Thursday, October 27, 2016

North and South Carolina

For October it was surprisingly busy, but not too noisy. In fact we're liking it so much we're considering extending our stay for a few more days.

South, South ever South.
For almost 25 years I traveled from Maryland to Norfolk VA frequently. I worked on Navy ships and that's where the Navy kept them. At first I used to drive I95/I64 but with all the traffic around Washington DC it soon got old.
Our first major tunnel. The Hampton Roads tunnel to Norfolk
One trip I took with a co-worker and he suggested Rt3/301/17. I'd never been that way before but it turned out to be an excellent low traffic alternative. The only downside were the country cops who made a living off sailors from Norfolk going home at the weekends. At that time the roads were mainly 2 lane and the speed limit 55. If you went 60 there was a good chance of getting a speeding ticket. I paid my fine and slowed down!

Now that route is even nicer with 4 lane roads and 60 for a speed limit. The traffic thru Waldorf MD has got worse, but the cops are still looking for revenue!

We decided to stay at the Thousand Trails Chesapeake Bay Park in Gloucester VA. Just off Rt 17, it was a quiet and picturesque place but busy due to their weekend Halloween activities for kids. And for us it was FREE!

The boat launch at Chesapeake Bay RV Park
We posted our location on FB and a couple of friends from the San Diego Shanty Shakers RV club told us they too were in Virginia so we hooked up for lunch and chatter in Petersburg VA near Richmond. We caught up with news, talked over journeys and had a great time but as we were heading in opposite directions we had to break up the party and wish Bruce and Sue pleasant travels.

Bruce, Sue, Barbara and I doing the selfie thing
Although we have been to this area many times in the past we had never stopped at the Yorktown Victory Center, to pass a few hours we decided to rectify that. We had seen an ad in a local newspaper saying that this week was the 235th Anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. There were special ceremonies and free admission.
Yorktown Victory Center
Well turns out that the ceremonies were not at the Victory Center but in the town of Yorktown. We had our National Parks passes. Except that this was a Virginia State facility not a National Park, so we had to pay anyway. We did get a Senior Discount though!

The "Doctor" explains Revolutionary War medicine
We continued on Rt 17 and crossed the State Line into North Carolina. In some construction we were following the posted 35mph speed limit and hit an unmarked severe bump that bottomed out the suspension on the rig breaking the weld on the bike rack, thanks VDOT!

A dramatic moment in the birth of Elkdom
We'd planned on staying at the New Bern Elks Lodge who have electrical hook ups, they also helped me find a local steel fabricators who could help fix the rack. Not only that but they told us we were welcome to have dinner with them that night at their “Meatball Cook Off”, the next night at their “Elks got talent” show and we could come in to the Lodge Sunday and watch the US Formula 1 Grand Prix on their 60” TV! Which we proceeded to do. We were “adopted” by a very friendly group and seated at their table each night. They introduced us to EVERYONE (so many we can't remember all the names). This is what being an Elk is all about, and we've found it in so many Lodges we've been to.

We got the bike rack repaired and I moved the brace I'd put in in order to strengthen the joint that broke. I “adapted” this rack to carry Barb's 3 wheeler and my own bike from a 2 bike rack that came with the rig. It's been great for 3 years and almost 30,000 miles, but that bump on 17 was just too much for it. Hopefully it will last a few years longer.
Fixed bike rack
Small stay to the left relocated for strength.
 We visited the “palace” in New Bern, which was the Governor's Palace when Britain ruled North America. Quite an interesting place but not original as it burned down many years ago and the present building was put up in the 1950's.
The Governor's Palace New Bern

Regal Palace gates

The Regal seal of King George

Tour guide in period costume
After lots of walking we decided that a cold beer was in order. We made our way to the local bar that had micro brews on tap. Disaster! It was closed on Tuesday! As we turned to leave a familiar couple came walking towards us. Chris and Cheri, who are know throughout the RV world for their great website and blog.
Cheri, Chris and Barbara
They are computer professionals who work and live on the road full time. They develop websites and apps and test computer and smart phone equipment then publish their results for our education. Thanks to them we set up our internet connection, phone booster and TV streaming system and got the T Mobile phone we used for internet and phone access in Canada.

The last time we saw them was in Vermont at the Escapees Rally earlier this year and in Tucson last year. What a small world! We chatted briefly, promised we'd add a link to their blog on our blog (Which we did, look at the right side of the screen) and found another bar with decent beer that was open on Tuesday. Thanks Prohibition Speak Easy!
Must be in the South, Spanish Moss in the trees.

Federal style houses New Bern
One last breakfast with the Elks then we set off South again. Now we're in Myrtle Beach SC to meet Barbara's cousin Helen and our old Maryland friend Barry.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Headed South

I think I'll dream of this flight for a long time, it was visually stunning and filled me with a warm happy feeling of satisfaction.

The last week or so has flown by again and here we are in the middle of October already! Better catch up on the blog!

We were in New Hampshire to meet Barbara's brother Stu and his wife Linda who were visiting New England from OLD England to do some “Leaf Peeping”. They chose the perfect time to do so as the leaves peaked as they arrived and we enjoyed a glorious show of fall color.

Kancamagus Highway NH
We met up in Lincoln, they had a hotel downtown (if there is a downtown in little Lincoln) and we had a nice campground just down the road in Woodstock, in fact we closed down the campsite as their season ended for the year the day we were leaving!

Campground scarecrow
Lincoln is a vacation town, nice in the spring, summer and autumn as well as a ski resort for the winter season. Close to the White Mountains, Franconia Notch, Mount Washington and the Kancamagus Highway it's a good central spot to see the pretty countryside.
From the window of the Robert Frost house in Franconia NH
Stu and Linda like train rides and Lincoln has 3 of them. We chose the 1 ½ hr Hobo Train with lunch. At the depot they had a display of Halloween Presidential Scarecrows that we thought were hilarious.

Linda (L) and Barbara enjoying the train ride

Abraham Lin CORN and Linda

After a couple of days together catching up on news from UK and eating out every night we had to part ways. They moved on to Vermont, Mass and Rhode Island and we packed up and headed south.
Linda, Stu and Barbara at the Lincoln Craft Fair
 It was our ambition to chase the autumn leaves down the East coast but instead we decided the autumn temperatures were getting too low and overtook the leaves by breaking one of our “rules” and driving Interstates for a couple of days thru New York and PA to see our son Fred and his wife Cori, and our old Gambrills neighbors Doug and Lynn.
Lake Sqam NY

We did a whole week of Walmarts and Elks Lodges to get back to our $25 a night camping budget ($25 a night LINK), and stretched our holding tank use to do so. Our choice of Elks Lodge near Gambrills was the Lodge in Severna Park MD. That Lodge never stopped spoiling us the whole time we were there with Italian Night and spaghetti the first night followed by a full turkey dinner the next! Their Happy Hour stretched from 5 until 7pm and draft Yingling was $1!
Nice Model A at the Elks Lodge
With a sense of humor too
Reluctantly we moved further south again into the Northern Neck of Virginia where we had reservations for 3 nights at the Gloucester Thousand Trails CG. Being members of Thousand Trails (TT), has been one of our ploys in getting to the $25 a night cost for camping. Although you have to buy a membership (Get a “Used” one don't buy it new from a TT Park), and there is annual maintenance, you get 30 nights a year free and all nights after that cost $3. There are restrictions on how long you can stay and how long you have to be out between visits. But we can easily get the average cost including the maintenance fee down to $15 a night.

Rappahanock River

Thousand Trails Gloucester VA
The Gloucester park is right on the Rappahanock River and in addition has 3 private lakes to fish in without needing a license. Well away from major roads, it's a very pretty place with lots of facilities for families. For October it was surprisingly busy, but not too noisy. In fact we're liking it so much we're considering extending our stay for a few more days.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A very special surprise

Luckily they are usually passed by within 24 hours unless they downgrade to a tropical depression and stall over an area for a couple of days, which can lead to flooding.

Some of the things I love are my wife and kids, our RV life, motorcycles and airplanes.

My favorite airplanes are the ones without an engine. After all if your plane has an engine and it fails you are in deep trouble. If you're flying a glider then that's the way it was designed!

I started gliding when I was about 13. I joined the Air Training Corps (ATC) in UK (The equivalent of the Civil Air Patrol in the US). One happy day they announced we were going flying at the weekend. We took a train then a truck to what had once been a huge US Air Force base called Burtonwood in Lancashire. Part of it was now an RAF gliding school. I remember it being a cold damp drizzly day, with low grey clouds scudding by. We sat around not knowing what to expect, hopes were not high for suitable flying weather.

Suddenly everyone around sprang into action and we were led one at a time out onto the airfield where an open cockpit silver glider sat.

In a daze I soon found myself strapped into it with a pilot sitting behind me talking about controls and me not touching any of them. More importantly, if I felt sick I was to hang my head over the side and not throw up in the aircraft.

A winch sat a long way away across the airfield and before I knew it we were being launched into the sky on a cable. A little like running holding a string to launch a kite, except I was in it.

The wind whipped my face and drops of rain stung me like bee stings, we had no goggles or helmets. As the glider cast off the tow line everything went quiet. Just a breeze whistling in the structure of the aircraft disturbed the silence. You could hear people talking 1000' below!

I was awestruck looking down at tiny houses and cars below. I'd never flown in any kind of airplane before.

All at once we leaned over and there infront of us was the airfield. We bumped onto the ground and rolled to a stop. Somebody reached in and undid my straps and I was hastily removed from the glider and replaced by a fresh passenger.

I spent the whole of the rest of the day and the next day in a trance. I had flown in an aeroplane.

Fast forward 3 years and the same ATC sent me to the local gliding school in RAF Sealand on the Welsh border and taught me how to fly! After several weekends of instruction I solo'd just after my 16th birthday.

I didn't follow up on flying after that, although I did sit the tests for entering the RAF and was accepted as a pilot or navigator. At the time I had also started work in the shipyard and so I never did take the RAF up on their offer.

Before we left for the US I took a 1 week gliding course at the York Gliding Club in Sutton Bank Yorkshire. Although I was there a week the weather was unflyable for 6 days! (Good old UK summer!). I did get to fly in a couple of gliders and a powered glider though on the one good day.

Years later I was on business in Honolulu, we had the weekend off so I drove around the island of Oahu. On the very northern end of the island I found a glider field. I pretty soon worked out that by skipping a few meals I could afford some glider time and I got to fly along the sharp ridge that bordered the airfield.

Oahu with the ridge in the background

Aero Tow with the ocean to the left

We flew formation over the ocean with another glider

It all came flooding back to me, I took the controls and immediately felt at home. With the instructor in the back seat I flew it for an hour, with the blue/green ocean on one wing then the other as I chased up and down the ridge with the ocean winds keeping me aloft.

A couple more business trips thru the years let me repeat the experience.

When we moved to San Diego I went to a famous gliding site, Torrey Pines. Situated at the top of a cliff it was blessed with perfect weather and winds for paragliding. After watching for a couple of weekends I jumped in with both feet and started taking lessons. Pretty soon I bought my own paraglider (wing) and earned my license.

Me at Torrey Pines "Kiting" the paraglider

Me leading the pack at Torrey

Concentrating for a landing
Pictures by Elaine Butler

I flew pretty much every weekend for a couple of years but then got into motorcycles more and stopped flying.

Today we were “Leaf Peeping” in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The trees are in full fall colors. Breathtaking. As we cruised along near Franconia the road suddenly widened and a sign said “Glider Rides”. I stopped to take pictures then a lady asked of I wanted to take a ride. I looked at Barbara and she nodded (Bless her).

It was obviously meant to be. They only took cash or checks. We didn't have the checkbook with us. When we emptied our two wallets we had the price of the ride and $5 left over! And the instructor was an Englishman, Andy. He learned to fly at the Cambridge Gliding Club.

Blanik glider

Andy in the back seat
This flight was an Aero Tow. The glider is towed behind a powered airplane on a long rope. We released the rope at 6000' which was 5000' above the airfield. We were over a ski resort looking down on the top of the ski lift. The Franconia Notch stretched off to the south and all around for miles and miles were the fabulous fall colors. 
Towing into the mountains

Looking down on the ski lifts

Fall colors from the air

Although there was no lift to allow us to gain height we had enough altitude to float blissfully around the sky for a half hour. My camera was going constantly and Andy and I compared careers and lives while we flew. We both agreed that that we loved the USA.

Then suddenly the aircraft leaned over and there ahead of us was the airfield. We bumped down and ran to a stop. Only this time I took a breath, before opening the close fitting canopy, undoing my own straps and stepping out onto the ground again.

Suddenly the airfield was ahead

I think I'll dream of this flight for a long time, it was visually stunning and filled me with a warm happy feeling of satisfaction.

The end.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Waiting for visitors.

Clearly it's getting time to head south soon.

Well we started South, but not far. We're in Lincoln New Hampshire and it's still cold at night.

We're expecting visitors this week. Barbara's brother Stuart and his wife Linda are coming from UK on a “Leaf Peeping” tour.

We're taking the Leaf Peeping Train
Hurricane Mathew is arriving on a different tour!

Stu and Linda are expected Friday and leave here headed for Vermont on Sunday morning.

Hurricane Mathew is expected Sunday evening headed hopefully out to sea.

So where does that leave us right now? Well the weather is OK, and tomorrow is supposed to be fairly nice so we'll take a picnic lunch and do our own Leaf Peeping for the day. Meantime we've been planning a route to get us to Florida and we've decided we can make an Escapees Rally there in November, so we made reservations at the campground for the event. (If the campground is still there after Mathew goes by!).

If you've never experienced a Hurricane then let me share my experiences.

The first one we ever saw was when we lived in New Orleans in the 80's. We were getting extremely anxious as it formed in the Gulf and headed our way. The locals were planning parties! Apparently back then they just stocked up on booze and invited all the neighbors round until the storm passed by. Luckily the storm veered away before getting to us.

I seem to remember being on vacation somewhere around Virginia Beach with the family when one threatened there. We sat tight and watched the weather channel but we just got heavy rain and moderately heavy winds.

Another one I camped thru! We watched a storm off the coast headed North and the forecast had it staying offshore, so I went camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia at a motorcycle rally. The storm turned left and into Virginia soaking the campground and blowing down tents and marquees. I survived warm and dry in my tent trailer, but my buddies were forced to seek shelter in a motel a few miles away.

The last one I experienced came up the coast and hit the Carolina's hard. The next day I got a call from the Navy to go to Wilmington North Carolina and report to a Port Engineer who had some barges that were damaged.

That became a whole adventure because the barges were scattered all around the Cape Fear River when they tore loose from their moorings, so the first thing I had to do was find them! After several days of looking I located them all, then when they were towed back to the dock I had to do a damage report on each one. Eventually I got everything done and sent in a nice report with maps and pictures to the Navy Civil Servant who's job it was. He later got an award for his excellent work! I didn't even get a thank you!!

That one also flooded Annapolis Maryland when the storm surge hit on a high tide.

So we're sitting and watching. Hopefully the storm will go offshore. Luckily they are usually passed by within 24 hours unless they downgrade to a tropical depression and stall over an area for a couple of days, which can lead to flooding.