For me I associate the Carolina’s with NASCAR – Days of Thunder and all that, and so whilst not a huge NASCAR fan it would be rude not to check something heart here in the heart of NASCAR country. Crossing into North Carolina we stopped at the Visitor Centre and I picked up on some NASCAR options. Any true NASCAR fan would head straight for Charlotte and the surrounding areas as this is where the big speedway is and a big number of the main NASCAR teams have their workshops here, and as a bonus to the tourist, they invite tourists to come and check them out. With our current fear of big city driving we had made a call that we wouldn’t head into the heart of Charlotte – that represented something just a bit too busy for us. Instead we headed for the home of the King – no not Elvis Presley – the NASCAR King Richard Petty. We headed south on the 29 through to Greensboro and then dropped down on Interstate 73 (a really nice piece of road, in fact all the roading through North Carolina was pretty good – much smoother and better maintained than some of the states), through to the small town of Randleman – or King Country. The local road / Interstate section is named after the King and so forth. We looked like we were out in the countryside somewhat and thinking to ourselves there can’t be anything much of a museum out these ways, when we found the ‘Petty Compound’. You have the Petty Museum, the old Family home, and then you have a series of workshops which is Petty Motorsports where they tweak hot cars with the ‘Petty touch’.
The museum itself was really good – I’d been a big fan of the King since I’d seen NASCAR as a young fella and the museum chronicled his life in racing. Petty won 200 NASCAR racers, and 7 championships – no one has come close to his 200-race record to date. The museum is full of his trophies and some specific cars, but also a huge collection of guns, knifes and belt buckles – all things he loved to collect. He had model cars as far as the eye could see – yep, loads more than I have. He had a bit of everything. The King had a cameo in the film series ‘Cars’ with Lightning McQueen so there was a section in the museum dedicated to that. Richard’s wife of 50 odd years was a huge part of the racing family and she was also included in the film as one of the ‘support wagons’ at the races. The Petty’s are a NASCAR legion – Richard’s dad Lee was one of the first NASCAR champs, and then after Richard his son Kyle was a NASCAR legion as well. Kylie’s son Adam also raced and won a NASCAR event and was showing real promise to continue on the family heritage, when he died in a race event aged only 20 years old I think. Out the back of the museum you get to have a bit of a look at the Motorsport workshops where they ‘tweak’ vehicles – in effect you bring your new sportscar to Petty Enterprises and they ‘hot it up’ with some Petty parts and tweaks. The workshop looked to be very busy. As we were coming away from the museum we even had the pleasure of meeting the King – he was pulling out of the yard in his Cadillac and stopped to say giddy to us and shake hands – pleased to learn that some Kiwi’s had come a calling at his museum to day (the museum is a family run affair). In the excitement I overlooked to get a selfie with the King – missed opportunity I know. Before we knew it, his Caddie was moving off and we headed back to our stead – Romin (not sure of his exact age, but the King is 80 plus now and comes into the workshop every day that he isn’t off at a NASCAR event – pretty sure the Petty’s still have an active NASCAR race team).
Pulling away from the museum having both really enjoyed our afternoon there, we were rewarded with the day drying and warming up – making for easier motoring. We got back onto the nice Interstate 73 and pushed south for a time before finding a really nice Interstate rest area for the night – it was big and well off the main road so more comfortable than many we have stopped at. On Thursday morning we called into the Visitor Centre attached to the rest area for some further info before heading on south on the 73 through to Rockingham – a nice consistent run for us. At Rockingham we cut west to both take us out of the state, but also to take us down and below the city of Charlotte. Upon reflection we both felt that we needed more time in the state – from a geographic point of view the state has a lot more we would have liked to have checked out (if we were running more reliably with Romin we would have taken more time to explore). To the east of the state you have the Atlantic Coast but you also have what looks to be an amazing area called the Outer Bank – in essence a big peninsula that runs out from the mainland pretty much enclosing the entire coastline of North Carolina. You have the likes of Cape Hatteras at its point and you also have the Kitty Hawk area where the Wright Brothers made their historic first flight – there’s a national monument there and I would like to explore at some stage. Then of course you have Charlotte and the surrounding areas with all the NASCAR activity so I’d like to time it to actually come back for a race and to take in some of what is on offer in the area. To the west of the state you have the bottom end of the Blue Ridge Skyline Parkway and I’m pretty sure part of the Appalachian Trial runs through the state, so lots to take in, but for us, too little time this time in state.
Unlike North Carolina we had no fixed plans for stopping in South Carolina as disappointing as that might be – whilst we were running (well Romin that is) we just needed to keep pushing, so today was about primarily transiting the state. As we crossed into South Carolina we were soon rewarded with our first views of cotton fields – yep, big paddocks of cotton wool in essence. We stuck to Highway 1 as it wound its way into the heart of South Carolina. We made our way through to Camden and then cut west on the 34 to join up with Interstate 26. In amongst loads of traffic we pushed north before then cutting west on the 418 to head the west Interstate 85 for the final run across and out of this state (the run across state took us about 5 hours of driving I think – at our pace). Before we knew it we were heading for the Savannah River which is the state border between South Carolina and Georgia – crossing that bridge ended our time in the state of South Carolina. Our brief reflections of the state – the roading wasn’t as well maintained as North Carolina, there were a few cotton fields that we saw, but there were large pine plantations right across the state. The properties were big, and there was a lot of farmland. To the western side of the state we went through an area rich in marble – there was a large marble processing factory, and the local school was clad in marble – a different look. For now we had a river to cross.