Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hello, Ocracoke!

Mark and I had an extra day off last week and had hoped to spend our long weekend in Sandusky, Ohio, going on all the roller coasters in Cedar Point. The weather had other plans, though, and with lots of thunderstorms in the forecast, we decided to save that trip for another time. A bit of weather-checking later, we came up with another fun plan...the Outer Banks!

Why drive when you can fly? We loaded up the C172 and headed south, passing Hampton Roads (PVG) along the way.

Our first stop was Dare County Regional (MQI) in Manteo, NC. This airport drove me nuts, and I probably won't stop here again unless we're going to Nags Head or Manteo itself. There were six or seven people in the pattern when we got there, which was fine, except I had to break off my downwind-to-base turn twice for other traffic of varying speeds that decided to land straight in. I was pretty annoyed by the time we got on the ground, which was not helped by the seemingly indifferent people in the packed FBO. It was a fuel stop and it served its purpose, but there are other less frustrating airports in the area that I'll use first if I can for the next trip.

The ramp at MQI. It's a pretty airport, but that's not enough (for me, at least) to outweigh how chaotic everything felt. It's probably better in the off-season, but for a random Tuesday morning it was slammed.

As soon as they topped us off we were out of there and on our way south again. We climbed to 2500' to stay above the beaches and wildlife preserves. It was definitely a pretty flight; I especially liked the patterns in the deeper parts of the inlets.

It didn't take very long to reach Cape Hatteras.

We had a pretty good view of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse as we flew past.

We cut the corner a little bit and made our turn out to the southwest. Billy Mitchell Airport (HSE) is just a little bit down the coast. I'm sure we'll stop there someday, but we had a little further to fly.

We flew over the Hatteras Inlet short after passing HSE. Mark took most of these flying pictures, and I actually stopped and said "ooo!" when I saw this one.   :)

Mark took a bunch of pictures of the inlets; they were some of my favorites from the whole trip.

A few minutes later, we were almost at our final stop: Ocracoke. The beach stretches the length of the island and was mostly empty.

Ocracoke Airport (W95) is really neat! Mark took this on final for runway 24. You can easily walk to the beach from the airport, and while unmanned, there is an air-conditioned pilot room that you use a keypad to access. We landed just fine, tied the plane down, and called Howard's Pub to get a golf cart ride closer to town.

It was HOT by the time we got there, but we were hungry and they had immediate seating available on their screened-in porch, so we took it. I inhaled my tuna sandwich (which was an actual hunk of medium-rare tasty!), then we used our new Razor scooters to scooter into town. Between the bumpy road, the heat, and carrying all of our bags, it took a little while, but we eventually got to the Ocracoke Harbor Inn, checked in, and dropped our stuff off in the room. We took a little bit of a break to cool off a bit, then went back out to explore the island.

The Ocracoke Lighthouse was only a few blocks away. We made a quick stop so I could grab a couple pictures, then scootered a bit further down the road and wound up finding a really neat little beach hidden at the end of a path through a wooded area called Springer's Point Preserve. We didn't have our bathing suits or towels with us, but we figured we'd come back later and scootered back toward the hotel.

Did I mention it was hot? Because it was HOT. Luckily, one of the small stores we passed sold Freeze Pops. We sat on their front porch to eat them before heading back to the room.

Our little scooters worked well for getting around the immediate harbor area, but the hotel rented bikes for a decent price so we decided to save our legs and do that instead. We made a quick stop at the room to change into our bathing suits, then biked the mile back to the airport to get our towels and umbrella from the plane. The beach was so close that we locked up our bikes at the airport and walked down to the water.

Beach! It's part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and it's really nice. It's a lot quieter than most beaches, though there were a fair number of trucks parked a bit further down with people fishing.

We thought we were well prepared, bringing our folding beach umbrella. Figures, as soon as Mark went to set it up, it broke! He eventually got it rigged up to give at least a little bit of shade for the afternoon.

The beach was a lot of fun, despite Mark's punchiness.  :)   The water was a really nice temperature, so even I spent most of the time in the water. We saw a couple V-22s fly past out over the water...

...and a few people riding horses further down the beach.

We hung out for a few hours before we got hungry enough to head back into town. Thankfully, the sand had cooled down a bit by then, too...the walk out to the water earlier in the afternoon had been like walking on lava because the sand was so hot.

We wound up stopping back at Howard's Pub for dinner since lunch worked out so well (and it was right on the way back into town). 

We made sure to celebrate the beginning of the trip with a couple drinks. I caught Mark's 'tasting' face; I think he was trying some Basil Hayden's for the first time.

Dinner was really good (I had a salad and a crabcake sandwich, which really hit the spot), then we stopped at the Fig Tree bakery for some ice cream for dessert. We eventually made our way back into town and back to the hotel, grabbed a Sprite from the vending machine, and made some drinks in the room from what we brought in our flasks. We're classy.   ;)

Our porch had a great view...

...but so did the hotel's dock across the little road. We finished our drinks, watched a little tv, then passed out. Beach day tomorrow!   :)

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