Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Enjoying the HI Life

Our second week on Hatteras Island (HI) was filled with sun, sand and friends. Tom and Georgie did a personal mail delivery and spent the week at a cottage at the Outer Banks Motel where we stayed for years when we vacationed here. Mike and Sherri took the ferry from the mainland after spending the weekend with their son Brian's family and stayed with us for a couple of days. It was their first visit to the Outer Banks so we showed them the sights and had a great time on the beach, playing euchre and dining out.
Mike and Nanc on the deck at Tom's and Georgie's cottage that was literally on the water. We always wanted to stay in one of the beach front cottages but they are booked solid in the summer season, the only time we could come here. This picture was at low tide. At high tide we could have fished from the deck. Glad there were no storms or "rogue waves" while they were there.
Sherri and Mike soaking up some of that warm Carolina sunshine.
Georgie, Murphy and Tom. Another advantage of staying in the cottage in the fall is you can bring your dog. We enjoyed spending each day on the beach by the cottage.
The fishing did get a bit better during week two. I caught several including a couple of blues. Look carefully and you can see the fins of two dolphins by my pole.
Murphy had never been in the water before and we "think" he enjoyed taking a dip with Tom.
The ferry Mike and Sherri took landed on Ocracoke, the island south of Hatteras. We met them at the dock then explored this neat little town and had lunch. This is the Ocracoke lighthouse, the oldest in North Carolina.
The British Cemetery on Ocracoke has the graves of the only four sailors whose bodies were recovered when the HMT Bedfordshire was sunk by a German U-boat off the island in May 1942. All others were lost at sea. There is also a British Cemetery on Hatteras Island. At the beginning of WWII the Germans sank so many ships off the Carolina coast that it was known as "Torpedo Alley".
Of course we had to take Mike and Sherri to see the high point of any visit to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the lighthouse. At 208 feet it is the tallest in the US. We did not get to the top as it is closed each year after Columbus Day. We did get to see the video about the moving of the lighthouse in 1999. We were here at that time and it was something we will never forget seeing that engineering feat.
Dining out with Tom and Georgie on their last night. Once again, getting the chance to spend time with friends is one of the greatest things about this lifestyle.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We'll Cross that Bridge....................

We left DC with the goal of adding Delaware to our state map on our way to the Outer Banks. This route required us to cross two very big toll bridges but since we would be spending a free night at Wally World we decided to go for it.
The first bridge was the William Preston Lane Jr. Bay Bridge which crosses Chesapeake Bay just east of Annapolis to the Eastern Shore and the Delmarva Peninsula. This 4.35 mile bridge rises 186 feet above the water. It was originally just a single span with two way traffic, but a second bridge was added to separate east and west bound traffic. Nanc tells me there is quite a view from the top but I was real focused on the road.
To add Delaware we stayed at the Seabrook Wally World that was just 100 miles from DC. Since we arrived so early we disconnected the car and drove to Rehobeth Beach. We had a nice stroll on the boardwalk and enjoyed the warm ocean air.
The next morning we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. This 23 mile engineering marvel crosses the water where the Atlantic Ocean meets Chesapeake Bay and connects the Delmarva Peninsula with Southeastern Virginia. We crossed it many years ago when there was only one bridge with two way traffic and we were glad to see the newer southbound bridge was wider than the original. It was wide enough that I actually got to enjoy the view as we literally drove across the ocean.
There are four man made islands where the road goes into the two tunnels that were required so there would be no limit on the height of the Navy ships sailing from the base in Norfolk. The tunnels have two way traffic and going through them was just a little intense.
We weren't yet done with the bridges as we had to cross the three mile Wright Memorial Bridge to get to the Outer Banks from the North Carolina mainland. This is another bridge that was once a single two way traffic span but now consists of two bridges. It was a real piece of cake after the previous two.
And finally one last bridge to get us on to Hatteras Island. The Hebert C. Bonner bridge is a 2.5 mile span that crosses Oregon Inlet between the Atlantic Ocean and Pimlico Sound. It has been through several hurricanes and in 1990 a dredge hit it and knocked a section down, isolating everyone on the island until ferry service could be brought in. This bridge is due for replacement because erosion is constantly changing the shoreline. It has two way traffic.
The last part of the trip is down highway 12 on Hatteras Island. Here the road is so close to the Atlantic that it is often covered in water and sand. There are some spots where the island is so narrow that you could hit a nine iron into the ocean on one side and into the sound on the other. That is why we love this place, it is so isolated that you won't find a Wally World or, for that matter, many other chains. We arrived at the Sands of Time Campground to find they were having a fish fry that evening so we joined in and got to meet a few other residents.
To our Pacific coast readers it may be surprising that you can actually go into the Atlantic even in October and not freeze your ### off. The water was fine, the fishing was great, but the catching left a lot to be desired. We are looking forward to a month of just kicking back at the beach and hoping the catching gets better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Historic Big Washington -- Part II

One of the greatest things about DC is the beautiful architecture of the monuments and governments buildings. Unlike other big cities the skyline of the city is dominated by the US Capitol and the Washington Monument. The National Mall (open space not a shopping center the 7th graders expected) which runs from the capitol to the Lincoln Memorial (about 2 miles) is the site of several major monuments and 10 of the Smithsonian Museums. We revisited several monuments but did not have the time to explore museums except to see the original Star Spangled Banner that has recently been refurbished.
Without a doubt, for me, the most personal monument is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial known as The Wall. It has the names of the 58,195 service personnel killed in Vietnam. While I did not go to Vietnam during my two years in the Army, I knew several people whose names are on the wall. When it was built many people did not like this "black slash in the ground" so the statue of the three soldiers on the left was added. Later the nurses statue was added to honor the eight women whose names are on the wall. Over time it has become one of the most popular stops in DC. Taking a rubbing (right) of a friend's or relative's name is a common practice here. We did have several students over the years who found their relative's names on the wall. Another practice here is for people to leave personal mementos. We allowed our seventh graders to read anything that was openly displayed but warned them that it could be a letter to a grandparent some child had never met or a note to a buddy someone had served with. On this visit someone had left a Purple Heart and just seeing it was very emotional for me. All these items are collected daily and archived by the park service. Many are displayed in The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit at the National Museum of American History.
At the top are the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial. These are both very impressive monuments to honor those who served in those wars. The WWII memorial has a wall of 4048 stars each representing 100 Americans who died in that war. In addition to the statues of the soldiers on patrol at the Korean memorial there is a wall of scenes from that war and the words "Freedom is Not Free." Seeing the war memorials in DC really brings that point home. Pictured at the bottom is the Lincoln Memorial and the view from the Lincoln of the Washington Monument and the capitol. The Lincoln has 57 steps, one for each year of his life, and 36 columns, one for each state at the time of his presidency. The statue is very impressive and worth the climb. The trip to the top of the Washington Monument offers a spectacular view of the surrounding area. We did not do it this time. Notice the two colors of stone on the obelisk. The construction was stopped during the Civil War and when it resumed the same stone was not available. It has come to symbolize the split of the war and the joining together of the nation when peace came.
These are the buildings of the three branches of the government. Top are the Supreme Court and the US Capitol and bottom is the White House. The flag is the the Star Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became the national anthem. The flag has recently been restored and is on display at the National Museum of American History.
We went to the new Capitol Visitor Center and toured the capitol even though we had done this many times before. Center is looking up at the inside of the dome. The statues are Stephen Foster of Pennsylvania who invented the steamboat, Lincoln and Freedom. Freedom is on the top of the dome and at 19 1/2 feet is the tallest statue in the city as no one should be higher then freedom. Top right is the original Senate chamber that later served as the Supreme Court until their building was built in 1935. Bottom are two of the eight paintings in the rotunda. The visitor center has a display of how the building changed as the nation grew and the workings of Congress. The capitol is a very worthwhile visit.
Above left is the National Archives which has on display the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (below left). Seeing these original documents and realizing you are looking at the signatures of the Founders has always been exciting to me. This is a must see. Below right is the Library of Congress and the Gutenberg Bible (top right), one of many rare books that can be found here.
These are pictures of the interior of the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. This is the first time in my many visits to the city that I have been inside either building. Top center is a statue of John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice, who lead the ruling that gave the court the power to overturn unconstitutional laws. Bottom right is a model of the justices' chamber. We got there too late to get in line to hear oral arguments in the actual chamber. Something to do on the next visit. The rest of the pictures are the Library of Congress. This has to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. They had a display of much of the original library containing the books of Thomas Jefferson. It was a thrill knowing that the books you were seeing had been held and read by Jefferson. We also viewed two special exhibits. One on Ira and George Gershwin which included one of their pianos and several scores of their wonderful music and other memorabilia. The other exhibit was on Bob Hope and his many years of involvement with the USO.
These are the things we saw in our four days in the city. There are many other places that should be on every ones list such as the National Cathedral, Arlington National Cemetery and more of the Smithsonian museums. Everyone should put our nation's capital on their bucket list. It is truly a wonderful place.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Historic Big Washington

After delaying a day to wait for the rain to pass we moved to Greenbelt Park, a National Park Service campground near the DC Metro in Greenbelt, Maryland. This park is a great deal at $8.00 a day with my Senior Pass. The Metro parking is free on the weekends and only $4.25 during the week and the Metro fares are very reasonable if you travel during the off-peak times. I have been to DC about fifty times starting with our honeymoon 41 years ago and we both love the place. We always find something new to see and this time was no different. We had originally planned to stay four days but ended up staying six because there is so much to do.
On our first day we got together with Nanc's sister Michelle and her husband Keith. We enjoyed an afternoon at National Harbor where we had a meal overlooking the Potomac and then went to their house to see their pictures of this summer's trip to Italy. Once again getting to spend time with family is one of the best things about this lifestyle.
Top left is the Hotel Harrington where I stayed many times when we brought the seventh grade to DC. Top center are several old building facades that have been saved as part of a new building. This style of construction really gives the city an old time feel. Top right is Ford's Theatre where Lincoln was shot. Bottom left is the 1940's carousal that is run by the Smithsonian. Center is the Smithsonian Castle where the visitors information center is located. This museum complex is one reason DC can be such an inexpensive city to visit as all sixteen facilities in DC are free. Bottom right is the Awakening, a great sculpture at National Harbor.
Museums we visited.
Top are the East and West Buildings of the National Gallery of Art where we saw The Chester Dale Collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century French Art. We also saw the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, a fourteenth century artist who produced portraits composed of heads made from plants and animals. Another exhibit was the work of Edvard Munch of The Scream fame. Bottom left is the National Portrait Gallery that had a Norman Rockwell exhibit and the permanent America's Presidents gallery. Bottom right is the Newseum with the First Amendment on a 74- foot tall tablet at the entrance. The museum is dedicated to the importance of the media to make sure the First Amendment is adhered to by the government. This was the only place we visited that charged admission, but we loved it so much we had to go back the next day to finish our tour.
A few of the exhibits at the Newseum which includes a 9/11 Gallery, Berlin Wall Gallery, Journalist Memorial, News Chopper, Pulitzer Prize Photos, Covering Katrina and an old printing press with the Declaration of Independence. There is also an Ethics Center, Interactive Newsroom, TV Studios (where ABC's This Week is aired), World Press, the Five Freedoms and News History. There are exhibits of famous journalists and I loved the quote of Tim Russert, "I don't believe you can make tough decisions if you can't answer tough questions." Some of these people who are worried about "gotcha" questions should take this into consideration. Exhibits covered everything from newspapers to TV to the newest Internet and blogger media.
Some of the art from the museums we visited.
This is just a small glimpse of the things we saw in city's museums. More to follow in the next entry. Below is a video of a visual arts project that is part of the walkway in the National Gallery.