There’s not much to say for today: it was our one pounding day on the highway. We got a late start at around 9:00 because we hadn’t really gotten to bed the night before until 23:00, due to laundry issues. That meant that we didn’t reach our hotel today until 19:30. The day was perfect for driving, but a thick haze on the mountains demonstrated that we had done things in the right order: we had the clearest days of the trip when we were coming through the mountains on the scenic drives.
Most of the scenery today was pretty boring – divided highway lined with trees – but as we got close to the Tidewater area, we saw lots of cotton fields dotted white with cotton bolls.
Monday, 12 September 2005:
We embarked on our tour of the Hampton Roads area of
It was perfect weather for cruising, bright and sunny with a nice breeze. The first cruise, a two-hour tour of the harbor and the naval station aboard the motor cruiser Victory Rover, was educational, relaxed, and very enjoyable. We got the three seats right in the bow: the best view aboard. The civilian and military harbors in
In the afternoon, we took a second two-hour cruise of the civilian harbor only, this one on the wooden tall ship schooner American Rover. We were truly under sail for this cruise! We picked up some sailing tips from the senior hands instructing the junior crew. Crew consisted of four sailhands and the captain, and they were fun to watch. At this season, the Rover does only the civilian harbor cruise, but in the summer and on weekends, they do a three-hour version that goes down to the naval station as well. The deck is covered with chairs, and there are also beautifully appointed cabins fore and aft below, with a little souvenir shop amidships.
Being on the schooner led to a bit of unscheduled excitement, because on both our way out and our way back, while at the mercy of the wind during raising or luffing sails, we stayed on a heading that brought us too close to the drydocked Aegis cruiser, triggering the alarms and an automated warning that proclaimed, “Alter course immediately. You are entering restricted space. Alter course, or we will fire on you.” An Aegis against a schooner would be a bit of overkill ... The crew didn’t seem too concerned about actually being shot at, although they did ensure that we put about as soon as possible!
When we arrived in
My personal favorite of those was the private yacht Nice and Easy, out of
Oh – and
Tuesday, 13 September 2005:
Today was our first really cloudy day, with the weather news full of threats about approaching hurricane Ophelia, and we took the bike in for its 55,000 mile service at Bayside Harley-Davidson in
Our former librarian also described the interior of what are called “English basement” style homes, which are common in Olde Towne. In these house, the family rooms are accessed by a door at the ground floor, but the grand entry to the public areas of the house where guests would be received is a stairway leading up to a porch on the second floor. Someone who wanted to avoid guests could sneak out below while they waited above! He was a delightful guide, and left us at his own historic house.
We continued our walking tour with the printed guide. For the first time on this trip, we were gently asperged with occasional sprinkles of rain, but they weren’t even enough to get us wet. We stopped for lunch at a place recommended by someone at the Harley dealership, a European bistro named Brutti’s. The food was delicious, and we would recommend it in turn. When we left the restaurant, it was raining in earnest, so we simply sheltered under a handy awning while I read aloud from the tour book on
Before we got there, though, we got an eyeful from the harbor. A massive cruise ship, the Fantasy, had been ensconced in Titan, the floating drydock that had been empty yesterday, and was gradually being lifted out of the water by the drydock. All of the ship’s lifeboats had been taken off and were parked in the water all around the drydock, like an escort. At the same time, Speede, the other floating commercial drydock that had contained the Aegis cruiser that threatened to fire on us yesterday, was nearly entirely submerged in order to refloat the cruiser, which was steaming gently out of the dock. An unexpected treat – drydocks in full operation!
As we were finishing the museum, my cell phone rang: the bike was finished. We hopped back on the bus to return to the H-D dealer and reclaim the bike. It was close to 15:00 when we were on the road again, so we just took a three-wheeled cruise over to the beach part of
Before we actually reached the beach area, we passed Oceania Naval Air Station, which was invisible in the local fog. As we passed, we were saluted by a pair of what looked like F-15’s that took off and disappeared into the solid low overcast too fast for me to be entirely certain that they weren’t F-22 Raptors instead. Visibility was nonexistent above about 1,500 feet.
We returned to the hotel and went for a swim in the very chilly pool, which actually felt quite good in contrast to the 80 degree air and 80% humidity. While we were in the pool, we met Rick Davis, the new manager of our hotel, who gave us recommendations for eating when we hopefully go to Chincoteague tomorrow, hurricane Ophelia willing. Then we finished off our 10,000 steps by walking to Ruby Tuesday’s for dinner.
Wednesday, 14 September 2005: Chincoteague and Assateague
Our luck with the weather held: hurricane Ophelia stayed far enough south that we had no rain at all during the day. We pulled out after breakfast to drive the 105 miles to Chincoteague. Passing the Navy’s amphibious base on the way, we took Highway 13 over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, one of the seven structural engineering wonders of the world. This structure consists of man-made islands linked by long bridges, with two long tunnels under the bay to allow major shipping traffic to cross above. This thing is so long that you can’t see one end from the other. I don’t think we ever managed to see more than two islands ahead, and while the haze was part of that – yesterday and today were both very humid – I don’t think we’d have done much better on a clear day, assuming that there ever are any here ... From one of the islands housing a tunnel entrance, we saw a coal collier on the way out, and a container ship on the way back, sailing through the open shipping channel above the tunnel.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia is incredibly flat, even flatter than
Just before reaching Chincoteague, we passed the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Wallops is a favorite home of model rocketry, and the Flight Facility had major radar and radio telescope facilities visible from the road, as well as runways. NOAA shares one corner of the NASA facility, and we saw an airplane both coming in and going out. It didn’t occur to me until later, but the aircraft looked like a P-3 Orion, and I’m wondering if it might have been a NOAA hurricane hunter, staging out of Wallops instead of
Chincoteague proved to be less tacky-beachy than
We cruised the driving trail around the refuge, looking for wildlife. Because the weather was so hot and humid and the speed limit on the circular drive was so low, we rode without jackets for once. We saw a lot of birds, including egrets, ducks, and hawks. Alas, we didn’t see any ponies – they were doubtless being intelligent and staying in the shade of the trees, instead of being out in the hot sun grazing on the marsh grass. From the photos in the center, many of the ponies look bloated, and we learned that it’s because they eat grass with a high salt content and then drink a lot of water; they retain it just as we do!
After making the full circuit, we drove back to the mainland and our hotel, warily watching the foreboding skies and wondering whether we’d need to break out the rain gear. It looked dubious as we drove back into Chincoteague, but the further south we went, the less threatening it looked. By the time we reached our hotel, we actually had sunshine. We walked to our neighborhood Denny’s for dinner, and got home dry.
The forecasters were saying that the storm should blow in tonight. Hopefully most of the rain would come in the night, but in any case, we’re figuring on a largely indoor day tomorrow, visiting the
Thursday, 15 September 2005:
We wound up spending this still completely rain-free day entirely in
Since we were early for the museum, we took our morning constitutional along the waterfront, admiring two lovely ships moored there from opposite eras of the age of sail. One was a gleaming modern steel, chrome, and aluminum twin-masted vessel all dressed in silver and white with mechanized sails that would go up and down at the touch of a button. The one crewman I met and complimented answered in a Kiwi accent. The other ship, equally beautiful in its own way, was the schooner
A lovely and unexpected feature of the
We went on to tour the museum Nauticus and the Ohio-class battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin, and discovered that the two of them really were an all-day event. We bought the 45-minute audio tour of the ship, which was well worth the price. It walks you all around the main deck of the ship, and describes what you’re seeing. The
Nauticus itself had more than we could take in. We never even got into the naval museum section, although we did cover most of the third floor. We saw the nifty (and timely!) film Stormchasers in their main theater, which was an experience in itself. When you walk into the theater, you’re looking out a huge window onto the
Another exhibit takes you aboard an Aegis cruiser, and gives you a taste of having to make judgment calls and react to potential threats to your ship by pressing the right buttons to trigger the response you think appropriate. It moves way too fast for you even to hit the buttons, once it ratchets up to combat speed, and helps to explain the level of automated computer controls that the ships rely on. Having come close enough to a docked Aegis to trigger the warning alerts, I could really appreciate this exhibit!
One gallery of the museum is given over to temporary exhibits, and the current one was Powers of Nature, all about weather and earthquakes and volcanoes. It was all excellent, with a lot of opportunities for hands-on experiences. And to make things amusing and educational wherever you went in the museum, there were While you’re here, did you know ...? factoid posters related to the touring exhibit in all the bathroom stalls and on the bathroom walls! I didn’t find two identical posters in the different bathrooms we stopped in. The signs were clearly designed to be replaced from time to time, so they might be different every time you visited.
Just outside Nauticus, on the opposite side of the museum from the inlet housing the U.S.S. Wisconsin, the city is building a new terminal for cruise ships, hoping to lure tourist traffic away from
At the end of the day, we stopped for dinner at Surfrider West, a seafood place not far from our hotel recommended by our hotel manager. It was good food, but Terry and I both agreed that Coastal Flats in
We went back to the hotel to do hand laundry on undies for tomorrow, and to pack for the run back to my house (where real laundry work is definitely in the picture – the Virginia Beach Hampton had no laundry facilities!). We plan to visit Jamestown Settlement along the way.
Friday, 16 September 2005:
The last day of the ride for me dawned mostly sunny again, making this trip a perfect score for rain-gear-free riding. We reached Jamestown Settlement a little before it opened, and were among the first to get tickets. The ladies welcoming us graciously let us leave our leathers and helmets in the store room behind the counter, since the bike was loaded with our luggage and had no room for our usual routine of locking our kit in the bike.
Something to understand, here. Jamestown Settlement and the historic site of the original
After watching the introductory film and browsing some of the museum galleries, we embarked on a tour of the Settlement. The tours are conducted by costumed interpreters, who are dressed appropriately for each area and who hand off the tour groups from one area guide to the next. Our guide to the Powhatan Indian village was a woman in deerskin who explained the structure of the village and some of what is known about the culture, crafts, and beliefs of the Indians. Some things, the Indians themselves have never explained, including the ring of wooden plinths carved with different, distinct faces that forms a ceremonial dance circle in the village. Other interpreters were engaged in crafts, demonstrating how things were done.
Our guide handed us off to another woman at the docks, garbed as an English colonist, who described the four-month voyage in what seemed to us cockleshell vessels before turning us loose to explore the largest of the ships, the Susan Constant. The three ships are all seaworthy, and one was even disassembled, taken to
From the docks we went to the riverfront crafts area, where we learned about the crops the colonists grew and could check out the dugout canoe that the Settlement is building, using the technique of burning out a tree trunk. Our guide was a young woman who had just come off a stint of picking off by hand the cutworms that like to decimate the tobacco plants. She was happy to take a break from field work to play tour guide, in company with another guide who was learning the script for this area. It’s a little ironic that the female interpreters we saw outnumbered the males, given that there were no women at all in the colony at its start.
We walked up from the river to the fort, and found a lot to see. A wooden palisade encircles a number of buildings, including a church, the governor’s house, the armory, the blacksmith’s shop, the guard house, and more. Periodically during the day, the interpreters – and there are more men here – demonstrate muskets and cannon, and talk about the distinctions made between the soldiers, the craftsmen, and the political leadership of the colony. Church attendance was mandatory, so it’s appropriate that they use the church as the location to provide your overview of life in the fort, before leaving you to explore on your own.
Jamestown Settlement was well worth seeing. The same folks behind
We had lunch at the Settlement (the bread pudding was a HUGE serving!), and then hit the road to pound our way back home to
Saturday and Sunday, 17-18 September 2005
Mom and Terry got back to