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A unique roadtrip involving llamas and bridges

It has been over a month since I returned to work. I feel like I am 90 percent myself again but on long days with meetings, I am usually exhausted when I get home.
I watched them from a distance.

About a month ago, I got an assignment for Southeast North Carolina magazine that intrigued me.
I was being sent to Bolivia to do a feature on a llama farm.  And for a few moments, I thought ‘I am going to South America.’ I wondered why but figured I would just go with the flow.
Then I learned there was a Bolivia in North Carolina. I learned something new that day.
To get to SundMist Pastures, I took an interesting journey across several bridges (my nemesis) to meet some of the coolest animals in the animal kingdom.

Llamas are domesticated South American camelids that are independent minded with lots of personality. They are herd animals so you can’t own just one because it would die of loneliness without others.
And you can’t keep two llamas in your backyard because they need space. They need less space than horses but more than a backyard.
My journey started benignly enough, with me traveling on I-40 singing and eating Skittles.  I drove across some minor bridges. Well, minor to most but a little nerve wrecking to me.
Ultimately, the goal was not to go across the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.
Anyway, I made it to SundMist Pastures with little trouble. I got to spend two magical hours learning about llamas.

Noelle is the official greeter there. She and other llamas live at SundMist and rotate between five summer pastures and five winter pastures.
Llamas don’t bite or scratch. Having Noelle sniff my nose, look into my eyes and let the others know that I was okay was one of the coolest experiences for me.
I learned so much about llamas to share with the readers of Southeast North Carolina magazine.
Vicki Sundberg and her husband, David Smith, own SundMist Pastures.
They don’t breed or sell llamas but she does shear them and uses their fiber to make scarves, hats and other items.
The other llamas

There are no set hours there and Sundberg said if people show up, they let them come. She would prefer that visitors call her in advance (910-269-1422 or 910-253-5612). There is no cost but donations are accepted.
It was not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon. I had planned to explore more of Bolivia but decided to start back because I didn’t feel comfortable crossing bridges in traffic or in the dark.
After having lunch in Leland, I said a prayer, took a deep breath and got on the road.
As I headed back to I-40, the goal was to veer off and head home. This should be where this column ends but it isn’t.
I didn’t veer off and soon, looming up ahead, was the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Like the monstrous Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has given me nightmares due to its drawbridge.
Let’s just say that there was lots of yelling and unkind words said. If my car could write, she would have a lot to say.
I crossed safely with a sigh of relief and realized another problem — I was now lost in Wilmington. A city I had never traveled in alone. I am usually the passenger in a vehicle with others. Nothing looked familiar and even if it did, what was I going to do. I drove until I stopped at a grocery store that looked friendly.
Inside there were three very helpful high school students who offered directions. I informed them that I didn’t want to travel back across the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge because I have a fear of bridges. I was told I would have to go back across. As I headed out, one very helpful chap yelled out that if the drawbridge opened as I crossed it, I wouldn’t die alone because others would be on the bridge with me.
To which I replied, “Why would you say this?”
His reply, “You will be thinking about what I said instead of focusing on your fear of the bridge. And you’re welcome.”
The kid was right. I thought I about what he said long after I had passed over the bridge.
I survived but now I have to go back to SundMist Pastures. After telling my son about my adventures, he said he was not only proud of me but thought it would make a great adventure for the two of us. He is excited about seeing real llamas face-to-face and driving across a drawbridge.
The things we do out of love and to be able to see llamas.

1. I am loving this warm weather!
2. Having supportive good friends!
3. Conquering my fear of bridges


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