East to Edenton

For my wife, it had been one of those miserable weeks. By Friday, she was stressed to the max, being driven nuts by her job as a commercial property manager. In contrast, it was a pretty good week for me. It was day five of my seven-day-off cycle in my work as an EMS helicopter pilot. I spent the entire five days holed up in my video-editing suite completing an aviation safety video and I was ready for a change of pace. Time to go flying. I wanted to give my wife a mini-vacation to a surprise destination. But where?

The mountains would be packed with people and traffic, and the weather picture made mountain flying seem more challenging than relaxing, so that was out. What about east, to the coast? Well, more crowds and besides, my wife enjoys staying at a bed and breakfast more than anything. Tough to find on the coast, near an airport and on short notice.

Then it hit me. About a year ago, I was on a medical flight to Edenton, N.C. Although normally outside of our regular service area due to distance, a special circumstance found me and my medical crew picking up a patient there. While the crew was in the hospital getting the patient ready, I went over to the airport (EDE) to get fuel. This two-minute flight took me right over town, which sits on the bank of Albemarle Sound in northeast North Carolina. It has the look and charm of a small New England harbor town. While getting fuel, I asked about the town and quickly realized that I needed to return some day for a longer visit.

On Friday at 3 p.m. I was on the phone to Edenton Airport, where the extremely helpful attendant (a transplanted retiree from New York) took all the time I needed to answer my questions about B&Bs, available transportation, activities, and food. The plan came together quickly, and in less than 30 minutes I had lodging reservations, confirmed a nearby restaurant would be open late, and checked on the taxi service. I called my wife and asked her to get home ASAP. She did, and we were airborne by 5:30 p.m. for the 11?2 hour flight from my Salisbury, N.C. (RUQ) base to Edenton, 193 nm away. She still didn’t have a clue as to where we were headed.

The airport is attended only until 5 p.m. so, when we arrived, we went to the ramp area and tied down. There was not another plane there and the ramp looked big enough to park a fleet of DC-3s. The lobby of the terminal building was open and we called a taxi for the $10 ride to town. Twenty-two minutes later we were pulling into the parking lot of our chosen B&B, the Granville Queen.

Our room was the “Egyptian Queen,” which included two 800-pound bronze sphinxes staring at the bed. We obviously had the best-known room in town, because whenever any of the town folk asked us where we were staying, they immediately followed with, “Are you in that room with the sphinxes?”

The first permanent settlement in North Carolina, Edenton is considered the “mother town” of the state. Edenton at once became the focal point of civilization in the province, the capital of the colony, and the home of the royal governors. Originally incorporated in 1715 as “The Towne on Queen Anne’s Creek,” and later as ‘’Ye Towne on Mattercommack Creek” and, still later, as “The Port of Roanoke,” it was named Edenton in 1722 in honor of Governor Charles Eden.

In 1728 Edenton became the colonial capital of North Carolina, and it soon became the cultural and economic capital as well. Hundreds of ships made the town a regular port of call, offloading food, goods and slaves, and shipping the prolific agricultural products of the region to European ports. The result was a thriving plantation economy.

My wife and I sampled some of Edenton’s colonial past with a trolley tour. The homes and buildings of the Edenton historical district are not reconstructed, but are the restored originals. More than 25 houses and public buildings comprise the North Carolina State Historic Site, and many special events and seasonal tours add emphasis to the town.

There are no malls near Edenton. The main street, lined with small shops, “mom-and-pop” business, restaurants and cafes are all within easy walking distance of the B&B’s and inns. We walked to the waterfront to enjoy a relaxing afternoon surveying the beautifully restored, centuries old homes. The surrounding countryside also boasts many plantations that once were the economic backbone of the area.

This is definitely small town heaven, but with it come small town priorities. Our cab driver told us his weekend schedule so we would know when he was available. (There was another cab service in town as well.) One of the art stores was closed on Saturday due to a family wedding, and the town pretty much closes up on Sunday, so the best trick is to arrive Friday night and leave Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. The airport is a large facility with more than adequate parking and fuel service, and with friendly attendants.

Sometimes the best things happen with minimal notice and planning. Visiting Edenton was one of them. For three times the cost of a “$100 hamburger,” my wife and I once again used our airplane as a time bandit to lengthen our weekend, visit a new place, and send all the stress somewhere else.

Guy R. Maher is a business owner and aircraft appraiser with more than 12,000 hours in general aviation airplanes and helicopters. He is an independent buyer’s agent and flight instructor for type specific initial and recurrent training. He can be contacted through the above e-mail address, or by calling 704-287-3475.

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