My Autumn Road Trip | Part One – North Carolina

55  hours…3,789 miles to drive…let’s do this.

chihuahua looking out at the water in southport north carolina on a road trip
Freddy’s first time at the ocean! Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Here is it, part one of my solo road trip across the USA! Leaving our Colorado mountains in the rear view mirror and covering a staggering 1,810 miles (2,913 km) in 26 hours, we reached our first destination: North Carolina.

google maps from denver, colorado to southport, north carolina for road trip across usa
North Carolina, here we come!

Time to drive…

The road trip begins…Day ONE = driving

5:30 AM in November – the sun had not yet risen, but the car was loaded and Little Freddy curled up neatly in his bed on the seat next to me as we finally began our epic autumn road trip across the USA.

Driving 16.5 hours the first day, our goal was to reach the Days Inn motel in Calvert City, Kentucky – about two hours outside of Nashville, Tennessee and a little over halfway to North Carolina. Beating the Friday morning Denver commuter traffic, we reached the edge of Colorado just as the sun began to rise, a sunrise full of brilliant pinks, bright oranges, and subtle blues.

sunrise in Colorado near Kansas state border open road highway road trip
Leaving Colorado as the sun rises above Kansas. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Has anyone ever told you that Kansas is flat? Because let me tell you, Kansas is FLAT. I could have tied the steering wheel in place and taken a nap in the back with Freddy! Ha! With the first of three road trip audio books playing (Eragon by Christopher Paolini), we made our way across some of the dullest parts of the country, gladly watching the hours and miles tick away on trusty Google Maps.

Once we entered Missouri, the countryside started to have a little more character, driving past the St. Louis Arch after dark. It was a delight to see the national landmark lit up – a shining beacon above the sleepy city. Many hours in the car later…alternating between audio books and music mixes…taking brief breaks at giant rest stops and “travel plazas”…we finally found our way to a bed in the sketchy Days Inn – Calvert City. One of those places where you really don’t want to take your socks off, I  slipped under the yellow bedspread and quickly passed out for a few short hours, Freddy on guard throughout the night.

Road trip tip: Always refuel when you hit half a tank of gas. When you’re driving unfamiliar roads, it’s important to give yourself a cushion in case the next rest area is a long way off. See more road trip tips here.

Saturday = More Driving…Wheeee!
chihuahua dog snuggled up for road trip
Mister Freddy snuggled and ready to ride. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Another early morning, we were on the road again at 5:30 AM – only 10 hours to drive (only!) to reach lovely Southport, North Carolina where my loving grandparents are eagerly waiting. Knowing that by the end of the day we would be there, the hours seemed to both speed by and drag on with anticipation.

The countryside was far more interesting as we cruised through Kentucky, zipped across Tennessee, grabbed lunch in mountainous Asheville, North Carolina, then dipped down into South Carolina, finally making our way up the Atlantic coastline back into North Carolina as the sun was setting behind us.

After hours…and hours…in the car, Freddy and I pulled up to my grandparents’ home to find them waiting for us in the drive! Our exhausted hearts were full and happy at the wonderful greeting. Content, sleepy, and ready to hit the hay, my grandmother and I ate a delicious dinner of ham and chatted until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Planning our next adventures would have to wait until tomorrow.

grandparents waiting in chairs for grandaughter after many hours in the car on a road trip
A happy sight after many miles. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Southern Girl at Heart

chihuahua and girl with coffee

Making our plan for the day. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Those who know me, know that I am truly a southern girl at heart. My Rocky Mountains will always be home, but there is something about being near the ocean that speaks to my soul. A cup of coffee in my hand and Freddy in my lap, it was an easy task to choose our activity for the first day of road trip freedom – time to see the ocean!

The waterfront in Southport is one of my favorite spots to sit and take in the scenery. When you have the weathered wooden swing bench beneath you and  listen to the gentle lapping of the waves against the pier pilings, it is both peaceful and rejuvenating. I parked a few blocks from the waterfront, choosing to give Mr. Freddy a chance to stretch his legs and myself a chance to revisit some of my favorite sites in downtown Southport.

We made a pit stop at Port City Java, a small hole-in-the-wall coffee shop with a doggie walk-up window! Knowing that many of their local clientele stop by with their pooch, Port City Java has made a window where dog owners can order without going inside, no need for sad tied up pups here! Try their mocha, I love it. Freddy recommends their puppy biscotti.

port city java doggie walk up window in southport north carolina coffee shop
Bark! Woof! Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Mocha in hand, we found the perfect bench – three down from the pier, not too near the seagull-attracting trash bins, and smack dab in the middle of the picturesque view. Sipping my mocha and laughing as Freddy scared off the braver birds (I have a total bird phobia, he’s my tiny hero!), I was reminded of the importance to stop and take a moment for yourself.

cup of coffee by the waterfront in southport north carolina on a usa road trip
Coffee at the waterfront. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

I mean…look at this…how could you not love being on the waterfront?

benches and lamp posts along the waterfront in southport north carolina
A gorgeous day on the waterfront in Southport, NC. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Immerse yourself! Listen to a clip of the waves washing over the rocks.

Vacation time goes so fast!

Where did the time go?! – the road trip continues

Over the next two days, we dipped down to the waterfront in between family time, took peaceful morning walks around the neighborhood, and did a bit of shopping downtown at Lantana’s – one of my all time favorite shops with everything from home goods to local photography.

photo of downtown southport north carolina lantana's shop gallery and fine gifts shop local
Lantana’s…I love this shop. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

If you’re traveling with kids, stop by Bullfrog’s Corner! It’s an old-fashioned candy shop with toys, an amazing array of sweets, and local gifts. As a kid we would raid my grandparents’ coin jar for quarters so we could go pick out some delicious treats.

Our days in North Carolina passed quickly, as they always do on vacation, and before I knew it Tuesday had arrived. One last evening in North Carolina, then we would load up the car and continue our road trip, this time driving north to Virginia to visit my dad’s side of the family for Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday morning tearful goodbyes were said, tight hugs given, and with one last drive past the water, Freddy and I were off again.

Virginia, here we come.

carolina porch in north carolina on a road trip at grandparents house
Join me on the Carolina porch! Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Please stay tuned for My Autumn Road Trip | Part Two – Virginia!


For road trip ideas and tips, please check out my post “My Autumn Road Trip | Planning“!

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*Note: Because She Can – Travel Blog is not sponsored by any of the companies or destinations mentioned in this article. I happened to like them and hope you will too!

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