If I’m Ever Back This Way

This is near the end of my seven day road trip from Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia. After about 1,000 miles of driving, there are only another 100 miles left to reach Norfolk, Virginia. I sit in a hotel room a few miles from the Wright Brothers National Memorial on the barrier islands in the Outer Banks town of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

I spent long days touring on my own as I traveled the southeastern Atlantic coast. In reality my experiences of the past week may be the only time I ever visit this part of the world. One of the facts of life as a traveler is every time you revisit a place, then you are passing up an opportunity to visit some place new. And when you are focused on visiting new places, you pass up the opportunity to revisit some place.

Savannah, Georgia – the coolest place I’ve ever been in the south, despite the searing heat during my visit.


Rural South Carolina – In search of something totally different from the gated communities and golf resorts of Hilton Head, I drove off into the swamps looking for a more authentic South Carolina. I was looking for  alligators on a road that went into the swamp. I emerged from the swamp into an historic slave plantation.

Old Oak White Hall Plantation

Old Oak tree on White Hall Plantation.

In my quest to see an American alligator in the wild, I was successful.


That image is not quite as impressive as this image when the alligator partially emerged from the water to rest on land.


The alligator a little while later is half on land and half in water to reveal a sizeable animal in the Francis Marion National Forest. Another guy told me he thought this alligator was 5 to 6 feet long. Looks bigger to me. I estimated 8 feet in length. Neither of us were going to get close enough for a more precise measurement.

Pamlico Sound, North Carolina

There is a reason the Outer Banks of North Carolina are called the ‘graveyard of the Atlantic’. One minute you are in the ocean and the next minute you are almost on dry land.

Pamlico Sound

Standing on nearly dry land in the Atlantic Ocean far removed from the main islands.

I like to think that I will be back to these places for more experiences, encounters and photos. Honestly, it is hard to say I’ll ever be back this way. There are so many places to travel and experience in this world. So I made an effort to see and experience as much as I could this past week. If I’m ever back this way, I’ll have the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the region. And if not, I’ll fly out of Norfolk, Virginia tomorrow with a lifetime of memories from the places and things I have seen and people I met during this past week of travel in southeast coastal USA.


  • Graydon May 9, 2014

    Glad you got to see an alligator in the wild, that made me smile. As a central Floridian I take it for granted, just don’t notice them anymore even if I see them daily driving past our lakes and ponds.

    +1 on Savannah and St. Augustine. Love them both and think they are the jewels in Florida and Georgia.

  • Wendy M May 9, 2014

    For years, I spent several weeks each year on Hatteras island. The outer banks of North Carolina are special to me….although I didn’t like it when I was stranded on Hatteras during a hurricane about 45 years ago because the Oregon inlet bridge flooded. I haven’t been in the obx since about 1990 because everything was getting so commercial.

  • DJP May 9, 2014

    What are you doing in Norfolk???

    I lived in the Norfolk area for about 5 years. I have been to the OBX a few times.

    If you want to see swamps–there is the great dismal swamp in southern Virginia.

    On your drive up on hwy 168…..you pass through Moyock, NC near the border. This is home of Balckwater (that private military organization that made fame in Iraq)

    At the border is a place called the border store—the name is self evident. One side is NC and the other side is VA. Some things you can only sell in one state thus you have to check out on that states side. For example Fireworks are year round sale item in NC but not in VA.

    on 168 you enter Chesapeake, VA….its a large city. With Virginia being a commenwealth (cities are separate from counties), cities have more power to control their own taxes. In SE virginia the cities and counties merged to become large areas. Its common in the south. Its also why Jacksonville is the larges sq foot city. Chesapeake, Suffolk, and VA beach are all top 30 in the country in square footage.

    With Chesapeake and Virginia Beach—they installed a rural line 8 miles north of the NC/VA line that restricted the land to rural area.

    If you have a chance check out Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel–an engineering marvel. You can drive out to the first tunnel rest area and walk out on the peak and see the ships. the bridge has two tunnels in the middle of the water for ship channels. I-64 also has one of tunnels. On the other side of this tunnel is Ft Monroe (a national historic site now operated by the park service)–it was an active base until 2011 when it was shut down. It was the last base with an old stone fort with moat.

  • Erndog May 9, 2014

    Looks like you might have missed Charleston, SC? Too bad, a great historic town with modern, vibrant culinary and cultural offerings.

    Looks like you drove up the 17 from Savannah towards Charleston, then over to the 95?

    A great part of the country and worth a trip back – spend more time in Charleston next time if you get the chance, it will still be seeing something new.

  • Ric Garrido May 10, 2014

    @Erndog – Charleston was an omission of exhaustion. Yesterday I was up at 4am and I was writing this piece around 11pm to midnight. I was in Charleston for two days. I hugged the coast and came across the alligator in Francis Marion National Forest about 25 miles north of Charleston where US 17 passes through. I drove through all of Myrtle Beach and took Highway 17 up the North Carolina coast where I traveled to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Then took the ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke Island on a 2 hour 15 min ride 23 miles across the Pamlico Sound.

    I saw lots of mansions in Charleston, spent time wandering around College of Charleston (one of the top equestrian teams in country), enjoyed some pints at Tommy Condon’s and toured Fort Moultrie Sullivan’s Island. Fort Sumter tours were packed.

    @DJP – Norfolk is simply a flight back to California. I lived in Newport News for two years when I was 12-13 and toured the area a bit. I spent many a day wandering around James River swamps.

    @Wendy M. – There are a couple places on Hatteras Island where I looked to the left and saw the Atlantic Ocean and looked to the right and saw Pamlico Sound. I think one spot was only about 100 yards wide from coast to coast. There was one particularly flat place where it looked like the ocean had swept right across.

    Definitely not a place to be during a hurricane.

  • karung99 May 10, 2014

    Ric, I enjoyed reading this while having my coffee this Morning, thank you.

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