October 12, 2020 – Camp Lejeune, NC is a massive Marine Corps training base. On the drive out to the Onslow Beach campground we see Marines doing what Marines do, training. The well used “tank crossing” signs we pass on the road, field sites complete with camouflaged nets, and the V-22 Osprey aircraft we hear overhead all conspire to bring back memories, some good, others.. There are experiences in life you feel so acutely that for the rest of your life you never forget. Like the taste of camouflage grease smeared all over your face for example, bugs stuck in it or the stench of your battle buddies who have not showered in a week. The past is the past, I know, I know, but I can still taste that grease.
The campground itself is just across the street from the beach and our site is closest to the beach. This is a good thing because our neighbor, Mike, retired Navy whose life position is he’s in charge, of everything all the time comes over as soon as we turn the truck off. Look what I found! He produces a very large fossilized Megalodon shark tooth he found on the beach. Wow, this is very cool, Carl spent many happy hours on the beach looking for his own shark tooth.
October 13, 2020 – Up early for the drive to Moores Creek National Battlefield. We have a cool crisp autumn morning to visit, leaves falling all around us as we walk the well maintained historical path. This is the site of the first decisive defeat of British troops by Americans in 1776. The bridge is the where the action took place and I try to imagine the Americans as they carried out their sabotage work, prying up every other plank then waiting in ambush for the British to cross. It was all over in three minutes.
October 14, 2020 – Cape Lookout National Seashore. When we arrive we are pleasantly surprised when the visitors center is open. Wow that almost never happens. More often, a park ranger is sitting outside with park brochures and a few souvenirs for purchase. Sometimes they will stamp my passport, sometimes they have pre-stamped pieces of paper that I cut and paste into my book. The two islands that comprise the park are a ferry ride away but we decide not to visit. None of the historic buildings are open on the island. There is also a pretty good size crowd waiting to board the ferry so we reason it’s a risk not worth taking.
Instead we take the short walking trail along the water but I feel like, what’s the point? I can’t stand still to read anything for more than 5 seconds before mosquitoes break through my defenses and start their attack! I cannot do the sunscreen, bug repellant thing so my only defense is long sleeves/pants. Not a good enough strategy I know, but lotions smeared on my skin, nope!
October 16, 2020 – Today we visit Cape Hatteras National Seashore and we plan to eat out so don’t pack lunch. At home we almost never eat out, preferring instead to cook at home and drink a little wine without having to worry about the drive home. Carl is the cook in our family and I am usually perched across the bar doing odd jobs for him. Pour me some more wine, can you get me the big roasting pan? I love that arrangement.
The lighthouse at Bodie Island and Pea Island are the only things we visit. The lighthouse was closed for climbing and at Pea Island we walk the nature trail.
In the car and on our way back to North River the clouds that have been threatening all day finally begin to drop rain on us. The rain continues all night.
October 17, 2020 – We woke up this morning to a much cooler day, around the 50 degree mark, but cloudless and beautiful. Since we only have to get to Ft Story, VA today we take our time getting ready to go. Carl and I walk and get in around 5000 steps, about half what we shoot for on a daily basis. We’re ready by 0900, set the GPS and head out.
Arriving at Ft. Story, VA we pass through the guard shack with no problems and proceed to the campground with some anxiety. I have read the campground is horrible and I have read that it is wonderful. Which is it? Driving to our site, I’m leaning towards horrible. The sites are all haphazardly laid out and not remotely level, the utilities are wrapped in insulation and look like they have been here since 1950. The WWII bunker down the street is masquerading as a bath house! And the neighbor, OMG, I tell Carl if I go missing on my way to the bathhouse look there first.
October 18, 2020 – First up today is Ft. Monroe, VA. This is a new National Monument site signed into existence by President Obama. We walk across the moat in a dungeon like corridor not tall enough for Carl to stand up. It discharges us into the belly of the fort where soldiers lived and worked. It’s Sunday morning and nothing is open so we pick out the main points of interest, General Lee’s quarters to name one and then just wander around reading the informational signs. I enjoy the history very much but the thing that I find the most poignant, that speaks to me and the humanity of the soldiers that served here is the pet cemetery. There are easily fifty graves on top of a battlement, all tucked among the old gun emplacements. Tippy, Sarge McFerren and Ginger are all marked with granite headstones.
Leaving Ft. Monroe, Yorktown is our next objective and it takes around 40 minutes to get there. This is a huge site and not easily condensed, so we just check out the Freedom Monument and Yorktown itself. One of the buildings, the custom house has been restored by the Comte de Grasse DAR chapter. How cool, I want to be a member of that one. But since there are no Revolutionary War icons in boring Brandon I’m stuck with the “Brandon Chapter”. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War have all been fought here so many of the buildings have been destroyed. Still there are quite a few to admire. We were lucky enough to catch the local Fifes and Drums of Yorktown performing on the town green. These are kids that spend their free time learning, practicing and performing Revolutionary War era music, they were outstanding.
Jamestown is up next, we get in line behind a couple arguing with the clerk about the price of admission. The man says, you won’t take our pass? No sir, this is a private enterprise, the park service doesn’t own this, that will be $25.00! No thank you@$^*. OK then… We get in with our Golden Access pass and enjoy our visit.
All our wandering today has led us about 75 miles from home. It takes well over an hour to get home, but the day was worth it.
October 19, 2020 – Oink y’all! Today we visit the town of the pig, Smithfield, VA. I was expecting pig art on the streets, in shop windows and touted on every restaurant menu. Huh, no ode to the pig anywhere. Just a sleepy little town with a few open shops and not many more restaurants. Carl has done some homework and steers me into the “Taste of Smithfield” cafe for lunch. I had, wait for it, a ham sandwich and Carl ordered the ham steak!
After lunch Carl goes to take pictures and I to shop. We head home and build a fire, its not really cold but a good way to relax, eat dinner and drink a little wine.
October 20, 2020 – Today is an admin day that we use to catch up on blogging, laundry, cleaning and any maintenance issues that have cropped up. We discovered that if we sit at the picnic table outside the park office we can log onto their wifi. We have been without cable or wifi since we arrived. We get a little work done but the wooden benches get old fast and there is no shade so its hot.
One last thing about Ft Story. Every morning at 0800 and every evening at 1700 we could hear the colors. Reveille at 0800 and retreat at 1700 brought back a lot of memories from our time in the Army.
October 21, 2020 – Ft Story is situated at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Early this morning, maybe around 0400, I could hear ship based fog horns, it was so cool. We got up to drink coffee around 0700 and the fog was still so thick it fell like rain out of the trees. We packed up in wet conditions, not fun.