Summers were about to start with the arrival of Memorial Day long weekend and my heart was craving for travel. While exploring the Internet in search of beaches and good landscapes, someone popped an idea of a road trip to Outer Banks in North Carolina from Lansdale. As soon as the name was floated and few searches over the Internet, Outer Banks was finalized for a road trip to welcome the summer. In today’s article, I will be writing my first travel tale living in the United States which will be about this road trip to beaches and ocean.
A Brief About Outer Banks, North Carolina
Before I dive into the details of my first family road trip to the Outer Banks, let’s get to know a little background about it. Situated on the east coast of United States, Outer banks is a series of barrier islands spanned over a 200 mile stretch in North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. There is a wide and long expanse of calm, open beach front which you can enjoy starting from Currituck Banks moving down to Bodie Island, Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island, Portsmouth Island and ending at Bogue Banks. It is often known by the nickname Graveyard of the Atlantic because of its treacherous waters and numerous shipwrecks. In fact, in Hatteras Village, you can even visit The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum which can tell you about the history of this region and showcase many artifacts recovered from the area shipwrecks. In the tourism industry, people often use the terms OBX for Northern Outer Banks and SOBX for Southern Outer Banks. There are many attractions across all the islands of the Outer Banks but I will cover them in some other article as a travel guide to Outer Banks. You can always read more about the outer banks at the Wiki link here to know more about this lovely place.
Coming back to the travel tale, the travel plan was quite simple. On Day 1, we had to start from our home at Lansdale, PA for the southernmost town of Bodie Island by the name Nags Head. Day 2 was the total relaxation on the beachfront of Nags Head near our vacation rental home and Day 3 was more or less the travel back. Yes, you are right, go, touch and come. This is how we used to travel back in India 😉 😉 … I discovered it is not the way people travel here in the United States and they tend to spend more time at a place and soak in it. Well, we were not yet into that kind of groove of that kind of relaxed travel. Moreover, living aboard means you have to also save as many vacations as possible for your back to home trip at least once in two years 😀 …
Anyways, with this simple plan in mind, I started looking out for hotels and vacation rentals in outer banks. Searched for various travel and hotel booking websites and then ended up booking a big beach vacation rental home for three nights at Nags Head. After booking the accommodation, a string of messages started exchanging between friends, in case some of them were interested. In just a few messages, the group size was 7 people and it was more than enough to share the cost of approx $1000 bucks for the stay and not be heavy on an individual’s pocket.
One interesting thing I learned for the first time about stay bookings and traveling in the United States was unlike hotel rooms these vacation rentals, beach houses or lake houses are booked for a minimum number of nights, mostly starting from 3 nights go as much as a minimum of 7 nights. Hence, you can see that our plan was just for 2 nights ad 3 days but still I booked an accommodation for 3 nights because we had to pay a minimum of 3 nights only 🙁 🙁 … As the split was supposed to be divided by 7 heads, it was not much of a concern in lieu of getting a first time experience of spending time next door at a beach. Finally, a quick check at my favorite article List of things to carry when you go on trip and started packing for the road trip. So, the first long road trip in the United States begins 😀 …
Day 1 | Lansdale, PA to Nags Head, Outer Banks, NC | 28th May 2016
The road trip was supposed to be around 800 miles overall. The distance between Lansdale and Nags Head is about 370 odd miles anyways. As it was my first long trip in the United States, I was being paranoid of the food that we might get especially when many of us were eggetarians only with no non-veg stuff. It was one of the reason as well that we booked the vacation rental beach house as we had a fully furnished kitchen in it. We packed lots of raw vegetables, flour, rice, tea, sugar, and utensils to prepare our own food upon reaching Nags head. The group was like my wife & son along with my friends Kailash, Himanshu, Aashish, Sabrish (ex-colleague) and his friend BK, who was supposed to join us from Allentown in the morning. Sabrish was supposed to meet us at Nags Head only as he moved to North Carolina itself few weeks before the trip. I had purchased a dashcam as well to record the trip and so far have been wonderful, in case you are looking for a dashcam, it is worth to check: KDLINKS X1 Full-HD Dash Cam
At 7.40 AM, the trip begins from Lansdale. Kailash was with me in my car along with my wife and kiddo. While Himanshu, Ashish, and BK were in another car. A group selfie was taken to flag off the long journey and zoom we went 😉 … Less than 10 miles after we left home, the cops car started the chase 😯 😯 … At first, I got nervous and thought it was after me for over speeding but then as it changed the lane, I took a sigh of relief. Oh wait, hello, what now !! The cops were chasing our other car, the one Himanshu was driving 😀 😀 Happy morning !! I will give benefit of doubt to Himanshu as it was early morning and that few miles of the corridor is between 45 MPH and very soon 55 MPH limit starts at its end. He was at 67 MPH. Well, now what, should we also turn back but then wait, we were not in India to help a friend caught by a cop 😀 This was different, we were foreigners and things does not work the way it works back in our home country. Going back was no point, so we kept continuing within just speed limits and hoped they will catch us up. After pleading and apologies, the officer issued a ticket of $138 to them and then left them to continue. An adventurous start, I shall say !!
It was a smooth sailing then for us but the incident dented my urge to drive faster than speed limits even where I could see miles away there was no one. At times in such stretches 45 MPH or 55 MPH just looked painfully slow but then $138 is a big enough amount to keep the urge in check 😆 The first stop we took was for washrooms and buying a sleeper set at a CSV in Dover, Delaware after exactly two hrs. Then, we had to stop for some brunch and after driving for about 3 hrs we stopped at a Subway in Exmore Virginia at around 12.30 PM. We did eat few personal pizzas at a Subway. Yes, you are reading right, we eat pizzas at Subway, especially me and my wife really like that small one they offer 😀 😀 … We spent good 40-45 minutes of break and then we were back to the road.
Just after 30 minutes of the drive, the first view of the ocean after such a long time in life gave some goosebumps. Soon after, we reached our first attraction of the trip “Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel“, a 23-mile link at the Chesapeake Bay that connects Northampton County with Virginia Beach. It is a series of a couple of underwater tunnels and bridges that cost you a toll of $15 but saves about 95 miles or 1.5 Hrs of a drive to Outer Banks. You can stop at the scenic overlooks, one at the north end of the bridge and the other at Sea Gull Island, near the south end. You can ogle the beautiful wide expansive ocean, watch ships or large vessels passing by and also do fishing on the 625-foot-long fishing pier, which is open 24 hours a day all year round. The drive over it was beautiful and memorable.
After stopping for a while, we started the further drive for the final stretch to Outer Banks at 2 PM and reached our vacation rental home at Nags Head at 4.15 PM. It was much awaited long drive and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Soon other friends also reached and then after some rest, it was time to hit the beach and watch the sunset. The beachfront was just 1000 yards from the house and it was some sight from the windows itself. We played with a frisbee for a while and had some drinks. My son was very excited and enjoyed the water a lot as it was the first time for him on the beach. It was a lovely sunset in the evening and then we went back to the house to cook some food. It was egg curry that I cooked for everyone and I know everyone enjoyed it 😉 … After having dinner we went for a good night sleep while Sabrish & BK went for club hopping.
Day 2 | Nags Head Beach – Jockey’s Ridge State Park | 29th May 2016
The plan for today was simple, wake up early morning to capture the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and then come cook breakfast. As I have lived in the United States, I have started enjoying cooking a lot and have developed the expertise of few cuisines too by now 😀 … Seems also start putting up my secret recipe too on this blog. After breakfast, it was all lazing at the beach up to late afternoon. As I relaxed with the family, others tried their hands on surfboards. Later in the afternoon, we visited Jockey’s Ridge State Park which was just 10 minutes drive from the beach house. The park had a number of huge sand dunes and just gave a feeling as if we were in the middle of a desert. Totally worth a visit, I will say.
After spending an hour or so, we went back to the house, had snacks and beers in the evening watching the beach from the balcony and started cooking the food for the dinner. Well, Ashish got so much sunburnt that he was totally red and painful all over 😥 At first, we were joking about it but then it became serious and he got the fever too. Sabrish and Himanshu drove to a pharmacy store and got the ointment so that he could sleep a bit. But, he was in pain and after coming back when he saw the doctor, we came it know it was serious sunburn. Thankfully, he recovered in a couple of weeks. Everyone else had a good night sleep though they had to eat the same dish that I prepared yesterday night because Ashish was supposed to cook the chicken curry for everyone but us 😉
Day 3 | Nags Head – Lansdale (Home) | 30th May 2016
Before leaving for the home we wanted to visit a lighthouse, so we decided to visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse. It was a short visit and due to lack of time window, we could not climb up the top of the lighthouse. So, clicked few pictures and started back for home.
Then, the rest of the day had nothing much interesting as the rain started at around and continued throughout the day and route. Disappointing a bit but not to complain much because it was the last day of our trip 🙂 🙂 … There was just one fuel stop just before we entered Virginia and then we stopped at a Pizza Hut.
The total trip was driving about 792 miles and the overall cost of the entire trip was under $550 for my whole family including myself, wife and my kid.
Well, as it was the first ever road trip in the United States, the moments spent with the family, friends, at that calm beach of Nags Head or at the sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park or while driving, are etched as special memories to be cherished forever. I hope you enjoyed reading my first travel tale from my life in the United States as much as I loved sharing these memories with you all.
This article marks the beginning of expanding the niche of Devil On Wheels blog from traveling in the Himalayas to traveling in the United States as well. Hence, it does not mean at all that the trips, tips, and tricks for traveling to the Himalayas will stop coming. However, in addition to all that you have enjoyed reading so far, you should expect to read some more interesting stuff on traveling in the United States. I will not limit the article about the United States to just travel but will also share the general tips, how-tos from the day to day life in the United States from a foreigner especially from an Indian perspective.