Cross Country Road Trip

Adventures across America

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What a treat to get to meet Dwight’s friends and see him in his new home environment.  We celebrated Dwight’s 19th birthday at dinner with Dwight and Elizabeth at Lantern, an excellent restaurant on Franklin Street. Dave and I had heard about Elizabeth since Dwight met her in South Africa in June and have even spoken with her about summer job possibilities. But we had never met so it was a treat to have an elegant dinner out, just the four of us.  The next day we tailgated at Dwight’s fraternity house, Pi Kapp, and got to meet some of his fraternity brothers and friends.Image

We then enjoyed an American fall tradition, the college football game–which goes to a new level in the South.  Even at UNC, which is in the ACC, not the SEC, and is not that great, it is a big deal.  UNC did not play well and lost pretty badly but it was all great fun to be at a football game in North Carolina with Dwight on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

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Before we left town, we were able to hang with Dwight talking philosophy late into the night (we really appreciated that he will do this with his parents, not just his roommates and friends!)

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and meet his suite mates and a few of his best friends.  We brought pizza and beer to the dorm suite and, miraculously, most of them showed up. Free food and beer and college kids are there!  It was so nice to finally meet the kids we had heard about and seen repeated pictures of on facebook. Dwight has bright, funny, interesting and cool friends.  We can now really picture him in his home environment–Morrison dorm, Pi Kapp fraternity and all of UNC campus.

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He continues to be involved in a dizzying array of activities–volunteering at Carboro Elementary School, a three year mentor to an area Latino high school sophomore via the Scholarship Latino Initiative, Carolina United, ski team, volleyball…. oh yeah, and his classes!!  He and Elizabeth, who is a student at UNC Charlotte, two hours away, are visiting each other most weekends as well.

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You can imagine that he was thrilled when we left the car there for him to use this school year.  I think all three of us had a nice set of visits and look forward to Thanksgiving when our entire family will be together at Sarah’s bungalow in Hollywood.  We haven’t all four been together since May when Sarah graduated and went off to Brazil before starting her job and Dwight went off to South Africa for the summer!   It will be a wonderful family reunion.  Dwight dropped us off at the airport, drove off in his new car (with a smile on his face), and we headed home to the Bay Area.

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The Low Country along South Carolina’s coast is a lush, grassy, tree-filled area of former rice plantations. Long, white,  powdery soft beaches

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have brought the tourists in over the years, making Myrtle Beach a prime destination for spring breakers and summer visitors.  But drive past the commercialized attempt at bringing Vegas or Disneyland to South Carolina and you are on a lovely coast.

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 Former plantation estates and homes have been made into state parks and gardens and seafood restaurants dot every small town.

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Pawleys Island is famous for rope hammocks and flourishes with good golf and tennis and the beautiful scenery.  

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After six weeks on the road and a long string of hotel rooms, we thoroughly enjoyed relaxing in the Low Country. We cooked in the kitchen of our dear friends Susan and Greg’s marvelous beach house.  We tried their recommended restaurants, biked up this gorgeous bike path to the state park and ran on the beach.  We even saw alligators!

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The miles of hard, flat sand were also perfect for bike rides along the ocean.  We also enjoyed a fun day at the Litchfield Tennis Resort complete with a backhand clinic from Joe the Pro and a three set Round Robin with South Carolina locals.  They were very friendly but definitely opinionated about Obama politics and how their stereotypes of California were that it was filled with “loonies.”  Of course, we expressed our appreciation for the beauty of their state and their friendliness but we can’t help but wonder about their willingness to live in an area with these signs posted every few miles!

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And we do wonder how if they complain so much about the government how the heck they have such good roads and the lowest gas prices anywhere!  We noticed both dramatically improve as we moved East away from California!

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After a wonderful respite at the beach, we drove north through South Carolina’s small towns dotted between endless cotton and soybean fields, tobacco sheds and forests and back to Chapel Hill for UNC Parents’ Weekend. 

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2 Comments

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A.

When we set out to drive thousands of miles across country, I told myself, I have got to collect something along the way.  When we were kids, my brother and I would look for license plates and get as many states as possible on our list. Kind of like our birder friends!  But license plates just seemed too boring, so I kept looking for a collectable item.  Not able to stop noticing license plates anyway, out of habit, I did find it funny that both Ohio and North Carolina claim the Wright Brothers as their own.  

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I finally noticed that we were seeing a lot of hilarious, strange and unusual road signs, so I started collecting them. The only problem with road signs, is that when you are traveling at high speeds on the Interstates, you can’t always get a good picture of the sign.  So some of my collection is just a written version of what I actually saw–I did not make one of these up, I swear!!

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B. 

SO, here’s the game. Look through them all and see if you can guess which state I saw the sign in.  I have put a letter below each picture of a sign or next to each sign I had to write out.  The answers are at the end!  Have fun!!

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C. 

D.   Building Sign–       God’s Country Cowboy Church

 E.  Billboard–          YARNS—2nd Friendliest Yarn Store in the Universe

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F.   (sign above says)    Dentures in One Day $99

G.  Highway Traffic Sign–      In Case of Flood, Climb Up

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H. 

I.  Billboard–        Home of the World’s Largest Czech Egg

J. Billboard–         Don’t Count on Your In-Laws for Retirement

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K.

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L.  

M.  Building Sign–        Montessori Christian Back to Basics Fundamental School

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N. 

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O. 

P.  Church Sign–             Cemetery Meeting   Fri. 7 pm

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Q.  

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 R. 

 

Answers to Sign Quiz:  A: Colorado, B: South Carolina, C: South Carolina, D: Colorado, E: Kansas, F: Missouri, G: Colorado (very sadly, in the canyon to drive in/out of Estes Park which flooded a few days after our visit), H: Tennessee, I: Kansas, J: Tennessee, K: North Carolina, L: Tennessee, M: California, N: Colorado, O: South Carolina, P: North Carolina,  Q: Kentucky,  R: South Carolina

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Sunrise over the ocean, backlit sunsets…a different perspective than we areImage

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used to from our Pacific vantage point in California and Costa Rica.  But oh, so beautiful.  We feel so spoiled but are really enjoying our stay in a perfect beach house on the white sand shore of South Carolina.  We will be here until Friday, when we head back to Chapel Hill for Dwight’s birthday and Parents’ Weekend at UNC.  A college football game, tailgate at his fraternity, dinners with his friends, getting to meet his girlfriend…a great weekend before we return to California.

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Sunrise, Litchfield SC

Sunrise over Litchfield Beach, South Carolina.

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We had a great time in Cape Hatteras but it was time to move further South.  Now Cape Hatteras fans, we found it a great place to do sports (see Dave and Ray below check out surfers…and girls!),

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relax, get to know North Carolina history and enjoy the natural beauty of the Carolina coast–all in one place.

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We learned a lot about Island Life, which is “its own little world,” we were told by several locals.  Yes, Ray told us, “this is the Bible Belt and this is the South,”  but the islanders have to stick together, all do multiple jobs, and have to be accommodating to all types of tourists to survive.  When Ray was a principal, he also bar tended on weekends at a local gourmet restaurant.  His girlfriend, Paulette, is a yoga instructor, a bartender in a restaurant and also bar tends for private events–weddings, rehearsal dinners, reunions, anniversaries.  East Coasters come to the Outer Banks for large family events and every house up on stilts sleeps a minimum of 12.  Many can hold up well over 20 visitors.

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The locals are very proud of their history and definitely do live through hurricane after hurricane.  They just board up windows, pack up and prepare. Then they come back.  This is their home and has been for generations–they are not going anywhere.  And they re-adjust.  The pier is torn to bits (watch the Nights of Rodanthe and the complete pier is in two scenes.  See it in my first Outer Banks blog shots in three, twisted pieces!) so they find other places to fish and land boats.  Beaches get washed away….there are other beaches to turn to.  Ray: “as the locals say–This is life on a sandbar. If you don’t like it, get off.”  Everything is constantly changing and they just adapt.

The locals are not crazy about the National Park Service, however, and make it known they were there first and would like the NPS to leave town.  Cape Hatteras is a National Seashore, so they all live inside a National Park.  Rangers patrol most everywhere and the park service develops regulations which most of the locals find ridiculous.  Beaches are closed to protect birds they say are more plentiful than ever.  From their point of view, rangers intrude on nature to justify their existence. We heard all this and then Dave and I stumbled upon a crowd watching NPS rangers collecting baby turtles from sand nests and putting them in water coolers to get them to the sea.  They showed baby turtles to the impressed crowd from Ohio and Jersey.  Hmmm…OK, maybe we were biased by our friend who is active in the Open Access to All Beaches movement, but seemed a bit much of human intervention in a natural process for us.

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With so much going on, we found the place fascinating. Despite biking all over the area, climbing 257 steps to the top of the famous lighthouse and running the beaches, I still wanted to discover more, and get better pictures.  Dave got to surf the Atlantic, when Ray took him out for his first ever longboarding adventure.  Small waves and long boards are perfect.  He’d love to surf Hatteras more in all size waves.  We’re trying to get Dwight out there for a school break trip and would love to go back with him someday for more Outer Banks fun and the whirlwind of life with Ray, the Ambassador of Hatteras!

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Time to move on.  Dave and I drove to the island’s end for the ferry to Ocracoke Island and then the next ferry over to the mainland of North Carolina.

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After thousands of miles across the US, our car with bicycles on top had a new adventure on a ferry boat.

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Captain Dave steered us right in to Ocracoke and then on the second ferry to Cedars Island, North Carolina.

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Back on the mainland, we drove through the Southern landscape of small towns, businesses right out of people’s homes and churches at every turn.  On to South Carolina!

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After travelling 4,000 miles, through 10 states and six National Parks, and five weeks of hotel rooms, we were ready to stop a bit and have some space.  We stayed for three days in a 2 bedroom bungalow with a kitchen in Buxton on Cape Hatteras, the southern end of the Outer Banks.  Good thing the weather was warm and calm. We were the only house in the neighborhood, indeed in the whole Outer Banks it seemed, not up on stilts!

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The Wright Brothers’ Memorial and museum was very cool and fascinating. The brothers were such an example of perseverance and determination.  Quite the inspiration. They moved from Ohio to Kitty Hawk for the project, built little cabins to live and work in and just did not give up, year after year.

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We checked out the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum at Hatteras Village which was fantastic.  Great displays and amazing history of the ships which have sunk off the Hatteras shores over the history of sea travel.  Nice architecture too. The USS Monitor is still below these rough waters, along with hundreds of other shipwrecks. Out from Cape Point, there are three more miles of sandbars and shallow water, called the Diamond Shoals, which are perilous for ships, despite Cape Hatteras’ famous lighthouse and modern technology.

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The beach scene in fall is all about “surf-fishing.”  This means fisherman from all over the country come in big trucks, get off-road permits and drive out in the soft, deep sand with poles, multiple coolers and chairs.  We observed with a complete lack of understanding.  Not our thing, but definitely popular.  The fisherman were everywhere.Image

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Red Drum, which this guy proudly displays, and all kinds of other fish I had never heard of are the targets.  Of course, they clearly thought us strange Californians who did not fish were an oddity as well!

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Our friend Ray is a big fish in this small town pond, so he was a wonderful guide.  Image

Ray has spent his whole life on the islands, including a career as a teacher and principal in the local schools. Now retired, he fills in as administrator when needed and gets to see all the families and kids he has known for generations.  Ray has a full-blooded Native American grandmother on each side and says his earlier ancestors landed on the islands in barrels–British pirates escaping the Spanish pirates!  He knows everyone and loves to tell their stories and family connections.  A life long surfer, he has everyone’s respect because he is a very, very good surfer (“The Silver Fox” our young waiter in one restaurant told me they call him). He built the modern, high tech elementary school and was the beloved principal there for many years.

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He is also hilarious and crazy so we had a blast. He told us the best local food to sample, beaches and museums to explore and activities to do.

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Ray took us out to Cape Point, the most Eastern point of the US sticking out into the Atlantic.  The sand is so thick and soft that only very large 4X4’s can navigate the beach and locals still let a lot of air out of the tires.  The Point becomes an island at high tide.

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