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  1. Default May/June 2014 4-5 week circular road-trip: Virginia, South East and Atlantic Route

    My wife and I plan to undertake a circular road-trip next year, starting in Washington DC where we plan to stay 4 nights. We are experienced US road-trippers and have visited Washington and some parts of the South East before. However, we have yet to drive through Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Mountains or visit the National Parks in that area. Savannah and Charleston are also on our list of must-do's (where we would probably want to stay 3 nights in each). We'd very much appreciate advice from anyone who knows the area well and who could offer any suggestions to assist us in planning a 4-5 week itinerary.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 10-29-2013 at 04:12 AM. Reason: New Members May Not Link to Other Websites

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Great Circle

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Just connecting the few sites you've already listed would make for a great RoadTrip, and having a month or more for the endeavor means that you'll have plenty of time to explore those sites and many more. Without adding too many miles of driving, you could easily include Monticello, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee Foothills and Savannah River Scenic Byways,
    Savannah River Scenic Byway, the Outer Banks, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland including Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, and the great town of Annapolis.

    How much time to spend at each location and which way to drive the circle would be up to you, of course. You would want to try to avoid the Outer Banks in the height of the summer season and you have to remember that the Blue Ridge Parkway doesn't get much of a (if any) snow removal budget so you'll want to avoid it in early spring. So, given that your time frame is May-June, then I'd suggest doing the trip in a clockwise direction so you can hit the shore before the tourists, and the mountains after it warms up a bit.

    Besides the major attractions I've already listed, there are a ton of Revolutionary and Civil War sites throughout this area, and wildlife refuges, and back roads, and quaint small towns, and ... So if you have specific interests, speak up and we may have some more specifics to offer.


  3. Default

    Thanks, that sounds like good advice (especially having previously arrived at Glacier National Park in May only to discover that the Sun Road was snow-bound!) The attractions you mention are also just the kind of thing we would be interested in seeing. Bill

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Few More Sites, Then

    As I noted in my previous response, there are many more sites to be explored along your basic route than either of us has listed so far. A few of those that are certainly worth considering would include the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Virginia's Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown), Kitty Hawk, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Kings Mountain and Cowpens National Battlefields, Lexington VA, Montpelier (James Madison's home) and Ash Lawn (James Monroe's home), and Manassas National Battlefield Park.


  5. Default

    Hey, thanks again for more really helpful suggestions. I guess I initially thought that our prime interest on our next trip would be the scenic National Parks and the cities which we plan to visit, but as you point out there's a whole range of Civil War sites to visit too and having previously visited Gettysburg and Vicksburg I know ho fascinating these can be. As a Brit, I guess I should brush-up on my Civil War history in order to cherry-pick from your suggested points of interest! Thanks once again

  6. #6

    Default OBX, NC Ferries, Civil War forts, and a little piece of England

    Hello Bill,
    The North Carolina Outer Banks took on the acronym OBX some time back, so for convenience I'll use it here.

    With the kind of time you have to explore, you can consider a ferry-assisted traverse of the OBX enroute to or from Charleston/Savannah. If southbound, you'd get "on the Banks" via US 158 from VA/NC 168 from the Hampton Roads area of southeast Virginia. The Bonner Bridge takes you across Oregon Inlet below Nags Head, to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, featuring boardwalks and birding opportunities. Just below Pea Island NWR are the 3 connected villages of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. There, the Chicomacomico Life-Saving Station is restored and preserved as a museum, providing a great picture of the extraordinary service of the precursor of the US Coast Guard, the US Life-Saving Service. Down at the "corner" of the OBX, at Buxton, is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, with ascents to its 208' peak available. The Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry, a 45 minute hop, takes you to Ocracoke.

    On Ocracoke is the British Cemetery, resting place for 4 crewmembers of a submarine chaser torpedoed just off of Ocracoke in May 1942. The tiny plot of land was transferred to the British Government and it respectfully maintained as a hallowed military burial site. An annual memorial service is held each May and includes representatives of the Royal Navy and the Canadian Navy, as HMS Bedfordshire went down with all hands, including some Canadians, and the identification of two of the four bodies recovered was not possible. Ocracoke is a tiny village at the southern end of Ocracoke Island, and if you engage the locals in a conversation, you'll hear remnant Elizabethan English accents in response. The locals refer to themselves as "Hoi Toiders", for the manner by which they pronounce "high tide".

    The Ocracoke-Cedar Island Ferry is a 2.5 hour run to the mainland east of Beaufort. At Atlantic Beach, on Bogue Banks, is Fort Macon, a very well preserved Civil War fort guarding Beaufort Inlet. By following NC 58, you can drive down through Salter Path and Emerald Isle to Swansboro and get back on the mainland by bridge.

    Below Wilmington is Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. Fort Fisher guarded the South's last port city's harbor entrance, that being the Cape Fear River leading a short distance from the ocean to the port of Wilmington. The area is rich with "blockade-runner" history, and some fine exhibits show the layout of the Fort, parts of which are preserved. If you're interested in more recent military history, the battleship USS North Carolina is berthed in Wilmington and is open for above-decks and below-decks tours. The Wilmington waterfront is a nice place to spend an evening, within walking distance of some nice B&Bs.

    Coming back up along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive, you might have a look at a hard-to-find spot where no Civil War battle took place, but which nevertheless holds fascination for some: Brown's Gap. Brown's Gap is near the southern end of Shenandoah NP, at a point where the Blue Ridge Mountains are but a single broad ridge separating the Shenandoah Valley from the Piedmont. During Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign, he found himself nearly trapped by Union forces northeast of Staunton and rather than risk destruction there, he directed a march of his +10,000 men up a narrow civilian turnpike to and over Brown's Gap, down the Piedmont side to Mechum's River Station, where the sick and wounded were loaded up on trains, sent westward through the Crozet Tunnel beneath Rockfish Gap to Staunton. Jackson's "Foot Cavalry" arrived in Staunton 2 days later, thoroughly surprising the Union forces in the Valley, who assumed they'd headed east via rail to Gordonsville from Mechum's River Station. The intriguing aspect of Brown's Gap is to park there and hike a bit of the trail, which still exists, and imagine thousands upon thousands of men, horses, wagons, and caissons working their way up and down the narrow, winding trail. On the Valley side, at Port Republic, some excellent signboard installations show the layout of a sharp battle which effectively ended the Valley Campaign a few months later.

    Be aware of the need for reservations for the Ocracoke-Cedar Island Ferry and the generally increased tourist traffic on weekends in May and June.

    Have fun planning and taking your Southern US RoadTrip!


  7. #7

    Default Some Good Reading

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill87 View Post
    As a Brit, I guess I should brush-up on my Civil War history in order to cherry-pick from your suggested points of interest! Thanks once again
    If you want to do some Civil War reading, I would highly recommend the Michael/Jeff Shaara trilogy consisiting of Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels and The Last Full Measure.

    Although these are historical novels, they are extremely accurate historically and are much more readable and entertaining than some of the more "textbook" type works on the Civil War such as Shelby Foote's three volume history. Another good read is Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team Of Rivals. Not a novel but very readable and fascinating. It is the story of Lincoln's presidency and the internal battles with members of his own cabinet he had to deal with. If you haven't been to Gettysburg in the last few years, the new Visitor Center is magnificient.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-02-2013 at 12:01 PM. Reason: added links to RTA's store for the books

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