I am not sure what the trigger was, but after nearly four years of splitting time between the mountains around Roanoke, Va. and the saltwater near Emerald Isle, I am still glad that we made the move.
As I was visiting Morehead City recently, I tried to think back to the first time that I was in the area. I have some vague memories of the old Atlantic Beach circle which had a boardwalk and lots of rides. After that I can remember plenty of beach trips, but it is hard to pinpoint their location.
As a family we hit all of the North Carolina coast from the Northern Outer Banks to the beaches south of Wilmington. As a teenager and college student, Ocracoke Island was one of my favorite spots. I do have some great memories of fishing on the Point when I was a teenager.
We gave the NC beaches the same attention when our children were young except we added the beaches of Prince Edward Island into the mix. We even visited Bald Head Island a few times.
As someone who loves fishing, boating, kayaking, biking, and beach walking, I guess a move to the beaches of North Carolina could have been viewed as inevitable.
However, it was not as easy as that. A beach in most of our minds is a summer excursion. Becoming a resident in a beach community involves making some decisions. Do you want to be close enough to the beach to walk on it without getting in a car? Are you willing to trade immediate access to the beach for year around human contact since many beach homes are vacant most of the year?
Can you live with the changes that come in the summer to a beach area. We actually change our shopping and eating out patterns for four or five weeks in the summer. Fridays through Sundays in July and a couple of weeks of August are not great times to do large grocery story trips. If we want to eat out then, we usually skip the Island restaurants or eat at very odd times.
In looking for a home, we tried to find a balance between feeling like we were close to the beach without giving up the feeling that we were part of a real neighborhood. We ended up in a small subdivision of less than fifty homes on the eastern shore of the White Oak River. It has turned out to be a good choice.
Even the economic downturn, our subdivision has continued with slow but steady growth. Even more importantly, it has turned out to be a nice place to live. We have made good friends and have enjoyed the amenities especially the pool, quiet streets, and access to the area's waters.
With our skiff on a lift behind our house, we can have our boat on the Intracoastal Waterway in ten minutes which is just about the time it takes to get to the nearest beach access, the Western Regional on Islander Drive in Emerald Isle. We do not limit ourselves to one beach. We wander all the way from Fort Macon to the Point. Sometimes we go as far as Cape Lookout.
Often in the summer we enjoy the beaches mostly from our skiff. It is easy to fall in love with the isolated beaches of Bogue Inlet. While beaches are a lot of fun, you need other things to make a place enjoyable for living.
We have found those other things along the Crystal Coast. Somehow I take great comfort being sandwiched between Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Croatan National Forest and its 158,000 acres. From the Maritime Museum in quaint Beaufort to NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores, there is rarely a lack of something to do.
My drive of seven minutes to our office is Cape Carteret takes me by the edge of a golf course, through some wonderful fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat, along some wooded roads, and across Pettiford Creek and its marshes which lead to the White Oak. As I turn at the intersection of Highways 24 and 58, I can see the bridge to Emerald Isle and feel the saltwater in my bones.
This is just a great area. While it has been a cool spring, we are looking forward to the local produce stands opening in the next couple of weeks. They add a nice local flavor to our food selection. My wife tells me that we are down to one last sweet potato from the giant bag that we bought from Winberry's last fall.
Yesterday on the way to Morehead City we stopped by the local IGA which has one of the area's best selections of meat. it reminds me of a local butcher shop that I used to frequent in Mount Airy, NC. With four large supermarkets within ten minutes of driving and a brand new Harris Teeter only twenty minutes away in Morehead, we have a great selection of places to get our groceries.
Then there are the wonderful local restaurants where we are often welcomed by owners and waitstaff that know us. Of course we have a wonderful selection of fresh local seafood right off the boats. When you add that to the selection of local hardware stores augmented by the Lowe's Home Improvement in Cape Carteret and good access to medical care, I have a hard time complaining.
My wife's only shopping complaint is that it takes us thirty minutes to get to Target in Jacksonville. She does not complain very loudly since she knows that it is only a matter of time before Target finds a spot in Morehead City. Just yesterday we noticed the new Buffalo Wild Wings which joins the Panera Bread, Chick-fil-a and Best Buy that have opened since we moved here.
As we watch spring unfold here on the coast, and I wait for that first ripe tomato the first week of June, I am happy we pushed through all our concerns and found a spot to enjoy the coast while we are still able to take advantage of all the area has to offer. Even taking up boating turned out to be a pleasant experience because of all the boating expertise in the area. I also pleased to report that the area has some of the best walking trails that can be found.
The only question is whether or not I would have traded the experiences in the last few years for a lower price on our home. Weighing everything I would have to say no. We are not getting any younger, and I suspect if I were starting today, I might miss a few of things that I have already done, and that would be a shame. The extra money would have been nice, but the experiences and memories are even better.