Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Awoke at 7:00, the sun just coming over the dunes. Mild, breezy, nice. Lots of birds. Figured we have until 8:30 to pack up and leave. Packed my bike, then helped Jeff.

Reaching the town of Okracoke, I noticed a sign listing the ferry schedule. This morning's leaves at 9:30, not 9:00 as I had thought. Arriving at the ferry line, we were told all the ferries were booked until 6:00 p.m. this evening. We could wait in the "stand-by" line though, which had perhaps a half-dozen vehicles already. “Oh well, whatever.” But we made it aboard. The fare, $10 each.

A two-hour cruise on Pamlico Sound, from Okracoke to Cedar Island and the mainland. We even got a little bit of swell and chop where our path crossed inlets from the open sea. I enjoyed being outside on deck, watching the sea birds accompanying us during the crossing. Jeff napped in a cabin seat.

Talked with a North Carolina couple riding Harleys. Before docking, another Harley rider passed among us, warning all the bikers of the gravel awaiting us on Cedar Island. "It’s bad," he said.

Now I started to become apprehensive, recalling the deep gravel at Chile Chico. But this turned out to be a joke. A little pea gravel was scattered over a paved surface. A non-event. It took a while to reach solid land that wasn't bordered by marsh and criss-crossed with channels and bays. In small villages along our route, churches were clearly the busiest places around this morning.

Stumbled upon No Name Pizza in Beaufort ("Bow-fort", not "Bue-fert" - that's in South Carolina), home of the 10-ounce hamburgers! Excellent, juicy, crumbly beef home-style burgers. The after-church crowd filled the booths, in more ways than one. BIG people in these parts! This place deserved a photograph.

Beaufort, North Carolina is home to the best hamburgers in recent memory

As we moved inland, the heat ratcheted up. Out of the blue, Jeff said “I don’t need to go to Fayetteville.” What??? This had been one of our primary objectives, to visit his old Fort Bragg stomping grounds.

I forced him to go there. "We can find a motel on the interstate. You don’t have to deal with the military community." In his GPS database, he located a Hampton Inn on Interstate 95. It turned out to be one of the old-style Hamptons, where you can drive up to the rooms (unlike the new internal-access-only hotels.) Jeff likes these, because we can park the bikes right outside the door, however my experience is that these are generally older hotels that Hilton/Hampton has purchased and slapped their name on. They generally have fewer amenities and infrastructure, while offering little concession on price. But they DID have fresh chocolate chip cookies! So I tossed out all my objections. And it was only $60 (with Jeff's government/military discount.) “It was meant to be.”

As I stated, the amenities are often lacking. So, to wash our clothes, we had to drive to the nearest laundromat, 4 or 5 miles away. And this had to be the most dismal laundromat I’ve ever seen, in this country or abroad.

Next door to the hotel is a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. I've never been in one, so I figured "once would be an education." We went in 30 minutes before closing. Our server was oblivious. She served us salads and left without noticing we didn’t have anything to eat them with. She was too busy talking with friends. We had to flag a manager to find us some flatware. Jeff left a $1 tip. Maybe she'd get the message.

1 comment:

Ady said...

Thanks for writing this.