The cool breeze of ocean air blew from the nearby Atlantic through the partially open cab of the 33-year-old Land Cruiser. We were headed north up the North Carolina coast toward the Virginia border as the tires on our FJ40 made slight scrubbing noises in the beach sand. We were here for the annual Spring Tide Ride run with the Olde North State Cruisers Club (ONSC) for a long weekend of beach wheeling and fun.
As we wound our way up the narrow swath of island terrain, we spotted numerous shore birds floating on the wind and dipping down to the water, occasionally snaring an unwary fish for their daily meal. From time to time, we passed an occasional four-wheel drive perched on the sand. Some of their occupants were simply enjoying a leisurely stay on the beach. Others came to the shore with racks of surf-fishing rods planted upright in plastic tube holders mounted to front or rear bumpers. Each fisherman was hoping to catch a nice prize, lest he be tempted to lie about the one that got away.
On our trip north, we also saw several groups of the wild mustangs that still run loose at the northern end of the Outer Banks, and the lineage has been here for literally centuries. This end of the island chain has no paved road; only four-wheel drive access connects the town of Corolla to the houses that dot the sandy roads just inland over sand dunes.
The Outer Banks is a narrow line of barrier islands stretching from the southeastern tip of Virginia and running down along the coast of North Carolina for a distance of about 200 miles. Access to this string of islands can be had via bridge or car ferry, depending on where you choose to leave the mainland. To the east is the Atlantic Ocean, and to the west lie several large sounds, bodies of water that separate the island and mainland masses.
As one would expect, there are wide expanses of accessible beach, and fortunately, some portions of those are open to vehicular traffic. We explored the northern end of the islands one day and visited historic sites such as the nineteenth-century lighthouses, the site where the Wright Brothers made their historic flights, and other places related to the long maritime history of this area. A ferry ride on the south end took us out to Ocracoke Island and to more areas of sightseeing along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Other activities possible during the four-day event included kayaking, fishing, and just plain relaxing. There were a couple of group dinners at our base camp and a prize raffle on Saturday night. We had a blast doing some good beach wheeling and sharing tech and stories with fellow Toyota owners. We left the Spring Tide Ride with some lasting memories.
About Old North State Cruisers
ONSC is a North Carolina-based club that welcomes Toyota 4x4 enthusiasts to share time and trail events with like-minded four wheelers. They have numerous outings throughout the year and are a member club of the Toyota Land Cruiser Association (TLCA). You can find further details on the club and events by pointing your browser to www.oldenorthstatecruisers.com.
Driving The Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which is part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is currently embroiled in a battle over off-road vehicle use. Back in 2007, environmental groups filed suit against the National Park Service (NPS) alleging that, in part, the NPS was not managing ORV use in a way that would protect federal- and state-listed animal species. The upshot is that in the spring of 2008, a consent decree was issued by a U.S. District Court judge. This decree forced the NPS to enact a variety of rules, many of which affect those who wish to drive on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. For instance, the NPS had to establish and enforce larger closures around the nesting areas of protected species. If a closed area is violated, there are stiff consequences including closure expansions and the possibility of monetary fines and/or imprisonment for those involved in the breach.
What does this mean to you? Well, you and your family can still use your rig as a tool to explore or fish the magnificent Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but you'll want to stay abreast of closures. One of the best ways we've found to track closures is to utilize the NPS interactive Google Earth map that shows access status. This map can be found atwww.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/googleearthmap.htm. Closures typically take place during the bird breeding season from mid-March to mid- to late-August, and turtle nesting closures can occur until early November. More information on exploring the area via vehicle can be found at www.nps.gov/caha. Then click on "Off-Road Vehicle Use." By the time you read this, the NPS will be close to submitting a court-ordered ORV plan for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the final rule is scheduled to be published April 1, 2011. We'll keep you informed. Ken Brubaker