Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Karen has authentic Outer Banks experience

The Outer Banks, NC -- 9/11/12
by Karen Thorsen

Up at 4:30AM (again!) to catch my NYC flight to Norfolk, VA. Got my rental car (NOT a Ford Focus, thank you) and enjoyed a two-hour drive south through coastal farmlands to North Carolina’s fabled Outer Banks – a trip which took over three hours because of stops along the way. What got my attention? Farm stands (great peaches!), thrift shops (feeding the nautical theme of my son’s college dorm room), the site of the Wright Brothers’ historical First Flight (now a national park in Kitty Hawk), and Sooey’s BBQ in Kill Devil Hills (pulled pork. ribs, collard greens, baked beans and the best hush puppies I’ve ever had) – more than I could eat and highly recommended!

4PM: I finally checked into the Wilbur and Orville Wright Day’s Inn right on the beach, also in Kill Devil Hills. Built in 1941, this was the first hotel built on the Outer Banks – and although it’s part of a national chain in name, all of its original character is still intact: a fa├žade that must have been shockingly ‘moderne’ in the forties, a soaring white wingspan of a roof with a front porch full of old wooden rockers facing the sunset, a doorsill made of old driftwood and a wood-paneled lobby full of sofas surrounding a fireplace. Out back, the hallway leads straight to a path through the dunes and a beach that won’t quit, perfect for an off-season walk where the only companions are seagulls and a few lone fisherman, casting for red drum and stripers.

Pretty sweet. And, as if that isn’t enough, I’m here as the guest of the Dare County Arts Council and ‘friends of the Arts Council’s Board,’ the generous owners of the Day’s Inn itself – which means that I get to save a little of my South Arts per diem, always important to a struggling filmmaker!

As for the rest of my day, after a walk through the waves and a nap by the pool, I drove further south across yet another long bridge to Roanoke Island and the historic town of Manteo: Dare county seat and the home of the Dare County Arts Council. This group is truly impressive! Founded back in the seventies, they talked the town into letting them take over the abandoned 1904 Dare County Courthouse – just in time for Hurricane Irene – and, despite all the flood damage, they’ve just finished turning their first floor onto a multi-room art gallery. Among their many activities, they host art openings every ‘First Friday’; by next year, the upstairs courtroom will be turned into a much-needed arts workshop / performance space. In the meantime, they’re fundraising – so I spent my evening with a roomful of Arts Council Board Members, enjoying good conversation and wine while we all helped stuff envelopes for their fall fundraising drive.