Tuesday, April 30, 2013

4/24 Bodie Island Lighthouse and Kitty Hawk

After I left Ocracoke, I headed to a commercial campground on Roanoke Island, which is on the far north end of the Outer Banks, near Nag's Head.  Roanoke Island is where the first English colony settled, a decade before Jamestown, which is the first "permanent" settlement in the colonies.  The lost colony consisted of 115 people who arrived in Roanoke in 1587.  Unfortunately, the supply fleet was delayed and when it arrived in 1590, there was no sign of the colonists.  No one has ever determined what happened to them, but there is a small museum and reconstructed fort at the known location.  The fort was mostly earthworks and looked like this:

Interestingly, there was also a Freedman's settlement here during the civil war for escaped slaves.  Anyone who made it to the island was safe.

Just south of here is another of the Outer Banks lighthouses--the Bodie Lighthouse.  Notice the black and white stripes on this one are horizontal?  I was there on the first day it had opened for the season and climbed to the top.  It had been completely restored and had been closed for the past three years, so I was lucky to be there at the right time.

This one was not quite as tall as the Hatteras lighthouse, but nice anyway.  View from the top was nice, although my right knee was complaining with all this stair climbing.

The last day in Roanoke, I headed north past Kitty Hawk on my way to Virginia Beach. I know now why the Wright brothers chose this place to fly their plane for the first time--there is always a strong wind! Anyway, here is the hill (sand dune) that the brothers used to launch their practice glides.  The actual flights were done on the flatter area in the foreground.  Very, very cold that day, and of course, windy, so I visited the museum and just drove around the hill.  Brrrr. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

4/21 Ocracoke Island and Campground

I know this is a bit confusing, but the name Ocracoke can refer to the long barrier island accessed only by ferries on each end, the town at the south end of the island, and the campground owned by the national park.  There is also an Ocracoke lighthouse!

The ferry arrived at the northern end of the island, and the drive to the campground went past some of the sandy area where the island was so narrow that there were no trees or plants, so the sand continually drifted across the road.  It would not take much for the ocean to completely wash across this area.

Where the island is wider, there are trees and dune plants established, so the road is less covered with sand. 

I really liked this campground because it was just behind the protective dunes and just a few feet from the ocean and beach.  There were only about 10% of the sites occupied because it was very early in the season, and in fact, I arrived on the first day the campground was open. 


This photo shows what looks a little bit like a rocky beach.  In reality, the wind is so strong here that it has blown the sand away from each shell or rock on the beach, so each is sitting on a little pedestal.  I should have taken a closeup of these little hills each shell sat on.

Can you see how big these waves were?  The wind was never below 18 MPH the whole three days I spent there.  I arrived late one day and stayed inside almost all of the next because of the wind and rain and really, really cold weather!  In fact, the second day, I had to move my campsite because my motorhome was parked sideways to the wind and it was blowing up underneath, rattling something loudly.  As heavy as my vehicle is, it rocked all night, making it hard to sleep.  I moved to a space where I could face the wind, and there was a lot less rocking and rolling all night.

Here is the tiny town of Ocracoke.  I drove there the second full day on the island and parked in the only lot big enough for my rig.  It was sunny this day but still very windy.  In any case, I rode my bike to the lighthouse and a tiny grocery store where I bought some split peas to make soup.  This is the dock for the ferry that goes south to Cedar Island and the national park visitor center.  Glad I didn't have to take that ferry because it is 2.5 hours long and goes through even rougher water than the one to Hatteras does!

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is a lot smaller than the other lighthouses on the Outer Banks, and it was not open for climbing, unfortunately.

I really enjoyed this island and campground.  When I planned this trip, I had no idea that late April would be so early in the season here.  Mostly, the whole place was deserted.  I plan to come back another time, but a few weeks later into the season, maybe in late May, in hopes of warmer weather and less wind and rain.  The town had a lot of interesting looking shops that were mostly closed that I could explore another day.  And if it were not so cold and rainy, I would certainly enjoy the beach more. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

4/19 Ferry to Ocracoke Island

In order to get to Ocracoke, you need to take an hour-long ferry ride on a really small ferry.  They hold a maximum of 26 cars or fewer if there are buses or motorhomes.  Here is the ferry that left just before mine. It had one covered lane and two outside lanes.  Can you believe it carried three buses on this trip??

Here is a picture of the ferry I took from the internet.  It has a center bridge and two lanes on either side.  In the middle of the trip, the waves got to be 4-6 feet high so it was a rough ride.

You can see how close my vehicle was to the bridge, especially the overhang at the top.  Because it was so wide, there were no cars parked between mine and the railing.
I have been told that I should climb up on top of my vehicle and check my roof at least once a month.  So far, I have not had the courage to do that, but I was able to perform these duties from the passenger area at the top of these stairs.

So, I think the roof looks fine, don't you?  No cracks or missing caulk as far as I could see.  Job done for a few months, I think.  There certainly are a lot of vents on my roof.  The bathroom vent has a tendency to pop open on its own.  I need to get vent covers installed on this one and the kitchen vent.  These go over the regular covers but are open in the back, so you can leave vents open as you drive.
Here is the ferry that had the buses on in the Ocracoke dock.  Amazing how they can fit three huge buses on it along with other vehicles.
Wild and windy ride to the Ocracoke and the national park campground.  Here is our arrival and the road to the town of Ocracoke at the other end of the island.

If you look at a map, you can see how really long and narrow these barrier islands really are.  At some points, they are only 300-400 feet wide, and at the widest, possible 2-3 miles wide.  It would not take much of a hurricane to wipe them out, but they have somehow survived a lot of winds and storms so far.   Something interesting is that they leave road maintenance equipment along the highway because they are constantly plowing back the sand.  In the last picture above, they have also used a front end loader to clear the road. 

4/19 Climbing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

This was the first day the lighthouse has been open for climbing, so I went this morning before heading off to the ferry.  I had to wait for an hour, so I went back to my motorhome and fixed myself a sandwich and relaxed in my recliner.  So nice to have your own home with you all the time!

This is a very tall lighthouse with over 248 steps to the top! Love the stripes.  Each of the lighthouses in the Outer Banks has a different paint pattern.  I bought a t-shirt with three of them on it.

 Nice view from the top.

You can see my motorhome parked at the bottom along with the buses.  This photo also shows the path where the lighthouse traveled when it was moved in 1997.  There is a PBS program that describes how they did it, and you can see the original sandy pad in the distance very close to the beach and the path the lighthouse traveled on to get to where it is today.

Unfortunately, the lens at the top was damaged severely between the time the lighthouse was electrified and the lens donated to a museum, but it is now stored nearby.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

4/17 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

This morning, I packed up and unhooked to do some exploring.  (This only takes maybe five minutes, but I have a lot of stuff I have to do inside, like putting the TVs away and making sure all drawers and everything are secure.)  I headed out to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  I knew it would not be open until Friday for climbing, but I wanted to get some information from the ranger station and take some photos in case it was cloudy and drizzly on Friday.

Here is my campsite.  As you can see, I am the only RV around.

The whole cape is filled with houses that look like this.  Most are three or four stories tall and  a lot are built on stilts, I assume because of hurricanes.

 There are almost no trees around here, either.  Here are some photos of the lighthouse:

You may recognize this lighthouse from the documentary about how they moved it about half a mile from its original place that was too close to the eroding beach.  This was in 1999, and you can still see the level path they took in this photo taken at the original foundation.  The foundation was left as a monument, but unfortunately, it is now covered with sand.  Must have pretty neat to watch!

4/15 Drive to Cape Hatteras

Rather than taking two separate ferries, one requiring a reservation, I decided to do a much longer drive to get to the Cape, coming in from the north end.  I was unhooked and out of the campground by 7:45 a.m.  I stopped for a propane refill, gas fillup, and groceries, and on my way to drive 380 miles, which is almost double what I usually like to drive in one day.

It turned out to be a rainy and windy day.  There were four long bridges I had to go over to get to the main cape, and you could see the white capped waves from each.  Bit scary.  Don't remember which one this was, but it felt like I was driving into nowhere.  Luckily there was almost no traffic.

Even when I got onto the Cape itself just north of Nags Head, it was a two hour drive to get to my campground, so I did not linger as I will be coming this way when I head back north.  They were a little surprised to see me at the commercial campground as it was technically closed because they were working on the restrooms.  However, I had a paid reservation.  The lady who took my money on the reservation line said she had checked with the owners and it was OK since I was self-contained and did not need to use the facilities.  I told her I would be happy as long as I had electric and a place to fill my water tanks.  Nice and quiet here, at least!!