Friday, April 24, 2009

April Excellent Adventure, Part 1

i had some work to get done in the morning so we got an "after rush hour start" to our little vacation. We started our long weekend at our usual travel spot, a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Virginia. It was so strange to have them ask us if we wanted smoking or not...there isn't smoking in resteraunts in Maryland or Pennsylvania and it's great.
We drove down the coast to North Carolina and found this monument to the First 100 years of flight. The pillars are etched with a timeline of important events in flight and exploration. It was high up on a sand dune in Kitty Hawk, NC, a very beautiful area. The entire Outer Banks area was beautiful and I'd love to spend some time there over the summer, it looks like a very mellow and family oriented area, especially compared to some of the other beach cities we've been to.
It was incredibly windy all day though it was sunny. The waves were very high and really whipping around on the shore. We stayed the night in Kitty Hawk, and I was not surprised that they often suffer hurricane damage. The waves were nearly under the houses just on this windy day.
This is the monument to the Wright Brother's first flight at the National Park at Kill Devil Hills, NC. It was Orville Wright's Birthday the day we went so we got into the park free. It was really neat, they had replicas of the glider and airplane and the shop where they worked on the plane. There really is nothing out there and I can see why they used a tall spot in the dunes to launch the plane.
We also went to Ft. Raleigh which is also called the Lost colony. This is Mark by the Visitor Center. This is a National Park, but it shares land with a play that's been running about the lost colony, as well as beautiful Elizabethian Gardens. The wind was still pretty strong, but it was a beautiful sunny day all over the sites that we visited.
Here I am posing with the British flag in Ft. Raleigh. The earth walls don't look like much defense against the Native people who initially helped the settlers when they came to NC. The entire colony of people, including the first child born in England 's colonies (Virginia Dare) disappeared in 1587, hence they were referred to as "The Lost Colony".
The next morning bright and early we got started going to look for lighthouses on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The first one we encountered was the Bodie Island Light which was outlined by the sunshine of the morning. The wind had died down somewhat and it was a beautiful day. This lighthouse was not open to climbing. I love how each light house is painted differently on the Outer Banks.
This is the famous Cape Hatteras Light house that was moved from a spot that became too near to the beach to the spot where it now sits in 1999-2000. The Park Service does permit climbing up to the top for $7.00 per person but I thought I still wanted to be able to walk the next day so we declined not to do the climb. There is a nice but small visitor's center, and I was surprised that they hadn't given much information on the move of the lighthouse. I thought it was a monumental undertaking and deserved to be talked about.

The next lighthouse going south is on an island called Ocracoke and due to a big storm in the 1800's it is now only accessible via ferry boat. We waited for about an hour and then loaded the car and us on the ferry for the 40 minute ride over to the island. There is a really cute village there with houses and shops and places to eat.
This is a view of Hatteras as we left the island. We had seagulls following the ferry the entire time we were in the water. It was really neat, they took along some 18 wheelers too.
This is the Ocracoke Island light, it's the oldest (1820's) operational light on the East Coast. It's smaller than the others but it's really beautiful. The visitor center for this island is not near the lighthouse and it's not open for visitors so I took this picture from the ferry.
And speaking of "from the ferry", here are the socks I've been working on knitting during the trip. We're on the ferry in this picture, we had to take the ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island. We were trying to make the Cape Lookout Visitor Center before 5pm but we arrived at 5:05pm. That's ok, we wanted to spend more time there so we'll come back on the way back north.
This is a picture of the Cape Lookout visitor center right on the edge of the island. It was like in National Lampoon's Vacation after driving to Wally World and finding it was closed.
South of the Border is a place that I've mentioned in past blog entries. It's a place that is full of fun neon and statuary and campy shops. It's on the road to Myrtle Beach, SC right below the border with North Carolina. As happens about 80% of the time, we arrived there in the middle of the night. We took a couple of pictures of the neon and got onto the road again.

Another shot at the neon at South of the Border. They actually looked as though they'd done a bunch of work on the shops there and cleaned up the area a lot. It looks like it would be not a bad place. We'd actually gotten to stop there once during the day when we were driving Jon from Basic training in SC to AIT in Virginia. We did a lot of driving back and forth to see Jon while he was at Ft. Eustis in Virginia, but never got to go by South of the Border again since we didn't have to go that far South.
This scene really made me sick and alarmed me. This was at a Truck stop in South Carolina. Yes, they're real Gator heads. There are quite a few baby heads too. I just can't understand why they'd kill so many baby alligators, for food or leather, they'd want older gators anyway, why senselessly kill these. And I just can't even imagine the use for these...surely people don't keep them on shelves and coffee tables, do they? I just had to take a picture of this. EWWWW.
This picture was from Saturday morning while we were waiting for the Hunley center to open. We had timed tickets to see the historic sub and I was excited and we got there early. I had time to knit and worked on my sock a bit before the Center opened. We also met a really nice Canadian family that was there to see the Hunley. The dad was a definite Civil War buff, and had been to Gettysburg and a few other Civil War sites.
This is the photographable area of the Hunley. We weren't able to take any pictures of the sub itself in the conservation area. It is submerged in clear water because they are trying to take out all the salt out of the metal. The salt makes the metal fragile and brittle so they definitely want to get all the salt to come out. They do drain the tank periodically so that conservators and archeologists can study and work on the sub. This is a picture of most of the Hunley crew. The 3rd crew to die on the sub was the last crew, these are the guys that managed to sink the USS Housatonic which was the first ship to ever be sunk by a submarine in wartime.
These are the Medals of Honor that were awarded to the crew of the Hunley after they went down. The sub sat in the silt in the bottom of Charleston Harbor for 130 years with the crew entombed in mud that had seeped into the sub. They were later buried in North Charleston. They had the actual gold coin that was in the Captain's pocket as well as the jewelry that he had in his pocket when the sub went down.
This is a mock up of the sub. The Captain of the sub was 5'8" to 5'10" and there was one crewmember that was over 6 foot tall. They had to crank the propeller by hand while stooped over in the tiny sub. The experience was amazing, and of course, we got a couple of tee shirts for ourselves and the adorable Grandbaby.

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