Volunteering takes patience, and luck (part 1)

Dan back on standby… (part 1) 

It was raining when I opened the window shade and gazed out into the grey day.  I looked at the radar on my phone and saw that it looked like a relatively small patch of precipitation was overhead.

I considered heading out on the bike in the rain but decided to stay in my comfortable hotel room and read.  I checked the radar occasionally; the small patch of precipitation seemed to be here to stay.

After several hours I still saw spitting rain when I looked out the window.  I decided that I hadn’t come this far to sit in a hotel room, so I pulled on my bike clothes and headed out into the grey world.

I rode through tiny Southport and down to the ferry terminal.  The attendant’s face brightened when I pedaled up to her window.  “You’re back!”

“Off on a little adventure, I guess.”

“Great!  So wait until all the cars are on before you ride on.”

She took my two dollars and I pedaled under the ferry terminal’s porch to wait for the cars to load.

Finally, the last car bumped onto the ferry and the ferryman waved me on.  He had me stash my bicycle behind a stairway.

“That bike don’t quite fit you, man!” he laughed.

I told him that it looked funny but rode mostly like a full-sized bike.  I showed him how it folds up and he shook his head with a laugh.

I left my bike and wandered around the ship.  The low, dark skies spat wind and rain, especially on the starboard (right) side.  So, eventually, I went back under the covered area with my bike and admired the water.

The ferry docked at Fort Fisher and I pedaled off, riding north.  A strong headwind pushed against me and I recalled encountering this same wind four years ago.

I pedaled past gnarled oaks at the Fort Fisher historical area.  The open spaces eventually gave way to the beach houses of Kure Beach.  The beach houses got bigger and were closer together, eventually giving way to towering hotels.

Kure beach turned into Carolina Beach and I began to feel hungry.  I remembered that the best donuts in the world were right here, so I found Wake-n-Bake donuts in a grocery store strip mall.  Sure enough, they had one left of my favorite, a PB Get Bizzy.  It was every bit as good as I remembered.

I crossed the tall bridge over Snow’s Cut and coasted down onto the mainland.  I was vaguely headed for downtown Wilmington.  As it happened, I chose the wrong roads and the traffic became heavy and dangerous.  I checked my watch and realized that I didn’t have that much margin to make the last ferry back to Southport.

So, I mapped out a way back on hopefully less dangerous roads.  I weaved my way through residential streets and finally found River Road, which followed the Cape Fear River.  I recognized it as the road I’d followed into Wilmington last time; I wished I’d taken this road the first time.

As soon as I turned back towards Carolina Beach, the spitting rain stopped and the skies brightened a little bit.

With the wind at my back, the miles zipped past and soon I saw the last beach houses of Kure Beach and the gnarled oaks at Fort Fisher.

At the ferry terminal, I was just in time for the second to last ferry back to Southport.  I followed the cars onto the ferry, leaned the bike against the railing, and went upstairs to take in the scene.

Too soon, the captain nudged the big ferry right up to the loading ramp and I followed the cars up the ramp.

I pedaled through Southport and decided to have dinner at the same Mexican restaurant again.

While sitting at the same seat at the same bar, my phone dinged with a text message from Richard. The wind was blowing at 30 knots at the tower and the seas were likely too high for a boat trip tomorrow. I sighed but was not surprised.  I told Richard that there were no worries on my part; I’d had a nice time regardless.

My phone dinged again.

“Might have another option.  Standby.”

There was likely room on a helicopter flight. Perhaps I would make it out to the tower after all.

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