From my six hour distance North Virginia sometimes appears to be a contentious spot. I worked there long enough to know that agreement on most things near the beltway is about as scare as a good parking spot near Reston Town Center on a nice Sunday afternoon.
While Northern Virginia certainly does not have a monopoly on strongly held opinions, all you have to do is look at the diverse organizations located in the area and wonder how people stay civil with each other at all. With a culture based on government contractors and lobbyists, someone is always trying slide something over on the next person.
However, there is one thing thing that most folks can agree on and that is early July is good time to leave town. While Congress might be in session, there is a good chance that even less work than usual might get done. Washington and surrounding areas can be pretty miserable in the heat especially when you are supposed to show up to work in a suit and tie.
Back in my days at Apple my employees were well aware of how much I disliked an account call in July that required a suit and tie. I am not sure I have forgiven one of my former employees yet over the hike through the Pentagon tunnel on one hot July day when the temperatures approached 100F.
So it is with good reason that residents tend to abandon Northern Virginia during the heat of July and August. The one good thing to come of this is that commuting traffic traffic decreases noticeably until after Labor Day.
Some Northern Virginia residents head across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Delaware Beaches and others head down Interstate 95 then over to Chesapeake and down to North Carolina's Outer Banks. This late June traffic map shows some of the challenges in escaping Northern Virginia during the summer. Some of the nation's worst traffic gets even more horrible as increasing numbers of people flee the city.
As native North Carolinians my wife and I grew up going to the state's beaches and have watched them change over time. There are few of the state beaches that we have not sampled. When I got ready to jettison corporate life and Apple decided that they had no further use for me (see my book, The Pomme Company), we investigated places to live from Assateague Island all the way south to Bald Head Island. We even went back to one of my favorite stomping grounds during my youth, Ocracoke Island.
As we were doing this survey of beaches, we took an anniversary trip to Beaufort, North Carolina. I fell in love once again with Carteret County and its Crystal Coast. After all the wandering I did in my earlier years including building and running a cattle farm in Maritime Canada, I had to wonder what would have happened if I had just kept my toes in the saltwater by the Point on Emerald Isle when I first visited it during the summer of 1969. There were a number of reasons why we ended up in Carteret County, but we have stayed here because it is a wonderful place to enjoy the water and be close to the natural world.
Most Northern Virginians never make it to the area most of us call the Southern Outer Banks. If there is little traffic you can make it from Reston to the Emerald Isle area in about six hours. In the same no traffic scenario you could also make it Duck on the Northern Outer Banks in about five hours. We all know there is little chance of there being no traffic.
However, once you get past Richmond, Virginia, the trip to the Crystal Coast is usually relatively traffic free. It has been a few years since I battled the traffic from Chesapeake to the Northern Outer Banks, but I can well remember spending an amazing amount of time tied up in traffic. I also remember the challenge of making a left turn in Duck during the peak season.
While there are no guarantees, usually you can make it the Crystal Coast in about seven hours given about an hour of slow downs in the Fredericksburg area. Once you get here, you will find a totally different experience. This area is a family beach area and you will find lots more trees and a whole lot fewer people. In fact the mainland just before the beaches is the home to the 158,000 acre Croatan National Forest. The mainland is closer than it is on Northern Banks and is also the permanent home of many escapees of the urban world. We also 56 miles of the Cape Lookout National Seashore and some of the best beaches in the state in those accessible only by ferry or boat to Bear Island.
If you love to boat, there is no better place than the big coastal rivers of the area, Bogue Sound, and the easily accessible Atlantic. If you like seafood, we still have real fishermen and places to buy fish fresh off the boat. There are no giant restaurants but there are no giant crowds either.
I have seen all the beaches, there are none better than what you will find in Carteret County. If you are interested in more information, try my free online travel guide to Emerald Isle or read more about the Crystal Coast at my Crystal Coast Life blog. Our 180 plus page travel guide to the area is only $3.99 in our five star rated Kindle version or a little over $20 in the full color paperback version.
If you do escape to our beaches, you might find one like the Point that can touch you in ways that most beaches never can.