Virginia, the Carolinas & Georgia. From Arlington, Virginia, the oldest Original Thirteen Colony, in the north to Savannah, Georgia, the youngest, in the South. Over 1,200 miles with the ocean never too far away. There was a lot of history, a lot of water, a lot of bluegrass and a whole lot of photogenic highlights.
Day 14. Oak trees & Spanish moss in Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.
AN ORIGINAL THIRTEEN || One of the original Thirteen Colonies, & the very first. Colony & Dominion of Virginia established in 1607. Became the Royal Colony of Virginia in 1624.
State Nicknames – Old Dominion; Mother of Presidents; Mother of States. State Motto – Sic Semper Tyrannis (Thus Always to Tyrants). Admitted To The Union – June 1788 (10th state). Population – 8.4 million Virginians (12th most populous state). Area – 42,700 sq miles (35th largest state). Capital – Richmond. National Parks – 1 (Shenandoah). National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 2/3. Famous For – History & being the birthplace of America; The Pentagon; tobacco; having a lot of towns & cities that end in ‘burg’; the CIA; bluegrass music. State Highlights – All that birthplace-of-America history; rural Appalachian drives between bluegrass lovin’ towns. Virginia Titbits – Eight US presidents were born in Virginia giving the state the nickname ‘Mother of Presidents’; it’s also nicknamed ‘Old Dominion’ as the first permanent European settlement in the New World was established here at Jamestown in 1607; the Virginia General Assembly is the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World & the state’s government, one of the country’s most effective, is unique in how it treats cities and counties equally, manages local roads, and prohibits its governors from serving consecutive terms; Virginia is the most populous US state to not have a major professional sports league franchise; Virginia spends the highest amount per capita on defence, in large part because the state is home to the Department of Defence headquarters, The Pentagon, the world’s largest office building; the state is armed to the teeth – it boasts the largest concentration of military personnel and assets in the world, including the world’s largest naval base; of the 41 independent cities (cities not in the territory of any county or counties), 38 are in Virginia.
Virginia. State #6 on this road trip, State #21 one year ago on Epic US Road Trip 2016 when this pictures was captured outside the New River Campground off US Route 221, southwestern Virginia. September 23, 2016.
This year. Sic Semper Tyrannis (Thus Always to Tyrants), the Virginia State motto fronting the steps of the Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond, Virginia. October 3, 2017.
Virginia, Part II
On last year’s Epic US Road Trip 2016 we sampled – by going south to north in western Virginia – the blanketed cool and misty rolling hills and All-American drives of the rugged Appalachian peaks of the state’s heavily forested western spine. There’s not a whole lot of (obvious) pioneering history over there. It’s all stereotypical rural Appalachia – slow drives between old-time music-lovin’ towns & villages full of flags, thrift stores/antique shops, roadside Farmers’ Markets & religious bumper stickers on beat-up old pickups. It’s a different story over (& down) on the Chesapeake Bay coast where remnants of Virginia’s awesome pioneering history are never far away (ditto for water). On this trip to Old Dominion, and aside from a detour into the remote forested hills of central Virginia to espy Thomas Jefferson’s UNESCO-listed mountaintop architectural masterpiece of Monticello, we ventured from north to south in eastern Virginia, from Arlington to the so-called Historic Triangle, the undisputed birthplace of America. It was history, history & yet more history.
HISTORY || Colonial Williamsburg of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, a living-history museum tracing America’s British roots, southern Virginia. October 3, 2017. Yes, of course there’s lots of history here in Virginia. Old Dominion soil is caked in blood from America’s conception, birth and coming of age; as the epicentre of the Civil War there are more historic battlegrounds here than in any other US state. Needless to say, historic landmarks abound with the state capital of Richmond, one of a whopping 38 independent cities in the state alone (out of 41 countrywide), among the country’s oldest urban centres. This small but historically diverse State is the undisputed birthplace of present-day America, centred around the so-called Historic Triangle trio of Jamestown, where in 1607 English settlers established the first permanent European & English-speaking colony in the New World (making Virginia the oldest of the 13 original colonies); Williamsburg, the old colonial capital where the flames of the American Revolution were fanned; and Yorktown, the site of the last battle of the American Revolution and the British surrender of 1781. One small state, one huge history lesson. Dive right on in.
EPIC US ROAD TRIP 2017 || Day 6
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Virginia. October 2, 2017.
“… when touring the innards of the house it becomes plainly apparent that Founding Father & third US President Jefferson was not only an idealist but also something of an eccentric.”
Route || Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia (via Monticello, Virginia).
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 206 (332)
Today’s Highlight || Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
We’re glad we had Google Maps to guide us because we needed steering towards the end of the 120-mile drive from Arlington to Monticello. It’s not as remote as it once was but Thomas Jefferson’s iconic architectural masterpiece is still a bit off the beaten track among the rolling green landscape of central Virginia. Our articulate & enthusiastic tour guide, Amy, was right: it does take a rather particular kind of person – an ‘idealist’ – to pick a remote & heavily forested and uneven hilltop and choose it as a location for one’s dream home (built in a Roman Neoclassical style, Monticello derives from the Italian for “little mount”). And when touring the innards of the house it also becomes apparent in a hurry that Founding Father & third US President Jefferson was not only an idealist but also something of an eccentric.
MONTICELLO || Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello outside Charlottesville in Albemarle County, Virginia. October 2, 2017. Having visited Jefferson’s office (I’m calling Independence Hall in Philly his office, Day 4) & his marble-heavy Washington D.C. memorial (Day 5) over the past few days, it was fitting to visit the great man’s abode today, Day 6. Designed & built by Jefferson over a 40-year period starting in the late 1760s (although it wasn’t finally completed until 1809, Jefferson continued to tinker with aspects of its design right up until his death in 1826) on land inherited from his father, the tour of the UNESCO-listed house isn’t cheap and somewhat rushed, but it still gives a great insight into the genius of the man himself. Pictures are not allowed inside the museum house so invariably the most common image captured of the structure is this one showing the main house as seen from the gardens to the west. I recommend you do, but you don’t need to come to Monticello itself for this view – it’s depicted on the reverse side of the US nickel ($0.05).
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), author of the American Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, was also a talented architect of neoclassical buildings. He designed Monticello (1769–1809), his plantation home, and his ideal ‘academical village’ (1817–26), which is still the heart of the University of Virginia. Jefferson’s use of an architectural vocabulary based upon classical antiquity symbolizes both the aspirations of the new American republic as the inheritor of European tradition and the cultural experimentation that could be expected as the country matured.
– UNESCO commenting on Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the former the only home in the US to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site & the latter founded by Jefferson in 1819 and visible from the Monticello gardens.
THE MONTICELLO GRAVEYARD & ‘ALL MEN ARE (MOSTLY) CREATED EQUAL’ || Thomas Jefferson’s grave in the grounds of the Monticello plantation outside Charlottesville in Albemarle County, Virginia. October 2, 2017. Monticello is the obvious centrepiece of a 5,000-acre (20 km²) plantation – employing a staff of over 150 slaves might by some be seen as duplicity by a man who declared in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal’ (it is said that Jefferson fathered children with slave Sally Hemings). And although access to the house is by guided tour only, one is free to explore at their leisure the basement cellars (Jefferson was fond of beer & especially wine, a tipple he learned to appreciate on his travels to Europe) and the Monticello grounds. Not far from the house is the shady wooded plot that is today the Monticello Cemetery, the final resting place of Jefferson and his decedents and a private burial plot that’s still in use to this today.
I’m as happy nowhere else and in no other society, and all my wished end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.
– Thomas Jefferson
JOURNEY THROUGH HALLOWED GROUND NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY || On the Thomas Jefferson Parkway, a southern portion of the 180-mile-long Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway first encountered further north in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on road trip Day 3. Outside Charlottesville in Albemarle County, Virginia. October 2, 2017.
While driving in and around Gettysburg we drove a portion of the wider 180-mile-long Journey Through Hallowed Ground Byway, the second National Scenic Byway of the wider road trip.
The 180-mile Journey Through Hallowed Ground byway corridor from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Monticello, Virginia, is “Where America Happened.” It is said that this three-state route, spanning Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, holds more historic sites than any other in the US. It was an active transportation route during the Revolutionary War, a critical transition zone for the Underground Railroad, and a key battleground during the Civil War. This early corridor was the literal “roadbed” for the creation of our country and American ideals.
MICHIE TAVERN || Michie Tavern off the Thomas Jefferson Parkway outside Charlottesville in Albemarle County, Virginia. October 2, 2017.The historic Michie Tavern is a Virginia Historic Landmark. Established in 1784 by Scotsman William Michie, it served as a social centre of the community and offered accommodation, food, drink & company to weary travellers. Initially located 17 miles away, it was moved to its present location of less than a mile from Monticello in 1927. Open for tours today, it also serves food in a period restaurant – The Ordinary, seen here – and boasts the requisite gift shop, all of which were closed for the day by the time we were finished with Monticello and happened to stop by en route to the Virginian state capital of Richmond, a 70-mile drive from Monticello.
EPIC US ROAD TRIP 2017 || Day 7
Palace Green, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017.
“‘Take time to go back’ is the solid advice from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the non-profit entity that manages the site. Once here, and when absorbing the sights & sounds that suggest the atmosphere and circumstances of 18th-century colonial America, you do just that – you go right back to a bygone era.”
Route || Richmond, Virginia to Manteo, Outer Banks, North Carolina (via The Historic Triangle (Williamsburg & Jamestown), Virginia).
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 240 (386)
Today’s Highlight || Colonial Williamsburg
Another day, another schooling. There was no letup in the history lessons today, Day 7. A morning scoot around the historic Virginian capital of Richmond was followed by an afternoon spent among living history while feeling like a bygone-era interloper on the dusty & period streets of Colonial Williamsburg, probably the highlight of the region’s All-American Colonial Parkway-connected Historic Triangle. And when all was said and done we crossed over the Virginia/North Carolina State line for some much-needed downtime by the sands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Gardener. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017.
Virginia (VA) || The invisible dividing line between the US North & South is around here somewhere. You won’t find it of course, it won’t be highlighted anywhere, but you will find plenty statues & monuments to the past, plaques highlighting the city’s historic clout, & plenty of grandiose architecture lining the grid of streets that is Richmond, the majority of which are landmark edifices inscribed on some kind of register of historic or protected buildings.
Fronting the 17th-century Gothic Revival Old City Hall, a statue to Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson in Capitol Square, the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol building, Richmond, Virginia. October 3, 2017.
Historically Rich Richmond One of the land’s oldest cities, Richmond was founded in 1737, was incorporated in 1742, has been the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1780 (replacing Williamsburg) & has been one of Virginia’s 38 independent cities – cities not in the territory of any county or counties – since 1871. History here stretches back a long way (by American standards), although the predominant history of Richmond is largely tied to the 1861-1865 American Civil War. As the capital of the State at the epicentre of the war, Richmond served as the second and permanent capital of the Confederacy during the warring years (after the capital was moved from Montgomery, Alabama). As such, it was heavily targeted by Union troops during the war and upon its surrender to the Union Army in early April 1865 some 25% of the city lay in ruins. Showing once again an innate ability to recover (Richmond also burned during the 1765-1783 Revolutionary War with Britain), industry was quickly back on track and today the city is something of an economic powerhouse, and an ethnically diverse one at that – Richmond has a large & vibrant African American community.
VIRGINIA STATE CAPITOL || The Virginia State Capitol Building, Richmond, Virginia. October 3, 2017. Attacked by the Brits, Richmond burned during the years of the 1765-1783 Revolutionary War. It quickly recovered and with independence won from the British there was a need for a permanent home for the new State Government. The blindingly white Virginia State Capitol building, the eight structure built to serve this purpose, was completed by 1788, although its present form dates to 1904 when two wings were added to facilitate the growing legislature. The Greek Revival building was designed by Thomas Jefferson (with the assistance of a Charles-Louis Clérisseau) and was modelled on the Maison Carrée in southern France, one of the best-preserved Roman-era temples in Europe. One of only twelve state capitol buildings in the US not have a dome, it plays host to the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, the Virginia General Assembly, established way back in 1619 and the first democratic government in the Americas. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960, its most recently underwent renovation between 2004 and 2007.
COURTS || Courts Building, Richmond, Virginia. October 3, 2017. Richmond is home to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, one of 13 US courts of appeals, and played host to the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case which ultimately led to the overturning of the archaic Virginia State law restricting marriage on the basis of race.
WHITE HOUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY || The White House of the Confederacy, Court End, Richmond, Virginia. October 3, 2017. It’s certainly not as iconic or as unmissable as its northern counterpart, The White House in Washington D.C. In fact, Richmond’s White House of The Confederacy is very missable; we only happened upon by noticing its historical plaque out front when passing by. A US National Historic Landmark since 1963, yet another Richmond building inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places and one of many Federal-style mansions in the Court End neighborhood of central downtown, it supposedly houses a museum that traces the history of the Confederate States while displaying the country’s largest collection of Confederate civilian and military bits and bobs. I’m not sure if the museum is still in operation – the whole building looked somewhat abandoned on this particular day.
Historic Triangle & Colonial Parkway
It’s a short 40-mile drive south from Richmond to Williamsburg, probably the most visited of Virginia’s so-called Historic Triangle trio of Williamsburg, Yorktown & Jamestown. Connected by the All-American drive that is the scenic 23-mile-long (37 kilometres) Colonial Parkway, this Disneyland for historians is one of the most touristed regions of the US east coast, and for good reason.
HISTORIC TRIANGLE & COLONIAL PARKWAY || The Historic Triangle – Jamestown, Williamsburg & Yorktown. Approaching Williamsburg & the entrance to the All-American Colonial Parkway, southeastern Virginia. October 3, 2017.We only had time to visit two of the Historic Triangle trio – Jamestown, where in 1607 English settlers established the first permanent European & English-speaking colony in the New World, & Williamsburg, the old colonial capital where the flames of the American Revolution were fanned. Together with Yorktown, the site of the last battle of the American Revolution and the British surrender of 1781, the trio combine to qualify as the birthplace of America as we know it today.
Williamsburg is Jamestown continued, and Yorktown is Williamsburg vindicated.
– The Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, co-founder of Colonial Williamsburg
All-American Road #3 – The Colonial Parkway
Built primarily for sightseeing and to enhance the experience of visiting the Historic Triangle, the All-American Colonial Parkway runs for 23 miles (37 kilometres) between Yorktown & Jamestown passing through Colonial Williamsburg in the process. Built in sections between 1930 and 1957, the shaded, mostly tree-lined route with distinctive brick overpasses was built so as to shield from the motorist views of regional commercial development, visual ‘junk’ & US military installations (the US Army has a presence in the region, Fort Eustis, a base we inadvertently drove into), all in a bid to help visitors mentally return to the past. It seems to work.
The Colonial Parkway not only illustrates the English colonial experience in America, but is also an outstanding example of American parkway design. Retaining its original scenic and historic integrity to a remarkable degree, the 23-mile route connects the historic sites of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown.
Entering the All-American Colonial Parkway near the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center in southeast Virginia. October 3, 2017.
NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAYS & ALL-AMERICAN ROADS
While each state can and does designate its own Scenic Byways, a National Scenic Byway is a road recognized by the US Department of Transportation for one or more of six ‘intrinsic qualities’, they being archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. The program was established by Congress in 1991 to preserve and protect the nation’s scenic but often less-travelled roads and to promote tourism and economic development. The National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) is administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The most scenic byways are designated All-American Roads. These roads must meet two out of the six intrinsic qualities. An All-American designation means these roads have features that do not exist elsewhere in the US and are unique and important enough to be tourist destinations unto themselves.
As of November 2010 there are 120 National Scenic Byways and 31 All-American Roads located in 46 states (all except Hawaii, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Texas).
Virginia (VA) || There are two versions of Williamsburg – Williamsburg proper & Colonial Williamsburg – but it’s obviously the for-tourists colonial version that gets all the visitor attention. It certainly got ours.
W Duke of Gloucester Street, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017.
A living, breathing, real-life reenactment of 18th-century British America (during most of which, from 1699 to 1780, saw Williamsburg was the capital of Colonial Virginia), the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg really is quite the attraction. The world’s largest living-history museum is a 300-acre open-air assemblage of restored or re-created period buildings populated with reenactors working, dressing and even conversing as they would have in colonial times. ‘Take time to go back’ is the solid advice from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the non-profit entity that manages the site. Once here, and when absorbing the sights & sounds that suggest the atmosphere and circumstances of 18th-century colonial America, you do just that – you go right back to a bygone era.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017.
Colonial Williamsburg – History
When Virginia’s capital was moved to Richmond in 1780, Williamsburg, which had been capital for the previous 81 years, went into steady decline. In the early 20th century, when many structures were, at best, in very poor condition, the Williamsburg restoration cause was championed by the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, rector of Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish Church. The combination of Goodwin’s perseverance & the generosity of Standard Oil heir John D. Rockefeller Jr. & family, who shared Goodwin’s dream of restoring the old colonial capital city to its 18th-century state, ultimately led to one of the largest restoration projects in US history beginning in the 1920s. Over the proceeding decades some 500 buildings in total were either reconstructed or restored with 88 surviving structures, labelled as original, restored as close as possible to their 18th-century appearance (the majority of the reconstruction of other original structures started in the 1930s). Designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1960, today Colonial Williamsburg survives as something of a unique remnant of times past – while there are other living-history museums, Colonial Williamsburg is unique in that it was constructed from a living town whose inhabitants and post-Colonial-era buildings were removed. Also, Colonial Williamsburg allows anyone to walk through the historic district free of charge and at any hour of the day. Charges only apply to those visitors wishing to enter the historic buildings to see colonial-era craftsmen and arts & crafts demonstrations or those wanting to attend scheduled outdoor performances/reenactments.
GOVERNOR’S PALACE || Palace Green fronting Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017. Colonial Williamsburg contains hundreds of restored or faithfully reproduced structures – houses, taverns, shops, inns, workshops & outbuildings. However, the district’s most impressive structures are its array of public buildings – the Courthouse, the Capitol, the Magazine, the Public Hospital, the Gaol/jail & the Governor’s Palace, seen here at the end of Palace Green. The second-largest building in Colonial Williamsburg (after the Capitol), the Governor’s Palace burnt to the ground in 1781. It was faithfully reconstructed in the 1930s over its original foundations with the aid of period illustrations, written descriptions, early photographs and informed guesswork. The official residence the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia, it also served as the residence for Virginia’s two post-colonial governors prior to the capital being moved to Richmond in 1780, one of these being Thomas Jefferson (him again).
GRAND UNION FLAG & BRUTON PARIS CHURCH || A Grand Union flag fronting the Bruton Paris Church in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017. Adopted in 1775 and consisting of 13 alternating red and white stripes signifying the Original Thirteen colonies (just like the current Stars and Stripes), but with the upper inner corner or canton being the British Union Flag of the time, the Grand Union Flag is widely considered the first national flag of the US. Abundant in Colonial Wiliamsburg, the flag is seen here lining the district’s main street, Duke of Gloucester Street, with a portion of the Bruton Parish Church in the background. Constructed between 1711 & 1715 and still using a bell that was cast in 1761 (and which rang aloud to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776), the church, which serves the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia and is open to all, has been in continuous use as a house of worship since 1715.
HORSEPOWER ONLY || W Duke of Gloucester street, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017. Needless to say the motor car wasn’t around in the 18th century so neither are they found here in Colonial Williamsburg.
Some more pictures from an enjoyable amble around the streets of Colonial Williamsburg.
COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY || Wren Yard, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. October 3, 2017. It’s not too surprising that the actual town of Williamsburg itself gets overlooked somewhat, stately as it is. Founded in 1632, it’s home to some 14,000. It’s also the location for the prestigious College of William & Mary. Chartered on February 8 1693 as a place to educate the youth in ‘Good Letters And Manners’, this is the second-oldest college in the US (after Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts, founded 1636) and the only one of the colonial colleges, the nine institutions of higher education chartered in the Thirteen Colonies prior to American independence, located in the South. Boasting an impressive alumni that includes, you’ve guessed it, Thomas Jefferson, the campus can also boast of having the oldest academic building in continuous use in the country, the 1695 Sir Christopher Wren Building. While this isn’t the building in question, it does still overlook this rather picturesque yard, Wren Yard, at the eastern end of the College’s Ancient Campus, itself bordering the western edge of Colonial Williamsburg. Propped in the centre of the yard is a statue of Lord Botetourt, Governor of the Colony of Virginia from 1768-1770 and a ‘Respected Friend of the Students and Faculty of the College’ according to the embedded plaque fronting the statue.
We drove the Colonial Parkway from Williamsburg to Jamestown, but didn’t get to see a whole lot. After the failure of the 1587 ‘Lost Colony’ of North Carolina’s Roanoke Island (see below), it was at Jamestown that, some 2 decades later in May 1607, that the first permanent English settlement in the New World was finally established (if at first you don’t succeed…). Today there are two major heritage sites at Jamestown: Jamestown Settlement, a state-run and child-friendly living history museum which includes a reconstructed Native American village, a colonial fort and full-scale replicas of the ships that brought the first settlers to the New World; and Historic Jamestowne, the original Jamestown settlement that was only rediscovered in 1994, a National Park Service site which includes Jamestown Island and the ongoing archaeological projects.
We didn’t have time to visit either location, but we did drive by. We were historied out. And besides, we had to get to North Carolina, Manteo in North Carolina’s Outer Banks to be precise, a 140-mile, 3-hour drive south from Jamestown.
BLUEGRASS ISLAND VIPS || At Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on the eve of the 4-day Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival in Manteo, Roanoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 3, 2017.We arrived at North Carolina’s Outer Banks late in the afternoon of Day 7, and we weren’t planning on going anywhere for a while. A rest was called for. Seven states (& 1 district), 1300-plus miles, 7 National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads driven, numerous traffic jams, 1 parking ticket, 1 fine ‘in the mail’ (for a missed toll on the New Jersey Turnpike) & just 1 incident of being pulled over by the cops. Seven days, 7 early starts. It had been a manic first week of the road trip, but now it was time to drop down a gear or two (or three). Four nights we had planned for Manteo, a holiday within a holiday, 4 days of bluegrass and being VIPs at the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival for 2017. Mountain music by the sea. The Woodstock of bluegrass. It’s why we were here, why we embarked on this wider road trip in the first place.
dMb US State Digest
AN ORIGINAL THIRTEEN || One of the original Thirteen Colonies. A proprietary colony established in 1663. Split into the Province of North Carolina & Province of South Carolina in 1712, becoming a crown colony in 1729.
State Nicknames – Old North State; Tar Heel State. State Mottos – Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather Than To Seem) (official); First in Flight. Admitted To The Union – November 1789 (12th state). Population – 10 million North Carolinians (9th most populous state). Area – 53,800 sq miles (28th largest state). Capital – Raleigh. National Parks – 1 (Great Smoky Mountains). National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 3/1. Famous For – College hoops; the world’s first controlled flight of a powered heavier-than-air aircraft (by the Wright Brothers in December 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina); banking; hurricanes; the Appalachians (in the west); sandy barrier islands (in the east). State Highlight – The Outer Banks & Appalachian drives.North Carolina Titbits – The second territory to be colonised by the British, the state is named in memory of King Charles I (Carolus in Latin); natives are called ‘tar heels’, a nickname said to relate to both their tar pine production & their legendary stubbornness; British band Pink Floyd is named, in part, after Floyd Council, a North Carolinian blues guitarist, mandolin player, and singer; the international doughnut chain Krispy Kreme hails from North Carolina; Pepsi was first produced here in 1898; cohabitation of unmarried couples was technically illegal in North Carolina until 2006; the state leads the US in the production of flue-cured tobacco & sweet potatoes, and is second in production of pigs and hogs, trout, turkeys &, emm, Christmas trees.
North Carolina. First in Flight. State #7 on this road trip, State #20 one year ago on Epic US Road Trip 2016 when this picture was captured in Asheville, North Carolina. September 23, 2016.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
|| Day 11 || October 7 || Overlooking Roanoke Sound, Outer Banks, North Carolina.
“…this vacation rental haven is a beach lovers nirvana, a well-established tourist magnet where there’s a refreshing dearth of big box stores or chain eateries, a place where sand, sea (and sea breezes), wooden beach houses, laid-back beach towns, historic lighthouses, flip-flops, fishing, sea food and a swashbuckling maritime vibe all dominate. History, too, and heavy-hitting history at that.”
Route || Manteo, Roanoke Island (days 8-11) to Wilmington, North Carolina (day 12).
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 350 (563)
Regional Highlight || Roanoke & Bodie Islands of North Carolina’s northern Outer Banks
Charge over for now & with 1,316 miles (2,118 kilometres) already on the clock, North Carolina’s northern Outer Banks (or simply OBX if you’re hip or in a hurry) slammed on the breaks by both detaining & enthralling us from the end of Epic US road Trip 2017 Day 7 right through to the afternoon of Day 12.
Outer Banks (OBX)
North Carolina (NC) || Covering most of the North Carolina coastline, this narrow and fragile 320-kilometre-long (200 mile) string of barrier islands/sandbars both separate & shelter the US mainland in the west from the vast & blustery expanse of the Atlantic Ocean in the east – from north to south, the islands of Bodie, Roanoke, Hatteras & Ocracoke are linked by bridges, up north where it’s more developed, or ferries, down south where an absence of roads means it’s way more remote.
Surf fishing off Nags Head Beach, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017.
Regularly near the top of every published list of ‘Best Family Beach Vacation Locations in the US’, the Outer Banks region is a major tourist draw thanks to its subtropical climate, its wealth of amenities and its wide and seemingly endless expanses of open beachfront. A vacation rental haven that’s a beach lovers nirvana, this is a well-established tourist magnet with a refreshing dearth of big box stores or chain eateries. A place where sand, sea (and sea breezes), wooden beach houses, laid-back beach towns, historic lighthouses, flip-flops, fishing, sea food and a swashbuckling maritime vibe all dominate. History, too, and heavy-hitting history at that: The disappearance of 115 colonists at Roanoke Island’s late 1580s Lost Colony, Europe’s very first attempt to established a settlement in the New World, is still to this day one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries; and man first flew here when, in December 1903 at Bodie Island’s Kill Devil Hills, the Age of Flight took off when the Wright Brothers launched the world’s very first successful controlled flight of a powered heavier-than-air vehicle. Needless to say we made sure to find the time to visit the present-day memorials to both of these past momentous events (at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site & the Wright Brothers National Memorial respectively), but only when not enjoying the blazin’ bluegrass at the 4-day Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival at Roanoke Island’s Festival Park, a.k.a. Bluegrass Island, in Manteo, home base for the Outer Banks. It was the only reason we found ourselves here at all, the only reason we lingered here for as long as we did, happy, very happy, to put the wider road trip on hold to do so.
The Outer Banks has a way of connecting with people, staying with them long after the vacation is over… You’ll be rewarded for stepping outside of the ordinary.
Bodie Lighthouse as seen from the Marshes Walk boardwalk on Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017.
Measuring only 13 kilometres (8 mile) by 3 kilometres (2 mile), accessible only via bridges and sandwiched between the mainland to the west and the larger Outer Banks barrier island of Bodie Island (& the Atlantic Ocean) to the east, I’m guessing it’s the relative remoteness & sheltered nature of small Roanoke Island that accounts for its obvious atypical vibe – things are a lot quieter, more persevered & better presented here than elsewhere, especially amid the sun, sea & sand vibe of the Atlantic-facing communities lining neighbouring Bodie Island.
North Carolina (NC) || Home for 5 foot-tappin’ OBX nights, Manteo is Roanoke Island’s largest and only real settlement, and a rather sleepy one at that with a population of only some 1,500. Its small downtown offers a few blocks of wooden homegrown boutiques, antique stores, galleries, book shops, gift stores, bars, restaurants and charming bed & breakfasts with wraparound porches (a.k.a. ‘pizers’ in unique OBX speak), blinding white fences and manicured lawns, all of which successfully, and whether intentionally or not, combine to set a quaint scene from a bygone era.
MANTEO WATERFRONT & THE ROANOKE MARSHES LIGHTHOUSE || The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on the waterfront in Manteo, Roanoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 3, 2017. Although beautiful Manteo is home to the historic mid-1930’s Tudor-style Ye Olde Pioneer Theater, the oldest single-screen and family owned movie theater in America, it’s safe to say that the town’s most photographed landmark is its waterfront lighthouse, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. Jutting about 30 metres out into Roanoke Sound, it is the Outer Banks’ only example of an in-shore lighthouse, its prim white exterior with dark green shutters and red roof capped off by a 2′ ft., 4″ in. tall lens. As charming as the squat one-story harbour backdrop is, it’s not as historic as it might first appear, ironic given the history that surrounds it. Erected where once a rather ugly water treatment plant stood, the present-day structure is an exterior reconstruction, dated to 2004, of the original 17th-century Roanoke Marshes Light, the fourth incarnation to date of the beacon that was once located at the South end of Croatan Sound, the channel separating Roanoke Island from the US mainland to the west.
In the years to come, as islanders mingle with visitors along the Manteo waterfront, let us remember that on this spot, where so many vessels have been built and launched, dreams still light the way. For how else can you explain how a lighthouse now casts its reassuring beam into the night sky, where the Town’s wastewater treatment plant once stood? Safeguarding the environment, honoring our past, and dreaming of a brighter future is Manteo’s shining path.
– From a letter by Mayor John Wilson regarding the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse Dedication Ceremony. September 25, 2004.
The Elizabeth II of Roanoke Island Festival Park, Roanoke Island, Manteo, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 3, 2018.
Long, stringy and boasting an intimate relationship with the Atlantic Ocean, Bodie Island (pronounced ‘body’) is a narrow barrier peninsula that forms the northernmost portion of the Outer Banks (its extreme northern reaches stretch across the state line into southern Virginia). Sandwiched by sandy nature in the north & south, the central portion of the 72-mile-long (116 kilometre) sand bar, and especially around the resort town of Nags Head, is populated & developed, but not in a bad way. This is the Outer Banks after all.
Fishing off the beach at Nags Head, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017.
BODIE ISLAND – National Scenic Byway #4 – Outer Banks National Scenic Byway
Heading east, it’s a short 12-mile drive from Manteo to the Bodie Island Lighthouse. And once you cross Roanoke Sound separating Roanoke Island from Nags Head on Bodie Island (via the mile-long Washington Baum Bridge, a.k.a. the Manteo / Nags Head Causeway) you’re driving a portion of the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway. I knew there had to be a national scenic byway around here somewhere.
Outer Banks National Scenic Byway, North Carolina Highway 12, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017.A 137-mile (221 kilometre) stretch of North Carolina Highway 12, designated as the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway, skirts most of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, one of North Carolina’s 2 National Seashores, coastal areas federally designated as being of natural and recreational significance as a preserved area. Granting access to a region not accessible by road until the 1920s, this, one of America’s great drives, is a drive billed as leaving the mainland (& roads) behind to sample the simple maritime living of the Outer Banks, where hectic schedules and tourist-driven cities are nowhere to be found. Driving (& boating) between historic Down East communities of rich maritime culture, one encounters an estuarine system of shallow, fertile sounds & wetlands; the aforementioned National Seashore; two national wildlife refuges (Pea & Cedar Islands); beautiful beaches; towering historic brick lighthouses; early US Life-Saving Service & US Coast Guard stations; fishing; wildlife; and, of course, scenic views of barrier islands bracketed by the Atlantic Ocean. This is one National Scenic Byway that deserves time, requires effort and is so far off the beaten path that in places there’s no path at all, beaten or otherwise – portions of the drive (Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island & Ocracoke Island to Cedar Island) are serviced by ferry and ferry only.
The Outer Banks Scenic Byway’s unique maritime culture references historic events with stories about piracy, war, shipwrecks, and hurricanes. Explore North Carolina today — the coast is calling.
BODIE ISLAND – Bodie Lighthouse & Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, located near the southern tip of Hatteras Island, an 80-kilometer (50-mile) drive south from Manteo via the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, is arguably the centrepiece landmark of the wider Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the towering OBX beacon that’s most likely to get the pulse of a pharologist racing – at 64 metres (210 feet), it’s the tallest lighthouse in the US. However, the 48-metre-high (158 feet) Bodie Lighthouse, a more accessible 20 kilometres (12+ miles) from Manteo, has its own story to tell, as most historic lighthouses do.
BODIE LIGHTHOUSE || Bodie Lighthouse. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017. The 1872 Bodie Lighthouse that stands today, one of only a dozen remaining brick tower lighthouses in the US, is the third lighthouse to have been built in this immediate area, this structure proving more resilient than its 1848 & 1859 forerunners – the former was razed due to a lean caused by unstable foundations, the latter destroyed in 1861 by Confederate troops during the Civil War. Fifty metres (164 feet) tall and identified by its white & black horizontal striped bands, its first-order Fresnel lens projects a beam (2.5 seconds on, 2.5 seconds off, 2.5 seconds on and 22.5 seconds off) for some 30 kilometres (19 miles). Manned by a succession of 31 committed, diligent and hard-working lighthouse keepers between October 1872 and May 1940, electrified & automated in 1932 and renovated over a 4 year period between 2009 and 2013, a renovation that made the lighthouse both accessible to and climbable by the public, this is just one of the life-saving beacons spaced at approximately 65 kilometre (40 mile) intervals along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the treacherous waters offshore of which have long been dubbed the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ for the large number of wrecks found here.
There is no part of the Coast of the US which requires a Light House more than Body’s Island – ’tis in the direct route of all going North or South & of all foreign vessels bound into the Chesapeake… there were fifteen wrecks in sight at one place…
– Thomas H. Blount, customs collector, in a 1843 letter to US Representative Ed Stanly soliciting funds to build Bodie Lighthouse.
CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE || Bodie Lighthouse as seen from the elevated marsh walk boardwalks of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established in January 1953 making it the nation’s very first protected coastal region. Today, however, it’s one of North Carolina’s two National Seashores (& one of ten nationally), coastal areas federally designated as being of natural and recreational significance as a preserved area. Stretching for 110 kilometres (70 miles) north to south, this particular national seashore is 123 km² (about 30,000+ acres) of fragile and constantly changing barrier island dunes, empty beaches, woodlands, marshes & wetlands that provide not only a range of recreation activities for the outdoorsy type but also a refuge & habitat for a variety of coastal flora & fauna.
BODIE ISLAND – Nags Head
The beach town of Nags Head, with its abundant vacation rentals (Outer Banks rental homes are both more abundant and more affordable than hotel rooms), family-friendly on-the-beach relaxation and off-the-beach amenities & amusements, is around about where OBX tourism reaches its zenith, not surprising really as vacationers have been frequenting from as early as the 1830s this North Carolina ‘tourist colony’, as Nags Head was then known. Suffice it to say, it’s a tad quieter this time of year than one would expect to find it at the height of the July-August summer season, but there’s still a lot more of a buzz here than is absent among the underdevelopment of a few miles south – regardless of the time of year, the further north you venture the busier the Outer Banks gets.
OUTER BANKS BEACHES || The beach, South Nags Head, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017. For all its other attractions and distractions, it is still the endless stretches of beach that remain the biggest draw of the Outer Banks, just not this time of year – while still photogenic, early October means it’s just a tad too chilly to laze on a beach and a tad too blustery to venture into the swells. About the only activities you’ll spot on OBX beaches this time of year is walking, surf fishing (a licence is required) and 4x4 driving, the latter permitted only from October 1 through April 30 each year and again only with a permit. All Outer Banks beaches are free and open to the public, with multiple beach access points and plenty of parking available. And with more than 100 miles of shoreline to choose from, they are rarely overcrowded, even at the height of the summer.
Outer Banks Fishing Pier, South Nags Head, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017.
OUTER BANKS FISHING PIER || On the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, South Nags Head, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017. Fishing. Another reason to love the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks Fishing Pier. Another reason to love fishing. The rickety-looking 170-metre-long (550 feet) ocean pier in South Nags Head originally dates to 1959, was rebuilt following a storm in 1962 and was extended by some 46 metres (150 feet) in the early 1970s, an extension that was happily in situ for over 3 decades before being ripped away from the original structure by a hurricane in 2003. Anchored by a Fishing Center, a rustic restaurant and a bar, this is serious fishing territory – there’s a fee to access the pier itself if you’re not casting a line.
Nags Head has a long history of being a much-loved vacationers’ paradise, and the sentiment is as true today as it was in the mid-1800s. With a world of fun just waiting around every beach block, as well as miles of privacy if a vacationer so chooses, Nags Head comprises the very best the Outer Banks has to offer.
SOUTH VS NORTH || Colourful homes, colourful rentals or both? South Nags Head, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017. Much like the Outer Banks barrier islands themselves, Nags Head stretches. Unlike the busier northern area of the town, with its abundance of local attractions and amenities, South Nags Head is essentially a quiet string of vacation rental homes no more than a block or two away from the waves of the Atlantic. Neither area – north or south – is hectic (remember, you come here to escape hectic), but they are still rather distinguishable nonetheless.
BODIE ISLAND – Wright Brothers National Memorial
Ten kilometres (6 miles) north of Nags Head, on a windy an open expanse of sand that’s now a nationally protected (since 1927) expanse of green grass, the course of world history changed forever as a result of a momentous 12-second event that occurred here at 10:35 a.m. on a mid-December day in 1903.
WRIGHT BROTHERS NATIONAL MEMORIAL || As seen from Big Kill Devil Hill, an overview of the northern portion of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, including the First Flight plinths and replica camp buildings, on the outskirts of the town of Kill Devil Hills, the site of the world’s first flight in a controlled, powered, heavier-than-air vehicle on December 17, 1903. Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.
The Wright Brothers & The First Flight
Orville & Wilbur, the aviation pioneering Wright brothers who are regarded as the first to make serious studied attempts to solve the obvious problems presented by powered and controlled flight, had been coming to the Kitty Hawk dunes of the Outer Banks, a location chosen because of its wind, its isolation and its hospitality (the brothers needed local help), since 1900, the failures and lessons learnt over the previous 3 seasons standing them in good stead in December 1903 on their fourth trek from their home base in Dayton, Ohio, some 700 miles to the northwest and a rather arduous undertaking in the early 1900s (I bet they wish they could have flown). The success of their Wright Flyer on December 17 of that year, when Wilbur was 36 & Orville 4 years younger at 32, was to be the culmination of 4 years of experimentation & toil, all of which came to an end when Orville won a game of Rock–Paper–Scissors (not really) to pilot the maiden flight and make heavy-hitting history in the process.
FIRST FLIGHT || The First Flight plinth of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017. It, the First Flight, didn’t last long (12 seconds)