East Coast Road Trip 2011

 St. Mary's & Savannah (August 12 - 15)

 Our first night was spent in St Mary's, just across the Florida - Georgia border. We stayed at an old B&B called The Spencer House Inn. We arrived late in the afternoon and it rained for most of the evening, so we only had time for a quick look around, although Paul went for a short bike ride the next morning.

 Next day, we drove up to Savannah, where we stayed out by the airport, mostly because the hotels in the downtown area were very expensive.

 Savannah is a lovely old colonial town, with an interesting waterfront and wonderful old green squares laid out by the founder, General James Oglethorpe. It's strange to realize that this was an English town, started long before there was an "America" - in 1733 to be precise.

The Savannah Waterfront

 On our second day, we took a trip to Hilton Head, which Kris wanted to see. Although it was well manicured and VERY tidy (it reminded us of Walt Disney World) it really wasn't very photogenic or even terribly interesting

On our last morning in Savannah, we took a walking tour of the Historic District with the wonderfully entertaining "Savannah Dan" who gave us a great introduction to the city.

Kris takes a break while checking our location and one of the many green squares

One of the many beautiful houses in downtown Savannah, as described by "Savannah Dan"

 Presbyterian Church, Savannah and Savannah Cathedral

Hunting Island, SC and Beaufort, SC (August 15 & 16)

 We had planned (and had paid) to stay in a campsite at Hunting Island State Park for two nights. The campsite  which was right on the beach was  very attractive, but the first night we were almost eaten alive by the mosquitoes so on the second evening, we broke camp and drove to the nearby town of Beaufort for a night of air conditioned (and mosquito free) comfort in a Quality Inn.

  The beach at Hunting Island and the deer which came to investigate our campsite

 The beach at Hunting Island

 Charleston (August 17 - 19)

 Charleston had been on our "must visit" list for a very long time. When we were working, it was always just a bit too far for a weekend and not quite exotic enough for a longer visit, so we were pleased when we finally made it. We stayed at an old hotel in downtown Charleston, the Courtyard Inn, which of course is so named because it's built around a courtyard.

 The Courtyard Inn, Charleston, SC

We started at the Charleston Museum (no photos allowed) which was a strange mixture of ancient museum exhibits (a stuffed giraffe, a whale skeleton) and exhibits about historic Charleston, which is what we had really come to see. Kris even tried on a Civil War (or "War between the States" as it's known in these parts) outfit. Rather suits her, I think.

Ready for the Ball (or perhaps for Church)

  Charleston, like Savannah, has many wonderful old buildings and we took another walking tour (although without the same flair as "Savannah Dan" to see some of the best.

A private house with wonderful exposed brick and the original market, built to look like a Greek temple

A wonderful window detail - a shutter catch in the shape of a bunch of grapes and the Dock Street Theatre

We were very impressed with the Dock Street Theatre (see above) and went back the same evening to see a production of "South Pacific".

We enjoyed it a lot - here's a review: http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/jul/31/enchanting-south-pacific-footlight-players-dedicat/

The Nathaniel Russell House (which we toured) and the Greek Temple style Customs House

The Nathaniel Russell house has been extensively restored so it's very pretty inside, but it can be difficult to imagine how people actually lived in these houses and poor slaves who actually ran the house seemed to have been banished out of sight altogether. The next day, we visited another old house, the Aiken-Rhett House.

The Aiken - Rhett House - the slave quarters at the back of the house and the street view

The Aiken - Rhett home has largely been left unrestored and as it was mostly left empty for many years, it's much easier to see how the house actually "worked". The slave quarters at the back of the house are also open to the public so it's possible to imagine what their lives must have been like.

"Sweetgrass Baskets" sold all over Charleston, are a traditional art form brought from Africa

On our final morning in Charleston, we visited Fort Sumter, which was the place where the American Civil War actually started. It was originally built to protect Charleston Harbor, but the Confederate forces wanted control, so the Union could not blockade the port. After the Union forces refused to surrender, the Confederate army shelled the fort and when the Union could not relieve the fort, the Union forces surrendered. The Confederate forces held the fort against  many attacks over the next four years and only abandoned the fort once Charleston had fallen.

The remaining walls of Fort Sumter (with tour boat moored beyond)

One of the cannons used during the siege of the fort and the remains of the parade ground

On the way back, we had a nice view of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, opened in 2005, which connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant

Moored at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, is the impressive, but decaying USS Yorktown, which has been at this location since 1975.

USS Yorktown, rusting away after thirty five years of benign neglect. 

Myrtle Beach, Wilmington and Morehead City (August 20 & 21)

After leaving Charleston, we spent a night at Myrtle Beach and the next night at Morehead City. Parts of Myrtle Beach were very nice with a beautiful beach and very nice homes, but the commercial part of Myrtle beach was spoiled with a mixture of cheap hotels, amusement arcades and tacky eating places. Not very photogenic at all.

Myrtle Beach

We drove up the coast, taking a ferry from Southport and stopping at Wilmington for a break.

On the ferry from Southport (that's our CRV on the left with the bike on the back)

Wilmington Waterfront

USS North Carolina across the river from WIlmington

There wasn't a lot to see in Morehead City, although it had a good mall. Nearby Beaufort had a nice historic district with an interesting old waterfront.


Traditional boat builder and restaurant, Beaufort, NC

Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks (August 22 & 23)

 Another (longer) ferry ride to Ocracoke Island, which is a true island - no bridges. There is one small town with none of the usual shops and restaurants (no McDonalds, no Starbucks). It has the feel of Key West thirty years ago.

Entering Ocracoke Harbor

 Ocracoke Harbor and the Thurston House B&B, where we stayed

The graves of four English sailors who died off the coast during WWII and the Ocracoke lighthouse

Beaches of Ocracoke Island

We spent some of our time pottering around the village and spent one afternoon on the beautiful white sandy beach which runs  along the east coast of the island.  During our second day, Hurricane Irene beame a real threat and it seemed likely that it would come close to Okracoke Island. Late the same day, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for the next day and we knew we had to leave early the next day. 

Norfolk, VA and Colonial Williamsburg (August 24 & 25)

 There was surprisingly little traffic on the roads this morning, given that the island was under mandatory evacuation. We easily caught the ferry at 8:00 am, although there were two other ferries waiting as well. As we were making good time, we stopped to admire the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which was moved inland a few years ago, as it was in danger of being washed away.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Our next stop was the place were the Wright Brothers first flew a powered aircraft, Kitty Hawk.

The point where powered flight was first achieved and the Wright Brothers' Memorial at the top of the nearby hill

A reproduction of the Wright Brothers first successful powered plane

 We spent the night in Norfolk but didn't really have time to explore the city.

 The next day, we drove to Colonial Williamsburg, which was at one time, the Capital of Virginia, before the government moved to Richmond. Over the years, the town fell into decline, until the 1930's when John D. Rockefeller was persuaded to invest heavily in the restoration of the remaining buildings and to re-create some of the missing buildings, to show the town as it was before the War of Independence. All of the shops and restaurants are staffed with actors dressed in period costume who act in character as though it is just before the War.

The Governor's Mansion

 Inside the Governor's Mansion

The Parish Church and a horse drawn carriage

 A shoe maker and a spinner

 The Court House and a few minutes with the Great Man himself, George Washington

Well worth a day - we could have spent longer.

Staunton, VA (August 26, 27 & 28)

 Although the weather was still perfect, Norfolk and Richmond both seemed a little close to the oncoming hurricane for comfort, so we headed further West, to a town called Staunton, a place we had never heard off before. However, it had a well recommended B&B and the B&B had space, so our choice was made !

The center of Staunton turned out to be quite interesting and although the weather was pretty miserable the first day, it improved greatly on the second.

Staunton Main Street

 Staunton had several things to see, and we spent time at The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and then drove along the Skyline Drive of the Shenandoah National Park.

Childhood home of President Woodrow Wilson

A bust of Woodrow Wilson and his Presidential Limousine, which he bought from the Government after leaving office

Great images used to sell War Bonds during World War 1

Views from the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park

We also went to see "The Tempest" performed at the local theatre, but of course, they didn't allow photos.

Monticello and Richmond, VA (August 29 & 30)

 Once the hurricane had passed, we headed back to Richmond, which had been quite badly affected by the storm, but the tourist areas were largely unaffected. On our way to Richmond, we stopped at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Monticello, home of President Thomas Jefferson

 Jefferson's Tomb and his statue

In Richmond, we stayed at the Jefferson Hotel, a very grand building which has been at the center of Richmond's social life for over a century.

 The Jefferson Hotel, outside and inside the lobby

Jefferson's statue in the hotel lobby

We spent the morning exploring the Capitol Building and the (very hard to find) Museum of the Confederacy.

Capitol Building, Richmond

Statue of Washington, under the Capitol Dome

 The original House of Representatives (now a museum) and a model of the Capitol Building created by Jefferson in Paris 

 The White House of the Confederacy

In the afternoon, we visited the impressive Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - a great collection of art, sculpture and art forms.

A Rousseau jungle scene and a very clever dog

A Warhol original (the lady was one of the benefactors of the museum) and a sheep sculpture

 Annapolis & Mount Vernon, MD, August 31

 After leaving Richmond, we stopped at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, before driving on to Annapolis.

The main house at Mount Vernon

The greenhouse at Mount Vernon and Kris takes a break in the garden

The view from the front of the main house across the Potomac and the tomb of George Washington

We then drove on to Annapolis, which is a pretty little town with lots of history associated with sailing and the sea.

The view from the dock at Annapolis

Annapolis Happy Hour

Historic Main Street in Annapolis

 Fort Lee, NJ, September 1

We drove most of the day and checked in to a Best Western in Fort Lee, NJ. We were tempted to drive into Manhattan but the traffic was awful so we stayed in. Kris went out and got her hair cut locally and I worked on this blog !

Newport,  RI, September 2 & 3

 On our way to Newport, we detoured via Mystic Seaport for a quick break, but we didn't pay to go in ($24 !).

The main reason to go to Newport was to visit some of the spectacular summer homes or "cottages"  as they were known, built by the very rich and powerful in the late nineteenth century, The biggest and most famous is "The Breakers", built by one of the Vanderbilt family.

"The Breakers"

The view from the balcony of "The Breakers"

 As usual, no photography was allowed inside, but we were suitably impressed (or perhaps even overwhelmed) by the lavish and outrageous decorations.

 The second home we visited, also built by another member of the Vanderbilt family, was "The Marble House"

 "The Marble House"

"The Marble House "plaque and the Japanese Tea Garden built in the house grounds

 Of course, there were many other grand houses to be seen, some still occupied, some open for viewing, but we decided that two was enough for us.

Newport homes

Cape Cod, MA September 4 & 5

 We drove to a small town called Dennis on Cape Cod to stay with a friend of Kristine's, Beth Patoske, who Kris had worked with at Walt Disney World. We used Beth's condo as a base to explore the small towns and islands of Cape Cod.

Kristine & Beth

Our first day trip was to the island of Martha's Vineyard, just off the coast of Cape Cod. The ferry takes about forty minutes and then we took the local bus to explore the island.

 The Island Queen ferry to Martha's Vineyard. It was a windy day, as you can see from the sails and the flag on the sailboat

The beaches are the main attraction for visitors staying here, but for day trippers like us, it was the nineteenth century buildings and cottages which are carefully preserved all around the island which have the biggest impact.

But the sea and shore are never far away

Cape Cod, September 6,7 & 8 

 The next three days, the weather turned cold and rainy and we really couldn't get out very much. We happy (and grateful) that we could stay at Beth's condo while the bad weather blew over. The one trip we did manage was to Provincetown at the every end of the Cape. It's a very eclectic town - very much an artist colony with strong Gay overtones. It looked like a place worth spending some time, but the weather was still pretty awful, as you can see from the pictures.

Provincetown on a wet, overcast day

 Provincetown showing some color on a dingy day

 A restaurant advertising the local specialty 

We also managed a quick trip to the (very small) JFK Museum in Hyannis and the JFK Memorial overlooking the Kennedy compound .

The JFK Museum and JFK Memorial, both in Hyannis, Mass

At least the bad weather didn't stop us from meeting Beth's parents for dinner one evening and on our last night, we managed to persuade Beth to come out with us for dinner, even if she wouldn't eat the lobster.

 Beth's parents, Mike and Mary, at Beth's condo for dinner 


 Finally, dinner with Beth and Lobster as well ! 

Woodstock, Vermont,  September 9,10, 11 

 Although Beth had been very gracious about our staying with her, after six days and the weather finally improving, we thought it was time to get out out of her house and get going again. Thank you, Beth, for your hospitality. We really appreciate your patience and kindness.  

 The remnants of Hurricane Irene had devastated Vermont and we really wondered if it was worth going, but the weather was improving and we thought it was worth a try, so we made reservations at a B&B, The Ardmore, in Woodstock. On our way to Woodstock, we stopped at Concord, the State Capital of New Hampshire, for lunch.

Concord, New Hampshire

The Capitol Building, Concord New Hampshire

We had read about the famous "covered bridges" of New Hampshire and Vermont so we spent some time finding  and photographing three bridges. 

 The longest covered bridge in the US, still in heavy use today

Another, quieter, bridge, but still in use

And a third bridge, off the main road, used only for foot traffic

 As we saw later, many of these bridges have been damaged or destroyed in the recent floods, so it was nice to see some of the bridges undamaged.

 It will be a long time, if ever, before this bridge is used again

Finally, we arrived at The Ardmore Inn, Woodstock. Although they had been without power for a short time and without water for several days, the Inn was fully functional by the time we arrived. However, damage caused by the floods was very visible and some hotels were still closed.

The Ardmore Inn and street damage inside the town of Woodstock

However, the center of town and The Green (with Art Festival) was undamaged

Charlotte (our host at The Ardmore) serves Kris a VERY substantial breakfast - enough to last all day

Next day, we walked to the nearby Marsh - Billings - Rockefeller National Park. The highlight was a tour of the mansion owned by Billings and restored by Rockefeller (who married a Billings who had inherited the house). Very pretty, but of course no photos allowed inside.

The Billings Mansion

The garden with the house in the distance

 We used the rest of the day to explore the area. Several roads were blocked and bridges were closed so we sometimes had to backtrack several times to get where we wanted to be, but the weather was beautiful anfd the scenery very pretty, so it wasn't a great hardship.

Rural Vermont

"The Pogue", an enlarged natural lake inside the park

"The Pogue" just showing the first signs of Autumnal color

On our final day, we went back again to the National Park and hiked around the extensive grounds, which were used both for recreation and to develop modern farm and forestry management techniques.

We saw all kinds of fungi along the forest floor

Moss covered fallen trees

Snapping turtles enjoying the sunshine

A lone turtle and the view from the top of Mount Tom

The view from the top

 September 12, 13 & 14 - Burlington, Vermont

 We took the short drive to the State Capital of Vermont, Montpelier and stopped for a coffee and a wander round. The Capitol Building was open, so we took a tour.

State Capitol, Montpelier, Vermont

House of Representatives

Attractive public buildings in Montpelier

We made a stop at Ben & Jerry's for the "tour" and free ice-cream, both of which were disappointing, which was surprising, and then on to Burlington and Shelburne, where we were staying. We had carried my bicycle half way around the Eastern Seaboard, but I had only used it a couple of times, so it was time to take a ride.

Our B&B in Shelburne "The Heart of the Village" and time for some exercise

The next day, we visited "The Shelburne Farms", a large estate of farms put together at the end of the nineteenth century by a rich doctor, Dr Webb, who was also Chairman of a railway company. He also married a Vanderbilt, so money wasn't a problem. It was his country estate but he ran it as a model farm. Today, the family home is an Inn and the farm is run for educational purposes.

The main farm building complex - still in use today

The rolling (manmade) landscape designed by Olmsted, who also designed Central Park

The family home of Dr. Webb, now an Inn

Interiors of the Inn

It's still a working farm. Discussing the finer points of grass mowing and making cheddar cheese in the dairy

We spent the next day at the Shelburne Museum. Originally, this was a collection of buildings from all over the country, but the daughter of Mrs Webb, Electra,  who's husband built the estate which now the Shelburne Farms, left her various collections to the museum which now houses them inside some of the restored buildings. The museum also has special exhibitions from time to time.

 A restored lighthouse and the Webb Gallery

 Circus memorabilia

 The Ticonderoga, a steam ferry which operated on nearby Lake Champlain.In 1955, it was dragged two miles overland to this spot

 The engine controls of The Ticonderoga and the upper deck

The New York apartment of Electra was dismantled and shipped here, together with all the original artifacts, including some original Monet and Manet paintings.

Original paintings by Monet and Manet

 After leaving the museum, we went into downtown Burlington and ate dinner at a busy French Bistro, Leunigs.  Good meal !

 September 15 & 16 - Albany and Pennsylvania

 The next day, the weather was terrible, with heavy rain most of the day. Although the scenery was pretty, the weather was so bad we just kept driving, stopping only for coffee and bathroom breaks. We drove to Albany in New York and stayed in a very ordinary Best Western in the center of town, just a few feet from the freeway. We had a drive around Albany the next day, but nothing caught our eye and after doing some shopping, we kept going to Pennsylvania and our friends Debbi & David Markowitz.

September 17 & 18 - Hawley, Pennsylvania 

Debbi cooked an elaborate meal for my birthday, complete with Union Jack birthday fruit cake (which Kris and both like !).

The next day, which WAS my birthday, so we went for a bike ride together, something we haven't done in years. It was a beautiful day and we rode about 12 miles along a bike trail before stopping for ice-cream

On the way back to Debbi's, we stopped to see her brother Seth, who was cooking at a local restaurant that night. As soon as we arrived, the power failed and we sat for an hour waiting for the lights to come on, which they eventually did.

September 19 & 20 - Washington and home !

After leaving Debbi. we drove to Washington DC, staying at College Park, right on The Beltway. That evening, we drove into the city to see the new Memorial to Martin Luther King. Quite impressive !

And the next day - we left. We had planned to go to the National Gallery of Art for a few hours, but the weather (and the traffic) was horrendous, so we decided to skip the National Gallery and head home. Once we were on I-95, we just kept going. We stayed the night in the middle of nowhere (actually Manning, SC) and next day, pushed on home, arriving in the early afternoon.

So, five weeks and five days and 5,243 miles later, our first US Road Trip was over !