The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #27

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

 The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #27

“The End of the End”

 Thursday, April 8, 2010:  We reluctantly left Assateague National Seashore vowing, once again, to return and spend more time at yet another of our countries treasures.  Seems like a common theme…..if we return to all the places we have been and add all the places we still have to visit, we may be doing these annual trips for years to come.  Yep, not a problem there!  However we are anxious to motor north and attend a long anticipated family reunion up near Philadelphia.

 As we were leaving the island I took a glance at Lucy and I saw this horrifying sight.

 

  “Lucee…..you have some splanin to do”.  Lucy showing us crossing the sound without the benefit of a road is due to a two year old map database.  There’s a new bridge now.  Whew!

 We decided to take US-1 through Ocean City, Maryland and Dewey Beach, Delaware before stopping for a rest and visit at Rehoboth Beach.  Turned out to be a neat little beach town.  The temperature was 85 degrees and it was sunny with a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean.  We walked about the beachfront, stopping at many shops and treated ourselves to some world famous Thrasher’s Fries while watching the pale beachgoers locate the perfect tanning spot.

 Back on US-1 we soon entered Dover, Delaware passing a large NASCAR race track on the left.  Since it was getting late in the day we settled into a convenient campsite on Dover Air Force Base.  Driving through the base we passed a sobering sight.  The Armed Forces Medical Examination and Mortuary Services complex.  These newly built, very large and dignified buildings serve a sad and honorable existence.  We drove slowly down Purple Heart Drive as we silently paid our respects.

It was hot, close to ninety, so for only the second time in the past three months we switched on the air conditioner.  Once again we ended up in the neighborhood of the air field.  The huge planes were all quiet by 2000 however and we enjoyed a restful night.  

 

  

 Friday, April 9th, 2010:  It rained all night and this morning is cool and overcast so off went the air conditioner and on came the heater. Today is Kit’s birthday so we decided to find a nice place for breakfast.   

 We left the base around 0900 and headed north on US-13. Lucy quickly found a Waffle House so we pulled over to enjoy the Senior Blue Plate Special.  Nothing’s too good for Kit on her 62nd birthday.

 

  Back on the road we encountered our first toll plaza, a clear sign that we are getting close to home.  One dollar for a car and four dollars for our truck and trailer…..seemed a bit odd.  I wonder how much a truck towing a trailer with a couple of cars on it would cost?

 We arrived in Springfield, PA and took advantage of an excellent dooryard surfing opportunity at my cousin Mary Kate and her children Alora, Jack and Jimmy’s House.  As it turned out we actually had three Philly relatives offer their driveway.  Cousins Don and Bill graciously offered their places as well.  I let the patriarch of the family, my Uncle Don (my mothers brother) decide the best place for us to stay.  Mary Kate won the argument…..or maybe pulled the short straw.  Either way we were pleased at all the kind offers. 

 

       

  As it turned out it was Mary Kate’s birthday as well so we all went out to a nice family Italian restaurant and had an excellent authentic Italian meal.  It was incredible and pretty darn reasonable.  These kinds of places are what make living in a large diverse neighborhood so nice.

 

  On the way back Mary Kate’s incredibly talented offspring, Alora, Jack and Jimmy, entertained us with a cappella singing.  Among other offerings they did a fantastic job at covering Queen’s song Bohemian Rhapsody.  The three voices were in harmony and on key.  It was enjoyable hearing these young voices perform this classic and their singing made for a very festive atmosphere.

 On Saturday morning Buck, the husband of my cousin Anne, offered to give us a behind the scenes tour of the newly built Comcast building in downtown Philadelphia.  Buck works for Tyssen Krupp the German firm who manufactured, installed and monitors the 37 elevators in the building.  Since he manages the system he has unlimited access to all levels of this incredible structure.

 He brought us into the executive parking garage and whisked us to one of the high speed freight elevators right to the top of the 975 foot glass faced building.  First he showed us the mechanicals and all the sophisticated computer circuitry that runs and monitors the system. 

 Buck explained how the building is engineered to tolerate swaying up to 22 inches in a strong wind.  However movement of this sort can make the buildings occupants a bit queasy.  So any sway is minimized by a massive Tuned Liquid Damper, the largest in the world, containing 300,000 gallons of water.

 Here he is explaining one of the equipment cabinets for the elevator system.

 

  Next Buck escorted us to the actual top of the building, a location few ordinary citizens get to see, and we walked on the rubber membrane roof to enjoy the incredible views from all four sides of the tallest building in Philadelphia.

 

    

    

 

Having the honor of the cities tallest building comes with great responsibility.  The Comcast building single handedly broke the curse of Billy Penn.  Back in the day the tallest structure in Philadelphia was city hall which sported a statue of Philadelphia founder, William Penn atop its bell tower.  As other buildings were constructed ever higher they started putting Billy Penn in their shadow and great misfortune befell the city.  Along came the Comcast building which two years ago restored the honor of William Penn’s stature by installing a 25 inch figurine of him at its highest point.  That year the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series.  All true…..look it up!

 In the lobby of the Comcast building one huge wall is covered with the world’s largest television.  It is a 2000 square foot, high definition, LED screen that at one moment shows an image that looks like the other walls in the room….then it will display unusual and whimsical images as if they are actually on the wall.  Then the TV screen would change again and feature specially produced content.  This billboard sized TV was unbelievable…..everyone in the lobby just stood and stared, such as my Uncle Don and Kit are doing here.

 

 

 On the way back from downtown Philadelphia, we were treated to a detour through the Drexel Hill area of Upper Darby.  This older and very elegant area of the city contained many fine homes and gardens.

 

        

That afternoon, Mary Kate arranged a family reunion so we could enjoy the company of my mom’s family and their offspring.  It was held at Mary Kate’s very accommodating home and by my count 28 people attended.  She was kind enough to do the same when we passed through on our 2009 trip and it was one of the highlights of our four month trip.  At the time I was thinking how lucky to have the entire immediate family in the area and how incredible that they could all be pulled together at short notice to have a party.  Little did I know that this Irish Catholic family meets often and little is allowed to interfere with them gathering. 

 And not to be outdone….my Aunt Joan (mom’s sister) and her family live in the area as well.  Aunt Joan, like mom, is now in a nursing home but two of her four offspring were able to attend….it was great visiting with them and their husbands as we missed seeing them last year.

 This close family is very diverse works in fields from engineering to education to medicine to the arts.  In addition they are very talented featuring many musicians and performers; some who are pursuing a career in the performing arts. 

 We were treated to a “jam session” featuring music from a variety of genres.  Most of the rest of us joined in without prompting.  I was even given a bucket to carry a tune in. Didn’t help however so I was asked to sing low.

 

  The youngsters then wrote, rehearsed and performed an original skit for all to enjoy.  They collected funds from this performance to donate to the suffering folks in Haiti.  Touching and very entertaining.  The young talented performers then went on to perform excerpts from the play “Seussical” which most had appeared in on stage.  The singing voices, acting talent and just plain cute factor were memorable and very good.  Some, if not all these children, will surely enjoy a career in theater or television.  You heard it here first.

 Here some photos of Uncle Don, Aunt Joan and Aunt Mary’s family…..at least the ones that would stay still long enough for me to snap a photo.  I’d list their names but surly would get some wrong.  Looking at the faces one can see the love they have for each other.    

 

      

        

 

      

 

     

      

 

      

   

 

    

 

The food was plentiful and very, very good.  They choose to treat us to traditional Philadelphia fare of Cheesesteaks, Hoagie’s, soft pretzels, Tastycakes and Water Ice (pronounced Wooterice).  Most of the food was supplied by Cousin Joe who owns a restaurant in the area.    And for drink we enjoyed local beer, wine and sodas.  There was enough food put us all into a temporary food coma and we had leftovers for the next day.  We even pirated some of the leftovers for us to eat on the road.

A great party, with great food and truly great people.  It is often said “we make friends but inherit families”.  However even if I was not a member of this fantastic family I would still seek each and every one of them out for friendship.  Kit and I really enjoyed the time spent with them.  It will likely be the grand finale of a pretty fantastic trip.  We can’t wait to return.

While in town my Uncle Don and Aunt Mary were kind enough to accompany us on a trip to visit my Aunt Joan.  My mom’s younger sister lives in a very nice Adult Care Home where she has her own room.  We spent a few enjoyable hours visiting and reminiscing with her my Aunt and my Uncle.

 

    I have fond childhood memories when back in the late 1950’s we would fly out to Philadelphia and spend a few weeks with my grandparents and their family.  I particularly remember the kindness Uncle Don and Aunt Joan showed my brother and me by including us in all their family doings.  I have many stories from those times…..too many to chronicle here unfortunately.  Might have to jot them all down someday, however.

 Mary Kate’s daughter is a delightful and talented young lady.  In addition to appearing in many local theater performances she excels at “Fingernail Art”.  Here Alora and kit show off her latest work.

 

    

 Mary Kate’s youngest son Jimmy came to visit us in our RV most mornings.  We enjoyed his visits and answering all his many questions about our rig.  He seemed fascinated and somewhat amused that we actually live in this thing.  One morning he wrote in our Travel Journal Notebook the following:

 “We are here at Mary Kate’s house.  We went to a restaurant and after that we dropt of Pop Pop.  We went to have a tour at the Comcast building and it was interesting.  Then we went to Pop Pop’s house and then yesterday we had some good party!!!”

 James, Age 8

 He also drew a pretty good picture of our home on wheels.

 

 

 Monday, April 12, 2010:  Reluctantly we left Mary Kate’s and headed for home.  We took US-611 north toward Willow Grove where we stopped for late morning breakfast at Lance’s Diner.  The restaurant is located across the street from the soon to be closed Willow Grove Naval Air Station.

 After an enjoyable meal we stopped at a nearby aircraft museum.  It happened to be closed on Mondays but I was able to snap this photo of an unusual airplane displayed along side the museum building.

 

  Yep, it’s a jet on ski’s…..what could possibly go wrong with that idea?  Only two F-2Y Sea Dart’s were made by Convair Astronautics in San Diego.  The plane was designed to take off and land on water but it had limited practical application so no more were built.  The Admiral’s liked to wake board behind the thing however so one each was deployed to either coast.

 Knowing our penchant for roadside oddities we took the advice of our Philly Relly’s and headed toward Easton, Pennsylvania and Ringing Rocks County Park.  Strolling down a short wooded trail we came to a large field of boulders.  The scientist’s are confused as to how this field of rocks piled 12 feet deep and totally devoid of plant or animal life came to be.  It looks like a river bed but there is no evidence of a river.  It couldn’t have been a rockslide as the boulder field is near the top of a hill.  Adding mystery to the site is the unusual properties exhibited by about 75% of the rocks.  When these boulders are struck by another rock, or a hammer, some of them give off a ringing tone while others emit a dull thud.

 

   

 On the day we visited there was a family spaced about the boulder field, each with their own hammer and striking rocks on queue from the parents.  We could actually detect a melody…..It was my first authentic rock concert.

 Since we were in the area we decided to drive the length of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  A 38 mile road parallels the Delaware River and meanders through some very scenic terrain.  We stopped at one of the ranger stations so Kit could acquire her National Park Senior Pass.  Woo-Hoo!

 

 There wasn’t much open this early in the season so we continued on into New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Shortly after joining the Mass Pike we stopped at the Charleton Service Plaza and found a nice flat and secure place to remain for the night.

 

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010:  Up early and after enjoying a take out breakfast from the travel plaza we were on the road.  It was 44 degrees and cloudy…..great traveling weather. 

 We passed a convoy of Army Humvee’s and noticed that each driver had I-pod ear buds in their ears.  Can’t believe that is regulation.  The only one that was not listening to music was the sergeant in the lead Humvee, which happened to be the only female of the group. 

 Crossed into Maine at 1030 and made our obligatory stop at customs inside the Kittery Trading Post.  Never pass through Kittery, Maine without stopping.  After an hour of walking around and drooling over the latest outdoor sports merchandise we continued north.

 Two hours later we arrived in Brunswick and headed straight for the Brunswick Sewer Plant to take advantage of our free tank dumping privilege.  This unglamorous but necessary task always concludes our trips.

 We backed into the driveway at 1422 and called the official end of Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure. 

 In a few weeks we will collect our overall opinions, add to our lessons learned and check off lists, figure out the trip statistics and start formulating plans for our next trip.  We will post this all on the website and send out a final notification.

To all who by reading these journals came along with us, sent words of encouragement, offered advice on places to go and praised our journals we offer a heartfelt thanks!

 To the strangers we met along the way that offered friendship, opened their homes and took a genuine interest in our lives we say thanks to you as well. 

 To our Philly Family who made us feel welcome and willingly shared their lives with us we hold you warmly in our hearts.

 Our offer to everyone we spent time with on this journey to visit us in Maine this summer still stands.  Please come…..just not all at once.

 To our family and friends who live away and so willingly put their busy lives on hold to spend a few days with us we want to thank you as well.

 To our family here in Maine who kept things perking along while we ran away on our little adventure we want to thank you too.

 To the very few grumpy clerks, aggressive drivers and other discourteous folks we came across we just want to say…..um, well, I guess our little Tucson buddy puts it best:

 

 

 Kit’s Corner:  We are truly blessed to be able to live our dream through taking these trips around the country!  Each and every relative and friend has greeted us with kindness and delight at seeing us, as we have them.  It has been so gratifying to be able to visit with all of them and catch up on their lives.  In addition, we have enjoyed all the quirky places we have been, I guess it’s a good thing we never aspired to see the Seven Wonders of the World, we can be content with the hundreds of down home things along the back roads of America!  Most importantly, many thanks to our kids and grand kids for holding down the fort and keeping tabs on us to make sure we were doing OK along the way.  Without their support, our trips would not be as enjoyable as they are.  Oh, one final note; while I still missed my recliner this time around, I have finally made peace with it.  And, for all those folks who offered me the use of their recliners, a hearty THANK YOU!!!  It’s GREAT to be home!!!   

Until next year,

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #26

 

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #26

“The Beginning of the End”

 Monday, April 5, 2010:  Left Ocean Pines RV Park at Oceana Naval Air Station and wound our way through Virginia Beach toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  This 23 mile roadway connects Virginia Beach with the Delmarva Peninsula by a series of causeways, artificial islands, bridges and tunnels.  When I was stationed here on a Navy frigate back in the 70’s we sailed by Thimble Shoals and over the tunnel many times.  I remember the Bay Bridge-Tunnel looked odd on Radar as the bridge portion appeared to stop abruptly as it entered the tunnel portion.  On one occasion I showed a young sailor the Radar image and told him that the bridge had been dismantled.  He thought about that for a minute and asked…..why? 

We stopped at the northern end of the Bridge-Tunnel and noticed the parking area was large, flat, well lit and allowed 48 hour stays.  Might be a great future dry camping opportunity.

 We both enjoyed the scenery and small towns as we traveled up the eastern shore of Virginia and on into Maryland.  I had spent a lot of time in this area when I worked for Lockheed as we had a group of folks working at the Aegis facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.  It had changed a bit but not as much as I would have thought.  Still pretty rural. 

 Pulled the rig into Assateague National Seashore and headed for the campground.  We were immediately greeted by the famed wild ponies grazing about. 

The ponies on this end of the island belong to, and are protected by the National Park Service. The ponies on the southern end of the island belong to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department which holds an annual pony swim and auction to raise funds and manage the herd.  The Yankee ponies at Assateague don’t mingle with the Rebel Chincoteague ponies…..kind of like a Pony Mason Dixon Line. 

Being early in the camping season the park was nearly empty.  We selected a really nice oceanfront site to use as a base for the next couple of days as we explore the area.

Fell asleep that night to the sound of crashing surf while enjoying the fresh ocean air and listening to the ponies clop about.  Around 0200 I woke to use the facility and then took a stroll outside.  It was a beautiful starlit night and the moon was just rising in the east over the ocean.  I couldn’t get a good photo of the scene but it was spectacular.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 to Thursday, April 8, 2010-Assateague National Seashore, Maryland:  Up early, grabbed a flashlight and made my way over the dunes to walk the shoreline.  The sky was brightening in the eastern sky and I encountered a few sea creatures that had washed up on the shore overnight.  This Horseshoe Crab looked to be enjoying the sunrise as I was.  No wonder there were so many shoeless ponies what with the crabs grabbing all the horseshoes.

As the sun rose above the clouds on the horizon the temperature started to rise rapidly.  Walking along the shoreline I meandered back and forth to investigate various ocean animals and to look for interesting seashells.  The temperature deviation I encountered as I moved from the warm air over the dry sand to the cool air over the damp sand was noticeable and quite striking. Kit enjoyed time on the beach as well but didn’t want to have any part in searching for washed up sea life or running into any distracted ponies.

Assateague Island actually hosts two National Parks.  In the northern Maryland portion is the National Seashore which hosts the public beaches, campgrounds and boating access.  The southern Virginia portion is the National Wildlife Refuge which limits human intrusion. 

The wild ponies are everywhere in the National Seashore!  We probably sighted hundreds of them all over the park.  Hey it’s Spring Break, we’re at the beach, there are wild youngsters about…..time for another production of “Filly’s Gone Wild”.

The barrier island of Assateague, Chincoteague, Wallops and Assawoman (Yep, Assawoman…..Google it!) take the brunt of winter storms and protect the Delmarva Peninsula.  Ironically the peninsula in turn protects the mainland of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. 

From our campsite on Assateague Island we also enjoyed great sunsets every evening.

On one of the days in this incredibly beautiful place I decided it was time to break out the kayak and explore the western inlets and bays of the island.

Now, when I kayak the rivers and lakes back home in Maine it is not uncommon to see wildlife like deer, beaver and bears along the shoreline.  I have even come around a corner of a stream and face to face with a moose enjoying its meal of river bottom vegetation.  But this is the first time that I have encountered a wild pony…..and it was on an island.  Guess they do indeed swim.

We took part of another day and drove into Ocean City, Maryland.  This locally famous resort area has one of the widest and longest boardwalks of any beach town in the US.

 The 3 mile boardwalk contains an amusement park and many shops, restaurants, taverns, condos and hotels.  Kit did some shopping while I sat in the sun and watched the few folks that were in town walk by.  I did spot a surf shop however and went in to poke around.  Turns out the owner was from our hometown of San Diego and though a few years younger than I, we knew some of the same people and surfed at many of the same spots.  He offered me one of his personal boards (a 9’6’’ Hobie) but I declined as the water temperature was 54 degrees.  Fun visiting with him however.

Back when we camped on San Onofre Beach in California I was mesmerized by the brightly colored sport kites that were being expertly piloted by experienced fliers.  After tons of research and the blessing of my dear wife Kit I made the plunge.  Picked out a Revolution Quad line Sport Kite.

 

As the name implies it does indeed have four control lines and is incredibly maneuverable…..in the hands of an experienced flier.  It’s big and powerful and after a number of hours practice I am still in what I like to call “the Charlie Brown crash phase”.  If you want to see how an expert handles the kite go to:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWmh2TpzhLw.  The Jack Johnson music is pretty cool as well.

One morning as I was enjoying my beach stroll I noticed quite a few high altitude jets winging south.  It seems odd in such a picturesque and peaceful location as Assateague that there are folks in large silver tubes hurtling towards Florida or some other exotic destination.  If they only knew.

On this mornings walk I surveyed and organized my large sea shell collection which I keep here on the Assateague beach as well as other locations.  Further up the beach I spotted these fellow early morning risers.

Returning to camp for breakfast I noticed a fellow camp resident enjoying breakfast as well.

We took one day and drove south into Virginia in order to visit Chincoteague Island and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  In the village of Chincoteague we had a great seafood lunch at Don’s Restaurant on the waterfront and then Kit went shopping while I oz’d around the piers.

As usual, there were a number of gulls and other shore birds about.

Following lunch we drove into Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge which is located on the southern tip of Assateague Island.  The refuge was established in 1943 to provide habitat and protection to migratory and nesting birds.  In addition the park service manages the tidal estuaries and fresh water ponds for the benefit of these waterfowl.  One large fresh water lake is called Snow Goose Pool and is the winter home for many northern Snow Geese.

Driving through the refuge, we viewed many wild ponies as well as a few deer and various birds, gulls, egrets, geese and other shore birds. 

Most of the wildlife was too far away to photograph with my weenie camera but I was able to snap a photo of this Asian Elk fawn.

The Asian Elk (also know as Sika Deer) was introduced to the island in the 1920’s and have flourished.  They are smaller than White Tail Deer but more aggressive which keeps most competing deer herds on the island quite low.

Seeing the flocks of birds that were making their way north to Chet’s dinner plate, I wondered why birds flying in a “V” formation always had one leg longer than the other (leg of the “V”…..not one leg of the bird; that would be weird).  I finally figured it out.  I carefully counted the birds in each leg of the “V” and discovered that there are a larger number of birds on the longer leg!  Who woulda thunk?

Returning to camp for our last night in this magical place we made dinner, took a walk on the beach and talked excitedly about the next stop on our trip……Philadelphia!

Kit’s Corner:  After travelling along the Eastern Shore back in our Navy days and always wondering what it was like, we finally got to spend some time there.  It was absolutely beautiful and we hope to go back again.  I could easily spend a week there.  I also enjoyed the village of Chincoteague.  Very quaint with lots of beautiful homes and tidy little yards.  Not many shops were open but next time, maybe we will go a bit later in the season.  Also thoroughly enjoyed the Visitor Center at the park.

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #25

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

  

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #25

 Tuesday, March 30, 2010:  Up to clear skies with temperatures in the 70’s.  After a nice breakfast we set out at 1015 and made the short trip to Newport, North Carolina to visit our old friends Pam and Joe.

 

As you can see they have caught the RV bug as well.  Joe is a retired Navy Warrant Officer and he and Pam were our neighbors in Virginia Beach back when I was stationed on a Norfolk frigate from 1976 to 1980.  We have remained in contact ever since and don’t miss a chance to stop to see them whenever we are in the area.

We did accept their offer to “dooryard surf” in their large circular driveway and enjoyed a peaceful night in their rural setting.  Our little trailer did become a bit nervous by their large 5th wheel sniffing around but everything worked out just fine.  We are expecting a “pop-up trailer” which should be due in December.

 

We had a great time visiting, reliving our experiences in Virginia Beach and catching up on each others lives.  We joined them at a nice restaurant for a very good meal and continued the visiting over coffee.  It’s always enjoyable to visit with Joe and Pam but tomorrow we leave to continue our trek north.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010:  After joining Joe and Pam for coffee and pastries we headed out on US-70 toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Originally wanted to take the Cedar Island ferry to Ocracoke  but it was already full so we called the Swan Quarter Terminal only to discover the next boat wasn’t to depart until 1700.  Not wanting to wait that long, we hopped on US-264 instead.

We noticed the dogwoods were in bloom everywhere and all the rivers were a bright blue.  Most of the rivers in the south and west are kind of a reddish brown so we new we were getting close to home when we started spotting rivers of blue.  As we approached the coast we noticed quite a few homes on stilts, even some mobile homes.

Arriving on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we discovered that Cape Hatteras National Seashore was not open for camping until later in the month.  Since there were no military campgrounds in the area we selected a commercial facility to camp in for the next two nights.  The Refuge Campground is located on Roanoke Island in the town of Wanchese, North Carolina.  It turned out to be a nice little place on a small pond.  We paid for two days, unhooked the trailer and prepared for tomorrow’s adventures…..whatever they may be.

 

 Thursday, April 1, 2010:  Left the campground early under clear skies and warming temperatures crossing over Roanoke Sound to Bodie Island.  We then headed south on US-12 towards Cape Hatteras stopping frequently to sightsee, shop, eat and take pictures.  At a small village general store I discovered my favorite soft drink from childhood.  Grape Nehi in glass bottles.  Had to buy and enjoy one…..it immediately took me back to long summer days in San Diego.

  Arriving at the town of Cape Hatteras we pulled into the Cape Hatteras Light Station National Park Visitors Center.

 

 With the cooperation of the sun I was able to snap the following shot of Hatteras Lighthouse.

 

 For some reason I spent the next few hours with this orange spot in my field of vision…..hope it goes away.

 The National Park Ranger staff at Cape Hatteras Light Station had a unique member.  The ranger on the right couldn’t have been more than three feet tall and looked to be about seven years old.  I think he may have been hired to climb up into the tower each morning and blow the lighthouse candle out…..no sense wasting wax in this economy.

 

  In the town of Cape Hatteras we poked around the waterfront a bit and strolled around the village.

 

 Since this was as far south on the outer banks that we could drive without getting wet we headed back north on US-12.  On our return trip up the island we spotted this illegal alien vehicle.  Now all those border patrol folks we saw out west are wasting their time…..apparently the preferred point of illegal entry into the US is through Rodanthe, North Carolina.

 

 Before returning to our campsite we drove into the town of Kill Devil Hill’s where we had a great meal in a 1950’s style diner called, what else……The Kill Devil Diner.  After dinner we drove around the area a bit before returning to The Refuge Campground for the evening.

Friday, April 2, 2010:  Up early, broke camp and headed for the Wright Brothers National memorial where we stopped at the visitors center.

 

  As any schoolchild can tell you, Kitty Hawk was the sight back in 1903 where Orville and Wilber Wright successfully made the world’s first controlled flight in a heavier then air machine powered craft.

These two brothers from Dayton, Ohio who had left high school before graduating only to work as bicycle mechanics accomplished a feat that had eluded mankind.  In order to see how hard their historic flight really was and to recognize the 100th anniversary of manned flight there was an attempt to duplicate their experience in 2003 by an organization called “The Wright Experience”.  A distinguished group of Aeronautical Engineers, Scientists and Wright Scholars were assembled to build a 1903 style Wright Flyer using only the materials and tools available in that era.  Their aircraft took to the air; traveled 97 feet and crashed (The following photo is form the web showing the attempt in 2003).

The Wright Brothers aircraft made 120 feet before coming to a graceful landing.  Pretty impressive for a couple of high school dropouts!

 

Even more impressive when you consider a mere 66 years later Neil Armstrong was strolling about the surface of the moon.

Continuing on our journey north toward the Norfolk, Virginia we pulled into Ocean Pines Navy Campground which is located right outside the gate to Oceana Naval Air Station.  This RV park used to be a mobile home park so all the sites were full hook up and very large.  Since we were to stay here for a few days to explore the area it worked out very well.

Thursday, April 1, 2010 to Monday, April 5, 2010 Virginia Beach, Virginia:  We spent most of the time here enjoying the nice spring weather, poking around our old haunts, taking care of domestic chores and basically just veggin out.

We did tour our old neighborhood in Virginia Beach and discovered that the first home that we actually owned back in the late 1970’s was still looking pretty good.

We also drove into Norfolk and poked around the Naval Station where my ship had been home ported.  The base looked pretty much the same but now days all the warships were AEGIS Cruisers and Destroyers with a smattering of carriers, amphib’s and supply ships.  We stopped at the Navy Exchange to do some shopping for necessary, and not so necessary, items.

We also visited the Lynnhaven Mall…..a ginormous shopping complex on two floors.  Back in 1978 this area was nothing but an open field where strawberries were grown every spring with a few mom and pop type stores on the road frontage.  We lived in the Bow Creek area of Virginia Beach which was just a few hundred feet from the field…..and now from this huge mall.  Wow, have times changed!

What hasn’t changed however is the roar of military fighter jets from Oceana Naval Air Station in the skies over Virginia Beach.  To some it is nothing but noise pollution; to me it is the sound of freedom. 

Kit’s corner:  We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Pam & Joe and catching up on our families and what’s going on in our lives.  We were fortunate to have such nice weather over the Easter weekend to explore Virginia Beach and have a couple of down days to relax.  So many times in years past, we have raced up and down the east coast due to work schedules, etc.  It’s nice to have a slower pace and finally, after all these years, explore and enjoy the areas we never had the opportunity to see.

Tomorrow we head for the eastern shore of Virginia…..stay tuned,

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #24

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

  

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #24

 Friday, March 26, 2010:  Since it’s been a while since we had a “down day” we decided today was the day.  We are still at Short Stay Navy Recreation Facility outside in Monks Corner which is just north of Charleston, South Carolina.  We spent the day walking the grounds, relaxing around camp, visiting with fellow campers, doing laundry, taking care of truck and trailer maintenance and otherwise just goofing off.

 On one of our walks around the campground we spotted this fellow sunning himself on the banks of a pond.

 

  Didn’t see many little “RV Dogs” scampering about however.  Folks kept them on a pretty short leash so they don’t end up as “Gator Snacks”.

 We had the opportunity to meet our campground neighbors.  Al and Gail are a very pleasant couple from Pembroke, Massachusetts.  They travel the east coast quite a bit in their large 5th wheel trailer and are venturing to Alaska soon.  We really enjoyed meeting, swapping Navy stories and getting to know them.  They lived in Maine a number of years ago when Al was assigned to VP-8 at Brunswick Naval Air Station.

 

 Al retired from the Navy about the same time I did and now he and Gail own a Fire and Security Alarm company in Pembroke.  They plan to visit Maine this summer in their RV so we invited them to give us a call when they travel through and hopefully we can arrange a visit.

 We also met Ray and Susan, a nice couple from Columbia, South Carolina.  They were camping at Short Stay as well just a few sites up the road from us.  Ray retired form the Air Force and they travel in their 5th wheel trailer a great deal spending many months on the road. 

 

  Ray and Susan have visited over 30 National Parks and Historical Sites over the past few years.  We enjoyed talking with them and picked up some travel pointers on locations we should explore.  As it turns out they are planning a RV trip through Maine and into the Maritime Provinces of Canada this summer.  We invited them to call us as well on their travel up the coast.

 One of the true pleasures in RV traveling is that everyone we meet is friendly and interesting to talk with.  Kit and I enjoyed meeting and visiting with both couples and sharing our individual life stories.  We exchanged contact information and would really enjoy seeing them all again.

 That evening we relaxed and enjoyed another picture postcard sunset across Lake Moultrie.

 

 

 Saturday, March, 27, 2010:  Decided to play tourist today.  We drove into North Charleston to try and find the places we lived back in 1966 while stationed here with the Navy.  We didn’t find our first place, which was no surprise as it was really old and kinda run down, but we did discover that it had been replaced with an equally old and run down house.  Our second place was an ancient mobile home which was set up in the side yard of the first house.  I didn’t take any pictures as the area has deteriorated into “not too nice” and frankly we didn’t want to stop and walk around.  I’ll let Kit talk about this place as I was gone to sea a great deal of the time. 

 Kit’s Corner:  This was where we lived after Bill finished Sonar School in Key West.  We arrived in early Sept. of 1966, Kimber was just a year old and we were expecting Joe.  It was also my first test of being a “Navy wife” as the ship left (taking Bill) about a month after we arrived in Charleston.  Fortunately, with good neighbors, I figured out quickly how to manage things on my own.  For obvious reasons, we never did much sight seeing in the area but the areas I frequented, such as the base hospital for regular doctor appointments, the commissary and the exchange were very nice; I really grew to love the area.  We had four distinct seasons and each was special was very different from living in hometown of San Diego.  Once Joe was born, in May of 1967 and Bill came home for a few weeks here and there, we did manage a few outings.  Even though the area has grown quite a bit, it was nice to get back and explore. 

 Our third place in the three years we lived in Charleston was in a nice trailer park west of the Ashley River.  We set up our newly purchased 12’ x 60’ mobile home…..a virtual mansion to us.  The trailer we owned was long gone but the park basically looked the same and was obviously well managed and maintained.

 

 The Charleston Naval Base shut down in the 1980’s and has slowly been redeveloped into a marine terminal and civilian shipyard.  Driving down Reynolds Avenue, which led to the main gate, many of the old buildings that housed the sailor bars, tattoo parlors and locker clubs are still standing, but now vacant.  Touring the former base was kinda eerie as I recognized many buildings, piers, shops and other structures.  The former Naval Station was mostly dilapidated now although signs of budding renewal were evident.  One area that has been redeveloped contained a new building which houses the recovered Confederate submarine Hunley. 

 The CSS Hunley, a 40 foot, hand cranked, submersible was built in 1836.  At only 44 inches in diameter the crew had to spend hours sitting on a wooden bench, hunched over the hand cranks for a max speed of 4 knots.  If that wasn’t bad enough the only light in this dark tube was a lone candle.  When the candle went out the crew had to surface, which was no small feat itself, for more oxygen.  And today’s sailors complain about conditions at sea……they actually have it pretty good.

 The CSS Hunley demonstrated both the advantages and dangers of submarine warfare.  A successful attack the evening of February 17, 1864 on the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor proved the value of undersea warfare.  However the CSS Hunley never returned to shore and all eight crewmembers perished; the reason why is still a mystery.

 In August 2000 the Hunley was recovered basically intact with the remains of the eight crew members still at their stations.  After extensive forensic investigation the Confederate sailors were buried with full military honors.

 Since the research staff would not allow any photos of the historic vessel I pulled the following off the web.  However, the sight of an actual 145 year old submarine, so well preserved, was simply incredible.

 

  After a very interesting time at the Hunley Scientific site we headed toward Folly Beach, a favorite destination for Kit and I back in 1966.  The place was a lot more crowded and now has that generic touristy beach town look.  We just drove through and left. 

 On the way back into town we did stop for an incredible meal at the Charleston Crab House located on Wappoo Creek which is a tributary of the Ashley River. 

 Arriving back at the campsite we settled in for the evening and discussed the day over cocktails.

Sunday, March 28, 2010:  Taking up the invitation from Dan & Janet, the couple we met a few days ago in Savanna, Georgia we visited them at their place in North Charleston.  They live in a very nice home on the edge of an upscale development which affords them nice wooded views from their rear sunroom.  Retired educators, Dan and Janet are an interesting and accomplished couple with many adventures to their credit while traveling extensively during their summer breaks.

 

 We enjoyed a great home cooked meal and thoroughly enjoyed swapping stories about each others lives and families.  We invited them to Maine this summer for a visit and truly hope they take us up on the offer.

Monday, March 29, 2010:  Left Charleston under cloudy skies and temperatures in the 70’s.  We took US-52 to US 17A and headed north.  Entering the small town of Andrews, South Carolina there was a sign proudly proclaiming “The Home of Chubby Checker”.  Further down the road, in the town of Conway, South Carolina we saw a sign for the Tidewater Cricket Ranch.  Now that I gotta see…..however all 2000 head of cricket was kept in a muck bucket so it weren’t much.

 We entered the town of Southport pulling up to the ferry terminal and waited for the next boat.  The North Carolina Ferry System consists of 24 boats servicing 7 routes.  The boats have a draft of only 4 feet so they can operate in the shallow waters of the sounds and rivers that separate the mainland from the outer banks.  The ferries transport over a million vehicles a year and some folks use them to commute daily.  In addition, local school children ride the ferries as children in other areas would ride a bus. 

 Now I don’t normally believe in fairies, but seeing these ferry boats I realized that they must have their own navy.  So…..it just might be a bit dangerous to not believe in fairytales.

 

 Once on the boat our Maine plates were spotted by one of the crew.  Chuck is a retired police officer from Maryland and spent a great deal of time in Maine sailing out of Camden.  He spent the entire transit telling us fascinating information about the area. 

 

 I was particularly intrigued by the island where “Weekend at Bernie’s” was filmed.  This film classic is a favorite of mine.  I even spotted the navigation buoy that played so prominently in the waterskiing scene.  Another item checked off the old Bucket List!

 Pulling into Fort Fisher we traveled north to Kure Beach (pronounced keerie beech) and stopped at a restaurant Chuck recommended for yet another fantastic seafood dinner.

 

 Are you seeing a theme running through these journals?  Mexican in the southwest, barbeque in Texas and seafood all along the eastern seaboard.  Yep…..we are eating our way across the US.  We should call this trip “The Bill and Kit Excellent Gluttony Tour”.

 The town of Kure Beach is a resort area with the Atlantic on one side and the Cape Fear River on the other.  It is a quirky place with many very colorful cottages and shops.  After our meal we decided we needed to walk around a bit.  We ending up at the community pier to enjoy the setting sun and to watch the fisher folk and surfers do their thing.

 

 

 

 

 Tomorrow we head to the Newport, North Carolina for a long anticipated reunion with some old Navy friends.

Stay tuned,

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #23

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

 The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #23

 Thursday, March 25, 2010:  Woke on our final day at Skidaway Island State Park to cool and foggy weather.  We were in no hurry to leave this beautiful park so I unloaded my bike and went off exploring.

  I discovered many multi-use trails that bisected the surrounding forest.  Many contained interpretive signs telling of the various sites historical significance.  Here are a few shots taken this morning on my bike ride through the woods:

 

 

   

  I came across an old Moonshine Still that, according to the trailside sign, had been discovered and destroyed by federal agents back in the 1950’s.  Apparently the isolated location kept it from being discovered for many years. 

 

 

 Reluctantly, we departed Skidaway Island State Park by early afternoon.  We then drove up US-17 crossing the Talmadge Memorial Bridge toward Charleston, South Carolina.

 The ride through the coastal back country was scenic but uneventful.  We passed through many quaint old southern towns as we drove through Georgia and on into South Carolina.  I was tempted to explore them all; however we were anxious to get to Charleston.  Remember the “Pointy Roads” out west?  They are in the south as well…..however you will notice trees instead of desert?

 

 We arrived at Short Stay, the Navy Recreation Facility on Lake Moultrie which is near Moncks Corner, South Carolina and is just down the road a piece from Goose Creek (honest!).  We picked a nice lakeside site and settled in to watch the sun set on another great day.

 

 Kit’s Corner:  Staying at Short Stay has been another of my goals for 40 years.  We visited this place back when Kimber and Joe were toddlers and vowed at that time to someday buy a trailer and camp here.  This is an awesome park and a perfect spot to stay and explore the surrounding area. 

 Tomorrow we explore Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas…..stay tuned.

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #22

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

  

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #22

 Left the town of Warner Robbins, Georgia around noon and headed south on I-16 toward Savannah.  Arriving in the area we decided to check out a Georgia State Park on Skidaway Island that featured camping.  It turned out to be one of the best state parks we have seen in two years of winter traveling.  The sites were picturesque, large and private.  And the trees and plants were the quintessential southern forests.  Our view could have been taken from the film “Gone With The Wind”.  Hope that’s not an omen…..better check the weather forecast.

 

  And as an added bonus our neighbors were a nice couple from Ontario, Canada by the name of Jack and Pat who square dance as well.  They invited us to their evening campfire and we had a great time getting acquainted and telling square dance stories.

 Once again we found a place we had only intended to stop in for the night and decided to spend a few days.  This happens a lot and is one of the advantages of traveling without an itinerary.    

 The next morning we unhooked the trailer and headed into Savannah.  Driving into the historic district we were struck by the beauty of the area.

 

  We decided to stop at the Savannah Historic District visitor’s center to learn about sights to see.  Signing the visitor’s guest book I added a rather hip comment when I wrote “Savannah is da bomb”.  Leaving the building a few minutes later, I saw this strange sight.  Must be trouble somewhere; wonder what’s up? 

 

  Since the police have cordoned off the area we left the truck in the visitor’s center parking lot and walked the width and breadth of the one square mile historic district.

 Old Savannah dates from before the Civil War and is laid out on a grid system with periodic “squares”, also called “trustee lots”.  These town squares contain beautiful parklands featuring, plants, flowers, fountains and statues.  Even though it’s a week day the many quaint town squares had lots of visitors walking about and listening to musicians and watching the various other street performers.

 

On one such town square we met a very nice couple originally from New Jersey who had retired to Charleston.  They had chosen to spend the day in Savannah as well.  Dan and Janet are former school teachers and have spent a great deal of time during their summer breaks touring the National Parks.  I happened to be wearing a T-shirt I purchased in Zion last year and that attracted their attention.  We had a great time standing in the town square and getting acquainted.  Taking our leave, we exchanged contact information and went our separate ways…..only to keep running into each other, a number of times.  Figuring it had to be some sort of destiny; Janet invited us to their home for a meal and to continue the visit.  We intend to accept the kind offer when we get to Charleston in a few days.

The architecture in Savannah is mostly Federal and Victorian with a hint of French New Orleans influence.

 

  We discovered many of the streets are cobblestone and led right down to the Savannah River waterfront. 

 

 Walking the length of the waterfront, we were tempted by the many restaurants and finally stopped at Huey’s where we enjoyed an incredible seafood dinner.  We had a nice table by the window and were able to watch the boat traffic pass by on the river.

 

 

 Leaving Savannah and before returning to our camp site, we toured Tybee Island which is the eastern most point in Georgia.

 

  There are miles of exposed beaches so I decided to tend to my rather vast sea shell collection.  It is reportedly to be the largest and most complete sea shell collection in the world.  You may have seen it…..I keep the collection scattered around the various beaches of the world.

 

  Driving through Tybee Island along the Shore Road we came to this unusual sight.

 

  It looks like the homeowner is making a feeble attempt at acquiring an ocean view.  The only problem is that the guy right in front of him looks to be starting the same process.  This ought to develop into a major skirmish.

 At the north end of the island we came to the Tybee Island lighthouse.  At 154 feet tall this structure has guided ships into the Savannah River since 1736.  The light is still a navigation aid but the tower and surrounding light keeper’s quarters now house a museum.

 

  An interesting historical footnote concerning Tybee Island is that in 1958 a USAF B-47 Bomber inadvertently dropped a nuclear bomb into coastal waters near the island.  Following years of searching the weapon was never found.  I’m betting, if you could locate a spot on the island where you had a great view of the sun setting in the west you could simply turn around and enjoy a glow from the east as well.

 Returning late in the day, we once again met our newly found square dance friend’s around their campfire.  An excellent end to an excellent day.

 Kit’s Corner:  Finally making it to historic Savannah has been a goal of mine for about 40 years.  We lived in Charleston from August, ’66 to April, ’70.  We did drive down one afternoon but never even got out of the car to look around.  I was so awestruck that I always wanted to return.  Finding the neat campground in Skidaway Island was a bonus.  We definitely hope to return to this area.

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #21

  Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

 The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #21

 

Sunday, March 21, 2010:  Today is the first day of spring!  However the weather looked more fall like….cool, overcast and breezy. 

 Even though this campground on Maxwell AFB is full to capacity there are surprisingly few folks about.  Taking my morning walk I did spot one young fellow and asked where everyone was.  Well apparently 90 % of the campers in the park are active duty military and since this facility is a major USAF training facility (including the War College) and since it is Spring Break Week…..most folks are gone on Spring Break.  Looked weird, however…..kinda like a ghost campground! 

 We broke camp and hit the road at 0930.  Leaving the base we came upon the parade field with displays of vintage aircraft.  Of course I had to stop and check them out.

 

 

 

 

Left the base on I-65 East and after a few miles dropped down to US-80 toward Tuskegee, Alabama.  Entering the town we drove through the grounds of Tuskegee University and stopped to poke around.

 

Tuskegee University is the alma mater of the famed WW II African American flying squadron “The Tuskegee Airman”.  Their story of overcoming prejudice in 1930’s America and becoming combat pilots in the US Army Air Corps is legendary.

 We also walked by the home of Booker T. Washington, but we didn’t notice any MG’s parked around the place so not sure if it was “the Booker T”. 

  

Leaving Tuskegee we drove out to Moton Field which was established by the WWII segregated Army Air Corps for flight training of their black flight training cadets.  This National Historic Site is under development and the visitor’s center is currently housed in portable buildings.  The history and artifacts contained within are very interesting and the 20 minute film chronicling the Tuskegee Airman was enjoyable and very informative.  Kit went back to the trailer while I decided to walk down to the area where the hangers are being reconstructed to house the WWII training aircraft that will be brought here for display.  When finished this National Historic Site will be an even more interesting place to visit.

 

 Moving on, heading east we passed into Georgia and decided to stop for the night at the Air Force Base in Warner Robbins.  Pulling up to the main gate the sentry was frantically waving for us to stop.  It was then that I noticed the various barriers, and spike strips impeding our way.  The sentry was kind enough to guide us off to an alternate gate a mile down the road where a platoon of armed guards met us, opened the outer gate and motioned us through.  They then searched the truck and trailer before opening the inner gate and sending us on our way.  In 43 years living and working on military bases all over the US this place had the tightest security ever.  Bet we will sleep well tonight.

 Arriving at the base campground which was on a pretty little lake we chose to stay in overflow.  As we have learned in the past, overflow camping, even though there are no hookups, is more remote and therefore more private, quieter and usually more scenic.  In addition it is always less expensive…..what’s not to like about all that.

 

  Here is the view of the sunsets from our site.

 

 

 There were train tracks nearby and each evening as we watched the sunset across the lake we listened to the trains and their mournful whistles pass off in the distance.  The “peepers” were especially active chirping away…..it looked and sounded like upta camp back home.  Speaking of camp we have seen quite a few Canadian Geese here on the lake.  They are probably making a rest stop before winging up to Maine for the summer…..I bet they will beat us home.

 We liked this place so well we decided to stay an extra day.  We spent our bonus day just hanging around, taking walks around the lake, handling online banking issues and working on the travel journal.  I also took the opportunity to explore the woods surrounding the campgrounds on my bike.

 

 There where a number of multi use trails and a 20 station Par Course.  In addition some one built a very extensive loop of single-track with a few challenging sections.  The latter wasn’t marked nor was it listed on the base trail guide and at times it was difficult to follow.  All of which led me to believe it was designed, built and maintained by a group of energetic Mountain Bikers.  The approximately 2 mile single-track loop was so much fun I decided to ride it a number of times over the two day stay.

 

  On one day we visited the Robins AFB Museum:

 

 

 This place was billed as the second largest USAF Museum in the country; second only to Wright Patterson in Ohio.  It was large, and it did have a lot of planes on display, however frankly, in my opinion, there are nicer displays at some of the other military bases we have visited.  The inside was pretty good but most of the outside aircraft were in pretty bad shape…..not sure why, I can only hope this improves or some pretty significant historical aircraft are going to deteriorate beyond repair.

 Kit’s Corner:  We loved staying at Robins AFB.  Being in overflow, we were off by ourselves and overlooking the small lake.  The campground was actually near the military housing area so there were lots of active duty folks and kids in the area.  We will certainly return to this base in the future.  We had never heard of it!

 Tomorrow we continue our eastward trek heading for Savannah, Georgia….stay tuned,

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit