To Ocracoke!!!

Trip Start Jul 08, 2013
Trip End Jul 13, 2013

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Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

MUFFINS ON FIRE!!! Have I caught your attention? Good. That's how our day started. We woke up around 630 or so and decided to enjoy our continental breakfast downstairs. It was so-so. Mostly the usual bland cereals and muffins that had so many preservatives in them they'll probably be around long after I'm in the ground. And so breakfast continued for about 15 minutes, Jen and I sipping our coffee and looking forward to the day ahead...right up until the moment smoke began billowing out of the hotel kitchen followed promptly by a little old southern lady shouting, "My muffins, my muffins!" Oh boy her muffins sure were going up in flames. I should have taken a picture because there happened to be an army reservist sitting there who went into the kitchen bravely to deal with the inferno but instead just pulled down the blaring smoke detector and took out the batteries. 

I guess the fire wasn't that bad.

Anyway, we packed up...double checked for any missing items and set sail...err, uhh, drove onward to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. 

The best part of this drive is that the Outer Banks are so beautiful. It's essentially a 200 mile long string of barrier islands situated way off the coast of North Carolina. Some areas of the northern section are quite built up with chain stores and restaurants and remind me a lot of the Jersey shore. Thousands of houses dot the beach and traffic can be pretty bad (one thing to note is that all of the houses are on pilings since flooding here during hurricane season is almost guaranteed). Once past the area of Kitty Hawk (you know...where my cats Rocky and Oliver first took flight?) things get much quieter. The road narrows from four lanes to two...traffic lights disappear...and all that's left are beach dunes and ocean on your left and marsh and bay on your right. It's incredible. 

This goes on and on and on. In fact if you were to stretch out the Outer Banks (at least the portion that we cover) end to end it's nearly as long as the whole state of New Jersey. Every once in a while a small town like Buxton or Hatteras will pop up. The speed limit drops...people are on bicycles everywhere...and you're taken aback by the concept that civilization has sprung up seemingly in the middle of nowhere. And just as soon as the town has risen out of the dunes it sinks back into them until the next one down the road. 

Finally you come to the end. Not of our journey mind you, just the end of the island! Here a ferry will take you over to Ocracoke Island since it's only accessible in this manner. No bridges, no tunnels. This is what makes Ocracoke so's isolation. In fact the small town spent so much of it's history separated from the mainland that the people native to the island actually developed their own dialect of english! 

The ferry is a small one, holding only 30 vehicles. Even with four ferries operating today the wait for the trip was nearly two hours. We took the time to walk around some shops and eateries near the slips until it was out time to depart. Oh yeah, I wanted to buy a kite in one of these shops but Jen said she, "Never understood the whole kite flying thing." Sad. Just sad.

The ferry ride was interesting on it's own. To begin, a tourist (yes I know I'm a tourist but anyone with fewer than 8 brain cells is a REAL tourist) decided it'd be a good idea to feed seagulls that were following our ferry. Oh it was so adorable...right up until the Captain came on the PA system and said, "Welcome aboard the Chicamacomico! DO NOT FEED THE SEAGULLS!" It was awesome. Everyone laughed at the tourist...and she deserved it. Feeding seagulls? Really? Oh well. 

But the ferry crossing got better. The area of water that the ships traverse is known as Pamlico Sound and it's quite shallow. The boat channels are narrow and in a constant state of being dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers. Yet..that didn't stop our ferry from being grounded on a sandbar today. I assume it happens often, because there was no warning mad rush to the lifeboats. There was simply 4 or 5 minutes of earnest chugging away by the engines. Black diesel fumes poured from the ship as it struggled forward inch by inch until finally we broke free. Looking down over the side of the ferry you could see sand and silt floating everywhere, a result I suppose of our victory over it. 

About 45 minutes later our boat came into the dock and we drove off. This part of Ocracoke Island is deserted except for a few areas that people use for swimming. Thirteen miles later is the town, which is as lovely as I remember it. We found our motel quickly (there are very few roads to get lost on) and here I sit now...writing this entry. I may update it later...but that's all for now! 
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