I’m sucking down the last bit of coffee in my cup, mapping out the upcoming journey from Beaufort to Damascus. I don’t use a GPS, so I have to be pretty precise in my directions. I made that mistake a few days ago on my drive from New Jersey to North Carolina – I didn’t write down distances or landmarks, only road names.
I suppose you could say I enjoy “finding my way” when it comes to travel – I think eliminating all aspects of doubt removes part of the fun – however I forgot that I’m not dealing with major destinations here. You know, driving from major city to major city, how lost can you get? You’re bound to see a couple signs, a skyline. Turns out, small towns of 4,000 people don’t get advertised 100 or even 10 miles in advance – you really have to keep a sharp eye on the road.
Which brought to my attention something that separates Cape May from the three other towns on this trip: It’s the only truly established “tourist destination.” Cape May and Beaufort may have similar populations (about 4,000 residents), but that is in no way a reflection of reality. The proximity of the Jersey shore to the major metropolitan areas of New York and Philadelphia supply the town with a constant stream of tourists, pumping the population up over 100,000 in the summer.
That’s sort of a stunning statistic if you think about it, and it really changes the way you must approach the town. You have to dig in and make it a point to find the local flair in Cape May during its peak season, while in Beaufort all you have to do is show up – it is literally impossible to hang out in town for a few days and not begin to learn the names of the locals.
And man, did I make some friends. I have to get on the road, but tonight I’ll begin showing you the beauty of Beaufort. Thanks to all the locals who made me feel so welcome, like a friend rather than a visitor.
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There may not be any palm trees, but there’s a Caribbean vibe in here somewhere: