Traveling south

It is still summer here and the weather has been really hot and humid. The remnants of hurricane Isaac linger as a series of storms, a couple of which we have had to drive through but really they have not caused us much worry other than that. I hope we can continue to avoid some of the bad weather that is typical for some of these parts.
The highlights of the trip for me so far have been our wander around Williamsburg yesterday and our travels along the Outer Banks of North Carolina today. Walking on the site where Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first powered flight in 1903 was also quite amazing. A monument was erected nearby in 2003 to mark the centenary of flight and the names of significant aviators and astronauts are inscribed on large columns giving a potted history of the amazing progress made over the past century.
Virginia was a really pretty place and I loved its characteristic architecture of two story houses with columns and shutters. They have a delightful elegance and grandeur about them. North Carolina is also very interesting, but our stopover town last night, Elizabeth City, was really quite unattractive. It seemed very run down and there were lots of decrepit looking trailer parks and other poor quality houses. The Outer Banks, where Kitty Hawk is located, is a thin finger of sandy land along the North Carolina coastline. It was much more attractive, and the beach side resorts were buzzing as people made the most of the last long weekend in summer. Today was the Labour Day holiday.
Tonight is being spent in Wilmington, NC. It is a complete contrast to last night’s venue. This is a charming city with lots of beautiful homes and tree-lined streets. We enjoyed a delicious dinner, local seafood for me, in a pub in the historic downtown area.

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Day 2 – North Carolina coast

I slept pretty well from about 11:00 pm until a few minutes after 6:00 am when I woke naturally, checked the time, and decided to lie in a bit longer. It seems my body clock has done its usual quick adjustment though I expect I might still wake a bit more than usual through the night for the next while. Majella didn’t do quite as well with sleep but still woke reasonably refreshed.

We were up before 7:00 am, showered, made coffee with the filter machine in the room and had breakfast from what we bought at Walmart last night – granola with yoghurt and I capped that with a cinnamon bagel and strawberry cream cheese. It was not a 5 star breakfast but it was good enough.

After dealing with some email and Facebook messages we were out the door and on the road just after 8:00 am. We had tried to find the downtown area of Elizabeth City last night so that we might see more than the outskirts where our motel was. We had pointed the GPS to the city centre but it took us down a side road where there was little to see. Our way out this morning did take us into the centre which was mostly rundown but had some interesting old houses. The exit from town was via a bridge across the inlet on which the town was centered and then along the shore for a while. It was a sizable body of water but small compared to what was coming.

Although the tank was still almost half full we topped up with fuel on the way out of town because we expected that service stations might be few and far between on parts of what was going to be a long day on the road. From Elizabeth City we headed roughly south and east, making for Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks. Much of the early part of the drive was through more swamp country on what amounted to a causeway with large ditches on either side full of water. Unfortunately there was no safe place to stop for a photo of more mysterious swamp.

On the way down the peninsula we stopped at the Grandy farmers’ market and bought a punnet of blueberries and a couple of peaches. Majella was intrigued by the wording on several billboard that advertised the Nags Head Hammocks outlet so we stopped there, a long way short of Nags Head, for a look. The double hammock swing chairs impressed Majella but we were not prepared to spend $500 for something we would not be able to carry home or ship at some exorbitant cost.

The crossing from the peninsula across the Albemarle Sound and Intracoastal Waterway to Bodie Island was an impressively long bridge, actually a pair of bridges with two lanes each way and a hill at the far end to allow sufficient height for vessels to pass under.

Once on Bodie Island we stopped first at Kitty Hawk to check out the Outer Banks visitor centre and the monument to a century of flight. From there we drove on to Kill Devil Hills to visit the Wright Memorial at the site of the first manned powered flight which the brothers accomplished in December 1903. We spent time in the pavilion with displays, being a bit surprised to find that they were still perfecting gliders in 1911 despite powered flight being already a reality, walked to the top of the hill for the monument, came down to the actual site of the first powered flight and then walked through the visitor centre where there are replicas of their aircraft. By then we realized that we had done it backwards but then we are from the far side of the earth 🙂

We drove south down the island from there, stopping for coffee at the Nags Head pier. Majella wanted hot chocolate but they were out of that and the man serving us decided that since the coffee he had was a couple of hours old we might as well have it gratis. It wasn’t the best coffee but the price was right and we enjoyed the view from the beach end of the pier while we drank it. We didn’t venture out onto the pier because there were showers of rain about and we saw no purpose in getting wet.

After coffee we set off again with me driving to find our way to Wilmington, an estimated 5 hours away according to our GPS. We continued south, crossing to Roanoke Island by an even longer bridge that disappeared into the mist at the far end and on which we encountered heavy rain and some wind. Another bridge took us from there to the mainland and we drove on past more swamp bordered by canals.

We stopped at a visitor centre in Columbia for lunch. The rain had eased by then but it was still not dry enough to sit at outside picnic tables. The women in the centre kindly allowed us to sit on a couple of rockers on the verandah while we ate our lunch of bread, chicken, and salad followed by cherries. After lunch we walked along part of the boardwalk from the Pocosin Wildlife Refuge, looked down the main street of the town, and watched the fishers before heading off again in the car.

There was one more stop about 2 hours short of Wilmington for a cold drink and a change of drivers. We arrived in Wilmington shortly after 5:30 pm, checked into our motel, and headed for the historic downtown. The drive down Market Street to the downtown area was through tree lined streets and past well kept traditional houses.

After a walk along the river walk we found the Front Street Brewery, which had been recommended in some of the reading material as a good place to eat. Majella had local crab cakes and I had buffalo shrimp. Both were washed down with beers. We followed that with home made ice cream from a shop further up the street and then headed back to the motel for rest.

Driving distance today was a touch more than 550 km in a bit more than 9 hours with some significant time out for sightseeing.