Phil Beck has heard it all. He's a part time cashier at Marilyn's Deli in Rodanthe. Just about everyone who comes to his register wants to talk about the unexpected closure of the Bonner Bridge. "They want to know an answer, how long is it gonna take [to open the bridge]? Most of the customers, they ask me 'What do you know?' "
As he spoke by phone, he paused to ring up a customer. "$4.38 please. Oh, no worries, I've got the other penny."
"We sell everything, we've got regular grocery eggs, milk bed, donuts, cat food, beer, automotive," he says. The shop has a lot of regulars.
Phil knows what everyone is going through because it's what he himself is facing. He often crossed the bridge to go shopping "It's a 9 hour journey to Walmart!" he laments. "Right now the ferry is running every hour and a half. Say you want to leave at 10:30 a.m., it takes about 2 hours to get across, but you have to come a couple of hours early to get in line."
TAKE THE FERRY, STAY THE NIGHT - $25 HOTEL ROOM
That delay was on the mind of the management and staff of the Sea Ranch Resort, on the other side of the Bonner Bridge in Kill Devil Hills. The resort is offering a special for those who are affected by the bridge closure.
Here's how the offer reads online: If you are a resident of the Southern Beaches and the closing of the Bonner Bridge has affected your commute to work, medical services etc., the Sea Ranch Resort is extending a reduced room rate for your needed stay. Guest rooms starting at just $25 per night and condo style suites, which include 2br/2ba, fully equipped kitchens, sleeper sofa in living room, washer/dryer - $38 per night (for a minimum of 2 nights).
Receptionist Cindy Panzetta has been fielding calls all day. She's booked five rooms already, and the phone continues to ring. "Every [person booking a room] has been a resident of Hatteras Island and every single one is coming to Elizabeth City, or the local hospital in Nags Head. I think any little bit of help is greatly appreciated. We are happy to be a part of it. The callers have thanked us profusely and are very appreciative. It feels good to be able to help."
A PRIVATE FERRY
Helping is also on the mind of Stuart Westcott, a 9th generation Outer Banks native. Westcott operates Outer Banks Cruises. The outfit offers dolphin watches through October. "Captain Stuart" is starting a sort of private ferry system with at least one of his boats.
He writes this on a website for locals: "OK; upon hearing that DOT had closed the road at Mirlow yesterday I ceased operations to establish passenger ferry service across Oregon Inlet. This morning I feel compelled to proceed somewhat. … I am going to get the landing ready on the south end and offer six passenger service when people are allowed to travel to the south end of the bridge. The landing is next to the 2nd power pole from the end of the bridge... This is daylight service only. Donations for gas accepted graciously. Call or text -305 1475.."
The service will begin Friday Dec. 6, and will run 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.