Travel PT: Eastern North Carolina (January-April 2017)

*by Whitney*

So it’s quite ironic that I’m just getting around to writing about our experience in Eastern North Carolina at the beginning of 2017… because we are actually about to go back there for the end of 2017! In a recent change of events, we’ve accepted contracts to return to this same location for December 2017-March 2018. Stay tuned for more on that later! Now a look back at our first experience there (spoiler: it was a good one)…

Timeline: January-April 2017

At this time we were finishing up our contracts in Fayetteville, NC and accepted jobs on the coast of North Carolina. Jared was going to be working in Swansboro, NC and I was going to be working in Morehead City, NC. We had previously never heard of these cities, and maybe you haven’t either. They are right by Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle NC, which we’d vaguely heard of as vacation destinations, as well as Jacksonville NC (not FL), which is where Camp Lejune marine base is. We were really excited because it was winter, and we were headed to the beach! Although it still wasn’t quite as far south as we had envisioned ourselves for the winter–we had hoped for Florida or Georgia– it would do! We were also very excited because the jobs were outpatient orthopedics with the same company, which put us at 3 jobs in a row in outpatient! Win!

Getting There

Well of course nothing can be easy or go smoothly when we move! The weather had been pretty moderate up until this point in NC, until the night before our move there was some winter weather and freezing temps. We awoke the morning of the move to all of our connections being frozen! So we had a really tough time getting the camper unhooked from the water, sewage, electricity, etc. We had a little trouble getting the truck started because it’s a diesel which doesn’t start easily in cold weather. But once we finally got going and hit the road, it wasn’t too long of a drive, about 3 hours. We arrived safely at our campground (which was in Newport, NC, halfway between jobs), pulled in, parked, cut off the truck, went inside for a few minutes, came back out to start the truck so we could get the camper unhooked and set up, and the truck wouldn’t start! After a little while of fooling with it and letting it sit, it finally did start and we were able to get set up. Next we figured out the water at the sites was frozen! So we weren’t going to be able to have running water that night until it warmed up and could thaw out the next day (and we started our new jobs in the morning, great). Also we had what I lovingly called a “poop-sicle” going on at our sewage drain on the camper, where it had frozen from the inside. So we were worried this was going to thaw the next day and turn into a big mess. I think we put a bucket under the sewer drain just in case. So about the truck, we were on empty, so we went to get fuel for the drive to work the next day. When we cut it off at the pump, it wouldn’t start again. We ended up having to get it towed from the gas station. We did think ahead and brought the other car just in case, so we were at least able to get back home–to our camper with no running water– for the evening. Clearly we were off to a great start in Eastern NC!


Car Troubles

Luckily for us, we were going to orientation the first day together and could get by with only one car. We ended up with quite the ordeal with our whole vehicle situation while we were there. We had to get several things fixed on the truck from the initial breakdown (I’ll write more on this later in a separate post about camper/truck problems) and it was in and out of the shop a lot. My 2004 Trailblazer was also having problems, so I had left it at home in Virginia over the holidays and borrowed my mom’s car in the meantime. So we figured we’d have to rent a car for a while for Jared to drive to work since the truck was in the shop. However, on the very first day, my coworkers already amazed me with how sweet they were! One of them offered to drive me to work for a few days while we were getting the truck repaired, because it wasn’t too far out of her way. Later when we were still dealing with car troubles, another coworker even offered to let us borrow her husband’s personal truck because he used his work truck all the time. We didn’t take her up on this, but we were so grateful to everyone for being so helpful and nice!

In the next week or so (and over a thousand dollars later after fixing the truck), my mom came to visit, and she rented a vehicle to leave with me so that she could take her car back. But while she was in town, I actually ended up buying a new-to-me SUV! So we finally had the truck back and I had a new vehicle! (And several months later after repairing my Trailblazer I was able to sell that for a very small profit). I bought a used 2015 Hyundai Tucson with only 26k miles on it, which I’ve been very happy with so far! The only issue we had with this was that because I purchased the car in NC and I’m a Virginia resident, they had to get tags from the Virginia DMV sent in to the dealership. Something went wrong with the communication, and they were not able to get my tags in by the time my 30 day tags expired. So after 30 days, I wasn’t legally allowed to drive my car because it wasn’t titled/tagged to me. So fortunately the dealership was able to give me a loaner car, which I ended up having for several weeks until they finally got my tags in. This was a little annoying, but at the same time it was pretty cool because I wasn’t putting miles on my new car, and the loaner was a neat hybrid Hyundai Sonata which got awesome gas mileage! We also later had to get additional repairs on the truck, and again I was able to rely on my awesome coworkers for rides to and from work instead of having to get a rental. Suffice to say, dealing with car troubles is never any fun, but it’s definitely that much worse when you’re far from home and your usual support systems, but my new friends/coworkers definitely helped us out!

Our Jobs

So as you can tell, we had pretty good coworkers. I was even able to refer my friend/PT school roommate/fellow travel PT to join me at this location for a contract because they  needed an additional PT. It was great to be reunited with her in the same city and work at the same clinic! Overall Jared and I liked working at our respective clinics. There were some pros and cons, but that’s the case with almost any job. The jobs were a lot less hectic than the clinic where I had previously worked, so that was nice to be in a little more relaxed atmosphere. We had 30 minute treatment slots, generally overlapping into the next treatment; 1 hour evaluation spots; and averaged about 10-12 patients per day. While there, I was also able to assist in helping one of my coworkers develop a revised protocol for rotator cuff repairs for their clinic, so that was a good experience for professional development.

The Location

As for the location, we loved it! This area is a well kept secret (shhh….) as far as we’re concerned. It’s called the “Crystal Coast” of NC, and it’s actually an extension of the Outer Banks, but less remote than most of the OBX. It’s a relatively small community, but has all the beauty and fun of being at the beach. It’s not over-commercialized or over-crowded like Myrtle Beach. Granted, we were there in the winter, so I know it gets busier in the main tourist season. But regardless, we had a great time there.

We had fun exploring the local towns of Morehead City, Swansboro, Cedar Point, Beaufort, Atlantic Beach, and Emerald Isle, including restaurants, bars, shops, museums, trails, a fort, festivals, beaches, marinas, movies, local theatre, shag dancing, and taking in gorgeous sunsets.

We didn’t take as many weekend trips per se while we were there, because we really enjoyed the local area a lot. We did take one weekend trip to Wilmington, NC, where I had been previously but Jared had not. We drove to New Bern, NC for the day, where I also had been but Jared had not, and I got to see an old friend from undergrad there. We also drove out to nearby Cedar Island and took the ferry to Ocracoke Island, which is part of the Outer Banks. We enjoyed watching the sunrise from the ferry and walking all around the quaint island before it got too busy for the main tourist season.

The Weather

For the most part the weather was great while we were there (after the first night!). The temperatures averaged high 30’s to high 50’s in Jan-Feb, and then as we got toward March-April it was 50s-70s. We even had a weekend of bathing suit/beach weather in February! The only downfall we failed to recognize about being so close to the water in the south was the potential for mold. I found this out the hard way after not looking in a closet full of summer shoes for a while, and then upon opening it found that everything was covered in mold! This also could be attributed to the differences in inside and outside temps when being in a camper, because we use space heaters and/or propane central heat inside vs. the contrast of the cold weather outside. But after dealing with this mold situation–which included throwing away every single pair of shoes in that closet, cleaning up mold from the walls and floor inside the closet, cleaning out and washing every piece of clothing in another closet–we realized we needed to take measures to prevent this in the future! We bought 2 small dehumidifiers, several moisture absorbing buckets and hanging bags for the closets and other spaces, and we started using the fan/vent more in the bathroom after hot showers.

Saying Our Goodbyes

All good things must come to an end, especially when you’re a traveling therapist. We tried to extend our contracts for longer when we were there, because everyone kept telling us how great the summers were there. Unfortunately, they didn’t need us any longer as travelers, so we had to move on. As usual, we failed to get together with our coworkers very much outside of work until the very end–with the exception of hanging out with my old roomie who I got to see quite a bit! Toward our last week or so, I had a fun girls outing for dinner & drinks with my coworkers and solidified the fact that I really liked them! And on our last day of work, we got together with all of our coworkers from my clinic and Jared’s for lunch. We then went to a brewery with some of them afterwards, and again I found myself thinking, why didn’t we hang out more while we were here?!

Luckily for us this time, we actually get to go back there soon and see our friends again! Although this was not originally in our “Travel Plan for the Next 4 Years,” we’re really excited to be going back to one of our favorite places we’ve been so far!

But first…

I do still need to catch up on what we did April-November 2017! Stay tuned for my posts on our adventures in Northern Virginia and Western North Carolina!

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