.
“Aren’t you here for the bus to Orlando?”
“They are loading up out back right now. You’d better get over there.”
What!?! There’d been no announcement, no instructions of any kind. The man disappeared into the back office without further comment. I didn’t actually know where the bus was. After loading up with my bags again, I stepped through the door toward the rest of the station. It was a big lobby with lots of open space, lots of glass and benches, and no signs. Around to the right there seemed to be more space, so I walked that way. Trudging through the empty building I could now see the stands out back where various city buses would arrive and depart – and a single Greyhound bus idling at the curb with 8 or 10 people milling around. Where did all those passengers come from?! Likely at least a few of them were on the bus when it arrived but I had been insulated from all their activity. The bus driver looked up from beside the luggage compartment of the bus and frowned. He asked for my ticket which was on my phone and shrugged toward the bus as if to say “there you go, load your own damn bags.” So I did, and I boarded the bus with my book bag and my uke.
I really don’t remember but looking at Greyhound’s schedule today, I think that I rode down to Orlando, got an Uber to Groveland, and stepped into orientation for the driving job by 7:00 or 8:00 that morning. I was going back to drive for a company that I had driven for before. It’s a good little company, they are good to us drivers, and the schedule is fairly slack. After eight months, I returned to Ruth Ann. During those eight months, I had two regular weekends. The rest of the time, I was driving 6 days a week, averaging more than 500 miles per day. Most every week, I took a 34 hour break, which reset my DOT clocks and then went right back out on the road. My time driving was lucrative and I came back raring to go. In the last eight weeks, I’ve worked my ass off, lost about twelve pounds, and I’ve got Ruth Ann almost ready to launch.
Stay tuned. I hope to give my patrons some kind of live access to my first few miles down the river and perhaps a Q&A at my first anchorage. Become a patron at the link near the top of this page. Thanks for your support.