19 October 2017

Une journée d'enfer

The first setback was the announcement that our water would be turned off at 8 a.m. yesterday. A water main burst, and much digging and repairing had to be done. I was able to make some coffee and get a shower before 8 o'clock, but here I am typing this between 5 and 6 p.m. and we still don't have any water flowing. No flushing. No bathing. No cooking. Now I have to run to the store and buy 2 or 3 gallons of water for this evening and tomorrow morning, since it's unlikely the water will be turned back on today.

And then, when I went out to go do some shopping, the warning light came on in the car. There it was on the instrument cluster: something that looked like a tire seen in profile from the front. And it was flat. So I came back inside, got on the internet, and found the owner's manual for the car, which was not to be seen in the glove compartment. It said one of the tires needed to be pumped up, but it didn't say which one.

I went out at 9:30 and drove around to find a gas station that had a working air pump, and preferably one that didn't cost more than 50 cents. I only had two quarters. I finally found such a pump at the gas station near Walmart, and it only cost a quarter. Problem was, it didn't work.

So I drove over to an Exxon station with a Handy Mart convenience store attached. There I could get some more quarters. I pumped up all four tires, and all seemed well. It cost 6 bits (three quarters). At that point, I drove over to the gas pumps to fill up the fuel tank. With a full tank, I turned around to get back behind the wheel and immediately saw that the front tire on the drivers side was almost completely flat. I could hear air hissing out of the tire valve. By then it was noon.

I don't have a cell phone here. Luckily the woman at the register in the Handy Mart store was very helpful. She let me use her cordless phone to call the rental car office about three miles up the road. (It seems there are no coin-operated phones any more.) She let me use her phone again to call the rental company's roadside assistance number (1-800...). She let me use her phone again to call my mother to tell her I'd be late for lunch and why. She let me take the cordless phone out to my car, marooned at the pump, to get the rental contract out of the glove compartment. She then agreed to receive a subsequent call from the roadside assistance line telling me who would be coming to repair the tire and how long I would have to wait.

The repairman showed up about 30 minutes later. He quickly changed the tire, putting on the little "doughnut" spare tire in place of the flat. He told me I needed to go to the rental office, where they'd surely exchange the doughnut-tired car for one with a full set of refull-size tires. No luck there, though. We don't have any cars available today, I was told. "Zero cars." You need to drive 35 miles to New Bern, where the rental counter at the airport should be able to take care of the car exchange.

So I went and picked up my mother and we headed for New Bern at 45 mph, which was the speed the doughnut tire was rated for. We had another errand to run in New Bern anyway. At the airport, the rental agent quickly and efficiently processed the exchange and took me out to inspect the replacement vehicle. (She asked: Is there anything you need to get out of the disabled car? Just my 87-year-old mother, I said.) The disabled car was what they call a "standard compact" but the replacement car is a much more luxurious hybrid vehicle. It took me a minute or two to figure out how to get it started (it's keyless) and how to shift gears (there's a round knob for that). I like it. I think.

Now it was getting close to 3 o'clock. My mother and I went and ate some lunch in a restaurant, and then we went to the office where she had some business to take care of. Office was closed for the afternoon. Figures, doesn't it? We drove back home, where we found out we were still high and dry — sans running water. What a day! Busy for hours, but nothing really accomplished.

P.S. 6:15 p.m. I just ran out to the grocery store to buy three gallons of drinking water. When I came back into the apartment, I found that the overhead light in the kitchen no longer works. So we are high and dry and in the dark.

P.P.S. It's nearly 11 p.m. here and still no water flows from the taps.

18 October 2017


Speeding through Beaufort Inlet

Time is speeding by faster than this boat I saw racing through the inlet down at Fort Macon. Yesterday was a shopping day. I bought Texas Pete and other hot sauces, bags of dried field peas and small red beans, and other items at the supermarket to take back to France.

Then my mother, sister, and I went shopping at one of my favorite stores. It's called Roses and it's over in Beaufort. It's like what in France would be called un bazar — as in Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville (le BHV) in Paris — where they sell a little bit of everything. They had a huge bin of nice T-shirts on sale. They were $1.50 apiece or four for $5.00. They were just stuffed into the bin and you had to rummage through them to find the colors and sizes you wanted. I bought six of them. Then I found some nice, sturdy-looking flannel shirts with long sleeves (of course) and I bought two of those. Total cost for eight shirts: $20.79 (includes sales tax). That would be way less than 20 euros.

17 October 2017

Out to the beach again

This is one end of what we called "the main beach" when I was growing up in Morehead City. It's the beach in the town of Atlantic Beach (pop. 1500), founded in the late 1800s. The first bridge from Morehead City to the beach was built in 1928.

Sometimes I think Europeans must wonder why ice, and not just drinking water, is such a big deal in the U.S. when there are power failures — after hurricanes, for example. Well, it's because of the hot climate. Europe is basically a cold place compared to the southeastern U.S., where ice is not a luxury.

Off the beach are the trawlers. This one was just barely visible to the naked eye, but my camera's zoom lens could see it. In fact, there are two of them. I don't know if they are fishing or shrimping.

Not all beaches are as hospitable as the main beach on Bogue Banks. Down at the eastern end of the barrier island is Beaufort inlet, the break in the islands that lets boats and ships enter the port terminal at Morehead City. Swimming, surfing, or even wading in these waters is forbidden.

We are still busy after the move, unpacking and organizing the new apartment. I'll be here in North Carolina for another week before flying back to Paris and continuing to Saint-Aignan. Leaving home to go home, as I like to say.

16 October 2017

Flying over and into N.C.

Unfortunately, the sky was very cloudy last Tuesday when I flew over coastal N.C. on my way to the Raleigh-Durham airport. I got only a very few pictures. Here are four of them.

Clouds over North Carolina

The image above is of the Alligator River and the canal that lets boaters float directly to the Pungo River near the towns of Belhaven and Bath, N.C.

A slightly wider view of the Alligator River and the canal

The last shot is of an N.C. landscape farther inland. Speaking of N.C., my mother's move is now complete. We removed the last odds and ends from the old apartment and carted them over to the new one this afternoon. We cleaned the old apartment fairly thoroughly. Tomorrow we turn in those keys and a 12 year era ends. Now we just have to keep unpacking boxes and deciding where to put things in the new apartment. Some of the stuff will likely be donated to charities or given to friends and neighbors.

15 October 2017

On Bogue Sound in North Carolina

Bogue Sound is a body of salty water a mile wide and 25 miles long on the central North Carolina coast. It's shallow, and on each end — east and west — the sound is open to the ocean. It's part of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs from New England to Florida, and it's not a canal but a natural body of water.

What separates Bogue Sound from the ocean is a barrier island called Bogue Banks, and the southern shore of the island is 25 miles of unbroken sandy beach. There's a state park on the east end, and there are four or five resort towns along the length of the island.

The two main towns on Bogue Banks are Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle. There are bridges like the one above on each end of the island. On the north side of the sound is the mainland (if you can really call such low-lying territory "land") with the town of Morehead City on the east end and Cape Carteret on the west end.

Morehead City (pop. 8,000) has grown up quite a bit since I lived here in the 1950s and '60s. One of its main features is its port terminal, one of the two deep-water ports in North Carolina that can accommodate ocean-going vessels. The big brown building in the photo above is a hotel that stands on the site of the little hospital where I was born in 1949.

A lot of the big houses along the shore in Morehead at along the Bogue Banks beach are what we've always called "summer cottages."  The first cottages built in the area, 60 or 75 years ago, were for summer use only and didn't even have heating of any kind, I believe. Or air conditioning either. Now they are equipped with all the modern conveniences, of course.