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Exploring the US East Coast

December 30, 2016
East Coast US Trip

This was our second extended trip with the trailer.  We decided this season to go a little longer, about two and a half weeks.  Unlike the previous trip where we tried to do longer drives to cover more distance for more time at our stops, we had more time on this trip and wanted to find our sweet spot, so we did daily drives ranging from 3 hours to 8 hours of driving.  Of course we learned that we liked the shorter drives better, but we still wanted to cover as much distance as we could so we could go farther.  We found that by the end of this trip that 5-6 hours was a good compromise, it allowed us to do a fairly normal morning and still arrive at our next stop with time to set up for dinner and still have a bit of time to stop for groceries or to get a photo at the worlds largest “something or other”.  After our previous big trip to PEI and taking US2 from Lake Placid to Bar Harbor, we discovered that we also enjoyed the slower pace of secondary highways, so this trip we tried to do as many secondary highways as we could like US1 down the coast.  Our goal this trip was to see as much of the US east coast as we could in the time we had allotted and then take a scenic return route thru the Appalachian mountains.  Our original plan had more stops, but we had to cut out the Outer Banks due to time constraints.  Although almost all stops were KOA’s, we did get to Delaware Seashores State Park, Huntington Beach State Park, Mount Mitchell State Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We also saw a variety of beach towns ranging from quaint and relaxing like Rehoboth DE to big and loud like Myrtle Beach.  There were also several interesting towns with lots of history and scenery like New Bern and Asheville.

The Drive

Leg 1 Home to Bellefonte PA:  This drive got interesting almost as soon as we crossed the border into Buffalo and started heading into the heart of Pennsylvania.  The drive was mostly secondary highways going thru Allegheny National Forest and the Poconos.  There were a number of small towns and steep grades to keep us on our toes.  Despite heavy rain, this drive was quite scenic.

Leg 2 Bellefonte to Delaware Seashores:  This drive was scenic as well, starting in the mountains and eventually levelling off as we approached the Delaware Coast.  It was quite slow going thru Lewistown.  There were lots of crowds and lots of horse carriages going thru Lewistown, but the single lane traffic itself around Lewistown was what slowed it down the most.

Leg 3 Delaware Seashores to Virginia Beach:  This leg took us down US1 along the coast and thru Ocean City and other beach towns and eventually to highway 13.  We drove across the Chesapeake Bay bridge to Virginia Beach.  There was lots to see, especially crossing Chesapeake Bay.

Leg 4 Virginia Beach to New Bern:  This was one of the shortest legs, and also one of the least eventful.  It was flat with the occasional salt water estuary along the way.

Leg 5 New Bern to Myrtle Beach:  This was fairly uneventful as well, again driving close to the coast was flat, but not close enough to see much of it.  The drive thru Wilmington was interesting especially with the huge battleship right next to the Interstate.  The thing that shocked me the most was of all the states that we travelled thru, the crossing from North Carolina to South Carolina was the most shocking.  The two states were like night and day, the whole environment changed the moment we crossed the state line and saw the State Line Fireworks store, literally sitting on the state line just teasing North Carolina.  Next was the beginning of the thousands of billboards for all the Myrtle Beach beach stores and all you can eat Crab Calabash along the Kings Highway.

Leg 6 Myrtle Beach to Asheville: This leg was fairly uneventful until we got inland and got close to the North Carolina state line.  Then the mountains reappeared slowly, making the scenery much more interesting thru Sumter and Pisgah National Forests.  The final drive into Asheville was quite scenic and very mountainous.

Leg 7 Asheville to Wytheville: Driving this leg was also scenic with long mountain views along I26 and I81.

Leg 8 Wytheville to Columbus: The first half of this drive along I77 to the Ohio state line was more scenic mountain views with long ascents and descents particularly thru Jefferson National Forest.  The drive changed almost immediately after crossing the Ohio River from West Virginia to flat farm land.

Leg 9 Columbus to Home: It was not particularly scenic but we chose the return to Canada via Detroit just to try some other campgrounds and to see some mountain scenery and see towns like Asheville on the back half of the trip.  It was mostly flat with corn fields all the way to Toledo and again once we crossed back into Canada to home.

 

The Stops

KOA Bellefonte PA: this was just a small KOA down a small side road not far from the interstate.  It was about halfway up a mountain and despite the heavy rain, the views were spectacular.  The park itself was terraced due to the steep mountain, which meant every site had an excellent view of the valley and the mountain tops.

Delaware Seashores State Park: this campground was the biggest surprise of the trip.  We expected it to be just a stop over in a grass field.  After we arrived, we immediately wished we had booked more time.  The park was a flat grass field, but the Estuary right beside the park was scenic, the bridge was an amazing sight to see from any part of the park and the beach was one of the nicest along the east coast.  It was obvious that a lot of work was put in recovering the park since Hurricane Sandy as there were newly paved roads, new bathrooms at the beach and a new playground.  It was a really relaxing stop.

Virginia Beach KOA:  This is one of our favourite KOA.  The staff was outstanding, in fact I had an issue with the trailer while we were there and the owner spent several hours with me trying to resolve it before we ended up calling a mobile repair service.  The beach area was like any other beach area but because it was before the July 4th weekend it was dead which allowed us to enjoy the boardwalk, the beach and a Dolphin cruse.  Just be warned, NAS Oceania is right next door to the KOA, so during the day you will frequently hear fighter jets taking off and landing.  You will also get to see a few close up.

New Bern KOA: The KOA itself is right on the edge of the Neuse River Estuary.  The sunsets are amazing off the back dock.  The park itself is small, quiet and fairly average.  The town was quite a surprise to us.  Other than its claim to fame of being the home of Pepsi and having a Pepsi museum on main street, the town has more charm than most any other town we have seen.  This is due to it having been captured by the North quickly and with virtually not a shot fired during the Civil war.  This left the town virtually undamaged during the war and making it an excellent place to see southern architecture.  They have excellent walking and biking tours all thru town to see all the historic buildings, and there are a lot to see.

Myrtle Beach KOA: This may very well be the biggest KOA I have seen and probably our least favourite as well.  Unfortunately it is also poorly designed, with small sites filled with monster toy haulers, with their pimped up golf carts, and huge F350 Dually’s overflowing into the roads.  The crowd was quite a bit different here as well.  It really felt like this is where all the people who partied in Daytona over spring break went when they grew up.  This same feeling could be seen could be seen all over Myrtle Beach.  The KOA was right across from the Amusement Park so it fit right into the that area of town.  We actually found North Myrtle Beach to be more civilized and had wished we booked there instead of Myrtle Beach itself.  It was just too much of a party atmosphere.  The best part of Myrtle Beach was the trip to Huntington Beach State Park.  The park, the beach and the Castle were amazing.

Asheville West KOA:  This KOA was likely one of the smallest we have been to, but its charm and location were the selling feature.  It is right in the middle of the mountains, just a quick drive from Great Smokey Mountain National Park and from the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The park is a Mom and Pop operation and the owners were friendly and helpful.  It was a perfect launching point to explore the area, and we were able to shop in the artsy district of downtown Asheville and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway up to Mount Mitchell State Park and back.

Wytheville KOA:  This was meant as a one night stop over on the way home, but this KOA was quite nice.  The pool was well above average with the water slides.  The staff was quite nice and we got a free upgrade to a premium site due to an issue with our assigned site.  There were also mountain views although it is not right in the middle of the mountains.

Buckeye State KOA:  This campground was a bit of a disappointment.  We reserved a 30A pull thru site for our 21′ hybrid.  When we arrived we had intended on not unhooking and starting our last leg early the next morning.  Our site was so short that our back bunk was hanging out onto the road, which made it hard for a neighbor who arrived at 10pm to pull into his equally too small site.  It was also so narrow that our awning almost touched the slide of our neighbor and our picnic table had to sit over our neighbors sewer dump.  They seemed to have the most restrictive rules of all the KOA we have been to as well which made it not much fun for the kids.

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