Monday, May 28, 2012

Delaware and Annapolis, MD

Hiram Rodney Burton House c1730
Ryves Holt House c1665
Now Historical Society office
We had a short stay near Long Neck, DE at Leisure Point Resort.  During the stay we visited Lewes (pronounced LOO-is) Delaware which claims to be the "First Town in the First State".  Delaware was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution (First State) and Lewes was the location of the first settlement in Delaware (although the first one didn't survive long). Use this link to see a timeline of the history.   (
Fisher-Martin House c1730
Now Visitor Center
Cemetery with head stones
dating back to 1700s 

We were impressed by this little town.  They have lots of buildings dating back to the 1600s, all restored and well maintained.  It was a joy to walk around and see the effort that is being made to maintain these old buildings and this old town.

We made a move up the state to a park about 20 miles south of Dover.  We named Delaware the chicken state because we saw lots of poultry farms and packaging plants. We did later learn it is a major industry in Delaware (42% of agriculture related income) so were not off base with the thought.

Maryland State House history
On Friday May 25 we braved holiday traffic to drive to the west side of DC to visit Ann's cousin and family.  We were driving the opposite direction of all of holiday "get out of town" traffic so it went fine.  We had a great visit!  Saturday we drove back to our campground in Delaware with a stop to spend the afternoon in Annapolis, Maryland.  This is one of my all time favorite towns. It is old, small, and has a well maintained historic district.  This was my second visit and it was even better the second time.  The State House (Capitol) has a fantastic history.  See photo for summary.

Maryland State House
Old Senate Chamber
As you walk around the historic district streets and all of the old homes dating back to the 1700s it is just awe inspiring to think of the people that have been here and the history that has been made here.

Maryland Inn - c1770

Charles Carroll House - 1706

Delaware Old State House
The next day we made a visit to Dover Delaware. We drove around the small historic area which wasn't really identified well or fixed up much.  The best area was around the Old State House which was built in 1792. There are old houses and buildings around "The Green" which is a loop street in front of the Old State House. The Ridgely House is the oldest of the buildings, built in 1728, and is still lived in by descendants of the original builders.  Prior to the State House being built the government met in taverns near this location.  One of these taverns was the Golden Fleece Tavern. See photos.
Delaware Old State House court room

Ridgely House 1728
Golden Fleece Tavern plaque

Site of The Golden Fleece Tavern

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Leaving land on CBBT
We made the trip north on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) from Norfolk to what they call the Eastern Shore of Virginia. From shore to shore the CBBT is 17.6 miles and is mostly bridge but there are two one mile long tunnels between man-made islands. The purpose of the tunnels is to allow large ships to pass over the highway rather than building a sufficient bridge for them to pass under. One tunnel is toward the south side of the bay and the other more toward the north to accommodate ocean vessels going in either direction. It was a very neat experience to traverse this engineering feat. Here are a couple of links for you to check it out in more detail if interested.

Entering first tunnel
In tunnel

Islands for second tunnel

Taller bridges on north section

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Virginia Beach - Norfolk

Our next campground was near Virginia Beach where we learned about flooding caused by wind.  The campground was on a stream, or canal, that flows into the ocean and we had days of strong winds blowing upstream pushing the water into the canals in the campground.  Each day over the course of a week we saw the water level go up a few inches until it overflowed the retaining walls.  To make matters worse, we got dumped on by heavy rain storms moving through.  Finally on Friday the winds switched to the opposite direction which blew the water back out.  The water went down 3 feet in two days.  Crazy stuff.

Three subs
We went on a harbor cruise in Norfolk.  We went down the Elizabeth River out toward Chesapeake Bay and the Naval shipyard.  The Captain, narrator, had an amazing amount of information to share all along the way.  We went right by container ships going in and out of port so we saw how big they are.  The Navy ships were awesome but the description and capabilities is way too much to remember much less repeat here.  We even got lucky and an aircraft carrier came into port a day or two before.  Here are a few pictures.


USS Wisconsin

After the harbor cruise we went in the Nauticus Museum.  It was pretty interesting but the part we liked the most was going on the USS Wisconsin battleship (part of the museum price).  The ship saw action in WWII, Korean War, and Gulf War.  For those that remember watching the beginning of the Gulf War on CNN, this ship was the one that shot off the first Tomahawk missiles.  I remember that very clearly so to stand next to the actual launchers was pretty cool.
USS Wisconsin

On board Battleship Wisconsin

Tomahawk missile lauchers

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Outer Banks NC

Beach-dune next to campground
Next stop, a very narrow strip of land (technically a few islands) in the Atlantic ocean that is the east coast of North Carolina.  It is reminiscent of the Florida Keys from the stand point of being able to stand (or drive) and see two bodies of water at the same time because the land is so narrow.  Our campground, in Waves NC, stretched from shore to shore with the main road (hwy 12) going through the park.  The drinking water which came from a well tasted salty so we bought water for consumption.  It was great to have the beach such a short distance away for easy access to take a walk and see the ocean and wild life at different tide levels.  The constant 10-15 mph wind can get to you after a while.
Cape Hatteras lighthouse

We visited a U.S. Life-Saving Service Station site that has been restored to its 1911 splendor.  These stations were setup every 7 miles along the outer banks to rescue shipwreck victims.  This particular station rescued 177,286 people.  The U.S. Life-Saving Service was a precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard.

We drove to Cape Hatteras and checked out the lighthouse built in 1870.  It is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world (approx 200 ft) and it is at the southeastern most point in the U.S. (not the southern most, not the eastern most).

It was nice that it is not at all commercial south of Nags Head for the entire length to Cape Hatteras.  There are long stretches of preserved national seashore with parking areas to stop and enjoy miles of great sandy beaches without the tall condos and hotels.

Actual buildings
1903 Flyer (replica)
The grand finale - we visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial.  I remember learning about the Wright brothers as a kid and wanting to go to Kitty Hawk to see where this historic event took place.  They did a great job of presenting the important information in a very clear and simple manner inside.  There are perfect reproductions of the 1902 Glider and 1903 Flyer on display.  Then outside they have the buildings (hanger and living quarters) used during years of flight tests.  They have markers where the first powered flights started and ended on that infamous day - December 17, 1903 (there were four of them).  Finally, on the horizon with a monument on top is the hill that they used the first few years as a launch point during glider testing.
Launch hill on the horizon

First marker is start of first powered
flights.  4 markers on down are the
distance of the first 4 flights.
You may be wondering, as I was, about all of the green (grass, trees).  All of the historic pictures are on a sandy beach so where is the sand?  I asked the Ranger about that immediately because it didn't fit my lifelong image.  The answer is that mankind has messed with the environment. The land used to often get completely covered with water during high tides.  In fact the Wright brothers slept in the upstairs of their living quarters because the lower floor would sometimes flood.  The salt water flooding kept anything from growing.  In the 1930s sand banks (man made dunes) were piled up all along the ocean shore which put a stop to this. They also planted trees and grasses to hold the sand.  Now 80 years later it looks completely different from when the Wright brothers were doing their flight testing.  It is so different that when they requested entry on the National Historic Registry they were denied.
Explanation of flights on Dec 17, 1903

Sunday, May 6, 2012


North Carolina State Capitol
House chamber
After Savannah we had a long drive to near Raleigh NC where we spent a week.  We visited the state Capitol in Raleigh which was completed in 1840.  The only civic function of the building now is the office of the governor and lieutenant governor.  The building was restored to its 1840-1865 appearance during the 1990's.  They did a great job in each room making it very interesting to walk around and see how the building was used in those years.

Senate chamber
We drove over to Durham and had lunch with a former colleague of Ann's at a restaurant that overlooks the Durham Bulls ball park, the same park where the movie Bull Durham was filmed.  We then drove around the campus of Duke University.  It is a beautiful campus even on a cloudy, gloomy day.