There are No Real Shortcuts to or From the OBX

Navigation devices can be a wonderful thing but they provide little benefit within 50 miles of the Outer Banks refreshing waters. The GPS’s peak of OBX efficiency is when it proclaims, “You’ve reached your destination.” But until you get directly in front of your beach house, it’s advice will be mostly useless within reach of the Outer Banks Tractor Beam.

Let’s start with this past Saturday. I left the Beach104 Studio in Nags Head around 10:30 to head home. I knew what I was getting into. There was a time when I’d get to the left turn in Kitty Hawk where TW’s and 7-11 is, and turn towards the Woods Road.  That was until the age of Waze and whatever else people are using to get around. Now there’s a long Saturday turn line to the Woods Road, and there will be a long line at the end of the road. So I kept motoring until I got to the intersection of Balchen St and 158 which is at MP 3.5. That’s where the stoppage began.

It was stop and go (mostly stop) until I reached the Marketplace at Southern Shores. (where I picked up my lunch) I noticed there was a big backup leaving the Outer Banks, but there was no traffic coming in. With sandwich in hand, I hopped in the car, got back in the ooze of traffic, and was thankful my old vehicles AC was still working. We crawled towards the Wright Memorial Bridge. There was no accident on the outbound side. The reason for the delay was that everyone on the West bound side was looking at what happened on the East bound side.

There were no injuries but it was the kind of pile up you thought only existed in a Smokey and the Bandit movie. I’ve only seen stuff like that in real life when a frozen road was involved.  Many theories have circulated about how one truck could end up under the bumper of another truck while a sedan got spun sideways into a guardrail.  As of this writing, rumors are still swirling about the collision, but, it’s a safe guess ice has been eliminated as a contributing factor. 

Enter the Navigation devices. It started Saturday morning, and the East bound Wright Memorial Bridge closure went well into the afternoon. Some folks got wind of the problem and redirected towards 64. Thus 64 got backed up too. Most riders were too deep into their OBX journey and didn’t want to turn around. Instead, they looked to their GPS friend and thought, “There must be another route other than staying on Caratoke Hwy (aka 158).” The backup continued to build and so did the pressure to discover a quicker way to the Outer Banks.

Most OBX vacationers reside in places where “alternate routes”  may take one all the way to where they want to go. It’s not a first choice, but in a pinch, it will work.  This naive optimism only made the sucker punch of failure hit that much harder. Saturday’s super slow down motivated Navigation devices to cough up alternate route possibilities. Cars, Trucks, SUV’s, and RV’s  turned on roads called Aydlett, Grandy, and Bayview to name a few. The posted speed limit soon became a reality and there was much joy. But just like in the Monster movies, Godzilla wasn’t dead. The brakes slammed, and travelers were welcomed by another backup. This backup was the backup to get to the original backup.

With no traffic lights from Grandy until you get off the Wright Memorial Bridge, there are no natural breaks in the vehicle procession.  This means if you’re trying to go from Jarvisburg’s South Bayview Rd to Caratoke Hwy’s beach bound lanes  you’ll have to go through heavy, but regular moving West bound traffic, then get in the center turn lane, pray an East bound driver lets you cut in front of them, all while hoping some yahoo doesn’t ram into you because they’re driving 55 mph in the turn lane cause they want to get to the beach now.  Beach way turn lane traffic jam drivers usually ride with the left blinker on so if they get pulled over they think they can say, “I was going to make a left turn up the road, but I wasn’t sure where the road was.” It should be noted this argument has never worked with our area law enforcement.

That takes us across the bridge. If you’re heading towards Duck and Corolla and drive past Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores. You’ll probably hear the dreaded, “recalculating.” In this case, It’s OK to hear these words from GPS. I can argue the extra Saturday cavalcade of cars has driven residents of Southern Shores quite batty. Families forbid weekend bicycle riding for their kids, and worry their children might want to do something crazy like walk across the street to see a friend. I could additionally mention Southern Shores Senior Citizens are  on edge.  For them, the only scarier scenario than driving among the steel horse stampede might be a confirmed sighting of the Wanchese Monster (OBX version of Sasquatch) destroying the Duck Woods Country Club Driving Range.

But I won’t use the aforementioned arguments. I’ll just say, “Travel time won’t be saved.” The backstreet ride will  slow down significantly, and the number of cars in line will quickly accumulate as you prepare to re-enter NC 12. After a long wait, you’ll re-enter the slow flow of Duck and Corolla bound traffic.  Then you’ll probably notice the cars in front of you were the ones that ignored the Navigation device advice. 

Our family has lived in the area over 20 years. I developed a fondness the Outer Banks while vacationing here. I truly want our visitors to have a great time. But remember, “There are No Real Shortcuts to or From the OBX.”