Just a few days after school let out for the summer in Hendricks County, Indiana, our family packed up our minivan and drove 825 miles southeast to a little sliver of North Carolina land just off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean called the Outer Banks.
These are our stories.
Days One and Two:
The road trip to the Outer Banks took us about 15 hours over the course of two days. My wife and I had our 8-year-old and 6-year-old daughters with us, so we stopped for the night in Waynesboro, Virginia, after the first nine hours of our voyage.
Our route took us through southern Ohio, across West Virginia, and then through north-central Virginia before dropping down into North Carolina.
Among the most memorable sites on our trip was the State Capitol building (pictured below) in Charleston, West Virginia. The entire dome of the capitol building is gilded in gold, making for a striking contrast against the beautiful forestry and mountainous terrain of the city. (The building was also constructed with Indiana limestone, which this Hoosier appreciates.)
Our drive took us through the Commonwealth of Virginia -- my first time setting foot on Virginia soil.
Virginia is a really pretty state. The terrain continues to be mountainous, and much of our trip along Interstate 64 was lined with tall evergreens. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, this setting was quite appealing to me.
The people of Virginia are very friendly, too. Thick southern accents are commonplace, as are classic southern values. It seemed like an entirely different world in Virginia, yet it was just a day's drive from our home in the Midwest.
The only hitch in our journey was bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way from Richmond to Newport News in Virginia on our second day.
We never figured out what the logjam was about, other than we saw lots of vehicles with kayaks, bicycles and other outdoor equipment along with lots of signs for Virginia Beach on our way. And we were passing through on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It was probably just a case of poor timing on our part.
The last several miles to our vacation rental house took us through a bunch of little North Carolina towns before we crossed a bridge onto Bodie (pronounced "body") Island -- a long peninsula that's home to the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and one of my all-time favorite town names: Kill Devil Hills.
We stayed in a two-level house (pictured above) with some extended family during our vacation. The house had a pool, hot tub and volleyball court in the back yard, and it was a 100-yard walk to the beach.
From any of the three levels of porches, you could see the ocean from our house, and the view from the top porch was especially impressive.
Once we got settled and unpacked, we headed to the beach. The sand is very soft, and since our rental house was part of a private beach, there was hardly anyone else out there.
The air temperature during the first weekend in June was a very comfortable 72 degrees with a near-constant wind that cooled things even more. I, being warm-natured, was perfectly comfortable, but my wife and daughters needed sweaters and sweatshirts to keep the chill off.
The beach is easily walked in bare feet. Seashells are commonplace, but they're not such an obstruction that you can't walk on the beach without cutting your feet to shreds.
Hermit crabs are common on the beach, but they're just fun to watch dig their holes in the sand. They didn't bother us.
There are lots of pelicans out over the water, and it's cool to watch them dive into the ocean, looking for a meal.
My oldest daughter hunted for seashells like it was her job, and I continued a family tradition of tricking her into tasting the water, since it was her first trip to an ocean. Her reaction was the same as mine when I was a kid and my dad tricked me into doing the same thing. More than thirty years later, I can still vividly remember that nasty taste in my mouth.
We walked on the beach until dark (9 p.m. or so) and then hung out pool side in our back yard.
(TIP: We got chewed up by mosquitos, gnats and no-see-ums after dark, and citronella candles didn't do a whole lot of good for us. If you head to OBX for your own family vacation, bring insect repellent.)
We'll see what Day Three of our OBX vacation brings.
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