Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Following the Light...

 Traveling along the coast lends itself to a number of wonderful adventures and "hobbies".   One of my hobbies is to collect sand from the various beaches and sand dunes that we visit.  I label it and display it on a cute little shelf I have at our home in Arizona.  I have sand from all over the US!  It's fun to see the various colors and grains disbursed by Mother Nature.  

Of course, by now, it's obvious that my hobby and my passion is photography...That almost goes without saying.  I'm really trying to cut down on that.  For years I took pictures of everything, multipules of everything, now I tell myself, "one will do just fine", and "I don't really need that".  After all, at my age, who's going to want all these when I'm gone?  

One of the things I love to photograph, is lighthouses...and this coastal route just so happen to bring these three wonderful passions together!  Lucky me!  

When we entered the coastal area of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, we hit the jackpot of lighthouses!  

Beaufort South Carolina was our first stop to see the Hunting Island Light.  An 1879, Black and White beauty standing 132' tall. 

When we first got to North Carolina, it started raining, but we didn't let that stop us, once it let up we headed out to Oak Island to see that lighthouse...little did I expect that we would have to wade through two feet of water to get to it, but my trusty driver and our sweet truck made it through!  Glad too, as it was an unusual lighthouse color...three shades of gray!  A new lighthouse, completed in 1958, standing 153' tall, but on a rise, so is 169' above the water. 

North Carolina has the "Outer Banks", or OBX as they are referred to by locals.  Three island areas of Dare County span more than 100 miles of sand, water and small towns.  Each community seems to have it's own vibe and personality, with a common culture that makes them all Outer Banks.  

The Outer Banks are old, ancient even, but they haven't been around forever.  All it took was a few thousand years of currents converging offshore to tease them up from the depths, and then a perennial tug-of-war between seasonal winds to groom their shape  The grains of sand are forever wandering, but that's a big part of what makes the experience out here feel so alive.  We know them as barrier islands because they shield North Carolina's vast estuaries - among the most prolific natural fish nurseries in the world - from the crashing waves of a a sprawling Atlantic Oceans.  Not unlike a cradle of arms, holding something delicate.  What we are left with are clean, pure beaches in their most natural form.  Each rhythmic wave coming to rest after traveling the globe, adding and creating in the surf, lake an artist's brush stroke.  A canvas that's never fully completed, always at work.  A front seat to Mother Nature in a place that many consider paradise on earth.

We decided to start at the far end at Hatteras Island and visit Cape Hatteras Lighthouse then work our way back.  This alone was going to be an all day!

Few places in America evoke a more powerful sense of nostalgia than Cape Hatteras, which inspired the creation of this country's first National Seashore.  Cape Hatteras National Seashore opened in 1953 to provide recreational access for the public and to protect pristine nature for all to enjoy.  

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in America at more than 200 feet tall. It's the most recognized beacon in the world. Built in 1870 and historically moved 2900 linear feet to the southwest (1999).  It truly was an experience to go there and well worth the long drive out there...

Next in line, was the Bodie Island Lighthouse.  This pretty Black and White, 1872 lighthouse is the third light to stand in this location on Roanake.  While some people (including North Carolinians not from the Outer Banks) pronounce the name with a long "o" sound, it is traditionally pronounced as body. Folklore would have you believe it is due to the number of dead sailors washed ashore from wrecked ships along this portion of the East Coast which has long been known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic but that is not true. The name is actually derived from the original name of the area, which was "Bodie's Island" after the Body family who once owned the land that was a separate barrier island prior to 1811 when Roanoke inlet that separated it from the Currituck Banks to the north closed. She stands at 156' tall.

 Tucked in, almost hidden under one the bridges, was this small "house-looking" light.  It had caught my eye when we crossed over it and I wondered about it.  When we stopped for lunch, we had the delightful company of a local sitting next to us that chatted with us and when we shared that we were visiting the lighthouses here, he said "don't miss the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station, it's worth stopping for!  It was that cute little "house" I saw!  I had to hike up and down and through and around dunes to get even close to that building, and even then I couldn't really get near it!  It was down another dune, closed, but still worth the trek!  What an interesting building!  I guess it was open to the public at one time, it just isn't right now.  They are doing work on the bridge next to it, and using the lot for their equipment, so maybe that's why it's closed off.  But I got my picture! 


Just before we left the Outer Banks area, was one of the prettiest lights, we thought...maybe because it wasn't painted, but left "natural" with it's bricks showing all red and bright.  The Currituck Beach Light at 162' built in 1875 stands tall and proud.  It was closed when we got there, as it was the last of our very long day, but that was alright by us.  No crowds to contend with, a nice bench to sit in and look up at her and enjoy, and then the drive home...to rest up and then to map out the next group!

Welcome to Virginia!  We booked a full week in Virginia Beach, so now we had lots of time to spend going up and down this coast!  ;-)  

Two lighthouses we had visited before, I will share with you now, are what I call "The Cape Sisters" = They are the Old and the New Cape Henry Lighthouses.  They are almost right next to each other, and look very different from each other!  Really kind of funny, I think.  "Old" Cape Henry was built in 1792, of brick and was 90' tall.  In the 1870s, concerns about the condition and safety of the Old Lighthouse following a lightning strike that caused large cracks in the structure led to the construction of a new, taller, lighthouse at Cape Henry (157 feet) in 1881, which stands 350 feet to the northeast of the original tower.  The New Cape Henry is built of cast iron and wrought iron while the Old Cape Henry is octangular truncated pyramid of eight sides.  Two very different lights.











Old Point Comfort Light is a lighthouse located on the grounds of Fort Monroe in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay. It is the second oldest light in the bay (and looks it) and the oldest still in use.  Records date back to 1775.  Upon automation in 1972 the keeper's house was transferred to the U.S. Army, which used it as a dwelling for Fort Monroe's Command Sergeant Major until the fort was closed in 2011. The lantern is painted in an unusual combination of a red roof and green rails, decking, and walls. The light is still active. It's 53 feet tall.  

I was determined to get the Assateague Light, if for no other reason than it was one of the "rare" red and white lights!  For this, I have paid dearly...having been eaten alive, as I have lost count on how many mosquito bites I have on me!  I had no idea I was going to have to trudge through the "jungle" to get to it, So off I went, trusty camera in hand (while Jack sat safely in the RV) and dashed off to see this beauty!  Little did I know that I was going to be lunch to thousands of hungry mosquitos en route, to and from the site!  Was it worth it?  Well...yes, it was...What an absolute beauty she is!  Tall, 142', bright red and white stripes, clear away from any obstructions, built in 1833 and looking grand!

I'm going to slip one more in...just because it's right on the border...just barely over the line from Virginia /Maryland into Delaware, and that's Fenwick Island Light.  This was an unusual light, in an unusual spot.  It's actually in a neighborhood (along side a mobile home park).  There were telephone wires crisscrossing in front of it, houses all along side, odd.  I guess they all grew up around it over the years.  It was built in 1858, making it the oldest in Delaware.  It was automated in 1940 and is 87' tall. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1978 and remained dark for several years. A public movement to save the lighthouse resulted in ownership of the lighthouse being transferred to the State of Delaware, and the lighthouse was relit in 1982.[4] In 1997, after extensive fundraising efforts made it possible, the rapidly aging lighthouse underwent a full restoration. It was rededicated in July 1998.  The lighthouse is owned by the state of Delaware and maintained by the private, non-profit New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. Visitors can enter the base to view a small museum and gift shop. The lighthouse, however, is not open for climbing. I was able to duck around to get a picture without all the wires...

From here we are heading away from the coast...so this is probably it for now!  Not bad though for just a short time!  Quite a collection to add to my list, so I'm happy!  I don't see us making this kind of trip again, so this has been a happy highlight for me.  I've been a lover of lighthouses for as long as I can remember, so these are very special treasures!  

...currently, on the road in Delaware, Marie

If you would like to see the rest of my photos, you can on my Flickr at https://flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Raleigh...a Capitol City...

 Did you ever have one of those times when you just needed a break from "touring"?  Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe we've been doing this for so many years that seeing "one more museum" is just another museum...I don't know, but I do know that I just needed a few days of not really doing much of anything.  Raleigh gave me that.  

Raleigh is the home of the Capitol of North Carolina, and we had picked this stop-over to come see it.  I booked us into a really nice campground for four days thinking that being in a bigger city, we would have a number of places to go see and do here.  

The weather has been "iffy", with rain following us here and threatening to come at any time again.  With that, we decided to take the first day and go into the city and see the Capitol, then go to the nearby mall and do some much needed shopping.  We have a wedding reception to attend next month and I need a dress!  

Turns out, the State Capitol is more of a "museum" now than an operating State House.  They moved the actual business operations across the street to a modern structure, rather than updating their Capitol Building.  Interesting...

We were the only two visitors while we were there.  They give you a brochure, and send you on your way.  It's a small building, easy to see.  The first Capitol, like so many during the early 1800s, burned down, then this one was built right in it's place beginning in 1831. They conducted business here until 1961, then moved across the street.  

The one thing I found most interesting was that the building was heated by individual fireplaces.  The Senate and House of Representatives Chambers, both upstairs, had four fireplaces each that had to be fed with wood.  This wood was brought up the stairs by wheelbarrow, all day long.  There were no elevators in the 1800s.  Slaves did this.  Chips in the slate stairs still show the damages from the hundreds of trips up and down those stairs that they made with those wheelbarrows...

North Carolina has gone through some troubled times, as has the South in general.  Reading several of their storyboards about the Revolution, the Civil War, the slaves, including down the road a bit close to where we were staying how Smithfield was "KKK Country", not all that long ago.  It's a lot to take in for a gal who's pretty much lived her life "in the liberal West". 

 Well, we are back on the road again...still in North Carolina, Marie

P.S.  I found my dress for the wedding reception!  ;-)  

If you would like to see the rest of my photos, you can on my Flickr at https://flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Monday, June 7, 2021

Rainy days adventure...

 Well, no trip is perfect, and every trip comes with surprises and I guess you can't have lovely weather everyday...so "it" had to happen someday...and this was "the stop it happened" on!  RAIN, RAIN AND MORE RAIN!!! Wow, when Mother Nature opens up, she really opens up!!  

We only had a couple of days here in the Myrtle Beach/Oak Island area and we had come here to see the last lighthouse on our list...so when there was a break in the rain, we decided to go for it, and take our chances and take the drive out to Oak Island to see the lighthouse!  I knew if I took my umbrella, it would bring us good luck...and it did!

When we got to the island, I have to say, I was really holding my breath though, and thanked Jack for buying a truck, as the water level on the streets was a good one to two feet high in places!  Good looking lighthouse though, don't you think?  ;-)  

After we left there, and since the sun was still shining, we drove on down to Myrtle Beach to check it out...

Well, we "knew" it was going to be a place to take the kids, a boardwalk full of attractions and hype, but WOW, was it CRAZY WILD!!  Packed with people, families, teens, tons of miniature golf places, rides of all kinds - ending with their "famous" SkyWheel.  It was like seeing a state fair packed into a few blocks, surrounded by beach!  Parking was limited to paid lots only and started at $10 and went up from there.  All around the "fair atmosphere" were huge high-rise hotels with their own water-park-like pools competing for attention!  

We just shook our heads as we (along with the rest of the bumper-to-bumper cars) drove around.  We were happy for them though, that the rain had stopped...although I'm not sure that it would have mattered to them!  ;-)

The rain did come back, with a vengeance, so we just tucked ourselves in for the night and left the next day...in the rain...ugh, our least favorite way of travel.  

Anyway, we are now in North Carolina.  Here to see the Capitol, do a little shopping in Raleigh.  The rain has stopped for the moment, but the "report" is that it's coming back, so we shall see...all I can say is that the air is so thick you can hardly take a breath...boy, put a gal in the desert for three years and she just doesn't know how to deal with real "humidity"!   lol

...kicking back in North Carolina,  Marie

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The sandy shores of South Carolina...

 Our first week’s stay was a “base camp” in Walterboro South Carolina.  That gave us good access to Hilton Head, Bluffton, Charleston, Edisto Beach, Hunting Island, Beaufort and Columbia.

We decided to go see what Hilton Head was all about and check out their lighthouse while we were at it - so off we went!  On our drive there, we spotted this fun sign that let us know “yep, we are definitely in the South now!”  ;-)

I’m not sure, what I expected Hilton Head to be like, but whatever that was, it was not what we found.  If you didn’t come to golf (we didn’t) or shop tourist beach kitch (ok, we did some of that), lay on the sandy beach (I took a small sample and some pictures) or ride a bicycle around the island - there wasn’t much else to see or do!  The “lighthouse”, though pretty, was really a decorative piece in the Village, rather than a real lighthouse - but that didn’t stop me from adding it to my collection!  ;-)

We quickly bored of Hilton Head and headed to the quaint town of Bluffton with it’s historic district and small-town charm.  The Bluffton Oyster Company is still shucking and selling oysters since it opened in 1899!  A family run operation, the oyster company actually sits on reclaimed land, built up by more than 100 years of discarded shells from previous sucking operations.  (I took a couple for souvenirs!)

The other beauty there was The Church of the Cross built in 1857. 

We did go to Charleston for the day, but because we’ve been before, we just enjoyed walking around and having lunch.

Our next adventure took us to Edisto Beach!  The funny thing about this trip was, it was not in our AAA Book and is tiny on the map - but - we had three very large brochures (that I had left in the rig, of course) about this island…so when we saw the sign for the beach, we decided to take it - What the heck, let’s check it out!”  So, we turned right and drove on down the road, and drove, and drove…and drove….We were not sure what we were going to find…but what we did find was a small beach town with three seafood restaurants, all very crowded (40+min. Waits) and not much else!  We stayed for lunch…Food was good (ALL seafood is good here in the coastal South!).  

After we got back, we read the brochures and found that there actually was several small areas we could have ventured to see (a little late now!), but mostly it’s a summer beach rental get-away place!  ;-)

The following day we started off with a factory tour!  If you know us, you know we LOVE to do these, so when we read that Kazoobie Kazoos gave factory tours in Beaufort, we jumped at the chance!!  What fun!  Boone, was our host and what a wonderful guide he was too.  He turned what could have been a 20 minute simple boring-mater-of-fact informational tour into a fun, entertaining, educational, delightful, energizing, memorable 45 minute experience!  I could hardly wait to make my own and then to shop for “special”  ones for my fellow “clown” friend and my young grandsons! Toot-ta-ta-toot!  ;-)

After we got that fun out of our system, it was off to see the ton of things Beaufort had to offer!

We decided to start at the far end and work our way forward  - especially since I like to make sure I didn’t miss seeing the “lighthouses”!  So, we drove to Hunting State Park to see that black and white beauty.  They charge to get into the State Park, and then extra to climb it (167 steps) and it was booked for the day (ok by me!), but they let me inside the door to take a picture of the original fresnel lens.  Nice.  The light keepers’ house burned down and all that remain is the foundation.  The Lighthouse was put into service in 1859 and decommissioned in 1933.  

Afterward we drove across the bridge to the small island of St. Helena.  This truly felt like taking a step back in history.  Starting with the Parish Chapel of Ease ruins built in 1740 to serve planters in St. Helena who lived great distances from the parish church in Beaufort to Penn Center dedicated to preserving Sea Island history and culture.  Founded in 1862 to educate freed black African-Americans.  The site has also been used as a training and meeting facility for Civil Rights workers in the 1960s.  M L King spent time here and it is believed composed his “I have a dream” and his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech notes here.  

The Gullah-Geechie history is prevalent in this part of South Carolina.

Leaving St. Helena, we drove over two more bridges and we were in the “heart” of Beaufort.  With map in hand, I had circled all the “special sights” I wanted to see, and my trusty driver drove us from one to another!

1.  The Beaufort Arsenal (c1798) - It was closed, but I was able to snap a couple of shots through the gate.  Looks like a “castle” doesn’t it?  But…then we went to a home called “The Castle”…

2.  The Castle (c1850) - Joseph Johnson House - Yep, pretty big and ostentatious, I’d say!  ;-)  

3.  Anchorage, the oldest home in South Carolina (1770), is now an Inn - Quite beautiful…

4.  The Parish Church of St. Helena (c1712) - Was a beautiful old church with a wonderful cemetery attached.  It had a great many high ranking war heroes including Thomas Hayward Jr. (1746-1809), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who served as a parishioner during the Revolutionary War era.

Our last stop of a long day was to the Beaufort National Cemetery (c1863), one of six national cemeteries built in 1863 for Union soldiers and sailors, the 33 acre site with more than 14,000 soldiers have been laid to rest here, including 199 Confederate soldiers.  It is one of a handful of national cemeteries that buried Confederate soldiers.  

  The following day we went to the State Capitol in Columbia.  Luck was on our side as we arrived at 11:25, it turned out we were the only two people for the 11:30 tour, so we got a wonderful private, personal tour!    Paul was a fantastic guide, full of terrific information, not only on the State House, but on Revolutionary War history (he and Jack enjoyed sharing their mutual knowledge on that subject - while I just listened).  The affects on So. Carolina and on Columbia in particular.  

The State House is lovely, as is typical of Southern homes.  Beautiful local blue granite columns, Southern pink (Georgia) and white (Tenn.) marble tile floors, the staircase is wrought iron, decorated on the banisters with yellow jessamine, their state flower.  Their lobby was adorned with a number of paintings, plaques and statues that reflect the state’s history, including some incredible mosaic glass windows!

The Senate Chamber is comprised of 46 members that have large elegant desks.  The meetings are called to order when a Sargent of Arms places a silver etched sward bearing the state seal and yellow jessamine in brackets on the front desk that activates the original lamps on each side.  

The House Chamber has 124 members which share desks.  Here the mace represents the authority and was made in London in 1756 and is the oldest original mace used in this country.  Hidden during the American Revolution, it disappeared for over 40 years.  It was later discovered in a Philadelphia bank vault in 1819.

As beautiful as the State House is - the grounds are just as impressive.  The “complex” sits on 18 acres that is more like a park than Capitol Grounds.   As you walk around, you are surrounded by dozens of different types of trees, filled with flowers and birds of all kinds chirping away.  It was so inviting with benches dotting pathways looping through and around the more than 25 various monuments.  Some of our favorites were -

An unusual Gun from the Battleship Maine






An incredible tribute to the African-American History (even showing a Slave Ship)





A beautiful  Palmetto Regiment Monument





Bronze Stars - showing where the Union’s cannonballs hit the State House during the Civil War in Feb. 1865




Before we left Walterboro, we drove downtown to see the Tuskegee Memorial.  It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be (or should be), but they had some information boards there I found very interesting including that Walterboro was one of the locations used as a POW Camp for Germans during WWII.  It seems they not only housed them, but taught them English and had them help with some of the local jobs.  Some of them ended up keeping in touch with them after they were released.  After all, like our soldiers, many were just young boys doing what they were told to do, far from home and scared.  

Well, we are now off to our last three days in South Carolina to check out the Myrtle Beach area!

…on the road,  Marie

If you would like to see the rest of my photos, you can on my Flickr at https://flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/