Saturday, March 23, 2013
Road Trip South
We search for an Early Spring, we find the Endless Winter...
408 miles. Slept in Burlington NC, the crappy Motel 6 that reeked of smoke and had a broken ice machine. The Wifi was 'available' not free, but they gave us the key anyway because they're nice here.
Had dinner at Hardees on the way, mooched the wifi from pizza hut and booked the motel 6. Went to Food Lion for cereal, milk, candy, etc
Walked around Charlotte, found the TI, they pointed us in the direction of the free history museum. We're cold and soaked, so spent a while there learning about cotton plantations and segregation in the South. Walked around the Uptown area, saw the giant Nascar building.
Leaving town, we saw a Bojangle's and I was hungry. So we had our first sweet tea (tasted just like Cha Mate), biscuit filled with egg and cheese and dirty rice.
Then drove toward Charleston, SC. Spent the night in St. George, at the PeachTree Inn, after finding the America's Best Value Inn too loud. Went out to the Piggly Wiggly back at the other exit. But that was no good, so went back to a better supermarket, bought bacon and potatoes to cook at our room.
25 March - Monday:
Breakfast of waffles, lots of ice for the car, cooked the rest of the bacon, and took off in the direction of Summerville. Drove around the cutesy houses and millions of churches. Parked for a while and walked around consignment shop and downtown. Found the azalea and camellia park.
Then drove on to Charleston. Parked at metered space at Meeting St, walked down King. Karl stopped at a hat store, we went to the Waterfront Park. Walked back to the car through market street, saw lots of straw baskets, made our sandwiches, drove down to the White Point Gardens. Then got out of Charleston over the bridge a couple of times, to find the plantation that was free: Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. It was pretty small, we walked around it quickly, saw the house and the grounds, then Karl wanted to drive to the beach. It was pretty fancy, overbuilt. We parked and walked over the dune. VERY Windy, the sand was dark, the ocean wasn't that blue. I didn't feel sorry we couldn't stay at the beach.
Then we drove over to Angel Oak, the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi, 1400 years old. The grounds were fenced and closed by the time we got there, but it was still ok to see.
Then we left Charleston, in the direction of Savannah. We were both saying we hadn't come across boiled peanuts yet, when we passed a Kangaroo Mart with a sign for boiled peanuts. Too late, we got on this deserted highway, with nothing to see. Finally, after a long time, we saw a sign warning us of impending boiled peanuts on the right. We stopped where we saw some cars, but it was just a little store, not there. Kept going and found the stand. They were boiled in the shell, I had to ask the guy how to eat them. He said shell with hands or teeth, but he's seen people who eat the shells. Cajun or regular? Regular for us.
Found a country store along the way and Karl made a U-turn for it. We bought some Peach Cider for 10 bucks a half a gallon. Made it to within 30 min of Savannah and stopped at a motel when we were tired.
March 26 - Tuesday:
Drove into Savannah, after getting directions at the Welcome Center in Georgia. Parked a public lot for $2 an hour. Walked around some, took the free Dot bus around town. Liked the harbor area, so we got off around there and walked the shops and street. Lots of peanuts and praline shops. The smell was just like brigadeiro but the taste was different and the cook said they use half and half, not condensed milk. Saw a little indoor market at the harbor, but didn't find the town all that magical. The antebellum mansions left something to be desired after Charleston. And quite a few poor people on the streets and signs about not encouraging pan handling. Couldn't find the kind of place I wanted to eat at. After our jaunt, we left town and decided to drive down to Florida. Stopped at a Zaxby's chicken place. Not much choice. Ended up ordering 10pc chicken tender and fried mozzarella. Went to the bathroom, and food still wasn't ready. So when I asked for sweet tea, the nice kid didn't charge me. Karl then also went to the bathroom and I stayed reading a book and trying to finish some of the food. We had different combinations of the sweet, unsweet, and half and half tea, but the sweet was the winner.
Drove to the border of Florida and got a room at the America's Best Value Inn in Kingsland, GA.
March 27 - Wednesday
Pathetic "breakfast" of tea and packaged muffins at the motel, refilled the ice and left for St Augustine. Stopped at the Florida Welcome center for map and 'fresh' juice. I had grapefruit and Karl had Orange. Public parking at St. Augustine was about $10, so we drove out a bit and found street parking. Walked around the fort Menendez, then in the St. George pedestrian street, then ventured out over the bridge into Anastasia Island and back.
Around the Visitor center there was a Brazilian cafe. We had a couple of kibes.
Saw the beautiful Flagler College. Had a Gyro at a Greek diner and walked by the Ripley's Believe it or Not museum ($35 per person). They had a reproduction of David, life-size in Carrara marble made in the 60's in the garden. Karl commented that it doesn't seem as impressive as the real thing but we couldn't figure out why.
Stumbled upon the Authentic Old Drug Store. The travel website said the building had been sold to a wax museum. They did have an Angelina Jolie, but kept the old drugstore around. They had lots of feminine ailment products.
Walked all the way north to a nice park, around the Mission where the first mass was celebrated in the US. Lady of la Leche…
Then up to the Fountain of youth, where we finally found the cannon shootings we'd been hearing about during the day.
Long trek back to the car and over St. Augustine Beach to Fort Matanzas National Landmark. We got there 10 min before the last free ferry to Rattlesnake Island, however the ferry had been fully booked for the past hour. Disappointed, we crossed the street and walked around the beach. There were tire marks from people who are allowed to drive there, as well as the sheriff's ATVs (we saw three riding together). The beach was very overbuild, one condominium after another, and Karl was despondent. We started listening to 'The Last Lecture' going for broke.
Drove north to Jacksonville. Found a citrus tourist trap, but at least they had samples of nice OJ. A huge stuffed alligator. Back on the road I pointed the GPS at the Fountain of Friendship, but there was nothing around: no people, no place to park. So we crossed the bridge over to Jacksonville landing, parked and walked along the river. Again, some shops and restaurants, but pretty dead. Two boats with couples on-board sipping wine on the sunset. Other than that, nothing happening. Kept pointing out the huge Everbank building to Karl.
Walked back to the car through some more dead streets, tried to point the GPS to the Historical center, but it was a Convention Center and a bunch of hotels. Gave up on Florida. Stopped at an exit for motels. The first place smelled like cigarettes and the clerk said it was the only room she had. Across the street an Econolodge was cheaper but the room had loud TVs and crying babies around. He gave me a cheaper room still, but smelled of must. So we gave up on Florida entirely and drove back to Kingsland, GA. Stayed at 'Clean Stay USA' and the room looked very nice in comparison. The lady praised Fernandina beach in FL, but it's too cold to go there. She pointed us to a supermarket where Karl got bagel, cream cheese, fudge, cuties.
March 26th, Thursday
Brought breakfast into the room, left for Beaufort. Got there kind of hungry, parked on the street close to the Rhett house, and got a map from the visitor center. I wanted either seafood, or the authentic South Carolina barbecue that the guide book mentions (no ketchup based sauce: either mustard or vinegar). I asked at the information - after she corrected my pronunciation. I later read there is a BOW-ford in NC. This one is pronounced to rhyme with phew. Anyway, I asked her if there was a famous bbq place there, and she said no. She recommended Plums, down the street. Karl found a fish place on the map and we checked it out first but it was underwhelming. Went back to Plums. Had a low country boil (shrimp, spicy sausage, red potatoes, corn boiled with Old Bay seasoning). The place rapidly filled up and there was a wait when we left. Karl had had a peach beer. We walked around the nice old houses, by the water and cannon. Then took off for Hunting Island to see the beach and lighthouse. It was a state park, $10 to go in, but we committed anyway. When I got out of the car at the visitor center, there was an alligator sunning itself on the banks of the pond. Went back to the car to get Karl and the binoculars. Drove on to the lighthouse, but there was another fee to go up it. So we just parked ourselves at the beach. I got my feet wet but the water was super cold. In the sunshine, with no wind, I rolled up my pants and took off my fleece, but later had to put it back on again.
Ditched the place when it was getting colder (car said 54 F when we got there). Passed by a Gullah Grub restaurant I'd seen on the way in but it was closed at 5:45. There was a woman selling the SC woven sweetgrass baskets so I stopped to look anyway. The random one I picked up was $185…
Saw a man on the road walking a giant turtle. Karl thought it was a pet. I thought it was an ecological act of protecting the turtle on its way. Kept going into an empty route 17 where we'd found boiled peanuts and peach cider. No bbq restaurant though. So as we approached Charlotte, we picked something likely from the GPS suggestions (Bessinger's). Ended up being a very nice place. The dining room was closed 'due to damage'. But people were lining up outside the drive-in, so we did too. Had a traditional chopped pork barbecue with collard greens and corn bread. We drove into Charleston and ate it by a lake close to some fancy houses not far from the university. Drove around the downtown area, Karl approved that the lighting was muted but not dead. Tourists were walking around, horse tours still going on at 8pm, some pubs. Drove up close to the airport, first motel had roaches, so came to the Roadway Inn, which was the best place we stayed in so far. Aboutt $60 compared to 45 or so
March 29 - Friday
Had breakfast trying to avoid looking at the woman with no neck, then made our way up the coast toward Myrtle Beach.
A TON of motels, one after the other. We were speculating on their prices, 90 or 130, when we started seeing that some of the them were advertising their prices: $45, 35 and a bunch had 29. I guess with so much competition and such cold weather.
We pulled in at a public beach access, but it was metered and there was a police car soon after we stepped into the sand. So we kept going for a while and after the main, Las-Vegas-like strip ended, there were some nicer houses with lots of beach access that had free parking. It was around lunch time so we started looking for a seafood place. That took us to the strip-mall and we found this giant buffet that the guide book said great things about. They were only open after 2:30. The other seafood buffet next door was $26 and nothing special. So we decided to find a supermarket and go to the beach. Took the wrong turn on the road, missed the supermarket, Karl was hungry, so we had to make a snack stop and then just went back to the nice beaches since by then we'd backtracked that far. The beach was really cold and windy. We set up for a while, read, snacked, but probably stayed for less than a couple hours. Went back to the big restaurant. Got there at 3 and they were just starting. They was a huge crowd. People checked us in as the Spongebob party. While we waited, I went to check out the buffet. It was a huge place, $30 a head, Karl is not a big fan of seafood, so we blew it off. Stopped at one of the bargain beachwear places: nothing over 7.99 (in one corner of the store). Kept driving along the shore, stopping every now and then to take a look and discussing the Last Lecture. Around 4, we crossed over to North Carolina on the small roads. Stopped in Calabash and there were tons of Seafood restaurants. By the river, there were 3 places next to the other. I picked the one that looked the best and Karl had some North Carolina Barbecue. I had the best, sweetest shrimp. Platter also had deviled crab (casquinha de siri com old bay) , and fried oyster, flounder, hush puppies). We ate by the water, looking at shrimp boats, with a pitcher of water and sweet tea at the table and the waitresses all commiserating with me that my husband wasn't so hard to convince (I'd told them I'd get him since he didn't much like seafood).
We had lots of left-overs, drove along the shore some more. Karl took us to an island beach to see if it was developed. There were plenty of houses there. He said we should now take a look at the Hamptons, to see that the development there was more tasteful.
Drove in the direction of Wilmington, NC to try to find motels, pointed the GPS at an America's Best Value Inn. It had been rebranded. The receptionist was a pilot doing a favor for his friend whose employee had quit. He owns 3 hotels in this strip. The pilot was quite slow at checking people in, so I got a long story of where he'd worked (airlines, air shows) and his plans for the future (puddle jumping to Raleigh, FL, etc)
March 30 - Sat
Had a terrible night. The room had some noise of music beat, people were coming in late. Finally got up and put ear plugs in and got some sleep. In the morning, we went straight to breakfast before showers and noticed that it had rained and was only 5C. Had breakfast, reconsidered our options of exploring the much touted Wilmington (in the motel's brochure). We went into Wilmington and took advantage of the city parking - first hour is free. They were having a farmers market in the downtown historical district. The approach was really ugly, but the town looked ok. It was raining, and the market was small, so in 30 min we were back in the car. Karl drove around the rest of the town and we headed in the direction of Wrightsville Beach, just to take a quick look. Nothing different, pay to park, lots of houses on the shore. So headed North toward the outer banks. In the car, we ate the left over seafood from yesterday. Around New Bern Karl saw signs about it being the birth place of Pepsi. I got the guide book out to see if there was a museum. Sure enough, there was one so we exited to take a look. It was just a little store, no samples, nothing free. But we had a glass of pepsi, read the history (it ends with the company going bankrupt in 1923), and saw the original recipe posted on the wall. Next door there was a litter of 7 puppies in a play pen, so we watched them getting fed and playing around. The town was cutesy, we walked around the waterfront, lots of Bears everywhere, then found a store with imports from Switzerland and Germany. They had everything, including candle holders and candles. Karl bought some Christmas candles, looked at a replacement for his pocket knife that got lost in one of the motels night before last, and we got back on the road. New book now, by the author of What's Eating Gilbert Grapes (called The Heights).
Saw a sign on the road for Fireman's barbecue. Lots of signs. So we stopped. It was 2:30, they still had some, but they had slashed the price from 7.50 to 5. We took one plate since we were both kind of full and ate on the road.
Finally made it to the outer banks. Karl remembered vacationing at some empty beaches and campsites here when he was a kid so we were going to look for the place where the development stopped. Found it, just south of where we hit the Outer banks. We got out at the beach. It was 5pm and really cold, so we didn't set up camp. He felt better, we drove back south on the State Park, hit a preserve, but then there was a town, with backhoes trying to keep the sand dunes from invading the 'town'. Drove south some more until the end of the town, then turned around to see Kitty Hawk before it got dark. We just made it. Bootlegged some parking and got out to see the beach. Not many houses on the beach side. The ones that were there had to get backhoes to clear their driveways of the sand that shifts there. Reminded me of having to deal with snow.
We were hoping for lots of motels like at Myrtle beach, but there were fewer and more expensive. So we decided to keep on driving to Virginia. Stopped at one last Food Lion to get Cheerwine in case they don't have it outside of NC. Listened to the story and drove forever on some really dark roads. Lots of cops but we were obeying the speed limit. I saw a turtle on the side, facing the road.
Crossed into VA and still no motels. In Chesapeake we gave up and pointed the GPS at a Super 8. Turned out to be a Quality Inn now, more expensive, but it was past 9pm and we were tired, so we just took it. This is our last night on the road.
March 31 - Sunday
The room kept getting worse: last night - fridge wouldn't open, my bedside light wasn't plugged in, the tissue box in the room was empty, the lotion bottle was half used. This morning the toilet clogged and when we went to take a shower, there was no water pressure. The Indian lady at reception was nice and came up right away with a spare key so we could go into another room. But this was really no Quality Inn. She took my phone number and said she'd speak to the manager. [Hey, hey, they called and said they were giving us a refund! So props to Quality Inn!] So we started the drive towards Virginia Beach. The weather was miserable all day. Rain and more rain. Got out for a quick picture, then stopped at a Krogers for sandwich bread and lunch meat, got gas, because we thought we'd be in the middle of nowhere all day. Crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel. Stopped at the gift shop just before the first tunnel. Then drove towards Assateague park. It was hardly the middle of nowhere. Plenty of gas stations, Food Lions and Wendy's. But Karl liked the scenery, with farms and fields. We tried to get to the water, but didn't find any nice places before the park. The park had nice beach access, but unintuitive to figure out where the fee payment was and how to get to the other beach accesses.
Then on to Ocean City, MD. More of the same, then into Delaware: Rehoboth was the last beach we visited. Delaware had some more parks. Driving on the back roads behind the beach though, Karl mentioned that he could close his eyes and say he was anywhere in SC, NC, etc.
From Rehoboth we just took Route 1 straight to Landenberg. Watched the YouTube video of the Last Lecture and saw the pictures on the book on tape. (view pictures)
Our New Bathroom Saga
Our Trip to Ireland
Google Map of our Trip
Road Trip: The End
Road Trip, Day 27
Road Trip, Day 26
Road Trip, Day 25
Road Trip, Day 24
Road Trip, Day 23
Road Trip, Day 22
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Road Trip, Day 13
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Road Trip, Day 7
Road Trip, Day 6
Road Trip, Day 5