Friday, May 22, 2015

NC Nags Head, South Beach Grille, Civilian Air Patrol

     Welcome back to Nags Head NC.

     One of the unique things about this area is the fact that if you know where to go, you can watch the sun rise and set over water without leaving that spot.  In the background of this photo is a small island where the bridge comes across, but for the most part the water on the inland side is open viewing for miles.

     The beach is the finest sand I have found yet on the east coast - almost like powdered sugar.  It is great for walking on, but it does tend to get in everything.  Oddly, just a few miles down the island the beach is very "pebbly,"  made up of shells that are slowly being ground into sand.

      Finding quiet places with good Wifi where I can sit, edit photos and write for four or five hours a day is always a challenge, and I don't often pull into restaurants because I feel funny not spending much money but using their resources.  But when I arrived on Nags Head, I was driving through the main strip and felt drawn to turn around and pull into this restaurant - South Beach Grille. 

     I am glad I did.  Meet Kerstin and Wayne Everhart.

     Kirstin and Wayne have owned this restaurant for twenty five years.  It has raised four children to adulthood and provided them with an opportunity to be of service to many people in many ways.  In fact, their youngest son was only one day old when he found himself helping his mom at the greeting station.  

     Wayne built this deck a few years back - in fact Wayne has built 5 houses from the ground up over the last thirty years - he and Kerstin doing all the work themselves.  The deck has a view of the Atlantic on one side and over the sound on the other - one of those truly rare spots where you can watch the sun rise and set over water without moving.

     And as talented as Wayne is with construction, Kerstin is with decorating.  Kerstin also does dozens of styles of crafts from shells and all manner of other things that are for sale in the front of the store.

     You are looking at the results of the third time they have completely made over the restaurant.  You see, over the last years the demographics of the clientele have changed dramatically and they have had to make big adjustments to keep up.  When they first opened they called it "Island's Eye."  Back then they catered primarily to a local crowd.  The age of weekly rental houses had not arrived yet; most folks stayed in small clusters of cottages called "cottage courts" or in motels.  Rates were much lower and people had a lot more disposable income.


     Then around the turn of the century they decided to become more of a night life place to cater to the numerous military personnel who were visiting from nearby bases.  They changed the name to "Bushwhackers" and hosted bands nightly.

     The money was rolling in, but the whole thing was bothering them.  They were attracting lots of people who would sit and drink when they should be home with their families.  And since one or usually both of them are always here, the late nights grew old and they wanted a healthier lifestyle.  So the decision was made to make themselves over again, and in 2009 they made the transition to an upscale seafood menu while still maintaining a local family restaurant feel.

     (The objects on the wall in the photo above were all scrap from building the deck - Kerstin took the pieces Wayne cut off of the ends of the joists and the empty paint cans to create this corner.)

     Running a place in this environment is a big challenge.  Over 80 percent of their annual receipts come in from mid June through mid August, following precisely the summer vacation schedule for schools.  The sudden influx of a quarter million folks a week changes everything drastically.  They would have to double the staff, but many long term employees want to work double shifts for the busy season.

    I was able to interact with a number of the employees for the couple of days I was here, and they all rave about how good Kerstin and Wayne are to them.  Many were down and out with a lot of troubles when they got here, and found themselves treated more like family than like employees.  Without exception and without my solicitation every employee mentioned that they didn't understand how Wayne and Kerstin were together all day every day all these years and are still so madly in love.

     The vast majority of the menu is local seafood, and there is a big focus on healthy foods.  Salads are real salads and there are many gluten free choices.  Appetizers like steamed shrimp, fried onions, sliders or blackened chicken are just $ 2.00 in the afternoons.  

     Kirsten and Wayne took it upon themselves to feed me for the four days I was here, and I can tell you the food is very good.  There are lots of home recipes and they keep the prices very reasonable.

     I had the opportunity to talk with Kerstin for a couple of hours about all manner of subjects regarding their lives, their decision and their goals.  My observation and that of all those I talked to is that the Everharts are are deeply spiritual people - the kind that live it rather than talk about it.

     One of Kerstin's stories is about a waterspout (tornado) coming by the restaurant last year.  It seems there was a couple having their engagement party up on the deck.  The storm came through, knocking all the stuff on the deck about except their table.  Everything on their table and the table itself was intact - exactly as they left it when they ran downstairs for cover.

     Kerstin has been wanting to put a bed and breakfast  together for missionaries that visit a country in South America that they have done a lot of work for, but for now God is keeping them here.  So, when you are in Nags Head please stop in here and say Hi.  You will have instant friends.

      When I arrived last week, they were putting together a spaghetti dinner as a fundraiser.  The fundraiser is for that island they and several other families from this area have sort of adopted.   One of the others very active in that effort is James Dale.   

James Dale

     James is a consultant that is working with several companies in Detroit Michigan, a city that is currently working hard to re-make itself.  He and the Everharts are both very passionate about this work, and it is a unique enough approach that it is worth hearing about.

     An interesting story with Jim is his son Matthew.  Matthew had bi-polar disorder so bad that he almost succeeded at killing himself as a freshman in high school.  Jim was able to find a psychologist in Canada that offers neuro-feedback, which is a technology that is a big part of the reason we are on this journey to start with - ultimately this will become a fund-raising journey to build a research hospital to solve these issues.  Today Matthew is off of the cocktail of meds that he was prescribed, is very active as a youth minister and is thriving as a young man in his early twenties.

     But back to the mission - the specific spot they are working in is St. Helene, Honduras, and the website for their effort is Mission Encounters International.

(photo supplied by James Dale)

     What makes their mission unique is that they are focusing on making the people self sustaining.  This island's only income was from drug runners, and they were all put out of business some years back.  The situation on the island was critical, and while they wanted to help the people there, they didn't want to create dependants.

     An interesting side note - most of the islanders have to build their houses on stilts over the water because all of their native land is now spoken for.

(Photo supplied by James Dale)

     There are a number of people involved.  One of the fellows, a David Dascher of Austin Texas has been building small houses for single mothers.  He funds it by building condos on a nearby island that is seeing a large surge of foreigners buying second homes.  

(photo supplied by James Dale)

     Since 2004 when the efforts first began, schools have been built and the first students have now graduated.  The school teachers and administrators are all people from the island.

     Medical and dental clinics have been established and the island now has a government - run by its own people.  The neat thing is that the way they have gone about this is such that they can soon move on to another area and duplicate this effort - this place will be self - sustaining.

(Photo supplied by James Dale)

     This is where the Everharts want to establish a bed and breakfast to help the missionaries that visit here - and I believe they will.  What an incredible gift to give - the gift of the ability and means for one to sustain himself.  It goes back to the old saying that it is much better to teach a man to fish than it is to give him a fish.

(Photo supplied by James Dale)

     Both James and the Everharts talk about the profound effect that doing work with the folks on this island has had on their children.  It opens their eyes to the world, taking them out of the bubble they are in during the teen years.  The Everharts son wanted to be a dentist, so the let him work with a dentist on the island.  The boy changed his mind about his career choice after having had the opportunity to be exposed to what the work is actually like.  All of the children are eager for any opportunity to return, and all have found much gratitude and richness in their young lives that they would not have if their parents had not made this effort.

     Back at Nags Head, there has been an interesting embellishment that folks have been doing to their houses.  I am told it started about twenty years ago - and no one seems sure who started it or why.  "It" is decoratively carved fascia pieces built into the outdoor stairways.

     There are all kinds of styles, some quite attractive.  Another thing you find in abundance here is surf worn branches and roots.

     With all of the movement of sand bars they are fairly abundant here.  Not as common but still available are old crab pot buoys that have been well worn and in some cases are encrusted with barnacles.

     There is some new construction - an outdoor adult play area with a big obstacle course has gone in on the sound alongside a miniature golf course.  There is also a park going in along the sound.

     There is one more story just across the sound at the airport in Roanoke is worth touching on.

     These coasts were infested with German submarines during World War II.  At the beginning of the war, all of the United States Navy's assets were tied up elsewhere, leaving shipping on this coast vulnerable.  The subs became so bold that they would surface within sight of shore and hang out their laundry to dry as they recharged their batteries.  

     Civilians who had pilots licenses took it upon themselves to form the Civilian Air Patrol.

     They hastily cobbled themselves together, many of them retired business men in their fifties and sixties who had a plane and knew how to fly.  Initially they took off and landed wherever they could.

      In the beginning they were the laughing stock of the Navy and Air Force; they were denied any sort of logistical or material support and given no respect.

     But then a few things happened.  They attached bombs to their planes, and they actually disabled a couple of submarines.  They also spotted some Navy fliers who had to ditch and rescued them. 

    According to old accounts, it was the Navy fliers who were suffering from hypothermia that they rescued that changed the military pilots minds.  All of the sudden they were taken seriously.


     From Maine to Mexico groups sprang up and answered the call to serve their country as best they could.  At the airport is a small museum commemorating their efforts.  Below is one of the bombs they strapped on.

     It really was a remarkable effort.  The kills the Germans scored on American ships plummeted and the east coast of the United States became much safer to navigate.  

     That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd." taken of a girl who visited South Beach Grille with her mother and grandmother.

     And that brings us to today's parting shot, taken in the kitchen of South Beach Grille.

     On the personal front, I am returning to Charleston for a few days.  There is some work that needs done for the foundation and some other things that have come up that need tended to.  I intend to be back on the road in two weeks, with the plan to drive up to the tip of Maine and work my way back here by November.

Click Here if you can contribute a few dollars to this effort, Click Here for today's meditation, and Click Here to email me.

Have an awesome day !!

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