Trouble In The Dark

Brian and I stood on the tail end of the ferry and watched the last of the light slip over the western horizon. Our motorcycles swayed with the waves in the gloom. Halloween night officially arrived as our ferry docked on the dark shores of Ocracoke Island, former hideout of Blackbeard the pirate. Our adventure continued.

Night falls
Night falls

Sent off with a festive “land ho” and “off ye go” from the crew, our ride off the ferry was a little tense, but uneventful. I made a reservation at Teeter’s Campground earlier in the week, so that’s where we headed first. The campground was only a few blocks from the ferry terminal. The town of Ocracoke is small enough that most everything is no more than a few blocks from anything else. I think the “far side of town” is less than a mile away.

In the dark, we weren’t quite sure where to find the campground host. No office was readily visible. We walked through the RVs and campers until we found someone out and about. He didn’t know where the host was, but he did give us the bathhouse lock combination and showed us where tenters usually pitched.

The spot was close to the road, but there wasn’t much traffic and it was flat and grassy. A few picnic tables sat nearby under a row of cedar trees. We parked and shook off the day’s road dust. We figured we’d find the host eventually, or someone would come set us straight if this spot was wrong. Our first order of business was a toast to making it to Ocracoke. It had been roughly five years, three months, and two weeks since we last shared a motorcycle campsite. Cheers!

We started setting up our tents. A few seconds later my bike lay down for a dirt nap. I had put it up on the center stand, but the ground was just too soft to support the weight. The stand feet slowly sank into the dirt like they were on a zombie’s soft grave. With no support, the bike just fell over. Or maybe a zombie rolled over under there. It is quite possible that tent campers were put on the septic drain field. Fortunately the soft ground absorbed most of the shock of landing. My bike only picked up some dirt, no scratches or damage. A little poking around by headlamp turned up some spare boards that we put under our center stand feet to keep them from sinking in.

With camp set up, we set out on foot to find a restaurant for dinner. Being such hardy outdoorsmen, we didn’t bother turning on our headlamps. We could find our way along Back Road by the dim light coming from inside the adjacent houses. The cluster of restaurants in town was only a half mile away.

A few minutes into our semi-spooky walk down the middle of a road in the dark, I heard a curse word, some squealing tires, a thump, and a crash!

I scrambled to turn my light on and see what had just happened. A kid about 12 years old was sprawled out on a driveway beside us, tangled up in his bicycle. He had been riding down the road, also braving the dark without a light. At least without a decent light. The tiny light on his handlebars looked like one of those keychain lights that is bright enough to show you the doorknob, but not much more. He hadn’t seen Brian in front of him until he was about 3 feet away. I think the kid suffered more damage from his landing on the oyster-shell-covered driveway than Brian did from the glancing blow of the bicycle. The kid apologized and disappeared off into the night, After that we walked closer to the edge of the road, and I kept my light on.

We eventually reached the main road and spotted the Ocracoke Oyster Company. It appeared to be a decent restaurant, though not very busy for a Friday night. The restaurant was located on an island in NC, but the oysters were from Virginia. They were ok, but nothing spectacular, or even spook-tacular. At least the waitress was somewhat entertaining. She had started her partying, but then got called in to work for a while. We chatted with her about each other’s Halloween plans. She suggested we stop by the party at Gaffer’s Sports Pub down the street. After a relaxed dinner, we set off again to do just that.

What we could see of the revelers through the windows at Gaffer’s seemed festive enough. A few togas, some pirates, Boba Fet, and Elvira were hanging out by a pool table. The guys dressed as belligerent drunks outside the entrance, complete with shouted four-letter words, swinging fists and some bottle breaking, were just a bit too scary for us. Elvira wasn’t worth the risk of running that gauntlet to get in. We retreated back through the darkness towards our campground.

While researching the trip, I saw that Teeter’s Campground was beside the local cemetery. Sandwiched between the two was a tiny piece of Great Britain. In 1942, the British ship HMS Bedfordshire was helping the US defend our Atlantic coastline. German U-boats torpedoed and sank the ship, killing all 34 crew on board. Four of the bodies washed ashore on Ocracoke and were buried beside the local cemetery.

The tiny plot of land around the graves has been leased to the British government as long as the bodies remain there. The Union Jack flies over them. We decided to visit this British cemetery and pay our respects. I had to step inside the gate, just to say I’d been to a British territory on this trip, but that didn’t incur any ghostly repercussions, with or without an English accent.

The local cemetery was also fenced and gated. Since it was nearing midnight on Halloween, we decided to just stand on the sidewalk and check out the first few rows of headstones with our flashlights. Again, nothing unusual happened. Unless you count the few markers we saw with death dates prior to the birth dates. Believe me, we looked twice to make sure we agreed on what we were seeing. Of course I didn’t try to take a picture. That would have been too logical. We hung around for a few extra minutes just in case any spooky spirits were biding their time. They probably have more patience than us, having to deal with the whole eternity thing and all.

Continued in part 4 – Closing The Loop on OBX

part 2 – Slow Boat to Ocracoke

part 1 – Getting on the Road Again

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