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OBX Babymoon

16 August 2007

To balance out the rant from yesterday, I thought I’d share a little summary of our weekend in the Outer Banks… it was a wonderful weekend (barring lots of contractions and a couple of hormonal emotional outbursts) that we both really needed. Provided no one has made a surprise appearance by then, we’re planning another getaway in mid-September, most likely to Harper’s Ferry and Charles Town.

I had never been to the Outer Banks before — actually, I had never been in the Atlantic Ocean before. My concept of the East Coast and its beaches was previously limited to Virginia Beach in early March over seven years ago. In comparison to the rugged beaches of Northern California and the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean that I was used to associating with beaches, I was not impressed… and I haven’t made it a priority to get back to an East Coast beach since.

Beach HousesWe drove down on Friday afternoon, arriving at the islands around 5 p.m. I love, love, love the beach houses. Such a welcome respite from the characterless, boxy, vinyl siding McMansions that are taking over the DC Metro area.

First order of business was getting checked in to our lodging for the evening. I use the term “lodging” loosely… we made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to book anything and the only place with both availability and willingness to let us only stay one night (most have a two-night minimum on weekends) was the Ocean House Motel in Kill Devil Hills. They even feature rooms that are decorated in different themes. Now from the website, you might think it’s not so bad. But you would be wrong.

We should have known when Tim called for a reservation and the woman told him point-blank “it’s nothing fancy.” That should be noted as code for “upon arrival to your room, you will be greeted by a variety of shady characters sitting in lawn chairs outside their doors chain smoking Pall Malls and drinking from paper bags.” When we arrived to check in, the lady at the front desk gave us a key to the room and told us to “go make sure everything is okay” before she would take any money. Not having a whole lot of choice in our accommodations for the night, our room was going to have to be “okay” whether we liked it or not.

RagtimeThe faded sign on the door announced that our room’s theme was “Ragtime.” It came complete with an upright piano that had seen better days, a keyboard painted on the wall above the bed in place of a headboard and old Broadway posters in dollar store frames. I think the smell of stale cigarette smoke and rotting wood is standard in every room. The nook where the toilet sat was so narrow that Tim had to stand sideways to use it because his shoulders were too wide. At least it had really cold air conditioning… and… um, yeah. That’s about it.

Next, we headed over to Roanoke Island to catch “The Lost Colony“, an outdoor theatre production about the early settlements on the Outer Banks — most notably, the one that mysteriously disappeared without a trace. This year is its 70th anniversary and the amphitheater itself has been rebuilt twice after being destroyed — once by a fire and another time by (surprise) a hurricane. It was a great production to watch outside under the starry skies as night fell on the island. The crickets chirping and the warm summer breeze made you really feel like you were right there in the colony.

ChompAfterwards, we grabbed some grub at BK since we missed dinner before the show and went back to the room to eat and decide whether or not we dared to remove any clothing and actually sleep under the sheets. A thorough search revealed relatively clean bedding, but Tim still slept with more clothes on than I’ve ever seen him wear to bed.

The next morning, we rolled out of bed and threw on our swimsuits for a short visit to the beach. It was pretty overcast but mild and there was a steady wind, which made the waves choppy. One plus I will give First DipTim Swimthe motel is that it’s literally located ON the beach so we didn’t have to go far. And there it was that Blueberry & I took our first dip in the Atlantic. The waves were pretty ferocious and I look like I’m about to get swamped but we actually just waded about for a bit. Tim-daddy, on the other hand, dove right in for a refreshingly chilly morning swim.

Next, we went back to Roanoke Island to the Festival Park in Manteo for a self-guidedElizabeth II tour through the historical exhibits about the island and settlements. We watched a film done from the viewpoint of the Indian tribes who were there when the English came to settle and went through a neat interactive museum area that we decided Blueberry will have to visit again someday when he can better appreciate it. Outdoors, they have reenactment areas that give a glimpse in to the life of the early settlers. We got to go aboard a replica of the ship, Elizabeth II, that brought over one of the groups. It was hard to imagine being on such a small vessel with so many people!

Rats! NYC


No tour is complete without a stop by the souvenir shop, where we messed around with all the toys and I continued my vacation tradition (?) of having a picture with a rat near my face. Thankfully, this one was fake (the pic on the right was from our trip to NYC last fall and not fake).

All that walking around worked up an appetite, so we went back to the main islands and ate some scrumptious North Cackalacky BBQ at locally renowned Pigman’s. With full bellies, we hit the road south to Hatteras. The scenery was mostly sand dunes through the national park. The road is in a bit of a dip between the oceanside dunes and the soundside dunes so there’s not often a lot to see, but it’s still beautiful. The weather was phenomenally mild and we enjoyed lots of fresh ocean air and sun. I may have also enjoyed a nap while Tim drove. Stops included a brief beach visit and turning around to go back to a sno-cone (they call them sno-ball) stand. If anyone knows of a sno-cone place in Northern VA, please tell me. They are fifty million times yummier than 7-11 slurpees and I could eat one every day.

Upon arrival to Hatteras, we got a lodging book and ascertained that we were out of luck for a place to stay for the night. We decided to hop the free ferry down to Ocracoke and see if we had better luck there. WadersAbout a mile in to the ferry trip, we saw two guys standing out in the middle of the water, just about 50 yards from our boat. It was a bizarre sight and emphasized how treacherous the sandbars could be in this water. The ferries stay on very tight, well-marked courses across the channels.

We didn’t have any better lodging luck at Ocracoke. I was starting to feel like a bad modern interpretation of Mary & Joseph… minus that whole “virgin” thing. Everything was booked — from the seedy dives to the overpriced beach condos. Note to self: high season is a bad time to go somewhere without a reservation.

After dinner (the best crab cake I have ever had) at Howard’s Pub, we went to the general store to see if we could find something to sleep on, as it seemed that the beach was going to be our home for the night. Luckily, they had a few cheap tents. We bought one and headed to a campground on the edge of town. That may not sound so bad… and normally, I’d be all about camping out under the stars… except that, with this abdominal protrusion, I can barely get comfortable in my own bed with ten pillows and a body cushion system. And all we had were two beach towels, a bag of clothes and a small squishy travel pillow. We set up camp in the dark and settled in for the night. We agreed that although this wasn’t ideal, it smelled far better than our previous night’s stay and the sounds of the waves breaking on the ocean were a pleasant lullaby.Bellyrise

Around 4:30 a.m., we woke up for a trip to the bathroom. When we returned to the tent, we sat out and stargazed. We kept seeing shooting stars all over the place. Unbeknownst to us (someone told us later), we were catching the tail end of a meteor shower! Very cool surprise. When it was clear that further sleep was no longer an option, we walked over to the beach to enjoy a gorgeous pre-dawn sandy walk and an ocean sunrise. That alone made the whole night worth it.

We packed up camp and went to town in search of coffee. Off the beaten path we found a cute little coffee & smoothie joint that catered to tourists and locals alike. It looked like we were in for another day of perfect weather and we relaxed in an amazing hammock chair swing (maybe it just felt that good compared to the ground) while sipping our iced coffees and planning our day.

The idea was that we would spend most of the day at the beach and then take the ferry from Ocracoke to Swan’s Quarter (a two and a half hour ride) at 4 that afternoon and drive a couple of hours to Wilson, NC, where some family of mine were awaiting our visit. We decided to stop by the ferry station and buy tickets in advance. But not advance enough. We found out that all the ferries for the day were sold out, except for an 8 p.m. ferry to Cedar Island — not exactly where we were aiming to arrive. The station agents were extremely helpful and friendly. They recommended that we bring the car back around 12:30 to get in the standby line for the 4 o’clock ferry. We could park the car in line and leave it while we went back to the beach for the afternoon. If we didn’t get on standby, we’d have to take the 8 o’clock to Cedar Island or wait until the next morning. Sounded like a good plan to us.

Tim SunFinally, we hit the beach at about 8 in the morning. The islanders are very proud of the fact that Ocracoke Island Beach was just voted the #1 beach in the United States — beating out even a list of Hawaii & Florida beaches! I can see why: the beach was gorgeous and made even more beautiful by the fact that it was never even remotely close to being crowded. We spent a few hours cycling back and forth between playing in the waves and laying on the beach. Beach ChairBlueberry had fun body surfing with us and the waves were great. Next time, body boards are definitely in order. The cool weather made it nice to lay out and Tim dug me a custom-contoured beach “chair” because I couldn’t get comfortable laying on the towels! Please spare me the beached whale comments. I know where you all live and I will find you and hurt you.

Around noon, we gathered our things to go back to town and drop the car off at the ferry. We were going to get some lunch and figure out a way to get back out to the beach without a car, as it’s a bit of a hike to the other end of the island and scooters were on the pricey side to rent. Turns out, we never had to solve that problem. When we arrived at the ferry right at 12:30, an agent at the standby line said they had one slot for a small car (we were in Junior) that we could take. The caveat: the ferry was about to pull up anchor and we had about 2.5 seconds to decide. It sucked to feel so rushed and lose our afternoon of planned eating & playing but we decided not to take our chances and went for it.

Two and a half hours of hunger and sweaty naps in the car later, we arrived at Swan Quarter. I expected there to be… well, something there. Anything. There’s not. We drove to the next town. Nothing. It was an hour and a half before we got to a town with any sort of dining establishment and by that time, we were almost in Greenville so we pressed on. Once in Greenville, we gassed up, ate and called my family in Wilson to let them know we were early and got back on the road.

Family in Wilson includes my dad’s sister Cary and her husband, Doug, plus Cary’s daughter Mandy, her husband Marcus and their adorable daughter Lauren (and another one on the way!). It was my first time meeting Lauren and Tim’s first time meeting all of them. We stayed up for a while talking and Lauren was wound up from missing her nap and being up past bedtime to visit with us. It was really fun to see her in action, though… a good idea of what’s to come for us with an energetic little boy. We soon headed off for much-needed showers (other than the ocean, we had been without since Friday) and a night of sleep in the most comfortable bed in the world. The next morning, Cary treated us to homemade breakfast after letting us sleep in a bit. After breakfast, we went to their business office at the Crow’s Nest Trading Company for a tour and more visiting. We got to see how the catalogs are laid out and designed and the new warehouse addition that was recently added. Lauren entertained us the whole time with her computer work and phone play — she’s going to be quite a little businesswoman some day.

SonicBefore we left town, I had to stop at Sonic. It was our second visit this trip (the first at the new one in Fredericksburg on the way down). I love Sonic. I probably eat there almost daily when I’m in Kansas, or at least stop in for a drink. And that wrapped up our trip… followed by an uneventful drive home to Arlington.

It was a wonderful, much-needed weekend. Even though we spent as much time driving and looking for places to stay as we did anything else, it was fun to just get away, visit a new place, spend 24/7 together (we’re really good at that) and not think about home, packing, work, bills, the dog… Just getting away from home and leaving behind responsibilities and worries for a few days is one of the most cathartic things in the world.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. .Bittersweet. permalink
    16 August 2007 11:44

    Sounds like great fun and I ADORE that picture of you in your custom beach chair – it’s the cutest!

    Incidentally, Jimmy and I got really excited to try Sonic on our trip (we were in Oklahoma) … so we did. And came away thoroughly unimpressed. So, I can’t share in the Sonic love with you. :o(

  2. 16 August 2007 13:01

    You have to know what to order. Best bets are: coneys/anything topped with chili & cheese; coconut or banana cream pie shakes; cherry limeades; lemon berry slushes; onion rings and these things called ched’r bites that you can only get at certain locations. Everything else I can take or leave. I would never rank the burgers alongside the likes of Five Guys but Tim & I had the new Spicy Southwest SuperSonic burger that was by far the yummiest I’ve ever had from there.

    And, part of the charm (for me) are the associated memories… it was a childhood treat to go there for limeades, I had my first summer job as a carhop, and I’ve never lived anywhere else that has had a Sonic so it just reminds me of “home.” 🙂

  3. Marge permalink
    16 August 2007 17:06

    You look like a beach ball (and you can’t find me cause you don’t know where the house is in Maine! To redeem myself-they usually have a stand selling Hawaiian ice at the Arl.county fair (next week) and they’re 10x better than sno cones. XXXXOOOO

  4. 30 April 2008 14:17

    i was googling for a pic of a beach chair and that cute one of you in the sand showed up.
    so of course i had to read about your trip.
    you are a very good writer, i really enjoyed reading about it.
    and i LOVE the name for your baby lump. which im assuming now is a very cute todler :0)
    just wanted to let you know i enjoyed your page.
    Have a good one

  5. 1 July 2009 13:04

    I was reminiscing through this entry today & I clicked on the link for the motel in Kill Devil Hills… it was remodeled this year & it looks like they did away with the ancient room themes. Darn the luck. Probably better that way. 🙂

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