Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trip Home

After breakfast we packed up and headed west.  The weather was nice but the wind  had changed they said rain was on the way.  There are two long bridges that back in the 60's were ferries.  One of them has a center part that slides sideways to let the boats pass through.  We got the red light and the bridge opened up for a boat to pass - always interesting to watch.

There is not much of interest on this trip back to Raleigh.  The traffic was much lighter than we had imagined so we were going to arrive in Durham much earlier than we had imagined. We stopped to pick up lunch and arrived at Jeff's house about 12:30.  We had a nice afternoon.  Jane helped Robin plant a herb garden and Ben spent time watching some WW2 movies with Daniel.

We went to a great Thai restaurant for dinner and believe it or not I had some more shrimp - Shrimp Tempura Appetizer and Coconut Soup.  Both were excellent.  Ben had Sweet and Sour Pork.

Coconut Soup

Shrimp and Veggie Tempura

We watched Memphis Bell - Daniel is really into WW2 planes - well any planes to be honest.

We enjoyed our short visit but knew we had to get home so even tho we would drive probably all day in the rain we started home after a quick stop at Trader Joe's.

And rain it did all the way except for maybe 15 or 20 minutes around Greensboro. Going over the mountains as we entered Virginia was very dense fog.

As we turned south on I81 the rain continued and we arrived safely home.  The only issue of the day was the 5th disc of our book would not come out of the player in the Sprinter...so we don't know how our mystery ends!  Hope it will come out when we get home so I can return to library.

About 6:00 the rain stopped enough to unload the Sprinter. I had hoped the rain would have washed all the pollen and tree junk off my car but no such luck - the pollen yes but not the oak squiggles - no idea what to call them - but they covered the car as well as everything else.  Guess some serious clean-up will occur if the sun ever comes out to dry everything out. 

Nice to be home - lots of laundry done, groceries bought, and mail sorted - we have recovered!  Nice short trip to get in our beach fix and see family.  Sure did not take many family photos!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Nags Head - extra day


Today was our extra day to enjoy the beach.  We have done everything we wanted to do with the exception of Ben really having a good kite flying success.  He got the kite up one day but not to suit him.  So our day would have a couple goals – fly the kite, enjoy the sunshine and beach, and of course eat some more seafood.

After breakfast Jane headed for the sunshine on the deck.  Ben got hung up in the room with a guy who was replacing the lock to the balcony. It was rusted and almost impossible to get open and closed.  Ben thinks this is a hotel that has been upgraded to Comfort Inn standards and barely meets them.  The windows and doors were all put in during the time he was doing curtain wall construction so I guess he should know.  Very nice service, the hotel itself has good beds, linens etc. but the basic structure is old.  Certainly has everything we need – but getting in and out that door was an issue.  I reported it and within 15 minutes the guy was there fixing it!

Ben had great success this morning with his kite.  It was very difficult to get a good photo with both Ben and the kite in it – the sun was so bright I could barely tell what I was taking….I think I must have taken 15 or so and only got 2 that had both Ben and kite! 
Ben Flying his Kite

We enjoyed our dinner last night and Ben had been eyeing the she crab soup so we went back to Miller’s for a light lunch.  Ben had she crab soup, Jane had the Miller’s Signature salad and we split ½ pound of steamed shrimp.  All was excellent! 

Miller's Signature Salad

Steamed Shrimp

She Crab Soup

Did a bit of driving around – Jane wanted to go to the south end of Nags Head – well it looks just like the rest of the beachfront with cottage after cottage.  But south from Whalebone Junction – where 58 and 12 join is nothing but cottages.  We are the last large hotel, there is a restaurant across the street and several more north of us – we are beachfront right near Whalebone Junction.  Jane kept wanting to find the Whalebone Junction sign…we finally found one that said Whalebone District.  Things change!

We visited a seafood market to investigate seafood to take home in freezer.  Not so sure it is worth the trouble – we will check in Wanchese on our way out tomorrow. 

Watching the ocean from the now shaded balcony, writing my blog, and reading will fill my restful afternoon.  Ben took a nap and will maybe get in the water.  Jane – not going to risk walking in that soft sand…would love to walk in the surf but going to skip it this time.  Ben made it into the ocean or so he says – I waited a few minutes and went out on the balcony to take his photo – I got a photo but it was of him coming up the stairs from the beach to the deck!  He says he got both feet in the water and that it was very cold.  Later looking up the water temperature on the internet it said temp was 60.

Back from the "swim"

Our last dinner was at Owen’s Restaurant.  It is an old standby here – same family has managed it for 70+ years.  It had great ratings as did Miller’s.  Well Owen’s won in every category but the hush puppies.  We had the Mariner’s Broiled Platter and split it – perfect in both food and size of serving.  Broiled scallops, shrimp, rock fish, and a cheesy crab dish that is the house specialty.  All broiled to perfection and served with a mashed potato dish and crisp green beans. The restaurant split the food for us - unusual. Usually they just give you an extra plate. Jane not realizing she would be getting the green beans , had a house salad with a very tasty poppy seed dressing.  All in all a great ending for our seafood extravanganza this week!   The hush puppies were very similar to Miller’s but Miller’s won by a hair for The #1 Hushpuppies for our week at the beach 2017!
House Salad

Mariner's Platter - half

Enjoyed a last evening on the balcony watching people get in their last rays of sunshine.  The sprinter is parked in the lot right below our room.  This it the lot that was cleared of sand this week. Over the winter the ocean topped the dunes and the sand washed down into the parking lot. There is quite a bit of wind tonight and our waitress said it was bringing 4 days of rain... glad we missed that!  We had two cloudy mornings and maybe 10 minutes of light rain. 
That Last Ray of Sunshine

Parking Lot

 Tomorrow morning we drive back to Durham and then home on Sunday.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nags Head


Nice  -well nice for a hotel breakfast – Ben said gravy and biscuits was very good.  I had egg, sausage and half a bagel.  Anything tastes pretty good looking out at the Atlantic Ocean!  
Atlantic Ocean at Nags Head South

One thing we were watching today is a guy driving a small bobcat with a front end loader on it – he is clearing the sand from the side parking lot right under our room.  After watching his process for about ½ hour it was amazing to see it was clear when we returned from our day trip – we were gone about 6 hours – he did it!

About 10 we headed north to Corolla to get a view of the 4th lighthouse.  Mile after mile of beach houses in all descriptions, sizes and colors.  I still like the older ones with the weathered cedar shingles.  It seems many of the houses have repair vans of every type – laying carpet, painting, cleaning etc.  Got to get these rental units ready for the season!  The further north you go there are a few more lots without homes but not many.  This area is not preserved as national park and nature preserves so it is very built up.  Ben and I both remember when you could go as far north as Kitty Hawk and then the road stopped.  Now it is house after house  with every kind of service business the beach visitors might want interspersed among them. 

We did drive on 158 as far as Wright Brothers Memorial and stopped to get a passport stamp.  The visitor Center is under construction so they had a temporary site with little if any exhibits.  The rangers were doing talks but there was a large crowd so we did not join in the group. 

Wright Brothers Memorial

We continued north…

We got out at the park in Corolla to photograph the lighthouse. The wait to climb would have been at least an hour – looked like an entire bus load of young people in line to go up.  When you looked up there were people all the way around the top!  There is a very nice park with picnic grounds and walking trails between the sound and the ocean.  We drove over to see the Whalehead Club -  a restored 1922 home built as a hunting retreat. We but decided not to take the tour.  Jane had to get out to guide Ben under a tree – the Sprinter air conditioner missed by just an inch or two.    
Currituck Light House

Whalehead Club

Beautiful clear and sunny day for a drive with very moderate temperatures in the 75-85 range.  We drove back as far as Duck and stopped for lunch.  We chose Aqua on the sound side and had a great lunch.  Jane had fish tacos and Ben had Crab Dip.  Both were excellent and we left full but not over full which means we can enjoy dinner!

Fish Tacos

Crab Dip

We drove all the way back to Nags Head on the beach road expecting the traffic to be bad but it was not bad at all.  I can only imagine what summer would be live.  April and May and perhaps September would be the best months in my humble opinion. We are playing “hotel” this afternoon.  Jane watching the birds and people from the balcony and Ben taking a nap and checking his schedule for next week. 

Comfort Inn South Nags Head getting windows washed

We made the  snap decision to extend our trip by a day when Ben realized he did not have an inspection on Monday – so an extra day at the beach, stay a night with Jeff on Saturday and return to Kingsport on Sunday….sounds good to me.

We have two restaurants we want to try – two old ones and both with good ratings.  Tonight we chose Millers on the Waterfront.  Jane had a broiled shrimp, scallops, and small crab cake.  Sides were really good choices – broccoli salad and dill carrots.  Excellent all the way around.  Ben had Organ Inlet Tuna with potatoes and carrots…after he sent it back to be cooked a little more he loved it. 

Broiled Seafood - The Trawler


Almost Sunset

  The view was very nice and if we had been about 30 minutes later it would have been a fantastic sunset.  Only problem was a table of about 12-15 people near us that were very loud.  Ben could not hear anything – well he could hear everything and nothing - sometimes his hearing aid makes matters worse!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Buxton to Nags Head


Peaceful night and up ready to head to the Orange Blossom Bakery for some breakfast treats – found it but alas closed on Tuesday and Wednesday!  Back down the road to our second choice which was right across the street from our motel – Fatty’s.  This is a breakfast and lunch spot that rents all kinds of beach gear and offers tours in the summer – they are not into that yet but did serve good biscuits.  We observed the biscuits and sausage gravy that came out to a table nearby – glad we did not get that – we would have been down for 2 hours – it was a huge plate with some type of potatoes.
Our Motel - immediately south of photo below

Route 12 where road was rebuilt

Headed north after the biscuit and some coffee.  The area is a narrow sliver of land here and it was obvious where they had rebuilt the dunes and road.  Not much to see along this stretch of Hwy 12.  North a few miles is Avon which 40 years ago was nothing.  Ben remembers his cousins coming here a few years before he first came here with his family in the late 50’s – there was nothing on the south end of Hatteras.  His uncle and cousins went all the way to Ocracoke to hunt ducks and they had to travel on the mail boat. Avon Ben recalls was only a gas station and perhaps a few houses – now it is a thriving community pizza, Chinese, Mexican and of course seafood restaurants – a grocery, post office, several gas stations, lots of beach rentals and of course lots of rental houses. 

Then a long stretch of national seashore before coming to several other communities.  I had wanted to stop at the Life Saving Building – an old Coast Guard Station but it was not open yet.  There are parking areas with access to the ocean. Now you must get a license for driving a 4 wheel drive off road – don’t remember that 20 years ago.

Finally we arrived at Bodie lighthouse and stopped for a photo and to search for the lighthouse book Robin wanted for Daniel’s class. Success on both counts.  Then after a short stop at the Pea Island Wildlife Visitor Center we continued into Nags Head.  The bridge at Organ Inlet is being rebuilt or at least the access roads are being raised again due to storm damage in past years.
Dunes built up to prevent road flooding

Construction at Organ Inlet

Bodie Lighthouse

It was close to lunch time but we were not hungry at all so headed inland to check out Roanoke Island. It had been over 40 years since we had visited this area and heard the stories of the Lost Colony. We found it and watched the video. Little if any memories of the previous visit which was with John and Barkley Whitehead.  We were there with our small children and saw Andy Griffith and have some photos taken with him.  We drove through the Manteo Waterfront which has been “improved” and now resembles downtown Gatlinburg.  We did not stop – in case you notice not much walking on this trip. Jane is babying a knee that it seems is nearing need for a replacement. The symptoms developed rapidly upon ceasing taking medication for arthritis in back. Interesting not much pain in back but knee is another story.  Injection in knee was a possible short term remedy but it does not seem to be working.

We stopped at an old tried and true seafood restaurant in Manteo – Darrell’s - Jane had a flounder sandwich and Ben had a soft shell crab sandwich.  Both were excellent.   

We headed back to Nags Head and just south of Whalebone Junction we found Comfort Inn South our home until Friday when we head back to Durham.
From our balcony

Ben Trying - maybe tomorrow
Beautiful Restful Beach Scene

 After a bit of a rest we headed out to the beach – Jane to sit in the sun and Ben to try flying his kite. The beach is wider than at Buxton and not very crowded.  There were several families playing in the surf – too cold for me but they seemed to be having a great time.  Not enough wind for kite flying – maybe tomorrow.  Nice beach though.  Later we enjoyed the view from the balcony outside our room.  The Comfort Inn is nice – interesting that you do check in on the first floor but nothing else is on that floor – breakfast, lobby with literature, laundry, computer room etc is on 2nd floor as is the access to deck, pool and beach.   They must just have built the 1st floor to flood. 
We had a nice dinner at Sugar Creek Seafood.  
Nice View for dinner

Jane had a salad and coconut shrimp appetizer.  Ben had broiled scallops.  The scallops were excellent – the coconut shrimp also excellent.  The sauce for shrimp and the salad dressing was nothing at all special – believe they came straight from a jar.  Tomorrow we will explore a bit further into Nags Head.

Ocracoke to Buxton

Woke up when we did today – no schedule and our distance to travel was not far.  This is really a nice cottage.  I was impressed with the new furnishings and paint but realized when I took a shower they had really thick towels and high end shampoo and soaps.  So old time look with high end small things!  I would definitely stay here again. 

We drove a short way to the Pony Restaurant – in reading back we had eaten breakfast here I 1998 – easy as the distance was only a block or two and it had good ratings.  We ordered French toast and ham and split the order – just the right amount.  Coffee was great and the food was good. 

We headed north at about 10:00 with a stop at the Pony Pen and a walk over to the ocean.  Not sure how many ponies but they were enjoying their breakfast.  The National Park Service provides food and a vet when needed but otherwise the ponies live pretty much on their own in a large fenced area.  The morning was very cloudy with lots more wind than yesterday but things are expected to clear later in the day. Very few people out and about.  We saw one person at the Pony Pens and no traffic at all. 

Pony Pens

No one in either direction

When we got to the end of the island we pulled up in line for the ferry and loaded within about 10 minutes.  The ferry here is much smaller – about 20-30 cars or trucks.  The crossing was about an hour.  Still very cloudy, windy and there were some small swells, unlike yesterday which was very smooth.  We experienced a few rock and rolls but it was not uncomfortable.  We passed two ferries in the channel as we crossed.  It was obvious they had to dredge a channel for the ferry travel and you could see the red and green bouys along the channel.  Most of the way we were within sight of land.
Our Ferry to Hatteras

Driving on the Ferry

Interesting when we drove off the ferry we were right in the town of Hatteras.  Ben wanted to drive as far south as you could go on the island before we headed north – not far – to a museum of the Wrecks of the Atlantic which was a strange looking building.  We did not go inside.  The huge houses were built right on the ocean and we could not help but wonder how they fared in the hurricanes.

Monster Houses on Hatteras as we exit ferry

We looked around in Hatteras Village for a bit and then headed north to Buxton where the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located and where we would spend the night.  Keeping an eye out for our motel and for a place for lunch along the way; we headed first for the Lighthouse.  We discovered with reading the past blogs we had come back for a short visit in 2005 spending several nights in Nags Head and coming south to Buxton to see the recently moved lighthouse.  This was a “recovery vacation” after Jane had worked a month – 6 weeks after the Hurricane Katrina response of the Red Cross.  It was funny reading the blog because about all Jane did was sleep!

At the lighthouse we enjoyed seeing and photographing the lighthouse, looking for the old cape, and the old campground.  Ben was delighted to find a denim shirt that was “perfect”!  The sun has come out and it is a pleasant day – still windy but very pleasant. 

Hatteras Light in Buxton

Back in Buxton we settled on Diamond Shoals Restaurant for lunch – had soup – Jane Basil, Tomato, Crab Bisque and Ben Clam Chowder.  Both were super excellent.  We shared an order of large shrimp in a rice coating to dip in sweet chili sauce….again super excellent…. Really nice lunch and not heavy at all. 

Tomato Basil Crab Bisque

Shrimp with Sweet Chili Sauce

Our lodging – Cape Hatteras Motel is right on the old cape.  It is RIGHT on the ocean – Ben asked them isn’t this about where the hurricane cut through the island – they said yes, the road and a lot of the beach was totally washed away and had to be restored and the road rebuilt. I remember the road was out and the Red Cross provided food for several days or weeks - don't recall how they got it there. It was during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 . Our room is
on the lowest floor but we still had to climb about 10 steps to reach the rooms.  We are probably 30 feet from the surf and with all this wind there is very heavy surf as you can see in the photos.  Nice deck outside the rooms with rocking chairs – I thought how wonderful I can sit and watch Ben fly his kite….nice thought but the wind blows the sand and it bites into your face so you don’t sit there long!  Enjoyable for a short time but not extended or restful. Ben opted not to fly his kite saying the beach was so narrow here he would hit the buildings or fall into the rough sea!  He made a wise choice!  There is always tomorrow. A photo indicates how close to the water we are now.
Taken from floor above us

Ben hiked down along the beach but said there was about a 4 foot drop down to the surf most places.  Makes you wonder how long the motel is for this world!!  Interesting – the place is FOR SALE.  Don’t think I would want to buy it but it is a lovely place to stay for a week – day or whatever time you have to enjoy the beach.

There were a lot of people in Ocracoke yesterday but things here in Buxton seem slow. Most places look like they are in the midst of the spring clean-up to ready for the summer crowds.  I believe they were hit with one of the hurricanes last fall so imagine they are just now getting some things back in shape.

We did some restaurant research and almost went back to Diamond Shoals for dinner but chose Captain’s Table instead.  It was good as well – Jane had NC Shrimp and Ben had blue fish.  We were able to get Senior Portions again which was more than adequate for about ½ the cost of most dinners.   I forgot to take any photos but fish and shrimp are fish and shrimp.  Hush Puppy report – a bit too much flour for both of us – I still think Sanitary #1 but Ben says Ocracoke Oysters #1. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Morehead City to Ocracoke

We were up at 7:00 and left the hotel by 8:00. We stopped at Mickey D’s for coffee and a planned stop at the #1 bakery in Morehead City – right on our way out of town for some fresh baked goodies – no such luck as it was not open on Easter Monday!  So we stopped at another Mickey D’s for a biscuit and we were on our way to the Ferry.  You cross through Beaufort NC and follow the coastline through several tiny villages to the Ferry Terminal about 40 miles distant.  We arrived about 9:30 – got checking in and enjoyed about 45 minutes in a rocking chair on a porch watching the ferry come in, dock and prepare for their next crossing – ours.

Glad we had made the reservation as one vehicle was left behind – not certain how many vehicles had reservations and how many were first come first serve – but it would have been a long wait for the next ferry.  They really packed us on.  I could have gotten out but it would have been a tight squeeze!  We stayed in the Sprinter and read or napped the entire 2 hour 15 minute trip.  Most of the trip was without cell signal but off and on we got signal as I got one call and so did Ben. 

The weather was perfect with a smooth crossing. Landed and drove off on Ocracoke – much as we remembered it – our last visit here was in 1998 – so it has been almost 20 years.  From Trip Advisor Jane had selected lunch at Eduardo’s Taco Truck - # one on Ocracoke.  It was super great – too many choices and it was unclear exactly how to order – but wow when they came they were fantastic!  We both had Eduardo Specials – Jane Grilled Shrimp and Ben Jerk Chicken – the special part was double tortillas and the salsa – mango, tomato, avocado, and lettuce. They came with a great green or red sauce.   One big fat delicious taco!  Eating was under some umbrellas and trees in the smooth ocean breeze. 

After lunch we drove around the island – took photos of lighthouse – it also had not changed.  The one thing that seemed to have changed was everyone was driving around in golf carts – I imagine in summer when things get crowded it would be impossible to drive and park anywhere.  Space is at a minimum for sure. 

Finally we found our lodging for the night – Edwards of Ocracoke.  We had stayed her in 1998 and it also looks the same on the outside.  Jane thinks the inside has been seriously upgraded.  Nice old one room cottage with good beds, a TV, microwave, small fridge, a couple chairs and a nice new bathroom with shower – no tub.  There is also a screened in porch with a couple chairs and lots of outside seatingtage.  There are cottages with several bedrooms and probably full kitchen.  It is an old lodging – I think has been here for years.  We would stay again – you are parked right outside your cottage.

A nap was in order and afterwards we drove around a little more, found a few shops and spot for dinner. We went to Ocracoke Oyster Restaurant.  It was only OK but certainly not bad.  We had the special Flounder stuffed with Crab.  The flounder was very good but the crab stuffing not anything special.  The stir fry veggies were excellent. 

We tried to get a good photo of Silver Lake Lagoon but it was nearly impossible with so much build up around the water.  Ben remembers a house of 7 gables you always looked for across the water – we found it but you could no longer see it with houses built up on the lake side of the road.

Back home to write up and blog and download photos – 3 days behind!