Day 4, October 14, 2003: Washington, NC to Virginia Beach, VA
I got an early start leaving Washington, NC this morning. And, since the weather is forecast to be unsettled later on I was sure to fill the car before taking off. I was in Bath, NC by 8:00. Bath is supposed to be the oldest town in the state. For what it matters, the town was the home of the real Blackbeard the Pirate, Edward Teach.
I pressed on up the coastal highway and before noon arrived at the North Carolina Aquarium. Hmmm. What to say about that? Let me just say that it is, indeed, an aquarium. Sadly not a terribly impressive one so far as I can say. Even the pokey little aquarium in Chatanooga, TN outdoes it (in my opinion of course). So far as I have seen, no other institution can come close to matching the wonderful aquarium at Monterey Bay, CA.
I guess I should say some more about the results of hurricane Isabel which hit this area recently. One major result was that the major, no make that only, highway running up the length of the Outer Banks was severed. The natural route for my "edge" route would have run up the islands starting with a ferry ride to Ocracoke. Since there was no way to do that short of using an amphibious assault vehicle and dodging the state police I took the easier path and drove further up the coast and covered only the shortest bit of the Outer Banks. Going this way meant that, if I was going to photograph the famous Hatteras Lighthouse, I would need to backtrack down the Outer Banks for some distance. As it turned out it was pissing rain when the time came to head south so I gave up on that idea and settled for a snapshot of the Bodie Lighthouse instead.
The portion of the Outer Banks I did drive was that which contains Kill Devil Hills, Kittyhawk, and the Wright Monument. I stopped for a pretty good lunch in Kill Devil Hills at Pigman's BBQ and then drove over to the Wright Monument. The monument was totally overrun by tourists even on a weekday. No doubt this is partly due to the upcoming centenary of the first powered human flight in 1903. The forecast bad weather finally came through. In fact it started the moment I had walked up to the monument on a big hill a long way from my car. The moment I hit the top the rain started and I headed back down finishing up in a torrential downpour before getting the car's door open.
A bit further up the highway in mid-afternoon I was planning to take another ferry. The Knotts Island ferry runs across Currituck Sound which would get me back on the truly coastal route I wanted. Unfortunately the ferry terminal was nowhere to be seen despite driving several times up and down the section of highway where it should have been. I gave in and asked the local postmistress who got me straightened out pretty quickly. It turns out that I had become, at least slightly, a victim of Isabel: the signs that should have marked the turnoff had been blown down by the storm. I made the longish ferry crossing as the rain poured down.
I continued on the other side and blundered around a lot of unmarked back roads in the rain until I stumbled upon the main road and got into Virginia Beach, VA at 4:30. Very desolate looking place in the rain during the off season when many of the lodgings and businesses close down. At least the room was cheap at $40. And it was literally on the beach with a good ocean view.