Tag Archive for: #rvtravel

OBXing

OBXing…verb 

1) exploring the Outer Banks of North Carolina

2) noting all the vanity plates that start with OBX

3) checking another destination off the bucket list

I’ve always wanted to visit the Outer Banks, with two experiences high on the list; visiting the site of the Wright Brothers historical flight, and seeing the Wild Horses of Corolla. During our week’s stay, we checked off those boxes and then some.

We camped at the OBX Campground on Colington Island, Kill Devil Hills. Our site was beautiful, just off the waters surrounding the island, and literally a stone’s throw away from the Wright Brothers Memorial. As we drove into the campground, we noted a bike trail surrounding the national park, so we decided we would take the short bike ride along Colington Road to the trail the next morning. As we headed out into the cold, brisk winds, I thought of Wilbur Wright’s quote, “No bird soars in a calm.”

It was rather appropriate we biked to the site, in homage to the bicycle-building brothers from Dayton who had a dream to create and fly a machine in the air.

We walked our two-wheelers along the route the brothers took on those historic flights on December 17, 1903. We were amazed by not only how far they ultimately flew that day, but all of the time, effort, research and attempts by Wilbur and Orville to achieve the first powered, controlled and sustained flight.

“It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense; they put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea and they had the faith.”
― David McCullough, The Wright Brothers

Next up on that bucket list was to see the wild horses. There are various tour companies that will take you out on the beach in Corolla, but our trusty Jeep was up for the task, so we did a self-guided tour. The beach was rather compact, so we didn’t deflate our tires to the recommended 20 psi, which adds more traction.

We spotted five horses on the northern edge of Currituck Beach, lumbering slowly along the ocean’s edge. We respectfully stayed the requisite 50 feet away as they trudged through the sand. Quietly, almost mysteriously, the Colonial Wild Mustangs walked in the opposite direction, in single file, paying no attention to us.

I had to pinch myself seeing two iconic Outer Bank traditions, both in the same day.

Little did I know we were about to take in another…the Tomato Shack in the town of Duck. Carlton is the second generation owner of this beautiful market. We bought some fresh eggs, bacon and a variety of veggies for our travels.

One of the upsides to traveling in an RV is to be able to make home-cooked meals. I foraged away during the summer, freezing many batches of pesto, homemade marinara sauce and homemade chicken noodle soup. I even made my first batch of banana bread in the Coach on this trip. Yum!

We golfed twice on the Outer Banks, at the historical Sea Scape Golf Links (only because it was the first time I ever beat Brad, straight up!) and the Nags Head Golf Club. Both great tracks, and easily made our way around 18 holes in 3 hours due to midday tee times and off-season.

We traveled to the far end of the Outer Banks, going as far as Hatteras. (There is a ferry you can take further.) We were saddened that we couldn’t climb Cape Hatteras lighthouse, but enjoyed learning about the incredible effort in 1999 to move the lighthouse due to potential beach erosion. It took 23 days and a massive engineering effort to transport the beacon 29 feet to its current location.

I loved this view of massive charter fishing boats on our way to Hatteras.

Tundra Swan Adult (Whistling)

Photo credit photo on the right: Ian Davies/Macaulay Library

We stopped at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Center, where we were able to see hundreds of the migrating Tundra Swans. The all-white swans look majestic, gathered in the warmer waters of the Outer Banks for the winter.

This is for the fans of  the 2008 movie “Nights in Rodanthe” which featured Richard Gere and Diane Lane. The original house used in the movie also had to be moved up the beach due to the shifting of the sands. The property is rented out, and up for sale. But beware, it looks like it might need to be moved again in the future!

We ventured to Roanoke Island, taking in the quaint village of Manteo and the Roanoke Island Festival Park Heritage Center. After a quick tour of the reconstructed Elizabeth ll, we thoroughly enjoyed the interpreter at the first English Settlement Site. He was kind enough to create a small souvenir…a nail that he forged.

We tried to solve the mystery of the Lost Colony during our visit to Fort Raleigh, but alas, no such luck.

Luna, our lovable Labrador didn’t get to take in the golf or the historical sites, but fear not, she got her own adventures in too. We headed to the deserted beach early one morning, and to Jockey Ridge State Park, site of the tallest living sand dune on the eastern seaboard on our last day in the Outer Banks. She brought back her share of  the beach and the dune to the coach!

We enjoyed a rare night out while on the road, enjoying the delectable local fresh seafood and produce at the quaint Colington Cafe.  It was great to ditch the hiking/biking/golfing/kayaking gear and hats for a little more formal attire.

Our fond farewell to the lovely islands of the Outer Banks involved kayaking around the bay near Roanoke Island. Winds into our faces at the start, then cruised back quietly, past the sea grasses swaying in the winds. The breathtaking sunset was a perfect end to our OBXing adventures.

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Paddling

It has been said that a duck looks calm above the water, but is paddling like heck underwater to stay afloat.

I’ve learned that this is simply not true.

Ducks only paddle to change direction, or to move forward.

Ducks have a gland at the base of their tails that secretes an oil that they spread on their feathers to keep from sinking. The waterfowl will frequently tuck their head and bill to help sleek the oil over their plumage to remain above the surface.

But sometimes, the oil gland gets plugged. Stress or trauma can be one reason. It is suggested that to help ease the stress, that the duck might need a reprieve, some down time from others to recover.

Northwest River, Chesapeake, VA

I thought a lot about ducks while kayaking on the Northwest River in Chesapeake, Virginia. As I came around a bend, wood ducks would flap up out of the water, startled by my approach. The river was covered in duckweed, a protein that wood ducks will eat, and serves an important role in the healthy ecosystem of the river.

I thought about how, like ducks, we need to take care of ourselves every day to stay afloat. And, that if we’ve experienced pain, grief or anxiety, sometimes we need quiet time to recover.

(And sometimes, like when we see a snake along the shore, we take a moment to take it in, snap a shot, then paddle the hell out of there.)

My husband Brad and I had planned our next adventure, six months in our motorhome, ever since we bought it last February. Brad has less tolerance for winter, and I’m always game to travel, so we began plotting our trip.

Sadly, I lost my oldest brother, Kevin, just a month before we were to leave. I know he would not have wanted us to alter our intentions, in fact, just the opposite.

After gathering with my awesome brothers and their wives, Jeff and Cindy, Greg and Lisa, Gordie and Debbie, along with Kevin’s wife, Bobbie, to celebrate Kevin’s life, Brad and I took off.

But, like those ducks, I realized I needed to take care of myself to keep my head above the surface. I needed peace and quiet to restore my soul. Our first stop, the Rubini family homestead in Tryon, North Carolina, offered just that. Plus bonus time with our daughter Kyle and our grandpup, Riggins, and our dear friends, Susan and Pam.

Sunset in North Carolina

Our daughter Kyle snuggling with Riggins and Luna

Pam (l.) and Susan at the creek below Chimney Rock.

Every day I preened my feathers, doing what I could to take care of myself. Hikes, picnics at waterfalls, glasses of wine at sunset, fun rounds of golf, writing, reflecting. Slowly I felt myself rising to the surface once again.

And then, like those ducks, I dug my paddles into the water and moved forward.

From North Carolina we ventured to the Cheseapeake area. Along with kayaking, we explored Williamsburg and spent amazing time with my niece Wendy, her husband Tony, and their 7-year-old daughter, Isabelle.

Entering Williamsburg with one of the historians. Brad is on the right…

Inventory of original items in the Peyton Randolph home.

On Veterans Day, we visited the Military Aviation Museum with Wendy, Tony and Isabelle. When we entered a restored, musty control tower brought over from England, Isabelle said, “This building smells like history.”

On our last day in the area, we spent the afternoon kayaking on Lake Christopher with Wendy and family, then ventured to the Norfolk Botanical Garden for an incredible holiday night display.

One of the last light structures we saw was tree shaped, with a star on top. It hovered over the walking path. Isabelle and I stood for a moment under the strings of blue lights. “Look up,” I said.

“Whoa,” Isabelle shouted. Whoa was right.

In that brief encounter, all that I’ve experienced these last few months melted away. I felt like all of my angels gone from my life too soon were letting me know that all is well. They are with me, helping me on this life journey.

They are lighting my way, and I’m paddling, moving forward.

 

Bessie, Joanie and Frederick

We pulled into the San Antonio KOA and there she was.

Bessie. That’s what we’ve named our new-to-us motorhome. Not the most original of names for a vehicle, but it seems to fit.

Standing outside our soon-to-be new home were the soon-to-be previous owners, Joanie and Frederick. Joanie was petite, blond, and had a wonderful positive aura about her. Frederick, taller, sported a ball cap, where a long white ponytail flowed out of. His eyes twinkled behind his glasses, a quiet smile from underneath his mustache.

Welcome, they both said in unison and ushered us into the motorhome.

As soon as I made my way up the three steps into the coach and onto the threshold, I felt like this was home. I felt like I belonged here, all the while emotions of having been here before swept over me.

This was to be the third motorhome we traveled in. The first, an all-gold Cortez, brought people out on their porches throughout New England back in 1992. This isn’t the Cortez we drove in, but you get the idea.

I was pregnant with our daughter, Kyle, and little baby Claire spent most of the long travel days snapped into her car seat watching the world go by. My favorite story from that adventure almost was the worst story. Back then, mapping consisted of an Atlas, with dog-eared pages and oily finger stains. A thick campground book served as our guide to sites. Driving along the coast of Maine to our overnight destination, as we passed through a small town, Brad suggested we stop for dinner. I grumbled that I thought we should just keep going. Claire was getting fussy, and I was tired, dealing with a huge sinus headache. I just wanted to be there, wherever there was. The road went from a four-lane highway to two lanes, to something just above a gravel drive. The nearest thing to any dinner was looking like the few cans of beans we had in the cupboard.

We pulled up to the campground welcome stand, not much more than a little hut that kids would huddle in waiting for the school bus. The owner welcomed us and offered a site right along the bay. Claire began screaming on cue, and Brad asked if there was anywhere nearby to grab something to eat. The owner directed us just up the roadway, where she said we’d be in for a treat. It was close enough to walk, so we scooped up Claire and her highchair and hoofed our way to the dinner surprise.

There was a little weathered shack with a deck, right on the water. I set up the highchair and cuddled Claire, trying to settle her. Brad went inside and came out with a huge grin on his face and a spindly lobster, pinchers banded with rubber.

Lobster was the treat. I can still taste the buttery, soft meat from the fresh-caught crustacean. I’ve not had better lobster since.

The owners took us under their wing and showed us their lobster traps on the deck, explaining to these Midwesterners how they worked.

Our second motorhome we purchased after losing our daughter Claire. I was emotional as we met with the owner of the small dealership. This purchase stemmed from our vision of moving forward literally and figuratively after her death. It was a huge investment, both monetarily and with our family. The owner, an older gentleman, pulled me aside and asked if I was okay. He calmed me by offering that what we were doing was “honoring your daughter as well as your other two children. Think of all the amazing adventures you’ll have, the sights you’ll see, together.” He said that we were wise to do it now, for too often he had customers wait until they were older and found it difficult to get around.

Boy, did we get around…to 47 states in the unit.

(Our daughter Kyle filling in our travel map. Note to self: Buy a new one.)

And the adventures? From a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque to a seaplane ride in Coeur d’Alene to hiking in Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and an unforgettable kayak trip trying to beat a storm on Jenny Lake in the Tetons, we did it all.

So, here I was, once again, stepping foot inside our next adventure-transport vehicle. It couldn’t have felt more right, from Joanie and Frederick’s welcome to their generous gifting of many household goods, cleaners, and supplies. We learned in our time together that “Bessie” had served her purpose for Joanie and Frederick, and now it was time to move on.  We’re grateful they have entrusted us to take good care of her.

So now Bessie has a new purpose. Serving us safely as we attempt to continue to explore, learn, golf, and meet people along the way in our travels.

I think she’s up for it. I know I am.

 

 

On the Road Again

Trucks rumble past, their trailers bumping on the rough road surface. A forklift keeps going in front of me, back and forth to service bays. Ironically, Jackson Brown belts out Running on Empty on the radio. I just try to keep breathing, slow inhales and exhales to calm myself as well as our 65 lb. Yellow Lab, Luna, who has decided to become a lap dog, propping half of her load on me, panting away. Brad is outside with the technician, who skillfully manages to pump nearly 70 pounds of air pressure into the driver’s side drive axle tires.

Kind of important to have enough air in your tires.

So begins our first road trip, or rather, return to the road trip, in a motorhome. Our journey really didn’t start with the dishwasher that didn’t run properly (I know, I know, a dishwasher, really???) overnight, or the toilet that refused to flush, the car that didn’t want to engage in neutral to tow properly, the under-inflated tires, or even, to add insult to injury, the door that took some creative manipulation of the hinge to get it to close.

Our journey began over twenty years ago, when after experiencing the death of our oldest daughter, Claire, my husband Brad, and I decided to up the ante in our quest to get our kids to all 50 states. We bought our first motorhome. And we completed our mission.

Memories of those trips often pop up in my brain feed, but even more so since contemplating getting back on the road. I’ll never forget all the purple, Claire’s favorite color, we witnessed on our maiden voyage in 2003, as we traveled to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Glacier National Park. Those three weeks together as a family, just three years out from when we last said goodbye to Claire, set us on a path of truly living, not merely surviving.

I read Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose on our travels, our trip often a reflection of the text. I remember a reference to uncharted territory in the book, which I shared with Brad and the kids. Later that evening, while Ian was walking our dog, Ginger, I got a little nervous about how long young Ian was gone. I used the walkie talkies that came with the unit and radioed him, “Where are you? Are you okay?” His response, “We’re in uncharted territory.”

We’ll also never forget our daughter Kyle looking out on the rolling hills of Kansas, dark shadows cast on the green forests. She couldn’t figure out that the shadows were from the clouds. She was also very concerned about where the cows slept at night, bless her heart.

That motorhome continued to serve us well through road trips, college tailgate parties, and a few empty nest adventures, up until our last to Northern Michigan just months before Ginger’s journey was over.

So here we are, back on the road again, setting out to explore areas of this country we missed the first time around, creating new memories, all the while looking back on those from the past.

I feel incredibly blessed to have these experiences with Brad, in a beautiful, new-to-us motorhome. I hope you enjoy experiencing our trials, tribulations, and new, fantastic memories right along with us. Perhaps in some small way, during a time we could all use a little inspiration, my stories from the road will offer a bit to you.