February 14 – March 11
Joanna and I made a return visit to the Saucer on Saturday for Valentines Day. Our original plans were to take part in a multi course offering at Bistro 49 on campus with Lyndsay, but it was cancelled late in the week and with the Saucer featuring some special brews for the holiday, we spent a couple of hours enjoying yet one more of what have been many celebrations on this national day of love.
A week later on a very cold Saturday afternoon, we made our way to the Unknown Brewery for their one-year anniversary celebration. I’d been a year before for the grand opening and had a great time, running into Becky and Mark in the parking lot where the big party was held. My concern for the anniversary event was that it would be held outdoors again so we were both relieved when it turned out that they’d made room in the brew house for the party to take place, including a bandstand and three local food trucks from The Tin Kitchen, Bleu Barn Bistro and MasterBacon.
The following couple of weeks featured another meet up with Jim at the Wine Vault and Hans the next day at Noda Brewing and Birdsong. These opportunities to socialize helped to ease the transition from travel to a more routine existence at home. A week later Joanna discovered a two day workshop taking place in Carolina Beach where she could earn half of the 24 units she needs this year to maintain her professional licenses.
She called Ann and Rendy to see if they would want to join us at their beach house there and unfortunately, they could not do so but did offer its use. We’ve been twice before and its location two blocks from the beach and at the southern end of Carolina Beach, on the border with Kure Beach, made it ideal for our purposes. With classes starting early the morning of Friday March 5th, we left not long after noon from Charlotte for the four-hour drive to the house.
During our earlier trips, we’d stopped in Whiteville at a small What-a-burger. Not an official part of that famous chain, our first visit there, with Jessica along, was serendipitous. When we first pulled up to the place we had our doubts about what might be in store, but screwing up our courage we entered and enjoyed a really good burger. This trip a stop would not be in the cards as the need to eat came earlier on the road, some chain based fast food providing the fuel to get us to the beach.
Joanna had a full day of classes on Friday so after dropping her off; I stopped at the market for a small bit of provisioning and then, returned to the house to relax a bit before taking a long walk down the road south with little Dinky. It was a beautiful day out, warm for early March, and we ended up doing our usual three miles, about the distance the old dog can handle. Dinky that is.
At the close of the day I picked Joanna up at the conference site, the Marriott Courtyard Carolina Beach Oceanfront, and we drove the couple of miles back to the house. About the time we arrived Joanna received a text from her former boss Cindy, who was one of the presenters at the workshop, with an invite to join she and others for dinner, courtesy of one of the vendors. Now for those of you who’ve gone to conferences you know that his is an invite that cannot be turned down. It means that within reason, you can order, consume, and drink just about anything you want at the restaurant.
We immediately accepted and shortly left for Havana’s Fresh Island Restaurant, located in downtown Carolina Beach a block or two away from the Marriott. It was nice to share the table with these folks in the Nuclear Medicine field, many of whom knew Joanna and had shared other similar experiences with her. Joanna and I would restrain ourselves, ordering just a couple glasses of wine, enjoying appetizers ordered for the table and splitting an entrée, a blackened salmon topped with a fresh citrus salsa over confetti orzo. Having perused the menu in advance, lest our readers think we were being inordinately considerate, let me reassure you that we did split an order of Havana’s Hot Rum Bananas Foster for Two.
After dinner we followed a few of the participants down the block for a visit to the famous Fat Pelican bar. We’d visited once before with Ann and Rendy so knew what the place would be like, so it was entertaining to see the reactions of the others upon entering this self described dive bar. Knowing we’d be back later, we had a quick round and left for the house, bidding our group a fond farewell.
The next day was a repeat of Friday, with Joanna in for a full day of classes. I returned to the house after dropping her off and hopped on the bike for a short ride down South Lake Park Blvd (the main street heading south- a bit further along it turns into Fort Fisher Blvd. South) down to the modern day portion of Fort Fisher, now a recreation area for the military, then doubling back and riding up to Carolina Beach to do some exploring there. I returned to the house, cleaned up and then drove up to Carolina Lake, a small body of water in the city where a two day BBQ Cook-Off was taking place. I stopped in at Granny’s Country Kitchen for a late breakfast. Here’s a review I wrote for Trip Advisor:
Stopped in here yesterday around 1pm for a late breakfast before I went into town for the BBQ Competition. Service was very friendly and efficient and the food met my expectations. I had a Veggie Omelet, which although a bit on the small size, was still more than enough food for me when you include the generous portion of hash browns, and nicely toasted English Muffin that accompanied it. Including my coffee I was out the door for under $10; nothing better than a satisfying meal at a good price.
I finished my late breakfast and drove the few blocks up to the lake, found a place to park and then spent an hour or so walking the grounds, listening to a pretty good rock and blues band playing to an appreciative crowd, many of who were dancing.
I planned it so that I’d have a little time to kill before meeting Joanna after her workshop stopped in at the Fat Pelican to do so. I went inside, spent a bit of time trying to decide which beer to select (they have a big long walk in cooler full of bottles of craft beers), paid the tab and went outside to what could charitably be described as the patio.
The Pelican is decorated in a very unique fashion. Indeed every imaginable type of junk has been tossed around to form the décor, reminiscent of a bar of my youth, the Oar House in Santa Monica. It was warm and sunny outside and I was finishing up my beer about the time Joanna walked over from the hotel.
The sun was going down and with a chill setting in we went inside for one more round. Our plan for the evening was to cook a simple meal and enjoy just being at the beach and so we finished up and returned to the house for that quiet evening we all need from time to time.
With Joanna free the next day, we had a leisurely morning and once it warmed up we set out for about twenty miles on the bikes.
We rode south down to Fort Fisher, all the way to the channel, then back up to the National Historic Landmark, which is closed on Sundays, but the outdoor areas still viewable. We rode around the displays and remarked that we looked forward to a return visit when we could actually see the place when it was open.
From there we rode back all the way up to the northern edge of Carolina Beach before heading back to the house to clean up and head to the Seawitch Café and Tiki Bar for dinner. We had eaten here once before, recalling it as being a good value and our memories were rewarded. A very casual place, it was crowded that Sunday night with a blues combo playing in the main bar area.
As it was pretty loud, we asked to be seated in an adjacent dining area and ordered a Flounder Sandwich and Fish and Chips. Both portions were large and coming in at under $10 apiece, very reasonably priced for a beachside location. My entrée’s fish was tender and juicy, the fries crisp and hot, a perfect way to enjoy this bar staple. We paid up and made our way back to the house to prepare for an early start the next day so that Joanna could make it back to Charlotte in time to get to her Horse Rescue duties in the afternoon.
We’d had a good start to the new phase, engaging in the activities that would be our operating basis for the next year or so. Quality time at home combined with regular local travel. In less than a week we’d fly to the west coast for ten days in Oakland and Los Angeles as we also anticipated a two to three week trip to Texas in April. Indeed, we were off to a good start.
Unknown Brewing: http://www.unknownbrewing.com/
Whataburger Whiteville: http://www.yelp.com/biz/what-a-burger-whiteville
Marriott Courtyard Carolina Beach Oceanfront: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/ilmcb-courtyard-carolina-beach-oceanfront/
Havana’s Fresh Island Restaurant: http://www.havanasrestaurant.com/
The Fat Pelican: http://thefatpelican.com/
Fort Fisher Military Recreation Area: http://ftfishermilrec.com/
Granny’s Country Kitchen: http://www.grannyscarolinabeach.com/#_=_
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/fofi/main.php
The Oar House: http://oarhousebuffalochips.com/Pages/oarhouse-history.htm
Fort Fisher National Historic Landmark: http://www.nchistoricsites.org/fisher/fisher.htm
Seawitch Café and Tiki Bar: http://seawitchtikibar.com/