Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Tourists Are Gone (mostly). The symbiotic relationship of a tourist destination.

That is my handsome son catching a small ride on Labor Day afternoon.

I was so excited, anticipating an uncrowded beach on Monday afternoon, as most of the kiddies have to go back to school the day after Labor Day, and boy oh boy, I was not disappointed.

I ran down to the water screaming, "I got my beach back!"

I like living in a tourist destination because if it weren't for the tourists driving to the Outer Banks from locales as far away as Kansas, we'd have no economy.  All summer, I meet visitors from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia (of course), Ohio and even New Mexico.    I've met tourists from France and other European countries.  It's amazing how far people travel to experience where I get to live!

Those of us who live in the OBX have a symbiotic relationship with the tourists.  We need them to come here and spend their hard earned dollars, and they need us to cook their food, take them deep-sea fishing, ring their groceries, and clean their hotel rooms.  

Today, most of the tourists are gone.  The beaches that were five families deep from dune to wave, are crowded with sand and birds.  It is incredible!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Treefrogs Are Back

photo by JD Wilson
I wish that I had a better, more scientific understanding of nature, but my understanding is more artistic and intuitive than knowledgeable.  

That said, last year, our first summer on the sound, we had hundreds of tree frogs with their cute sticky legs and pulsing translucent chests, arranged like stickers on our glass doors.  This year, not so many until just recently.  The odd thing is that the frogs aren't lime green this year, not most of them.  They are more eggplant and brown, and there are definitely fewer of them.

I was on my way to work today and three had hitched a ride on my car.  Not wanting to strand them off the 158 Bypass, I stopped in a greener area and unloaded my little hitchhikers.  I wish that I knew more about these "suckers".  They are one of my favorite things about summer on the sound.

If you know anything, please share.  My fear is that they've changed color because of pesticides.  I also fear that pesticides are why there are fewer of them.

The photograph is from the Green Treefrog Website:


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Three Random Sick (in the surfing way) Publicly Funded Places in Dare County

These are three of my favorite things about Dare County, and they all happen to be publicly funded!  (And they are all within eyeshot of where the Wright Brothers took flight in 1903--and within view of the memorial that stands as testament to their achievement in flight.)

Number One:  Dare County Parks and Recreation:  Small town living OBX style means affordable
after-school and recreation for Dare County residents.  Locals can experience everything from soccer, tea party manners' socials, cheering camp, archery, tennis, football, baseball skills, surfing, arts and crafts, golf, volleyball, French, gymnastics, Modern Art, Mosaics, Etiquette, Toddler Camp (How to be a toddler), fishing, and more! 

Last summer, my son and I took archery together.  I was the oldest participant, the only participant above the age of 16 (other than the instructor), and it was a blast.  I had never taken archery before.  Earlier this year, I took tennis lessons.  I had never played tennis!  Parks and Recreation is phenomenal!  

Number Two:  Conveniently located on the same street, Dare County Water and Desalination Department.  On a thin peninsula, Dare County desalinates (takes the salt out of the brackish water), making the cost of drinking water affordable to its residents.  More importantly, unlike many public utilities' departments, I've never had to wait in line!  Water is billed quarterly, every three months!  They have cute little collapsible cups for free!  There are two nice ladies who work there!

Number Three: Smack dab between the Water Department and Parks and Recreation is the Dare County Public Library.  I love this place.  I met one of my OBX friends there last summer.  I always
see people I know there.  And, this is going to blow your mind: Last month, I thought that I had returned a book, and I told the librarians.  They made a note in the computer.  Yesterday, I found it.  When I returned it today, I said, "How much do I owe?"  It was my mistake...  "Nothing," she said (because I thought I'd returned it).  Huh?  Where does this kind of thing happen?  Who doesn't want to take your money?  How nice is that?  Children can also opt to read their library fines away!

At the thrift store where I volunteer, there is a framed portrait of
Andy Griffith behind the register.  He spent the better part of his years right here.  When he died this past year, I was brought to tears by the local radio station's tribute to him.  In so many ways, this is Mayberry.    

Thursday, May 23, 2013

OBX Traffic Report for Memorial Day Weekend, 2013

Now here this:

There's precious cargo in these parts!
On Wednesday, a woman drove 50 mph through a red light on the 158 bypass.  After doing so, she slammed on brakes on the other side of the light.  I guess it was an after-thought/realization that she might've killed someone since she didn't stop.  Or maybe she was trying to kill someone by slamming on her brakes in the middle of a four-lane highway.  It's hard to say.  But she then proceeded to make a U-turn from the middle turning lane.  

Three drivers swerved from the right lane into the middle turning lane cutting me off.  

These incidences all happened in a two-mile span of the 158 bypass.  

BE ALERT.  If you know the side streets, take them, but drive the 25 mph speed limit and watch out
OBX Children at Play: OBX 
for children and pets.

Do not text.

Do not try and multi-task while driving.  

If you miss your turn into Spanky's or Barefoot Bernie's or wherever the hell you're going, you can turn around.  (PLEASE do not make a U-turn in the middle of the bypass.)  

Please figure out your destination before driving aimlessly up and down the bypass.  It is a highway after all.  There are other drivers on the road.  

Every year, people are killed on the bypass: they die on foot, on bike, and in cars.  Let's all be aware, awake, and cautious!

OBX Recommendations

Roofer: Outer Banks Roofing.  (We just had a new roof put on.)  These guys were nice, fast, and cleaned up every scrap.  They put down tarps and moved our possessions rather than letting anything get smashed.  Awesome job.  Really good if you're looking for someone who doesn't leave a big mess behind.  The roof looks great.  The estimate and contract were detail oriented.  VERY professional.

Outer Banks Landscaping; Owner Rick Cohen.  Great guy.  Amazing vision.  Detail oriented.  Good soil.  Smart dude, and he's pretty cute too.    

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The baby duck likes our doggie dock

The male mallard is brightly colored, while his wife has a beautiful blue marking on her side.  The couple's one surviving duckling likes to hang out around our dock.  

The father calls to the mother and the baby, and for the most part, they seem to follow his orders.  He does have the best colors.  There were four ducklings, but then there was one.  I'm not sure what happened to the other babies, but the ospreys that fly overhead, their wings marked like piano keys, seem like a likely foe.  

The black helicopters have been flying low across the sky.  There are occasional booms, some kind of military testing.

The green tree frogs have returned.  

My tomatoes already have blooms and my seedlings are perking up.  Every evening, we sit on the balcony and watch the sun set.  It's lovely.

Recommendations:  1. Don't eat duck.
2.  Eat at the Kill Devil Grill.  It is a locals' favorite.  EVERYTHING is seriously delicious.  The staff is awesome to locals and tourists alike.  The bartenders are cool cats.  The old diner car that fronts the building was brought to Kill Devil Hills by the owners of Millie's Restaurant.  There used to be a Millies Too! I'm not sure why, but it wasn't around very long.  (I don't know anything about the workings of the restaurant business).  At one time, the old diner car was a Mexican eatery on Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield, VA.  The restoration job is amazing.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Who's Hot for Teacher?

Teaching is NOTHING like this.
It ought to be Teacher Appreciation week every week, but as it now stands, it's this week, May 6th through 10th!  That said, I'll state the obvious.  Teachers make ridiculously low wages.  I speak from experience.  I taught middle and high school for eight years.  I passed all those national and state tests, and I had my master's degree in my specialty area.   My husband, who has a bachelor's degree and works in the corporate world, kept getting pay raises.  I did not.

What did I get?  
1.  Less autonomy.  I had to have my lesson plans approved.  
2.  Less creative input.  I eventually memorized every eighth grade standard of learning because I was required to write it on the board with the day's "schedule."  
3.  A time clock.  Punch in and punch out.  
4.  Teacher work days, days I needed to grade, but was required to
Can you imagine teaching in heels?
attend seminars that had nothing to do with my job.  

5.  Distrust from my superiors, who would take a child's word over mine, and who would make me keep a child who was disrupting my class right there in the classroom with the rest of my students.  
6.  Longer school calendars for the same pay.
7.  The expectation that I should work LONG after the school day had ended.
8.  A growing wage gap between myself and my peers.
9.  More tests to administer.  More accountability.  Less input.
10.  Burned out.  I left teaching to pursue my dream of writing.

This is what we want.
When I first went back to school to get my MFA in creative writing, I remember taking night classes and grading my students' essays on my fifteen minute break during my 7 to 9:40 class.  I was never without a stack of papers in my hands.  I graded papers on weekends.  I remember one weekend, laying on the beach in Nags Head and a gust of wind blew my students' papers across the sand.  I scurried after them.  Fortunately, so did the other folks on the
beach.  We gathered up the moist sandy pages.  If it were a work of fiction, I might toss them to the wind.  I don't know, but as it was, I worried about how those stapled sheets of paper looked and how I'd explain handing them back in that condition.  "Ms. Young has a life outside of school?"  They'd be confused.  

I couldn't buy beer or wine at the grocery store without getting odd
looks.  I was a teacher.  I was held to a higher moral code but once again, paid a pittance for my efforts.  

I LOVED my students.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have lasted as long as I did.  

Teachers are college-educated state and private employees who spend the greater part of their days with our children.  And you know, as well as I do, our children are wonderful and special, and our teachers, whose classrooms are too crowded and who are underpaid, who have to deal on a daily basis with discipline issues and oftentimes stressed parents, need a little love.

Yes, they only have this one week, and NO, it's not enough... so, as this year winds to a close, do something thoughtful and kind for your child's teacher or for a teacher friend.  

Say THANK YOU.    

Brew Pub Recommendation

The Brewing Station, mp 8.5 just past the Wright Brother's Memorial on the sound side of the Bypass.  Not only is the beer brewed on site, but the brewery is the east coast's first wind-powered brewery!  The Pub has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, AND the building is a work-of-art.  Make sure to look up when you get inside, and check out the pirate ship in the enclosed outside area, complete with corn hole and stage.  This is a local and tourists' favorite.  You will DEFINITELY be back for more..  

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Very Peculiar Dirty Little Secret

Oxycontin (Oxycodone HCI)
Got Pain?
Like millions of Americans, I take prescribed drugs.  Some of them aid me in being a little less crazy.  (I need all the help I can get.)  

Here, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, doctors DO NOT prescribe nor are they giddy about refilling any narcotic prescription.  Like in any small town (very small during the winter months), there is a drug problem here.  

But the extent of this problem and the hushed way that it is handled, is what first struck me as strange.  The first time I had my medications filled at the local CVS, the pharmacist telephoned me.  They wanted to know why, specifically, "are you taking two drugs from the same class?"  "What's wrong with you?"

"Truthfully," I explained to the pharmacist, "when I get my period, I am a nightmarish bitch, and no one, including myself, can stand to be around me."

"Oh," she said.  "I wish that someone would prescribe something for me." 

And why don't they?  Shrug. 

When I tried to find a primary care physician, I called the only two locations that do not double as Urgent Care Facilities, and I was told, "We will have to interview you.  How long have you lived here?  Are you currently taking any medications for pain?  We will not prescribe or fill pain medications."  

"Wow!  Good to know!  But what if I'm in pain?  What if my spleen is going to burst or I break my pinky toe?"

After speaking to the pharmacist and the physician's office, I got a really good sense that I was a drug addict, and if it wasn't me, then there were a lot of other drug addicts around me, so much so, that I was presumed to be one.  

I need to go to an NA meeting.  I wonder if it will be packed or empty?  Will the NA folks know where to score? (I jest.)

Based on the short time I've been here and solely on my own personal experiences, I think the Outer Banks could use more doctors who are willing to prescribe drugs that help people function better.  There'd be less cases of abuse, I think.  And less alcoholism.

Once again, just little ol' me tossing in my two cents.

Onto lighter less insidious topics like PIZZA!

Food Lion's mad sky parking lot
Today's OBX Recommendations:

Where to shop for food.
Food Lion, mp 10.5.  It's slightly hidden so it's less crowded.  It's less expensive than Harris Teeter, and the folks who work there, from the manager (from Staunton, VA) to the produce guys to the cashiers, and on down the line, are really good people.  When you enter, try and look like you've grocery shopped before.  Your less likely to stick out like a tourist.  Don't squeal at the sight of beach balls and plastic buckets wrapped in netting.  Be cool!  Also, if you buy the plastic bucket, make sure that the netting gets put into the trash can.  Netting kills fish!  Useful tidbit: the bathrooms are directly to your left when you enter.      

These are my top picks.
This is my FAVORITE food.  I could eat pizza every day.  

If you can venture off the beaten path, try out Colington Pizza.
Best of the Beach, Summer 2012
 Delicious!  Everything!
 (It's past Billy's Seafood on Colington Road).  The front of house manager is beautiful and funny and always surrounded by a crew of locals.  The ambience is great.  You're apt to hear a good fish story and make a new friend.

Want New York style?  Slice Pizzeria, mp 8.5, Bypass 158  (If
you like spinach and cheese, I recommend the Spinach Roll.  Yum!)  You can also watch them toss the dough.  Great for the kids.  And they have an outside seating area.  

Dare Devils' Pizzeria, around mp 9, Beach Road
I've been going to Dare Devils for twenty years.  Same owners!  Same great food.  When I got married 11 years ago, we served their pizza at our rehearsal dinner.
Surf Videos play on the big screen

 What else can I say to make it any better?  Oh yeah, I met the owner this summer when he was out surfing with his kids.  Great guy!


Do you have questions about the Outer Banks?  Maybe I can answer them for you!  Thanks.  Michele

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Welcome to Life on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Bodie Island Lighthouse, now open for climbing!
Two days ago, we saw our first tree frog since winter's end.  I am looking forward to seeing hundreds of them, their hands and feet suction-cup sticky on our glass doors and windows, their hearts visible, thump, thump thump, craving the light.

When it warms up, we have to be careful to keep the doors shut, lest one hops inside and ends up mummified by the air conditioning. 

The sky is a starry bowl from east to west.  No light pollution.  No skyscrapers.  The wind is a constant.  It whips my skirt overhead.  

The ducks quack and chatter late into the night.

The cars are still driving too fast.  We almost got slammed into today by a truck that ran a red light.  There is more traffic to come.  Sad face.

Three large white egrets were perched long and lean in the sound
Found Beach Art
today.  The water rippled and surged, forming a muddy bog, an ideal place for them to fish.   

Look: There's a useful part of this blog:

Shel's Outer Banks Recommendations:

If you want a great one-of-a-kind treasure, visit the KDH ART Coop, just past Colington Road--if you are driving south, mp 8.5.  If you're in town for the week, you can sign up to take a blacksmithing class with Randy, an amazing artist.  His workshop is on site.  Also, take some time to see the artists' studios.      

Frozen Yogurt/hip family-friendly hangout
If you want great frozen yogurt, but you don't necessarily need the business to have God in its name: Sweet Frog stands for Fully Rely on God, but you don't have anything against God, and you want to support local business owners, go to The Surfin' Spoon, mp 10 on the Beach Road.  You will be so glad you did.  With sick toppings like mango and coconut, this is a MUST DO if you're in town for vacation or if you're a local yokel.  Owned by Jesse Hynes, local professional surfer dude, and his wife, Whitney, this is where you have to get your fro yo!  You'll also be stoked to learn some surfer lingo!  It's a family affair.

Food--from the sea and otherwise
If you want amazing food with a great atmosphere, go to the Kill Devil Grill, Beach Road, mp 10-ish.  (Google the address).  The food is incredible.  The bar is chill, and the original diner car that is still the front of the restaurant, was long-time-ago located on Jefferson Davis Highway in Richmond, VA, my old stomping grounds.  Initially, the Kill Devil Grill was Millie's Two (from Millie's in RVA).  I used to have a T-Shirt to prove it.  
*These are my own personal recommendations.  In every way, they reflect my opinions, and no one else's.