Outer Banks - May 2007 Megamail

Hey everybody, Sam and I slipped away to the Outer Banks for a few days to get away from it all. Although it isn't as grand a trip as some of out others, it is still worthy of a Megamail, right?

Don't worry, most of the days go like: 'woke up late, sauteed ourselves on the beach for a few hours, grabbed a beer, or two, or three, and had a delicious dinner'. In fact, you probably don't need to know any more than that. But in case you are a glutton for punishment here you are:


Sam, I and the dogs packed up Sam's trusty steed Sancho to the brim for the three or so hour drive down to the Outer Banks, also known as OBX as seen on an annoying number of bumper stickers. It was packed to the rim because this trip was a delayed celebration of our third anniversary. We were supposed to go a few weeks ago during our actual anniversary; however we discovered a tumor on our dog Lola shortly before and that naturally needed to be removed. Don't worry, she is as Panzer-like as ever and the tumor was benign so we are all smiles now. But Lola was pissed for a few weeks as she had to wear that silly cone on her head. Poor girl.

Anyway, I had already prepared a menu and basically it was a week long celebration of sun, sand, surf, shampagne (hah, I know champagne starts with a 'c' but I was on roll there), and numerous succulent delights. So, that is why the car was packed to the rim. Oh, and scuba equipment takes up a lot of space too.

So as we near the Outer Banks, and in particular our destination of Kitty Hawk, we begin to notice a whole lot of bikers. No, not the Armstrong type, the Harley type. I mean, *a lot* of them. The Harley store we passed along the way probably needed a police officer to direct traffic there were so many bikes around. Turns out it was the final day of some big bike rally. This, as it turns out would have a subtle impact on our trip, but more on that later.

So we easily find our place, which is near the 2.5 mile marker... if you wonder how long the highway goes along the Outer Banks, I lost track after 80 miles so don't ask me. Our house was located next to the Seascape Golf Course on Eckner St. The street name is important to remember because our friend Marty tried to find us on a web cam as we slowly burned ourselves but alas, no such luck. Probably because it was a nude beach. In reality, much to the satisfaction of the other beach goers, it wasn't.

The house was very nice and done in the traditional hurricane style, meaning that it was mostly on stilts, but had a small interior stairway on the ground floor leading to the upper floors. The second floor was a whole host of bedrooms and a deck with a hot tub that Sam and I didn't have time to utilize. The top floor contained the master suite, kitchen, dining area, living room and deck, from which the Atlantic Ocean could be seen.

Actually, when we arrived we could barely see the houses next to the ocean much less the ocean itself. It was very hazy. Not foggy really, just hazy. While we unpacked and got everything setup Lorenzo, the Spanish nickname for the sun, finally caught up with us and provided us some sunshine.

We took the opportunity to take the dogs for the four block walk to the ocean and proceeded to get wet. Not swimming mind you, just got our feet wet as we walked along the beach. This had immediate repercussions. The foremost was that scuba diving was out! The ocean was bloody cold! I mean, it's only May I realize, but come on! Climate Change my arse!

Jake, who has been warming up lately to the fact that he is genetically gifted when it comes to water, didn't want anything to do with that weird wave stuff. He didn't want to get wet, but once he was in, he didn't mind. But a few minutes later, he didn't want to get in the water again. I tell you, that dog has got some serious issues.

Lola's reaction was worse. She has never liked the water. And waves taller than her were definitely something that she didn't sign up for on this trip. Believe it or not, I think she flipped me off after getting wet the first time. Anybody who owns a dog knows how hard that is so that gives an idea of how upset she was.

Anyway, we walked for a very, very long time, and then walked for a very, very long time back to our starting point. We promptly saw two establishments that could satisfy our immediate need: beer. We went for the closer one, Ocean Boulevard, which had an outdoor patio where we could hang out with the dogs. The place looked pretty nice and it wouldn't be our only time there.

Afterwards, we stopped by Wink's, a convenience store serving the beach crowd to get a few things we forgot to bring. Hard to imagine considering how full the car was, but true.

We then changed our plans for dinner that night. Originally I was going to grill some salmon, but we decided to go out, being it was Saturday night and all and the town would be lively. Remember all those bikers? Well, that is a good starting point.

So we headed down the highway towards Nags Head to see what we could see. We did have a particular establishment in mind, the Outer Banks Brewing Station. Big surprise, I know, a brew pub.

So we head down the road and see bikers at just about every place imaginable. We also see a whole slew of high schoolers out for prom night. Wow, what a combo. What all those kids were doing at Walgreens I have no idea. Makes me glad I'm not a parent is all I'm saying.

OK, the bikers, yeah, just about every place, some more than others. Hooters, for instance: packed. New York Pizza Pub: packed. Mulligans: packed. Is there a city in America without a Mulligans? The fancier places seemed to be more the domain of the prom couples though. But then we finally get to the brew pub and my God, it was like the Harley store just moved there. I've never seen so many motorcycles in one place before.

I stand corrected, I have. That was when I was driving back from Idaho one summer and just happened though Sturgis the same week as you know what. So this was the second most motorcycles I have seen in my life.

We knew that the brew pub was going to have to wait for another evening so a quick hunt yielded Mako Mike's. Sam went for some scallops special while I tried their signature dish of mako, which unbeknownst to me was shark. Not bad, not great, but not bad.

A special note, right next to Mako Mike's is a very interesting miniature golf course called Lost Treasure I believe. The place looks like something out of Jurassic Park. We tried to go one night later in the week but they were closed already. It looks way better than the other miniature golf course we saw.


Ah Sunday. Sounds like a perfect day for the beach. Lorenzo was out in all of his glory and despite our sleeping until past 10 (which happened every day, and we loved it), we got plenty of him. But first of all, breakfast.

That started off with mimosas with the main course being a Spanish dish that I've Americanized a little: fried potatoes and green peppers topped off with fried eggs. I Americanized it by adding bacon, off course. After our hearty nourishment, we hit the beach before noon and didn't leave until after five.

Lots of books, naps, cooling off in the water, more books, more naps, more water... you get the picture. The book of this trip was Collapse by Jared Diamond. It is a tough read. His other book, Guns, Germs and Steel is much better. Collapse suffers from too many facts and numbers, and depressing facts and numbers at that. I'm now looking for something lighter if somebody wants to suggest something.

We went back to the house to get some snacks and probably wine in us. We then went back to the beach to close out the day with another long walk, this time in the other direction past the Hilton pier, and back.

Dinner, as previously hinted, was grilled salmon marinated in one of those Lawry's marinades; many of them are excellent if you haven't tried them yet. Of particular note are the Baja Chipotle (good for pork chops and chicken), Caribbean Jerk (also good for pork and chicken) and Havana Garlic and Lime (best for seafood, but also chicken).

Next to the salmon was some grilled asparagus which is so easy to make and absolutely delicious (however one needs to make sure none slip through the grate) and finally some Rice a Roni (hey, had to cut corners some where). This was served with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. That selection was important because we cashed in our frequent flyer miles and are heading there in November. That is going to be a two-week long Megamail you'll have to endure. You better start preparing... might I suggest Collapse?

Finally, we stayed up until who knows how late on the deck enjoying the quiet (no more bikers), the stars and the remarkable day.


OK, after our 10 am wake up call (hah, just kidding, no wake up calls). Today's breakfast was banana nut pancakes, along with, yep, mimosas. There is a funny little story about those pancakes. Normally, at home, I make them with a hand mixer. Well, there wasn't one in this house so I decided to dump everything in the blender. That worked pretty well. Then, as I was cooking them I was wondering why they looked like whole wheat pancakes... ah, must be really strong mimosas.

Then, as I ate them I was wondering why they were so dense and filling. And then, I realized that something was missing. But what? All the ingredients are in there. Hmmm. Hey, hold on... where are the nuts? Yep, I pulverized those suckers down to nothing. So, mental note... add the nuts if blending. I felt so silly I just had to have another mimosa to quiet my nerves.

OK, Lorenzo was wondering where we were so we hightailed it to the beach for another marathon session, this time our backsides. We decided to camp out near an unoccupied house so that the dogs could get some shade underneath it. They enjoyed there stay on the beach much better this day. This didn't spare them getting wet though. Lola was particularly tough. I think she farted in my general direction that day.

But we made up for it by visiting Jockey's Ridge State Park. This park, which is free and an absolute must, captures what the Outer Banks were like before all the development: huge piles of sand. It was so cool. Just a hundred yards from the parking lot and suddenly you can do Tatooine impersonations. The dunes are so high they have hang gliding classes. It was just so very cool. We stayed there until the park closed tramping over the dunes like giddy kids.

On the way back we stopped at the Outer Banks Brewing Station to sample their craft. I'd have to say, one of the better brew pubs, top to bottom, that I've been to. But I think we both enjoyed their hefeweizen the most. It had a very subtle hint of banana that made it quaffable. We also had a scallop in puff pastry thingy for an appetizer that was out of this world.

Well, moving on to dinner. Mom, you might not want to read this part because I know you are going to be upset. See, the last time my parents visited they loaded us up with all sorts of good stuff: cheese, brats, venison and fish, in particular, blue gills. We ate up all of it a long time ago, except this one package I was saving for a special occasion and that occasion was tonight. Now, the reason my mom will be upset is because I left that fish sitting in the freezer that long so that is why she shouldn't have read this part.

Blue gills are best served deep fried and best accompanied best washed down with Leinies Sunset Wheat. Mmmm, delicious. I can't wait for my parents to deliver a fresh batch.


We had one bit of work to perform during our stay, we needed to mail in our tickets to the Great Taste of the Midwest on May 1. So, after our breakfast of mimosas, cola cao (hot chocolate) and powdered donuts (breakfast of champions) we hit the post office and then we went to the Wright Brothers Monument. After all, we were in Kitty Hawk, right?

We didn't see any of the inside exhibits because we were with the dogs, but the outside exhibits were interesting enough. In particular we liked the markers and walking path so that we could see how long each of the first four flights were that momentous day. It was also interesting to see how far the dune in the photos had moved from that day in 1903 to when they stabilized it for placement of the monument some years later.

But hey, who has time for history and stuff when Lorenzo is at the beach. We decided to do something a little different and visit Coquina Beach in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore a few miles south of Nags Head. This beach was very remote in comparison to where we were. Houses could be seen in the distance but otherwise nothing was around. Also, we could see that vehicles were permitted on the beach in this part because the sand was so much harder.

As you might have guessed, we sauteed ourselves for a few hours here and had to leave when the tide threatened to douse us. Before heading back to reality we stopped to check out the Bodie Island Lighthouse. You cannot climb up in this one but there are some good photo ops.

Before heading back to the house we took a detour to Roanoke Island, yes, the same island as the Lost Colony. We wanted to check out the other brew pub in the area, the Weeping Radish. This place wasn't at all what I was expecting, but that is not a bad thing. It was done up in, I'm guessing, a traditional Bavarian drinking hall with a park-like festival grounds outside. This was awesome because we had the dogs.

We both went with a Weizen to beat the heat and had an appetizer of vegetarian strudel (much better than it sounds, trust us). The place kind of reminded me of a rural Essenhaus. Very good indeed.

Before heading back to the house we did drive by tour of Manteo. The outdoor theater production called The Lost Colony looks like it would be fun during the summer. As it is an outdoor production it reminded us of our APT days.

Dinner that night was another grilling masterpiece. Fillet wrapped with bacon and topped with blue cheese served with a bottle of 1992 Cabernet that we had been saving for a special occasion. This seemed appropriate.


Mimosas. Why change a bloody brilliant thing, right? Along with that, a repeat of the potatoes, bacon and fried egg concoction. You really need us to make that dish for you sometime, just ask. We checked the weather; we knew what the day had in store for us... Lorenzo was impatiently waiting for us at the beach, but wanted to check out the next few days. It didn't look promising so we decided to grab as much sun as we could.

I don't think you need a full description of that dreadful passing of time.

On the way back in we stopped in at Art's Place next to Wink's for some Coronas and really, really greasy jalapeño poppers. But they loved the dogs and enticed them with bacon so we'll forgive them.

An odd moment was when one of the locals came up and gave Lola all sorts of attention. That in itself isn't odd, but then he started inspecting her teeth and asking questions about if we were giving her heartworm medication. It felt a little motherly and a little creepy coming from somebody who is neither my vet, nor my mother.

So we vacated the premises and made a reservation for dinner at Ocean Boulevard on our way back home. Though a reservation was hardly necessary as it still being quite early in the season.

The menu was exquisite and had a lot of interesting choices which made making a selection difficult. In the end, Sam followed her roots and got some open-faced ravioli with serrano ham, manchego cheese and Spanish olives. It was good however in my opinion the olives were too strong and overpowered everything else. I had their special of grilled tuna with ricotta dumplings and some tomato basil salsa. Much better.


As feared, the weather was not cooperating today. It was always overcast, always windy and it rained off and on. But, why let that ruin a breakfast of mimosas (what, you thought we didn't bring enough champagne or something?) and banana nut pancakes, this time with the appropriate color, density and crunch factor.

We just watched some movies, drank the last of our Maine wine, ate the last of our jamon from Spain, and pretty much napped and lounged around all day. Tough life, I know. But it beats work.

Dinner was cocktail shrimp with some veggies, pasta and chardonnay. This was followed by more movies and siestas... actually, that siesta was probably just sleep.


That big pile of food we brought with us had just about evaporated. No mimosas this morning, just the last of the OJ.

A look at the weather forecast indicated the same dreary weather, or worse, for the next two or three days so we decided to pack it up and call it a successful vacation a day early. Which was good because the weather was quite nice in Richmond and our lawn had become designated an outpost of the Serengeti in our absence.

I've never been to the Outer Banks before this, but it was so wonderful and relaxing I wonder how I ever could not have visited before this. It is way better than Florida, way better than California. I imagine ourselves visiting again in the future. But of course, we have to run ourselves ragged in New Zealand first. Look out Mordor, a Megamail is coming your way!


Sam, Jake and Lola outside our home away from home.


Lola takes a breather on the beach.


Sam looks at the dunes of Jockey's Ridge.


Eric and the dogs walking up a dune.


Jake and Lola stretch in the sand.


Eric shows the Wrights how to fly.


Sam in front of Bodie Island Lighthouse.


Lola not at all happy about the sand.