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Next stop: Outer Banks. That’s where the traveling gnome card—that I have decided to nickname Gustave—traveled along with myself, friends, and friends of friends.

The Outer Banks, a 35-mile sandy strip of land along the coast of North Carolina, boasts a distinct beach house architecture that includes a labyrinth of multi-level porches and staircases atop elevated foundations (hurricanes, people). Unlike the Californian beaches that I am accustomed to, the Outer Banks exudes a certain country Jason Aldean beach vibe, Virginian and Carolinian accents included. Mike and his family’s beach house could not have arranged for more beautiful weather (thank you, Snivelies!). And with Jen as grocery food list maker, Mike as breakfast cook extraordinaire, and Ronnie as Corona beer (and limes) runner in addition to master bbq’er, generous rations of food quelled any fears of hunger.

The days included ample amounts of beach time, lighthouse tours, sun bathing, ocean water, and time spent in good company. Culinary excursions included Mama Kwans and Fish Heads, the latter being my favorite. How can you argue with live bands, buckets of shrimp with old bay, and old couples that cut a rug the ol' fashioned way? All in all, it was a pretty great relaxing vacation, even if Gustave didn’t come back with a tan.