It rained until Virginia. When the skies cleared, I entered an unending T-Mobile dead zone, which left me without that directive yet reassuring little voice that says “In a half mile, remain in the right lane and turn right onto US 17 South. Turn onto 17 South!”
At 20 miles long, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnels was a far longer and more beautiful crossing than I had imagined. Everything was shimmering, silvery and ethereal.
After the bridge, I made a few wrong turns and had a few time-wasting off-road adventures. Everything looked the same to this traveler: flat farm fields, planted with yellowed soy beans that shone golden in the late light, broken by the occasional cotton field and long expanses of forested swamp.
As I got closer to my destination, Columbia, the billboards began to advertise Outer Banks destinations, and the horizon began to promise nearby water. I spotted a road sign that said “red wolf crossing.” There was a subtle shift in the landscape, a sense of increasing wildness and isolation.
It did not feel like going home. It felt like going toward something unknown and unaltered by the 21st century, a perfect landscape for travelling back in time, hunting ancestors.
It was also blackpowder deer hunting season in North Carolina, I learned after I checked into the Brickhouse Inn. Two hunters in the room across the hall from mine were also traveling back in time, using muzzle-loading rifles to recreate an earlier hunting experience.
I was about to learn just how much Tyrrell County -- with its sparse development, swamps, forests and humidity -- welcomes retrospective pursuits.