Sunday, October 30, 2011

North Carolina's coastline

Oct. 23-29, New Bern and Emerald Isle, North Carolina

Studying the map of North Carolina’s coastline left us unsure of where to head next.  I had romantic notions (what’s new?) about going to the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk, but after seeing what a narrow strip this area is coupled with the weather forecast of high winds and possible thunderstorms, we decided to follow the H on the weather map which landed us in the Southern Outer Banks region which included the historic towns of New Bern and Beaufort, and the Emerald Isles. 

The KOA at New Bern was our first stop in this region.  We were majorly unimpressed with the KOA but held high hopes about visiting historic New Bern.  It did not disappoint.  We had a fantastic two hour walk around the town and waterfront which was nothing short of charming.  The town was filled with notable landmarks which included the homes of famous people dating back to the 1700s and references to the notorious ghosts who haunt the streets.  Another highlight were the artistic depictions of the many bear statues that anchored almost every block as mascots of New Bern (somehow related to Bears).

We learned that Pepsi was created in New Bern, N.C.

One night at the New Bern KOA proved enough and we were off to the Emerald Isles, not knowing what to expect.  We chose to stay at a place we heard was expensive but worth it—Holiday Travel Park.  The website showed sites right on the ocean but I have learned to be skeptical of such claims.  The first good sign, from my point of view, was the simple elegance of the office where we checked in (always my job as Vic stays in the coach with the perros). The office woman showed me the site map and I chose ocean view over ocean front as she explained that in the ocean front places you could only hear the ocean because there was a sand dune separating the ocean view sites from the actual shore.  I also have some trepidation about ending up in a site which would be crammed up against another one with no privacy.  None of these concerns proved legitimate as this campground was well laid out and the area we chose afforded us a perfect view of a beautiful sandy beach that was a popular spot for surf fishing and shell collecting. Score!  The only downside from my perspective was that campfires had to be self-contained and elevated off the ground—translate: you need to have your own outdoor fire pit (which we do not have—yet.) 
This whole trip I have been dreaming of finding a campsite right on an actual (walkable) beach and this place exceeded my expectations.  The best part was how noncommercial this area is—much like the Oregon coast near Newport or Florence.  We were able to take the dogs on the beach and even let them go off leash as there were several spots where no one was around.  The other surprise for me was the popularity of surf fishing on these beaches: you could even drive your Jeep onto the beach with all your fishing gear and set up three of four rods into the surf.  I also saw something new in the little carts on wheels everyone seemed to have for their rods, coolers, fishing gear, etc.  Some were even attached to the front bumpers of their vehicles for easy transport.  I really wanted to get a short term fishing license.  There was even a pier within walking distance where I would not need a license and could rent a rod, reel, rigging and bait for 24 hours.  I did not take advantage of this, but a seed was planted for our longer stay in Florida.
Park entryway to beach (about two minute walk from our site)
The beach by our campground was deserted enough to let
the dogs go off leash for a little treat.

Our beach was a popular spot for surf fishing.

This fishing pier, only a short walk from our campground
Aside from amazing walks on the beach, we were about to experience a real first at this campground as they were holding a Halloween Bash weekend that was nearly sold out  and we were going to be a part of it.   We had no idea what we were about to experience.  I reviewed the literature advertising the event and decided we needed to find a Dollar Store to find some cheap decorations.  The main event seemed to be the contests for best Halloween decorations at overnight sites and another category for long term sites. We also needed to be prepared for up to a hundred trick or treaters.  We ended up finding a Target Superstore that had mega-size bags of “fun size” candy bars for the trick or treaters and cheap decorations for the motorhome. I ended up stringing orange lights with a five-foot blow-up bat in the windshield area inside and stringing glow-in-the-dark skeletons and LED ghosts around the outside of the motor home.  Well, this proved to be humble compared to what showed up.  Campers came with trucks full of Halloween decorations that were astounding.   One woman a few motorhomes away spent three or four hours setting up a display for which she had six pages of instructions from the internet--complete with an actual boiling cauldron with smoke, a lifesize Count Dracula and witch with a whole bar of special potions, and sound effects carried by a wireless  speaker system.   Highly entertaining.  The park also had an impressive amount of elaborate decorations which included animated figures and frightening sound effects.  They also put together a haunted house that scared me so much I had to ask the people in front of me to stay with me through the various rooms.  Something about the sound of a chainsaw and gory scenes of amputees that sets my imagination off in the wrong direction. . . .

Rico was frightened by this talking and moving skeleton.
Eyeballs fresh off the grill anyone?

I wathched the set-up for this witch's
brew table which took several hours.
This whole family dressed as the Flintstones, complete with the car.

This pumpkin won first place--no surprise to me!
A mellower Halloween Madness highlight:  I woke up on Saturday morning with a start, thinking there was something I needed to do.  Vic was surprised as I threw on my clothes and asked for the key to the Jeep.  Before I was even totally awake, I found myself driving to the local Food Lion to buy ingredients for my mother’s favorite fall pie.  The campground was having a pie contest and I found myself inspired to make my mother’s recipe for Upside Down Caramel Pecan Apple Pie—a recipe I had never tried before.  I hurried back to the motorhome and lit the propane oven as I had only two hours before the pie had to be submitted to the judging panel.  It was fun to suddenly have a task I had to complete on a short timeline after drifting through the days with no real commitments to fulfill.  My biggest concern was baking in the propane oven as I had not yet done this, but all went well. I took out the finished pie from the oven about twenty minutes before the deadline and set it down outside on a picnic table in an outdoor temperature of about 55 degree, hoping it would have time to cool sufficiently before the taste test.  I also had to accomplish the feat of flipping the whole pie upside down onto a platter and hoping it all came out in one piece.  I did this outside by myself and at first it didn’t seem to budge causing me to think the caramel was burnt to the bottom of the pan.  I just held the inverted pan and rubbed it gently like a genie lamp and voila—the whole pie gently slid onto the platter. I lifted the pie pan to look at it and felt dazzled by the result.  It was flawless looking with the caramel a perfect golden glaze over whole pecans arranged in a perfect circular pattern.  Regardless of any contest, the creation of this pie was evidence of my mother’s spirit living within me.   I felt grateful for the inspiration to participate in this event. And, just to top it off, I won the contest and the judges only ate half the pie.  Vic was so glad all was not lost to the contest. . . .

Collecting seashells:  I get a little obsessive about looking for the perfect seashell while walking on a beach that holds promise.  I have always loved collecting shells, interesting pieces of wood, or rocks from various places that I have traveled.  I was surprised that the Atlantic beaches here had so many shells.  I have always been searching for the elusive whole conch shell like you would find in the tourist shops—the ones you can hear the ocean in and use as a bugle like the boys in Lord of the Flies.  I managed to fill my pockets several times over on each ocean jaunt and then was faced with Vic’s question of what I intended to do with all these shells (in a motorhome that has limited storage).  He agreed to humor me by storing my collection in one of the storage bays until I decide their future.  It has been a bit of a challenge for me to live in a space that is so generic (but lovely).  My need to hang pictures, display photos, arrange fresh flowers in vases has gone dormant for the most part but is stirring to be expressed in other artistic callings (shell mobiles?)

The weather in the Emerald Isles has been unseasonably cold (as you can see from how bundled up Vic is in the beach photos)—especially at night with temperatures in the 30s.  This front was part of a major Nor’easter that dumped several inches of snow in New England which resulted in canceling Halloween in some communities because of the downed power lines and icy road conditions.  Time to head south!

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