Kinston, NC/Newport News Trip – part 1

Why did we plan a trip in the heat of summer?   The month before we left,  it rained and rained and rained.  We had more rain on record for the month of July in Southport, NC than it has had in years.  We were quite pleased when we looked at the weather reports for our trip to find out that the rain cycle might be breaking.

We started our trip on a Saturday afternoon headed for Kinston, NC (home of the PBS show A Chef’s Life).   We are meeting friends at this campground on Thursday (to go to Chef and the Farmer) on our way back home, so we wanted to check it out beforehand.  We also thought it was a good way to break the trip up to Newport News, VA.

Neuseway Nature Park in Kinston, is a nature park. I had researched this beforehand and knew they had a campground.  The problem is that you cannot reserve a campsite.  It’s first come, first serve.  I’m always nervous about getting to a place without reservations.  My fear is it will be filled up and there really aren’t any other campgrounds nearby.  So we planned on getting there early and if we had to boondock somewhere we were prepared.  We arrived around 4:30 and we had our pick of sites.  This park is small and I believe there might only be about 20 or so spots, but there were plenty open on this particular day.  As we drove in, we noticed that there were three other Winnebago Minnie’s camping.  The site was only $20 for full hook-up so the price was a definite plus.  We picked a site in the back that was long enough for us to say hitched.  We hadn’t planned on going into town so the site we picked was perfect.  Later that evening we went for a walk  to check things out and we met up with one of the other Minnie owners.  They are on the same facebook group site we are on and it was really enjoyable to compare campers and get to know them a little.  That is one of the perks of camping.  Everyone usually is very friendly.

The next morning we were up and ready for our trip north.  It took us about 4 hours to arrive in Newport News.  The drive was a little hairy once we got into Virginia… quite a bit of congestion on the freeway and lots of construction and slow-downs.  We arrived at Newport News Campground around 4:00.  The park is nice but sort of run down.  There aren’t a lot of other campers here which sort of surprised me.  I had heard it is very hard to get reservations at some of these campgrounds in the summertime.  I had made our reservations a few months ago and thought we would arrive to a crowded campground, but that wasn’t the case.  We have a large private site that the people in the office told us was the best site at the campground.  It was narrow and not very level, but we do have the best view.  We are about 150 feet from the lake but we really can’t walk to it because of all the overgrowth.  Even if we could walk to it, I don’t think it’s a lake that people swim in.  Quite a bit of algae.

Monday morning we woke up to a hot steamy day.  Not sure what the heat index was but it was so muggy and oppressive.  Because of this, we sought out an air conditioned museum.  This area is filled with so many museums and historical areas we’re almost overwhelmed with choices.  We decided to drive down to Hampton and go to the National Mariner’s Museum.  This museum is huge…. we were there about 20 minutes and we got separated.  Our cell phones barely got any bars while inside so we ended up going our own separate ways.  I was finished up about 20 minutes before Greg and we compared notes on what we had seen.  Attached to this museum was the Nolan Trail.  This was written up in Trip Advisor as another great thing to do, but because of the heat we decided to skip it.

We came back to the camper to start smoking our chicken.  I have never smoked anything before so I didn’t really have high exceptions on what this was going to turn out like.  Williams and Sonoma had a recipe that I thought looked like it was worth trying.  We have a Volcano grill that can burn propane, wood or charcoal.  We usually cook with gas, but on occasion do charcoal.  One of the accessories that was available for this cooker was a cover that turns it into a smoker.  I ordered this last week and was anxious to give it a try.  I bought some oak wood chucks to cook with and mixed those with a little charcoal.  Greg got the fire going nice and hot and then we added the chicken.  It took about 2 hours but I have to say that it came out delicious.

Tuesday morning we woke up to another hot, hot, HOT day.  I really wanted to check out Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchant’s Square.  I remember visiting there as a child and had such fond memories and really wanted to go back.  Even though we could barely stay outside for more than 15 minutes, we decided to tough it out and go.  We figured we could duck in and out of air-conditioned shops to make it more bearable.  We arrived around 11:30 and found a parking spot pretty easily in a free 2hr lot.  I set the timer on my phone to make sure we kept an eye on how long we were gone but that really wasn’t needed.  We walked around for only about 10 minutes and realized it was time to go eat INSIDE.  So hot.  Maybe all the brick buildings were radiating the heat, but it was difficult to really enjoy the time there because of it.  We ended up at the Cheese Shop from a recommendation from our son who was there on business last month.  I do believe it was the best grilled cheese sandwich I had ever eaten and the place was air-conditioned!!!

We left the Cheese Shop and went in a few more shops.  We found a really nice Peanut Shop that had a variety of spiced and flavored peanuts.  They had samples of about 20 different varieties all throughout the store.  Needless to say we came away with 3 cans of peanuts we didn’t know we needed.

Merchant Square is sort of spread out.  There were not any paper maps around so we sort of walked around in circles.  We ended up finding a street with some coffee shops on it.  We chose Aroma’s to once again go into to get cool.  Well at least Greg had the right idea in ordering a frozen, blended coffee drink while I had to have my usual afternoon Americano.  After that we decided to call it a day.  Just too hot to be enjoying this quaint little area.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the air-conditioned camper.  I kept looking out the window to this beautiful view but realizing that it was just awful outside.  There was no outside cooking this evening.  I had enough leftover chicken and other things to just have a pot-luck/microwave dinner.


After dinner we thought it might be cooler (by just a few degrees)  to get out and walk around a little.  We drove across the lake to the other area of the park.  This side of the park was beautiful.  It was well maintained and lots of picnic and play areas.  We discovered that this area played a major role in the civil war.  There are signs all around the park giving it’s history.  Right near our campsite there is this sign indicating Civil War earthworks.

Tomorrow we will do a driving tour at Yorktown Battlefield that sounds like it will be perfect for this weather.  We will pick-up a CD at the visitor’s center and go from there….