Thursday, August 6, 2009

Outer Banks

Tuesday we headed out to mosey our way down toward Ocracoke. We’d originally thought we’d spend the afternoon in Williamsburg, but after the two presidential homes the day before, we decided a break from historical sites would be a good idea. Kathy wanted to see Virginia Beach, so we drove in that direction, getting there in the early afternoon. We drove into town and decided that there was absolutely nothing at all appealing about it—a combination of the worst of Atlantic City meeting the worst of Las Vegas—with everything as big and fake as the monkey in the waterslide park we passed.

We decided to double back and drive on toward Ocracoke. We went on into North Carolina, passed Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers Monument, and stopped for the night in Nags Head, North Carolina at the First Colony Inn. The place was built in 1932 and looked like a weathered, traditional beach hotel with the wide wraparound verandas, a library, and an outdoor swimming pool in the back near the path to the beach. We were staying in the Alis Chapman room, named for one of the few women who traveled to the US from England

with other colonists in 1587.

Since the pool looked clean (as compared to the pool at the English Inn which had been disgusting) and it was a bit before sundown, we decided to take a swim. We had the pool to ourselves, the sun was out, and it was great. We then went back to our room, changed and headed out to Owens’ Restaurant for what turned out to be an amazing seafood meal with way too much food for us to finish.

The next morning we headed to take the Cape Hatteras ferry to Ocracoke. We got there reasonably early but the lines were very long and it took almost two hours before we even got on board the ferry. Even then it was only because of luck that our car was allowed on board. There turned out to be one space left on the boat and the truck first in the line that was being loaded onboard was too big to fit so, since we were the smallest car in the front of a line, they took us. The ferry ride was uneventful and after about 40 minutes we got off and continued to drive to Ocracoke through a combination of beautiful sanddunes with few people and towns like Cape Hatteras, Rodante, and Frisco.

In Ocracoke we stayed at Blackbeard’s Lodge in a room that was very well kept and clean but had the tiniest bathroom possible—probably a small closet that had been converted, so small that the sink had to be put in the bedroom instead of the bathroom.

(The door in this picture that looks like it’s opening into a closet is the bathroom.) Ocracoke itself was a cute little town with lots of people walking and biking around the main street and the nearby beaches were really beautiful. The combination of the type of beaches and small town with little auto traffic reminded me a lot of both Chincoteague, VA and Provincetown, MA, though I didn’t like it quite as much (and neither of the other places required waiting at a ferry for a long while).

Once we brought our bags into the room, we headed to the nearest beach that had a board walk and public bathroom area connected to it. It was easy to get to, had good parking, and, while there were folks on it, it wasn’t really crowded, perhaps because of the strong wind or the clouds. That evening, after Kathy had a swim, we headed to the Back Porch, a nearby restaurant to eat. The food was good but the waitress was “busy”—not that she was overwhelmed with work, but she thought herself so busy that it came across negatively in everything she was doing.

Thursday we headed out to a beach that was a bit further from Ocracoke and without bathroom facilities or boardwalk—near some ponies--- and so was almost empty. We’d brought some sodas, crackers, and cold cuts so we spent a large part of the day there reading, watching ghost crabs, gulls, terns (along with a few ibises and pelicans), and riding waves in the ocean. The sun was out, the water wasn’t too cold, and it was a perfect day for relaxing. In the late afternoon we headed back to the hotel so I could check online for questions and postings my students were making and Kathy could swim in the pool. We ate in town, closer to the harbor where the fishing boats go out, then checked out the Ocracoke Lighthouse before returning to the hotel for the night.

Friday morning we got up early and left the hotel a little before 7 so we could be on the 7:30 ferry back to the mainland. We got there and there was only one other car waiting so they didn’t run the ferry and we had to wait until 8 to cross back. By then, there was a full ferry load of cars and trucks. We drove back through the Cape Hatteras Park, again passing beaches that looked much like those near Ocracoke. I think that, if I were to go to that part of the Outer Banks again, I’d probably stay in one of the towns there rather than having to do the ferry ride to Ocracoke. The beaches looked as beautiful and we would have saved a lot of waiting time.

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