Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coastal NC, An Interesting Mix of Old and New

I recently ran into a tide table dated 1969.  It came from a restaurant in Morehead City.  It is likely that my uncle Austin and I picked it up on a fishing trip that summer nearly forty two years ago.

In those days what is now called the Southern Outer Banks or the Crystal Coast was a pretty undeveloped place.  We drove across the bridge at Morehead City and eventually cut over to the beach when the roads disappeared.  We managed to drive down to the Point at the end of Emerald Isle.

The Point is a much different place today.  The area is filled with homes, Coast Guard Road, and in the summer, a fair number of people.  I made a recent visit to the Point to take a picture of snow on the beach and gather material for a post on the colder than normal winter that we have endured this winter of 2010-11.

The previous Saturday a snowstorm had come about as close as you can get to snowing us in down here on the coast.  It brought back some memories of years and blizzards in Canada, and even got me to decide that just maybe being snowed in isn't so bad even on the North Carolina coast.

Having a day to contemplate things and fix our computer network gave me a chance to contemplate what an interesting mix of life we have along the North Carolina's beaches.

One the one hand, ancient birds like pelicans are our everyday neighbors.  We live in area rich with wildlife.  Just today, I have enjoyed herons, pelicans, and hooded merganser ducks, and I have not even walked more than 100 yards from my house.  There was also a grey fox that I caught sight of this morning.  Having 158,000 acres of the Croatan National Forest on one side and the fifty-six miles of the Cape Lookout National Seashore does not hurt.

Yesterday as I took my afternoon hike, I had to marvel that I was recording my hike with my Android based Droid phone.  After I got back I was able to send the GPS track of my hike to my Google maps.

Having 3G phone service here on the edge of the continent is not that amazing given the reach of technology these days.  Of course 3G service doesn't come in a lot of flavors down here.  If you are an iPhone lover, you might be out of luck.  However, Verizon does do a good job here so I guess you could switch carriers if you just cannot live without your iPhone.

Several years ago I wrote a post about the Instant Economy  and how easy it is easy to find the services needed to start a business.  I was living in Roanoke, VA at the time, and it is a much more populated area than the Southern Outer Banks.

After being down here over four years, I cannot see much difference between the technology I find on the Crystal Coast and what I find in Roanoke.  It might be easier to get a Macintosh computer repaired in Roanoke, but that is about the only thing that I can see.

In fact my cable modem service provider is a little more reliable here on the coast.  Where our home is in Roanoke, it is still impossible to get Internet phone service through the cable provider. We can do that here on the coast and save a few dollars by bundling television, Internet access, and telephone services.
Winds, storms, and water have a huge impact on our life here at the coast.  We are close to the land and sea.  We pay attention to the weather, but at the same time, we have all the conveniences of modern society like grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, health care services, good schools, and very good roads.

In fact you might say that we get the best of both worlds.  Our services and stores end up being over built to handle the short influx of visitors that we have during the summer tourist season.  In the winter, late fall, and much of the spring, we are here by ourselves.  Our stores and roads are uncrowded, and everything moves to a slower pace.  It is not a bad way to live. 

We have almost the best of the Internet world in a place where there are still farmers' markets along the roads, and you can still buy local fish fresh off the boasts.  It is a little like a wired paradise.

We enjoy the visitors in the summer. They bring some hustle and bustle to a normally very quiet area. Other than crowding the grocery stores some on the weekends, there are almost no challenges that come from our summer visitors.  We are blessed with a tourist area made up almost exclusively of single family homes.  While there are a few condo complexes sprinkled around, the density of housing for our summer visitors is very low, so we just don't get the crowds that other places have.

It does not hurt that we also have four lane roads coming at the area from two different ends, and that we have the Northern Outer Banks to handle many of the tourists who often have never even heard of our area.  Myrtle Beach also helps us by drawing off the golfers, and Wilmington picks up many of the day trippers.  We have our own little niche, and in this case it is not so bad to be a niche player.

So while many of us feel very close to the sea and the creatures that swim in it and fly over it, it is very possible to be a person immersed in technology here.  You can twitter and post to Facebook just as easily as you can in more urban areas.  You might even be more likely to actually know the people online than you would be in a city.  While you might not have access to Verizon FIOS, you can probably survive quite well on the technology that you find here on the Southern Outer Banks.

Few people may have heard of Foursquare, but you might find it easier to get to know a real mayor.  In fact if you come down and buy a beach house from me, I will make it a point to introduce you to the mayor of Emerald Isle.   He is a very nice guy and much more accessible than your average mayor.

I have not seen any limitations that come from living in this beautiful area.  That is one of the reasons that I am proud to help people find homes in this special spot.  It is a beautiful area, and I am excited to wake up here every morning.  You just never know what you might find in the Gut behind our home.

You might even get to do some heron noodling.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Winter Storm on the Horizon at the Beach

Here it is the heart of winter.  We are supposed to be seeing January average temperatures in the mid-fifties with lows in the mid-thirties.

January 2011 is not turning out that way.  We started warm, and it brought some crowds to the beach, but we are going to have to wait until the middle of the month for our next nice weather.  We are lucky in that there are four days supposedly on tap in the mid-sixties.

Four warm days could definitely put a dent in winter, but first we have to get through the impending winter storm.

Winter storms are serious things even at the beach.  If we are lucky we will just get some cold rain and winds.  We could get sleet and freezing rain. With freezing rain comes the danger of power outages.

Of course you don't have to live at the beach to face the threat of power outages because of freezing rain.  If I had to bet on those places facing the most impact from freeing rain in this next storm, I would guess a few miles inland all the way to Greensboro and maybe even in to South Carolina.

Looking at this storm in particular, the Greensboro to Raleigh area might be the sweet spot.  I have faced plenty of iced up roads in Virginia and Atlantic Canada. Ice in my opinion is never nice.  I even have some chains for my feet.  They are indispensable when things get really icy on the mountain. Unfortunately they won't me any good hanging in the garage in Virginia.

I doubt that we will not face a situation like the one depicted in the linked pictures. While ice is bad in the flat country of coastal Carolina, it can be deadly in the mountains.  Anyone can go up an icy hill, only someone with a divine guiding hand can make it down safely.  I am thankful for the absence of hills and mountains in Coastal NC.

Actually I don't even have a snow shovel down here at the beach.  Going into our fifth winter, I have yet to see the need for a snow shovel.  I hope it stays that way.

While we had good crowds a week ago, yesterday things were quiet almost everywhere including the beach and sound.  A little more of this winter weather, and we will have to kick off our annual visits to the museums of the area.

We are about to run out of football to watch, but fortunately the warm Carolina sun should start making itself known fairly soon.  Then we can start thinking about gardening and boating.  I have to get my tomato plans started very soon.

The first of the week January storm is going to bring us a taste of winter, but as usual I suspect we will come through it in fine shape.  I have not heard any predictions of damaging winds or surf.

I can't wait until there are people on the beach once again.