That Ain’t BBQ Chicken!

Yesterday, Sunday October 17, 2010 was one of those days where little frustration after little frustration seemed to pile on. But, it was only after the day was over that I looked back on it to see how many frustrating incidents there were:

I had stayed the night at Mary Ann and Jim’s in Hubert, NC. I found that I had forgotten to bring my toothbrush with the rest of my toiletries. I left a little after 8:30 am and went through Jacksonville, stopping at a Hardees to get a country ham & egg biscuit and a $1 drink. They must really make the biscuits from scratch, because the biscuit I had wasn’t nearly as well made as the ones I consistently get that are good from the Hardees on Ramsey Street in Fayetteville. It also had a hint of cinnamon, which made me think that they probably baked these biscuits on the same tray as they had a cinnamon biscuit (I didn’t even think to check if there was that on the menu.), or in too close a proximity.

New Bern Waterfront & Pink Mums
New Bern Waterfront & Pink Mums

When I got into New Bern, I noted that the old St. Luke’s Hospital building had been renovated. The sign had been removed or covered up with new brick. I then stopped in New Bern, along the waterfront to take some pictures. I think I noted that there had been a Mum Festival recently because there were bunches of mums in various pots and containers in different locations about the area.

I then headed up Highway 17 North toward “little” Washington. In Bridgeton, just across the river from New Bern I got behind a motorcyclist, who looked from the back like someone that might have been in Easy Rider. No, he didn’t have an American Flag helmet, but he had a green duffle bag, with what appeared to be clothes hanging out from the openings, and later, I noted a plastic water bottle strapped to the bag. He had white shoes. At first I thought they were tennis shoes, but later thought they just might be bone colored leather. I never thought that they were boots. I mention the cyclist because I stayed behind him until I got to the turn off at Chocowinity, a few miles from Washington. As I turned, there were several vehicles that went on by, including about 5 or 6 other motorcycles (not with him) an continued on the “new” section of Hwy. 17.

I came through Chocowinity (I guess an Indian name.) and then along an old portion of Hwy. 17 heading into Washington. I had been on this section many times throughout the years when I had been travelling between Jacksonville, NC and Portsmouth, VA. My mother had moved up there to live with her sister, Zeta “Aunt Pete” when I was in 8th grade. I stayed in Hubert with my “Aunt Sis” (Carrie Kellum) and continued to attend Swansboro High School, through my graduation. On holidays and during the summer, I would go to visit or stay with my mother. I would ride the Trailways bus which stopped at most of the little towns on Hwy. 17. *The Hwy. 17 bridge at New Bern was torn down after they had built the new “high rise” bridge there. It was a low straight bridge.

It was a little after 11 am when I crossed the old Washington bridge. I went up a few blocks and turned into Marabella’s Restaurant parking lot, which was empty. I drove up close to the door. Although the sign said that they would open a 1pm, I wasn’t sure if they were actually open on Sunday.

I then headed up Hwy 264 West, a short distance to see if I could find a good price on gas. I think I paid $2.75 per gallon. Later in the day, I would pay $2.69 per gallon at a BP Station. If I had realized that it was a BP station before I turned in, I wouldn’t have turned in.

I then turned around, still on Hwy 264 and headed toward Pantego. At Pantego, you turn off on Hwy 99 and then after a few more turns and down a long dirt road, you are supposed to get to Phelps Lake. This was my second attempt to go to Phelps Lake. I had aborted my first attempt just a few miles from my destination because I didn’t realize how close I was, and as desolate as my surroundings had become, I had become convinced that my GPS was in error.

About to turn the corner from Canal "D" Road.
About to turn the corner from Canal "D" Road.

Well, once again, I had followed my GPS that had me travelling down the long, straight, dirt road called “Canal D.” As I turned the corner, and just a few

Now the road was chained.
Now the road was chained.

yards from where I had turned around previously, I came upon a chain that had been stretched across the path between two posts. The sign said that this part of the park was closed from November until … I don’t recall if it was January or some other month, when things started to warm up. Well, it was October 17th, which was close to November, but not November.

Deja Vu, Back Down Canal D Road
Deja Vu, Back Down Canal D Road

So, I turned around once again and headed back down Canal D road, which then becomes Pat’s Lane (or Road ?). I did make a short detour and took a couple of pictures of a pontoon houseboat that was parked on it’s trailer in what appeared to be a farm yard. I don’t think it was a residence.

Pontoon Boat
Pontoon Boat

I didn’t have a map with me, but I recalled having noted that I would have to make a circuitous route around and get on Hwy 64 before heading south to Pettigrew State Park. But, circuitous doesn’t do justice to the seemingly endless long straight roads that must be endured. Large commercial farms seem almost endless that cover the area.

Columbia, NC
Columbia, NC

Once I got on Hwy 64, I headed east toward Columbia, NC. I had never been there, and probably because of the many large billboards that advertised seafood restaurants, I thought I might eat a seafood dinner there. That was to be another disappointment. Columbia, NC reminds me of Darien, GA.

After travelling many miles on Hwy 64, I finally saw the sign for Pettigrew State Park. I turned (Clement?) off of Hwy 64. It was still quite a distance before I came to the Park Office, which was closed. But, there were Park pamphlets that were available by the Park map outside the office, and the bathrooms were open and clean.

Pettigrew State Park Office
Pettigrew State Park Office

I could see a little bit of the lake from the office, and drove down to the boat ramp turnaround and parked. I then walked to the docks, looked around and took some pictures.

Boat Ramp & Docks
Boat Ramp & Docks
Trees Close to Lake Shore
Trees Close to Lake Shore

Now, here is where the map does not prepare you for the long journey around ¾ of the lake. In the upper left hand corner of the Phelps Lake map, there isn’t room to show you how you actually get from the Park Office to the next “canoe/kayak put-in.” You don’t actually ride around next to the lake, but take a great detour away from the lake and then back to it. And, some of the road is very bumpy. It doesn’t appear to be bumpy. It’s paved and appears to be flat, but it’s not.

A Swarm of Mosquitoes Waiting Just in the Shadows.
A Swarm of Mosquitoes Waiting Just in the Shadows.

The next “put-in” and overlook was arrived at by parking and walking a short distance through the woods to the lake. But, to my surprise, on October 17th (a rather warm day for mid-month) there were large mosquitoes still swarming. They became noticeable just after I had walked through an invisible spider web that must have hung across the walk. I started brushing the web from my face, and then noted the mosquitoes. I slapped at them and brushed them from my shirt and walked faster to get near the water, hoping that somehow the sunlight would fend them off. Although they are little blood suckers, they are NOT vampires, and they do not burst into flame when sunlight hits them.

Surprisingly, most of the mosquitoes stayed in the shade of the nearby trees and I took a few more pictures. I did swat one large mosquito, but surprisingly I don’t recall any actual bite, and that is even after I made it back to my truck and headed down the road.

Houses Along the Southern Shore
Houses Along the Southern Shore

The road is winding around the southwestern end of the lake, and then came a surprise. A couple of small brick houses. I first thought they might be for the Ranger families, or maybe even a nice Park rental. But as I continued around the south end of the lake, there were more and more homes, and campers, and docks jutting out into the lake. There was even a small store with the title “Conman’s.”

Conman's on the Southern Shore
Conman's on the Southern Shore

The road changes from paved to tightly packed gravel and eventually comes to an end at the Pocosin Natural Area. Evan’s road is an unpaved straight road heading south from near the Pocosin Natural Area. Near Conman’s there is Allen Road, which is where I think I would have come to the Shore Road, if I had not had to turn around at the chained posts.

After I found that there were not the plethora of seafood restaurants at Columbia, NC, I thought that I might find a place to eat in Plymouth or maybe even Williamston. I am not sure if I had ever been through Plymouth, NC before yesterday. There were the standard fast food restaurants, but I decided to continue on to Williamston before stopping for dinner. The “fat man” hadn’t had anything since the country ham & egg biscuit at about 9am, but I wasn’t that hungry yet.

For BBQ Chicken, Go Somewhere Else!
For BBQ Chicken, Go Somewhere Else!

I came into Williamston, NC perpendicular to the path I had always traveled on Hwy 17. Hwy 17 being situated mostly north and south, and Hwy 64 being mostly east and west. I recalled that on the bus, we had passed a country restaurant which seemed to advertise seafood. I didn’t see that place, but soon after a few blocks saw the Shamrock Family Restaurant. There were quite a number of vehicles parked around it so I turned around and came back to stop for dinner.

I may write more later, but the highlight of my visit to the Shamrock was that I had the worst BBQ Chicken I have ever had. Actually, they advertised a BBQ Chicken special for $7.95?, but what I got was chicken cooked in a watery sweet tomato sauce. The sauce reminded me of the cheap tomato sauce you get in pork-n-beans. Nothing had been done to it to make it resemble any BBQ sauce I’ve ever had. One of my prerequisites (and I had never thought to come up with a list of prerequisites until yesterday) for BBQ Chicken would be that the sauce would have to be allowed to bake on the chicken. I don’t care if you bake the chicken in an oven, or on a grill, but the sauce has to thicken and stick to the chicken.

Another prerequisite would be that the sauce has to be more than a watery tomato soup. That’s it. I had chicken in tomato soup, not BBQ Chicken.

Shortly before I got up to pay for my meal, I saw the cashier go up to one of the waitresses and whisper something about the BBQ Chicken not being available. The cashier then went to the board and wiped “BBQ Chicken” from the list… leaving Roast Beef and Turkey & Dressing as the remaining choices. This emboldened me to profess my extreme dislike for what they had called BBQ Chicken, when the cashier asked me if I had enjoyed my meal.

I told her to tell the cook that “I hated it” and that “I wished you had erased the BBQ Chicken option from the board before I had ordered it.”  The cashier laughed curtly, but never made an offer to discount my meal.

The sweet tea was good. The fried okra were crisp. The coleslaw was good. The salad, from the salad bar was passable. Nothing bad, but nothing special either. The hush puppies were in that same category. Not bad, but nothing special.

Now, it didn’t help that many miles down the road from Williamston, NC, shortly before Interstate 40 (heading nw/se) crosses over Interstate 95 (north/south) I started to belch that sweet tomato sauce. Oh, by the way, I had tried the chicken about 3 times. The second time, I tried to convince myself that this is “just a different way of fixing the dish.” But, the third time, is when I said to myself, “I don’t care what they call it, this isn’t BBQ Chicken!” So, I left about 4/5’s of that generous portion of BBQ Chicken on my plate.

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