On occasion, Matt’s charter flights involve the drop-off of a passenger to some fun locale, and sometimes, this happens on a weekend. This makes it easy to slide right into a weekend stop somewhere new. Recently, Matt had a drop-off flight to coastal NC on a Friday night. What a perfect way to spend the weekend somewhere on the beach. Right?
The flight was planned, the bags were packed, the trip was happening – or was it?
I had it all planned out. We would fly into Beaufort, NC on a Friday night and drop Matt’s charter client off. He wouldn’t be flying back with us, so we would make the short 20-minute flight to Ocracoke Island where we would spend 2 nights in an adorable inn, have seafood boils delivered to us on the beach, ride old fashioned bicycles, search for seashells, and have romantic dinners in quaint little seafood shacks.
But none of this would actually happen. At least not this time around. A week before our Friday night flight, Ocracoke flooded. Actually, the entire southeast coast flooded, but the small low lying barrier islands were hit particularly hard. When Ocracoke was still closed to visitors on Wednesday night, we made the decision to cancel and change our Friday plans.
No worries. I always have a Plan B. All neurotic planners do. What you do know about us is that we put a neurotic amount of time into planning the perfect trip. What you don’t know is that we usually put a neurotic amount of time into planning 2 trips….you know….in case the first one doesn’t work out.
My travel nightmare (okay, maybe that’s a bit strong, we’ll call it “Vicki’s Least Desirable Scenario) is to show up somewhere I have never been WITH NO PLANS.
No, I take it back. That IS a nightmare.
I don’t deal well with lack of structure and uncertainty.
I realize there are those that disagree with me. They believe you should never plan a trip. They say unplanned trips lead to spontaneous adventures, new friends, and unexpected experiences.
I say these people are imbeciles.
I say unplanned trips are how you end up sleeping in a car because you don’t have a reservation, get diarrhea from that restaurant that was rated #789 out of 800 (but you didn’t know that, now did you?), and run out of clean underwear because you didn’t count on getting lost for 2 days on those back roads without a map.
Spontaneous travel is for 20 year olds. I want to know where I am sleeping, where I am eating, and how many changes of clothes I need. I want to know the thread count of the hotel sheets and whether the bathroom has a hair dryer. I want to know whether or not there are any meatballs on the menu and if they are made with lamb or beef. I want to know what the day and nighttime temperatures are going to be and where the closest place is to get a ginger nut latte with an extra shot of espresso. And I want to know it at least 2 months before I go.
I shifted us to The Alternative Flood Plan, which would involve flying into Beaufort, spending Friday night at a lovely Inn with a romantic seaside dinner out, following by a B&B breakfast, a quick trip on the morning ferry to see the feral horses on nearby Shackleford Banks, lunch in Beaufort and a return home. No need to spend the whole weekend since Ocracoke was out. We’d be home by Saturday afternoon.
I packed one change of clothes, minimal toiletries, and we were on our way.
It was clean. It was simple. It was fine.
Or so I thought.
My mistake was not wearing a headset in the plane.
I never wear a headset. I find them bulky and uncomfortable. Okay, fine….. I don’t wear them because they mess up my hair. I opted to read a book on the flight over as Matt and his passenger chatted away.
By the time we arrived, the plans had already been made.
Not MY plans.
That’s where all the trouble came in, you see.
We left Knoxville on a Friday afternoon and headed to Charlotte to pick up Matt’s passenger. We had time to grab a quick lunch so we opted for something close to the airport. Have you noticed that airports aren’t usually in the best parts of town? That means restaurants near airports typically feature all-you-can eat Chinese places in strip malls or places with names like “Larry’s Sunshine Café” or “Super Taco.”
I’m not really a fan of restaurants near airports.
We chose the least offensive looking place and found ourselves in an old school BBQ joint, complete with shiny yellow gingham tablecloths, oversized plastic ketchup dispensers, and lots of waitresses wearing Lee jeans and too much eye make-up. I was starting to think we’d made a HUGE mistake when our smiling waitress showed up with a basket of free hushpuppies.
The food wasn’t fancy, but it was good: finely chopped BBQ pork with a tangy Carolina vinegar-based sauce, crispy fresh fried okra, and savory Brunswick stew with sweet tea. It was just enough to make a southern girl happy.
We made it back to the airport, picked up the passenger, and headed to Beaufort, NC. I had never been to that part of the coast and I was looking forward to a nice night out and a little bit of sightseeting the next day before heading home.
When we landed, Matt said, “There has been a change of plans.”
Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows that that is quite possibly the worst sentence you can ever say to me. You would probably get a less violent reaction if you told me I was actually adopted and my natural parents were both serial killers or that I had an incurable skin fungus.
Matt saw my face clouding over and quickly explained, “The weather looks bad for flying back tomorrow. When I mentioned that, my flight client told me that it would help him out if we could stay until Sunday night so that he doesn’t have to drive home.”
Okay, this didn’t sound too bad. I mean, I had done enough research to know there were enough things in Beaufort to keep us occupied until Sunday. We could just extend our stay at the inn, add in a few of the other restaurants I had seen online, and do some shopping. What’s not to like about a whole weekend at the beach? This might be fun.
That’s when Matt really let the bomb drop.
“We’re going to stay with him at his condo tomorrow and go to a dinner with him that night. He also invited us out on his boat Sunday.”
Just like that, I was no longer in control of my plans. I had no information about where I was going, where I was staying, where I was eating, or what I would be doing.
You would have thought I had just been told I had an unplanned pregnancy, not an unplanned weekend.
I was instantly clammy. My breath came in shallow little gasps. I was pretty sure I was going to pass out.
Matt dove in with gusto, “It sounds really great,” he said, “He’s got a 4 bedroom place on the beach all to himself, tickets to a ‘Sea & Farm’ dinner being hosted on Harker’s Island by Beaufort and Blind Pig of Asheville that he wants to take us to, and he said he’s taking a yacht out for the day on Sunday with some nice food and drinks and we can tag along.”
“Why don’t we just get a rental car and do our own thing?” I asked, the panic starting to rise.
“I already told him we’d do it.”
And that was that.
I’m not much of an optimist. For me, it’s not about whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. I want to know what restaurant the glass came from and whether or not it was on my list.
This was definitely not on my list.
Unfortunately, I was stuck with it, so I unbound my internal optimist and took the duct tape off of her mouth for just a moment.
“This could be pretty awesome, you know,” she immediately started to jibber-jabber. “I mean, a condo on the beach, a private dinner, a yacht….this is a rich, classy guy….this has to be AWESOME, right?”
I quickly put the duct tape back on her mouth, but maybe she had something…..could this be awesome?
Probably not. The reason I keep my internal optimist bound and gagged is because I tend to be more of a "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is" kind of girl.
Matt and I are not the type that luck into free luxury condos, private events, and yachts. We are not going to win the lottery. No one is going to give us a free car because we are the 1,000,000th customer at the gas station. We are the people that are most likely to step in the one dog turd that exists in a 10 block radius. That is our reality.
And this all sounded too good to be true.
Not that it really mattered. There was nothing I could do about it now. I was no longer the captain of my own ship. In fact, I was shipwrecked.
But we still had tonight at the Inn. At least I knew that would be good.
When I was looking for a place to stay in Beaufort and found that the #1 rated inn sported an inordinate number of floral polyester bedspreads and fake plants, I knew I had to look outside the usual reference sites. I dug a little deeper and found a new inn that had only been open for a couple of months, so…. no reviews, but the Inn on Turner looked perfect.
The Inn on Turner was a historic home with only 3 quaint rooms decorated in beachy chic located in the middle of historic Beaufort. We arrived just as they were serving complimentary wine and champagne with snacks.
Champagne? I had already forgotten about the next day’s disastrous plans.
I had champagne! Strawberries! I loved this inn!
The innkeepers had made us a reservation for dinner at Blue Moon Bistro. It was a very pleasant stroll through Beaufort’s quaint streets to the restaurant. I spotted adorable wine shops and stores that I was looking forward to checking out the next day. This was getting better and better!
We found the Blue Moon Bistro in the historic 1827 Dill House, just about a block from Beaufort’s waterfront. The dining space was small and intimate with just the right amount of candlelight.
We started with the “big bowl” of Caesar salad and the fried oyster plate. For dinner, Matt ordered the creole style shrimp with Andouille sausage and jasmine rice. I couldn’t resist the autumn gnocchi with butternut squash, shaved Brussels sprouts, and balsamic glaze. We followed that with a spice cake served with turbinado sugar ice cream.
After dinner, we stopped off at a little bar that had been recommended by the innkeepers - the Backstreet Pub.
You know that dream where you are standing in front of your class at school in your underwear?
Yes. It was like that.
Do you ever walk into a place and know you’ve made a mistake the second you enter? But the place is small, local, and everyone looks up just as you walk in so there is no option of a clandestine escape?
As soon as we stepped inside, I felt like I had just walked into someone’s family reunion uninvited. The awkwardness of not belonging was compounded by my glance at the bar which showed NOTHING BUT BEER.
We were now non-beer drinking, overdressed outsiders in a local’s bar that served only beer.
I did the only thing I could think of.
I immediately ran to the bathroom and left Matt standing there alone to deal with the painful process of figuring out what to order in a bar full of staring strangers.
He doesn’t hate beer, so he managed to find something he liked and he found a cider for me, so it wasn’t a total loss. We quickly drank our bottles and tore out the door like our pants were on fire.
It had been a long day, we were tired, and I was all stressed out worrying about the “no plans” problem tomorrow presented.
There was nothing left to do but go to bed.
I woke up tired because I spent the entire night Friday trying to figure out how to make plans out of the mess that had taken over my weekend.
A rental car. That would solve everything. We could do our own thing, show up at the condo just before the “dinner,” and still salvage most of the weekend. The next day, if we decided the yachting with strangers was simply too awkward, we could find something else to do and meet the client back at the airport.
It was perfect.
Except that there were no rental cars. Anywhere. Not until Monday.
I know because I called them all. I even called a guy named Jimmy at a place called A Diamond Rent-A-Car.
I decided to make the most of it. Not because I am a decent person deep down inside, but because, like any animal trapped in a corner, at some point, you simply realize that playing dead is probably your best chance of self-preservation.
At least we had today. We could stop in all those fun little shops, have a nice lunch, and go see the feral horses at nearby Shackleford Banks.
As we had a hearty breakfast at the Inn, I checked the ferry schedule and saw that we could head over to Shackleford Banks at 11:00 and return at 12:30. That would give us time to have lunch, shop for a few hours, and still meet up with the client in time for the 6:00 dinner.
It would be FINE.
Shackleford Banks is the southern-most barrier island in the Cape Lookout National Seashore and is home to approximately 100 wild horses. They are thought to be descended from Spanish mustangs from early Colonial settlers and have been roaming the island for over 400 years.
Even though it was a gray and drizzly day, it was pretty neat to see the horses. The barrier islands are also a treasure trove of seashells, so we spent an hour wandering along the windswept dunes before getting back on an early ferry to head back to Beaufort.
Beaufort was incredibly quaint. I was looking forward to spending some time looking around after lunch.
As we walked to lunch, I made a mental list of all the places I wanted to visit.
We stopped at the old Beaufort Grocery to get some lunch. I immediately loved the mismatched dish towels that were scattered on the tables for napkins. The place was warm and lively, and it seemed like everyone knew everyone (probably because they had all been at the Backstreet Pub the night before….). The small town quaintness of it was nice.
As I was settling down to eat my “damn fine gumbo” and crabcake sandwich, Matt’s phone rang.
It was the Inn.
“We really can’t store your luggage any longer. We need you to come pick it up.”
But….we didn’t have a car. That meant we had to get a taxi to head out to the “condo” right then.
“I wanted to do some shopping,” I said. I’m pretty sure I was whining when I said it. “I don’t even have clean underwear or clean clothes for tomorrow. I need some shampoo.”
“It’s no big deal,” Matt said. “He said his condo was just right here. We can take a quick taxi, drop off our stuff, and run back over here.”
Well, okay. That sounded okay.
It would be FINE.
The taxi ride to the condo was 30 minutes.
IN A TAXI.
30 minutes in a taxi in NYC and 30 minutes in a taxi in North Carolina mean very different things. You may as well be taking a taxi to another country.
This meant that 1) it was a really damn expensive taxi ride and 2) we were not close to ANYTHING now.
It was 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and we were stuck at the “condo” with no car and no way to get back to Beaufort unless we wanted 2 additional, expensive, 30 minute taxi rides.
“This sucks,” I said, visibly sulking.
“Let’s make the most of it,” Matt said as he looked for the key the client said he had hidden in the grill. “I mean, it’s probably a really nice place and we have it all to ourselves for the rest of the day.”
It was really nice. If really nice means that it hadn’t seen a decorator or a housekeeper since 1981.
It was frumpalicious. It was like entering an early 80s time capsule in a bad motel.
It was a pulsating pit of despair filled with wicker light fixtures, lumpy furniture, and dusty floral arrangements.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had been prepared, but I was expecting this:
And I got this:
Ugly condo? Strike one.
To make matters worse, we had no transportation, no food, and I was wearing my only pair of clean underwear.
We sat on the beige, vinyl sofa and waited for the client to return. When my butt started to stick to the vinyl, I decided it was time to at least go for a walk on the beach. There was that, at least.
He finally got back at 3:30. While he graciously let us use his car to go find some clean clothes and shampoo, he reminded us that we needed to leave for the Blind Pig dinner by 5:15.
It was a 1 hour round trip drive to Beaufort and back. That left us 45 minutes to shop, IF we didn’t want to get cleaned up before dinner.
So much for the cute stores in Beaufort.
No matter. There was still the Blind Pig dinner to look forward to.
And I was really looking forward to it.
It would be FINE.
The Blind Pig Supper Club of Asheville, NC creates unique and exclusive dining experiences through chef collaborations and off-the-chart locations. The chefs are incredible, the menus are show stopping, the locations are phenomenal and are kept secret until 48 hours before the dinner, and the experience is touted to be simply amazing. Tickets are pricey and sell out quickly for each dinner.
I know, because I have tried to get us to a Blind Pig dinner for years.
And I was finally going to one! One on the beach, no less.
The dinner was a farm to sea dinner titled “Brogue” and would be held on nearby Harker’s Island. Seven acclaimed chefs would create a one-of-a-kind 7 course dinner with wine pairings for 137 lucky ticket holders.
I had to admit I was excited.
We got back to the condo around 5:00 p.m., just in time to change our clothes and head to Harker’s Island.
We noticed the client was wearing his athletic gear.
“I don’t think I want to go. I think it’s going to rain,” he said. “If it’s okay with you, we’ll just go to my friend’s restaurant in Morehead City.”
Let’s see…..Go to exclusive, high-end, private beach dinner or eat at crappy restaurant in Morehead City…..
OF COURSE IT WASN’T OKAY!!!!!
Unfortunately, I was powerless to voice an opinion because 1) I wasn’t the one who had been invited to the Blind Pig dinner by one of the hosts and 2) I had no transportation.
I was expecting this:
And I got this:
No Blind Pig dinner? Strike two.
After my “sort of okay” dinner, I feel asleep under my excessively floral comforter and wondered about that yacht.
Would it be fine?
The weekend had been in a steady spiral of decline since we received the call from the Inn to pick up our luggage.
This spiral of decline became a full on cataclysm of horrific proportions when I woke up to find the car was gone and there was no coffee.
WHO DOESN’T HAVE COFFEE?
It was Sunday morning. I had no coffee. I had no transportation. The closest place where I might find coffee was 7 miles away.
Clean underwear, I can live without. Coffee? Oh hell no.
This was a disaster.
To make matters worse, Matt doesn't drink coffee so he had no interest in trying to help me build a distress signal out of seashells so that a passing airplane might save me. The lack of coffee coupled with his complete indifference to my misery just added fuel to the already smoldering fire that was burning in my soul that weekend.
The cherry on top? The guy left a pack of bagels and a jar of peanut butter on the counter and sent Matt a text to “help ourselves.”
I did nothing but sit and stare at the ugly carpet for the next 3 hours.
Like Seligman’s shocked dogs from the 1960’s, I had stopped trying to control my environment and simply gave up and embraced my helplessness.
I didn’t even try to kid myself by saying, “Well, there’s still the yacht….”
I didn’t hold out much hope.
It would not be FINE.
The client had explained that he had rented a “yacht” (his word) and that they would be filming all day on it for his marketing firm. His “guy” was going to pick up some good food and drinks. We’d head over to Cape Lookout where Matt and I could take the dingy and explore the island, hang out on the beach, or relax on the yacht.
“It’s a YACHT,” he said, emphasizing the word the way one would speak to a child when I asked about somewhere to sit if it got too cool, “There’s a nice big indoor salon. It’s great. We’ll even have live music.”
With no car of our own, it’s not like we really had a choice, now did we?
Friends, the “yacht” was the piece de resistance.
It was a big, ugly fishing boat.
I wish I was kidding.
I guess, if length is what determines yacht status, it was technically a yacht. I guess we should have asked him to be more specific.
I was expecting a luxury yacht, with wine & cheese where I would sit on a large outdoor lounger and sip champagne as I forgot the wretchedness of the past 24 hours.
What I got was a large, dirty, utilitarian fishing boat with no outdoor seating, a darkly lit indoor salon filled with ugly green cushions with water stains and dirty carpet, and a white 5-gallon bucket filled with ice and Bud Light paired with a giant brown paper bag of turkey subs.
The music? One of the guys brought his banjo.
I can’t make this stuff up.
I was expecting this:
And I got this:
Crappy Fishing Boat? Strike Three.
I suddenly realized why this guy was a Senior VP of marketing.
He could sell anything.
I will call this photo "Matt's Portrait of Dispair." I particularly like the 1978 Olan Mills close-up effect.
We had been sold a classy beach condo, an exclusive beach dinner, and a yacht tour. What we got was a dumpy room, an average dinner, and 8 hours on a barebones fishing boat with beer and Jersey Mike’s.
As I headed down to the bathroom to cry in silence, the Captain looked at me and said, “The toilet doesn’t work so good. If it won’t flush, pump it a few times.”
There had been some tense moments in the past 2 days as our plans unraveled again and again. By the time we got left on the boat, however, all that was left to do was laugh. We couldn’t stop laughing.
We laughed until we cried.
Then Matt offered me a turkey sub, and we laughed some more, especially when we figured out there were no napkins, plates, or condiments. Just dry turkey on wheat.
Sure, I would have loved to have taken a bubble bath in a high rise condo on the beach, enjoyed wine pairings with famed chefs in the sand, and snacked on canapes on the teak deck of a luxury sailing yacht, but I found myself laughing with Matt at the hilarious turn of events as we stole a few private hours in the sunshine on the beaches of Cape Lookout.
Some weekends are for meeting new friends and being whisked away to exciting elite locales to experience a life you only get to see on the pages of magazines.
Other weekends are for bonding with your spouse in a dark condo with peanut butter bagels.
In my life, there is room for all of it.
It was FINE.
Next up? Join us as we head to the hike-in only Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork!