Travels with the Grannies – Part 4 – back North along the shore

The Road

We left Charleston and Savannah after too little time and headed Northwards along the coast. Previously the air in the car had been one of excitement with a bit of anxiousness thrown in. As we headed along the coast though, we all felt a bit subdued – a feeling that was mirrored by the weather that had turned cloudy and colder.

By that time our days in the car had fallen into a pattern of tactical packing and placing of Really Useful Items. One Granny navigated and the other squeezed in the back with Seb. As long as we stopped every so often, everyone seemed happy enough. Although, the days of just driving did seem to wear everyone down, but by the process of cat-naps, toilet stops and energy drinks we kept hovering around the right side of relatively sane. 

Our two days driving North through the Carolinas were punctuated with detours down small country lanes. Once we found the memorably named ‘Granny’s Lane’, which we duly investigated further. It ended in a dead end, with one large house surrounded by smaller ones. One could imagine this settlement as a matriarchal one, with Granny’s house being the main one. The other members of the family residing in the smaller ones, being available whenever Granny needed something. This was a concept that introduced a thoughtful glint into the Grannies eyes at which point I felt it a good idea to beat a hasty retreat.

There were still a lot of houses that were half falling down from the hurricane last year. We stopped to take several pictures until eyed a bit too suspiciously by the locals and, if our imaginations were to be believed, escorted more than once over territorial lines (state and county) by the local sheriff.

We were all hoping for a few hours relaxing, basking in the sun on the beautiful, golden shores of Myrtle Beach – one of the top beaches in the US. Seb in particular had a new fishing net and flip-flops in honour of a potential beach visit. Alas, it was not to be. 

We arrived at Myrtle Beach to find a mass exodus of cars from the park. ‘It must be everyone leaving for lunch/after a full morning at the beach’ we optimistically thought as we pressed on towards the looming dark cloud. We retrieved our picnic from the depths of the car, whilst ignoring the howling wind and battled our way onto the beach. While fighting against the wind, we were wished cheerful good-lucks several times by those being swept from the shore, the significance of which we optimistically overlooked. I think we managed to sit down for about two minutes before the first pack of sandwiches was whipped down the beach far to quickly for any of our party to react.  After this rude depletion of our provisions we decided to head back to the car park behind the dunes to the relative safety of one of the little huts before the storm really hit.

North Myrtle Beach

We sat huddled in a corner of one of the open huts, trying to take advantage of what little shelter from the elements it offered. Then the rain started alongside hugely loud thunder that filled the air and shook the ground. This was when we decided enough and I ran for it (or did a version of ‘running for it’ in my current state of injury), battling the wind and sand as it whirled up around me. After I had picked up the others, we conformed to the very British tradition of a picnic in the car at the beach. Just lovely.

Our thoughts then turned to the hotel that evening, and to my horror, the satnav told me that we had an 18 hour drive ahead of us. The hotel was one that Garnet had kindly booked for us, being of the opinion that everywhere else on route would be full. He had mapped out a route for us, with a stop over in Fayetteville. In his eagerness and relief that we wouldn’t have to worry about finding a place that night, he had managed to book us in a place in Fayetteville, Arkansas. On reflection we decided not to take this detour and fortunately managed to get a motel room in Jacksonville NC. 

I have to admit that I was a bit tempted to try Garnet’s route; the end of the Road Trip was looming ever closer and the end-of-trip wistfulness was starting to set in. I think this was part of the reason we decided to take a three hour detour to the Outer Banks the following day. It definitely felt as if we were leaving the South with all its poverty and romanticism giving way to the greater affluence and relatively more crowded and orderly northern communities. The drive to the outer barrier islands took us over endless swamps and river inlets, and seemed to go on forever. 

Trying to get on the beach at the OBX

Eventually we made it to the Atlantic Coast. As before all thoughts of relaxation on the beach, splashing around in a warm sea fell from our minds. The sand in the car park felt like it was taking the skin off your face and Seb wisely refused to leave the car. So the Grannies and I went to the beach in shifts – the two Grannies in particular having to almost crawl over the shifting sand dune to the other side. 

Once on the ocean side of the dunes, the wind and the sand blowing was more exhilarating than 50 cups of coffee, but very painful. The beach was deserted and beautiful with only a few sea birds as the other signs of life. We dried out in an excellent cafe, helped by hot chocolate and apple pie. I am looking forward to returning in the summer in hopefully warmer, less wild weather (barring a repeat of Irene of course!).

 After a week on the road, all of us were looking forward to seeing Garnet that evening at the beach house we had rented at Virginia Beach. And with the thought of a home-cooked meals, a separate bedroom for each of us for the first time since we set off and a cold beer we headed northwards for the last stay of our trip.

To be continued in Part 5

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