In case you were wondering where I was last week, and I’m sure you pulled out all the stops looking for me like I was Abby Sunderland, take comfort in knowing that I was on vacation. Perhaps you’re not taking comfort and instead are taking out a hit on me for flaunting that I was able to do such a thing. In either case, I’m back and semi ready to resume boring you to death with useless stories. However, among these trite posts hides little nuggets of wisdom like corn in your… never mind.
So, once again, I travelled to the Outer Banks for a much needed yet hardly attainable vacation. If you recall my lengthy diatribe last year, Nights In South Rodanthe, you’ll probably want to skip to the end or go back the way you came. Yet, I will try to minimize the muck and show some brevity of dimwit. Yeah, right.
The trip this year was bittersweet. Last year's trip to Avon marked the first vacation my in laws had ever really taken. It was also the first time my mother-in-law had seen the ocean in real life. Sadly, it was also the last time. I've mentioned it before but the last night we were there, the two of us finished off the last of the frozen custard we bought at a place in Buxton. We sort of bonded over a bowl of some of the best I'd ever had. I asked her if she had a good time and she said she did. I asked her if she understood why people did all this work for a week’s worth of beach time and she said, “No.” I laughed and agreed with her. I don’t know why either. I still haven't talked much about her dying and I'm not really ready to do that post. As it was, we were finalizing plans for this year's trip at the end of March and she died the week after Easter. She was looking forward to going back and really liked the house we picked. I was looking forward to getting another quart of custard and shooting the breeze again. I didn't have any this year and that seems right to me. if you knew me, you'd be apalled at my missing out on such a great treat. Maybe next year.
SOUNDS FAR FROM PERFECT
Instead of staying in Avon, this year, we headed North to Corolla, again. I say again because I stayed there in 2005 during Hurricane Ophelia. Ironic in that the storm was named after a character who drowned. Nice. Anyway, After dealing with some company in 2005, that I cannot recall at the moment, and having issues with Sun Realty, last year concerning the pool heat and them calling me a liar and trying to keep my money, I decided to go with a different outfit called Outer Banks Blue. I had a few places in mind with different companies including Sun Realty because we really liked the house we had last year in Avon, even with all the issues. Unfortunately, the new owners of the house put in minimal updates and raised the rental price $1000 for the same week as we had last year. Regardless, I kept a few properties on the back burner and played them against each other in the pricing game.
The one nice thing about Outer Banks Blue was that they gave you the final cost upfront and the house we were looking at was in the Corolla Light Town Center section with access to the various amenities such as free beach parking, use of the pools, playgrounds, and basketball and tennis courts as well as a shuttle that could take us to and from the beach. The bad thing was that they did not check their listing very well against the house. Granted, it wasn’t the end of the world in terms of inaccuracies on their part but it did end up influencing my vote on which house to go with in the end. Still, even after I brought it to their attention they neglected to fix the listing. Here is the listing for the house. In case they do finally fix it, here is a screenshot of what the listing said when I booked the house, rented the house, lived in the house, and wrote this post the week after I left the house.
Like I said, a minor inconvenience for most people. But when I could have had an awesome house on a golf course or a place we called the Taj Mahal for the same price with wireless access, it makes me a little miffed. Since, I like to keep up with the important things like, you know, my email, shirt shops, [muffled voice] mafia and farm [/muffled voice], it’s nice to be able to get up and make the little one some breakfast and surf the web while she watches Dino Train or Sid the Science Kid in the same room. When I have to go to a whole other floor to be jacked into a three foot cable just to get a connection it becomes counterproductive.
I knew within minutes that there was no router but acted ignorant of the fact when I called the office. I asked how I went about making the wifi work. She said she wasn’t sure but would send someone out to check on it. When the guy arrived he said there was no wireless and called back to the office. Now, you can always tell when someone is going to try and pull one over on you. I learned that from the experience with the pool heater last year. When this guy first mentioned to the other person on the phone that he was at the house that used to belong to Village and that I was standing right there, the plan fell apart. I had already heard enough to figure out what happened. I had also found a journal left by the owners giving basic instructions and tips along with guest comments and all mentioned Village Realty. I put it all together and when he got off the phone, I said to the guy, “Let me guess. Outer Banks Blue acquired this property from Village Realty and just copied and pasted the listing, not bothering to check if they had kept the router?” He sheepishly looked at me and said, “Yep.”
He told me to contact the manager and discuss it. Frankly, I was tired of fighting with people for stupid stuff. It wasn’t the end of the world and figured, “OK, no wireless. Business will have to wait until I can get time. I’m on vacation for crissakes!” Instead of fighting for refunds or principles, I’ll just vote with my wallet and go somewhere else… and blog the whole experience so that other consumers can be sure to check on these things before they rent houses. I’m still a prick, first and foremost, I’ve just decided to use other methods to deal with issues. After working for almost ten years in a customer service capacity, I’ve learned that losing a customer can be more expensive that properly dealing with an issue. If it were my company, I would have taken the opportunity to reach out to the customer, proactively, and offered an apology and even made a deal to offer them some kind of discount, whether it be a gift card to the local grocery stores or a discount on a repeat stay the next summer. But then again, that’s why I am not in charge of anything.
My sister-in-law decided to stay in the 4X4 section in Carova. It’s a bit hairy getting up there but pretty awesome to drive out onto the beach and see wild horses. Although, the bugs are pretty big and I think I saw one of them carrying a small child away. You also have to plan your schedule around the tides and nightfall. This can play havoc for you if you like to eat out or visit with the rest of your group who decided to minivan it in the paved sections of the OBX. For us, we managed to get out a total of four times for dinner.
Fat Crabs Rib Company, Corolla, NC
For a little joint in the shopping plaza next to Corolla Light I was impressed. It’s kind of like picnic table and chair fair with cold cases set up for grabbing a drink out of at your table. I had the pulled pork sandwich and it was pretty darn good. My father-in-law had the crab and was impressed. The hush puppies were pretty damn good to. I give the place three out of five stars for food quality.
Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet, Kitty Hawk, NC
I can remember the Bonfire restaurant in Ocean City, MD as being my first taste of seafood buffet indulgence. I went there with a couple of friends and we spent three hours just eating. I think we may have taken a power nap in between trips to the buffet. At the end of the meal we probably had 20 or so plates stacked on the table. My one friend then defiled the experience by getting drunk and throwing up in the middle of the night. “$20 worth of prime rib, down the toilet” was the quote the next day. That was 1995, I believe. $20 for all you care to eat prime rib, crab legs, seafood, pasta, desert, etc. 15 years later, I still remembered that quote as I got my bill from Jimmy’s. $28.95 for the buffet. On that buffet, ten types of crab legs, seafood of different kinds, pasta, meats, and desert.
However, compared to other places, I was a bit disappointed. I had heard of some bad reviews online but was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. First off, expect a wait. It is the big name buffet in the OBX. However, to pass the time with the impatient kiddies, there are free pony rides out back. Once we got in, we were cramped into a nook near the bar that had a five foot high wall separating us from the main flow of traffic. Together with two tables, placed perpendicular to us at the front of the nook, we felt a bit trapped. It took some tactical planning to effectively make trips to the buffet and not have to make everyone move for you to get back into the corner. For as big and as busy as this place was I would have expected bigger bathrooms, but unfortunately, they were one man bands.
The food was pretty decent. I ate a ton of food and at least four sets of crab legs. I stuck to the Alaskan but if I ever go back will try the big spiny ones as well. I was eyeing up the Russian, King, and Dungeness as I picked up a second helping of Alaskan.
Overall, I give it three stars but I would suggest getting there early if you have to drive back to the 4X4 section. Also, they just opened up a location in Ocracoke last year, I think. That may be a hell of a lot nicer place to visit but you have to go by boat and once again, plan accordingly.
Captain George’s, Kill Devil Hills, NC
If you’re heading East on 158… which feels like South, and you’ve just passed the Wright Brothers’ Memorial, it’s on the left. I highly, HIGHLY, recommend going there. For the same price as Jimmy’s you don’t get the ten types of crab legs, but you get awesome food, service, and a bit of ritz. The OBX location is brandy new and if you are familiar with the Virginia Beach location, it’s a bit of a departure. I’ve been the one in Virginia a few times and I liked it. It looks like an old sailing ship, akin to Pirates of the Caribbean, on the inside. The new one in the OBX might as well be called Captain Trump’s because the inside is pretty classy looking. The servers and bus staff wear those floor length apron things and they keep clearing your table as you eat. Believe me, they are on top of things. The food was excellent. I had four sets of crab legs, all Alaskan, hush puppies that were pretty good, and the best G’Dam corn bread I’ve ever eaten. It’s in muffin form for easier picking and believe me, you’ll want more than one. They also had the one thing I love, that was missing from Jimmy’s, Seafood Norfolk. That’s pretty much a hodgepodge of crab bits, shrimp and scallops drowned in butter. I had two helpings of that. The deserts were excellent and I cannot complain about driving a half hour from Corolla to get there. We went at the same time as we did for Jimmy’s and walked right in and sat down.
Kill Devil's Frozen Custard, Kill Devil Hills, NC
And if you are already in Kill Devil Hills, try some of the best frozen custard around as well as hot dogs, fries. The last time I stayed in Corolla, which was 2005, I happened upon this place with my wife while looking for some frozen custard. It is truly awesome. I take frozen custard very seriously.
Uncle Eddie's Frozen Custard, Buxton, NC
If you happen to be on Pea Island and near the Cape Hatteras Light, run up to Buxton and get some Uncle Eddie's. We bought it in quarts last year and on our last night there, we had to finish it up. It was a nice little moment between myself and my late mother-in-law. It still gets me thinking about having that conversation about her first trip to the beach.
Route 12 Steak and Seafood Company, Corolla, NC
We wanted to stick close to home our last night and we knew that driving to Duck would take an extra 15 minutes so we tried something different. Right in Corolla, at the TimBuck II shopping plaza is this little joint. It’s pretty small inside but that wasn’t a problem. They have a limited menu and it’s all pretty fancy and high priced. I will recommend the pasta marinara as my wife and daughter both liked it. I had the Seafood Fra Diavolo. That’s noodles with lobster, shrimp, and scallops mixed in with a spicy tomato based sauce. It was excellent. The scallops were about half the size of hockey pucks and tender as all get out. There was no rubbery texture at all.
Fishbone’s Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, Duck, NC
We tried this place out in 2005 and liked it. The menu is a bit on the spicy side but you have the opportunity to eat out on the deck of the sound and watch the sunset. I honestly cannot remember what I ate but it was pretty good and I would eat there again. It was a backup plan for our last night but we didn’t want to have to drive the extra fifteen minutes into Duck to go there and wait. And you will wait for a bit.
Other than that, we didn’t do much else. I climbed the top of the Currituck Light and after climbing Hatteras Light I can say this one seemed harder to do. The view is pretty cool. You can see the sound and the ocean and it’s a bit of a disappointment to see how built up the area is getting in Corolla. Soon, it will be just as crowded as Nags Head. Staying in Corolla has the potential to appear pretentious but honestly, it’s a hell of a lot quieter and relaxing than Avon was. The only drawback is the one way in and out on Route 12. There are talks of putting in a short cut which would consist of a bridge to Corolla from the mainland. I’d like it but I’d hate to see that drive more people into the area. There’s already concern of overdeveloping the 4X4 area which is the last place to see the Wild Mustangs of the Outer Banks. They have a huge fence up at the end of Route 12 to keep them north and it would be sad to see them driven even further from their natural habitat. The other piece of advice I’ll give about staying up in Corolla. Leave early. It took us nearly two hours to get to the Border Station in Moyock. A majority of the rentals end on Saturday so expect there to be a lot of traffic on 12 and 158. In fact we were stop and go almost all the way on 64 until we reached the tunnel.
All the issues aside, I’ll be back next year and with more tales of Mongo in the wild. Have a great summer.