Unfolding the Map
We ride a ferry with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) to New Bern, a place where an invention by a pharmacist has repercussions for all of our health, dental hygiene, and Super Bowl entertainment during time-outs. Click on the map to orient yourselves, and leave a comment if you'd like - you're always welcome to do so.
"I didn't want to drive the route I'd come the day before, so I headed toward the free ferry across the Pamlico River above where it enters the sound. Two hours later, the ferry, with a loud reversing of props, banged into the slip; three of us drove aboard, and we left in an uproar of engines, water, diesel exhaust, and birds. Laughing gulls materialized from the air to hang above the prop wash and shriek their maniacal laugh (Whitman thought it nearly human) as they dropped like stones from twenty feet into the cold salt scuds; some entered beak first, some with wings akilter, but all followed the first to see an edible morsel, real or imagined.
"New Bern, on the Neuse River, was well-preserved antebellum Georgian houses....as railroads deveoped in North Carolina, New Bern lost its importance as a port city, and "progress"came slower, the old ways remained longer....As a result, New Bern is an architecturally interesting city where the Old South still shows on the streets rather than in a museum."
Blue Highways: Part 2, Chapter 13
New Bern, North Carolina
Your fun fact about New Bern for today. New Bern is the place where Pepsi Cola was created. Why is this important to me? First of all, I work on the campus of the University of New Mexico, which evidently has granted some kind of franchise rights to Pepsi. If you go to a place on campus that sells food, or if you go to any of the campus stores, all you can get is Pepsi.
Second, because of this, I probably drink a Pepsi a day. Besides black tea sodas are the only way I get any caffeine. My wife thinks I am a communist or at least un-American because I never developed a taste for coffee. However, sodas are bad enough. The last time I had blood work done, my blood sugar was a little high. I need to cut down on the sugar, but having that can of Pepsi seems to keep me going in the afternoon.
Third, I don't even really like Pepsi all that much. If I drink a soda, I prefer a regular Coke. But when Pepsi is all you can get, you take Pepsi. So I drink Pepsi, and my blood sugar rises. Thanks, Caleb Bradham. Pepsi was created by Mr. Bradham in New Bern at his pharmacy and fountain in 1898. Originally known simply as "Brad's Drink," it was renamed Pepsi Cola possibly because of the pepsin and kola nut in the original recipe. Either that or it was supposed to give one pep, as Bradham sought to create an invigorating drink that would aid in digestion. You have to love the first celebrity endorsement by race car pioneer Barney Oldfield, who enthusiastically pitched Pepsi as "a bully drink...refreshing, invigorating, a fine bracer before a race." Can't you just see someone saying that? It's a long way from where we've come in advertising, where a "bully drink" ad evolves over time into a 1980s commercial Michael Jackson meeting a pint-sized imitator on an inner-city street (he also filmed another Pepsi commercial in 1984 where his hair caught on fire which injured him badly) and the more current commercial where Coke and Pepsi deliverymen fight in a diner.
Just writing this makes me think that I'm going to quit soda altogether for awhile.
As for LHM's quote above, I really like his description of the ferry ride across the Pamlico River. I absolutely love river ferries. I hadn't really thought about them before I lived in New Orleans. My wife and I would occasionally have the opportunity to ride the ferry across from downtown New Orleans to the Algiers neighborhood across the Mississippi. On the ferry, one gets a new perspective of the city. On the ferry, I felt the power of the river as the ferry strained against the current. The air was always cooler down on the river, and the buildings of downtown took on a new significance as the ferry pulled away from the dock. Occasionally, a ship or barge passed by - the oceangoing ships rising stories above us as their powerful engines propelled them upstream or gliding silently as they rode the current downstream, or barges low on the water but taking forever to pass by, their pilot boats emitting a steady engine noise as they passed by. We'd pass by debris floating on the water, brought from who knows where and going to places unknown. And of course, there were the gulls, their cries still audible above the engine's low rumble.
Ferry rides always brought me into reflective moments, broken only as the engines revved the ferry into place at the dock, and we walked to our car to wait for the signal to debark. On misty nights, when the ferry would cross the river to where we waited, you could see nothing except faint lights growing brighter and brighter until, almost like a ghost, the ferry would, almost quietly and daintily, slip into place and lower its gate. The boathand opening the barrier, his hoodie pulled up over his head, seemed otherworldly, like Charon himself beckoning with a sweep of his hand our souls' passage into another world.
If you want to know more about New Bern
Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on New Bern
City of New Bern
IndieRegister.com (alternative newspaper)
New Bern Convention and Visitors Bureau
New Bern Sun Journal (newspaper)
Our New Bern (blog)
Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens
Wikipedia: New Bern
Next up: Wallace, North Carolina