February 23, 2012

Outer Banks Angling: The loss of a Sunday drive


Taking a Sunday drive is a popular pastime that means different things to different people.

Some take long drives after church to enjoy a nice day with their family, while others are out cruising in their favorite vehicle just to be seen in their clean ride.

Some people just get in their vehicle and drive to nowhere to forget about life’s stresses.

And some will drop the top on their vehicle and drive 50 miles just to grab an ice cream from their favorite shop three counties away.

As a child, my Sunday drives were always in a boat, not a car. We would cruise the Chesapeake Bay or the Intracoastal Waterway.

In my 20s, I loved to cruise the back roads and farmlands of Chesapeake, Pungo, or Knotts Island in my Suburban.

When I moved to Hatteras Island, I began to experience Sunday drives in a whole new manner.

And it wasn’t always Sunday when we took our Sunday drive.

It might have been Sunday, Monday or Thursday when we took long rides and we might have taken them a few times a week.

The drives were not through farmlands or on highways.

We took our drives on the beach.

It was not uncommon in the off-season for a couple of us to jump into a vehicle or a dozen of us to pile into a truck and take a long, slow cruise through the sand.

We always had a fishing pole or two with us just in case a school of stripers, bluefish, or anything else might appear.

We would laugh and joke the time away, while taking in the aroma of the ocean and allowing the salty air to cover our faces.

The sound of the roaring ocean could drown out anyone’s sorrows or stress with ease.

You would see others that you knew taking the same drive and stop and talk about just anything in friendly conversation.

We would keep our eye sharp while cruising along -- looking for that great shell, sandstone, or piece of driftwood that would become our next landscape decoration.

On Feb. 11, I took my final Sunday drive on the sand on Hatteras.

With the approaching implementation of the final ORV rule on Feb. 15, I knew I had to get just one more drive in.  

I guess I found out how it felt to be a long-time native, local, or visitor who had to get in the last drive down the Pea Island beach prior to its closing to ORVs.

My fiancée, her son, Braxton, and I piled into my Bronco and took off.

We slipped onto the beach at Rodanthe and began our trip south towards Ramp 38.

The wind was a little strong and the sun came and went, but it was fairly warm considering.

We took our time and I cruised along as slowly as I could to enjoy my trip.

There was plenty of sea debris all along the way for us to investigate. There were shells, wood, and even areas to look for sea glass.

We didn’t find a lot, but we did find a few keepers.

At times, I drove in almost complete silence, when I knew I was driving through an area that I might not ever drive on again.

This area had been home to an annual striper tournament that I and friends hosted for five years and I had seen many an angler have a great time here over the years.

After we made our way off Ramp 38, we headed straight for Ramp 43.

We came over the dune at the ramp and headed for Cape Point so that we could round the corner and drive through the soon to be closed “Hook.” All but three-tenths of a mile in the hook, just west of the Point, will be closed year-round to ORVs under the final rule.

Once again we took our time and drove slowly.

When we made it into the Hook, we stopped several times to look through ocean debris. We managed to find a few scotch bonnets and a couple of whelk shells, but there wasn’t much to it because the area had been well gone through by others with the same idea.

We continued on and came off at Ramp 49 in Frisco.

There were more areas that I wanted to cover, but the weather was deteriorating and I felt it best to call it a day.

During our drive on this day we saw some vehicles cruising around, but not all that many.

I relish the fact that I did get a chance to drive some of my favorite areas one last time and that I did see so many people enjoy these areas over the years.

But it’s still a hard pill to swallow.

I’ve heard and read a lot of people’s comments about how there shouldn’t be ORVs on the beach or how we should get out and walk. But they have definitely never taken a Sunday drive Hatteras-style, nor enjoyed the beach from an ORV in the way that so many others have.

Driving on this beach has been one of the many things that separated the Outer Banks from the rest of the country’s beaches.

In a sense, driving on the beach with such freedom defined us and made us what we are today.

For now and the foreseeable future, those freedoms are gone.

As I write this column, the new ORV management plan has been in effect for a week.

A lot of popular areas are now closed year-round to ORVs and a new ORV permit system has been instituted.

The Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance has filed a lawsuit to stop the new management plan and rule, but, for now, this is the new way.

I’ve yet to purchase my new ORV permit, but I will soon enough because I love these beaches and I love to fish and I will make the best of what I have left.

I’d gladly pay three times this amount to drive on these beaches if I was not losing access to so much sand.

Not many people agree with me on this.

Many feel that we shouldn’t have to pay any fee because this is federal land we are talking about and they already pay taxes that should include access to a National Park. I can see their reasoning also.

We shouldn’t have to pay, but it’s just how the world works.

This country went to war to gain its freedom from what we considered the tyranny of unjust taxes and fees.

Upon winning our independence, our country instituted a whole new line of taxes and fees in order to support itself.

We will always pay taxes and fees to sustain ourselves.

I just don’t like paying more fees to lose freedoms.

I will continue to hope that by court-ordered relief, an act of Congress, or a Presidential order I might be writing an article titled “The return of the Sunday drive.”

Don’t sit on the couch -- go fishing.

(Rob Alderman is the owner of the Hatteras Island Fishing Militia website and is a kayak fishing guide. Rob has 10 years of fishing experience on the Outer Banks, and is host of the “Outer Banks Angler” television show. You can follow more of his extreme adventures or contact him at www.FishMilitia.com)

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