When in Exile: Virginia Beach or Bust Part II

Prior to reading this, be sure to check out When in Exile: Virginia Beach or Bust Part I to find out how we so admiringly made lemonade out of Hurricane Earl’s sour lemons.

These two are to blame thank for our entire trip to the Outer Banks, our evacuation and welp, my entire sordid existence.

And all of their existences, too.

(Back: Brother Pat, sister-in-law Jane, Bode, brother Jade, Jamie, Moi, cousin Emily, Ashton, baby Naomi. Frontish: Mom, cousin Jaxon, Dad, cousin Connor, Haddie and Arianna).

My brother Jade now lives in New Jersey and is well-acquainted (or at least better-acquainted) with Virginia Beach and led us down to the waterfront. Over 40 high-rise hotels lined the beach as roller-bladers, joggers and multi-person bikes for 2, 4 and even 6 people zoomed along the bike path.

Though it was Labor Day weekend, the area was still recovering from the storm and the small seaside amusement park was closed.

And so we took in the boardwalk.

I was moderately taken with it all until I attempted to shop in one of the many tacky tourist shops. Then some areas became overcome by drunken revelries. My distaste deepened when the pier we wanted to check out charged money.

Last I checked, “spectating” was free.

At least that is how it was in the glorious and pristine Outer Banks.

We’ll be back.

When in Exile: Virginia Beach or Bust Part I

Here’s the not-so funny thing about being evacuated for a Hurricane. You go from this in the Outer Banks:

To this in Suffolk, a dreary inland suburb of Norfolk.

As an exiled family well-versed in making lemonade out of lemons, we congregated at the Virginia Beach Aquarium and Marine Science Center. I’ll admit it: my expectations were low. And they were very happily exceeded as we explored 300 interactive exhibits about marshes, the bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Though the outdoor aviary, nature trail, and marshlands were closed due to the rain, the entire family loved discovering thousands of animals representing over 300 species.

In case you could not tell, Bode has forgotten how to smile in pictures and instead opts for an opt-mouthed gasp.

The kids loved the 3D IMAX® Theatre’s production on Dolphins and Whales.

Though evidently sweet Bode also struggles with the concept of wearing glasses.

The Crazy Canuck Clan had one must-visit restaurant: Dirty Dicks Crab House (mostly so we could say we did this):

We were evacuated from the Outer Banks before this dream came to fruition but were delighted to discover DD was in Virginia Beach. But all our hopes were for naught. After driving around aimlessly, we learned that Dear Ol’ Dirty Dicks had closed down and so we got our crabs at Hooks Saltwater Grill & Sushi.

Sadly, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Stay tuned for When in Exile: Virginia Beach or Bust Part II

Crabbing by night and my family’s forray into darkness

I have an ultra-competitive family. This is amazing to me for the sole reason that my parents are not overly competitive. Sure, they encouraged us to do our best and exposed us to many different activities. But there is an internal killer drive that I share with my brothers Pat and Jade.

In our schooling years, the result was excelling in pretty much every sport we played. In our over-the-hill years, the scenario is completely different:

When we vacationed at Tie Lake, B.C., we dressed in camouflage as we waged war on capturing the most turtles.

In croquet, our mallets become our weapons in the game we renamed, “Blood Sport.”

Whilst in the Outer Banks, our competition de choix was crab hunting.

When I was younger, my family enjoyed vacationing on Vancouver Island and crab fishing off the docks of Sydney. Back in The Day, we had all the fixins that included traps and bait.

In the Outer Banks, we had three things: Buckets, flashlights and our freakishly superhuman speed.

Work with me, here.

My mom also bought the men crab-hunting uniforms.

Jamie, Pat, Jade and Dad

Those decapod crustaceans didn’t stand a chance against us.

After dark when the waves would roll in, crabs would wash up onto the shore. They’d scurry around at warp speed before plunging back into the ocean.

Enter: The Crazy Canuck Clan.

We had two divisions of crabbers: the spotters and the catchers. The spotters were in charge of the flashlights and following the crabs’ every moves. The catchers were responsible for running around screaming like the Tasmanian Devil whilst trying to scoop the crabs up into their buckets.

I obviously excelled at the latter.

Bode was superior at the former.

When he remembered to actually point his flashlight at the crabs, that is.

The final standings of our crabbing competition?

The winner:

My niece Ashton. This mother-of-two was a force to be reckoned with. So superior were her skills that on our final night, she even caught one backhanded.

If this mothering thing doesn’t work out, she has crabbing to fall back on.

The Loser:

The Lord of the Gourds. On the first night, a crab raced over Jamie’s foot and he squealed like a girl. My beloved honey tried to redeem himself by capturing eight crabs the following night but the damage was done. So disturbing was his initial display that for the remainder of our crab hunting days, my family warned “Not to pull a Jamie.”

I always knew he should be a verb.

Most improved:

Hadley. For our first several nights, Hadley raced around like the rest of us but was a bit too squeamish to delve in for the kill (or rather, catch. And then release). But on our final night, she proclaimed she was ready and my family banded to together in the assist.

At the end of the evening, she jubilantly caught five crabs.

And she then threw a colossal fit as we left the beach because “I WANNA STAY AND CATCH SIX CRABS!”

She was officially inducted into the Crazy Canuck Competitive Hall of Fame.

Making the Tooth Fairy work overtime

Only Hadley would finally lose her fifth tooth.

You know: the one that has been precariously loose for weeks now….

On the very night Hurricane Earl arrived.


Four days later, we were at a neighborhood BBQ for Labor Day. Hadley had another front tooth that was loose. Our Cat Sitter Sadie (a third grader, well attuned to the world of teeth-pulling) graciously yanked it out for Hadley.

She then sweetly proposed that she should be rewarded half of Haddie’s Tooth Fairy earnings for her involvement.

She has a future with the IRS.

Or Canadian government.

The Outer Banks’ Glorious, Glorious Beaches

I fell in love with the 130 miles of unspoiled coastline in the Outer Banks.

Though truth be told, I only explored a very small portion of it.

Everyone has a different idea of the ultimate beach vacation. When we were evacuated from Hurricane Earl, we spent part of the afternoon exploring Virginia Beach. A popular boardwalk, the beach was littered with tourists, tattoos and revelries. The atmosphere was upbeat, fun and for me, completely overdone.

The Outer Banks’ pristine coastal villages were the very antithesis of this party atmosphere. My very first morning, I arose before dawn (at 4 a.m. Denver-time; oh, the insanity) to watch the sunrise and collect seashells. It was the perfect kick-off to an idyllic vacation.

Getting lost and wandering around for an hour trying to find the beach house afterward? NotSoMuch.

I truly did not know how Bode would react to the ocean. Haddie fell in love with the surf in Puerto Rico but Bode is notoriously the more timid of the two. But within a few minutes, he was the madman of the ocean.

Just picture him on the bow of the Titanic with Kate Winslet in this shot.

Hadley was predictably in her element, even forsaking her Colorado mountains and declaring herself “a beach babe.”

Sigh. I just know I’ll be fighting off the boys sooner than I’m ready.

Some of my favorite beachfront moments:

So great was my love for the beaches of the Outer Banks that I was even tempted to declare myself a “beach babe.”

But then remembered it would likely entail actually getting wet.

Kiteboarding, golfing and islanding–Outer Banks’ family travel fun

Despite my family’s premature evacuation due to Hurricane Earl, the Outer Banks was one of my all-time favorite family travel destinations. This long string of narrow barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina is pristine. Raw. And achingly beautiful.

The beach house my mom rented in the Southern Shores was one of hundreds of million-dollar mansions that dotted the Atlantic Ocean.

Despite its name, Southern Shores is actually in the northernmost part of the Outer Banks with a busy shopping hub. For our next trip, my goal is to stay on the southernmost tip, Okracoke Island. Accessible only be ferry, it boasts untouched beauty, whimsical lighthouses, a quaint village and me.

Gotta start planning now.

During our five days in the Outer Banks, we crammed in a whole lot of family travel fun. Some highlights:


The Outer Banks is renowned as the Kiteboarding Capital of the World. My brother Pat (an avid wakeboarder) has recently taken to this surface water sport that uses the wind to pull a rider through the water on a small kiteboard.

I have never been a water person, nor am I talented enough to fly a simple kite so this sport was beyond my ability level. Knowing my aversion to water sports, my sister-in-law Jane tried to convert me to “Dragging.” Basically, this is kiteboarding without a kiteboard. You are harnessed to the kite and let the kite guide you as your face is used as a skipping stone across the water.

I remained shore-bound.

Miniature golf

There are oodles of non-beach activities for children in the Outer Banks that include amusement parks, an Indy Kart racetrack, skate parks, horseback riding and so much more.

Our “more” was going miniature golfing at Lost Treasure Golf in Kill Devil Hills with cousins Jaxson and Connor.

To access the first hole, we rode on a mining train through caves, “ancient” ruins and under waterfalls.

And I confirmed that Bode and cousin Jaxson are actually long-lost twins.


Roanoke Island

One of my biggest disappointments was being unable to travel to Okracoke Island (tourists were evacuated a couple of days prior to Hurricane Earl). Roanoke Island, one of the Outer Banks’ primary visitor destinations, was The Next Best Thing.

What we could have done:

Pet the stingrays at the North Carolina Aquarium, strolled through the breathtaking Elizabethan Gardens, saw the popular outdoor drama, The Lost Colony and enlisted the kids in Pirate Adventures where they could seek out treasures aboard a pirate ship.

What we did do:

Time was short and the weather was hot so one morning, Jamie, Hadley, Bode and I drove to Manteo. This charming hamlet wraps around Shallowbag Bay on the eastern side of Roanoke Island.

We strolled the Manteo Waterfront and devoured coconut chicken salads at the Magnolia Grille. Next, we searched for fossils at the waterfront’s pirate-themed playground.

We explored the cottage-style Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse.

And climbed trees. The kids did, that is.

Though this activity did not involve liquid face-plants, I still deemed it best to remain on solid ground.



We started and ended each day playing in our house’s pool….

And hot tub.

(My niece Ashton’s darling girls.)

And reached for the sky.

(My toe has never looked better.)

The lowlight: When The Lord of the Gourds tossing me into the pool fully-clothed. My trespass? Mocking The Great Pumpkin, of course.

In my defense, who wouldn’t make fun of the GPC (Great Pumpkin Commonwealth)….

Stay tuned tomorrow for details on THE BEACH!

How my family literally looked into the eye of Hurricane Earl’s storm

(Originally published at Mile High Mamas)

Poor eyesight. Baldness. Big feet. These are all things that can be passed down from generation-to-generation.

In my family, our inherited trait is bad luck.

And also the aforementioned misfortunes.

We come up a wee bit short in the gene pool.

I hail from an uproarious, fun-loving Canadian family but if anything bad can happen, it usually does. That said, what do you get when your entire Murphy’s Law clan congregates for the first time in 10 years in North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks?

Hurricane Earl, that’s what.

And I only wish I was joking.

Our week-long vacation actually started out smoothly. My generous mother rented a beach-side mansion that accommodated all 15 siblings and cousins in the Outer Banks’ Southern Shores.

For five glorious days, we splashed in our pool, built sand castles, chased the waves, explored quaint fishing villages, kite-boarded, stalked crabs at night and collected sea shells at dawn. It was as close to utopia as The Bad Luck Clan has ever come and I never wanted it to end.

Hurricane Earl had other ideas.

We had been casually tracking the hurricane’s progress. We knew when we planned our vacation that it was peak hurricane season but, as my friend Tom queried on Facebook: “What are the odds of you being there when a hurricane is coming?”

Evidently pretty darn good because, out of all the destinations along the Atlantic Ocean, the Outer Banks was Hurricane Earl’s first stop.

We were unsure of what to do. As Canadians, the only natural disaster with which we’re familiar is having our nose hairs freeze in sub-zero temperatures.

The southern portion of the Outer Banks was evacuated in what meteorologists initially predicted would be a Class 4 hurricane. Our beach house was 45 minutes north. While we did not want to cut our vacation two days short by leaving, we also did not want to take any unnecessary risks.

The county made the decision for us by ordering mandatory evacuation of all visitors.

We hurriedly loaded up our cars. As the queen of worst-case scenarios, I was ready. We had bottled water. Ample food. A full tank of gas for our inland escape route. If nothing else, escaping Earl’s clutches would make for some great blog fodder.

Except the drama never really unfolded.

I had anticipated being stuck for hours in traffic with other desperate, fleeing tourists.

We easily cruised across the bridge to the mainland in record time.

I envisioned the storm leveling houses and flooding streets.

The area did not even lose power.

In the end, Hurricane Earl sideswiped the Outer Banks causing some flooding but no injuries and only modest damage. Though it was a huge upset in our family vacation, it was an instance wherein it was better to be safe than sorry.

Unless you’re my Crazy Canuck brother Pat who wanted to kite-board through it all.

My mother had wisely invested in hurricane insurance. She was not only reimbursed for the two nights we had to leave our beach house but also for the cost of our stay in exile.

Because even Murphy’s Law deserves a silver lining now and then.