Cruising the Carolinas

Driving from Virginia into North Carolina you really feel like you enter the south.  Virginia always felt to Julie and I like a state caught in the middle.  Northern Virginia always felt like the north while the southern part of the state felt more…..southern.  Crossing into North Carolina however felt like we truly reached the south.

Eastern North Carolina BBQ

As we had already explored much of the eastern part of the state a few years prior to this trip, North Carolina was more or less a state to simply get through and reach South Carolina.  There were a few exceptions, however.  After a few hours of morning driving we were deep in the eastern North Carolina BBQ region.  Their specialty; pulled pork.

We had passed through Williamston a few years back and had stopped at Shaw’s BBQ House and loved it.  As we were heading through again, we decided to make another lunch stop.  At Shaw’s (and all of eastern North Carolina for that matter) when you order, if you just order “BBQ” you get pulled pork.  If you want something other than that you need to order it by name.  Julie and I both ordered the “BBQ” which is shredded pork in a thin vinegar-based BBQ sauce.  We each had 2 sides, beans and coleslaw and washed it down with some great southern sweet tea.  It was a great lunch!

East Carolina University – Greenville, NC

From Shaw’s we headed to Greenville, NC home of East Carolina University.  One of our good friends Alex from back in Rochester had gone to school here and as Greenville was on our route, we decided to check out the school and the town.  We first checked out the town exploring the Uptown District.  As it was a college town there were a lot of bars.  As it was early afternoon and drinking while driving a big van don’t exactly mix, we opted to check out a coffee shop instead of the bars.  We then walked around the college campus.

We had been on a lot of large college campuses over the past 3 years.  Michigan to Wisconsin, Arizona & New Mexico as well as Florida & Florida State.  Although not as well-known as any of those schools, East Carolina’s campus was just as big.  As we walked around classes ended and in a few minutes the quads and pathways were filled with students.  It’s a bit jarring walking by yourself one minute and the next being surrounded by hundreds of kids.  As we wandered around, we snapped of few pictures of signs and sent them back to Alex as we were pretty sure not many of her friends had made it all the way from New York to this small town in North Carolina.  After we finished our tour of the college we headed to the campground for the night.

New Bern, NC

The next morning, we woke up and after breakfast drove into the town of New Bern.  Named after Bern, Switzerland; New Bern quickly became one of our all-time favorite small towns.  In addition to the town being gorgeous it also is extremely historic.  It was the 2nd oldest town in North Carolina, settled in 1710.  It was the capitol of North Carolina from 1770 until 1792 and the largest city in the state for a number of years in the early 1800’s.  More recently the town is most famous for being the city in which Pepsi was invented.

After finding parking we took a stroll by the riverfront where the Trent and Neuse rivers come together.  We then wandered into the town going into a few shops before finding the Pepsi store.  As Pepsi isn’t made in New Bern any longer there is no factory to see but a storefront is set up with a soda fountain, small Pepsi history museum as well as gift shop.  After looking around the history and gift area we saddled up to the counter and ordered a Pepsi from the “Soda Jerk”.  While we are both not huge soda drinkers it was pretty neat to be sipping on a Pepsi in the small town that it was invented in.  If we had known that New Bern was going to be so nice, we would have stayed here however we had already booked a campsite near Columbia, SC so we said goodbye to New Bern and North Carolina and headed south for the night.

Columbia, SC

We woke up the next day on the outskirts of Columbia, SC ready for a great day.  Today we would continue our state capitol building odyssey and see the capitol building of South Carolina.  Columbia is not the largest city so driving up to the capitol building and finding parking turned out to be quite easy.  Finished completely in 1901 the building had been constructed for quite a long time, starting in 1855 (slowed by the civil war and reconstruction that followed it).  Walking inside the building was beautiful.  Almost immediately after entering, we ran into a woman having professional pictures done for her birthday.  It was a pretty cool idea in a beautiful building.  We then went on a great tour in which we were able to visit almost every room in the building.  Inside there were great works of art as well as beautiful mosaics.  All in all, it was a great tour in a beautiful building.

From the state house we walked downtown where we found a street party setting up.  There were a few stages with bands’ equipment being placed on it.  We asked around when it would be starting, and we were told in an hour or so.  As this was the case and we were feeling a bit hungry we decided to stop in for some local cuisine.  After looking at a few reviews we settled on a restaurant called Bourbon.  We walked in and sure enough behind the bar were shelves upon shelves of bourbon.  We sat down, both ordered a bourbon drink and had a great lunch.  After lunch we wandered back out to the street where the bands were in full stride.  There were three different stages with bands playing different kinds of music.  We never found out what the street fair was actually for, but we sure did enjoy the music.

From the street fair area, we walked outside of the immediate downtown area to the University of South Carolina.  As we normally try to check out large schools if were close enough, going to see this school was a no brainer.  Walking in under large oak trees the school was pretty massive.  Most of the buildings were brick set next to large courtyards.  As it was a Sunday, we didn’t see too many students walking around, but thinking back to our time visiting East Carolina University just a few days prior, we could imagine what it would be like with thousands of kids walking in every direction around us.  As the weather was starting to turn and it was getting later in the day we decided to head back to Bubbles and call it a day.

Next up…We head to Augusta, GA and Hilton Head Island, SC!

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