Friday, April 7, 2017

Morehead City, Atlantic Beach & Beaufort, NC

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We had planned our route out of Charleston so that we would cross the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and head north on state highway 17 along the coast. The bridge is a cable bridge stretching over the Cooper River and it is quite spectacular. Unfortunately, we were departing Charleston on the same day as the annual Cooper River Bridge Run for which the bridge is shut down so that 40,000 plus runners can cross it in a 5k and 10k event. Drat!

Luckily we learned about the run a day before our departure so we rerouted and found another way out of town. We got on the desired highway and took off north with our final destination undecided. We thought we might stop in Myrtle Beach if it appealed to us, but when we got there we rolled in one side and right out the other. It didn't appeal to us in the slightest. Granted, the beaches are fantastic, but the rest of the place seemed to us to be really touristy with lots of manufactured (and expensive) "fun". Not our thing, or at least, mostly not our thing, so we kept going. Having basically left Charleston unexplored, we weren't ready to dive into another tourist-heavy experience.

We made our way to the Morehead City-Beaufort Elks Lodge. I know it must sound like I am on the Elks payroll as much as I talk about them, but the fact is, our experience has been so overwhelmingly positive, it's hard not to share. As we do everywhere we travel, we checked out the parking lot on Google Earth and knew it was plenty big enough for big rigs. When we arrived the place looked deserted, but well-kept, so we figured it was just a day with no lodge activity. We pulled up next to the water spigot on the side of the building to take on water, and then walked around to see where to park based on notes in the Elks guidebook.

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Filling up our water tank at the Elks Lodge in Morehead City.

As we walked we were met by a lodge member who had arrived to play pool with a friend. He invited us in and the two of them gave us a ton of information about the area. They told us where we could park and plug in, and when we offered to pay they asked that we simply sign the guestbook. We ended up staying four days with 30 amp, access to water and Wifi. From the side windows we had a lake view. And other than Bingo night, we saw no one at the lodge. It was awesome.

One of the first things we do when we arrive in a new place is to get the lay of the land. We noticed right away that Morehead City was nothing like Myrtle Beach. Although there were plenty of sugar-sand beaches and quaint little towns nearby that no doubt get fairly crowded in high season, for us the area was so much more enjoyable without all the waterparks, theme parks and the like. Our entertainment consisted of taking walks on Atlantic Beach and on the waterfront path in the cute little town of Beaufort.

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Beautiful light at Old Burying Ground in Beaufort.

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Preserved and restored buildings at the Beaufort Historic Site.

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Cute bike license plates seen at the Beaufort waterfront.

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Colorful houses along the shore of Atlantic Beach.

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Friends Market in Morehead. Meatloaf, coconut pie, egg casserole . . . we did some damage to our wallet in this place.

The highlight of our stay was visiting Fort Macon State Park. We've seen several forts as we traveled through Florida and beyond, but this one is our favorite so far. Fort Macon itself is a restored Civil War-era fort, and the park also includes a museum-quality coastal education center. The displays were fantastic and the views from the fort went on forever. We really enjoyed our time here.

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Lots to do and see at the well-preserved Fort Macon in Atlantic Beach.

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Staged rooms to show what it was like back in the 1800s.

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The displays inside the fort were dense with information. And air conditioned!!!

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Just a fantastic day at Fort Macon, one of the best of its kind.

For my birthday last year we met friends Laurie and Odel in Napa for a double celebration since Odel and I have birthdays one day apart. We ate at The Pear Southern Bistro and there I had the finest Shrimp & Grits I have ever eaten. Wild Gulf shrimp wrapped in applewood smoked bacon over creamy cheddar cheese grits and red-eye gravy. I have dreams about how delicious that dish was and vowed when we came to the south, the land of Shrimp & Grits, I would eat my fill and try to top the dish in Napa. I have not yet found a better version, but it is not for a lack of trying on my part! In Morehead City, however, the shrimp & grits served for breakfast at the The Banks Grill came very, very close. Still, I figured I'd just have to make my own and having procured the stone-ground grits in Charleston, I went on the hunt for fresh Atlantic shrimp. Fail.

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The Banks Grill in Morehead City had delicious breakfast. Highly recommended!

I like good shrimp, but not so much that I am willing to spend time beheading, peeling and deveining. Ew, no. Gross. So my plan was to buy several pounds that had already been processed and just toss them into my freezer. Unfortunately, there were none to be had in any of the markets and seafood stores we visited. In fact, we learned, it's still too cold for shrimping, so we'd probably have to wait a couple of weeks. Ugh.

As we move north I am keeping my eyes peeled for shrimp. In the meantime, I am studying the lovely cookbook that Steven bought for me (IPad version) by Nathalie Dupree called, what else, Shrimp & Grits!! Nathalie Dupree was one of my favorite PBS chefs and over the years I've had a few of her cookbooks. When she would cook on her show she would wear a huge diamond solitaire and I always thought if I had a diamond like hers I'd be a much better cook. Well, I eventually got the diamond as an anniversary gift and guess what? It didn't do a damn thing to improve my cooking.

NEXT UP: The Outer Banks!

16 comments:

  1. Ring or no, you're a wonderful cook!! Love the pretty bikes and fun license plates. I love forts for walking through history and that one looks amazing. We might have to reconsider doing the Elks membership before our next trip to the east!

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    1. Best fort so far, and it was free! Inside they had great exhibits about marine life. We really enjoyed this place, and as you might expect, Steven returned on his own for a few pinholes! :)

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  2. That fort looks really well done, Linda! Safe travels up the coast!

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    1. Thank you! Safe & happy travels to Oregon!

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  3. Hey! I went to (most of) those places! Got a lot of those same pics too! We will have to add the place for Shrimp & Grits for the next time we are in the area! You didn't mention the best thing about the Fort - FREE! Morehead City Elks sounds like a great spot! You are getting SO CLOSE!

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    1. Funny about the Elks Lodge - we were at the back of the building with all the aircon units and some kind of big fridge was right out our front window. But we just closed the shades and enjoyed the lake view. :) It was a pretty awesome place!

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  4. p.s. I won't take the heads off the shrimp (Bill does if needed) but you can get a lot more (and larger) shrimp for the money if they aren't shelled and deveined - I'll do it for you!

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    1. Well, I got five pounds of 16/20 North Carolina shrimp! I guess we'd better plan on having Shrimp & Grits for dinner!

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  5. They say the head adds a lot of flavor, but given the choice, iI want headless/poopless shrimp, too!! Thinking we need to check out the Elks as well, seems like such a great option and a good way to get some local perspective!!

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    1. My gal Nathalie Dupree says she likes them with the head on, but she knows how to deal with that and is willing, whereas I have my limits. Thank goodness Kelly is going to do all that nasty stuff for me. YAY. :)

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  6. We were just raving about the grits we had for breakfast yesterday on the Texas/Louisiana border sans the shrimp. But when it's good you remember.

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    1. It's funny, I've never had Shrimp & Grits in Louisiana. I am not a fan of Cajun spices (allergy to capsaicin) and that may be why. :)

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  7. Peeling and "beheading" shrimp is a life skill that has come in mighty handy for me. :-)) But I grew up spending summers in Apalachicola and was catching and cleaning shrimp at a young age so it doesn't seem icky. Beaufort looks beautiful and interesting! Love the bikes and the colorful homes.

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    1. I have to ask, do you have a recipe for Shrimp & Grits that you love? I might be willing to snap a few heads for a really good recipe! :)

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    2. I'm so glad you asked! :-))) Here's a good one: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/shrimp-and-grits-recipe
      It's super easy, too. I like Kerrygold Dubliner cheese in this; sometimes I use a good aged parmesan instead. Sometimes I add capers (not traditional, but good). And sometimes a splash of white wine.

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    3. Oooh, thanks for the tips, that looks delicious. We made some grits tonight and used gruyere and wow, it was yummy! No shrimp though, we're saving those until we're with friends! Soon.

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