Thursday, January 18, 2007

Salisbury, MD to Myrtle Beach - Road Note

We have driven down the Delmarva Peninsula often enough now to recognize landmarks and enjoy seeing places again. We choose this route to avoid the stress of traffic, urban congestion, and huge backups found on the beltways around Baltimore and Washington. Driving through the mostly rural countryside between Wilmington, DE and Norfolk, VA is comparatively restful. We have passed The Turner Sculpture Gallery and Foundry often but driven past thinking it was either a tourist trap we preferred to avoid or else it contained works too expensive for us even to look at. Today we have plenty of time and the sun has risen to a bright, clear, and chilly day as we head toward Myrtle Beach. We discover quickly after entering the gallery, that we’ve been wrong on two counts. The work produced by Dr. William Turner and his son David is stunning and pricey, but there is work in the gallery we can afford.

It’s a quiet Wednesday morning and we’re the only people in the gallery, which sprawls through a number of rooms. Easels are set up in one of the galleries as well as in a couple of small studios easily accessible to customers. An unmarked rear door leads out to workshops and the foundry. The principle works in the Turner Gallery are bronze castings of wildlife found in the Eastern Shore region of the Chesapeake Bay along with a variety of other pieces. Hung on the walls are vivid wildlife watercolors by Dr. Turner (Turner’s is a dentist, but has long ago given up practice for full-time art) in the original or in much less expensive print form, some limited editions. Works by other artists also hang on the walls and lie in bins throughout the gallery. A particularly endearing feature is casts of small works done by the Turner grandchildren along with a certificate of authenticity and a picture of each child.

The most imposing works in the gallery are a series are the wildlife tables. Each one gives the impression of being a smooth, glassy water surface revealing the sea creatures and plants living below. These works, ranging in price from around $5000 to well over $10,000 can be bought off the floor or custom ordered to the customer’s preference. Turner provides a large number of possible components, including such items as a stingray, striped bass, blue crab, octopus baby dolphin, and many more. These stunning pieces would grace any living or dining room setting. While there are some generic types of table, the gallery works closely with customers to create specific settings to order in a variety of shapes and sizes and containing a range of elements. (Pictures from Turner web site used by permission)

Individual pieces are available in great variety and sizes. Many do not represent wildlife from the region. For instance, recent editions include a bighorn ram and a moose. Turner is also an inventor whose easel, costing $1500, would be the pride and joy of any artist. We purchase two small prints of birds and two copies of a book, which Dr. Turner kindly autographs and adds a small ink drawing to the title page, with the wry comment that that should double the value of the book as soon as he dies. We voice the earnest hope that such a day should not come too soon. Turner’s son David whose work is also prominent in the gallery is available, too. The Turner Gallery represents some of the finest of American wildlife art and no ride down U.S. 13 on the peninsula would be complete without a stop there.

The sea is very choppy as we head across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. This crossing often offers wonderful views of Bay shipping, fishing vessels, and military shipping out of Norfolk. We’ve seen a nuclear sub as well as huge inflatable landing craft carrying up to 80 troops going through the gap in the bridge where the road becomes a tunnel. Today there is no shipping nearby. We quickly pass through the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area and head south on US 17. In Elizabeth City, NC we stop at the Caribbean & Soul-Food Restaurant at 311A South Hughes Boulevard (Hwy 17 S) for lunch. We had happened upon this little gem last year, but sought it ou

This restaurant is housed in an unprepossessing cinder block building on the busy U.S. 17, just across the street from the Days Inn. It would be easy to miss, but don’t. It’s open from 11:00 AM until 8:00 PM on weekdays and closed Saturday and Sunday. The ten table dining room is decorated with the flags of Caribbean nations. A counter is fronted by woven palm fronds. The clientele is largely black, but don’t let that deter you, as we have always felt more than welcome here. The staff is welcoming and friendly, the food excellent. The service is a little slow, but worth the wait as the food arrives hot, pungent and flavorful.

The menu of the Caribbean & Soul-Food Restaurant is moderately priced, with large dinners costing $8.00 or $9.00 and smaller versions of the same dishes priced two dollars lower. Main courses include Oxtails, Curried Goat, Brown Stew Chicken, Jerk Chicken, Short Ribs of Beef as well as meatloaf, and fried chicken and fish. Each dinner is accompanied by two side dishes like rice & beans, fried plantains, collard greens, slaw, potato salad, and so-on. There are also a range of beverages, many, like Sorrel and Swank, unfamiliar to us.

I have had both the curried goat and the short ribs, both deliciously prepared in light gravy. The collard greens are cooked soft and flavorful in southern style, but with a slightly sweet tinge that works perfectly. Fried Plantain is new to us and a delightful experience. A little harder than bananas, these fruits serve as a starch and represent a recipe I want to add to my repertoire. We leave with sufficient left-over to provide dinner for me later in the day. While this restaurant may seem to be a little bit toward the adventuresome side, the food is plentiful, tasty, and well-prepared. The atmosphere is plain, but friendly and welcoming. The Caribbean and Soul-Food Restaurant is well worth the stop for travelers seeking a somewhat unusual, but fully rewarding, place to stop to eat.