I have a friend who lives in New Zealand. A Brazilian. I find it interesting: a) that I have a friend, b) that he lives on the other side of the world, and c) that it is a Brazilian. Isn’t life tasty?!
This buddy, Dan Cort, took up a challenge by another Brazilian to describe the place where you live and give a quickie sketch of five places you’d recommend someone visit if they came to town. In other words, see the common place through the eyes of someone who has never seen it.
I came up with an interesting list.
1. The Battleship U.S.S. North Carolina
As a child in the second grade, I helped save dimes in order to pay for the battleship to come to Wilmington. As a result, I got a free pass to tour it as soon as it was open. My first tour was limited because so many areas of the ship had to be refurbished for tourist and were not safe for the public. A recent trip there found almost everything available to be explored — I still have the same fascination with it that I had all those decades ago.
I still love standing behind the .50 caliber deck machine guns and pretend I’m shooting at incoming planes!
Until the Atlantic Coast Railroad tore up the tracks running west through Maco, many locals living today had witnessed the strange swaying light at the old Maco crossing. President Grover Cleveland spoke about it publicly during his 1888 reelection campaign. Life magazine even reported it to the nation in 1957.
The story is that of Joe Baldwin, a flagman who, one pitch-dark night in 1867, was riding a caboose that lost its coupling pin. Separated from the train, the caboose had slowed nearly to a halt when Joe spied the light of a speeding passenger train coming right at him. He stood at the back of the caboose waving a lantern in warning, but the oncoming train couldn’t stop. In the collision Joe was killed instantly, decapitated. His head was never found, but ever since then, a single swaying light could be seen over the tracks at that very spot. It was seen so frequently that trainmen routinely mounted two lights on their trains, one red and one green, so as not to be confused with the Maco Light, which hasn’t been seen since the tracks were lifted. It seems Old Joe Baldwin’s warnings are no longer needed.
If you want to go check it out, understand that there is nothing there. But the mystic of the area is still intact, if you can find it! It is 15 miles out of Wilmington off US 74/76 on a dirt road called Stella (turn left onto Stella from 74/76). Its about 50 yards down the road where you’ll see where tracks used to pass through. An interesting narrative of a visit there can be found here.
If you want to get there, here’s the scoop. It’s about 30 minutes from Wilmington on US 74/76. While you can’t see the light any more, if you’re a history buff, you’ll still find it interesting.
As a sidenote, back in the late 60’s and early 70’s it was known as a great place to go parking with your sweet little thing. I really wouldn’t know about that, however…
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love this place. Right on the ocean, the entire Confederate groundworks are preserved and available for your enjoyment. If you hate history, the scenic sights of the ocean on the left and the Cape Fear River on the right are fabulous.
Wilmington was one of the last open ports for the Confederacy towards the end of the Civil War and Ft. Fisher was the reason. It protected the entrance into the city and the Union war ships could not breech it. It took a massive amphibious assault in January of 1865 to silence it’s guns; this in essence spelled the doom of the Confederacy
Here’s a good beginning point for additional information. I love walking around the really neat catwalk that allows you to see everything!
4. The beach
Who cannot like the beach! We are blessed with lots and lots of beach here in Wilmington. It goes from the highly developed to the almost pristine. Wide strands allow for walking, decent waves allow for surfing and its even pleasant during the winter months.
Now the funny part is that while I like the beach, I don’t care for the sand… and the sun… and the salty water, but I like the beach. I love living near the beach and the climate that goes with it. At times it reminds me of Fortaleza, which is also on the beach.
One of the things that sold us on moving to Wilmington was eating on the pier at the Oceanic at the end of December. I mean, come on… it’s not everywhere that you can eat outside, on the beach, in the dead of winter! The food is great, the view is spectacular and its the best way to be on the beach (remember the sand, sun and salt water thing above?).
There’s actually quite a history behind the place. There are some cool, old photographs of the Oceanic Hotel that burned down many decades ago on the walls in the restaurant.
The crab dip is fabulous!
Ya’ll come visit us sometime!