Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.
Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20 2014-Cary, North Carolina: This nice little town in the Piedmont area of North Carolina is the home of my cousin Billy, his wife Joanna, and their children Jillian and Aivan.
And, last but not least, the newest member of the family…..Rudy!
They were gracious in allowing us to park our trailer in their dooryard for the weekend which allowed maximum visiting opportunities while enjoying a nice place to camp.
Cary is in the middle of North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle. It is defined as: a scientific and technically focused community anchored by the towns of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill along with their associated universities. Kit and I had the pleasure of meeting a few of Bill and Joanna’s neighbors and they were universally associated with the big names in technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals that dominate the region.
Bill, a neurologist, currently works in medical research involved in developing new medications/protocols to combat the age related disease of Alzheimer’s and conducting clinical trials on patients already afflicted with this severe form of dementia. Joanna, an interesting and accomplished woman in her own right, is currently a stay at home mom but previously worked in the pharmaceutical field as well. Jillian, age 10 and Aivan, age 8 are bright and inquisitive children and a joy to be around.
Kit and I really enjoyed visiting the “Rebels” and their delightful town of Cary, North Carolina. OK, that takes some explanation…..my mother’s large close knit Philadelphia family has, for the most part, stayed close to home. However, Bill and his family have migrated south of the Mason Dixon Line and are true rebels, in the literal as well as figurative sense!
On Saturday, Bill led us on an interesting tour of various attractions and historical points of interest. One stop we enjoyed was the town of Durham, an old southern tobacco town which has shaken off its past and morphed into an upscale and explore-worthy community.
The town planners have wisely left intact the various symbols of the towns past and have integrated these artifacts into the modern and cosmopolitan town that Durham has become.
The family of Mr. Washington Duke, as early benefactors to the town of Durham, invested their resources from tobacco, and later electrical power generation, into a small educational institution called Trinity College. As their philanthropy grew so did the college which ultimately became Duke University. As a side note, our neighbor back home has a daughter that is currently the women’s basketball coach at Duke.
The income from tobacco started to diminish in the 1950’s due to increased competition and the burgeoning health concerns of the product. So the trustee’s at Duke University persuaded the state legislature to purchase large fallow tobacco fields south of the city and create a “Research Incubator” to capitalize on the major universities in the area where newly minted science, technical and medical graduates were a ready source of talent. This science park ultimately became known as The Research Triangle which was anchored by Research Triangle Park where currently 49,000 employees work on future developments that will improve the lives of every American.
Even though it was a rather wet and dreary day, Kit and I enjoyed walking around the historic Tobacco Campus of Durham and exploring all the sights.
Wherever possible, the urban renewal to this historic district featured the homes and business that preceded it.
Getting hungry, and a bit chilled, we stopped in at a popular local café and enjoyed a very nice meal.
A great day exploring one of the South’s great cities with an accomplished and knowledgeable tour guide…..thanks Bill.
Back at their home, the family was preparing for a rather unique Easter celebration. Kit and I were invited to join them in the decoration of eggs and other family activities.
Joanna is a first generation Polish American and is focused on keeping her culture and historical traditions alive for Jillian and Aivan. A few years ago, when Joanna was working full time, she employed an au pair from Poland that spent her days sharing with the children her Polish heritage and teaching them the language. Further amplified by Joanna, the children are now fluently bilingual.
One Polish tradition that relates to this season is the decorating of hardboiled eggs in the Polish style.
The technique involves drawing intricate designs on the egg using a pin dipped in liquefied wax. The egg is then immersed in the coloring and when cooled, the wax is scraped off revealing the design. My attempt at this intricate art form met with disaster so I reverted to my goofy style…..can you spot it?
Oh, and don’t be alarmed…..Joanna is fully aware she is tempting fate by putting all her eggs in one basket. That woman lives on the edge!
Easter morning dawned bright and clear. Kit and I enjoyed coffee and pastries as we watched the Easter meal come into being. Soon it was time to eat…..and eat we did! Following prayers, and keeping with Polish tradition, the meal began with Borscht.
Now, I’m not a big beet fan, but this soup was really very good!
The main course was an incredible feast of traditional Polish fare including, Bigos, Kabanosy, Cwikla and Pierogies.
Following the delicious meal, Jillian and Aivan joined the neighborhood children and participated in the seeking of hidden plastic eggs that were scattered about the neighborhood. The entire day was a thoroughly enjoyable holiday tradition with family and new friends.
Other outings that Bill took us on were a visit the USA National Training Center.
This training and practice complex for USA Baseball is just a few miles from their home. It is the prime facility for development of America’s Baseball teams which compete in international competition that lead to the Olympic Games. Most summers, Bill and Joanna host players in their home and are rewarded with free passes to the facility as well as to the many intramural games. Some of the baseball players being trained here will develop into the major league stars of the future.
Also nearby is the American Tobacco Trail, a 20 mile Rail-Trail that offers outdoor recreation to walkers, joggers and cyclists.
This 20 mile Rail-to-Trail pathway was built on the former American Tobacco Railroad right of way and is an incredible green tunnel to enjoy getting in a daily walk or bike ride.
Bill, Jillian, Aivan, Rudy and I walked a section of the trail while Kit and Joanna remained back home and became better acquainted.
In our travels, the one thing about the south that we noticed is that they relish and preserve their heritage better than most other areas of the country. An example is Carpenter Farm Supply near the historic center of Cary, North Carolina.
It is a classic old musty hardware and feed store that has pert near everything needed to make do in this area of the rural south. Put it another way…..if they don’t carry it, you don’t need it!
Built by William Carpenter in the late 1800’s, this throw-back to a simpler time has been in continuous operation by descendants of Mr. Carpenter ever since.
The gentleman sitting on the stool in the above photo is a fourth generation member of the Carpenter family and an interesting fellow to talk to. Even though the place looks cluttered and unorganized he claims that he can find anything in inventory…..a claim we didn’t verify but I certainly believe!
Back in the bowels (no pun intended) of the rambling store sits an old wood stove that puts out an incredible amount of heat. And sitting about the stove are usually a gaggle of local characters like old Charlie here.
A man of few words, he just tipped his hat and looked away as I approached…..probably pegged me for a Yankee right off. I should have informed him that I too was reared in the south. Southern California that is!
Also in the shop up front by the door, is a fully operational vintage pop machine humming away. Put your quarters in the slot, slide open the tambour door, and then shift the now unlocked metal retainer out of the way to remove your frosty beverage contained in a glass bottle.
Now when’s the last time you encountered one of those? Other than, in an antique store or museum that is?
Well, tomorrow we must mosey on but what a nice stay with a very nice family in a beautiful area of the country. This was our first visit to Cary, North Carolina but certainly will not be our last! Thanks folks, for a great time!
Monday, April 21, 2014: Up early to clear cool skies. After seeing Cousin Bill off to work, Kit and I visited for a while with Joanna, and the children and thanked them all for a very pleasant stay.
We got on the road at 1100 and headed to the northeast on US-64 until we came to I-95 which crossed into the state of Virginia at 1327 hours. A few hours later we came to I-64 and headed east. Soon, we were traveling through the city of Virginia Beach where we rolled passed Kit’s alma mater, Tidewater Community College.
This part of Virginia is called the Tidewater Area…..ever wonder why? Well, for one thing the altimeter on our GPS shows we are currently at minus 11 feet below sea level…..and with this terrain and the geology of the land mass, the fresh water table is directly affected by the ocean tides. Frequently, while digging a simple hole in the garden, Tidewater residents encounter fresh water just a few inches below grade. OK, that’s not particularly useful information, unless you’re trying to dig a cellar hole…..but I sure thought it interesting!
At 1600, we arrived at our stop for the next few days…..Sea Mist RV Park in Dam Neck,
Tuesday, April 22, 2014-Dam Neck, Virginia: Today is a down day…..one devoted to laundry, correspondence, and trailer maintenance.
The weather is mild, being in the mid 60’s, and it is very windy…..read “perfect kite flying weather”. So as Kit read her Kindle and watched the clothes dance about in the front loader…..
…..I went exploring the shoreline with kites tucked under my arm.
Our campsite had perfect access to a very nice beach, and fortunately it was near low tide giving a nice flat expanse of vacant sand to pilot high performance kites.
However, the tide waits for no man and I soon found my feet wet and an expensive kite getting dangerously close to the briny deep, so I packed up and called it a day.
Kit and I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before enjoying a nice camper-cooked meal and a few adult beverages. Then we drifted off to sleep with smell of salt air wafting through the camper and the sound of the surf outside our window.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014: Up early to cool temperatures. I took a walk on the beach and enjoyed the awakening dawn.
Over coffee, Kit and I agreed that this is a very nice park and worthy of a longer stay in the future. We resided in Virginia Beach during the late-1970’s and have wanted to re-explore some of our old haunts as well as investigate all that is new since that time.
As we are only 3 miles from Oceana Naval Air Station’s Exchange complex, and since we need fuel, and since I need to visit the package store and since Kit is in need of some serious retail therapy we pulled in for a few hours. In addition to shopping, Kit and I enjoyed a nice breakfast in their food court.
Our intention for the day was to travel through Virginia Beach to Little Creek and then take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) across to the eastern shore of Virginia.
However, it’s still pretty windy…..checking the CBBT website we learn that the travel restrictions for our size vehicle kick in when winds exceed 40 MPH. Currently the winds are only 17 MPH so we should be OK. Which is good, as the alternative route would add over 100 miles to our trip!
By 1030 we were on the bridge and heading out to sea!
Traveling from the south as we are, one soon encounters a large parking area. This services a gift shop and restaurant located on the artificial island that supports the first tunnel entrance. It’s a great spot to get a perspective of the engineering challenges associated with building this incredible structure over a huge and somewhat hostile body of water.
See that object on the horizon in the photo above? That is another artificial island that supports the far end of the tunnel……yep, the thing is that long!
So, why does part of this road dive 100 feet underwater at two separate locations by way of two separate tunnels? Well, for one thing, a bridge would have to be massive to allow for the commercial and military ship traffic that needs to access Norfolk to the south and the Port of Baltimore to the north.
And a far more important concern was expressed by the US Navy. Any bridge could be put out of operation either by an accident or sabotage and render the massive Navy fleet homeported in Hampton Roads trapped and unable to put to sea.
The 23 mile bridge and tunnel system was built in 1965 and is officially part of US Highway 13. Now, this must be a real problem for folks with number superstitions, especially as they enter the tunnels.
Even though the system has been enlarged and upgraded within the past 15 years, the tunnel remains the same as it was built 50 years ago.
It is a perfectly normal reaction to scan the walls of the tunnel for any drips of water or signs of decaying materials as one hurtles into the depths below Chesapeake Bay. OK, maybe it’s just me…..but if I encounter a little Dutch boy with his finger plugging a hole in the tunnel, I’m outa here!
On this weekday morning there was little oncoming traffic, which is a good thing because modern trucks, RV’s and automobiles are much wider than in 1964 so the tunnel is a bit tight.
And soon, as you can see, we experienced a rare phenomenon…..the mythical “light at the end of the tunnel”!
Safely exiting the Thimble Shoals tunnel, we travel along the main bridge span until we once again head underwater and traverse the Chesapeake Channel tunnel.
By 1153 Kit and I were back on dry land and continuing north on US-13 traveling toward Delaware where we crossed the border a little before 1400 hours.
This area of the country is known as the Delmarva Peninsula due to its encompassing portions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and due to the fact that it is a peninsula…..go figure!
Soon we rolled through the town of Girdletree (Yep, lots of skinny trees here) before hitting MD-90 which we took to reach US-1. Heading north through Ocean City we crossed into Delaware around 1515. A few minutes later we were pulling into the Delaware Army National Guard Training Base at Bethany Beach.
This base is a small training facility featuring a smattering of classrooms buildings and a nice little RV Park. We had absolutely no problem finding a very pleasant campsite.
The campground is situated on a salt water bay.
And, it was just a short walk across US-1 to the town of Bethany Beach with its shops and restaurants sitting on the Atlantic Ocean shoreline.
After a long day, Kit and I relaxed around camp. We enjoyed an evening cocktail while watching the sun drop over a salt water marsh where wild sea oats were swaying in the breeze. Ahhhh, another great evening in the life of a retiree!
And the perfect end to an interesting day on the road.
Thursday, April 24, 2014-Bethany Beach, Delaware: Up to cool, clear and windy weather and we had to turn on the furnace once again. Since we travel about trying to stay in what we refer to as “The Temperate Zone” we rarely crank up the heater…..in fact we have only used two tanks of propane during the nearly 5 month trip. However as we crawl up the eastern seaboard we are outrunning spring and have had a need for supplemental heat most mornings this week. At this rate, we may very well need a third propane refill before we return home in a few weeks!
Taking a walk about this tiny base it looks more like a college campus than an Army Post. However it’s all military as each building is numbered and signed in military precision…..even this unique facility.
Hey, you wouldn’t want an RV going out in the woods!
We decided to spend the day a few miles north enjoying the town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. This is one of those places that we had driven through on previous Excellent Adventure trips and vowed to return and explore…..so today is the day!
At 1000, the wind had died down a bit but the temperature was only in the mid 40’s, so for the first time in many months I donned long pants, which felt pretty weird!
Pulling out onto US-1 and heading North without the trailer in tow, we crossed over the Indian River Inlet Bridge.
The bridge is technically within the boundaries of Delaware Seashore State Park. This looked like a neat place to visit but unfortunately was not yet open for the season.
Arriving in Rehoboth Beach we found a great parking spot a block from the ocean, which we discovered later would be next to impossible come summer. This quaint little seaside village of 1,327 year-round residents swells to over 25,000 during the summer months.
Even with this crush of tourists, the waters off Rehoboth Beach consistently rank in the top five for ocean water quality out of all coastal cities in the US. Also, in 2011 it was ranked number one in the nation! As nice as the area is, it dodged settlement by early Americans due to the isolated location and poor farming environment. It wasn’t until the 1870’s when a few ministers established “Camp Meeting Associations” on the broad sandy beaches to lure the heathens from the big cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
This laid back and quirky seaside village features an old fashioned wooden boardwalk that separates the town from the one and a half mile pristine beach.
At this time of the year, sunbathing tourists are few and only the very hardy attempt to wade in the chilly ocean water.
This incredible little seaside village has become a prime vacation home location and surprisingly, a premier retirement destination as well. AARP has consistently ranked Bethany Beach as one of the top five US beach towns to retire!
After a thoroughly enjoyable day of perusing the eclectic shops and the meandering up and down the boardwalk, Kit and I treated ourselves to a nice meal. We choose a waterfront restaurant called The Bluecoast Seafood Grill where I ordered the fried Oysters.
And they were some good!
Well…..I thought this would be the final journal of this year’s trip but I got a bit long winded. We still have a week left with many folks to visit and many things to see. Please stay tuned……the next journal will be the last one! Promise!! Well, till 2015 that is!
Kit’s Bits: For me, the highlight of this part of the trip was our time with Billy, Joanna and their children. We had seen them a couple of times on previous trips to Philly, but never had the opportunity to get to know them better. Bill’s “Philly Family” is huge and they always have some sort of gathering when we come through, which are always fun! It was so nice to get to know them a little better. They have a very active and involved life. I also enjoyed our trek up the east coast, even though we’ve done it many times over the years. It still amazes me how much open land still exists along this route. Once again, each place we stop for a night or two, I could easily spend a week!