Croatan cleanses the memory

We took a trip down to Myrtle Beach earlier in the week.

The trip just reaffirmed what I already knew. Carteret County (and Swansboro) is a much better spot for me.

I do not need all the night life, shopping, and multiple six lane highways.

It does not take long to realize that while the beach is still nice in Myrtle Beach, getting to it and enjoying it become challenges.

For a few years we lived in Columbia, Md. almost exactly half way between Baltimore and Washington. Obviously there was no shortage of wonderful things to do, as long as you did not mind sitting in traffic or fighting for a parking spot.

We ended up organizing our lives around the rhythm of the traffic. Whatever was happening in the natural world had to be shoehorned into traffic patterns.

That ends up being backwards. It reminds me of many of the trips that I took on business to California. I would often have some free time between meetings in Cupertino which was not far from Santa Cruz and even Monterey.

I rarely chose to go down there, because the traffic was so bad.

I guess my trip to Myrtle made me feel good about living in an area where I do not have to wait for a bad day to clear the roads before I can visit the beach.

When the weather is cool and damp as it is this weekend, we relax by the fire with the knowledge that the next great day, we will head over to the beach or find some time to walk the trails of Croatan National Forest.

According to my calculations it took at least three walks on the Croatan Tideland trails before I cleansed my memory of all those beach high rise buildings.

Ballyhoos, home of my favorite Grouper sandwich

Grouper is one our area's favorite fishes.

Certain there is nothing wrong with the occasional meal of fresh pan-fried flounder.

Of course when you can get them a tasty Spanish Mackerel, or some local Trout hit the spot.

However, our own local Grouper remains my favorite area fish.

The advantage of Grouper is that it is widely available in our area and likely to be fresh. I have enjoyed it at other restaurants in the area, but I am pleased to report that I have found the spot for the best Grouper Sandwich.

These days I am trying to make conscious choices which result in a diet of healthier food. With that in mind I was excited to find a grilled Grouper Burger on the menu at Ballyhoos.

I have now had Ballyhoos Grouper Burger at least four times. It has been consistently good so I can highly recommend it.

It has become my meal of choice when I am looking for good fish. It is well seasoned and sometimes is even a little spicy which I love. It is also only $8 and is a healthy portion of Grouper.

The folks at Ballyhoos are flexible enough to let me get some steamed veggies instead fries so the meal turns out to be delicious and good for me. I even had a nice Red Stripe beer with it tonight just so I could get the full health benefit.

My wife has decided that the Chicken Quesadilla is her favorite dinner at Ballyhoos. She got hers with a Spinach Tortilla tonight. Based on the taste that I got, its also a delicious meal.

The food always tastes better with good service. I can say the service at Ballyhoos is always professional, and it is a smoke-free environment.

It is a great place for a meal.


Festival time

This weekend marked the beginning of the beach season if festivals are any indication.

We attended the Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day festival on Saturday.

Later in the day, after a short wait in line, we enjoyed the Swansboro Oyster Roast.

The weather could not have been more perfect.

I actually think that I could have worn shorts instead of blue jeans.

We had a great barbecue sandwich at Emerald Isle, but we were careful not to overeat since all you can eat Oysters don't come around every day.

Shorts would have been a good uniform for the Swansboro festival.

There was quite a crowd there, especially around the Oyster tables.

Also it is hard work eating your way through those piles of steamed Oysters.

There was definitely something for everyone on Saturday.

I can highly recommend the festivals which seem to always be the same weekend.

If you are smart, you will circle the weekend on your 2009 calendar.

What could be better than few dozen steamed Oysters or fantastic barbecue?

As long as you are not afraid to use an Oyster knife, and you have a good glove to protect one hand, this is great sport.

I find a towel helpful to keep my knife clean, and a beer to quench my thirst the only other ingredients needed.

If you love Oysters, you will go away happy and full from the Swansboro festival.

It was a great Saturday, I cannot wait until the next festivals along the Crystal Coast.

I am happy to see the season moving towards summer. Now if the weather will just warm back up to what it was Saturday.


Back from the mountains

It is always a pleasure to get back home.

I always feel like I am home when I can see the White Oak.

When we got back yesterday, there was no temperature differential.

We have been leaving Roanoke in the thirties and arriving here on the coast in the sixties. Roanoke and Cape Carteret were both in the sixties yesterday.

Raleigh is even a little farther ahead with spring than we are. I heard it was in the mid seventies there today.

Still it was nice to walk into a home where the heat hasn't been running. It was also nice to have the windows open all day today.

I hope to catch both the weekend festivals in Swansboro and Emerald Isle. I will post pictures later this weekend.

Right now Saturday looks to be a lot warmer than it was last year.

I am looking forward to getting over to the Island festival before the pipers are gone this year. I am counting on finding great barbecue for lunch.

Of course I expect to enjoy a bunch of oysters for dinner in Swansboro. Last year was a real treat.

Not much fun on the White Oak

Our youngest daughter and her significant other, Alex, visited us for my birthday this past weekend.

Among other things Alex is a fantastically skilled boater, having practically grown up in boat.

That means I will venture out in the boat with Alex when I would probably leave it on the lift if the job of captain was in my lap.

Monday March 3 we decided to down the White Oak to Swansboro and then over towards Hammocks Beach State Park where rumor had it there might be some fish.

We left on a falling tide, knowing we didn't have a lot of time. Usually the trip to Swansboro is pretty uneventful if you just follow the channel markers.

Fortunately I have a GPS in our boat and took the time last summer to mark all the buoys.

I say that because there are a couple of markers missing as you get to Swansboro.

There is buoy missing before the island and the last marker after the island as you turn to go towards the bridge is also gone.

If you have boated on the White Oak, you know that having missing channel markers on a falling tide is the last thing you want next to fog or darkness.

We managed okay, but by the time we got down to the Hammocks Beach area, the supposed fishing hole was a dry spot so we turned around and headed home.

One of the great disadvantages to visiting our area on a short trip is that you end up forcing what you do into a tiny window.

That being said we took off in the boat the next morning. We did that knowing that there were winds of ten to fifteen miles per hour. We also knew that sometimes the White Oak can be choppier than the sounds.

As we were riding by the dock of a neighbor, he told us to be careful up by Swansboro since some buoys were missing. We thanked him for the warning even if it was a day late.

Even with some wind we were hoping to make it up to Stella and perhaps fish for a few minutes in the White Oak after it narrows. Unfortunately the farther up river we got, the worse the waves became.

Just as we were close to making our last turn up the river by the campground, the waves were at two to three feet. I was too busy then to take photographs.

We made the decision that we should make a run for home before things got any worse.

Of course by the time we got back to Hancock Point and Bluewater Cove, the waves dropped substantially.

The picture at the top is after we got back to the markers in mid-river.

This picture at Green 15 is just as you see Worthy of the Lamb before getting to the Bluewater Cove channel at Red 16.

Of course the closer we got to home the quieter it got.

As the kids were packing to leave the next morning, there seemed to be an extra foot or so of water behind the house, the sky was blue and the winds were calm.

Oh well, there is always next time.

Warmth returns

This was a great day. Our warm weather came back.

I had to work all day so I did not get to do a beach walk or anything exciting.

I still enjoyed the 70 degree temperature and not wearing a coat.

I have only had a coat on four or five times this year which is just about right in my book.

Today I did manage to sneak down to the Emerald Woods pier on Emerald Isle and take a number of pictures of yet another spectacular Bogue Sound sunset.

It is just amazing how different each of the sunsets can be.

We continued our break from cooking at home. Some friends treated us to lunch at Mike's on Emerald Isle, and I had oysters on my mind so we managed to get into Jordan's before the crowd hit.

The oyster were great. Lunch was delicious also. It is hard to beat Mike's stuffed pepper soup and their grilled reuben sandwich.

That's not bad considering we had some great pizza with friends at Trattoria in Swansboro Thursday evening.

Tomorrow I am hoping for some time to relax and catch up on my writing. We may even cook all our meals at home.