Drive 370 mi, 8 hours, 6 minutes
After most of the day spent on the dreaded I95 yesterday I was looking forward to some back roads and “blue highways”. Starting out getting some non-ethanol gas then taking the ring road around Jacksonville and a short stint on 95 before exiting. Immediately the scenery was better with swamp lands, abandon and crumbling buildings all framed by live oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Too soon 95 again becomes pretty much the only choice North then a jump off again to see the local sights. These sights ended up being strip-malls, mini-vans and traffic lights… and traffic. So, 95 again was the route until North of the Savannah area. Driving through the Francis Marion National Forest was a real treat with its empty road and seemingly endless pine trees with their lovely aroma. This road lead to the Pawleys Island area that hugged the shoreline. In Ocean Isle Beach, NC I stopped at the Makai Brewing Company and Italian meat market. Seems the Italian (via Brooklyn) was a craft beer fan and split his Italian butcher in two and opened a brewery in part of the space. The beer was strange… in a pretty bad way. Fortunately the nights stop in Wilmington, NC was only another hour away. Parking at the hotel and quickly washing up and feeding Nico I drove a few miles to the downtown. Wilmington is obviously recovering from may years of urban blight and is in the early stages of gentrification. Empty stores and crumbling old buildings line the red-brick streets along with many new cafes, trendy restaurants and of course – breweries, the business that often plays the lead roll in gentrification. The pre-gentrification homeless, bums and wine-o’s now wander the streets like the living dead and receive handouts from the hipsters, who often are the first occupants in gentrified committees. Wilmington is a very enjoyable city with a nice riverwalk and the Battleship North Carolina docked there for tourists.