A Week at The Beach

Sunrise, Nags Head

I’m in lockdown. At the beach. Nag’s Head, NC, to be exact. My antiquey buddy Beth and I came here right after Labor Day to scout out locations for my next book. I’d never been to the Outer Banks, Beth hadn’t been in many years. We stayed in a way cool inn I found online, First Colony Inn. Very reasonably priced, nice room with television and an in-room fridge for those all-important morning Diet Cokes, and lovely full free breakfasts, not to mention afternoon cocktails. We drove up and down the beach, looking for just the right little hidey-hole for me to write in. At first, I despaired. It looked like Nags Head and all the other towns along the Outer Banks had fallen victim to the heinous “ginormous mega-mansion by the sea” virus that has infected every other spot on the East Coast of the U.S. I’d seen this at our beloved Florida Gulf Coast, where cute little Grayton Beach has been squinched on all sides by expensive developments of tasteful? second homes. And I was disappointed to see all the huge houses shouldering out the little cottages here at Nags Head. But we started cruising up and down the Beach Road. We slowed down, took a closer look. And we found some throw-backs, modest, homely little beach shacks. I found a sign at one little string of three cottages, called the number on the sign, and Bobbie, the owner, agreed to meet us to let me take a look. I fell in love. Windswept, my cottage, is just a nothing wood-frame house. But it’s got character. The kitchen cabinets have been painted white a gazillion times. There’s a chippy enamel-top work table for a counter. I’ve got a little front porch where I can go out and sit in the sun after I’ve been typing away for a while, and there’s a wonderful dune-top deck where I can sit in the late afternoon and scribble on my yellow legal pad.

Windswept, scene of the crime

The weather is spectacular; cold in the mornings, sunny and mild in the afternoons. There’s a rusty fat-tired beach bike I took for a ride after lunch. I rode it past the line of hundred-year-old original Nags Head cottages, the ones they call “the unpainted aristocracy.” I’m angling to get a peek inside one, for research for the new book.

Original Nag’s Head Unpainted Aristocracy Cottage

It’s delightfully quiet at the beach this time of year. I can empty my head here, shut out the familiar voices and noises of family and home–welcome as they are–and just live in the world of my book. This afternoon, I got so absorbed, I began to wonder what the mechanical noise was outside. I walked out to the driveway and discovered that the little beach cottage across the road was being gobbled up by a bulldozer and dumpster. When most of the rubble had been scraped up and hauled away, I walked over to talk to a man who was busy tinkering with something beside the old wood-frame garage, which had mercifully been spared. He cheerfully reported that he was the owner of the cottage, which his wife’s family had bought back in the forties. He said the house was probably built way before that, maybe in the twenties. It had fallen into such disrepair that it was no longer practical to keep fixing it up, so they had it taken down, and they’ll build a fine new house in its place. He seemed like a nice man. I walked back to my side of the road and crawled back inside the world of my book. I think I like it better here.

6 thoughts on “A Week at The Beach”

  1. We've been going to the Outer Banks for about 13 years now, off and on. That 'original' house you posted? I've LOVED the look of that house for many years.

    If you want to experience some of the less grown up, less commercialized feeling you should drive over to Hatteras Island one afternoon. We prefer Rodanthe, and actually we have small old cottages that we stay in too. Bealuah O'Neal Drive, Midgett Realty, Wind Chimes is the name of the house. There is more areas grown up with newer houses and such there then there was when we first started going down there in 1996 but there are those golden gems in places too.

    Such gorgeous mornings you'll have there, and usually you can spot dolphins playing in the ocean too.

    I can't wait for the next book!!

  2. I've only been to the Outer Banks once – maybe 14 to 15 years ago at least. Before they moved the Cape Hatteras Light House. We were there in the early spring and it was fabulous – before the summer crowds arrived. We stayed at Nags Head – in one of those old-timey beach motels with a "kitchenette". Probably torn down by now. Take the ferry over to Okracoke one day – that is a world of its own and lends so much to the history of the outer banks. Can't wait for the new book.

  3. You must, must, must, take a trip to Ocracoke. There is nowhere else quite like it. The beaches are pristine and the town is truly unique.

  4. Oh No…about the cottage being torn down.

    Oh YES…on your heavenly sounding corner of the world!

    Happy writing!

  5. Sounds like a darling little place. I hope you get tons of inspiration for your next book!

    That's a bit upsetting about that old place being torn down. Who knows what he could have found in the walls? I do get why, I just wish that "new" doesn't almost always trump the vintage.

    Love the photos.

  6. Just happened to run across your blog. Great stuff!

    I work for a vacation rental company on the Outer Banks, and I just love the historical significance and architecture of the historic homes. We have one in our rental program: http://www.sunrealtync.com/house/452.

    From what I hear, guests have some fantastic stories about their stays in this home. The owners of the property do a wonderful job of trying to preserve the history and character.

    Best of luck on the new book!

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