Yesterday, the residents of my mother's retirement complex had a big potluck brunch in the complex's community building. There was an awful lot of food — eggs and sausages and fruit salads and pastries — and I think it was all either eaten or taken home by the 30 or 40 participants. I helped cook a little and met a lot of people. I fit in because I'm old enough to live here now. And I had a pretty good brunch. Then, in the afternoon, we had torrential rains for several hours. March, eh?
Above is the bridge that links the town of Morehead City to the barrier island, Bogue Banks, where all the local beaches are. When I was growing up, there was a two-lane drawbridge across the sound. And then there was a new four-lane drawbridge built in, I think, the 1960s, and the old one was torn down. But as car traffic and boat traffic increased, the drawbridge became a bigger and bigger problem for everybody concerned. The solution was a high-rise bridge that boats can get under and cars can drive over without waiting for a drawbridge to open or close, which used to cause massive traffic backups.
At the eastern end of town, there is another but narrower high-rise bridge of about the same vintage that spans the mouth of the Newport River (en français, c'est ce qu'on appelle un fleuve côtier) and separates the towns of Morehead City (pop. 8,000) and Beaufort (pop. 4,000). The photo above shows what happens when there is work being done on the bridge and only one lane is open, with alternating traffic. The backup last Thursday held us up for only about 15 minutes. We were going to do some shopping over in Beaufort.
North Carolina was one of the first British colonies to rise up against the Crown and its taxation policies back in the second half of the 1700s. And then it was number 12 of the 13 original colonies to finally ratify the new U.S. Constitution and become a part of the new federal union. Today, North Carolina has about 10 million inhabitants. Its mild climate and varied topography — coastal beaches and waters; the rolling hills of the Piedmont in the center of the state; and in the west, the highest mountains (up to 6,000 feet) in the ancient Appalachian chain — have attracted a lot of new residents from the U.S. states to the north in recent decades. In area, North Carolina is about the same size as England, and it is more than 400 miles from the eastern to the western end of the state.
I noticed the tour bus in the photo above when I went to take a walk at Fort Macon State Park, located at the eastern end of Bogue Banks on Beaufort Inlet. The Bible Belt is not all that far away. Fort Macon, built in the 1820s, attracts more visitors than any other state park in North Carolina.