Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hatteras Island

We left Maryland and took two days to drive to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. We have been to the Outer Banks many times over the years since our first visit in 1972. We love the miles of uncrowded beach and just soaking up the sun. Since going on the road in 2007 this is our fifth visit we have made during the fall when there are even fewer people on the beach.
On leaving Maryland I was not looking forward to crossing the Nice Bridge, the narrowest bridge we have ever been over in Opus. Good news, they were working on the bridge so the oncoming traffic was stopped as we crossed. Sure made it a lot easier.  
Getting to Hatteras requires crossing many bridges. The Wright Memorial Bridge takes you from the mainland to Kitty Hawk on the Atlantic Ocean.
The last bridge to Hatteras Island is the 54 year old Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. It is being replaced with a new wider, higher and longer $250,000,000 bridge. 
It is an impressive job with several cranes putting together the pieces of one huge puzzle. They did make one big mistake this summer when they cut the electric cable for Hatteras, leaving the island with no power for a week. All the tourists had to leave, really hurting the local economy.
We saw progress as this section with the yellow crane on top the pier was almost complete when we were leaving the island.
One thing I don't understand is the new bridge is still going ashore in the same spot as the old, so near the ocean that with the right combination of winds and high tide it is often under water. Here is the link to our experience of having to drive through the water at this spot in 2010.  Definitely a nerve racking trip.
Another small temporary metal bridge over a new inlet that was opened by a storm a few years ago is also being replaced with a new higher and longer bridge. 
A drive down Highway 12 is always an adventure into the unknown. The area just north of Rodanthe has been washed out many times. This is what the road looked like on our way south this year.
This is the same spot last Friday, one day after we left. Several cars were literally washed off the road by the crashing waves. 
On the weekend we went to Turner's High Moon to listen to some music. Turned out the guitar player knows Johnny Smooth who we heard at the Washington Jazz Society jam last month. Johnny often sits in with this duo when he is visiting the Outer Banks.
The first night we arrived the full moon was rising so we went to the Avon Pier to watch. Because of the full moon the waves were so big the pier was shaking.
Full moon over Hatteras. Check out how crooked the pier has become after the recent storms.
On Saturday we drove up to Nags Head to meet Tom and Georgie for lunch at Sam & Omies, a restaurant that has been in operation for 80 years. On the way back we stopped at the Bodie Island Lighthouse. This is the third Bodie Island light. The first had a poorly constructed foundation and became unstable. The second was blown up by the confederate army. 
We climbed to the top for a wonderful view of Oregon Inlet and the construction of the new bridge. At 170 feet it towers over the low lying coast.
Bodie Island has been repaired but the old steps are still not in the best of shape. Only eight people at a time are allowed in and they ask that only one person be on each flight of stairs between landings.
We did a beach day with Georgie, Tom and Milo. The weather was beautiful and the water was warm all week.
I fished most days and while I did not catch any keepers, I caught several different kinds of  fish; blues, pompano, croaker, mullet and spots. It is always fun fishing here because you never know what you might catch.
Here is something we have never seen on Hatteras. They are doing beach replenishment near Buxton for the first time and there was a lot of activity on the beach and also with dredgers on the water. The beach is wider than we have seen it in years.
Since Tom and Georgie had to cancel last year's October visit because of a hurricane, this was Milo's first time in the ocean. Tom took him in several times and he seemed to enjoy it.
The Cape Hatteras lighthouse has always been our favorite and we have climbed to the top many times. At nearly 200 feet it is the tallest in the United States. Built in 1870 it was the third lighthouse at this location that served as a warning for ships traveling off the coast through an area that has seen so many shipwrecks it is called the Graveyard of the Atlantic.  We were here in 1999 when they picked up and moved the lighthouse 1,900 feet back from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean. We always say that move changed the island forever as thousands who came to see the move "discovered" what a wonderful place this is and it has never been quite the same since.
Looking south from the top to the point, the most popular fishing spot on the island. This is where the south flowing Labrador Current meets the Gulf Stream causing the shoreline to constantly change. Earlier this year a small island appeared off the point, but it has already disappeared.
Looking north is the village of Buxton where we vacationed for many years. North of the village you can see why the island is so vulnerable to the many storms that come off the Atlantic. It is so narrow you could stand on the road and throw a rock into the ocean on one side and into the sound on the other.
We did it, climbed to the top of the two tallest lighthouses on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Both the Bodie Island and Hatteras lights are opened to climb for a small fee from the third Friday in April to Columbus Day, weather permitting.
This is why we love it here. There are miles of uncrowded and empty beach, plenty of sunshine, wonderful fishing and the warm water of the Atlantic, even in October. Years ago you could even find spots like this in the summer.
It was great spending time with Tom and Georgie though I'm sad to report the guys did not do so well at euchre, the girls ruled! We got to go to several of our favorite restaurants, all locally owned as there are no chains here. I got my fix of traditional Hatteras food; catch of the day with baked potato, slaw, hush puppies and the unique Hatteras chowder, always my favorite. 
The sun sets on our stay in Hatteras. A week sure was not long enough and we are already looking forward to a longer stay next fall.

We left Hatteras on Thursday and made it to Florida in three days. Very, very quick for us. We will be at Lake San Marino later this week for a month long stay. While there, we are flying to Punta Cana for vacation and to celebrate our anniversary.
Life is Good!!!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On to DC

Our time in WashPA is done, the slides are in, the jacks are up and the wheels are rolling. Our first stop was in Maryland to see Keith and Michelle and do some DC touring. We then are heading to Hatteras Island for a week and then a quick trip to Florida where we have an appointment for annual service in Ocala. After that, we are going to Naples for a month. We will leave Opus there and fly to Punta Cana to celebrate our anniversary.
We knew we had to get to the Southeast side of DC to get to Keith and Michelle's place, so we figured leaving on Sunday would make it an easier drive. Wrong! As you can see, the traffic on the beltway was bumper to bumper. Slow downs and wrecks added over an hour to the trip but we made it without any real problems. 
We have been to DC many times going all the way back to our honeymoon in 1969. We often stopped for a day or two on our way to or from vacations and for many years we would go for three days over Thanksgiving. I was also their nearly twenty times on the 7th grade field trip. There is so much to see there that even with all those visits we have found it very easy to achieve our goal of seeing something new on every visit. 
The Washington Monument is always impressive towering over all other buildings in the city. It is still closed until the spring of 2019 for updates and repairs due to damage caused by the 2011 earthquake. I remember when you could walk to the top.
The US Capitol, Library of Congress and Smithsonian Castle overlooking the National Mall is impressive.
We got to see the new National Museum of African American History and Culture building but could not get in as it is so popular that timed free passes are required for admission. The design symbolizes the three tier crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa. The ornamental bronze metal lattice honors the intricate iron work done by enslaved African Americans in the South. The building entrance is a welcoming porch. We will need to plan ahead for our next visit to explore the exhibits.  
The White House looking toward the National Mall. I was happy to see it was still turned right side up with all the chaos going on inside at this time. 
The World War II and Lincoln Memorial on the Reflecting Pool is beautiful. It is a wonder how they have fit so many monuments on the mall and it still is not overcrowded.
The DC War Memorial honors the 499 city residents who gave their lives in WWI. While it appears small compared to the other nearby monuments, it is large enough to serve as a bandstand for the entire Marine Corps Band.
The main reason for our visit was to add the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to our park service passport. We have seen many pictures of the memorial but like so many things in DC you have to be there to fully understand the symbolism. First the stone statue is the stone of hope that has been cut from the mountain of despair in the background that is the entrance to the memorial.   
Another bit of symbolism, the memorial, which is located on the Tidal Basin, is on a line between the memorials honoring Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and Lincoln, the president who saved the Union and freed the slaves in the South. 
On the wall behind the statue are several famous quotes of King. This quote from 1963 really can be applied to today's political times.
The Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin.
Our second day we visited the Old Town area of Alexandria. It is a beautiful city with many old buildings dating back to the 1700's. Loved this cobblestone street.  
We had a great visit with Keith and Michelle and are happy to report she has been doing well with her illness. After her last doctor's visit in September her test results were very good and she does not have to return for another scan until January. Very good news.
We have moved on and are now on Hatteras Island for a week of sun and fun before sprinting to Florida later this week.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Last Week in WashPA and Projects

For our last few days in WashPA we have been going almost nonstop with seeing friends and completing a couple RV projects. On several days we left home in the AM and did not get back until after dark. It was not all work, as we got to spend a lot of time with friends and to eat at some of our favorite local places one last time until next year. We had ordered a new chair, replacement mirrors for the bathroom and a new lens to replace one in my glasses that was scratched. With a week to go none of them where in, but they all arrived in time though not all were done to our satisfaction, story below.
One BIG disappointment for Nanc, her hip while feeling somewhat better, was not good enough early enough for her to get in shape to run the Great Race. This was the 40th year of the race and all the finishers received a special commemorative medal. Oh well, hopefully next year.   
Tom was registered for the race also but was not ready to run, so on Friday we went to Pittsburgh to pick up their race packets and went out to eat. This gave us a chance to go to the Church Brew Works, a unique brew pub in and old church. As always, the food was great the the beer heavenly. 
The Jones' decided to have the euchre club over one last time before we hit the road. Wow, we got to play three times in two months. You have seen all those folks before so here is a picture of their great dog, Bentley. I'm real happy to report I came away that evening with the first place money.  
. We got together with the Wednesday lunch bunch a couple more times. They tried the newly opened Washington Brewing Company and everyone had rave reviews for the food and beer. These gatherings with all these old friends are always high on our to do list while we are here.
How about these two beautiful 1950 models, Nanc and Mike's pride and joy 1950 Ford.
Nanc has been asking for a ride for a long time, but this car only comes out under the most ideal conditions. After checking the weather, no wind, no rain and temperatures between 68.5 and 73.8 Mike agreed to take her for a ride to the Kooper Kettle where we were all meeting for dinner. As you can see she loved it.
Last Saturday we went to the River House Grill in Charleroi with Bill and Kim. I taught and coached with Bill, and Kim is a former student who I also taught with for several years before I retired. We had a fun evening getting caught up.
Always at the top of our list of great local restaurants is the Union Grill. It is a Cheers like atmosphere where everyone knows your name and they have great food. 
Our last Friday was Tom's birthday so we went to the Back Porch in Speers, another great local place. They have great food in an 1806 stone house. We like the Side Door Bistro in the basement, but the upstairs dining rooms decorated with antiques is also great.

We do eat out much more than normal when we are in WashPA. One thing almost every place we go to have in common is they are locally owned and you will usually find the owner there to welcome you while overseeing the whole operation.

We always seem to have a few RV projects while in WashPA. Below are the small projects we worked on while here this year. 
We changed the back splash behind the sink. We removed the old border and used stick on plastic faux tiles. They come in packs of four and are flexible enough to be fairly easy to apply. The curve around the window was the most difficult. I made a pattern from a piece of the border we had removed. It is a small change but the boss is happy with the results so that is all that counts.
The lock arms on the slides were rusted and looking really bad. I scraped the old paint off with a razor blade, then wire brushed and sanded the metal. I then put taped around them and painted them with rustoleum. I used a brush rather than spray so I did not have to worry about over spray. Not as professional as the original but they look a lot better than they did.
We never drive at night so the fogged headlights were not a safety issue, it was more about the appearance. I had bought a kit, but decided not to use it when the directions said it could ruin the paint. I read on line that tooth paste would work and I tried it. While it was okay, it was not that great. I then discovered a mix of baking soda and vinegar, wow it was so easy. In less than an hour I was done with both Opus and the CRV. The final step was to apply a coat of paste wax. I was happy with the results and even if it doesn't last it is very easy to do again.  Nanc also used the baking soda/vinegar mixture worked like a charm on cleaning the grout on our ceramic flooring.
The mirrored doors on the bathroom medicine chest were looking shabby (top left) from moisture getting behind the glass, so we needed to change it. It turned into a major project and we are not happy with the results. We got the new mirrors back, remounted them only to find they had been glued to the frame incorrectly and did not match up. (bottom left) We returned them to have the right one removed and put on properly. I got them back and reinstalled them for a second time only to come home that evening and find the mirror had come off the frame and shattered on the floor. Understand, the original mirrors were 13 years old and had traveled over 100,000 miles of bumpy roads. Once again I removed them and they made a replacement which was not done until our last Friday in WashPA. I remounted them again only to discover the new one is just a bit larger than the old one and does not match at the top. No picture of that but we are not happy with the results and will have to deal with it next year. 
I must be doing a good job with retirement because I wore out the recliner and Nanc wanted to replace it. We checked out several local places and they all needed 10 to 12 weeks to get the new recliner rocker we wanted. We found a place in Ohio, Sheely's, that could have it in six weeks, making the delivery the day before we were leaving. It came in a bit early and I'm looking forward to breaking in a new recliner.

We are now a little south of DC and are spending a couple days with Michelle and Keith. We are then heading to the Outer Banks for a week before a quick trip south to FLA.