Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Outer Banks and Smokey Mountains

The Outer Banks are extraordinary landscapes, and they deserve a trip all of their own to be enjoyed thoroughly. However, we were just too close not to push on and grab a little of their flavor. The surf was loud and waves high. The area had received eight inches of rain a couple of days before we arrived, but while we were there the weather was lovely. The worse part is getting there on the slow ferry.




I am not a fish eater, but I thought I should eat local cuisine at least once during our trip to the East Coast. So the first night right after traveling through Ocracoke, we ate at place called the Quarterdeck. It was recommended by a local and was obviously a place the locals favored as the crowd intensified as the evening passed. Folks seemed to be regulars, to one another. I chose a platter that was a medley of fish. The waitress warned me the fish of the night was an oily, very fishy mackerel so I substituted extra shrimp in its place. The shrimp was good, and the scallops, crab cake, hush puppies were okay. However, I left most of the oysters. I tried two but they are just too “slick” for me. That was enough fish to last me ten years or so!

















The next day we visited a couple of lighthouses with the Hatteras being the most interesting in that it was the oldest. However, the setting of the Bodie was extremely pretty. It was also interesting the see the beach homes, tall on stilt legs like a heron. The house in Rodanthe where Richard Gere and Diane Lane made the movie Nights in Rodanthe was fun to pass. We tried to walk out to a bird watching glade, but again the mosquitoes were so bad. We fought our way back to the parking area only to find the car filled with the critters too!

One final stop was at a National Historic Site of Roanoke, the early settlement where the first English child Virginia Dare was born. It was a pretty setting; the visitor’s center was interesting, but not much outside to see but old earthworks. Nearby was a reconstructed Elizabethan Gardens. DH was not paying to see them but would wait on me to do so. I was so tired I passed on it myself, and we headed west for the trek home.

The drive home was on fast interstates where ribbons of concrete pass over one another like laces in an athletic shoe. We got off at the Smokies to drive through the park. Before entering, we stopped at a local produce stand. I bought some Honey Crisp apples that are hard to find in our area. Sometimes you can find them at the supermarkets for a super price. These were locally grown and delicious. I also bought a few Cherokee Purple tomatoes, an heirloom variety that they are trying to bring back locally. The tomatoes were dark, almost a purple and less acidic than other varieties.


While we had been through the Smokies long ago, it was pleasant to see them again. We entered at Cherokee, North Carolina. We stopped at Mingus Mill and short walk back into the forest put you near this old gristmill. While DH walked back to the water source, I went inside the mill. A woman was buying some stone ground corn meal in bulk. The miller was such a sweet man and proud of his fine quality of meal. While you could buy small bags of wheat and corn, he was glad to bag up the freshest meal as it came out the shoot. He put it in huge feed sacks and sold it cheaply. He thought I wanted a bag too and was preparing one before I could say otherwise. When DH walked in, he was startled and amazed at the industrial amount of corn meal he had to drag to the car and asked what I was going to do with it! My friends are going to get Mingus Mill corn meal for Christmas.

Driving through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge was a nightmare. Traffic backed up for miles and you crept along like an inchworm. It was miles of commercial junk, fudge, jellies, tee shirts, touristy trap. Once through that area, it was deadheading for home. It was 3100 miles from home and back again. It was tiring but worth it for all we saw.

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