I am not going to deny that the two lane bridge between Cape Carteret-Cedar Point and Emerald Isle gets backed up a few times during the summer.
I will readily admit that I heard rumors of a weekend this summer when the wait to get across the bridge was thirty minutes. I do remember that a couple of summers back something happened, and there was a significant bridge delay.
However, today I took offense at someone's description of summer traffic in Emerald Isle.
"Emerald Isle is a congested knot of traffic during tourist season. You'd never want to try to go to the grocery store, etc in the summer!"
Those of us who actually live here in the area know that the above comment has no relationship to reality.
As my mother used to say, "It was just someone saying something to hear their head roar."
I was upset because this was actually a truly misleading comment. It went on to suggest that the person looking for some suggestions of which beaches to consider as a possible home would actually be better off looking at beaches in southern Brunswick County as a place to live.
I beg to disagree on that.
It turns out that we actually looked at some beaches in Brunswick County before deciding to move to the Emerald Isle area. We had some good reasons why the Emerald Isle area and Carteret County were a better choice for us.
While I am no judge of the current traffic down in Brunswick County, I do live year round in the Emerald Isle area. I know our traffic.
I decided to run a test to prove my assertion that getting to the grocery store even on one of the last big summer weekends of the season is not a big deal around here.
We live in a small subdivision called Bluewater Cove. It is on the western side of Carteret County on the eastern banks of the White Oak River.
Most days if I only get caught by one of the two stoplights between us and the Western Regional Beach Access, I can make it to the beach in ten minutes or so.
You can follow our trip on this map of the area.
Saturday at around 4:15 PM we left Bluewater Cove and headed out towards Emerald Isle. At a little after 4:21 PM I snapped the picture at the top of the post. It was taken just as we drove over the highest point of the Cameron-Langston Bridge. Emerald Isle is just in the distance. The bridge does not look hopelessly tied up in traffic.
We did have to wait for the light at Coast Guard Road, but we were still driving by Islander Drive which leads to the Western Regional Access at approximately 4:26 PM or eleven minutes after we left home.
At 4:29 PM we were getting out of the car and heading for the doors of Food Lion in Emerald Plantation. As you can see from this picture of the parking lot, finding a spot to park was not much of a challenge.
The biggest challenge I face in going into any grocery store has nothing to do with tourist traffic. Summer, winter, fall, or spring, getting my wife in and out in a reasonable amount of time is always the goal that is just out of reach. She loves to wander the aisles of a grocery store reading labels and pondering what she might cook for us. A few years ago, I actually wrote a post about the disappearing act that she sometimes pulls in a grocery store.
With that as background, we headed into Food Lion with a small list of things we needed from the store. Based on the over active imagination of our friend who believes that it is impossible to get into a grocery store on Emerald Isle in the summer, one would expect that 4:30 PM on the last Saturday in August might be a pure panic inside the store. This picture by the meat counter that I snapped on Saturday shows the real story.
The store was busy which should be no surprise given the time of day, but it certainly was not packed to the point of making shopping impossible. I picked up some Tofu, Crystal Light tubes, Scuppernog grapes, tuna, Coke Zero, and some walnuts while my wife got cauliflower, squash, strawberries, plums, and a package of split chicken breasts. Of course we bought chicken, it is on our menu several times each week when we can find it on special like it is at Food Lion this week.
Instead of going through one of the self check outs, I decided to pretend that I had no choice but to use a normal checkout. I personally find the self checkouts much faster. I had to wait for one person to be checked out before the girl checked us out, and a bag one filled our bags that we had carried into the store.
We got back to the car about thirty minutes after we had left it. A grocery trip of only thirty minutes is a victory in any season so I was happy to be back in the car.
My next challenge was to drive to the other end of the town of Emerald Isle. So as we pulled out of our parking space I noted the time. I did slow long enough to take a picture of the Ace Hardware and its parking lot. From the picture I would say that it would be pretty easy to get in and out of there quickly.
I was surprised to see the parking lot of my favorite ice cream store, Sweet Spot, almost empty.
It took us about three minutes to get through Emerald Isle's three other stoplights and reach the town's administrative offices. I took the time to add the town's offices to Foursquare, then we headed back towards the bridge.
As we slowed for the stoplight by the road to Bogue Inlet Pier, I was surprised to see the bench outside Jordan's empty after 5 PM on a Saturday. There is usually a wait there most evenings at the peak of the season. Jordan's usually stays busy well into the fall.
It took us a total of three minutes to get back to Emerald Plantation. I have seen it take ten minutes to cover that distance but in the grand scheme of things ten minutes is only seven minutes longer than three minutes. It's not a real traffic problem.
As I have suggested visit the Washington area's Dulles Toll Road on a weekday morning about 8 AM when you need to get to Tyson's Corner if you want to see real traffic. If that is too far away, check out the evening commute in the Raleigh-Research Triangle area on Interstate 40. That extra seven minutes in Emerald Isle will seem like nothing.
We crossed back over the bridge and turned towards Cedar Point. We ended up at Clyde Phillips Seafood which is located between the bridges in Swansboro. Jimmy, the owner, was manning the counter by himself this afternoon. I picked a nice red snapper for dinner, and Jimmy expertly cleaned and filleted it. I stuck it in our fish cooler with a scoop of extra ice provided by Jimmy.
We tarried a moment so I could try to get a picture of some pelicans out on an island, but I couldn't get it the way I wanted so we headed on to our last stop, Walgreen's.
We didn't take but a few minutes to get in and out of the drug store. We were home before 6PM in time to listen to the news and weather.
Our trip had taken less than an hour and forty-five minutes. The shopping had been stress free.
Certainly this is not our busiest summer weekend here at the beach, but the honest truth is that it doesn't get too much worse than this. I think that I skipped stopping at the Emerald Isle grocery store once this year because it looked crowded.
My point is that this is a very reasonable place to live. Anyone who lets themselves be frightened off by unfounded rumors of traffic and crowds that make it impossible to shop during the summer should give me a call. I think I might find a bridge to sell to them.
By the way the red snapper from Clyde's was a wonderful dinner. We used Glenda's Panko-Almond encrusted baked fish recipe. It was a real treat, and we had enough to warm up for Sunday dinner. There is nothing as tasty as fish fresh from the boat.