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  1. Default MA to NC via Blue Ridge Pkwy & Outer Banks

    Hello All:

    I have been lurking around this site for a few days and I noticed that there is a LOT of expertise here, so I joined to ask for some help and ideas.

    In mid-May I am taking a road trip to visit relatives in NC the Grantsboro and Oriental area near Pamlico Sound. I live in Massachusetts in the greater Boston area and have taken 2 trips to visit NC years ago. I always took the most direct route, which was 95 South and made a bee-line to where I needed to go. Now, that I am more "mature" and have the time, I'd really like to take a more scenic route.

    I recently found a site that described the Shenandoah Valley and in particular the "Blue Ridge Parkway" with the "Natural Bridge" and I decided that I was going to see that on the way down to NC. That will be the first leg of the trip. I then plan to visit with my relatives for a few days and then, on my way back to Boston, I would love to come home via the Outer Banks.

    This I also did in my college days but, I did it at break neck speed. I have the time to relax now and so that's my plan. I'd like to see (again) Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Ocracoke Island with the lighthouse and actually, if the bridges are all intact I'd LOVE to follow the outer islands as far as I can, seeing all of the lighthouses. Then I suppose it is back on to 95 North and home again for me. (unless anyone has better ideas for my northern ride)

    For time planning and road-way suggestions, I have used the Travelocity road trip planner (got the link here, thanks guys) and have my southern route kind-of worked out. It has me taking 3 days from Boston, MA to Grantsboro, NC via PA and down through to the Blue Ridge Parkway, afterwhich I head east to Pamlico Sound.
    Next, I spend 3 to 4 days visiting with the family and then I'll be taking 3 days to get back home.

    I have not even started planning the return trip (the coastal route). It is now only a vague idea I have. I have approx 10 days for this adventure and I am looking forward to it.

    What I would like and would greatly appreciate, is for any folks that have driven the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped to see the Natural Bridge to give me some pointers. Then, any suggestions for the return trip via the outer banks of NC and then up though VA and northward would be a "bonus".

    Oh, I would also love suggestions for BBQ places on my inland leg and on the coastal trip, suggestions for good seafood would be welcome too! Nice places for overnight accommodations will be gratefully accepted. I will also visit the Boston AAA office in a few days for some tips from them too but your forum had so many good ideas for other drivers that I had to ask the "experts"!

    On another note: On this trip, and for the first time, I will be a single female traveling alone, my husband can't take the time off from work and is a tad nervous about me being by myself, but I don't think that will be too much of an issue. Heck, I have taken 3 years of kick-boxing, (and I am rather good at it too). I do not believe that I will be a 'pushover' if necessary but, I really do not expect any trouble anyway however, I am not oblivious to the fact that a female alone on the road has to take precautions. So, I would probably tend to want to stick to the more well traveled roads and not going too far 'afield'. I also have had my car given the 'once over' by the experts (cost a small fortune) so, I am certain that the car (an Infiniti G35) is roadworthy.

    If any fellow 'adventurers' would like to offer suggestions and ideas I am open to all!
    Thanks in advance for any help offered!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Three Years of Kick-boxing would impress me!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mass_crazygrrl View Post
    In mid-May I am taking a road trip to visit relatives in NC
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!
    I recently found a site that described the Shenandoah Valley and in particular the "Blue Ridge Parkway"
    Here are some more tips about this area.
    For time planning and road-way suggestions, I have used the Travelocity road trip planner (got the link here, thanks guys)
    We are going to do some more beta testing of new features with that one -- so I would like to know what you think of it.

    On another note: On this trip, and for the first time, I will be a single female traveling alone,
    Most of us on this Forum are solo travelers.

    Here are some solo tips:
    Overview and a poll
    Solo Camping tips
    Report from first-timer solo traveler

    Happy Planning!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Northern Minnesota


    Sounds like a good trip! We we're just down in that area a couple of months ago driving around for a couple of weeks. As far as the outer banks go, if you have time, i would make my way to Cedar Island NC, jump on the ferry to Ocracoke Island, and head north! Stop and tour the Hatteras Light, and make sure to stop at the Wright Bros. National Memorial, for us probably the most awesome stop in our 4 state 2500 mile cruise. From there you can drive all the way to the north end of the island of you have time. The Currituck Beach Light is another fine lighthouse to visit. Backtrack back to Kitty Hawk and head north on hwy 158 back towards Boston. (stop in Atlantic City, maybe win enough to pay for your trip!)

    Have a good trip!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Float Like a Butterfly This Time

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There's no need to wait until the Blue Ridge/Shenandoah to start enjoying something different on this trip. Head wide around NYC on I-84 and then come down through the Delaware Water Gap on US-209. Then I-81 will bring you to the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. Now the thing you have to remember about the mountain roads is that the speed limit is often 35 mph, so you will not be racking up miles like you're used to on the 80 mph parking lot that is I-95. Still, three days should see you comfortably to Pamlico Sound.

    Coming back, look forward to the ferry ride from Cedar Island to Okracoke, a couple of hours of almost ocean cruise, and a shorter ferry from Ocracoke Island over to Hatteras. Be sure to make the side trip into Manteo to visit the Roanoke Colony site, and then continue up to Norfolk, across the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, up the Delmarva Peninsula with a stop at Chincoteague Island and a last ferry ride over really open water from Lewes, DE to Cape May, NJ before making the final run for home.

    If it sounds like I've made this trip before, I have. Jump into the middle of this report but also read on to find at least one alternative to going through New York City on the way home


  5. #5

    Default A few thoughts

    Hello Masscrazy,

    Sounds like a fun trip, and the planning is a big part of the fun, isn't it?

    I haven't taken the time to figure approximate distances, and it's not clear where you'd leave the Parkway down towards NC, but simply including much of the Skyline Drive (SD) plus the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) makes me think 3 days on the trip down is a bit of a stretch. If there are stretches of the SD and BRP with speed limits over 45 mph, it's news to me. Many intervals are 35 mph speed posted. If your transit includes a weekend, it may be crowded with traffic and quite slow going. It's really not a good through route, to be perfectly honest with you. As you continue to deliberate, assume 30 mph or so for the SD/BRP segments, as you'll want to stop at many pull-offs to catch the view.

    Also, be advised that from northern VA on down to around Roanoke, VA, I-81 runs within 10-15 miles of SD/BRP so it's possible to hit your favored stretches and sights and jump back on the "superslab" to make some time. n fact, Natural Bridge itself is right on I-81, and the Shenandoah Valley provides wonderful scenery and views of the Blue Ridge Mts all the way from northern VA, past Nat Bridge, to Roanoke. At Roanoke, you could jump on the BRP for a stretch to I-77 at Fancy Gap or go farther to Jefferson or Deep Gap, NC if you hadn't had enough of BRP travel by then. Also, US 29 parallels the SD/BRP to the east of the mountains, but is older highway and is particularly congested in the Charlottesville, VA area.

    Again, not knowing where in SW Va or in NC you'd contemplate getting off the parkway, I'll just note that from Boone-Deep Gap, NC to here in Raleigh is nearly 200 miles (3.5 hrs or so) and Raleigh-Grantsboro would be another 2.5-3.0. You'd want to avoid passing through the Raleigh area during either rush hour, as that could easily add another hour to your trip along I-40.

    Leaving Grantsboro, you have two very nice choices: drop south and cross the Neuse River on the Minnesott Beach ferry, thence east on NC 101 to US 70 to the Cedar Island Ferry over to Ocracoke, or north from Grantsboro to the Pamlico River ferry, thence east on US 264 to Swanquarter where the ferry takes you to Ocracoke. Of the two routes, the former takes you through rather more developed areas and would allow you to stop at Harker's Island for at least a view of the Cape Lookout lighthouse (the boat ride over and back would likely take several hours), but the latter route is coastal NC at its finest: miles and miles of farmland, fishing villages, crab pots stacked everywhere, and pine forests. Once on Ocracoke, the Hatteras ferry gets you to Hatteras Island and bridges take you the rest of the way past the heavily developed Nags Head-Southern Shores strip (and, worthy of note, it's best to avoid this on a weekend if you can). From US 158 north of Southern Shores, you'd take NC 168/VA 168 up into the heavily-populated Tidewater region, where you'd choose between heading up I-64 to either I-95 at Richmond or US 17/301 past DC to Baltimore and I-95, or take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel/Eastern Shore/Cape May ferry route (reservations advised) on up to southern New Jersey. Guess which one I'd take? Truckers don't call I-95 north of Richmond, VA the Ho Chi Minh Trail for nothing. You've got the time, take the bridges/ferries and leave the HCM Trail for the trucks.

    Enjoy the planning and have a safe trip. You owe us a Report, OK?


  6. Default You folks are awesome!

    Thanks so much for all of the great ideas!

    Yeah, I loved the kickboxing classes but now, because of the wear and tear on my knees, I had to give that up. Sad for me, as I was having so much fun doing it. I work as a director in the high tech industry, can you say STRESS? So, kicking the daylights out of boxing dummys and sparring with partners was positively therapeutic for me. Now, I go to a regular gym and run on a treadmill and work out with weights. I am athletic still, but I do miss kicking the stuffing out of the punching bags at the dojo. Ah well, as I have said before, getting old is NOT for wimps. :)

    Now that I have read some of the responses about traveling alone, I have been able to allay many of my husbands' fears that, plus the fact I have promised to, "phone home" daily so that he will know that I am A-OK and, more importantly, where I am.

    I have taken your advice to heart and I did notice that the Travelosity trip planner had me going at a much slower rate than I would probably move so, I have advanced the mileage to closer to 450 miles a day. That should allow me a chance to be a tourist as well as putting as many miles on as I am used to (although not as fast - I do know that we Boston drivers have a 'reputation' but we really aren't as bad as our 'press', trust me <smirk>).

    Ness and Foy, thanks for the tips on the outer banks route. I will definitely keep your suggestions in mind. BTW AZ_Buck, is there anyplace that you have not traveled? I am jealous of your knowledge and experience but I will surely take advantage of your tips!

    Foy, thanks for the ideas about the rush hour traffic as I travel east to Pamlico Sound. I have made sure that when I am on the Raleigh route, I will definitely not be there during rush-hours. Great tip, I hate rush hour here in Boston, I have sat in rush hour around the Washington DC area. I do NOT want to do it in NC. So I will make sure that I avoid it completely.

    AZ_Buck, I was taking a look at the Delaware Gap waterway (very pretty) but my aunt said that if I was going near Ashville, NC I should make sure that I go into the Biltmore Estate. She said that was a "must see". So, I may skip the Gap for the Estate, she is my aunt after all.... :)

    On a friend's suggestion today, I just purchased a car refrigerator that is powered by the cigarette lighter plug. What a great idea. I didn't spend too much approx $70.00 and it will last me for lots of trips so that is a good thing. I have also ordered the RmcNally Road Atlas and the Road Maps of the US from I was looking at the road atlas that I had from my last trip and it was dated 1987. Ahem.... that was quite a while ago when I made the last trip to NC while in college. Oops, I just dated myself!

    Anyway: I figured that I should get an updated copy of both so, I did. Now, I have my cigarette lighter powered fridge, new road maps, great ideas from this forum and a new sense of adventure. Woo-hoo! This will be fun!

    I am still in the planning stages of my return trip and I am constantly making adjustments in the southern leg too. I STILL have to find good BBQ and seafood on each trip segment (good yummy food IS so Important) so that will be more fun for me as I plan this trip.

    Thanks for all of your help everyone and if you have any more tips, I am all ears!!!

    I also promise that when I return I'll make a report of my wanderings. And, if I manage to find hotels with WiFi (I am taking my laptop with me) I may also post daily reports if anyone is interested.

    Thanks again folks, I am so glad that I found this site!

  7. #7

    Default Asheville, NC and NC BBQ

    I was going near Ashville, NC I should make sure that I go into the Biltmore Estate. She said that was a "must see". So, I may skip the Gap for the Estate, she is my aunt after all.... :)

    I STILL have to find good BBQ and seafood on each trip segment (good yummy food IS so Important) so that will be more fun for me as I plan this trip.

    Mass crazy-

    While it's important to heed one's aunt's advice, be advised that going to Asheville will add a full day to your trip once you consider the additional distance south-southwest through the mountains and additional distance back over east to Grantsboro, plus the time for even a brief tour of Biltmore. As previously noted, the BRP will provide for slow travel from the Boone-Blowing Rock area on down to Asheville. That said, Blowing Rock to Asheville is my favorite part of the Parkway for high elevations and long views.

    We are rather often thought of as barbeque snobs in North Carolina, so I can't recommend sampling the Holy Grub in any state but ours. The two distinctly different varieties are the Western NC or Lexington style (pork shoulders only, basted in and served with a tomato-based sauce called dip,and just as often served sliced as chopped), and the Eastern NC style (Whole hog, basted in and served with a vinegar-based sauce, nearly always served chopped finely). Even though my roots are deep in the Eastern NC Coastal Plain, I have to say I enjoy the Lexington style nearly as much as the Eastern style. That sound you hear is several of my ancestors rolling over in their graves. Anyway, if you do go to Asheville, you can stop for lunch in Lexington on the way over to Grantsboro. Taking US 64 off of I-40 near Mocksville will take you directly by the front door of Tar Heel Q Barbecue restaurant just west of Lexington. From there, I'd stay on US 64 all the way to Raleigh, where you'll pick US 70 to New Bern enroute to Grantsboro. Along US 70, you'll go right by the front doors of two of the best restaurants serving Eastern NC style BBQ--Wilburs in Goldsboro and Kings in Kinston. A supper stop at either place would represent a North Carolina Pork Products Trifecta if you were to have started the day with some local sausage or country ham with your breakfast in Asheville. That'd be some mighty fine eating, ma'am. Your coronary arteries would probably never forgive you, but what the hay, you're only passing through, not making a career out it.

    One other pork product note: If you pass by Winston-Salem, NC some time in the not-too-late morning, consider going up to Mount Airy, NC for lunch at Snappy Lunch. Mount Airy is the real hometown of Andy Griffith and is referred to as the big, bustling town of Mount Pilot, just down the road from his fictional Mayberry, in the 1960s Andy Griffith Show. Anyway, Snappy Lunch serves a thick, batter-fried pork chop sandwich (or "sammich" in the local vernacular) and locals and tourists alike line up out the door daily for them. You've got to get there early, however, as they close by 2pm and often run out of pork chops long before closing. If'n you were a fella, you could step down to Floyd's barbershop for a trim after lunch.

    Enjoy the trip!

    Foy in NC

  8. Default The holy grub!

    Hi Foy,
    Your ‘pork’ commentary cracked me up. I was reading your dining suggestions out loud to my husband and he commented that you are one funny guy, I agree!

    As for the route from the Blue Ridge Parkway: I haven’t got my atlas and road maps from Amazon yet so I am relying entirely on the Travelocity route planner and this is how it has me going south through PA to BRP on my way to Pamlico Sound.
    I enter the BRP from Franklin, PA and go I-81 through Rockbridge, VA – Wytheville, VA – exiting at Kingsport, TN and then continuing south on US-25/US-70 to Woodfin, NC through NC-2053\Beaverdam Rd to Asheville, NC. Then, I go east…….

    I am looking forward to receiving the maps I ordered so that I can fine tune the trip. It is a bit hard using the Travelocity trip planner when you only have a vague idea of where you want to go. Basically, I am sort of ‘aiming’ at places such as “BRP” and Skyline Drive, etc with the trip planner tool. It will get me there but I don’t always know if it is the ‘best’ way for me, if you know wheat I mean.

    Because I entered the Blue Ridge Parkway as a destination, the tool placed me in Ashville as I turn east to Pamlico Sound. When I told my aunt, who is one of the relations that I will be visiting in NC btw, that I was passing through Ashville, she then mentioned the Biltmore Estate as a stop that ‘needed to be seen’. That is also still ‘up-in-the-air' at this point in time, I really don’t have all the time in the world (I haven’t won any lottery money, yet) that I’d like (which calls for another trip, next time with my husband!) so I do need to do some editing of sight-seeing side trips. 10 days seems like a long time and then you plan a trip…… ;-> time now all gone, need more!

    However, because of your suggestions and the fact that I will probably want to see as much of the Shenandoah National Park as I can, I will keep Ashville in my itinerary. If only to check out those BBQ stops that you waxed so eloquent upon! I do understand about the eastern style of BBQ. My relatives refer to it as a ‘pig-picking’. My aunt who was born and raised in Massachusetts and is now living in Grantsboro is not fond of the vinegar style dipping sauce but I love it. I have made my own sauce from a BBQ cookbook (yes, I smoke the pork butt for 6 to 8 hours: low and slow, it has become a 4th of July tradition at my home here in Massachusetts, i.e. everyone expects me to do it each and every holiday) I have used the same recipe for 10 years now and now I am looking forward to sampling the ‘real-deal’ (I believe you called it the ‘holy grub’) in NC. Along with the vinegar dipping sauce, I have also made a Low Country South Carolina sauce that has also has vinegar and tomato in it but it is also a bit sweet with brown sugar added as well as cracked red pepper flakes. Most of the folks seem to like that best but I do like the bite of the vinegar with the hot sauce on my pork, that and an ice cold beer and I am in heaven! (yummy)

    Anyway, back to the trip: What I am learning is that I do need to drop by the AAA office in downtown Boston on a lunch break soon and get more info to fine tune my plans. Once I do, I’ll pass it by you experts for any more adjustments.

    I am also developing the northern route via the islands and ferries. I’ll rely on the AAA folks to aid in that too but I was speaking to my aunt the other night and she said that the suggestions that called for me to take the Cedar Island ferry to Ocracoke was the best route that she had taken so that is now part of my plan too!

    Thanks again for your help and suggestions.
    Last edited by Mass_crazygrrl; 04-13-2008 at 04:36 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Megan's trip in the region last year

    Quote Originally Posted by Mass_crazygrrl View Post
    Thanks again for your help and suggestions.
    Megan did a "fly-n-drive" in the area last year.


  10. #10

    Default The Sins of Road Trip Software

    Glad you enjoyed the missives.

    Just wait until you get your maps and have a look at something other than the trip planner, as there are too many inconsistencies in what's being described to go into in detail. Suffice it to say, for the moment:

    SD's northern terminus is near Front Royal, VA, west of DC along I-66. From there, it runs through Shenandoah NP to Rockfish Gap, between Charlottesville and Waynsboro, VA, at I-64. Without skipping a beat, the BRP starts at Rockfish Gap and takes all the way through the rest of VA and most of western NC, to a point well south Asheville. It never enters TN (well, there was a plan for that to happen, and TN built a stretch of demonstration Parkway in the 1930s in an in vain attempt to persuade the Feds to route it through TN, but that's another story).

    I think what your systems are telling you is take the SD through Shen NP, BRP for a few miles farther south, then jump off to the west for Natural Bridge, then I-81 south to Kingsport, TN.

    At Kingsport, the real software-perpetrated crime begins. If the software tells you to traverse the mountains on US 25/US 70, somebody in the programming department should be shot. That's as sorry a stretch of highway as exists anywhere, just from the standpoint of extreme slow travel due to curves, small villages, and steep grades. The BRP is a faster way to go somewhere, in comparison. The only logical way to go from is the new I-26 from Kingsport, TN to Asheville (notice the "e" in the middle of the placename, dear, it arises from the Ashe family's spelling of their surname, and they're rather particular about it). I-26 somewhat recently completed (say, within the last 2 years) and there may be a stretch or two that's still not a limited access fly zone, but it's several heads and shoulders above the horrors of US 25/US 70. The lag time in updates on travel/mapping software is maddening to me.

    You mention time being a consideration, so I expect you'll see my point about Asheville in the graphics when your atlases arrive. Asheville is quite far out of the way, as I noted previously. From the other logical points to leave the mountains (such as I-77 at Fancy Gap, VA--near to Mount Airy and Snappy Lunch, by the way) or on farther south at Jefferson or Deep Gap, NC, the remaining trip to Asheville, seeing the Biltmore, and getting back east to an equivalent longitude should be considered a full day's trip. Irrespective of the Asheville spur, you'd go right past Wilbur's and Kings as you approach Grantsboro, and if you were to drop down out of the mountains at either Fancy Gap, VA or Jefferson-Deep Gap, NC, Lexington's not too far out of the way.

    Enjoy the planning, and drop back in for more specific questions as they arise.


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