Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Outerbanks (On less than 30 points per day!)

On February 21, 1998, Thomas and I got married. We celebrated 10 years together by spending a few days on the outerbanks region of North Carolina. Rather than getting a hotel, we decided to rent a room at one of the local bed and breakfasts; it being the off-season, the rates were entirely reasonable, and the room was (as you can see here) quite lovely. And comfortable.

The room had a king sized bed and a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom big enough for two...

Before we left, Thomas and I had given ourselves leave to eat our 35 weekly flex points if we wanted/needed to, but we were determined that we could (and would) spend the weekend ON PLAN.

We'd taken Darcy up to her grandparents on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon (after some in town shopping), we headed down to North Carolina. We had no particular plans for what we were going to do, or where we were going once we checked into our room. Despite that, I came armed with our Complete Food Companion and the Dining Out Companion. (As a note, if I had something to complain about on these two books it is these two things: A completely and totally incomprehensible organizational structure. I'm talking Heroes Unlimited Players' Guide levels of (dis)organizational structure. - ok, someone out there thought that was funny, and the rest of you are just blinking at me... but trust me, it's a condemnation - and that the books assume that if they don't think you should eat something - like most desserts! - it's not in there. Let's be perfectly serious here... I'm on bloody vacation, yes I'm going to EAT DESSERT! At least once. I'd like to KNOW how many points there are in a peanut butter and chocolate pie, because I'm going to eat a slice. Ok, this has gotten overly parenthetical and if I had the grammar sense of a gnat, I'd move it to it's own paragraph.)

We got into North Carolina a little sooner than expected, so we wandered around for a bit, checking out a few of the local shops that were open (if we'd wanted more to do, we should have waited until March, as a lot of things were closed for 'the off season'). Thomas was a saint all weekend, as he followed me around a bunch of kitsch shops without complaint. Finally, after wandering all over a massive shop called the Cotton Gin, it was late enough to go check in.

We checked into our bed and breakfast - our lovely hostess, Laura, is trying to sell the place and made me feel mildly uncomfortable every time we talked to her because she was constantly stressing how she did not want to do this anymore... eyeroll!! so I felt like a massive inconvenience for her, which I resented a little bit because hey, I was paying her $75 a night - and spread our stuff out over the room. After that, we tested both the jacuzzi and the bed - it was our anniversary, after all! I could really, really get into having a jacuzzi, in case you hadn't figured that out yet. It was quite lovely.

Our hostess recommended Coinjock Marina as the 'best restaurant in town'. The directions we got were very southern, rather confusing, and completely accurate. It constantly amazes me how that happens. ("The road sort of bends real sharp-like and then it's just a skip down a ways.")

Thomas and I had eaten lunch at Olive Garden (Soup, salad and breadsticks plus the sugar free chocolate cake split between us for 10 points) and by the time we got out to dinner, I had 13 points left to spend, plus I'd done my workout earlier that morning, so I had some activity points to spare. We got the fish special, tarragon salmon and ate half of it (honestly, we should have split the damn thing) for 3 points, a side salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing (1 point), 2 hush puppies (4 points) and split a slice of peanut butter and chocolate pie (~6 points each). That put me at - 1 point for the day, easily cleared by my APs. The salmon was quite good; the hush puppies were tasty, just enough to satisfy my desire for them and not too many to tempt me unduly; and the salad was a little less than impressive...

What is is about restaurant salads, anyway? You get one of two kinds, I've noticed: the kind with a few wilted lettuce leaves which are not cut well for bite sized bits (anyone who cuts lettuce for salads ought to be forced to eat it in public!) 2 onion rings, three halves of cherry tomatoes, and a slice of cucumber or the kind that's loaded with croƻtons, olives, cheese, and ham bits and costs as many points as your damn entree. There are other vegetables in the world, people... Would it be so painful to make a side salad with lettuce, tomato, onion and bell peppers, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower bites? Seriously... it's annoying.

Anyway... one of the things I keep reading in all the inspirational success stories goes along these lines: "After a few months, I found that a sugary dessert just didn't taste as good, and I'd rather have a nice piece of ripe fruit." I keep wondering if that's going to happen to me. It hasn't happened with cheeseburgers, or fried foods, or peanut butter and chocolate pies. Oh, it was just orgasmic... We split the pie to bring its ~500 calories and lord knows how many grams of fat into some sort of reasonable line. I estimated 12 points for the entire slice, but it might have been as many as 16. That's ok, I had the APs and WPA to spare.

The next morning, we were up early (well, early for Thomas, who makes sleeping late on weekends an Olympic sport) and headed out to do some touristy things.

We drove down to Kill Devil and visited the Wright Brothers National Monument for a few hours. It was rainy and a little bit cold, but most of the displays are inside. We got there just in time to catch a film about the 1901 gliders and the 1903 engine driven plane. The film had a brief lecture in it about trigonometry, one of the few areas of math that I'd ever particularly enjoyed, and I found it very interesting to discover that yes, there are things in real life where math is useful. I'll have to remember that when Darcy gets old enough to complain about algebra...

After the film, we walked over to the other building and listened to a lecture from the park ranger. By the time that was over, the rain had cleared up enough that we felt reasonable certain that we could tour the camp site and go up to see the monument. And boy, did we walk... we walked out to the replica cabins where they stayed while testing their gliders and planes, and then we walked all the way down to the end of Test Flight Four (852 feet, 59 seconds). Did you know, after this test flight, the brothers and their crew were so excited, talking, on the way back, that they didn't secure the plane immediately, and a gust of wind flipped the whole thing upside down and tore it to pieces? Can you imagine what that must have been like? They flew almost three times the distance they had planned for (their goal for the engine-driven plane was 300 feet) and just after they'd made such a monumental success, the wind destroyed their plane.

Of course, having walked all the way out there, we were then obligated to walk back... and then decided to climb the last remaining hill to see the monument. That was a bit more difficult, as the hill is fairly high, and the walkway is pretty steep. (When the government was trying to build the monument, they had to constantly reinforce the hill, since it wasn't a real hill at all, but a sand dune, and they don't take kindly to being solidified) I was a little winded, and had to stop from time to time to catch my breath. Still, four months ago, I wouldn't even have made the attempt. Thomas would either have gone up by himself, or restrained himself and stayed with me.

... the sand fairly blinds us. It blows across the ground in clouds. We certainly can't complain of the place. We came down here for wind and sand, and we got them."

Letters from Orville to Katherine Wright, October 18, 1900
Up at the top of the hill, the view was just spectacular, despite the rain. Some of the local color wasn't quite so; for whatever reason, Thomas and I seem to have invisible tattoos on our foreheads that say "weirdos please talk to us" or something. A local couple was up at the top of the monument and insisted on babbling at us for a good ten minutes or so. Telling us about their recent wedding and they live just down there, and they met at the centennial celebration back in 2003 and they came up here all the time, and wow, those are some really nice coats you have, where did you get them... blah blah blah. I'm happy for you, could you shut up and let me take my pictures?
We walked back down the hill, and then went to grab some lunch. There were loads of restaurants, but a lot of places were closed for the season, didn't open until 4:30pm, or were things like Applebee's and Outback. Not that there's anything wrong with those places, but honestly, we're on vacation. I don't want to eat someplace that's just down the street from where we live!

I spotted a small place called Front Porch Cafe, but unfortunately, that was just a coffee shop and bakery, and while I'm sure the muffins were delightful, I didn't want to spend the points on them. The barista, however, was kind enough to direct us to a local restaurant, Chili Peppers.

It had a very local feel - quite cozy, tacky decorations, waitresses who chew gum and call everyone "hon" and greet at least half the patrons by name.

Thomas got a fish sandwich and fries and I got a tuna bamboo steamer with Parmesan cheese and vegetables. The meal comes to the table inside the steamer, vegetables on the first tray in, the fish on the second. The cheese and butter were in small dishes, which gave me excellent portion control. For vegetables, I had broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, and onions, flavorful and in generous portions. I added a little of their restaurant brand hot salt and went sparingly on the melted butter. The fish was delicious, and although slightly more than a portion size, I didn't feel too bad about leaving some of it on the plate. Lunch for me? Five points (and included one milk serving, and two vegetables).

We got out of lunch around 2:30 and headed further south to Roanoke Island to the aquarium. The lady at the ticket desk attempted to sell us season passes, on the theory that our passes for their aquarium could get us into the Norfolk Zoo and other attractions in our area. Thanks lady, but if I'm going to spend money improving a local aquarium, it's going to be for OUR local aquarium.

That being said, their aquarium was quite a bit smaller than the one we usually patronize, but it was quite nice and we wandered around for almost two hours before finishing our tour. They had a really great exhibit called Aquarium Confidential which showed some of the work behind the displays... you could see some of the newer members of the zoo (baby alligator!) and a mock vet's office, plus educational information about the aquariums themselves; the feed and care of sharks, octopuses, and river otters; and other insider looks at the operation of such a facility. You could use a computer simulation program to design your own habitat and see a representation of your design. Quite fun.

We headed out just before the aquarium closed for the day and headed back to our bed and breakfast. We stopped to shop at once of the hundreds of Wings shops (ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit. There are only 9 Wings in the Outerbanks area. But we drove past every single one of them!) and bought some t-shirts. It's mandatory, you know... you must buy a t-shirt. Or two. I mooned over some tie-dyed hoodies for a while, but they didn't have any that were in my size that were in a color I'd be caught dead in. (I will not, under any circumstances whatsoever, wear a pink and black shirt. Just say No!)

After we took note of the proliferation of the Wings shops, we noted that there were several chains like that, Wings, Forbes Taffy, Sunsations, and North Carolina Hammock... we passed one of those shops every block or so, most of the way from Roanoke Island all the way up to Ocracoke. Just in case we decided we needed more t-shirts! There were also several mini-golf adventure places (closed until the season) and we made preliminary plans to come down again later and do at least one of them... they looked fun!

We got back to the bed and breakfast and I took a nice long soak in the jacuzzi while Thomas watched TV, and then we went out for dinner. The Currituck BBQ was right down the street from where we were staying, and I'm a huge fan of pulled pork. Thomas had half of a half slab of ribs, and I had a pulled pork sandwich with a little coleslaw on top (9 points for the sandwich... a little steep, but we had gotten in a load of APs for all that walking around).

The original plan had been that we'd go see a lighthouse before we headed out on Saturday, but it was raining harder than ever and the temperature had dropped from the fifties (in which rain is not entirely intolerable) to the high thirties (tooooo friggin' cold). Also, my legs were complaining drastically about all the walking, so we ate our breakfast (English muffin, little cream cheese, orange juice, coffee, half a melon and some strawberries - 6 points) and headed home.

We had a lovely vacation, did some cool things, and ate well, but sensibly... ten years is just the beginning of our marriage. Two months, just the beginning of our healthy lifestyle...


Anonymous said...

Sounds lovely! I am so glad ou two had a nice time.

I have sort of stopped diet-blogging, but I am going to keep up with you all the same...long story, but let's say Blogger didn't help.

Cheerio - Lidian

Cammy@TippyToeDiet said...

A belated happy anniversary to you both! Your weekend sounds lovely. I was especially heartened to read that you and Thomas splurged on the pie! And you did it so sensibly, too!

Anonymous said...

LMAO...I haven't gotten to the "bad food doesn't taste good anymore" stage either. I think it's a myth. :-)

Happy Anniversary to you! 10 years is quite an accomplishment. I love the Outer Banks too...if I were closer to retirement I'd go buy the bed and breakfast, that would be amazingly awesome.

I'm so glad you had such a wonderful time. And you did it in an orderly, mindful, sensible way, without sacrificing pleasure or fun. Well done! :-)


Hanlie said...

Sounds delightful! Hope you have many more happy years together!

What is pulled pork?

Lynn said...

I dunno if you check back in comments, hanlie, but I'm not sure how else to get in touch with you... pulled pork is a southern thing (southern United States, I mean).

Basically, you take a whole pig and split him down the middle and spread him out on a grill... it takes most of the day to cook. About halfway done, you flip him meat side up (skin side down) and soak him in about a gallon of your favorite bbq sauce (usually vinegar/honey based) and cook him some more.

When he's finally done roasting, you 'pull' all the bits of meat off. By this time, the meat is so tender that you can't really slice or butcher the pig any more. What you get a bunch of tiny, bbq sauce soaked bits of meat... pulled pork bbq. It's particularly famous in Virginia (Pierce's Pitt!) and North Carolina.

Anyway, you serve pulled pork on a hamburger bun with a little hot sauce and some coleslaw on top. Quite tasty... (if you're not Jewish or a vegetarian, obviously)

My dad does a "pig picking" party once a year and roasts his own.

Hanlie said...

That sounds delicious... even though I've just posted about the benefits of a plant-based diet! We do something very similar with a sheep, but without the skin.


HappyBlogChick said...

It sounds like you had a great time, and you ate so responsibly, too! Good for you.

Happy anniversary. May you guys enjoy many more decades together.