Ocracoke Summer 2015 Trip


We spent a nice chunk of our June in North Carolina for a family vacation at the beach and visiting Greensboro.  This was the first time we had been back since moving to Iowa two years ago.  The 3,200 miles we logged in our 11 day trip was worth the memories and beautiful images that I have been revisiting.  This lovely beach is on Ocracoke Island.
hwy12We reached Ocracoke Island by driving south along the barrier islands on NC Highway 12.  This is the longer route, but it is very scenic, taking you over the Oregon Inlet bridge, through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and past numerous towns and several lighthouses, depending on how much of Highway 12 one travels.  In our younger years, Eric and I rode the entire stretch from Nags Head to Ocracoke and back to Nags Head by bicycle.  We were trying to race a nasty March storm and rode the whole 80 miles back from Ocracoke to Nags Head in one day.  I can still feel the sand blasting my face along this stretch of desolate road.


The kids were exhausted of the car and itching to get out and see the scenic surroundings.  We stopped at a beach access point before the ferry to Ocracoke, near Avon.  The girl is running full speed ahead to reach that ocean!IMG_5833I call this one anticipation.  It will become an artwork at some point.

wadingThe urge to be a part of the ocean was just too much – she was soaked and sandy by the time we were done.  This girl’s water-loving viking heritage will call her to the coast too.

IMG_5850After a fantastic seafood dinner (truly one of the best I have had) at the Dolphin Den, in Avon we boarded the ferry to Ocracoke.  This little guy slept for the first part, but awoke to seagulls, waves, and his excited sister.  We had enough evening light for a selfie.


I do not think it is a coincidence that ferry sounds like fairy.  There is something magical about these boats.


We got off the ferry and continued our drive onto Ocracoke.  This stretch is one of my favorite roads on earth.  I even immortalized it in a painting a few years back, I will have to dig that out of storage.


Once on Ocracoke, we took things slow.  We spent some time at the beach.  This is the very beach where the most recent North Carolina shark attack happened, actually in the exact spot we were swimming in the water too.  Shudder.


We ditched our car and opted for our cargo bike.  The kids enjoyed watching the small planes land and take off at the airport.


On our bike ride to the Ocracoke Lighthouse, we found this little fellow crawling across the road.  I had never seen a hermit crab just out walking before.


The Ocracoke lighthouse is always a little shocking to me, in its stark white form.


Greta was more interested in the marmalade cat that was grooming itself just out of her reach.


The small winding roads, cloaked in live oaks are always a treat on sunny hot afternoons.  I feel like I have stepped back in time.


I love this sign on Old Howard Road.  It truly needs a y’all in there, though.

ferry picnic

We got take out from Thai Moon and it took it to the picnic area just outside the Ocracoke Visitor Center to watch the ferries.  It was one of the nicest and breeziest spots on the island, outside of the beach.


We enjoyed a breakfast at Dajio. This is the massive apple pancake which had thinly sliced apples, caramelized, on the bottom of the most perfect fluffy hotcake.  My sailor dressed daughter is enjoying the fruit and yogurt parfait.  I would also recommend the shrimp and crab omelet.  Heaven on a plate.

jolly roger

We enjoyed dinner at the Jolly Roger with our friends from Greensboro.  This marina and restaurant has excellent seafood and terrific hush puppies.

After three glorious nights of being at the ocean, we left by Cedar Island ferry to mainland.  I felt a little squashed up inside, not knowing when we would be back to this place I love so much.  I actually keep it as one of my locations on my weather app on my phone.  I love to see its steady 70° rainy afternoons when snow is pounding and drifting in Iowa.  The almost three hour ferry ride back was a nice slow way to say goodbye to the coast.

I may or may not get around to blogging about Greensboro.  My days since returning have been filled with my babies having birthdays, finishing up a grad class, jury duty, and germs.

North Carolina Y’all

I have been busy making block prints this month – it all started with making return address labels via a block print.  This one came about due to a shirt I love to wear with the state outline and home on the inside – I got it back in Greensboro from a fun shop downtown.  Here is the link to the Etsy profile for these shirts.

Each print is done on a page from a dictionary.  Most of the pages have some sort of significance to the state of North Carolina – basketball, Tar Heel, sweet gum, etc.

NC Home Collage

North Carolina Home, collage & mixed media on paper, 9 x 12″, 2013.  
Do not reuse image without permission. 

Our Iowa home has something  new and interesting to grace its spacious gallery-like walls – a collage.  This collage makes use of old Greensboro maps, vellum, scraps of wall paint from the old house, and acrylic painting.  Since this was our first home, I made this for Eric – coincidentally one of the first artworks I’ve actually made for him.  Eric remarked on the house drawing, “Wow, I’ve never seen you use a ruler before to make art!”  Hey, there’s a first time for everything.  

A Greensboro Goodbye + Move to Iowa

This is a lengthy post and long overdue.  But, I felt I had to put in some effort, in saying good bye to a place and a group of people who have captured my heart for the past eight years.  The goodbyes started with one last dinner at Sticks & Stones Wood Fired Pizza.  Oh how I will miss the Kiss Before I Go pizza and Hoppyum beer. My colleagues from the 8th Grade hallway helped me tearfully say goodbye.

Then it was one last lunch at Natty Greene’s.  I will miss the Charlie Tuna Ahi sandwich and all of their locally brewed beers.  By this time, my mom and friend Aaron had made it to Greensboro.    I tried a delicious smoked peach IPA.

Greta came home from daycare to find a huge truck outside her house.  She was so excited to get to sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive.

Relaxing got harder the fuller the truck got.  We managed to fit a dinner in at Kiosco’s and some couch time.  Greta enjoyed sitting between daddy and Aaron.

Oh boy.  The heavy stuff.  Big thanks to Eric and Aaron who filled this 26 foot bad boy.

Goodbye Greensboro home.  It was a great starter home and we learned a lot about DIY projects.

We decided to stay in a hotel the night before we left – this was the best decision yet.  For dinner we headed to Gray’s Tavern on Elm St. in downtown Greensboro.

Greta enjoyed the signs on the street more than anything else.

Next it was off to a Greensboro Grasshoppers game.  It was a perfect night for a ball game and I am so glad we got this one last treat in Greensboro.

We sat on the hill with a couple friends and enjoyed the Natty Greene’s beer and sights and sounds of the hill.

Eric scrambled and got his first ever baseball.  He was nice and gave it away to a very polite little boy who came over to congratulate him.

It was a beautiful night, so we decided to walk on to McCoul’s for another last.  McCoul’s will be missed for its fantastic rooftop patio.

And then Elliot appeared!  He drove down from Washington D.C. to help celebrate Aaron’s birthday.  I felt horrible, we made him help us move on his birthday.

Found this lovely lady dining with her family at McCoul’s.

I absolutely love what is going on in this shot.  Too much fun. 

After a sleepless night at the Biltmore (can you say scooping the loop hotel?), we headed to Bestway to pick a few last minute items.  I will miss the local NC goods and wall o’ beer.  Then we were off.

We took the route north through the mountains, first through Virginia and West Virginia.  Meanwhile, the guys and the truck headed west to Asheville, NC.

Thankfully, Greta is a car napper and a good one at that.

I love driving through windy Charleston, West Virginia.  The capitol building is easily seen from the road.

Greta go disgruntled and so I broke out my stash of stickers that I have been stockpiling since Christmas.  These just happen to be unused yearbook Jostens stickers. 

Dina made a reappearance on this trip!  Greta finally learned to say Dina and said it constantly, and is in fact, still saying it right now.

We stayed overnight in Louisville, Kentucky.  Greta, my mom, and Brownie enjoyed some non-car time in the parking lot of our hotel.

The drive out of Louisville is always so beautiful.  I keep saying I want to come back to this town for a proper stay and not just an overnight stop, as we so often have done.

Greta amazingly stayed fairly entertained in the car.  The tube of puffs were a life-saver and a gift from a friend, Julie, in Greensboro.  Thank you again!

We stopped at some beautiful rest stops and Greta did her best to be helpful.

Greta stayed cheerful and happy with books, but even that too eventually ran out.

So, out of desperation, I gave her a bag of diapers.

She unfolded and stacked them in her lap.

She moved piles of them off to the side.

She played peek with them.

She threw them.

And then, the bag was a hat.  At this point, I promptly took the bag away and brought out art materials and stickers again.

Eventually things began to level out and look more Midwest-like.

We finally made it to my parents’  house and survived the 1, 000 or so mile drive.  Greta was eager to play with her car waiting for her on the patio.

Another happy moment: reuniting with her cats.  Tsali purred and purred with seeing Greta again. Neither cat seemed to remember Brownie, and so things were a little shaky and scary for a while for the two cats.

I took a brief walk with Brownie after Greta was in bed and enjoyed the familiar sounds and sights of the Iowa landscape.

Tsali was happiest to see me though.  The guys arrived in Des Moines the following day with the truck.  We unloaded everything in two days and began the remodel process.  More on that to come soon.  

Asheville, NC Day Trip

We are continuing our farewell North Carolina tours and this past weekend we headed west to the mountains.  We try to get to the mountains frequently, especially since they are in such close proximity. 

On Saturday we took off for Asheville, NC for a day trip.  The cooler was purposely empty to leave room for souvenirs.  Asheville has been voted Beer City, USA four years in a row now in the Examiner’s Poll.  It has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city, with 1 brewery for every 8, 000 people.  Nuff said, we needed some room.

We made the short drive in just a few hours, taking a detour through Marion to enjoy some mountain roads while Greta napped.  When we rolled into Asheville we headed straight to my favorite restaurant on this planet – The Laughing Seed Cafe.  This place is a fantastic vegetarian restaurant right in the heart of the best part of downtown Asheville.  The stairs you see to the left take one downstairs and into the Jack of the Wood Tavern – a great place for darts and sampling local brews.

Greta gobbled up bread, soup, and a smoothie.  

 I enjoyed a burrito, chips, and salad with mango dressing.

 Eric had a curry tofu dish.  I am sorry that these terrible cell phone images do these dishes no justice.  As Eric said, “If everyone ate at Laughing Seed at least once, you’d know that you don’t need animal products to make food delicious.”  Amen.  I’d make this drive more often, if I could.  This food is that good.

Unfortunately we are in the middle of North Carolina’s monsoon season which made it more difficult to walk around and enjoy the local food festival that was slated to begin at 2 PM that day.  Greta took no time at all to puddle jump – thoroughly soaking herself. 

We made a few stops at some of the breweries farther out from downtown – taking a stop at Green Man first.  This brewery has a tasting room/bar area and an outdoor patio area.  The brewing gear is a stone’s throw away.  We picked up their IPA.

Eric found the perfect map with all the breweries in the area.  Meanwhile, Greta’s socks dried on the dash.

 So wet.

 We stopped at another brewery, The Wedge, which was conveniently located in a fantastic arts district.

 These are the best window boxes I have ever seen!  This will be appearing in my classroom soon – a great way to decorate and show the kids what happens when brushes aren’t washed properly.

The Wedge Brewery is on the backside of a building housing artists, you have to walk down steep steps, toward the tracks to get to its entrance.  This fun fence with seating faces the train tracks and in the summer, they show outdoor movies.  

The inside is cozy with bars, stools, and buckets of peanuts.  My peanut waited patiently as Eric tasted an IPA and got a growler to go.  She was not the only child in this brewery, by the way.

The glass blower across the street makes pint glasses for sale, they are gorgeously uneven and rimmed in yellow.  The lamp with three holes cut out to illuminate the glasses was also pretty neat.

The other bonus to this trip – replacing the Karen Newgard mug I broke a couple weeks ago.  I love her nature and animal motifs done in sgraffito carving technique on porcelain.

A few other things we have done while in Asheville and the immediate vicinity are below and on this post. 

Catch a show at the Orange Peel.  We saw G. Love there a few years ago – it’s a fantastic show space.

Get outdoors.  The mountain biking in this area is world-famous.

Take a hike.  There are plenty of great hiking places nearby, we like the trail to Deep Gap that takes you to Mt. Craig.

 The Blue Ridge Parkway.  Drive it in the autumn for breathtaking views and picturesque colors.

Bike it for a slower pace to really experience the loss of breath.  I know am I biased, but I truly love the North Carolina section of the parkway.

Check out the Biltmore Estate and Vineyards.  This private home is open to tours and if you aren’t willing to shell out the ticket fees, the grounds are equally as interesting.

The acres and acres of gardens, forests, greenhouses, fish ponds, and views of the surrounding mountains can easily use up an entire day in Asheville.

Check out Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.  When we were there in 2009, it was too foggy to see the views, but it is a great vantage point. 

Spring Break 2013: North to Corolla

As always, prints, prints of photographs, and original artworks are always for sale, please inquire by e-mail or through my Etsy shop.  If you are interested in purchasing something you have seen on this blog, I will create a custom listing for you.  I also do custom commission pieces as well.  

We spent some time at the beach the morning after we stayed in Ocracoke.  Greta loved the sand, shells, birds, and dogs.  She found a plastic rake on the beach and used it to stir up trouble.  The highlight of the morning, for Greta, was when a helicopter flew over the beach close enough for us to see the passengers waving at us.

We loaded a tired Greta into the car and boarded another ferry – this time to head north to Hatteras.  This shorter ferry ride is a unique one and a free service provided by the NCDOT.

Once off the ferry, the drive north along Highway 12 is a scenic one.

This bridge was built quickly to accommodate the newest inlet, Pea Island Inlet, after the most recent hurricane season.  It doesn’t look shady or anything…

We reached Corolla by afternoon.  The live oaks are much taller and more prevalent in this region of the Outer Banks.

We stayed at the Inn at Corolla Light.  The room was very spacious with a bedroom, bathroom, and large closet at one end.  In the middle it had a ,small kitchen with a sink, microwave, refrigerator, and basic necessities.  The living room was at the other end with a sleeper couch, table and two chairs, TV, and sliding glass doors that opened up to the pool and hot tub!  There was plenty of room for Greta to spread out – she took no time at all to sit at the table and color.

The deck was just outside our room – complete with hot tub and pool that overlooked the water.

We went exploring before dinner.


This place would be a hopping place in the summer.

Can’t you just see a wedding at the end of this pier?  This place begs for another visit.

To the right of the pier was this view: the Whale Head Club and still the forest fire.


A boardwalk and gravel trail continues along the edge of the water, offering excellent birding opportunities.



Our mornings were filled with beach trips.  This is the end of Highway 12 – a sandy road blocked off with fences to protect the wild horses the roam the area.

The Fit was not fit for sand driving.

So, we traded in 4 wheels for 2 wheels.  Nothing like a chilly, beach bike ride to start your day.

It was a dramatic morning for a ride, with plenty of sites.

Rain was looming most of the out time in Corolla – but it did not stop us from getting our fill of the area.

We checked out a trail that takes one out to the coastal marsh of the estuary.  We spotted only one wild horse only briefly – sadly some really loud visitors scared it off.


The area was beautifully quiet after the noisy crowd  moved off in search of other wild horses to scare off.  The muddy area underneath the walkway was filled with horse prints.

The first part of the trail snaked in between a maritime forest of live oaks, southern wax myrtles, and loblolly pines.


We ate dinner at the best Mexican food I have had in a long time at Agave Roja in Corolla.  I have been hunting for something that even compares with the pescado tacos I had in the heart of Mexico City at a little stand years ago.  I finally found them, on the NC coast – they were grilled with crunchy slaw, chile aioli sauce and guacamole.  Eric ordered Camarones Tacos with pineapple-haberno sauce that were to die for as well.  The black beans and rice were also fantastic.  More to come on those in a future post.

The atmosphere and artwork were equally pleasing – tasteful rope light and original paintings.


Our last day at Corolla started with a walk at the beach at dawn.


We are all a bunch of early birds and had no trouble getting down to the water to see the sun rise.


We were glad we made it – the colors were liquid golds, pinks, and violets.  How were we to know this would be the only sunlight we saw on this day?

After breakfast we made a stop at the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, but Greta was more concerned with where her shell had gone inside her pocket.


Out last stop was at the stately home of the Knights, known as the Whalehead Club.  It was built in the 1920s as a hunting and entertaining lodge for wealthy northerners.  It has been restored and tours are available.  We opted to quickly view the free basement exhibit and take Greta on her merry way, as she was crashing towards nap time.
Oh North Carolina coast – how much I will miss you when we are in land locked Iowa.  I am so grateful for this spring trip to familiar and new places.  I hope we see you again soon, Outer Banks and Atlantic Ocean.  This image is from a trip in July of 2007, and is the beach on Ocracoke Island.
 A few of my favorite reads on the Outer Banks of North Carolina are:

Spring Break 2013: Piedmont to the Coast

We got up Friday morning and headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina – these barrier islands are a unique area to visit and have captured our hearts over the past eight years.  We did the math and I have been to the Outer Banks 8 times and Eric 7 times.  Not bad – we did well on being tourists in our own state.

Friday was a beautiful sunny day and driving conditions were perfect.  We did encounter the smoke from a large forest fire on the way to the coast.  For a while we were worried it would impact travel.

The trip takes a while but Greta was a sport – she did manage to figure out how to get her socks on her hands as means to entertain herself.

 I love this – a perfect lesson in 1-point perspective.

We were the last ones on the ferry at Cedar Island, we thought for sure we were going to miss our reservation.  Once on board, we had three hours to roam about.

Greta enjoyed running around the ferry, watching seagulls, and watching other people and their dogs.  One particular year, my father in law had a cookie stolen out of his hands by a thieving seagull.  I guarded my child on the ferry this year and made her eat in the car.

 While Greta snacked, I made time to make some art.

The rear view of a ferry is just so mesmerizing.  One year, we were followed by porpoises on our ferry ride.

Ocracoke Island at last!  Ocracoke is one of my favorite places on this planet.  It is like funky Key West meets quaint Southern charm.  The island is not as crowded as the northern parts of the Outer Banks – say Nags Head or Kitty Hawk, but clears out every evening as tourists leave on ferries.  The entire island is easily biked, the entire town is easily walked, and only accessed by ferry.  

We biked around the island a bit before dinner, trying to find my favorite restaurant the Flying Melon Cafe.  We soon discovered it was no longer my favorite restaurant and now a Mexican restaurant.  So we settled on Howard’s Pub.  The decor is like a college town pub meets fisherman vibe.  The kids menu comes served on a Frisbee.  It was ok.  No Flying Melon Cafe though.

We stayed at the Anchorage Inn & Marina which overlooks Silver Lake and Irvin Garrish Highway, or Highway 12. After Greta was in bed we watched a fantastic sunset over Silver Lake and the ferry.

The next morning, we explored the island’s neighborhoods and Ocracoke lighthouse by bicycle. 

We headed out to the beach next.  Greta was so eager to get down to the wa-wa that she was wriggling out of my arms in this photo.

After beach exploring, we headed to see the Ocracoke ponies.   Then it was on to the Hatteras ferry, and a nice scenic drive North on Highway 12 to Corolla – a brand new place for us to explore.

Hanging Rock State Park – Moore’s Wall Loop Trail

As quoted in the Hanging Rock State Park brochureNot far from the cities of the Triad area, off the four-lane highways, there’s another North Carolina to be discovered — sheer cliffs and peaks of bare rock, quiet forests and cascading waterfalls, views of the piedmont plateau that stretch for miles.”
One of the perks of being a teacher is the time off.  This past weekend was a three day weekend due to Veteran’s Day, so Eric and I took advantage of the extra time and headed to Hanging Rock State Park.  This is a lovely escape just over an  hour’s drive away from Greensboro.  It was a perfect November day – tee shirt weather in Greensboro, which meant a little cooler in the foothills.   

We decided to take the Moore’s Wall Loop Trail which is a 4.3 mile strenuous hike.  This hike starts off  curving around Hanging Rock Lake, winds through the forest, and steadily climbs into the rocky mountain, and ending with a spectacular view from a fire lookout tower.  
Greta was a little tired from sleeping in the car, but in general a good sport.  She always gets excited by the site of her hiking backpack, and this trip was no different.  She’s a trooper as long as we keep her entertained with questions and leaves to grasp.  
Greta has been hiking since she was just a few weeks old.  Hiking with kids is easy, here are our 5 simple rules:
1. Don’t wait until they can walk.  Start kids young.  Kids need to get outdoors, especially out in nature, away from the city.  A backpack for carrying kids is the best way to start.  Try on these backpacks before you buy, as you tend to get what you pay for.  Buy secondhand, if you can.  
2. Stay hydrated and prevent hunger fatigue.  Pack twice as much water and healthy snacks as you think you will need.  
3. Be prepared for the elements. Bring extra layers and rain gear. ALWAYS bring sunscreen on the trail and apply before getting out of the car. Wear hats and sunglasses as well. 
4.  Prevent injuries.  Wear shoes that can withstand rigors of hiking.  I cannot tell you how many kids I have seen complaining of sore feet and they are hiking in flip-flops!
5.  Ensure repeat trips.  Rest often.  Make up games to interest kids .  On this hike we played, “What sound does ____ (animal name) make?”

I was so grateful Eric was carrying Greta on this hike – I had forgotten how steep the end of this hike can be – this shows the last few stone steps before reaching the watch tower.  
The views are rewarding.  This shows Pilot Mountain which is currently burning due to a controlled burn that got out of hand.  We could see some of the smoke, but could not smell the fire at all.  While we did not see all that many people on the trail, the watch tower was more crowded than usual – most likely due to the closure of nearby Pilot Mountain. 

Climbing the last sets of steps before the tower platform.  

It was windy up here – Greta gasped for breath a couple times.  The last time we were here, we brought Brownie, our dog with us.  She is deathly afraid of heights and would not go near the railing.  

The leaves were still quite beautiful, even this late in November.  

Great the hungry goblin needed a snack before we headed back. 

This hike is so rewarding with views – I was so happy with the weather on this day. 
This rock shows the graffiti of earlier hikers, circa 1900. 

We took the loop, and so took the shorter way down.  This section is shorter in distance, but much harder on the knees – lots of worn smooth stone steps due to the higher traffic on this section. 

The lake looked a little cold today, but we vowed to make it up here sometime this summer and perhaps stay in one of the cabins.  

The bathhouse was built from 1935 to 1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  It offers lovely views of the lake, has modern bathrooms, and a comfortable place to sit and relax.  

I always say this is one of the most beautiful park parking lots I’ve been to – full of mature trees, granite stone walls, and lake and Sauratown Mountain views.

Oak Island, NC weekend

We spent last weekend at the beach, at Oak Island, NC.  I had not been to this part of the North Carolina coast before and was not let down in the least.  We stayed in a house right on the beach and enjoyed the easy access to the water.  It was lovely to spend time with Eric’s family, walk the beach, watch the cousins play together, eat fresh seafood, and have ample time to enjoy our camera.

Here’s a small sampling of photography from the weekend:

Night photography of the lighthouse.  
Our beach access at night. 
A crab who was not happy to see us. 
Sea foam. 

One tired baby. 

I am dreaming of the beach…

…and most specifically Ocracoke Island, which is one of my top 3 favorite places on Earth.

I got to thinking about this wonderful place because I entered a photography contest for www.outerbanks.org and their 2011 travel guide.  I entered three of my favorites from over the past five years, some of them may be below, but I am not telling specifics.  I do not want to jinx my entries, so keep your fingers crossed for OBX 2011 Official Travel Guide!  You can view the 2010 guide here.

Ocracoke beach, 2009.

I moved to North Carolina by complete chance in 2005, because it was either take a subbing job in Iowa, or start the hunt for my own classroom.  I quite accidentally found job openings in North Carolina and having never set foot in the state, discovered one of my favorite places in the United States.  North Carolina is fortunate enough to have both the mountains and the ocean for its residents to enjoy.  With the eyes of a tourist, and the license plates of a local, I have come to realize what an undiscovered gem this state truly is.  I learned first hand that the South does not always get the credit it deserves — the Outer Banks of North Carolina blows the crowded boardwalks of the Northeast and New England out of the water.  

In the five years I have lived in North Carolina, I have been to the Outer Banks at least every year, and Ocracoke Island if I am lucky.  In 2010 I managed to get there twice.  Ocracoke Island is a part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The Outer Banks are a series of islands running semi-parallel to the mainland, made of sand and continually shift and change with the waves, wind, and storms.  This thin strip of land and its waters are a unique ecosystem home to a variety of birds, turtles, crustaceans, wild horses, porpoises, and many more species.  The area has a rich cultural and historical background.  I have included some of my favorite things to do when visiting the Outer Banks.  

pet a stingray or view a shipwreck ecosystem at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island Park to celebrate the first English colonies and the lost colony of Roanoke, 
climbing the Cape Hatteras lighthouse

walking the streets of Ocracoke to NC’s oldest lighthouse

deep sea fishing or beach fishing,

taking a ferry – the only way to get to Ocracoke,

flying kites at Jockey’s Ridge State Park – endless sand dunes, 

soaking up sun and salt at the numerous beaches, 

biking the long, flat, sandy, roads with beautiful scenery the entire way,  

stormy days, tidal changes, sea spray, beach combing, sea foam on the beach – the natural beauty of these islands,

relaxing at a dockside bar or restaurants, some of the best scenery in the state of North Carolina.  
Fresh out of college, ready to teach and no idea where my life was taking me, I ended up in North Carolina and homesick for the Midwest.  Yet I grew to love this part of my life and with that my state of North Carolina more than I ever could have imagined.  I could not have thrown a dart in a better location, which is why, if given a chance to get away, I would choose Ocracoke and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.   
I even went with a hundred of my eighth grade students to the Outer Banks for an extended weekend.  It was some of the most fun I have had on the Outer Banks.