What could go wrong?

After two weeks on Ocracoke we took the ferry back over to Hatteras and settled into another two weeks there. After a week Corrinne had to take the car and go back to Atlanta for family reasons. The kids and I stayed behind in the bus. This sounds pretty innocuous, but this is the Outer Banks, never forget that.

Corinne left on a Friday. I finished up some work that morning while the kids played games, but I took the rest of the afternoon off and we headed the beach. My solo parenting guide starts with: find water, find sunshine, … Don’t forget food and water.

We had a good day at the beach. It would have been a perfect day if Corrinne had been there. As you might imagine, we are not apart much. When we are nothing feels right. Still, we managed.

The next morning we woke up to clouds. I had checked the weather and noticed that there was a chance of rain. I hate driving the bus in the rain, and we needed to dump and move to a different campsite, so the kids and I got up early and got underway. We spent some time talking with Corrinne over by the lighthouse since the internet is much faster there (there’s only one cell tower on Hatteras and it’s not far from the lighthouse).

After about an hour the clouds turned much darker, you might say ominous if you were writing a bad novel, but I’ll just say that as the wind picked up and the clouds darkened, getting back to our campsite seemed like a good idea. We did stop off at the store on the way and pick up a few extra groceries and some new books for the kids to read.

The latter turned out to be an excellent (if unwitting) strategic purchase, because by the time we got back to camp and set up in our new site the wind was a steady 35 MPH and gusting much higher. We spent a few hours indoors, but then we decided to head to the beach and see what it looked like. Less than 24 hours after our near-perfect day of sunshine and light winds, the beach looked like this:

The wind was so strong at the top of the dunes that the kids had trouble standing up. A bit of internet research suggests that would make it around 50 MPH. It didn’t let up as evening wore on either. Instead it turned colder. Cold enough to cook inside the bus, which we haven’t done since we left Myrtle Beach months ago. That was when I realized that all our winter sleeping gear was stashed in the back of the car, which was now in Atlanta with Corrinne. Luckily we were able to dig up two extra blankets and no one got too cold.

That night the storm picked up steam and at high tide the ocean washed out the road from Oregon Inlet down to Hatteras. The ferry service was canceled due to wind and just like that, we were cut off from everything.

Luckily we had plenty of food and water, so we hunkered down the played games, watched a couple of movies, read, and kids drew while I wrote. For four days the bus did not stop rocking with every gust.

I know I’ve gone on about the wind once already, but the wind here really is fantastic. It is a thing worth experiencing if you ever get the opportunity. I don’t want to sound too enthusiastic about this storm, since it did wash away several homes, I’m not saying that’s fun, but if you have a safe place to hunker down, it’s a rather amazing experience to be out here in the wind — to feel what our lovely planet is capable of doing with something as invisible and mysterious and yet powerful as the wind.

Unfortunately Corrinne’s time in Atlanta was over before the storm. She went ahead and drove back, but had to spend an extra night in a hotel in Nags Head before the road opened again. After 5 days of storm it finally let up and the kids and I enthusiastically packed up to go dump and get out of the bus for a while. We were headed up the little hill that leads out of the campground when the bus died. It caught me off guard, the bus has been running so well, but I figured maybe I hadn’t warmed it up enough so I cranked it for a bit, but nothing happened. And then it hit me: there’s nothing wrong with the engine, we’re out of gas1.

bus out of gas in the campground photographed by luxagraf
Stuck in the middle of the road.

Finally the roads are open the storm is lifted, we can get out, and what do we do? We run out of gas.

Fortunately the very nice camp hosts at Frisco (who we’d camped by way back at Oyster Point) came to our rescue and made a gas run for us with their gas can. An hour after we ran out gas we were on our way again. And at the same time Corrinne was on her way down. Our plan to meet up at the lighthouse and go to the beach didn’t work out, but we ended up all back together again, and that’s all that matters.

That turned out to be good timing too, because somewhere back in the Pamlico Sound an undersea cable was cut and Hatteras and Ocracoke lost all communication with the mainland. No cell service, no land line service, nothing. It was fixed about 36 hours later, but it was interesting to see how much of day to day life ceased without that connection. The current world is pretty much the opposite of resilient.

Luckily at least some parts of our current existence are still functioning because someone got out there and fixed the cable. The next day we were in line for the ferry, headed back to Ocracoke.

  1. For those keeping track at home, that’s only the second time I’ve run out of gas in five years, which is pretty good for not having a gas gauge. 


Arva June 12, 2022 at 1:25 p.m.

What an adventure!

Debi June 13, 2022 at 3:49 a.m.

I wonder who you’re talking to when you mention running out of gas in your footnotes…

Sounds like you did well without Corrine. Blessings 🤓

Scott June 13, 2022 at 9:22 a.m.


That was for a friend who shall remain nameless. And me. Because I am always expecting to run out of gas. Gas mileage varies wildly in the bus, anywhere from 6-11 miles per gallon depending on road conditions, so even doing the math with mileage… there’s always a chance I could be getting worse mileage than I think.


Please leave a reply:

All comments are moderated, so you won’t see it right away. And please remember Kurt Vonnegut's rule: “god damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” You can use Markdown or HTML to format your comments. The allowed tags are <b>, <i>, <em>, <strong>, <a>. To create a new paragraph hit return twice.