Image || Carriage ride, Market Street, Charleston, South Carolina.

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Epic US Road Trip 2017 – Southern Colonies

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.

Venturing across Washington D.C.‘s Potomac River early on Day 6 saw us return to Virginia, and a very different Old Dominion it was to the largely rural one we got accustomed to last year.
dMb US State Digest

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.
Outside New River Campground off US Route 221, southern Virginia, USA. September 23, 2016.

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.”

Day 6 || October 2 2017

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.

US Scenic Byways LogoWhile 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.”

Day 7 || October 3 2017

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 ParkwayUS Scenic Byways Logo
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.


US Scenic Byways Logo
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.

Colonial Williamsburg
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.

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.

Some more pictures from an enjoyable amble around the streets of Colonial Williamsburg.

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.

north_carolina_glossy_square_icon_256North Carolina

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. Asheville, North Carolina, USA. September 23, 2016.

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.”
Outer Banks Quick Link Highlights

Days 8-12 || October 4-8 2017

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 BywayUS Scenic Byways Logo
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.

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 4×4 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), go very far (36+ metres, 120 feet) or travel very fast (6.8 miles or 10.9 km/h), but it was still a breakthrough event that radically changed the course of world history; modern air travel is something we take for granted and it all started here over a century ago on the sands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks at a spot that is today marked by the stumpy granite First Flight plinth.

PROGRESS || Progress. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.
There were actually four flights of the Wright Flyer on the day in question, each effort improving on the one before it. Progress indeed. Of course, nobody ever talks about the 2nd (12 seconds, 175 feet), 3rd (15 seconds, 200 feet) or 4th (59 seconds, 852 feet) flights, all of which have their own plinth designating their landing points.

FIRST FLIGHT SCULPTURE || The First Flight sculpture reenacting the First Flight of the Wright Flyer, the world’s very first successful piloted heavier-than-air powered aircraft, at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.
The First Flight sculpture captures the Wrights’ historic achievement and the local people who supported them, specifically with regard to moving the Wright Flyer and getting it in position (by all accounts, some of the locals thought the Wright brothers were insane). The life-size bronze sculpture, which is more model less sculpture, was donated by the State of North Carolina on the occasion of the Centennial of the Historic First Flight in December of 2003.

With the help of men… we took machine 150 ft. uphill… A couple of small boys, who had come up with the men… made a hurried departure over the hill for home on hearing the engine start.

– Orville Wright, December 14, 1903.

BIG KILL DEVIL HILL & THE WRIGHT BROTHERS MONUMENT || Information fronting Big Kill Devil Hill at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.
Big Kill Devil Hill was a massive sand dune in the early years of the 20th century, a perch from which the Wright brothers would conduct glider experiments en route to mastering their flying skills and refining their flight controls. Starting in 1929, grass was planted to stabilise the 27-metre-high (90 feet) dune ahead of the construction of the Wright Brothers Monument which today stands 18 metres (60 feet) tall on Big Kill Devil Hill’s apex. The cornerstone for the impressive white granite monument was set during a ceremony on December 17, 1928, the 25th anniversary of the First Flight, and in the presence of Orville Wright (then 57, Wilbur having died in 1912 at the age of 45) and Amelia Earhart, who, the previous June, had become the first women to fly across the Atlantic (she would subsequently become, 4 years later in May 1932, the first woman aviator to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic). The monument, erected by the US Congress & visible from miles around, was completed & dedicated in 1932.

At the base of the towering Wright Brothers Monument of the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Captured on a subsequent, 2018 visit to the Outer Banks. October 7, 2018.

FIRST FLIGHT PROOF || The First Flight. Proof. On display in the temporary Visitor Center of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, Bodie Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.
They are building a new Visitors Center cum museum, a new home for the full-scale reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer (the original is on display in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.) that isn’t on show in the make-do Visitor Center currently serving the public (I assume it’s presently in storage somewhere as it waits for a sufficient display space to, em, spread its wings). I did, however, see more than one version of that now iconic black-and-white still capturing the world’s very first flight by a piloted heavier-than-air machine, as the Wright Flyer was termed back in 1903 at a time when the word aeroplane had yet to become mainstream. A local by the name of John T. Daniels, a Kill Devil Hills lifeguard & someone who had never before used a camera, took the picture, a point, shoot & hope effort that documented the Wrights’ success (it shows Orville clinging to the Flyer after it had just lifted off from the guide rail while Wilber runs alongside having not long since released the wing he had been steadying up to that point). While the flight success was unquestioned by those select few who witnessed it, the world would have to wait a while longer to be convinced – it wasn’t until the Wright brothers returned home to Dayton that they developed the photograph to see what, if anything, had been captured. Obvious success there, too.

After four years of scientific research and rigorous experimentation, and with their 1903 flyer on the rail, the Wrights are set to fly. In unison, they each pull down on a propeller. The engine roars to life and the propellers whip through the air; only a restraining wire keeps the flyer in place. Orville climbs onto the machine and positions himself into the hip-cradle. He releases the restraining wire and the machine slowly moves forward. Wilbur runs alongside to steady the machine. After traveling 40 feet down the rail, the flyer lifts into the air, launching the Age of Flight.

– Text on display at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

ROANOKE ISLAND – The Roanoke Colony & Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It would seem that the English expansionists of the latter years of the 14th & early years of the 15th centuries were a persistent bunch. As already highlighted herein, they eventually succeeded in establishing a footing in the New World with the May 1607 founding of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, 140 miles (225 kilometres) north of Roanoke Island. But that was after many settlement failures, the most infamous of which is undoubtedly the fabled 1587 Roanoke Island colony, a.k.a. the Lost Colony, a settlement of 115 men, women & children that inexplicably vanished without trace never to be heard from again. It’s a fascinating story of mystery and conjecture, one kept alive today in the grounds of Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the location of the 1587 settlement. It’s a quiet attraction in a quiet & sheltered corner of an equally quiet & sheltered island. If only the trees could talk.

In the museum of the Visitor Center of Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Roanoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.

We found it to be a most pleasant and fertile ground, replenished with goodly cedars and diverse other sweet woods full of currants, of flax, and many other notable commodities… the soil is the most plentiful, sweet, fruitful, and wholesome of the whole world.

– Positive first impressions of the new land by Capt. Arthur Barlowe in an excerpt from a July 1584 report to Sir Walter Raleigh following England’s first of three forays to the New World.

The Lost Colony
Although the native Carolina Algonquian called Roanoke Island home for centuries beforehand, it was the July 1584 arrival of English explorers, on an exploratory mission sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh (colonists would follow on subsequent journeys), that put this little island on the worldwide map.

… he that commands the sea, commands the trade, and he that is lord of the trade of the world is lord of the wealth of the world.

– Sir Walter Raleigh

Born out of envy, namely England’s desire to get a slice of the New World pie, the riches of which were already being enjoyed by England’s rival Spain, England’s late 14th century expansion jaunts to the New World saw colonists – young, middle-class men and women harbouring promises of social mobility & land not available to them in crowded and polluted 1580s London – embarking on a perilous trip across the Atlantic in search of a new life and New World riches. An initial settlement resulting from England’s second mid-1585 journey to the New World petered out, those who didn’t die in the strange new land deciding to return home a year later, in April 1586, catching a ride on board a Sir Francis Drake captioned vessel – these returning colonists would introduce the first tobacco, maize, and potatoes to England. Then followed the third journey in 1587, the ill-fated expedition which saw 115 colonists led by John White, an artist and friend of Raleigh who had accompanied a previous expedition to Roanoke. The colony struggled in the hostile land, simmering bad relations with the local Indians keeping them on their toes. Promising to return, White reluctantly set sail for England to gather supplies on August 27 of 1587, ending the written record of what happened to the colony and leaving behind the colonists which by now included White’s newly born granddaughter Virginia Dare, born 9 days earlier on August 18 and the first English child born in the Americas. Frustratingly delayed by war for three years, White eventually returned to Roanoke Island, landing on his granddaughter’s 3rd birthday, August 18, 1590, only to find the settlement abandoned. There were no colonists, no signs of distress, and no answers.

1896 MONUMENT || The granite marker, inscribed with the year of its erection, commemorating Virginia Dare and the members of the Fort Raleigh ‘Lost Colony’ in the shaded grounds of Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Roanoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.

What Happened The Colonists?
Good question. While there’s proof of the colony having been here, 430 years after John White left in 1587, we still do not know what became of the colonists themselves, and likely never will. Theories by historians, scientists and curious amateurs abound, mostly fuelled by an overbearing fascination of the unknown, the three most widely accepted causes of the disappearance being 1) death by natural causes, 2) attack by a hostile force, or 3) voluntary movement of the colony (all of this is elaborated on in engaging detail on displays in the site’s Visitor Center). The latter is the most plausible of the three outcomes given the only clue White could find while searching for the colonists, that being the word “CROATOAN” carved into a post of the fence around the dismantled village, itself a sign of an ordered departure & thus seemingly ruling out death or a hostile act (also, upon leaving the colony, White had instructed the colonists to carve a Maltese cross on a tree nearby in the event of anything unplanned happening to them, thus indicating that their absence had been forced. No cross was found). White took this to mean that the colonists had, for whatever reason, upped and relocated to Croatoan Island (present-day Hatteras Island), but he was unable to verify this – White’s men, citing the onset of a massive storm, refused to conduct a search and so the party returned home to England instead. Two subsequent search expeditions, in 1602 & 1603, failed to located the colonists or give any meaningful insights into their possible whereabouts. To this day the mystery continues to intrigue scholars, artists, writers and conspiracy theorists alike & 4-plus centuries on the fate of The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island remains one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

FORT RALEIGH HISTORIC SITE & THE LOST COLONY DRAMA || Colony-era earthwork reconstruction. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Roanoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 8, 2017.
For all its intriguing pioneering history & mystery, there isn’t a whole lot to see at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, at least not this time of year (again, any part of October is out of season). The 1896 Monument, reconstructed colony-era earthwork fortifications (seen here), The Elizabethan Gardens, 10 acres of 16th-century-style gardens, and the Visitor Center cum museum are all open year round, but the site’s Waterside Theatre, probably its biggest draw, is a summertime only step back to the 1580s. Home of Paul Green’s renowned The Lost Colony drama and performed every year since 1937, the so-called grandfather of all outdoor dramas is the nation’s longest-running outdoor symphonic drama. Performed on the same site where the actual events that are portrayed occurred, it’s an production on an enormous scale played out on an enormous stage upon which over 100 actors, technicians, designers and volunteers bring to life the story of the Roanoke Island colonists & their disappearance, stopping short, of course, of offering up an explanation. Yes, the show goes on year after year, just like mystery itself.

ROANOKE ISLAND – Festival Park/Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival
Quaint Manteo. Towering & squat historic lighthouses. Scenic byways. National Seashores. Beaches. Fishing. Groundbreaking (& ground leaving) first flights & pioneering (failed) first settlements. We found time to sample them all, some of the very best North Carolina’s Outer Banks has to offer. Enthralling & educational the lot, but all were scheduled around and, if you’ll pardon the oh-so pathetic pun, played a very distant second fiddle to the 4 days of foot tapin’ & VIP mingling that was the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival in Manteo’s Roanoke Island Festival Park, known for 4 days every year as Bluegrass Island.

Backstage. Rhonda Vincent & The Rage closing out night 3 of the 4-day Bluegrass Island Festival in Roanoke Island Festival Park, a.k.a. Bluegrass Island, Manteo, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 6, 2017.

VIPS || Bluegrass Island Festival VIPs. Roanoke Island Festival Park, a.k.a. Bluegrass Island, Manteo, Outer Banks, North Carolina. October 7, 2017.
The 4 days of the Bluegrass Island Festival were easily one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Bluegrass isn’t for everyone (I get that), and an all-encompassing 4-day festival of the music might even be balked at by many a bluegrass fan, but for us it was something beyond special, an indescribably amazing experience. We not only witnessed, from both off the stage and on it (we had free reign), some of the best music on the planet played by some of the most talented musicians alive, but we mingled with the stars, people I’ve admired from afar for over a decade now (Dad much longer), have streamed on YouTube, who I’ve had in my ears while I’ve travelled all over the world, and who take up the bulk of the space on my iPod (& I’m even Facebook friends with some of them now… I tried to play it cool, to not appear too star-struck). That, y’all, is indeed beyond special, again indescribably so.

EPIC US ROAD TRIP 2017 || Day 13

Fronting City Market in Historic Downtown Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.

“…by the time we reached the outskirts of the city the downpours had abated and the sun was devilishly trying to break through. The timing was such that it almost felt like Charleston was attempting to apologise for South Carolina thus far. If so, apology accepted.”

Day 13 || October 9 2017

Route || Wilmington, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina (via Myrtle Beach, South Carolina).
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 192 (309)
Today’s Highlight || A Charleston evening

We knew when setting out from Manteo on the afternoon of Day 12 (of 33) that we’d miss the Outer Banks (of course we did), but we had the small matter of a road trip to get back to (& we might even be back on Bluegrass Island next year).

Carriage ride in Historic Downtown Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.

Headin’ Further South
We were heading south for Charleston, South Carolina where we heard a hurricane was keeping everyone on their toes (The Carolinas = hurricanes). We kept abreast of the weather by switching over from Bluegrass Junction to the Weather Channel every now and then. We didn’t experience any hurricane-worthy blasts – not on the 274-mile Day 12 drive from Manteo to Wilmington, overnight location for that particular day, nor on the 192-mile Day 13 drive from Wilmington to Charleston (via Myrtle Beach) – but we did see endless wetlands, a whole lot of torrential rain & even a few floods. A boat wouldn’t have gone amiss on the Day 13 roads towards the deep Deep South.


North Carolina (NC) || We hadn’t planned on overnighting in Wilmington, but a mid-afternoon departure from Manteo, a 230-mile, 4-hour drive north, meant it was convenient to do so. Something of an unheralded gem almost equidistant between the tourism juggernauts of the Outer Banks to the north and Charleston in the south, Wilmington got us for one night, enough time to know that it is definitely deserving of more time than that.

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN WILMINGTON || Market Street in Historic Downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. October 9, 2017.
Historic Downtown Wilmington is a few blocks of restoration & preservation full of trendy bistros, down-home pubs and cute cafes. Add to the mix ‘America’s Best Waterfront‘ (according to USA Today) and you’ve got more than a few compelling reasons to swing by. Popular with students & Hollywood types – an abundance of movie studios gives Wilmington the nickname of Wilmywood – there’s a good vibe here, that much obvious even on a quiet Sunday afternoon in October.

BATTLESHIP USS NORTH CAROLINA || The battleship USS North Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina. October 9, 2017.
Moored permanently in waters of the Cape Fear River, visible from the Wilmington waterfront & with an official address of 1 Battleship Road, the decorated USS North Carolina, the fourth warship in the US Navy to be named for the State of North Carolina, is a bit of a legend thanks to some illustrious service, and near misses, during the Pacific theatre of World War II – she earned 15 battle stars between her launching in June 1940, when she became the very first newly constructed American battleship to enter service during the war, and her decommissioning in June 1947 making her the most decorated American battleship of World War II. Opened as a museum since 1962, embarking on a self-guided tour of the 45,000-tonne megaship is today one of Wilmington’s must-dos, only we didn’t. Next time.

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH & NORTH CAROLINA NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE || North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. October 9, 2017.
Before continuing south towards the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, we paid a visit to Wrightsville Beach, a 10-mile drive from Historic Downtown Wilmington. A small oceanfront community on a hurricane prone 4-mile-long beach island, this place boasts some rather grandiose oceanfront property. We ventured out among the dunes of the region’s North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, a 10,000-acre (40 km²) protected reserve of diverse wildlife, an estuarine habitat for research, education, and stewardship and the third largest of its kind in the US.

It was 60-mile, 1-hour drive south from Wrightsville Beach to the state line with South Carolina, our 8th state on this road trip and the penultimate Original Thirteen State that we’d encounter as we made our way down the eastern seaboard and back to the Deep South.

For a traveller heading down the eastern seaboard, venturing into South Carolina marks the beginning of the Deep South, where the air is hotter, the accents thicker and traditions are clung to with even more fervour.

Lonely Planet USA, 6th edition (March 2010)

dMb US State Digest

Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places. At the North Carolina / South Carolina state line off US Route 17, a.k.a. the Ocean Highway, Calabash, North Carolina. October 9, 2017.

AN ORIGINAL THIRTEEN || One of the original Thirteen Colonies. Province of Carolina, 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.

south_carolina_glossy_square_icon_256South Carolina

State Nickname – Palmetto State. State Mottos – Dum spiro spero (While I Breathe I Hope) & Animis opibusque parati (Prepared in Mind and Resources). Admitted To The Union – May 23 1788 (8th state). Population – 5 million (12th most populous state). Area – 32,000 sq miles (10th smallest state). Capital – Columbia. National Parks – 1 (Congaree). National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 4/0. Famous For – Being the first state to secede from the Union; igniting the American Civil War (the first shots of the war were fired from Charleston’s Fort Sumter); earthquakes; hurricanes (averaging 14 a year); Pre-Civil War Antebellum plantations; golf & mini golf courses; fireworks; Gullah culture; the Blue Ridge Mountains; swamps & marshy sea islands; genteel Antebellum coastal cities; tacky & riotous beach towns. State Highlight – Charming Charleston. South Carolina Titbits – South Carolina is named in honor of King Charles I of England with Carolus being Latin for “Charles”; all major lakes in South Carolina, and there are quite a few, are man-made; the state, not neighbouring Georgia, a.k.a. The Peach State, is the largest peach producer in the US with South Carolina’s Johnston known as the Peach Capital of the World; the largest Gingko, a deciduous dioecious ornamental Chinese tree having fan-shaped leaves and fleshy yellow seeds, farm in the world is in Sumter, South Carolina; In 2011, South Carolina ranked first in the country in the rate of women killed by men; it is the only state which owns and operates its own statewide school bus system.

South Carolina. State #8. On the streets of Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

South Carolina – Culture Shock
South Carolina started slow, and wet. It also came as something of a Carolinas culture shock given the relative sedateness of fresh-in-the-memory North Carolina.
Myrtle Beach

South Carolina (SC) || We weren’t too impressed with any part of the 25-mile US Route 17 drive from the state line south to Myrtle Beach, a continuous string of tacky over-development with one neon-lit seafood buffet, discount beachware megastore, over-the-top crazy/mini-golf course, amusement & water park, shopping mall, multistory souvenir shop & firework warehouse after another (fireworks are illegal over the state line in North Carolina). Of course the torrential rain didn’t help, caused a few flash floods and meant that by the time we arrived in Myrtle Beach we didn’t even get out of the car (ignoring the fact that we didn’t see anything through the downpour that made us want to).

MYRTLE BEACH & THE GRAND STRAND || A wet Myrtle Beach, the rowdy good time hub of South Carolina’s Grand Strand. October 9, 2017.
The northern 60 miles of South Carolina’s 187-mile Atlantic coastal plain coastline is dubbed the Grand Strand, an almost uninterrupted stretch of overdeveloped beachfront known for its golf courses and fun-in-the-sun vibes. American summer vacations reach their garish height here where a mind-boggling array of family-friendly pirate-themed attractions include the likes of Dolly Parton’s Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, Capt Hook’s Adventure Golf & Blackbeard’s Pirate Cruise (with – Aaaarrgghh! – free pirate mustache & tattoo). There’s also the famous 57-meter-tall (187 foot) SkyWheel, seen here, the can’t-miss landmark on the oceanfront Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, itself resplendent with restaurants, bars and noisy quarter-seeking arcades. Suffice it to say that DiscoverSouthCarolina.com talk Myrtle Beach up a storm, an appropriate pun for the day in question, but it also goes without saying that it didn’t float our boat; while experiencing what we did experience of Myrtle Beach from behind the windscreen of a car, the sun and placidity of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, while scarcely 300 miles away, seemed a lot more distant than that.

Adventure awaits along South Carolina’s Grand Strand, where the scenic beachfront is bustling with family-friendly attractions and events you won’t experience anywhere else.



South Carolina (SC) || Happy to leave Myrtle Beach & the Grand Strand in the rearview mirror, it was a 100-mile drive further south on US Route 17 to Charleston, the state’s unrivaled Antebellum charmer. The rain kept falling en route, slowing progress every so often (as did a McDonald’s coffee pit stop), but by the time we reached the outskirts of the city the downpours had abated and the sun was devilishly trying to break through. The timing was such that it almost felt like Charleston was attempting to apologise for South Carolina thus far. If so, apology accepted.

The Historic Charleston Foundation headquarters in the Captain James Missroon House, The Battery, Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.

Everything you’ve heard is true.


Seemingly southern Antebellum charm doesn’t come any more charming, nor southern hospitality any more hospitable, than here in Charleston. Yes, it would indeed seem that everything I have heard is true.

Market Street, Historic Downtown Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

Charleston – History & Friendliness

The 1670 founding of Charles Town by English planters from Barbados, honouring King Charles II of England, pushed Native American tribes westward, the settlers using labour by West African slaves, who formed the majority of the population by 1720, to turn the region’s Lowcountry swamps into rice paddies. Rice cultivation was developed on a large scale & Southern Carolina, under the control of wealthy male landowners, prospered so much that by the second half of the 1700s it was one of the richest of what would become the founding Thirteen Colonies. By the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, when one in every 7 Americans belonged to another American, the nation was bitterly divided by disputes over States’ Rights and the meaning of freedom in the then United States of America – slave labour drove the economy of the agricultural South while the North was driven by a manufacturing based economy. While ten other States would eventually follow their led to form the Confederate States of America and plunge the country into Civil War, South Carolina became the first slave-advocating southern state to cede from the Union when it did so on December 20, 1860.

The Union is Dissolved! On display in the museum at Fort Sumter National Monument, Charleston Harbour, Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

Unlike the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which saw about a third of combat action taking place in South Carolina, the state was not a major battleground during the American Civil War. That said, the war still destroyed the state economy and upon its conclusion much of Charleston, the state’s largest city and a Confederate stronghold, lay in ruin.

A city of ruins, of desolation, of vacant houses, of widowed women, of rotting wharves, of deserted warehouses, of weed-wild gardens, of miles of grass-grown streets, of acres of pitiful and voicefull barrenness – this is Charleston, whenin Rebellion loftily reared its ugly head five years ago.

– Sidney Andrews, newspaper correspondent commenting on Charleston getting its comeuppance as leader of the secessionist movement and firer of the first shots of the 1861-1865 American Civil War.

The city of Charleston as seen from the waters of Charleston Harbour, Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

Rebuilt today and with a population of some 135,00, making it the largest of South Carolina’s natural port coastal towns, Charleston is one of the hottest of all tourist hotspots on the eastern seaboard. The city, boasting an abundant mix of charm, agreeable climate, architecture, fine dining, history & romance and with a unique culture blending traditional Southern US, English and West African elements, can seem to do no wrong. Named the ‘Best-Mannered City in America’ (by whom I’m not too sure) every year for over a decade, Charleston regularly heads Desirable Destination lists, most recently topping the 2017 Conde Nast Traveler list of ‘The Friendliest Cities in the US.’

Charleston tops yet another RCA list, and comes in as the country’s friendliest city once again. One reader put it perfectly: “People speak to each other!” (Ha. All those poor Northeasterners not used to a ‘hello’ on the street.) “It has the charm of the South, the sophistication of the city, and a warmth and friendliness that is unmatched.” “Everything in Charleston is perfectly designed for visitors to be comfortable, safe, and well taken care of,” said another. In short, even as the city grows, Southern hospitality lives.

Conde Nast Traveler in awarding Charleston ‘The Friendliest Cities in the US’ 2017.

Rainbow Row, E Bay Street, Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.Yep, it would seem that all love Charleston, except maybe the carriage horses that clip-clop along its cobbled Historic Downtown streets most hours of the day & night pulling hordes of camera-toting tourists behind them.

A carriage ride fronting City Market in Historic Downtown Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

Antebellum Ambles
The evening we arrived in Charleston was typically Deep South muggy; the rain had fallen earlier in the day and was threatening to do so again, but never did. We spent a few hours embarking on a leisurely loop of the residential southern tip of the peninsula the city sits on, a convenient amble to and from the core of its compact Historic Downtown. We headed south down the French Quarter’s E Bay Street to the so-called Battery & neighbouring White Point Park & Gardens before returning north via Meeting Street. The whole region was made for strolling, or for being carted around by overworked pack animals. Either way, you’ll get to feast your eyes on some rather impressive, well-presented architecture, mostly of the antebellum kind of course.

CALHOUN MANSION || The Calhoun Mansion, 16 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.
While not an Antebellum structure per se (it was built in 1876, 11 years after the end of the Civil War), the Calhoun Mansion is a Charleston standout nonetheless. The baronial Italianate manor house, widely acclaimed as one of the great post Civil War homes on the Eastern Seaboard, was built for $200,000 by local businessman and humanitarian George Walton Williams as a testament to his desire for Charleston’s re-emergence from the Civil War ashes. The 2,230 m² (24,000 sq ft) mansion has 35 rooms with 4.25-metre-high (14 foot) ceilings, most of which boast a period fireplace. Elaborate & over-the-top ornate throughout and with sweeping staircases, a vast reception space and a domed ceiling, there are chandeliers, decorative paintings, hardwood paneling & fancy fixtures aplenty. Looking its Gilded best these days thanks to a 25-year, $5 million restoration (which commenced in 1972), the mansion, the largest single family residence in Charleston, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as is open to the public for tours as a house museum.

…a jewel in the crown of Charleston’s celebrated historic structures.


RAINBOW ROW || One of the most photographed areas of the photogenic city, the stretch of pastel-coloured abodes on E Bay Street known as Rainbow Row. Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.

The Stars & Stripes flying on an upper balcony of the three-and-one-half story 1802 Caspar Christian Schutt House, 51 East Bay Street, Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.

60 MEETING STREET || 60 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.
Another Charleston landmark that will have you looking skywards, the 1746, four-story, 560 m² (6,050 sq ft) house occupying 60 Meeting Street has only 6 bedrooms, but also boasts a few quirky design elements resulting from a 1884 transformation including Morish arches, iron balconies, bay windows and a roof garden with sweeping 360-degree views. The whole shebang is topped by a mansard roof with conical peak, and all of which can be yours – yes, 60 Meeting Street is For Sale, and has been for a while – for a rather cool $3.4 Million.

EPIC US ROAD TRIP 2017 || Day 14

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.

“Often compared to refined Charleston, Savannah is a different, grittier kind of Southern belle. Established in 1733, this is the oldest settlement in Georgia… Its famed Historic District, south of the Savannah River, is where it’s all at, a rectangular grid of leafy squares, churches, graveyards, and gorgeous historic mansions lining oak-shaded streets. Savannah. It’s grand, it’s historic, it’s oh-so photogenic, it’s friendly and it’s – Boo!! – haunted. Seemingly.”

Day 14 || October 10 2017

Route || Charleston to Macclenny, Florida (via Savannah, Georgia).
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 285 (459)
Today’s Highlight || Flag raising, Fort Sumter, Charleston

Day 14. Charleston, part II, the (really) photogenic part. A return to Georgia, state number 9. The oaks trees, Spanish moss & parklike squares of Southern belle Savannah, the Peach State’s oldest city. A goodbye, for now, to both the Atlantic waters of the Eastern seaboard & the Original Thirteen Colonies, followed by an Hola! to Florida, state number 10. And finally, and after 2 weeks of heading south, a right turn, in the sunshine no less, across the Sunshine State’s Panhandle. Two hundred eighty-five miles, 3 states, 3 state lines, 1 Epic US Road Trip 2017 day. Day 14.

On the steps fronting the the landmark, Gothic-Revival Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.

Charleston, Day 2
Charleston, photogenic I’d imagine even in the midst of a hurricane, put on quite a show for the camera today, a steamy day that never let us forget we’re in the Deep South. The sea breezes in Charleston Harbour cooled things a bit when en route to Fort Sumter National Monument, one of the city’s must-see attractions. And a rather historic one at that.

Cruising in Charleston Harbour en route to Fort Sumter National Monument. Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

FORT SUMTER NATIONAL MONUMENT || Fort Sumter National Monument at the mouth of Charleston Harbour as seen from the Spirit Of The Low Country tour boat, Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.
Built as part of a strategy to shore up America’s coastal defenses following the War of 1812 (against England who were trying to interfere with American trade with France) and occupying most of a pentagon-shaped island strategically poised at the mouth of Charleston Harbour, Fort Sumter’s small size belies its historic clout – in the early hours of April 12, 1861, a motor shell fired by Confederate forces in Charleston Harbour’s Fort Johnson burst over Fort Sumter inaugurating the American Civil War. For 34 hours the Confederates continued to pound the fort, forcing the Federal garrison to surrender allowing, on April 14, the victorious Southern troops to claim their prize. The fort remained a Confederate stronghold for the duration of the 1861-1865 war, despite frequent Union efforts to retake it – for a 587-day stretch between 1863 and 1865, determined Confederate soldiers kept Union land and naval forces at bay in what was one of the longest sieges in modern warfare. By February 1865, and with the fort virtually demolished and their warring effort almost at a losing end, the Confederates reluctantly abandoned Fort Sumter, leaving it to be re-claimed by Union forces. Today it remains as a preserved and protected national monument, established in 1948, one that attracts almost 1 million visitors a year.

FORT SUMTER FLAG || Rising the Stars & Stripes to start the day. Fort Sumter National Monument, Charleston Harbour, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.
Only accessible via a tour, Fort Sumter National Monument displays a spattering of original artillery pieces and fortifications while ample displays and a museum provide plenty of historical insights. That said, time given on-site, between the arrival and departure of the tour boat, doesn’t nearly allow for an in-dept look around – just being here amid the history is a large part of the site’s draw. Arriving on the first boat of this day gave its passengers the opportunity to assist with raising the large Stars And Stripes above the fort. Said to be an everyday reenactment of the historic April 14, 1865 hoisting of the distinctive 33-star Fort Sumter Flag by victorious Union troops, 4 years to the day after the fort’s surrender and on the very same day President Lincoln was assassinated in Washington D.C., it was an event that today proved rather photogenic.

ARTHUR RAVENEL JR BRIDGE, USS YORKTOWN & USS LAFFEY || The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge & USS Yorktown as seen from the waters of Charleston Harbour, Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.
Charleston’s unmissable eight-lane Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is, with a main span of 471 metres (1,546 feet), the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Opened in 2005, it connects the city’s downtown to Mount Pleasant & Patriots Point, now home today of the massive decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. Commissioned in 1943 and one of 24 Essex-class carriers built during World War II, she was the fourth US Navy ship to be called after the American Revolutionary War’s Battle of Yorktown (she was renamed Yorktown while under construction to commemorate the then USS Yorktown, lost at the Battle of Midway in June 1942). Decommissioned shortly after the war, during which she participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation, she was recommissioned in the mid-1950s before being decommissioned again for the final time in 1970. A museum ship here in Charleston since 1975, she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Beside Yorktown is the World War II destroyer USS Laffey. Another National Historic Landmark, exploits during the D-Day invasion in June 1944 and withstanding unrelenting kamikaze air attacks during the April-June 1945 Battle of Okinawa earned her the nickname ‘The Ship That Would Not Die’.

It’s not all antebellum charms in Charleston. Some structures even look like they predate the Civil War. HAJ Salon, Calhoun Street, Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

Pastel edifices and palm trees on King Street, Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

A carriage ride along King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

BATTERY & WHITE POINT PARK || White Point Park & Gardens, The Battery, Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.
The southeastern tip of the peninsula that Historic Downtown Charleston occupies is enclosed by The Battery, a landmark defensive seawall and exposed promenade that invariably takes the brunt of the gales that lash the city in times of bad weather. Named for a Civil War-era coastal defense artillery battery that once occupied the site, today it’s a popular a tourist destination renowned for its array of stately, mainly antebellum homes, many of which overlook the small, shaded picturesque White Point Park & Gardens that occupies the very tip of the peninsula. First laid out in the 1800s, the 5.7 acre public park, housing statues, military relics & memorials and a picturesque bandstand, is probably the most accessible of Charleston’s many lush gardens from its Historic Downtown.

Carriage Ride fronting City Market. Market Street, Historic Downtown Charleston, South Carolina. October 10, 2017.

CITY MARKET || City Market in Historic Downtown Charleston, South Carolina. October 9, 2017.
A Charleston landmark, the epicentre of the city’s Historic Downtown and inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975, the ochre-coloured City Market building, which fronts a continuous series of one-story market sheds, was constructed between 1788 and 1804 to house various markets (meat, vegetables, fruit, fish and various other other provisions). What can only be described as a bit of a tourist trap today, and whether you’re in the market for tacky souvenirs or not, a stroll from one end of the building to the other (it stretches for four blocks) is still a definite Charleston must-do (the market is also the location for Charleston’s Confederate Museum).

It was a 100-mile (160 kilometre) drive south from Charleston to the state line with neighbouring Georgia. It didn’t take us long to cover that distance. We didn’t see a state line sign on the busy roads over the Little Black River into Savannah, Georgia’s very own Deep South antebellum charmer, safe in the knowledge that we captured the Georgia state line picture on last year’s road trip. Georgia. State number 19 1 year ago, state number 9 this time around.

dMb US State Digest

AN ORIGINAL THIRTEEN || Province of Georgia, a crown colony established in 1733 with the founding of Savannah, the last of the Original Thirteen Colonies.


State Nicknames – Peach State; Empire State of the South. State Mottos – Wisdom; Justice; Moderation. Admitted To The Union – January 1788 (4th state). Population – 10.2 million Georgians (8th most populous state). Area – 59,400 sq miles (24th largest state). Capital – Atlanta. National Parks – 0. National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 1/0. Famous For – Peaches; Coca-Cola; UPS; CNN; hosting the 1996 Olympic Games; The Dukes of Hazzard; The Masters; R.E.M. (a college band done good from Athens); Martin Luther King Jr. (born in Atlanta in January 1929). State Highlights – Southern belle Savannah, Stone Mountain & hokey faux Swiss-German alpine Helen. Georgia Titbits – The state is named after King George II of Great Britain; it’s the largest US state east of the Mississippi; there are 15 Fortune 500 companies & 26 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in Georgia – if it were a stand-alone country, it would be the 28th largest economy in the world; at one stage in Georgia’s history, just prior to the Revolutionary War, almost half of the state’s population was made up of slaves; the 1972 movie Deliverance, a landmark movie noted for its ‘Dueling Banjos’ scene & trip by ill-prepared city slickers into unknown & potentially dangerous wilderness, was shot primarily in northeastern Georgia. “Where you goin’ city boy?”

Cornelia, Georgia, USA. September 22, 2016.

Georgia. State #9. Captured on the streets of Cornelia, northern Georgia on Day 26 of Epic US Road Trip 2016. September 22, 2016.

Jogging in Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.


Georgia (GA) || Often compared to refined Charleston, Savannah is a different, grittier kind of Southern belle. Established in 1733, this is the oldest settlement in Georgia – it was the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Its famed Historic District, south of the Savannah River, is where it’s all at, a rectangular grid of leafy squares, churches, graveyards, and gorgeous historic mansions lining oak-shaded streets. Savannah. It’s grand, it’s historic, it’s oh-so photogenic, it’s friendly and it’s – Boo!! – haunted. Seemingly.

“Bubbling with Southern charm,” the locals of Savannah are so “fun and talkative” you’d think it was an act. (It’s not.) One of our readers noted: “We met local folk within minutes of our arrival and are still in touch with them to this day.” The city feels eminently walkable and safe, but it’s not all azaleas and smiles: “For people who dig the spooky paranormal, Savannah is the place” for chilling ghost tours, although the “general laid-back atmosphere” and squares dripping with Spanish moss makes for a eminently “peaceful” setting. Top tip: “Talk to all the locals about the best spots to eat and hang out. We have found some amazing places this way!”

Conde Nast Traveler commenting on Savannah, number 6 on its 2017 list of ‘The Friendliest Cities in the US’.

Buildings in Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.

With its pedestrian-friendly layout and innovative urban design, Savannah serves as a balm for the senses. The city of Savannah inspires visitors with its emerald tree canopy, quaint cobblestone streets and majestic architecture. Take the time to wander off the beaten path and experience the history, beauty and charm of this beloved coastal city.


Savannah Historic District – Squares, Tything & Trust
Savannah’s Historic District, designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1966, is one of the largest such regions in the country. Roughly corresponding to the city limits prior to the American Civil War, it largely adheres to the original 1733 city plans as laid down by founder James Oglethorpe where wards, essentially neighbourhoods, were developed around a central square with each square surrounded by four residential (tything) blocks and four civic (trust) blocks. Today 22 of Savannah’s original 24 squares remain, leafy, shaded public spaces that define the city and most of which boast a central statue of some city bigwig or revolutionary hero.

CHIPPEWA SQUARE || Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.
The first of Savannah’s squares that I got to point a camera at, and interestingly where the opening ‘park bench’ scene from the 1994 Oscar-winning movie Forest Gump was shot, Chippawa Square was laid out in 1815 and is named in honour of the American soldiers killed in the Battle of Chippawa in Canada during the War of 1812. The centre of the park is dominated by a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of the city & state’s founder, General James Oglethorpe (1696-1785). Erected in 1910 to much fanfare and depicting the full dress of a British general of the period, Oglethorpe’s sword is drawn as he symbolically looks south towards his enemies in Spanish Florida. The four lions at the corners of the statue’s lower base hold shields on which appear, respectively, the coat of arms of Oglethorpe and the great seals of the Colony of Georgia, the State, and the City of Savannah.

CATHEDRAL OF ST JOHN THE BABTIST || The Cathedral of St John the Baptist on the edge of Lafayette Square, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.
The Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, the twin-spired, French Gothic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist dates to 1873 and was dedicated in 1876, although the spires were added in 1896. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, today it’s one of the Historic District’s standout structures.

Residences off Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.

FORSYTH PARK || Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.
Of all Savannah’s leafy & shaded public spaces, Forsyth Park gets the most attention. The largest public space in the Historic District, it was intended to be a single large park, the city’s first recreational park that would serve the growing southern portion of the city just as the smaller squares had served their individual wards. Laid out in the 1840s, today the park is 30 acres of recreation areas & paths lined by mammoth hurricane-resistant oak trees resplendent with drooping Spanish moss, that iconic Savannah scene. Suffice it to say, the park’s fountain, located towards its northern end, is invariably its most photographed feature. Said to be reminiscent of fountains in the Place de la Concorde in Paris, it was added in 1854 at a time when cities in North American were emulating the Parisian model of developing residential neighborhoods radiating out from a central green space.

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia. October 10, 2017.

Epic US Road Trip 2017 Home


DAY 01 110 miles || T.F Green Airport, Rhode Island, to New Haven, Connecticut

MIDDLE COLONIES || Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland & Washington D.C.

DAY 02 312 miles || New Haven to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

DAY 03 098 miles || Gettysburg to Lancaster, Pennsylvania

DAY 04 149 miles || Lancaster to Atlantic City, New Jersey (via Amish Country & Philadelphia)

DAY 05 201 miles || Atlantic City to Washington D.C. (via Lewes, Delaware & Annapolis, Maryland)

SOUTHERN COLONIES || Virginia, The Carolinas (North Carolina & South Carolina) & Georgia

DAY 06 206 miles || Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia (via Monticello, Virginia)

DAY 07 240 miles || Richmond to Manteo, North Carolina (via Williamsburg & Jamestown, Virginia)

DAY 08 003 miles || Outer Banks – Manteo, North Carolina

DAY 09 003 miles || Outer Banks – Manteo, North Carolina

DAY 10 038 miles || Outer Banks – Manteo, North Carolina

DAY 11 032 miles || Outer Banks – Manteo, North Carolina

DAY 12 274 miles || Manteo to Wilmington, North Carolina

DAY 13 192 miles || Wilmington to Charleston, South Carolina (via Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)

DAY 14 285 miles || Charleston to Macclenny, Florida (via Savannah, Georgia)

THE SOUTH || Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi & Tennessee

DAY 15 397 miles || Macclenny to Mobile, Alabama (via Tallahassee, Florida)

DAY 16 167 miles || Mobile to New Orleans, Louisiana (via southern Mississippi)

DAY 17 480 miles || New Orleans to Fort Payne, Alabama (via Meridian, Mississippi)

DAY 18 142 miles || Fort Payne to Sparta, Tennessee

DAY 19 121 miles || Sparta to Nashville, Tennessee

DAY 20 070 miles || Nashville

DAY 21 198 miles || Nashville to Knoxville, Tennessee

KENTUCKY & THE GREAT LAKES || Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan & New York

DAY 22 307 miles || Knoxville to London, Kentucky (via Maynardville & Sneedville, Tennessee; Coeburn, Virginia; Jenkins & Hyden, Kentucky)

DAY 23 376 miles || London to Dayton, Ohio (via Sandy Hook & Olive Hill, Kentucky & Greenfield, Ohio)

DAY 24 393 miles || Dayton to Erie, Pennsylvania (via Michigan & Toledo & Cleveland, Ohio)

DAY 25 430 miles || Erie to Lake George, New York (via Cooperstown, New York)

NEW ENGLAND / NORTHERN COLONIES & CANADA || Vermont, New Hampshire, Quebec & New Brunswick (Canada), Maine, Massachusetts & Rhode Island

DAY 26 143 miles || Lake George to Montpelier, Vermont (via Ticonderoga, Crown Point & Westport, New York & Burlington, Vermont)

DAY 27 213 miles || Montpelier to Franconia, New Hampshire (via Barre & Chelsea, Vermont & Lincoln, New Hampshire)

DAY 28 253 miles || Franconia to Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

DAY 29 326 miles || Quebec City to Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada

DAY 30 330 miles || Woodstock to Bar Harbor, Maine

DAY 31 244 miles || Bar Harbor to Portland, Maine

DAY 32 280 miles || Portland to Hyannis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

DAY 33 123 miles || Hyannis to T.F Green Airport, Rhode Island (via Providence, Rhode Island)

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