We left Sydnorsville, Virginia, arriving at the Tourist Info Booth just across the North Carolina border, in time to find that there was a BBQ Festival going on a few blocks down the road. It was in aid of the local volunteer fire department. We stopped in and split a BBQ pork sandwich and half a dozen Hush Puppies, (deep fried corn bread). It was our first taste of authentic Carolina BBQ which Janice had very much been looking forward to sampling. She wasn’t disappointed.
Photo: We entered North Carolina from Virginia, driving southeast to the Outer Banks and then southwest to South Carolina.
What first characterized North Carolina were the cotton fields stretching toward the horizon in all directions. We took Highway 158, east, as far as Roanoke Rapids where we set up in the 85 degree heat. We then drove to nearby Halifax looking for somewhere to swim but the lake was much too reedy and uninviting so we went back to the RV Park and washed the truck and trailer instead. Errant splashing was a meager substitute for a swim but at least it kept us cool.
Photo: A cotton field in North Carolina.
It was hot again the next day when we set out for Shilo, NC. We took several scenic back roads before ending up at the North River RV Park, not far from town. We were headed back into town for some supplies when Janice realized she’d forgotten her list. We went back to find smoke coming from under the trailer.
Looking underneath, I could see that the wiring was smoking. I foolishly started pulling some of the wires that were smoking when Janice jumped into action, grabbed the fire extinguisher, (that I’d forgotten we even had) and put the fire out.
It turned out that the fire was caused by me unknowingly getting the emergency trailer brake cable caught in the blocking as I unhooked the trailer from the truck, which then caused the cable to become disengaged from the truck. When I had done the same thing by mistake in Maine, we had been dry camping in Walmart, on battery power, so the resultant short simply drained the batteries. In this case however, we had plugged into the thirty amp service at the park, so when the short occurred, it caused the wiring to overheat and start the fire.
Note: All trailers and fifth wheels will short out the same way when the emergency cable is disengaged and the unit is plugged into 15, 30 or 50 amp services so, be careful not to disengage that cable when unhooking.
The mobile RV repair guy couldn’t make it out until the next day so, as it was Canadian Thanksgiving, Janice made Thai turkey patties, stuffing, gravy and Caesar salad. Mmmm… We tried to eat dinner outside but the mosquitoes drove us back in.
The next morning I disconnected the wires and we drove to Kitty Hawk, about an hour away, where we met the mobile RV repairman in the Walmart parking lot. He got under the trailer in the steamy heat, with his back to the hot, tarry asphalt and put it all back together properly. He only charged us $80, under the table.
Kitty Hawk is on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Outer Banks are basically a series of long skinny islands that run parallel to, and just about the entire length of the state’s coastline. It’s a little disconcerting driving along the one road that connects the islands because it’s flanked by the open Atlantic Ocean on one side and Pamlico Sound on the other. In spots, the Outer Banks are no more than a hundred feet wide with the highest point of land being about three feet.
Kitty Hawk is famous because it’s where the Wright Brothers first took flight.
We followed the Outer Banks further south to Hatteras Island, where we set up at Waves RV Park before going for a swim on the leeward side of the island, away from the big waves on the Atlantic side. There we were entertained for a few hours by people trying to learn the very difficult sport of Kite Surfing.
One of the surfers, Greg, from Michigan, told us that he was vacationing in a rented house with four other guys. He said he’d picked the wrong bunch because the others were all health nuts who didn’t drink, smoke pot or even eat regular food and, unlike him, they were all expert kite surfers. The group had car-pooled up to the beach so that they could kite surf the five miles back to the rented house.
We watched as they all set off, the first four disappearing around the point within minutes. Greg, on the other hand, kept falling off, getting back up, falling off, getting back up, falling off… We never did find out if he made it back to the house under his own steam, (sail) or if he had to be rescued.
Back at camp, I realized I had left my camera at the beach. Luckily for me it was still there when I got back.
Photo: The beach at our campsite. We were swimming on the other side of the island, where the water is much calmer.
Photo: Fishers around Hatterus Island can be very serious about their sport. Poles are transported like hood ornaments on the front of trucks. Some even have bumper mounted cleaning stations and coolers.
We left the outer cape because the mosquitoes were just too thick, even with the ocean breeze. Retracing our route on the Outer Banks, we then drove inland on Highway 64, stopping at a fresh seafood outlet where we were talked into trying some soft shelled crabs. We also picked up two large prawns wrapped in crab cake and bacon.
It was hot and muggy as we drove into Pettigrew State Park, where we thought we might stay the night. The map shows Phelps Lake to be very large, which it is, but it’s only about three feet deep, brown and slimy looking, and is part of the enormous First Dismal Swamp.
We decided to hightail it to somewhere more inviting but were very low on fuel, a problem aggravated by getting stuck behind a line painting crew that wouldn’t let us pass. We had to idle along behind them for a half hour or so, getting very worried that our fuel would run out. Did I mention that it was blistering hot? We didn’t want to run the air conditioning because it burns more fuel.
We pulled into one little outpost with a gas pump but it turned out to be dry. A couple of ex-construction workers we met there whose pick-up was loaded with junk explained to us, in decidedly bitter tones, that they had been reduced to scrounging scrap metal since the recession of 2008. According to them times were very desperate in North Carolina.
We discovered there was no other way to go but to follow the line painting crew so we pulled over in a shady spot and waited it out for half an hour until we figured they’d be long gone.
Back on the road, we hadn’t travelled more than five miles when we caught back up to the line crew! I told them how low we were on fuel but they wouldn’t let us by. By now, in the searing heat, not daring to run the A/C, I was sorely tempted to just pass them and pay the consequences but Janice would have none of it. When they finally reached their destination and let us by, we were running on fumes.
We pulled into the first gas station we saw at Williamston but the pumps were in such bad repair that it took twenty minutes to half-fill the tank. That’s all I had the patience for.
Eventually, we were relieved to get set up at Green Acres Campsite near Williamston. Even though the pool was closed for the season the trailer’s outdoor shower provided welcome relief from the oppressive heat. Janice cooked the prawns on the BBQ until the bacon was done, which, we were told, indicates that the prawn is cooked through. It was true, and they were very good. The soft shell crab, on the other hand, was neither here nor there. Janice has already filed the prawn recipe away to try on dinner guests at home.
Photo: The road into the Green Acres Campsite.
Photo: The over-filled pond at Green Acres Campsite. They had received sixteen inches of rain in the couple weeks prior – the most since Hurricane Floyd back in 1999.
It had clouded over in the morning and was slightly cooler, which made for a comfortable drive, south on Highway 17, to Shallotte, NC, where Janice got a haircut before we set up at Holden Beach Campsite. You might want to avoid this RV Park. It has very limited services and some rowdy full-timers. The temperature had climbed into the high 80’s again so we hit Holden Beach and threw our little football around for awhile before getting wet.
Photo: Janice, tired of getting sand in her suit says, “Wave, hold it right there.”
When we returned to camp Janice finished off the Pozole, the recipe for which she’d been a little coy about sharing. I talked her into it on the condition that our friend Jose Lorenzo Zaldo gets credit for the original. When Jose makes it though, it‘s a day-long affair, where he makes his own chili paste and all. There is an abbreviated version of the recipe, that’s more practical for RVers in Janice’s Road Recipes available as a link in the side bar on the right of this page – You’ll love it! It’s a truly authentic Mexican meal that village women sometimes take around to work sites to sell to the local workers.
Photo: We entered South Carolina from North Carolina, driving south to Georgia.
The next day we crossed into South Carolina, headed for Myrtle Beach State Park. Susan, our GPS, got us turned around again. Confused by her directions we turned into what looked like it must have been what she was describing. There were lots of RV sites all right, but it looked like most were permanent residents. By the time we realized we had it wrong, we were at the point of no return, with nowhere to turn around because of a locked gate at the end of the road. Janice guided as I had to back the unit up for about a quarter of a mile, on very narrow, curving little roads, lined with vehicles.
We finally figured out where the entrance to the State Park is, and what a beautiful facility it is for RVers. After quickly setting up camp we went for another welcome swim in the ocean. What a beautiful beach! This was mid-October and the water was still 79 degrees. The beach stretches for miles and miles and, unlike the previous day at Holden Beach, the sand doesn’t get churned up so much that it ends up, well, you know…
Photo: Tim at Myrtle Beach.
Just when we’d decided we’d had enough of our amateurish attempts at body surfing the sky darkened and a huge downpour ensued. It’s tropical here though, (palm trees and all) so it passed in an hour, and the sun was back out just in time to sink behind the ocean’s horizon.
If anyone’s looking to take a getaway, almost all of the hotels here, (and there are many) are offering Recession Specials of $25 per room, ($40 for oceanfront) and weekly rates of just $125 to $175.
Photo: Myrtle Beach, with a thunderhead appearing and the sky darkening before the storm rolled in.
Myrtle Beach was so beautiful and the weather was cooperating so well, that we decided to hang out for a few days. Mostly we spent the afternoons on the beach where we could see schools off Mullin, (foot-long silver fish) jumping out of the water, sometimes not three feet in front of us. The day before yesterday, as we were watching a tight, dark school of the little jumpers, I noticed a smooth slick of water approaching them. All of a sudden a whale rolled over, not more than fifty or sixty feet from shore.
Photo: Hotels at Myrtle Beach.
One night at the park we invited ourselves to our neighbours’ camp, Tom and Wendy, from Raleigh, NC. They were 40’ish and were congenial enough people, but when I mentioned we’d recently been to New York City, Tom asked me what I thought of the newly proposed Muslim Mosque near Ground Zero.
I said, “Not much.” He said, “Well I think it’s disgusting. It’s a clear victory for their side if it gets done. I think that people are going to go out of their way to come from all over the US just to paint bomb it.” I said that I’d seen something on Sixty Minutes about it just the other night and that the moderate Muslims see it as their duty to get the Mosque operational in order to try and bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians in America.
He was having none of it.
I didn’t want to press it too much – we were at their campsite after all – so I replied with something innocuous like, “It’s a small planet, Bud.”
Despite our differences of opinion, when they invited us to ride in the back of their pick-up the quarter of a mile down to the pier, where they wanted to do some night fishing, we took them up on their offer. We hung around the pier in the moonlight for half an hour or so before they gave us a ride back to camp. They returned to the wharf to continue fishing.
Later, of course, as I reminisced on our encounter with Tom and Wendy, I wished that I’d thought to reply to his comments on the Muslim mosque; that a lot of Canadians refuse to travel to the US because they think that all Americans are a bunch of gun-toting, war-mongering rednecks. Of course it’s not the truth, but the sentiment is born from the same kind of rationale as he had expressed.
On the other hand, on our last night at Myrtle Beach, we invited our female neighbour from Massachusetts over. She’s a retired schoolteacher who’s been married for years but is travelling alone because her husband is working as a tug boat captain and is away for extended periods. She was interesting, open minded and funny. Just like she described her two grown sons, she was a polar opposite to the couple from North Carolina.
Myrtle Beach stretches for miles, and we walked a good deal of it. We also toured The Strip where every establishment attempts to attract attention with ever more garish, outlandish and over-the-top spectacles. Vying for prominence on The Strip, a massive man-made jungle is dedicated to Mini Golf, a volcano spewing smoke and coloured water is dedicated to the same thing, ten or more twenty-thousand square foot buildings are dedicated to nothing but beach wear. Huge neon signs loudly proclaim this or that restaurant, bar or lounge to be the best, the biggest, the cheapest, or the most unbelievable.
I think I may also have mentioned that Janice is now throwing the football around at the beach, which is not something she’d normally partake in. I, on the other hand, don’t like to just sit much, so I entice her by making it into a game of Donkey. That way I can ignite her competitive spirit and she, involuntarily, gets involved. So much so that I thought I’d introduce the Frisbee for the same purpose. She beat me the first game.
We also checked out North Myrtle Beach – you’ll all need to know that it’s the home town of none other than Vanna White – as well as historic Georgetown, which we quickly departed due to the stinky pulp mill. Man, I’m glad they got rid of that stink in Kamloops years ago. It’s easy to forget how bad it used to be.
We decided we’d seen enough of Myrtle Beach and so we moved to Lake Aerie Campsite just outside of Charleston. It’s still really hot but there’s a shimmering kidney-shaped pool here that takes the heat off nicely.
In the evening we were invited to share S’mores with our new neighbours, Wayne and Kathy.Wayne is a Vietnam Vet who is exceptionally upbeat. He had declined all the Armed Forces benefits and pensions that had been offered to him over the years because he was still able-bodied. He had just retired though and was now able and willing to take advantage of some of those benefits that he had refused over the years.
Downtown Charleston is very charming, made up almost entirely of grand, gracious old homes that all carry some kind of historical significance. For instance, Charleston is where the Civil war started, when the Confederates attacked Fort Sumner. They took it in thirty-six hours. It took The North more than four years to get it back.
Walking along the seawall we ran into a woman who appeared to be about ninety years of age. She was noticeable because she was dressed all in black, from her broad-brimmed sun hat, to her billowing, long-sleeved dress, stockings and shoes, all black. The heat was sweltering, the sun coming from straight above. We were strolling slowly, taking in all the stately mansions. The old woman remarked on what a good idea it was that Janice was using an umbrella to shield herself from the sun. We struck up a short conversation. I asked if she lived in one of the beautiful mansions and she stated that, indeed she did but, she lamented, she had no family left, no one to leave it to. Had we been more of the opportunistic persuasion she may have found herself some new friends.
Janice and I continued along the seawall and then took a left onto the main street of downtown. Again an elderly couple commented on Janice’s umbrella. They were well dressed, arm-in-arm, strolling the streets on a Sunday afternoon. They too lived in one of the waterfront mansions and wanted to share their enthusiasm for their beloved city with us tourists. They were delightful.
Photo: A grand old home on the Charleston waterfront.
Photo: Another grand home and garden.
Photo: Yet another beautiful place. Note the terrace on top. The house is right across the street from the beach.
Photo: The business district of Charleston is also full of southern charm.
Photo: Me with what must be the only modern home in Charleston.
Photo: Janice with her umbrella.
Photo: Even in the sweletering heat, Charleston has a cool vibe.
From Charleston we continued heading south on Highway 17 and then Highway 170. It took about an hour-and-a-half before we crossed the border into Georgia…