Our three months in Florida sure did go fast! It seemed as if we had no sooner arrived there than it was time to start heading out again. We had a wonderful time visiting with so many different family members during our stay at Walt Disney World. Due to the high cost, I don't foresee another such long stay there for us, but it sure was fun while it lasted :-). We also worked our customary 2 weeks at the Florida State Fair for Scootaround. Back in Homosassa, we finished up seeing our doctors for our annual exams, accomplished a good bit of yard work at the house, did some maintenance work (and repair work) on the rig, did our best to keep our two senior citizens, Honey and Casey :-), on their feet, and did a lot of preliminary planning for our big trip to Canada and Alaska in 2020. Our friends Bonnie and Richard have been an invaluable help to us this winter with Bonnie's help in the trip planning and Richard's tireless assistance on work on the rig. We've never had a name for our rig before now, but we think the appropriate name at this time is "Bionic."
We actually left Florida on March 31. Our first destination was Charlotte, N.C., to work at the Auto fair again for Scootaround. I will say this will be our last year working the Auto Fair. We only do a couple of shows a year for Scootaround, and we have only worked for one managing team, Sandi and Dave. We mainly came to this show this year because they were working it. This year, though, the work at the show really beat us up. I think we were tired already when we arrived as we had done a ton of work in the yard at the house and a pretty grueling day of work on the rig two days before leaving -- we had to replace the underbelly covering of the rig. If you haven't had to do that yourself, it isn't fun. A huge "thank you" to Richard for his assistance!
Once we were finished in Charlotte, we headed over to Charleston for some downtime, visiting our friends from New York, Bob and Chrissie Savage. They have retired to the Charleston area and spent the week showing us some of their favorite spots. We had been to Charleston a couple years ago and had already done the historic walking tour of the historic district, visited the Straw Market, and seen Fort Sumter Visitor Center and the USS Yorktown. So it was nice to see new areas.
On John's Island, we stopped to see the Charleston Angel Oak Tree. It's a massive live oak tree estimated to be 400-500 years old, possibly older. It's 66.5 feet tall, 28 feet in circumference, and the longest branch is 187 feet.
The next day we went with Bob to go on a bird walk at Caw Caw Interpretive Center. It was about 3 hours long and introduced us to the history of rice farming plantations in the South Carolina coastal area. I had no idea that there was rice farming there! But this tract of land was once home to several rice plantations and home to enslaved Africans who worked on them. It was labor-intensive work, wet and dangerous with the alligators and snakes. It is humbling to think of the work involved to carve out a rice-growing plantation out of the cypress swamps.
These canals of water were carved out of the land for growing the rice.
Hanging out with the bird nerds :-). Most folks are regulars at the park and very nice. It's a wonderful spot to take a walk at.
Fields of wild iris growing in the cypress swamp.
Another excursion was to Middleton Plantation. Of course, Charleston is home to many plantations, and Middleton is one that has been saved and restored for its historical significance to our country. The Foundation has done a wonderful job of keeping the plantation historically accurate and researching the Middleton family and African-American slaves' stories. The plantation is said to host America's oldest landscaped gardens which Henry Middleton envisioned and began creating in 1741.
The view from the ruins of the main plantation house, home to the Middletons. The main house was destroyed in the Civil War.
The South Flanker of the home, shown above, was the surviving portion of the home and houses the plantation museum today, filled with original furniture, portraits, silver, china, documents, and more belonging to the family. I asked how much of this was saved from the ravages of the war and was told the family had warning that the Union Army was on the way and had time to spirit away most of their valuables.
The gardens and view of the Ashley River were beautiful.
Our last day in Charleston was spent with a visit to Fort Moultrie National Historic Park on Sullivan's Island north of Charleston. Fort Moultrie has a long history starting with the Revolutionary War, being attacked by the British on June 28, 1776. After the Revolution, it was neglected and abandoned until 1794, when war broke out between Great Britain and France and the U.S. wanted to fortify its coastal defenses. The second Fort Moultrie was also neglected and eventually destroyed by a hurricane. In 1809, a third Fort Moultrie was built and manned. The Federal garrison abandoned the fort in 1860 when South Carolina seceded the Union in favor of the more easily defended Fort Sumter, which also fell to the Confederate forces in 1865. After the world wars and the advent of nuclear weapons and guided missiles, the fort was rendered obsolete, and today, the fort has been restored to portray the major periods of its history. It was a very interesting visit.
Our next stop was a place that's been on our radar for a long time but never made it onto the travel itinerary. This year it did! We have been camped for the last week at Camp Hatteras in Rodanthe, N.C., in the Outer Banks. It is beautiful here and really reminds us of a lot of home. For our folks back on the Island, picture Napeague Stretch, but going on for about 100 miles!
Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches north to south across three islands: Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke. We stayed on Hatteras Island, in the middle of the three, which is also the longest island. Highway 12 runs the length of the 3 islands, with bridges connecting Bodie to the mainland and Hatteras, and a ferry connecting Hatteras to Ocracoke. We didn't make it to Ocracoke on this trip. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse above is one of the world's most recognizable lighthouses and is also the tallest brick lighthouse, standing at 208 feet tall. Its light beam reaches out 20 miles into the ocean, protecting vessels from one of the most treacherous stretches of waterways on the East Coast. Coastal erosion threatened to topple the lighthouse in the early 1990s, and in 1999, the lighthouse was carefully moved 2900 feet inland to a safer location. If you don't mind heights, heat, and walking up 248 steps, you can even climb up to the top of the lighthouse!
These were the home buildings for the lighthouse keepers and now house the museum.
Inside the museum is a map of the shipwrecks, over 600 of them, in this area, known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."
In fact, in the town of Hatteras is the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. There are no entrance fees, and it's a very well-done museum of exhibits detailing the history of the coast from The American Revolution through the Civil War and the world wars, with an emphasis on the German U-boats that were wreaking havoc on our shipping. There were also exhibits on the history of diving, pirates, and fishing along the coast.
Al had a shocking moment in the fishing exhibit when he realized some of the equipment depicted is equipment he used to use on his boat out at Montauk. He said seeing that stuff in a museum made him feel really old.
The mansions along the ocean at the tip of Hatteras Island.
North of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the town of Nag's Head, where you can find your major shopping area, and Kill Devil Hills, where the Wright Brothers National Monument is. This is where the Wright brothers had their famous first flight. There are a small museum and a short drive loop to different sites within the park.
Replica of the original aircraft. There's a piece of the original cloth of the wing material in a dark box.
60-foot monument on top of Kill Devil Hill honors the Wright Brothers and marks the site of the hundreds of glider flights that preceded the first powered flight.
This bronze-and-steel sculpture recreates the historic 1903 flight. The powered glider is in front, with life-sized figures representing the local townfolks that had come out to assist with the tests. The photographer who is taking the historic photo is John T. Daniels, a local member of the U.S. Life- Saving Service.
This marker commemorates the exact spot where the glider took off from the ground the first time.
Smaller stone markers chart the first four flights' paths, distances, and landings.
While in Rodanthe, we were fortunate to discover that there was going to be a demonstration by a team of volunteers showing how an actual rescue of shipwrecked people happens. The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in Rodanthe held a lecture about the history and then walked us out to the dunes behind the boathouse to show us the Beach Apparatus Drill.
The boathouse and life-saving crew wheeling out the cart holding all of the rescue equipment.
The cart and equipment weigh about 1,000 pounds. It looked difficult enough for them to wheel it out the short distance they did here. In reality, they would be wheeling it out in the most horrid storm conditions, possibly up to 3 miles down the beach in either direction. There are 16 stations total spaced out along the coastline, but depending upon where a ship comes to be in distress, the distance can be quite formidable to get to it.
Each seaman would step forward and recite the particular steps that were their requirement to get the job done. There are 8 seamen working in concert with each other. Each step has to be done at the exact right time to keep lines from becoming tangled.
Drill in progress. They are shooting the rescue line to the mock ship's mast on the beach.
Simulated rescue of a ship's passenger on the rescue line in the breeches buoy.
The demonstration was totally fascinating and humbling to think of how hard men used to work to rescue people in danger, putting themselves in danger as well. I am very happy that we were here at the right time to be able to join the group. Afterward, there was a BBQ chicken dinner put on by the volunteers to raise money for the foundation that has kept the property in such good shape. I feel it is very important to keep pieces of our country's history intact like this and applaud those who donate their time and money to doing so. And the chicken was really good!
While we've been here, we've also gone through two pretty respectable storms. I'm happy to report that the rig easily withstood sustained winds of 40+ knots with a couple of gusts up to 60 knots! Not something that I really care to repeat often, but we did fine :-).
Tomorrow we will be back on the road, headed further north. We'll be stopping for a couple of days in Richmond, VA., and then Gettysburg, PA., for a few days. From there, we're headed to Elkhart, IN., to the MoRyde factory, where we're having the IS suspension and disc brakes put on. Remember, we're Bionic now ;-). Hopefully, the weather will be a little more cooperative and the storms are behind us for a while.