Sunday, October 23, 2016

Outer Banks Adventure

You know when I've been quiet awhile, it means we've been off on an adventure. The map above is a 2,508 miles of adventure through North Carolina's Mountain area, Crystal Coast and Outer Banks. TaGeez and I topped it off with a march on Richmond and DC's National Mall at night. It was an amazing adventure!

Originally, we were supposed to be in Central Park this week, but that didn't pan out. TaGeez and I talked about it and decided after a crazy summer taking care of family concerns, maybe a quiet road trip would be just the ticket. Charleston was our first choice, but Hurricane Matthew arrived first so we headed further north. It's been 20+ years since I've lived on the Crystal Coast, and I really looked forward to sharing it with my love.

Our first night found us in Knoxville - this time in a hotel much more habitable then the last. With the exception of the first and last night, we didn't book any rooms in between. We let the road and the sun determine our nightly stops - the made it so easy and never disappointed us.

Mountain and Piedmont

We were planning on a coastal adventure, but my friend George loves Asheville. After sending us some of his recent mountain biking adventure along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we knew a detour was in order. So lovely curving around the mountains. Wednesday morning found us driving through low-lying clouds, too -- exhilarating and a little frightening. 

The colors were stunning - it was peak color change on the BRP, but our cameras just couldn't capture it. 


Asheville was a surprise. It was chic and hippy and hipster. We found ourselves walking around art downtown, standing on the last cobbled road in Asheville and on the steps of Thomas Wolfe's Dixieland. 

Paley's Passion GCJKC9

Thomas Wolfe's Dixieland
After a quick detour to the grounds of Biltmore, off to the Blue Ridge Parkway at noon. We were told the 90 mile stretch between Asheville and Blowing Rock is the loveliest in North Carolina...

Unfortunately, TaGeez wussed out after about 10 miles (around 4,000 feet). He said he couldn't handle me screaming hysterically (afraid of heights) for 80 more miles so we turned around and went the long way to the Piedmont. What I did see over clenched fists on the steering wheel was stunning. Definitely God's country.

Next up were stops right out of Roadside America and Atlas Obscura. What a hoot!

Last Shell Gas Station GC1165J  

World Largest Chest of Drawers - High Point

Dinner at a Confederate Arms Factory - Greensboro

Crystal Coast

Our first night in North Carolina was in lovely Wilmington. It was also our first sight of the hurricane aftermath. Water levels were so high that roads were flooded over and the rivers flowing over small islands.

The waters were so bad that visitors couldn't reach the Visitor Center at the USS North Carolina for the tour. That okay, our geocache was in the parking lot. Note the sign.

Many Gallons of Prop Wash GCJ0J2
Time to turn our car North - we planned on reaching the Outer Banks by nightfall.

Wrightsville Beach - TaGeez's first visit to the Atlantic Ocean!

USMC War Memorial - Jacksonville
They Came in Peace GC12ZHW

Old Burying Ground - Beaufort
Fort Macon - Atlantic Beach
Ol' Grandpappy GCGEM0

Nags Head

We were literally booking the First Colony Inn on Nags Head while on-ramping onto the highway! We figured what harm could it do for a night? Oh, how lovely! We aren't normally people to stay in an area too long, but we're considering booking for an entire vacation next year!

First Colony Inn - Nags Head, NC
As we pulled in around 9pm, the charming clerk was packing up the desk. "Are you Elisa?" How sweet - they had been waiting for us, writing us a note. "We have left your room unlocked and the keys on the bedside." That was the entirety of the check-in.

Charming room with a heated towel rack and pedestal sink - two doors to the outside. Rocking chairs under our window. The next morning TaGeez and I moseyed down the private path to the beach entrance.   

The sweetest new couple walked by and offered to take our pictures. What a lovely way to be greeted in the morning.

We watched as the sun rose and peaked outside the clouds. Hunger set in so we moseyed back to the breakfast nook (served on real plates!) with quiche and fresh fruit and conversations with perfectly friendly strangers.

Outer Banks and Hatteras

Saturday morning meant a 15 minute drive to Kill Devil Hill and the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk. We arrived just as the hourly tour started, but we moseyed at our own pace. We walked the length of all 4 flight attempts and then moseyed up to the monument on Kill Devil Hill. TaGeez messaged the family that the climb up this hill was another attempt on his life - it was payback for the BRP!

Dawn of Aviation GCB57D

Wilbur has an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean
The Outer Banks were stunning. The lighthouses, the houses on stilts, the Inn at Rodanth, the sand dunes lining the water, parasailing. I can't imagine how busy US 12 is during the summer, but for now we were able to take it at a cruise. 

Weather in the 70's and a lovely breeze off the water. Picture postcard perfect weather.

The aliens loved it, too! After the find, the cache owners emailed us with a thank you. They were wondering how their cache fared during the hurricane. They said the UFO owner will typically greet customers in costume and exiting the ship in a swirl of smoke this time of year - regretfully, he must've been napping that day.

Greetings OBX Earthlings GC4G2HQ
Outer Banks Futuro House - Roadside America

We actually doubled back to Hatteras. We were going to take the ferry to Ocracoke Island, but the Sheriff's Department turned us back due to storm damage. We had seen areas underwater and piles of trash relating to Hurricane Matthew, but this was the first road closure. The first time we visited Hatteras, one lone ugly cloud blocked the sun; the second visit the sun was out in its glory.

Hatteras Light Cache-Cam GC2727
After Hatteras, we turned into a lot with a sign to the original lighthouse site. Instead of brickwork or a foundation, we found the loveliest of beaches with parasails and parasurfers.

I loved our time on the beach. I loved every moment experiencing the power and the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. We recorded video of the ocean crashing on the breakfront, and I play it when I need a few minutes of peace. We could not have been blessed with better weather. 

Regretfully, we had to leave Nags Head and the Outer Banks. Sounds like a cliche but the sun set both on the day and on our time in North Carolina. Onto a less charming but still pleasant hotel in Chesapeake, Virginia.  

Chesapeake to Richmond, VA

We had a leisurely breakfast and decided to detour into Norfolk. Large ships along the wharf. The McArthur Memorial downtown. St Paul's Church with its cannonball. We enjoyed every little bit of history as we eventually marched onto Richmond.

Douglas's 5 Star Cache GC1CB0
Oh, we had a really cool experience here! After Norfolk, we headed to Richmond. We found ourselves on that bridge that turns into a tunnel under Chesapeake Bay! No way to get a photo of it for here, but there are several cool ones online.

We had several really cool and unexpected moments - like the urban art along our path. Make sure you look down every alley and building.

I had two bucket list items for this trip - visiting Hollywood Cemetery, home of 2 US Presidents and 1 Confederate President - was one of them. I decided to share our cemetery experiences in another post.

Home of 18,000 Confederate dead

The view from the President's Circle

US National Park - Historic Tredegar
Civil War Museum - Richmond
My second bucket list item is seeing the National Mall at night. Time to move onto McLean and then DC.

Washington DC

TaGeez and I visited DC in April, but, due to the stresses of my Dad's illness and the craziness of each day, we were too tired to visit the National Mall at night. I hadn't realized how much this bothered me until we were heading home. I'm grateful to TaGeez for putting up with my whims and his willingness to return just a few months later. Besides seeing the Mall at night, we saw the Capital Building without its scaffolding and the lawn replaced on the Mall. It's like they knew we were coming back.

We stayed at the Staybridge in McLean, Virginia. A hotel that we never could've afforded during the height of tourist season or during the weekday. We had a lovely large room on the third floor with a full kitched (stainless steel appliances including a full refrigerator and dishwasher), a large sitting area (situated so you could lookout onto McLean's night life), and a full hot and cold breakfast in the morning (with omelet bar).  It really was just minutes from downtown DC along the beautiful George Washington parkway.

After an extremely leisurely breakfast, we checked out and headed back to the National Mall again. This time we wanted to drive around the Mall in the day time, visit the Capital Building for pictures, and then finish with some virtuals in the Penn Quarter area. 

We finally made it to Ford's Theatre. We couldn't go into the theatre - they had an event - but we did take pictures outside....

The Actor Really Did Break a Leg GC880C
Including across the street where Lincoln died. The streets were packed with people - it really is a lovely time of year to be walking around DC.

Final stop, and Virtual, was in Chinatown. So many people, and the smell of food nearby was amazing. 

It was then that we realized it was time to head home, 6 days and 2,508 miles later. I think the mountains were even more colorful than when we came in, but, with dusk settling, the pictures just came out too dark and didn't do it justice.

This is our last sizable adventure for this year, but I can take consolation that the 2,500+ pictures and a dozen videos will help us make it through the Michigan winter. 

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