The tone for the day was set by the first place we intended to visit, The Great Dismal Swamp. After a short drive we arrived at the car park, which for the first time ever had signs that said you could camp overnight but at your own risk. It would have been a lot nicer that Walmart, but it’s so unusual to see a sign that doesn’t expressly forbid you from camping we hadn’t risked it the night before, expecting the usual park rangers or police.
We were going to walk down the canal out towards Lake Drummond in the centre of the swamp, however it turns out that although there is a path all down the side of the canal, it starts from the other side and there is no way to cross the water. It’s a 45 minute drive the wrong way to the other side of the swamp where the other walking trails are, so after a bit of an anti-climax we decided to keep moving. We planned to drive out further east to the Outer Banks and spend the night out there. We were finally getting far enough south that there was Park4Night spots appearing on the app, very exciting!
We drove around two hours, heading into North Carolina for the first time and then out on the coast road. We found a spot to park up right next to the beach with some free showers which we planned to stop at later. It was a lovely sunny day, so we went for a walk down the beach to the pier that you can see here in the distance.
We left Molly in the van as she seemed to be very tired. She still enthusiastically ate some wet food that morning and was drinking, although she still had a very upset stomach that meant I had nearly gone through an entire packet of baby wipes in two days. We thought that she had a cold as she still had a runny nose and that this coupled with a new life was probably pretty tiring.
We walked for around an hour till we got the pier. The sea was pretty wavy and the beach shelved very sharply meaning that as we walked along the edge of the water we got a bit more wet that we bargained for at some points.
We walked past numerous people all enjoying some beers outside on the beach, and decided we liked North Carolina better. Mention you are going to have a drink outside in New York and watch the look of horror appear on everyone around you. Never mind that the horrified people are probably already smoking a spliff.
Arriving at the somewhat wonky looking pier, we went inside to see if we could walk along it. The front section of the building is an arcade, while the rear half is a bar. They also had this cool sign which told us we had covered some distance since Pittsburg.
We bought a drink at the bar, which gave us free access to the first part of the pier (again you are allowed to take you drink outside, like a normal place!). Sitting up here was a nice view back the way we had come, alongside the rest of the people up here who were fishing from the end.
I couldn’t resist playing some of the arcade machine on the way back, and consequently won myself a rather tasteful looking stuffed fish.
We headed back down the beach to the van. We planned to get some drinks in and then go sit on the beach and watch the sunset before having a one of our ‘cheese nights’ for dinner.
Back at the van, Molly was lying on the carpet asleep. I went to pick her up and she seemed so weak she could barely lift her head. I put her down on the cushion and we wondered whether we should take her to the vet as this didn’t seem right. Compared to when we had left her a few hours earlier she seemed worse rather than any better. As we were debating, she soiled herself all over the cushion without even moving and we both instantly decided we needed a vet. The problem was that it was nearly 6pm on bank holiday Sunday, there was one that was 10 minutes away from us that closed in 10 minutes but we had to try. I wrapped her up in a towel to keep her warm and we set off pretty quickly.
As we were driving we saw an animal hospital that said it accepted emergencies and we pulled in. They had just shut for the day and Lee tried to call the number on the door. A woman came over a tried to help us by trying to contact the vet but they didn’t reply. Lee phoned the vet we had been on our way to and got diverted to another centre as they were shut. This one was open, but was an hour and a half drive back the way we had come. At this point, little Molly was barely moving and but was obviously in some pain, I didn’t really think she would last that long but we had to try anyway. I sat in the back holding here and Lee started driving as quickly as the traffic would allow us.
It was a horrible moment to be right, when just over an hour later she died. We both stopped at the side of the road, in tears, while we decided what to do. The vet said they charged $50 to cremate her, which seemed a little pointless so we decided to bury her. We also contacted the place we had got her from to say what had happened and was told that apparently they had problems with other kittens from that supplier. Joseph told us that we could have another kitten if we wanted, but as you can imagine this was the last thing on our minds. We found a nice spot by the river and, in the pouring rain, dug her a little grave.
Next we headed straight to a laundromat as we needed to wash a lot of things, having an animal die in such a confined space is not a pretty sight. While we waited for our clothes we debated what to do. Neither of us wanted to replace her so quickly, but we agreed that we both did want another kitten. However if we waited then we would not only have to find someone else who would let us have one, but we would have to pay again which we couldn’t afford. In the end, we phoned Joseph and arranged to come and collect a new kitten tomorrow, we couldn’t wait any longer as we had to be in Charlotte in two days time. Feeling guilty that we were already replacing our little girl, we drove on in silence to the nearest Walmart.
The morning arrived and we had another two hours to drive to get back to Joseph’s. Once we arrived there we cleaned the van from top to bottom while we waited for him to get back from work, the last thing we wanted was our new kitten to catch anything.
Around 3pm he arrived, and we went in to meet the new kittens he had. He brought one to show us that he thought she would like. She was a gorgeous little mix of several breeds, by the looks of it and as I held here I could already feel how strong she was in comparison to Molly. All of a sudden we were cat parents again.
Back in the van we let her roam around her new surrounding and she was off smelling everything, running around all over the place. We would have loved to have given her more time, but we were now behind our schedule and we had to leave. We had around a 4 hour drive still to go. Starting the engine, she ran and hid in the corner, while I sat in the back to keep an eye on her. I made her a little hidey hole in the sofa and for the next few hours she stayed in there, occasionaly poking her head out but still scared.
We drove until we got to a rest area where we planned to stop for the night, but it turns out that rest areas are for very specific resting and you can’t stay overnight there. We drove on the next Walmart instead were we could give our new kitten some love and attention and a break from the roar of Ruby’s engine.
She slowly started becoming more curious and less afraid. We were happy that she seemed to want to come and sit on us and be close to us rather than hide away. As sad as we still were to have lost Molly, within only a few hours of seeing another kitten we could tell now how she wasn’t quite right from the start. She was very weak in comparison and barely eating compared to Amy, the newest member of our family.
We headed up for bed that night, but soon were lying there unable to sleep, while Amy howled at us from below. We brought her up into the bed with us thinking she might be scared to spend a night alone in a new place, and sure enough her whining turned to purring. She was so happy to be there she spent most of the night running around the bed, playing with anything available and biting my toes. Not much sleep for us.
The morning we had a 3 hour drive to get to a free(!!!) campsite, just and hour and a half away from Charlotte for the following day. Amy was a bit apprehensive of the noise again at first, but soon she asleep in the back after her busy night.
The drive was uneventful, until we were nearly at the campsite and we spotted a dog running around the in the main road. I thought we should go back and see if it had a collar as this was a busy road with trucks going down in and I could see it getting run over. I turned Ruby around and we got out to approach it but it ran off. Turning the van around again (after an awkward moment where, blocking the entire road and holding up car going both ways, I couldn’t find reverse) I drove back down and Lee walked down the road. The dog ran off into the woods and I assume it belonged to the house some way away on the drive which I had pulled up on. Still at least we tried to help!
From here the campsite was only around half an hour and soon we pulled into the woods in our first free official campsite. Needless to say it was basic, with a single toilet and the usual picnic benches and firepits, but it was a great spot. We had the place to ourselves for the night and Amy was a bit more relaxed, letting us sleep til 6am until she made it clear that she needed attention.