Sunday, November 22, 2015

South to FLA

Our plan was to take three days to get to Ocala where we had an appointment for annual service on Opus.  We did end up staying in Raleigh one extra day because of heavy rain predicted along our route.  We always try to schedule some flexibility in our travel plans so we don't have to travel in bad weather. While we did have all day rain showers the first two days, we missed the worst of the heavy rain, up to 10 inches in Jacksonville. 
The campground at the fairgrounds is across the street from the North Carolina State Wolfpack football stadium and PNC arena, the home of their basketball team and the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team.  This is the sculpture of the wolf pack outside the stadium. 
We even got one last look at the Hatteras Lighthouse at the fairgrounds.
South of the Border has been one of those been there done that tourist traps you see along America's byways.  This was as close as we got as we zipped by on I-95.  The place looks like it has seen better days but the billboards leading up to it went on for miles and miles.  We stopped one night in South Carolina at Jolly Acres RV Park in St. George.  A much better choice than the RV park that is part of the Comfort Inn right by the highway.  The next night we were at the Elks Lodge in Jacksonville and were happy to find it was on high solid ground after all the rain.
After two 250 mile days we were only ninety five miles from Ocala where we got a "free" night's camping behind Cummins so we would be ready for our 8AM appointment.  All went well with the service and we were on our way by noon for the 45 mile trip to Sumter Oaks RV Park in Bushnell. This is an Escapees park so we were allowed to give Opus a much needed bath after a month by the ocean and two days of driving in the rain.
We were happy to see that Wanda and Wallace were still managing the park.  They were the first SKP's to give us a welcoming hug when we met them at the Escapade in Goshen in 2007.  We have crossed paths several times over the years in New Mexico, Louisiana and even in Alaska last year.  We had a great time getting caught up.
We were lucky to get this great spot overlooking the swamp behind the park.  After we finished washing Opus and completing a few other chores we spent a lot of time looking for birds right from our patio.
This place is a bird watcher's paradise.  This is a great white heron.
These four sandhill cranes are residents who walk through the park every day like they own the place.  Get to close and they will let you know with a loud screech.
We were happy to see Rich and Mary who we have crossed paths with on the road at Escapades and last fall at Betty's RV Park.  Like us, they were just here for a short stay before heading further south. So we hope to see them again this winter.
We usually go to the Webster Flea Market when we are in Bushnell so we can look at more stuff than you can imagine.  We just cruised through most of the booths and actually ended up buying a couple things.  Check out that blue sky.  We had great weather without a drop of rain the whole week we were there.  Hard to believe after we washed Opus that it did not rain.
Another resident flock of ibis.  They move through the water and grass in an almost constant search for food.
A little blue heron.  It is so neat seeing all the birds from our front door.
Almost every day we could hear but not see the barred owl.  The first time we found it in the trees it flew away before I could get a picture.  Finally on the last evening I was able to get a picture. Very neat.
Of course, even at a great place like Sumter Oaks you have to sometimes deal with a few asses:)  These are a couple from the neighboring herd.  Any time you walk by the fence they come to you looking for a hand out.

As I write we have moved another 50 miles south and are staying near Tampa.  Next week we will be flying to Cancun to celebrate both our birthdays and Thanksgiving by being pampered at Secrets Akumal.  Life is Good!!!!

We want to extend Happy Thanksgiving wishes to everyone and hope you have an enjoyable holiday.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

North Carolina Capitol

Last year we decided to add U.S, state capitols to our to do list.  Since Raleigh was not too far out of our way when we left Hatteras, we headed that way.  We stayed at the North Carolina State Fair- grounds which is a good location for exploring the whole area.
The capitol was completed in 1840 after the original building burned.  It was built in the Greek Revival style so popular at the time.  When we entered we were told to expect a very plain building because of the Scottish heritage of the government officials of the day.  This sure proved to be true, no gold leaf, no ornate trim, no stained glass windows, no portraits of state government officials, just a simple, functional building.
The reception area outside the governor's office is decorated with things about the current governor, Pat McCrory.  While other parts of the government have moved to newer buildings, the governor's office is still here.
The House of Representatives, called the House of Commons until 1868, has 120 members.  The desks were made by a local Raleigh cabinetmaker, William Thomas.  The painting of Washington is a copy of a Gilbert Stuart portrait.  The Secession Ordinance of 1861 was signed in this chamber.
Nanc on the stairs to the second floor.  You can see where the steps are chipped and worn.
The chips are from the wheelbarrow the local slaves used to transport wood to the many fireplaces on the upper floors of the building.  Along the walls where this exhibit is located are four plaques commemorating when North Carolina passed four Constitutional amendments.  The first three, the 13th which banned slavery, the 14th which made former slaves and all people born in the US citizens, and the 15th which gave the vote to Black males were passed in the late 1860's as required before old confederate states were allowed back in to the Union.  Interestingly, the 19th which gave women the right to vote and which became the law of the land in 1920 was not ratified in North Carolina until 1971.
Like the rest of the building the 97 foot high dome is very plain.  There are small alcoves around the balcony on the second floor which indicate they may have expected to place statues there, but they are all empty.
In the rotunda is a statue of George Washington dressed as a Roman general.  The original, done by Italian artist Antonio Canova in 1816, was destroyed when the old capitol burned in 1831.  This is a copy that was done in 1970 from a plaster cast of the original. 
This lithograph of Marquis de Lafayette viewing the original Washington statue in 1825 is the only known interior view of the old capitol.
The Senate chamber has fifty desks that were built by the same cabinetmaker who did the ones in the House chamber.  The above lithograph hangs here.  Both the House and the Senate now meet in a new legislative building near the capitol.  
This room on the third floor served as the State Library from 1840 to 1888.  It has been restored to its 1850's appearance.  During the Civil War North Carolina's original copy of the Bill Of Rights was kept here.  When General Sherman's troop occupied Raleigh at the end of the war a Union soldier stole it.  Here is a link to a story about the state with the help of the FBI getting it back in 2014.
Also on the third floor was the state Geologist's Office.  This room served as the supreme court chamber for three years before it was moved to the first floor.    
There are a few statues and memorials on the capitol grounds.  This one is dedicated to the three North Carolina born citizens who became president, James Polk, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson. 
As we were told, the building is very plain.  That said, it also appears more like the original building than any capitol we have toured.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Good Bye to HI

We love being on Hatteras Island in the fall and this year the weather has been warmer than normal, both a good and bad thing.  Good thing, it kept Nanc happy, bad thing, the fishing (catching) slowed down.  There were a couple of days and nights with very heavy rain, but not enough to dampen our spirits.
The uncrowded, empty beach and sunny skies are wonderful.
The last few times we went to the beach we only had to share our space with some shore birds.
The only thing I caught the last couple times I fished were skates, a ray like fish without a stinger.  They put up a good fight and are fun to catch but after hooking over a dozen and not getting any other fish, I packed away my pole the last day.  That evening at Pangea, a restaurant by Avon Pier, the owner told me over forty drum were caught from the pier that day.  Oh well, my quest to hook and land a drum will have to wait for another day.  Pangea is a neat little locally owed tavern with great food, a great collection of North Carolina brews and very attentive owners Joe and Tammy.  
On Halloween we went out to dinner to celebrate our 46th anniversary.  I think we were the only people who were not in costume.  With a November 1 anniversary this happen quite often.
But look who I met.  The thumbs up is for the mask not the candidate:)
The Navy base at Norfolk is very close for a fighter jet and there is a bombing range across the sound, so we often saw F-16s.  This one flew directly over the RV park which is unusual.
Because Hatteras Island is so far from the mainland you get both great sunrises and sunsets.  At least we have heard the sunrises are great, we rarely are up at that time of day.  This sunset was over the Avon harbor.
Another sunset from the Sands of Time.  While there are some great sunsets here they don't compare to those we see in the Florida Keys.
On Wednesday we headed north on NC-12, the first leg of our trip south for the winter.  As usual they were working on moving sand to rebuild the dunes.  This is a never ending job.
We did hear some good news before we left.  The "temporary" bridge that has been in place the last several years is going to be replaced with a permanent one.  The new inlet that it crosses has filled with sand so it should be stable enough for a bridge.  
A long causeway leaving Roanoke Island and we were back on the mainland for the first time in a month.  Our first stop is in Raleigh to tour the state capitol.  Then we are heading down I-95 to Florida.  We have an appointment to have Opus serviced in Ocala next week.  Starting the 18th we have reservations for a month near Tampa.  While we are parked there we will be flying to Cancun to celebrate our birthdays and Thanksgiving. 
AAAH Life is Good!!!!!!

Monday, November 2, 2015

More Friends - Ocracoke

We had another great week on the Outer Banks with another visit from friends and a day trip to Ocracoke.  I did a bit of fishing but the catching slowed down.  I'm hoping for a couple more good fishing days before we hit the road.
When we stopped to see Richard and Valerie in Charlottesville in July we talked about them visiting us while we were in Hatteras.  We got to share some of our favorite places, played some games and learned all about the new place they moved into shortly after our July visit.
We took the free ferry to Ocracoke.  The trip that used to take 40 minutes now takes an hour because of the shifting sand at the inlet.  It was an overcast day but warm enough to be outside to enjoy the cruise.
The ferry that runs from Hatteras village to Ocracoke must follow the channel marked by buoys in a zigzagged crossing.  We talked to a local who told us the shifting sand has made it difficult for the fishing charters to get out to the Gulf Stream, really hurting the local economy. 
The first twelve miles of Highway 12 on Ocracoke Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  There are ponies on the island that are descendants from the ones that came ashore from old ship wrecks.  Unlike the ponies on the Northern Outer Banks, these are kept in a fenced pasture.
Much of the little village is built around Silver Lake Harbor, a popular stop with boaters.  Ocracoke has to be one of the most isolated places on the East Coast.  From Nags Head it is a 60 mile drive down Highway 12 and then a one hour ferry crossing and 12 more miles to the village.  From the south it is a two and a half hour pay ferry trip from the mainland.
The Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest, built in 1823, and shortest, 75 feet, of the three along the national seashore.  It is not open for visitors to climb.  The lighthouse is located in the village, an easy walk through interesting neighborhoods.
The British Cemetery marks the graves of four sailors who died when their trawler, Bedfordshire, was sunk by a German u-boat off Ocracoke in 1942.  The rest of the crew was lost at sea.  Ocracoke is a neat little village that is very walker friendly, especially in October.  From all the golf carts, scooters and bikes that are for rent it may be a bit crazy in the high season.
Check back a couple of blogs ago to see another picture at the same spot.  We offered Richard and Valerie our master suite but they decided to stay at the Outer Banks Motel where Tom and Georgie stayed earlier in the month.
Here we are at the same spot.  The Atlantic was real rough that day.
Richard and Valerie wanted to take a walk on the beach where we would not find any footprints.  Not a problem on Hatteras Island in October.  It was overcast and a little windy, but the temps were great for strolling on the beach.  We only saw one other person during a couple hours' walk.
Because of the rough water Valerie wanted to find something washed up on the beach.  We aim to please and found this buoy on the beach.  It was much too big to carry home.
The waves were high and the water was very rough but it was a great day walking on the beach.  We had a great visit with Richard and Valerie and as we always say, making and seeing friends as we travel is the best thing about our lifestyle.