Oct 12-31 - Down the Eastern Seaboard
As the map shows, we covered a lot of ground the last half of October. We drove the motorhome just under 1400 miles, with two major stops along the way. Our plan was to hug the Atlantic coast as much as possible heading south, and we managed to do that pretty well.
On Monday October 12, we hooked up and left the McCarthy home in Wilton CT (28) and headed south. We were a bit surprised to find very little traffic as we bypassed New York City. Then we realized it was because of Columbus Day, a holiday celebrated by Italians and a few others who still believe that Christopher Columbus discovered America (we Scandinavians know better). Anyhow, in New Jersey, we stopped at a Costco to gas up the motorhome and paid just $2.67 a gallon. The kid manning the pump (New Jersey is the only other state besides Oregon with no self service) said they couldn't believe it either. It was our first encounter with the lower gas prices that we all enjoyed near year's end.
New Jersey was one of four lower-48 states we hadn't visited, and we'd planned to spend a week before we found out about Jan and Denny's east coast visit. We did spend one night, at a 1000 Trails park south of Atlantic City (29). We might have to come back.
To hug the coast heading south, we had to leave dry land once or twice. From New Jersey, south involves a ferry boat ride from Cape May NJ to Lewis DE. Delaware was another state we hadn't visited, but we did do a drive-through after we got off the ferry. Passing through Delaware, we spent one night at another 1000 Trails park at Quinby VA (30), right at the southern tip of the DelMarVa peninsula. It was an interesting park - our site was a full mile from the entrance station, and just a few hundred feet from the ocean. We can see how it would be a very peaceful place to relax.
On Oct 15, we hooked up again and headed south - this time navigating across and through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Newport News VA. The Bridge-Tunnel is about 17 miles long, most of it bridge, with two one-mile tunnels under the main shipping channels. As we left the bridge onto dry land, we encountered some torrential rains, but managed to stay on the road and kept moving, although at a slower pace. And once the weather cleared, we had a pleasant drive to our next destination, the OBX RV Park at Kill Devil Hills, NC (31), on the Outer Banks. "OBX" is apparently standard shorthand for "Outer Banks". Sounds like an airport code, but far as we can tell, isn't.
Our main reason for stopping at Kill Devil Hills was to visit Kitty Hawk, where as we all know, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first controlled, powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine (airplane to us lay folks). Our RV park was just two miles from the Wright Brothers flight site, and we spent several enjoyable and informative hours exploring and learning. Among other things, we found out that the first flight was over level ground, not down the side of a sand dune as many illustrations suggest. The brothers realized that if their flight was to have credibility, it had to involve a powered takeoff from level ground without any head start from gliding down a sand dune. They made four such flights on Dec 17 1903 before the wind flipped the plane. The landing points are all marked. Those flights weren't all that long, but they sure started something.
After the Kitty Hawk experience, we visited the welcome center and picked up information about the other things in the area. We were reminded about the "lost" colony of Roanoke Island. Today, the site of that ill-fated settlement is contained within the Fort Raleigh National Historical Park, on Roanoke Island, which was about 3 miles (air) from our RV park, and just 17 miles away by road. There aren't many artifacts left from that original colony, one of the earliest English settlements in the New World (1587). We know that the first English baby born in the Americas - Virginia Dare - was born there. We know that when the Governor of the colony returned to England for more supplies, his return was delayed for 3 years by the Anglo-Spanish War, and that when he did get back in 1590, there was no trace of the colonists. From there on, it's all speculation.
Fort Raleigh Park also hosts an Elizabethan Garden, built in the style of an English garden of the time that the lost colony was being established. We spent a half-day there. Much beauty.
We took a long day trip and drove the length of Cape Hatteras, stopping for every lighthouse along the way. Cape Hatteras is about 80 miles long. At the southern tip, we boarded a free ferry and floated to Ocracoke Island, for a few months the home base of the notorious pirate Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. There we found another lighthouse.
It's easy to see why the Outer Banks is such a popular destination for folks in the Eastern US. Miles and miles of pristine beaches, some of the best surf fishing anywhere, as much isolation or civilization as you'd ever want, and plenty of nice weather. The OBX are barrier islands a few miles off shore into the Atlantic Ocean, far enough out to benefit from the warmer water of the Gulf Stream flowing by. Except for occasional hurricanes and some winter storms, it's a pretty nice place. We didn't get a chance to explore the museums that focus on all the shipwrecks in this "Graveyard of the Atlantic". Might have to come back.
After a week, we hooked up again and took two days to drive to Charleston SC, again hugging the coastline as much as possible. We overnighted at the Goose Creek Resort at Newport NC (32), an RV resort catering mostly to folks who live in cabins and park models. The next morning, we continued on and ended up at the Oaks Plantation RV Campground, just west of Charleston SC (33). We'd made a couple of day trips into Charleston in 2007, but there was lots more to see. We settled in for a week.
The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only place in North America that grows tea. They cultivate 7 varieties, and sell it in bulk or bags. Now owned by the Bigelow Family, they're slowly ramping up production aiming for national distribution in a few years. For now, it's sold mostly in specialty shops. Anyway, we toured the plantation and the factory, learned a lot about how tea makes it from bush to bag, and sampled a few flavors. Neat place. And on the way back home, detoured to walk around and among the "Angel Oak", a spectacular 400 year old live oak tree. These live oaks are fascinating trees, the way they sprawl and spread.
We've found that one way to get a good overview of a new city is a bus tour, and we took one of the historic district of Charleston. While informative and entertaining, we whizzed by most of the really interesting sites along the tour. And we never got around to going back for a better look. Maybe next time.
In the early 1800's, when Anglican clergy were among the wealthier folks around, Rev John Drayton established Magnolia Plantation outside Charleston, and along with agricultural pursuits, set about designing a garden. After the civil war pretty much destroyed the plantation's buildings, the now freed slave who'd been the chief gardener tracked down the now destitute minister and told him that while the buildings were gone, the garden was still there. Drayton and the gardener came back, sold off some land to get funds, and rebuilt the plantation house and spiffed up the gardens. And then, to generate income, they opened the gardens to the public - the first time something like that had been tried. Today, Magnolia Gardens, still owned by the Drayton family, are ranked among the finest in the world. And the great-grandson of that original gardener is today the chief gardener, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both chief gardeners before him. Four generations of one family - the only chief gardeners the plantation has known. Quite a story. And quite some gardens.
After a week in Charleston, we hooked up again and headed south, veering inland a bit to pick up I-95. We overnighted at the Walkabout RV Park (34) just north of the Georgia-Florida border, and on Hallowe'en day finished our migration at the 1000 Trails Orlando Resort (35) in Clermont FL, a few miles west of the Disney complex, where we'll spend much of the winter.
If you like lighthouses, old buildings and plantation gardens, you'll find about 108 pictures in our slideshow for these two weeks of our life. Check them out here.