Monday, May 28, 2012

Crossing North Carolina

We were sorry to leave the Outer Banks of North Carolina…a really special place that’s a 150 mile long sandbank. From Avon we headed to Williamston NC and stayed for 4 nights in an RV Park called Green Acres on Green Acres Road – an idyllic place in the middle of farmland country; so much so that we never took the car off the dolly as we had everything we wanted in the park. Our RV site was right next to the tennis courts where we played every day; in the humid climate playing tennis is draining as one will sweat a lot, so one hour of playing was enough for both of us each day. Behind  us was a par three golf course, the greens were not good but Adele went out each day to practice her short game; there were two heated pools so no trouble to get a good swim 30 lengths for one of us and maybe 8 for the other.

We took long walks through the farmland that was all around us. One day we were caught in a rain storm and headed for the shelter of trees at the roadside, however the rain was so heavy that we ended up running 100 yards to take shelter in a roadside barn. We were quite wet but dried out on the way back to the park which was almost 2 a miles away; the following day we took an umbrella with us and of course we hardly saw a cloud.

Our next stop was near Cary close by Raleigh which gave us the opportunity to visit MaryAnn and Jeff Jordan - the fourth member of Adele’s Newcomers lunch bunch (joined in 1996) that we have visited on this trip. We stayed the night and spent a delightful 25 hours with them - it was not enough as it is eight years since we last saw one another. We do keep in touch with Christmas letters and periodic phone calls. Adele loves to visit, see people and talk…as I'm sure you all know. The weather was very pleasant, we had a 3 mile walk around a nearby lake, ate al fresco on the back porch except for dinner. We returned to the RV with enough food to feed us for the next several days.

Great planners that we are we had forgotten that Memorial weekend was almost upon us and we had no place reserved for the weekend! Tom called several places attempting to get make a reservation. From now on we need to plan at least a week in advance as summer has arrived and places will get busy.

Our next stop was near Lexington NC in an RV Park called Cross Winds, a really lovely park owned and run by the Morrison’s who knew that we were looking for a place for the Memorial weekend and offered us a spot in their overflow area. Thankfully, we had secured a booking (the last site) in a KOA in the Blue Ridge Mountains - once again we were lucky

A big storm came through one night, lightening cracked illuminating the inside of the RV, thunder rolled and torrential rain and winds shook the RV. Next morning the RV was sparkling clean.

The Morrison’s suggested that we visit Old Salem which was made all the more pleasurable by our tour guide Steve Allred who gave us a guided horse drawn carriage tour around Old Salem; his black horse “Midnight” proved quite a character himself.  We learned about the first Protestants - the Moravians – started about a 100 years before Martin Luther, about their journey from the Czech Republic (which used to be called Moravia) to Salem in North Carolina. Steve clearly lived and loved his religion (he nearly had a convert in Adele and…that’s saying something).

Moravian boys and girls had to leave home at 14 and go to school; the boys to the Brothers House and the girls to the Sisters House. Boys were apprenticed to a trade for 7 years and were not permitted to marry until they could support a family. The girls were taught “feminine” life skills, including animal husbandry - the girls’ school continues to this day as Salem College a four year women’s liberal arts college. In 1950 developers had plans to knock the whole area down and redevelop it - thankfully, a committee formed and saved this historic old town. 

Old Salem is quite a large area with all the houses as they were when first built (some from the early 18th century) there are old fashioned shops selling candles, glass and pottery, a gun shop, a hatters and a bakery where we our lunch on the back porch. We learned the people grew their fruit and veg and hunted for their meat. Everyone in the village wore traditional Moravian dress. Remarkably the houses had running water delivered through pipes made from cedar; seemingly cedar pipes do not deteriorate or leak. Gods Acre a beautiful cemetery is at the top of the town; Moravian burial culture is rather unique - married couples and families are not buried together. Rather, men are interred in a male only section and women in female only while children under 14 are buried in a separate section also. Throughout Gods Acre all the grave markers are uniform as in the Moravian religion everyone is equal in Gods sight.

During both the War of Independence and the Civil War Moravians supported neither side yet gave food, shelter and medical care to soldiers irrespective of which uniform they wore. Salem was not destroyed, testament to these peaceful people who still share their good fortune with one another. We had a lovely day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Outer Banks NC

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse 

Looking up the 248 steps inside the lighthouse 

This is a Tourist Map of the Outer Banks

One of the many bright colored houses 

Small tree and tall  houses 

Atlantic currents
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

East of the North America landmass the Outer Banks stretch from the Georgia/ South Carolina border all the way to Virginia Beach, VA. To get to Hatteras we first had to take a ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke and then drive up the length of the 9 miles long island and about 200 feet wide - we could see the waves crashing to the shore on both sides - to take another ferry to Hatteras. When we got to the ferry port we discovered the ferry was not sailing as the “high” tide was too low; the recent full moon had been unusually large as the moon was at its closest to earth for over 200 years. Also Hurricane Irene caused a lot of damage and silted up the inlet between the 2 islands - they were hoping for the dredgers to be working next week. 

We headed back down the island to a beautiful National Parks Campgrounds in the dunes and stayed overnight. The alarm was set for 8am the following morning and once awake Tom called to check if the Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry was sailing that morning; as the answer was in the negative Tom called and made a reservation for the ferry from Ocracoke to Swan Quarters ( isn't that a lovely name?) we sailed on that ferry at 12.45pm. The previous day we met a couple Bill and Marilyn who had been marooned from the day before; in fact first thing Adele did after the alarm clock woke us was to look out the window and notice that they had already left, as it happened  for the Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry. A long walk on the beach seemed a good idea before heading for the ferry so off we went. As we were exiting the campground we spotted Bill and Marilyn zipping down the only road from one ferry to the other. When we arrived at the ferry port we were directed into the boarding lane and noticed that Bill and Marilyn were in the standby lane. While waiting to board we spoke with them and told them how come we were sailing and bade them farewell. They had risen at 6.00am in the hopes they would be way ahead of all the lazy people for the Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry. Sadly, they did not get on; we were on the last ferry for the day so as we sailed out of the harbor they were still on the dock.

The actual distance from Ocracoke to Hatteras is a matter of yards, probably 300 or so with the ferry run about 10 minutes. However, our ferry journey to Swan Quarters was two and a half hours followed by a 142 mile drive to our next RV Park; we nearly sailed/drove in a circle from Ocracoke to Avon on Hatteras Island. The Outer Banks are a very popular vacation destination, miles of beaches and even better lots of wind for sailboarding and Para boarding on the intercostal in the lee of the islands.  There are no trees, most of the islands comprise of sand and sand dunes with the houses high up on posts - 3 to 4 stories high - right up there waiting for the hurricanes with many of them painted in lovely seaside colors lilac, blue, pink, green and yellow.

How colony of people could have survived on these barrier islands where there is no soil to grow crops defeats comprehension, yet this is where the first colonists set up! Now referred to as the Lost Colony as they literally disappeared; the best theory is that they joined and were assimilated into the native tribes on the nearby mainland. Fishermen can make a good living – they - have a head start on the guys on the mainland. In Hatteras we met a 75 year old lady working in the Visitor center who was born in Hatteras, lived there all her life and would not wish to live anywhere else.

We climbed the 248 iron spiral staircase to the top of the 140 year old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse which had been moved 2,900 feet inland in 1999 due to sand erosion on its original site. Afterwards we watched a movie of the move in the museum. An amazing feat of engineering that took several weeks to accomplish and which drew crowds of people from all over America and some from overseas - it was fascinating! An interesting fact we learned as we toured the museum is that in summer the temperature of the black stripes of the lighthouse is 107f (37c) the temperature of the white stripes is 92f (30c); so…if the roads in Phoenix, AZ were cement the city would be a lot cooler. Cape Hatteras lighthouse watches over one of the most hazardous sections of the North American Atlantic Coast; not far offshore the northbound Gulf Stream current collides with a branch of the southbound Labrador current and is known to force ships onto a 12 mile long sandbar - Diamond Shoals – appropriately known as "The Graveyard of the Atlantic". A map in the nearby museum illustrated the seabed and all of the ships down there. 

Now we begin the next phase of our cross country journey our Plan A route will involve, in order, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Plan B and Plan C are our fallback.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Barrier Islands, NC

A fish that swam in the pond
He was put back in and survived   

A herd of wild horses on Shackelford Island

Adele on a Desert Island 

Another herd, look at their lovely long tails and manes

As you can see they are numbered 

Big jelly fish there are lots of them on the beaches 
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The trials and tribulations of traveling

We forgot to mention that we discovered a flat tire on the left front of the RV when we were packing up to leave Myrtle Beach to head to Newport near Morehead City on the east coast of NC. Then it appeared that Adele’s camera had given up the ghost as the connecting cable between the camera and the computer no longer works and we could not download the photos. Tom worked out that we could by taking the SD Card out of the camera and putting it in the computer. Irrespective, off we went on a camera hunt - we found a camera in Best Buy with Wi-Fi that would allow one to send photos directly from the camera; Adele immediately just fell in love with that idea but unfortunately, they didn't have one in stock for sale. We next tried Wal-Mart - once again - they had a display model but none for sale. The salesperson did tell us that Wal-Mart 30 miles away had several in stock. As we pass enough Best Buy and Wal-Mart stores on our journey we decided not to travel 60 miles to buy a camera.

As soon as we arrived in Newport one of Adele's crowns cracked and of course it's one of her front teeth, we inquired at the office for a dentist recommendation and unlike the camera we’re willing to travel. The suggested dentist was in a large practice and he was willing to glue the crown back together - no guarantee - hopefully it will last until September when we visit Ireland where Adele's favorite dentist (apart from her brothers of course) lives. The dentist who did the repair work was a very nice young man.

Finally, we found a bike shop near Newport; coming as we do from Los Gatos we are inclined to think that every town should have a number of bike shops. Adele got a new tire on the front wheel; the young girl who served her said she never saw a tire so stuck to the wheel - she had to cut it off - the reason probably is that the bikes hang on the back of the RV in the sun all day long. Next day the new tire was flat, so back we go and get a new tube. Hopefully we are all set for cycling on the Barrier Islands. Enough already!

We took a ferry from Beaufort NC to the island of Shackelford Banks to see the only remaining really wild horses that live on the Barrier Islands. We saw two different herds of Mustang horses who have survived on this island for over 400 years by eating salt grasses (that’s real tough grass) as there’s nothing else to eat. Shackelford Banks is about 9 miles long, mostly sand dunes, salt grasses and a few low Cypress trees. We have some beautiful photos of the horses - a small Spanish horse that is a mix of Mustang and Arabian breeds.

A Vet keeps an eye on them but as it would be too stressful for them they are never rounded up.  We really enjoyed our day Shackelford Banks as to see these horses was firmly on our bucket list.

To get to our next RV Park required that we take two car ferries one from Cedar Island to Ocracoke Island followed by another from Ocracoke to Hatteras further up on the Barrier Islands. And, as we say in Ireland “Sin Sceal eile” – that’s another story!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Myrtle Beach SC and Newport NC

Our journey to Myrtle Beach was very windy; probably the end of the storm that delayed us coming north. The weather in Myrtle Beach was in the 80s right through our stay. Eileen and Carl were right behind us and arrived on our second day and stayed overnight in the hotel beside our RV Park; it was great to spend more time together, walking the beach, having dinner and a swim in the hotel pool. Eileen has lost over 40lbs and looks great in her new bathing suit, while the four of us are as brown as berries having spent almost three months by the sea.

We went to three shows while in Myrtle Beach, by far the best was Loretta Lynn – which was a real family show featuring her twin daughters and her granddaughter while her great grandson sat on the stage as his mother sang. Loretta is over eighty and boy can she belt out a song? Puts some much younger in her shade - she is a great lady!
Another show we saw was called Good Vibrations; songs from the 50s and 60s - we got the tickets to this for free but we had to go to a timeshare talk – Adele was reeled in by a man in a ticket kiosk – however, we’re glad we did not pay.
The third show was “ONE” a variety show at the Alabama Theatre where a country and western singer acts as host and a very funny comedian who came on stage at intervals during the show we loved his sense of humor.

As we were eating our lunch one day a bird who was nesting in a bush just beside us was kicking up a ruckus, having finished our lunch we saw the reason -  the local cat had her chicks for lunch; he was sitting on the ground licking his paws surrounded by feathers.
The beach at Myrtle Beach is extremely busy, very long and lined with hotels and condos some about 20 stories high. We last visited eight years ago and the place has grown and changed beyond recognition. They badly need a new road around the area as 17 is the only road through the area.  Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach are now all one.

While in Myrtle Beach we needed a bike shop to replace Adele’s  front tire - the nearest was 30 miles away – just to let you know no one cycles around Myrtle Beach.  In the RV parks more and more people are using golf carts (which can be rented by the day or week to get around).  Soon we won't need legs!
Two of the photos in the last Blog need explanation – one is a motorbike trailer that folds out into a camper/tent, we were fascinated by it. The second was of a bale of turtles that one could feed with special food that was dispensed from a gumball machine at 50c a pop – smart turtles, they never left that area.

Next we traveled north to Newport, NC - at our RV Park there were lots of very large fish in the lakes around the park, one boy told us they were Carp. There were lots of fishermen all ages with from two feet long to about fifteen feet long fishing rods lying around on the ground - we imagined that the two feet long pole was for a child aged five or so the young boys were using hotdogs for bait.