After our Labor Day-induced scheduling delay, we're finally on our way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. From Wilson, it's a relatively short 3 1/2 hour or so drive to our campground in Avon, roughly about 3/4ths of the way down the length of the Outer Banks. But to get there, you first have to cross a series of bridges. Our first bridge over the Alligator River was fairly low over the water, so they incorporated a drawbridge to get boat traffic from one side to the other. We've seen many drawbridges from New England down to Florida, but this was our first rotating drawbridge! Instead of being raised and lowered, this roadway was rotated 90 degrees, allowing boats to funnel their way through 2 side-by-side channels, then it's rotated back and locked into place. Kinda neat.
Our next bridge brought us from the mainland over to the Outer Banks proper, and it was an eyeopener! It's the Washington Baum Bridge, and whoever designed this bridge should be shot. We just call it the Porpoise Bridge now, because that's what your RV or car does for approximately a mile or more. Each short section of the bridge is badly mated to the next, which causes this porpoising effect. It's disturbing to say the least. Watch the video below. It was even worse experiencing it in person.
Safely ashore, we get our first views of the Outer Banks as we take a hour-long drive down Rt-12, the Outer Banks Scenic Highway. With the added height of our motorhome, we get a slightly better view of the sand dunes to the east, and Pamlico Sound to the west. The Sound is relatively quiet, but the surf is up on the Atlantic Ocean side due to Hurricane Larry far offshore churning up huge waves that come crashing ashore.
Our destination is Sands of Time RV campground in Avon. Before the British came, the town was known as Kinnakeet. I kinda prefer the original name, don't you? It's a small campground with level, grassy sites, but they are relatively short in length. I'm not sure that a 45-foot diesel could back in all the way, but it would be close if it could. This campground doesn't have the easier access to the water on either side, but it's $20 less per night than those that do, and it's just a short drive down Rt-12 to get to beach access. We nestle Enterprise into site 19, a corner lot with a bit more privacy than some of the others, and it's time to go exploring.
The drive down the rest of the Outer Banks in the Mini (with the top down, of course) is highlighted by our first glimpse of the famed Cape Hatteras lighthouse, a place we will visit later in the week, and a number of quaint towns and villages until we make it to the southern end where the ferry to the mainland resides. The ferry is not on our itinerary this trip, but will be next time we hit the Outer Banks. One appeal of the Outer Banks (for us) is the almost complete lack of chain stores and restaurants along it's entire length. We prefer the small Mom and Pop eateries when we travel, and there are no shortage of them on the Outer Banks. Our first destination for a meal is the Cockeyed Clam, and it didn't disappoint. Great seafood, decent portions, and reasonable prices. The waitstaff is very friendly and everybody checks in on you to see if you're doing OK.
The disappointment early on is the impact of COVID on these small Mom and Pop establishments. Many restaurants are take-out only due to the limited size of their dining rooms, and too many are closed mid-week because they cannot hire enough people to keep them open on slower days. There is a definite lack of vibrancy in these smaller towns due to the pandemic flaring up again.
Our next day was a beach day, which excited Grover to no end. We still don't know if he's a “swimming” dog or not, but he does seem to love to get his feet into the surf. After a quick dip into the water up to our knees (Hurricane Larry's surf is way too strong to dive in) we settle into our beach chairs on shore for some relaxation time.
For about 5 minutes.
One thing we didn't plan on was the constant swarm of small, biting horseflies which make their home on the beach. Nasty little creatures designed to ruin any day, and they seemed to revel in ruining ours. Beating a hasty retreat while being bitten all the way back to the Mini, we head back to the confines of the motorhome for the rest of the day.
Our next visit (after some minor repairs that I needed to do on our 36LA and tow dolly) was to Cape Hatteras lighthouse. While the climb up the steps was closed (ongoing restoration) - which probably saved one or both of us from a heart attack - the visit was interesting and educational. There is a great history to the Outer Banks of shipwrecks and rescues (and a few war stories) that make this tour very entertaining. Also of note was the story of the movement of the fully-intact lighthouse half a mile from an eroding part of the shoreline in 1999 to it's present location. This feat of engineering was so impressive that sensors on the lighthouse which were designed to alert the engineers if the structure tipped as little as one half of one degree never uttered a sound!
We had intended to take our two-person (and one beagle) inflatable kayak out into Pamlico Sound the next day (as the waters are much quieter there), but winds whipped up into small watercraft advisory levels that morning. And we are DEFINITELY a small watercraft. Maybe next visit.
Still, another great feature due to the narrow nature of the Outer Banks is the ability to see both sunrises and sunsets over the water without any land in the distance. While our day for a sunrise was blocked by some low clouds, the sunset was spectacular. Grover enjoyed it, we met some nice people through him (he's a babe and kid magnet), and the day ended on a beautiful note.
Our last day was the primary reason why I wanted to visit the Outer Banks, because I'm such an aviation buff. Kitty Hawk is at the northern end of the Outer Banks, and it's where Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first powered airplane in history. Our admission to the National Park was free due to our Golden Age Access Pass, and we have free range to wander the site where mankind began flying. The monuments memorializing the first flights on December 17, 1903, are nicely done, with stone markers showing each successive length and duration of all four flights, and who flew them. We walked the entire length of the last flight of 852 feet. Took us a bit longer than the 59 seconds the Wright flyer was in the air, but we made the effort!
Our last stop in the park was the Wright Brothers Memorial on top of Kill Devil Hill, the location where the brothers conducted most of their glider experiments to determine how to best control an aircraft. Having climbed the pathway up to the memorial, one can only imagine the back-breaking work needed to haul large gliders capable of carrying a man up the sandy dune many times each day in windy conditions. Better them than me! All-in-all, it was a fitting end to our Outer banks adventure.
Time to start heading back to Georgia in order to watch our grandson, Jace, while he has his first Fall break from kindergarten, but on the way we stop back in Asheville at Rutledge Lake RV Campground for another visit with Debbie and Chuck Martin and Lynn Wells, another former Xeroid I used to support many years ago. Ate at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, which has an interesting menu if you're adventurous in what you eat, or they make a pretty good ½ pound burger if you're not. Four of us had the burger, and one of us had the pizza. Make your own conclusions.
A week with the Mook is next up, and a stay at a local Corps of Engineers park which will be new for us. Stay tuned!
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.