Monday, October 22, 2018

Sad Start to a Special Stop

October 13-17, 2018
Outer Banks, North Carolina

Saturday morning Bill receives one of those phone calls we all dread.

Coy at the annual golf tourney, 2018
Our dear friend Coy passed away on Friday. He's been ill for a while, but we were sure we'd see him again at the reunion in April. It's a horrible loss. Coy and I were good friends in the '70's, with some crazy memories. My mother adored him. He and Bill have spent more time together in recent years, and become very close. His house was where we spent our first night in the motorhome. Coy is part of our history.

The beautiful drive into North Carolina helps, but it's still a quiet trip. One big surprise is the Hampton Bridge-Tunnel that first takes us over the water, then under it!

Yep, just drive out there and go under water!
Driving on the Outer Banks feels like being on a sliver of sand that may sink at any time. It's very cool!

The island is so narrow, the motorhome on our GPS is wider than the strip of land we're driving on!

The sinking feeling gets a little more real in Rodanthe.

Reaching someone at Sands of Time Campground in Avon was challenging, but we did finally get a reservation. The Passport America rate is cash only, which I don't have, so I pay the extra $2/night - still a great deal for the island. Electric is also additional with a cash deposit (I do have that). Our dirt and grass site is level with FHUs and 50 amps. A few small trees and hedges provide a little privacy behind us. 

With cooler temps we share a few brews outside and decide we really like it here!

Football and laundry on Sunday is even better with all the windows open to enjoy the cool breezes.

The one thing I really want to see here is the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kill Devil Hills. Monday morning we return north. We stop to see Bodie Island Lighthouse, and pick up an off-highway permit. 

This third lighthouse at this site was completed in 1871, was automated in 1934, and continues to safely guide ships along the barrier island.

A recent restoration has the keepers house, tower and grounds looking new.

There are so many human achievements in our history that have changed all of our lives. The 12-seconds of powered flight is one that has always amazed me. From gliding off a tall sand dune multiple times to getting off flat ground and into the air - can you imagine the excitement?!

Fortunately, the national park's memorial is equal to the moment. It is simply done, leaving room to envision that chilly day in 1903. 

The museum is still closed for renovation - we missed the reopening by five days. The 1920's building itself is a national historic landmark.

Modernizing mechanical and electronic systems.
Marking the location where the brothers practiced in their glider for years before attempting powered flight. A sand dune at the time, the hill was fortified with dirt and foliage to stabilize it for the monument. Children were paid a penny a bucket to help take dirt to the top.

The hollow monument built in 1927 was the first structure placed in a national park.
The multi-piece sculpture of the first flight is one of the most delightful I've seen. It really captures the excitement of the event in the faces of those who were there. Walking among them is quite wonderful.

Wilbur lets go of the wing he's stabilizing as Orville pilots their plane off the ground for the first flight.

Orville flew the first and third flights. Wilbur flew the second and fourth - the final one nearly a full minute in the air.

Friends from the life-saving station nearby had been helping the brothers, and were there to cheer on the successful flight!

John T. Daniels also worked at the life saving station, and took the famous photo showing man releasing the binds of earth.
10:35 AM, December 17, 1903
Wonderful how the propellers look like they're moving - they're not.

Walking where man first flew.

Standing at the first flight location looking at the practice hill, under skies that make you question why you'd want to be "up there".

At the Visitor's Center in Kitty Hawk is the Century of Flight Memorial.

An auspicious beginning.

A hundred years later man is living in space!

Major achievements when we were born.

Even more when we graduated from high school.
It truly is incredible what we have accomplished since that 12 seconds a few feet above the sand.

We're enjoying the island so much, we extend for another night, giving us a day to take the Jeep out on the beach (sorry Sherry). It's very deep sand, and not surprising it gets very narrow even at low tide.

There are so many people and vehicles on the shore fishing and sun bathing, we turn around just south of the pier. Bill reads that in the summer there are days when there's no place to park between the dunes and the water!

We never see anyone catch anything.

Deep sand, 4-wheel drive required.

Beautiful clear skies, no humidity. Wonderful.
We've see a lot of beauties, but Hatteras Lighthouse has to be at the top of the list.

Staff and keeper's house. Museum in the staff house is open "intermittently as funding allows".

What a wonderful place to enjoy when weather permitted.
A very impressive base with huge steel doors. Locked today, no tours for anyone.
The lighthouse was moved in 1990 due to eroding coastline. The old foundation blocks now form an amphitheater here. 
The names of the Keepers are engraved on each block.

This bright green little guy is the size of my thumb.
A modern fossil from the 1990 build. Poor guy!
Pelicans are very entertaining.

Lots of casting and reeling. No catching.

Dodging bubbles.
Single scoops of sherbert at the very southern tip of the island.

Large wooden puzzle boxes along the shore.

The Sound is very popular with parasailors.

They're moving very fast!

Almost as much fun as pelicans!

The Outer Banks is a fun and special place, geographically unique, and definitely somewhere we'd love to return to.

Wednesday we head inland for a couple one-night stops along the Interstate that move us into South Carolina.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Heat, Humidity, History and Hurricane

October 10 -12, 2018
Williamsburg, Virginia

Last year I was checking the air quality map every morning to see if we could get out of the smoke. This year it's the weather map to see if we can avoid the latest hurricane. While Florence moved slowly up the coast as a tropical depression, Michael is much faster and wider, traveling inland, and is still a tropical storm. 

I decide to take a chance on Williamsburg, Virginia, continuing our route to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Tuesday's 2.5 hour drive takes us back to just west of the Chesapeake Bay.

This is another historic tourist destination, and the RV park prices and availability reflect that. With one exception. I warn Bill that we may be staying at a "sketchy" park.

Williamsburg Campark is a Passport America park, and is almost worth the $22.50/night. It's a testimony to poor management, a treasure that has been allowed to rust away. Driving past over a hundred abandoned FHU sites we find the dilapidated office where, as instructed, I call Dora to come check us in. 

While waiting 20 minutes in the heat for the manager to drive around like a maniac looking for the guy mowing the lawn who has the office key (seriously?), I learn the sad history of a once beautiful park left to a widow who's made two decades of bad decisions. 

We finally get checked in and set up in a grass FHU site with 50 amps. Crossing my fingers the coming rain won't leave us in a muddy mess, I'm grateful we're not under the big trees nearby. 

Can't complain about the crowds!
As it turns out, the park is just fine. Everything works, is quiet and dark at night, the WiFi works some of the time, and we feel plenty safe. It's also close to the historic sites we plan to see. We'd probably stay here again (if it's still open).

Although Wednesday is even hotter and just as humid, we figure we really have to see some of Colonial Williamsburg. The information on how to see it is a bit confusing, making it seem that you have to pay $35 just to "get in". Fortunately this is not the case. You can pay $2 for an all day shuttle from the Visitor Center, or (we learn after we're on the shuttle) you can drive and park your own car for free. The "ticket" price is to get access to all the buildings, some with narrations, and other presentations throughout the town.

The market place built in 1750 where goods were sold inside and out in the square. The quality and prices were regulated by city officials.

The cobbler's shop has that wonderful leather smell.

The city garden is nearly "done" for the season.

I love this wispy vine along the fence.

Like many of these stately old homes, the trees are just as impressive.
I know that the heat and humidity is impacting our experience here, but while there's a lot of authentic history, it feels a bit contrived. Even though most of it is original, there's a Disneyesque feel that turns me off. I'm glad we didn't pay for more than the shuttle.

Thursday we venture further to the Jamestown and Yorktown areas, which turn out to be a much, much better experience for us. Still lots of history, but a lot more nature at our own pace, without the structure.

We bypass the Jamestown settlement to drive the peninsula and are greeted by this slight doe.

Much of Jamestown Island is marsh land. It's beautiful, even under hot and cloudy skies.

Board-drives keep us off the fragile environment.

On the one-way loop drive are turn-outs with signs explaining the history of each location. 
At Yorktown we watch a great film on the battle and siege that marked the end of the American Revolutionary War. I'm sure we learned about this significant battle in school (from Bill's dad, our history teacher!), but of course we don't remember the details. Unlike so many battles where the two sides lined up and shot at each other across a field, the siege lines were a big part of the eventual victory.

It's fascinating to see the actual trenches hand-dug by both British and American soldiers surrounding Yorktown.
Using the driving tour map, we spend a couple hours where George Washington's militia along with French troops, surrounded Cornwallis' army at Yorktown for nearly a month. It was at this same time of year in 1781, and hard to imagine that after marching on foot for over 450 miles, these men fought back the British who defended the town from a 2,000 foot trench (the redoubts). Once they captured Redoubt 9 and 10, the Americans dug trenches of their own, each one getting their cannons closer to the walls where the British waited for their fleet that never came. 

At this home of Augustine Moore, Washington and Cornwallis sent two officers each to negotiate the surrender of the British army on October 18, 1781. Wow! this very house!

A few teenagers hanging out in the back yard.

Healthy and handsome.
Thick forests hid the approaching army, but provided challenges as well.

Beautiful signage identifies significant locations.

Wonderful to have all this natural beauty surrounding the history.

About the only fall color we've seen.

Neon splashes among the bare trees.

Tessa stands where George Washington set up his headquarters during the month-long siege of Yorktown. She's very impressed.

Canopy silhouette.


Archeologists have identified the locations of key encampments from the battlefield.

Some of the old growth forests feel like the giant redwoods in California.
We get home just in front of Michael's wet and windy arrival. The area has been under tornado warning most of the day so we keep our weather alert on throughout the evening. Eventually we bring in the large slide as the winds reach nearly 30 mph with higher gusts. Lots of rain.

It clears out by 10 pm and we sleep great with cooler temps. Friday morning is beautiful. The storm took the high temps and humidity and left behind the nicest day we've had in weeks. 

Celebrating with zoomies.

Lots of room to run. The ground is much wetter than it looks.

The hundreds of abandoned hookups look like an old cemetery.
All that fun is exhausting.
I forgot to share these amazing flowers that were at a restaurant in Stafford, Virginia. They're from San Salvador and look like velvet.

The day's cooler temps encourages us to stay our course to the Southeast. We've seriously considered just turning west and getting out of the heat and humidity. But the reality is that it will be snowing by the time we get to cooler places, and the weather will then be much better here!

Fortunately we find not only a little better weather, but a unique and wonderful world on the Outer Banks.