I love the drive to North Carolina. It is almost a tangible feeling when the 'south begins', and it happens closer than most Notherners would think. I can almost pinpoint it to somewhere around Smyrna, Delaware.
Beyond Smyrna the business signs are mostly hand-painted.
"Jackie's Hair Hut" (complete with silver stars that dot the i's)
"Melvin's Pool Room"
"Salisbury Beauty Supply"
The types of restaurants change from "Fridays" to "Fomy's Barbecue Pit"
The businesses even change as John Deere stores and Harley shops begin to line the road.
The thing that stands out the most for me is the unabashed declarations of faith:
"Redemption Auto Repair"
Actual Billboards that proclaim:
"Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light"
"One Nation Under God"
"Trust in God Alone"
These are not urban images...God does not live openly in Philadelphia...
Another image that is plain for all to see, but that is virtually non-existent in Philadelphia is the amount of Bush/Cheney, W '04 and various other pro-Bush signs and stickers ...so strange -refreshing, but strange...
Nature takes on new meaning as stretches of land grow larger -and greener. Corn fields pepper the large expanses -all equipped with giant sprinkler systems...
I love watching this transformation. I have been making this journey for over 15 years and it never ceases to amaze me.
Traveling down Route 13S, you almost have to believe John Edwards' proclamation about the reality of two Americas. In Virginia there seems to be only two living situations. Sprawling plantation-style homes on rolling acres complete with wrap-around porches and silos --or --small mobile/modular homes that are barley larger than the sheds that many in Philly have in their back yards to store lawn mowers. (Though in defense of the 'plantation' owners --we looked at a house while we were in NC that was on ELEVEN acres and was going for $199,000...so it would seem that you don't have to be rich to own that much land).
The Outer Banks itself is probably not indicative of inland Southern living --OBX benefits immensely from 'renter taxes' and boasts some of the best schools in the south. The homes are all big, beautiful and outrageously overpriced. I love the surf shops, the HUSH PUPPIES, the giant sand dunes, the shells that you can find on the beach before dawn and the 'realness' of the locals.
My stress fades away there --it's not just the fuschia sunsets over the Currituck Sound, or the dolphins and pelicans racing over the waves in Corolla...it's the pace of life there...Slower and laid back. Road rage virtually non-existent. It is hard to get used to at first and sometimes I catch myself in big-city-mode wanting everyone to hurry up. It was also hard to get used to the fact that everyone talks to you -at first you awkwardly say hello back and unconsciously grip your purse. Now I love meeting the variety of people that North Carolina has to offer, and look forward to conversations that quickly lead to each person's 'story'.
I know many Northerners snub the south --I have had the rare pleasure of being able to love both worlds... This trip was too quick and I can't wait until the end of September when we go back for a week or two.
When I am here- I can't imagine living anywhere else, but as soon as I cross the Wright Memorial Bridge-I wonder what keeps me in the urban jungle...