Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sprint from HI to FLA

When we left Hatteras Island on Thursday we knew we had to be in Ocala by Monday for our annual service. That meant four days of driving and one night stops along the way. It did not start real well as the place we picked to stay the first night was very shaky, so we ended up at another (more expensive) place. The next day we called another place early only to learn it was booked. Since the weather had cooled a bit we did a night at a Wally World. The third night we stayed at the Elks in Jacksonville, a place we have been before and located only 100 miles from Ocala where Cummins has "free" sites with water and electric. We don't like making these kinds of quick trips, but it all went well and we were lucky enough to visit  friends along the way.  
We had to re-cross all those bridges we crossed getting to Hatteras and we knew we had to cross a few more to get to I-95. This was a different one on the Alligator River, a swing bridge that rotated to allow this boat that was on the Intercoastal Waterway to pass.
Day two we were in South Carolina.
A unique spot at Wally World right on a retention pond that filled with migrating geese at sunset.  The problem was, between the squawking geese on one side and the trucks going in and out on the other, it made for a very noisy night. 
Day three was a quick pass through Georgia on I-95. At that point we only had Florida on our minds.
Wow our welcome to Florida was not one the tourist bureau would be showing in the ads. The rain  was very heavy but ended up being only a passing shower that we were out of before we arrived at the Elks. 
We knew in advance that George and Nan, who we met at Betty's and have crossed paths with several time, where staying at the Elks. George found a very neat place for dinner, Julington Creek Fish Camp, right on the water. We had a great evening getting caught up with each others travels.......  
......and our view of the harbor was beautiful. It is always great when we cross paths with friends on the road. 
We moved on to Cummins in Ocala for annual service. We had the oil changed (it still amazes me that Opus needs 27 quarts), chassis lubed and filters changed, on both the rig and generator. It was also time to change the transmission fluid, every 50,000 miles, and even with all that we were on the road by 1:00. 
It was less than 50 miles from Ocala to the Escapees park, Sumter Oaks, in Bushnell. We were happy to see the park came through Irma without too much damage, mainly tree branches coming down. One reason we love this park is the resident Sandhill Cranes. 
The same pair has been here for quite awhile. You not only see them all over the park but can hear their squeaks as the call each other.
Right out our front window is this birdhouse that the squirrel used as a perch. We stayed for two nights just to relax a bit after five straight days of travel.
The next day it was 200 miles down I-75 to Lake San Marino RV Resort in Naples where we will be parked for a month. This park also came through Irma without too much damage (mostly downed trees and pieces of skirting around units being blown away), but this 5th wheel looked like it had blown over.
This is a common sight in South Florida, giant piles of downed trees which has created a new problem. We saw on the news where a power line came down and set a pile on fire. Another result of Irma is that many business signs have blown away and have yet to be replaced, sometimes making it difficult to find places. 
The park had three park models that were totaled. Those were generally the older models that were built before newer construction standards were put in place after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Driving around we have seen houses with big trees still on them, but everyone seems to be doing all they can to get repairs done and to get businesses open.
The weather here has been really hot so when the front AC began blowing hot rather than cool air we needed to find a repair service quickly. We called Land and Sea Cooling and Daniel was here within a couple hours. He found the problem was a bad coil and had the air working in no time at all. We have also been having a problem with a slide not working all the time and a battery charger issue. Daniel checked both and explained what I needed to do. All this in an hour and half. We were very impressed with the service and would recommend Land and Sea Cooling to anyone in Southwest Florida who may need mobile service.  

On Thursday we will be flying out of Miami to Punta Cana for a two week vacation at Secrets Royal Beach. We will be celebrating our anniversary on November 1st and my brother Rick and his wife Denise will be flying in for a few days while we are there. While many people think we are always on vacation because our house has wheels and we stay in many different places, we love going to Secrets to be pampered and just kick back in the tropics.

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.