Shawnee News-Star Weekender October 27 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg How many times have you done a road trip?   I have done a few.   Right before Halloween seemed to be a good time to go to Nag's Head, which happened to be 1,379 miles away.   Come along with me to experience the thrill of driving endless […]

Shawnee News-Star Weekender October 27 2018

Nag's Head fishing pier at sunset

Becky Emerson Carlberg

How many times have you done a road trip?   I have done a few.   Right before Halloween seemed to be a good time to go to Nag's Head, which happened to be 1,379 miles away.   Come along with me to experience the thrill of driving endless hours just to see salt water in waves.

Day One.

The idea was to follow Interstate 40 all the way to Raleigh North Carolina then take Highway 64 east to Nag's Head.   Shawnee gas $2.39/gallon.   The roadsides were being mowed as we traveled eastward.   Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) is reducing mowing during critical Monarch migration seasons, teaming up with other pollinator habitat conservation organizations, and planting Monarch specific pollinator gardens. ODOT has purchased seed for planting along roads the past 19 years.   Currently, 1345 active acres in 586 different sites throughout Oklahoma are in the Wildflower project.   The state has three drill seeders and must be notified by July 15th for autumn wildflower seed planting.   ODOT: 'Wildflower seeds are expensive.   Indian Blanket, the state flower, costs about $20/pound and 10 pounds/acre are needed'.   Have your organization adopt a section of Oklahoma highway and plant a wildflower plot.

As my loyal companion and I rolled into Arkansas, the I-40 median was posted Designated Wildflower Area.   Flowers grew for miles and miles. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department maintains 200,000 acres along highways.   Their program is divided into 3 parts:   Wildflower Route Program preserves existing wildflower populations, Operation Wildflower establishes new populations, and Wildflower Sign Program enlightens the public through signs.

Perfect road trip Tennessee sky

Day Two.

The daylight revealed our hotel was on 'Huff and Puff' road.   Tennessee is a very wide state with a Pollinator Habitat Program which focus on compatible maintenance practices, modified mowing schedules coordinated with pollinator life cycles, pollinator plantings at construction sites and pollinator plots at Welcome Centers.   Parker's Crossroads (between Memphis and Nashville) was the site of one Civil War confrontation. December 31st 1862 the Confederate artillery had gained the upper hand, but two Union brigades from the north forced the rebels to fight on two fronts before withdrawing to Lexington, Tennessee.   About 300 rebels were captured, but most escaped.   This forced Ulysses S. Grant to abort his first attack on Vicksburg, Mississippi and magnified Confederate Brig. Gen. Forrest's reputation as a great battlefield commander.

Late afternoon stop at Sheetz Store in Dandridge TN, gas $2.63/gallon.   Doughnuts became half price at 5 o'clock.   We didn't want to wait 20 minutes and left.   Unknowingly we had crossed into the Eastern Time Zone at Knoxville.   It was 5:40 pm.   Could have had cheap raspberry filled doughnuts.

Ten at night and still driving from one construction site to another.   The repair companies spring into action after the sun sets.   The Rest Area was deserted except for trucks and the friendly maintenance man.   Made it to Winston-Salem after midnight.

Day Three.

Back on I-40 before 9:00 am.   Another infamous McDonald's stop outside Burlington.   Since starting the road trip, we have been playing Trick. Treat. Win! at I-40 McDs.   Free fries, free sausage biscuit, free milkshake and dozens of tokens have been collected.   Burlington was a railroad town settled by groups of Quakers, Germans, Scots and Irish.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation Wildlife Beautification Program (began 1985) is funded by the sale of personalized license plates.   In Wendell gas was $2.79/gallon.   Cotton fields line Highway 64. Roads are lined with fluffs of cotton. 'VOTE Tuesday Nov 6th' signs were posted everywhere. So many chicken restaurants:   Champs, Bojangles, KY Fried, Golden Skillet and Honey Chicken.

The Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Crescent covers 3 counties.   Pocosin is Algonquin for 'Swamp on a Hill.'   The 113,000 acres sit above peat moss 12 feet deep that took 14,000 years to accumulate.   The endangered Red-Cockaded woodpecker, red wolf and Atlantic White Cedar (less than 5% remain) are protected within the confines of fresh water bogs and swamps.

Made it to Nag's Head.   Fried flounder was star at the Pier House Restaurant.  The end of the pier, damaged by Hurricane Florence, was barricaded. Fishermen cast lines from each side of the pier.   A two-foot drum was reeled in while we were there but thrown back because drum must be at least 40 inches long.   Two large Cobias (shark-like fish reaching 6 feet in length) and two Mackerels had been caught earlier.

It felt like we were riding a bus that stopped at every little town, except we were hitting every fruit market.   Grandy's was first with Winesap apples.   Morris's was next in my search for Muscadine and Scuppernong grapes.   No grapes.   Instead, preschoolers and parents were sitting on small crates listening to stories about fire flies while munching snacks.   The last stop was Powell's.   They had the right grapes.

Thirteen dollars will allow you to cross the 26 miles of Chesapeake Bay Bridge and connecting tunnels.   This system links rural Eastern shore with the urban western shore. Fisherman Island, located at the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, covers 1850 acres.   It is a nesting site for brown pelicans and herons and home to black cherry, Sassafras, wax myrtles and bayberries.   One brave Monarch fluttered over our heads as we stood at the lookout.   Monarchs in this region were counted and tagged by the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory from early September through late October.

No sunblock needed

Day Four.

Wild ponies grazed along the roadsides at Assateague Island.   Signs issued stern warnings 'apples and carrots can kill ponies', a desperate attempt to thwart people from feeding them any type of food.

The group, many carrying folding chairs, was gathering around a blazing fire for a cook-out.   Perhaps they were going to do some star-gazing after darkness, hoping to see shooting stars streak through the sky.   The Orionid meteor shower was at its peak that night, but clouds were moving in from the north and the moon was 2/3rds full.   It was still a beautiful evening.

Fresh local fish was supper.   Two ladies sitting nearby polished off a bucket of blue crabs while chatting and drinking beer.   Blue Crab ID:   Sally"an immature female often called 'she crab' with an inverted V on her lower shell and red-tipped claws; Sook"a mature female with in inverted U on her belly and red-tipped claws; Jimmy"the mature male with and inverted long T underneath and blue-tipped claws.

Groundsel-tree

Day Five.

From Assateague northward, Groundsel-trees were in bloom, covered with wads of cotton-like flowers on branches. The densely-leafed shrub is dioecious (male and female plants) salt-tolerant and in the daisy/sunflower family.   The plant likes damp soil, grows along the eastern and southern coast (even in Oklahoma) and blooms in fall. The flowers produce much nectar which attracts butterflies, often Monarchs.

From here we turned back toward Oklahoma. Gas was $2.89 a gallon. No more ocean, but many great memories.   Go on your own road trip.  Make sure to bring your ice chest and pillow.