Escaping from Myrtle Beach, we saw more - and more elaborate - miniature golf courses; we wish we could transplant them closer to our grandchildren! We continued northeast along the Golden Strand, through one beach resort after another and then into North Carolina. With a black head leading to a sharply defined white collar and grey wings, the laughing gull is easily identified.  This bird was posing for its picture on the rail at the side of the ferry. Laughing gull

Soon we attached ourselves to the end of a long line of cars to catch a ferry near the Cape Fear peninsula. Cape Fear itself is located near the tip of an island reachable only by pedestrian ferry, but we could see the lighthouse in the distance. Once again our luck (or our high moral character) held; we were one of the last vehicles to board. Those behind had another half hour to wait, a fact with which they were apparently familiar, since many came equipped with kites and frisbees to while away the time.

Our favorite part of the river crossing was the gulls noisily scrabbling for food thrown by the passengers and their children. At one point the captain came on the P.A. system and directed that no gulls be fed other than at the stern, because he didn't want them flying over the center of the ferry and pooping on passengers. Possibly the crew didn't want to have so much gull poop to wash down, either!

Lots of the ferry passengers headed for the North Carolina Aquarium near the end of the peninsula, but we continued our scenic drive after lunch. We had to call up to get directions to the Wilmington Residence Inn; the street wasn't shown on our map. It was in a suburban area, newly built up, called Landfall, and was quite pleasant.

The next day we walked through the historic district; there's a historical marker every block. Woodrow Wilson was a Presbyterian minister here, Mary Baker Eddy lived here, Washington slept here (that man sure slept around!) and even Whistler's mother (the lady, not the painting) was here in Wilmington. The U.S.S. North Carolina is tied up in the harbor for tours. A low azalea bush is a mass of pale pink flowers, with just a few spots of green leaves showing through. Azalea in Wilmington

The azaleas are at the peak of their color, as are wisteria, tulips, and just about every other colorful plant you can name. Next week starts the Azalea Festival, but flowers are on their own time-table and may be subsiding by then.

Whether or not the azaleas last, we think Wilmington is a charming destination for a leisure traveler, and, with its parks and walks and small riverfront shopping area, makes a nice stop much easier to navigate than Charleston. It's close to the ocean but not crowded.

The next day we gave our truck its 60,000 mile service, actually about 3,000 miles late. Driving to the GMC dealer we happened to notice a Barnes and Noble, so we checked it out. After a trip to the WalMart and typing some more genealogy, we looked for lunch.

Just down the strip mall from the B & N is South College Sandwich and Deli. A sign on its door advertised Beef On Weck, a sandwich just about unique to Buffalo, New York: sliced roast beef heaped on a salted kummelweck roll (weck) and served with dill pickle and horseradish. As we enjoyed the sandwiches, we noticed that they did not serve Buffalo wings, but they did have Haddock Fish Fry -- another special Buffalo meal. On the wall, along with the usual restaurant art, was a photo of the Buffalo lighthouse (not the Cape Fear lighthouse, mind you). Copies were for sale.

The waittress at the counter was a local, but we connected with the manager and spoke nostalgically about Buffalo. She had an unmistakeable accent, and said that lots of Buffalo folks have retired to Wilmington, where it's safer and quieter than Florida. We said we'd pass the word.