Archive for September, 2014

Blue Ridge Parkway … simply stunning!

If you ever get to travel in the USA, make sure you travel some of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It would be close to the most stunningly beautiful scenic drive I’ve taken … and I’ve taken a few over the years, the wonderful Cook Highway north from Cairns to Port Douglas comes to mind.

We only travelled the smallest of portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday. The parkway, which is America’s longest linear park runs for 755 km through twenty-nine Virginia and North Carolina counties, mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Along the way, we stopped at several “look over” spots. Here are just some of the views … and some family pics with them.

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All of this was at heights often above 5000 feet. In fact, we spent about 2 hours at Mt Pisgah – over 6000 ft high. After checking out the obligatory souvenir shop and admiring the ever-incredible view out on the Great Smoky Mountains to the west, we sat down at the amazing Pisgah Inn – 1100 meals served each day. I ordered the most – wonderful ribeye steak. David shall not live on southern-fried chicken alone. Dale and her Dad each ordered ribs. What ribs! A feast; take-home boxes ensued, such was the quantity. We were seated right on the windows, with that stunning vista beyond us.

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There was never a minute on our drive and dinner stop when we weren’t captivated by beautiful shades of green, early-autumn yellows, oranges and Browns of leaves and thank you, God – beautiful blue skies punctuated by picturesque cloud formations.

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I repeat; should you be in the States (or the States again), take a detour from the usual glossy-brochured tourist jaunts and travel some of the Blue Ridge Parkway (or Skyline Drive to the north) and take in something natural and wonderful, God’s creation resplendent.

Cheers
David

Westward Ho … and final day at Outer Banks

After wanting to make it there for years, we’re finally at the home of Dale’s brother Dan, near Clyde (near Asheville) in far western North Carolina. It’s great to catch up with Dan, BJ and daughter Dana.

In the last two days we’ve travelled from about as far east to as far west as one can travel in North Carolina. We’ve gone from watercourses and inlets and sounds here, there and everywhere … to now being at the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains.

Yesterday before we checked out of our Outer Banks base camp, Dale and I drove north to the seaside community of Duck. Craig, a good friend had recommended Evans Crab House there, but alas, no longer existed. What did exist was a misty but beautiful view out on Currituck Sound. See below.

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We sipped on fairly nasty coffee and overly sweet donuts while we gazed out on the Sound. Earlier I just had to check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial again, so I did; walking to the spots where that first “Flyer” made it’s oh-so-short flights, as well as to the hill where a year or two earlier, they had conducted hundreds of glider flights.

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By midday we were on the road, heading west to Raleigh, in the middle of NC and the capital. In fact we made it a bit further to the university city of Durham. Once again, we stayed for a really good rate (breakfast & wifi included) at a Comfort Inn. Unfortunately Dale didn’t have the best of nights. It did remind us of our thoughts about 20 years ago of doing postgrad study at Duke University.

By nine the next morning, we’re off again – to our destination of Clyde. Lots of traffic for the first hour of our travels, but by lunchtime we were well and truly approaching the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. Some really beautiful highway – side flowers growing.

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Dad encouraged us to checkout the Biltmore Estate – 8000 acres, largest home in the USA (or is that the world?!), built in late 19th century by Vanderbilt family, 1 million tourists a year and built like one of those huge, sprawling European mansions. Well, we drove in to the visitors centre (among beautiful landscaping) to be shocked with the unfortunate news – and we only wanted to drive around – that it would cost us $59 each. No thanks! So the best we can offer this blog is this Googled picture!

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It’s Friday. We’ve done two of our big travel legs now. Sunday morning – back to Dad’s home at Garrettsville, via Pittsburgh.

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Cheers,
David

The day that was, and wasn’t

We didn’t make it to Cape Hatteras (sob), nor did we make it to Ocracoke Island (half a sob).
We woke up to strong winds and steady rain. Apparently quite common at the Outer Banks. Henry’s just down the road has become our breakfast spot. $7 for a full hot breakfast and coffee – about 1/3 what we’d pay back home at the Coffee Club is quite a bargain.

The rain still pelting down and winds about 25 mph, we drive just a few miles south to the Wright Brothers National Memorial – on the very site at Kill Devil Hills where that famous 12 second first powered flight happened on 17 December 1903 – in, yes, 25 mph winds!

Some great exhibits and full size replicas of that first successful aero plane and an earlier glider. If better weather tomorrow, we’ll be back.

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Then the “fun” began. The plan? Drive 45 min south – from one long skinny island to the next – to the famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse. Then on from there, part of the way by ferry to Ocracoke.

Well, the rain put paid to that. After driving for way too long (for sanity) along roads way too awash with water, we sensibly turned around. So near but yet so far, I say.

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Did manage to check out Bodie Island lighthouse, though windy weather prevented its climbing. I love the design and striped coloring of these.

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Glad we stopped there!
A quick stopover at a windy, sand blowing into our face Jennette’s Pier to buy some souvenirs, and we head back to our unit. Not before, a necessary lunch stop at a Five Guys burger and fries store. Probably nutritionally terrible, but I assure you this was among the best burger and fries I think I’ve had. Big statement from me, I know. Free peanuts to nibble on too. [note: picture below was Googled]

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Restful afternoon nap preceded us having a light meal at – you guessed it: Henry’s, before a short WalMart stop for some supplies. I’ve been taken not only by the colours of the houses here – same colours of the beach sheds on the Mornington Pen, Victoria; but by the colours of some of the deck chairs. Good ‘ole Walmart had them on sale.

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Tomorrow, we begin part 1 of our 8 hour drive to Clyde, in western NC, to spend the weekend there with Dale’s brother Dan, wife BJ and daughter Dana.

Cheers,
David

Jeanette’s Pier – fishing day #1

Hi
Tuesday here at the Outer Banks, and after a scrumptious breakfast (you know – breakfast fries (potato cubes), eggs, crispy bacon, pancakes, bottomless coffee (well, decaf …) we drive about 20 mins south to Nags Head. Nags Head is famous for its now-rickety and aging fishing pier – see flogged photo.

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Well, we didn’t fish from there. We chose – and paid $12/person fishing rights to fish from a long pier called Jennette’s Pier. The original was built back in 1939. Due to hurricanes, each rebuild has been destroyed. The current one is only 3 years old, thanks to Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

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When I say “we”, I confess to meaning Dale and her Dad. I profess to having no great affection for fishing, despite my own Dad loving it. I made myself useful by being the gofer, buying coffee and fresh bait and general moral support. It was a great day actually, despite it being overcast and increasingly windy. Dale really enjoyed fishing with her Dad.

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I managed some time to go on a lovely beach walk, checking out the colorfully quaint houses adjacent to the dunes and enjoying dipping my feet into the Atlantic Ocean.

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Were they biting?
Well – not a lot, but Dale and Dad both had success. Here’s the proof!

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Not only fish, I should add. Skillful anglers that they are, they also reeled in a live bird. True story!

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So … somewhat wind and rainswept, we headed north back to Kitty Hawk and had a light fish meal – including mullet. Yes, both Dad andDale caught mullet, one of the few types of fish I like. How considerate of the ocean … and them!

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A really lovely day; one Dale and I will cherish for a long time.

David

Kitty Hawk, Nags Head & the missing chin-strap!

We’ve made it to the Outer Banks, this series of islands fronting the Atlantic and out from the North Carolina mainland and stretching 100s of kilometres.

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We left Fredericksburg just after 8.30 am after a great continental breakfast. I drove the 700 km to Kitty Hawk (of Wright Bros) fame where we’re staying at Seascape Villas.

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On the way down we drove through beautifully wooded Virginian countryside, skirting some of the immense Chesapeake Bay and into North Carolina.

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It’s just over a month until Halloween (I’ve never caught the ‘secular’ celebration of it) so roadside markets are resplendent in pumpkins – huge & numerous.

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Having checked into Seascape – our verandah overlooks one of the golf-course fairways – we drove about 15 km South to Nags Head, where we briefly checked out Jennette’s Pier where we’ll go fishing tomorrow. Good chance then to catch a beach walk.

We then drove the esplanade (of sorts) north to check out the amazing architecture of the beachfront houses.

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Finally, the chin strap. For my sleep
Aopnea condition I use a C-PAP machine. Forgetful me forgot to pack in the chinstrap which accompanies the face mask apparatus. Makes me look like Hannibal Lecter all up, just worse. Mmmm, a whole week without it … too long. Answer- ask around local drugstores for somewhere selling chinstraps.

Yes, there is one in the area. Excellent. Dale kindly rings them up. “sorry, ma’am, he’ll need a doctor’s referral for that.’

You are kidding! I can understand the referral for the $1000 machine itself, but for a chinstrap. I’ve heard everything!

Solution for now. I buy some headbands (3 Vidal Sassoon ones for $5) from Walmart. Here I look so un-stunning wearing one vertically.

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You like it!!!???? The double-chin completes the picture so well, says I.

Tomorrow, the fishing.

Cheers,
David


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