Sometimes life forces an unexpected path, a path that was planned now becomes a dream unfulfilled, or at least a modification must be made to realign with reality. Upon departing from the Redneck Rivera, or Myrtle Beach as it’s also known we decided to return north via the Outer Banks. Our intended route; the extent of the Blue Ridge Parkway was ruled out due to the lack of spots to camp as the NPS only opens in May. The Outer Banks trip allowed our type of travel, it involved many ferries and unique travel typically not done by most. (Feel free to click on the individual photos as they enlarge. )
The first day out felt good to be out on the road and getting into the rhythm of moving again. Fueled up with ethanol free gas we headed northwards via Wilmington NC. Unknown to Autumn I had wanted to visit the battleship there for a while. It was the USS North Carolina. A beautiful ship that unlike the destroyers my father and grandfather used to take me to see in Massachusetts was much bigger and quite fancy. The visit was a worthwhile stop to take in the history of our nation’s formerly great navy.
From Wilmington, we made our way via Beaufort to Cedar Island, only an island due to the great Marsh encompassed by the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge. We had intended to stay at a caravan park, yet upon arrival, we found the pace a ghost town with the exception of a ferry. The ferry workers said we were more than welcome to sleep in the parking lot until the following day’s ferry. We had reservations for 10:30, but were easily able to change them to the 700am ferry. Lined up and then boarded we sat down for the $15 2.5hr ferry ride over to Ocracoke Island and part of the Outer Banks National Seashore.
The cool thing about the national seashore is that they allow you to drive on the beach with a permit. While the initial cost was scoffed at we ended up buying one simply because we have a Landcruiser for a reason…and that was to go places that regular tourists don’t go!! So, permit mounted we headed out to the first beach access. While the prospect of going off road and driving down a wild beach seemed like a dream come true I was significantly worried as I had never driven this vehicle truly offroad since I owned it. I had never driven in the sand before and I lacked most of my recovery gear as I had not intended to drive on a beach or offroad when I left for Myrtle Beach two months ago.
Approaching the beach I saw the ruts where others vehicles had traveled and figured that it must be like snow. Again, while I am an expert at snow driving, I never really had the pleasure to drive in deep snow with the cruiser so I was still unsure how capable it would be. Regardless, the sand turned out to be nothing like driving in snow. You did not slide, you simply sunk, how far determined your forward momentum. In the limited training, I have had, I was aware that I should air down my tires from the 40lbs I run them at to about 20lbs or even 10lbs if possible. Needless to say, I was curious how the cruiser would handle so engaged the locking central differential left the tires aired up and just went for it, and it went, however giving it gas only resulted in marginal speed gain with plenty of lost traction and engine heat. Instinctively having used a snowmobile in deep snow I felt the faster I went I could simply skim over the deep sand so used this method for the first 10 minutes until common sense struck and I realized I was not a 300lb snowmobile, rather a 6000lb hunk of iron. I lowered my air pressure down to 30lbs and did my best to not to accelerate rather maintain a steady and slow idle which maintained traction beautifully allowing me to explore the beaches with ease. I also came to the conclusion that if I did get stuck I still had 10-15 lbs of additional air I could lose out of the tires and also use a trick I was taught which involved using the hand throttle and brake to simulate a locking differential to allow an extraction. While the additional insurance of sand mats and other recovery gear would have been nice the vehicle traveled well.
Traveling down the beach and seeing the wild seashore was a pleasure. Others who would travel the island by road only had a long stretch of asphalt in front, marsh to the left and a 30-50 foot high dune to the right. It was not a stimulating drive. Arriving at the next ferry early afternoon we decided to check our cell phones and discovered a family emergency required spending less time in the Outerbanks and getting back sooner. While unfortunate, time and island time essentially limited how much of a rush we could be in. We reached the “mainland” only defined so due to a bridge and proceeded to the drive to each and every beach access we could find, and using the beach as our road heading north as much as possible. In some sections, the beach was very steep and we had to turn around, backing up a quarter mile to reverse direction. It was on one of these sections I got to see something I had never seen before, a beached Minke whale. It seems we were one of the first to see it and unfortunately the NPS has not returned my email asking about the outcome on the whale. While this is not surprising, I feel the whale was a victim of a ship strike and I’m sure the agency does not want to confirm or deny this.
We eventually made it off the Outerbanks and onto the mainland. Taking another ferry in southern VA to the south side of VA Beach which we happened upon a military aviation museum. Having a distinct love of aviation, and an almost unhealthy love of a certain WW2 aircraft, the P-51 Mustang, we had to visit so I could kick the tires so to speak and see the beautiful aircraft in person. It was worth it without any doubt.
From the museum, we visited REI to resupply with some needed gear, spent the night at a state park which is not really worth mentioning and headed to PA where have been here for a few days dealing with our pressing family issues.
Future plans: Unfortunately the Landcruiser is getting mothballed a few months as I am soon to start hiking the Appalachian trail very soon. While later than I intended, the days are counting down. I’m sad to park the cruiser for a while, but it will be a hell of an adventure by foot. I am unsure if Autumn will be joining me given the uncertainty with the issues at hand. In any case, these posts will become very far and few between as I will not have access to any computer these next few months. Life is an adventure so will take things as they come.