Unlike our trips to Dunemaker in the Outer Banks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), we switched things up by turning right–not left–onto Highway 12, driving down for a week with the Hus-friend’s family in a sound-side house in Rodanthe. (We were actually quite close to the Nights in Rodanthe house.) I love practically everything about the Outer Banks, and I was excited to stay in a new location that doesn’t require a harrowing drive on the sand.
It was the perfect relaxing week, and I really enjoyed spending time with all my in-laws. I like that beach houses “force” you to be together, but you can spend the time doing your own thing. While I did contribute to the impressive puzzle efforts, I spent a lot of time reading mystery novels and working on the sweater that I did not finish in time.
Of course, I love the ocean and am therefore very special. One of my great joys in life, besides eating good fries, is walking on the beach. And fortunately, this time of year, the Atlantic is not frigid, so you can dip your toes in without squealing and losing your dignity. And you can get in the ocean to swim BECAUSE WHAT IS THE POINT OF A BEACH VACATION IF YOU DON’T GET IN THE OCEAN?
I unabashedly love everything about the Outer Banks: The sand everywhere! The brightly colored houses! Everyone wearing shirts that say OBX! The smell of sunscreen! The high concentration of ice cream and fudge shop(pe)s! The inescapable beach puns! The Hus-friend is constantly baffled by my unwavering love of the OBX and not-real-but-kind-of-real desire to pack up and move there full time. I even love the touristy stuff! Like climbing the 257 steps to the top of Cape Hatteras lighthouse and taking some really amazing selfies.
Okay, I don’t love everything, for example, the commercialization and appearance of chain stores and restaurants, and I don’t love abundance of tacky kitsch that just makes junk in landfills. I hope I never suffer such a catastrophic brain aneurysm that I find these signs to be acceptable home decorations.
Recently, I’ve also noticed the stunning lack of diversity on the Outer Banks, notable in the rental companies’ glossy brochures filled with smiling white people in white summer clothing, enjoying seafood on sun-drenched decks. Basically everyone is Caucasian. I saw maybe two African American families, and the majority of Asians were students from China on work visas, manning the cash registers at the grocery store. (I approached and asked where they were from.) Having lived in SF for awhile, it was shocking to see so few people who look like me. I never noticed it as a child, despite coming every summer.
Because the Hus-friend and I have been together so long, we’ve had several beach vacation with his cousins who are now teenagers. I feel honored that they still find me cool enough to hang out with and say that the mac and cheese I make is their favorite.
Man, those two can really put away food! We ate quite well, including taking down 200 clams and a lot of the traditional beach fudge. Well, that was mostly one of us…
Despite two failed attempts, we finally made it to the Orange Blossom bakery and tried one of their famous “apple uglies” (a gigantic apple fritter).
I don’t like apple fritters, so the Hus-friend and I opted for a massive cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting. We ate it while waiting for the ferry, and I am proud to say that we did not get frosting anywhere in my mother-in-law’s car (the same car we took on WVT, actually).
What ferry, you may ask. Ah, yes, we took the hour-long ferry ride south to the last island in the chain: Ocracoke, which is quite possibly my favorite place in the entire world. The Hus-friend is really confused by this one, and I can’t really explain it. Certainly, a lot of my uncharacteristically earnest fondness for Ocracoke lies in the nostalgia I feel for it–I went there with Dad and Pat for several consecutive summers. Even as a kid though, I’d draw pictures of it, dream about moving there, and read all the descriptions of the rental houses by flashlight before going to sleep. I’m basically the coolest person you know.
Unlike other parts of the OBX, Ocracoke has remained relatively quaint and slow-paced. I was surprised by how similar it is to when I used to come as a kid; I can actually find a lot of things by memory. There aren’t chain stores, and the best way to get around is by bicycle or walking. Like, look up the definition of “charming”–IT’S BASICALLY SUN-DAPPLED HOWARD STREET WITH ITS LIVE OAKS.
This buxom mermaid has been there as long as I can remember, and I never miss an opportunity for a touristy photo.
Also, this painfully adorable lighthouse. It’s so short and squat. That’s my goal in life: to be like this lighthouse: sturdy and useful and cute.
See this intersection? When I was 11, my friend Kaley and I decided to go crabbing off the boat ramp just past the parking lot. We only caught two crabs (and laughed so hard that we peed and had to jump in the water to hide the evidence), which we tried to bring back to our rental house in a bucket attached to the back of my bicycle with a bungee cord. Obviously, this didn’t work, and the bucket immediately fell off, dumping our catch in the middle of this street. We held up traffic for several minutes, running around with towels chasing the spilled crabs and putting them back in the bucket.
Did you know that Outer Banks is home to two species of tree frogs? There are green tree frogs and squirrel tree frogs which basically look exactly the same. All week, I was losing.my.shit about these fucking adorable frogs that would stick to the doors and window, waiting to eat bugs attracted to the house lights. Unfortunately, I found three dead ones that had gotten inside the house and dried up. I couldn’t bring myself to collect their little desiccated bodies, so thanks to the Hus-friend for disposing of them for me.
While we were on the drive-on ferry back from Ocracoke, my father-in-law said, “Look, Mica! A frog!” Sure enough, one was hopping along the front of the ferry, dangerously close to car wheels and the edge of the boat. When I flung myself out of the car to get a better look, I noticed that his skin looked dull and dry, which wasn’t surprising given that the floor of the ferry is sun-baked metal. Much to the amusement of other passengers, I ran around the bow of the ship, trying to catch him and throw water on him, screaming “NO, DON’T DO THAT!” as he hopped closer and closer to the roaring waters off bow. Eventually, he got tired, and I scooped him up and brought him back to the car, where he escaped and hopped around the backseat. Finally, I got him inside an empty drink cup, where he chilled out until we got back to Hatteras and I could dump him in a marshy area on the side of the road. I was very pleased with my frog rescue. Also, I named him Howard.
(Several people encouraged Howard to jump off the ferry into the water because they don’t know that 1) a frog cannot survive in salt water and 2) a tree frog could not possibly have made it that far back to land. I tried to educate them by screaming back, “No, he’ll die,” but people are painfully uninformed and I just cannot even.)
And that’s basically how I spent my summer vacation.
We’re back in SF now, and I am going through mild beach withdrawal (though I don’t miss the damp sheets from the oppressive humidity). Living on the West Coast, it is admittedly a lot of work to get all the way to a sandy strip of barrier islands off of North Carolina, but I’m already dreaming of next year.
BYE, BEACH. I MISS U.