Sunday, May 2, 2021

Trekking to NJ (Part II) - By Land and By Sea

We had tons of fun as we continued our trek up to NJ to help Aunt Maureen and Uncle Ted at Misty Lee Farm.  We hit the road at 8 a.m. from New Bern Holiday KOA to our next destination, Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks of NC.  It was another very windy day, but it provided us a terrific opportunity to watch the wind surfers.   The local swamp turtles were sure enjoying the 80F temperatures, as they all lined up to chill out on the tree stumps/logs.  I bet they even had a compact beverage with an umbrella tucked inside their shells to complete the mood.

Wind surfers

Turtles just chillin' out

We planned to stay at Cape Point for 3 nights, a first-come-first-served boondocking campground run by the National Park Service.   It has several loops, all paved roads, and 220 sites.   It was mid-week in late-April.  The odds of finding 1 adequate site were in our favor, and we could always just purchase 2 sites, 1 for our DRV Mobile Suites fifth wheel and 1 to park Big Boomer, our medium duty truck.  WRONG.  Not a site in the place could accommodate Suite Retreat.  All were too short and/or access was precarious due to soft, swampy grass.  (This was our first visit to Outer Banks. We later learned that much of this campground floods).  OK, on to Plan B, Frisco Campground, which the Ranger indicated can accommodate large rigs. The problem at Frisco is that a portion of the sites are reservable.  So, as luck would have it, most of the sites that most likely would fit our full set-up were occupied.  Back to purchasing 2 sites.  At least we got a 50% discount with our America the Beautiful Pass that we earned as volunteers last year.


We set up Suite Retreat, parked Big Boomer a few sites away, and enjoyed a late lunch regrouping and relaxing at our site.  About 4 p.m., we decide to take a hike.  There is a 1.5 mile trail next to our site that Dad’s All Trails app indicated would lead us right to the beach.  What the app didn’t tell us is that high tide affects the trail.  We were trekking through knee-deep water! We finally arrived oceanside.  I am intrigued by how beaches vary from state to state.  In NJ, most shore towns charge for beach access.  At Cape Hatteras National Seashore, access is free, so I dipped my paws in the water and butt in the sand. (Might as well, ‘cause I was pretty wet anyway from the hike over.)  While many states prohibit motorized vehicles on beaches, you can drive your vehicle on the sandy shores of Cape Hatteras—as long as you don’t own a vehicle like Big Boomer.

How the trail started...

Is that a puddle ahead?

...What the trail became

View from highest point in Frisco Campground

We returned to our site through a longer but much drier trail, chatting with other visitors along the way.  As I put on my jammies and snuggled up by our campfire, I thanked our Creator for giving my family the opportunity to enjoy his wonderous gifts and blessings.

The next day we visited the Wright Brothers National Monument in Kitty Hawk, known as the birthplace of aviation.  German aviation pioneer Karl Wilhelm Otto Lilienthal was the first person to meticulously document his trials and success with gliders.  Upon his death in 1896, Wilbur and Orville Wright continued Lilienthal’s aviation dream, completing their first manned experiment in 1900.  They selected Kitty Hawk, NC as the site because of its wind, sand, and isolation.  The Wrights studied birds to get proper wing movement.  By 1902 they had done well with gliding, so they worked on adding an engine.  It was on December 14, 1903 that Wilbur (who won the coin toss as to which brother would be “pilot”) did the first powered test flight.  Unfortunately, Wilbur crashed.  The Brothers went back to the drawing board.   On December 17, 1903, Orville achieved success, “flying” for a whopping 120 feet within 12 seconds!  Very cool!  As we walked the grounds and stopped at the sculpture re-enacting the successful flight, I could feel the invigoration, jubilation, and gratification of a job well done that Orville and Wilbur must have experienced—just like me when I earned my latest Junior Ranger badge! 


Marker denoting the 1st of 4 successful flights on Dec 17, 1903

Wright Brothers monument on Kill Devil Hill in background

View from top of Kill Devil Hill

Next up was a visit to Historic Corolla Park.  Though it was a much larger parcel of land in its heyday, it now comprises 39 acres on the Currituck Outer Banks.  One of the Park’s main attractions is Whalehead, an Art Nouveau home built in 1925 by Edward and Mary Louise Knight.  As industrialists and heirs to a railroad fortune, The Knights had boo koo bucks, and owned opulent McMansions in Philadelphia, PA and Newport, RI.  As we toured Whalehead here in the Outer Banks, I realized it was probably much less ostentatious than those other properties.    Wish I could share photos with you, but indoor photography is prohibited during tours.    But trust me, the home exudes warmth and a welcoming vibe with its more subdued architectural beauty.  When the Knights lived here, the home contained his/her bedroom suites, 4 guest bedrooms, an office, formal dining room, formal living room, gun room, huge kitchen, and nice quarters for 12-14 servants, too.  Best of all, it had 12 indoor bathrooms, including 1 for the servants.  The grounds surrounding the home offer terrific views of the Sound, walking/biking paths, and waterfowl/avian viewing opportunities.  This self-guided audio-enhanced home tour was well worth the $7/adult admission, so if you are in the area, check it out.


We were famished by this point, so we walked across the road to the Corolla Cantina.  We received excellent service from Lexi and were blown away by the very accommodating and thoughtful chef who came out to ask Dad his specific dietary needs before making Dad’s entrĂ©e so he could adjust ingredients accordingly.


We went back to Historic Corolla Park to walk the grounds and lose the pounds we just gained from our delicious meal.  As we walked, I spotted the head of a giant whale on display outside the offices of the local wildlife refuge.  We continued strolling the nearby village comprised of historic structures converted to merchant/vendor shops and restaurants.   The Currituck Lighthouse is also in this area.  We arrived too late to get inside to complete the climb up (and back down) 220 stairs, but enjoyed viewing the structure from ground level.

We completed our final evening alongside our campfire gazing at the stars.  We wished we could have stayed a third night as we originally planned, but all the sites that would accommodate our setup were booked for the weekend.  

Instead, we moved to a Harvest Host brewery within a couple of hours drive.

Look at where we passed along the way.  It is owned by my distant relative--do you see the resemblance?

The brewery had designated parking for 4 rigs alongside a dead-end road.  Fortunately, we were the only ones staying that evening ‘cause we took up 2 spots.  We enjoyed learning the brewing process, especially since this brewhouse follows Germany’s strict purity laws of using just 4 ingredients:  water, barley, hops, and yeast, with some of the barley being grown right on the brewery’s farmland.  Dad and I shared a flight with Mom even doing a bit of tasting.  But if the beers don’t bust your buttons, the authentic German fare will.   Mom chose a reuben sandwich, their signature dish, for us to share.  OMG, the homemade pastrami was to die for!  Fresh, mouthwatering, tender cured beef with German mustard and homemade kraut with bacon bits for extra flavor, all on a marble rye that rivaled the loaf from Schnitzers that Jerry Seinfeld stole!  I am salivating just telling ya about it!.  Dad opted for one of their vegan/vegetarian options, a bean burger.  Afterward partaking of beef and brew, I went outside to play with the resident goats, one of which took a liking to me, giving me goo-goo eyes.


We departed the next day with comfortable temps and bright sunshine but stiff winds (are you seeing a pattern here?).  Within an hour, we hit the VA border and were welcomed to our first toll roads all year, driving Big Boomer and Suite Retreat over and under the 23-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. We have a NC Quick Pass, which we find to be the best transponder option.   It has no administrative fees, it replenishes at $20 intervals, and it is honored by EZ Pass. 



In MD, we visited Old Furnace Town Historic Site at Snow Hill.  Snow Hill, the seat of Worchester County, is picturesque and rich in history--heck, it was chartered in 1686!  


The Nassawango Iron Furnace, built to smelt the bog iron ore that was discovered in the nearby creek, was in active use for nearly 2 decades, from 1829 to 1847, making ore for prominent projects like the Philadelphia Iron Works.  It holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving structure of its kind in our Nation.   An entire town arose around the Furnace operation: homes, blacksmith shops, school buildings, churches, printers, woodworkers, etc.   Though none of the these other structures are original to the site, the shops and buildings depict what Furnace Town would have looked like during its operational period.  

I love this spiritual verse.


Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly enjoying Phlox bloom

Red Salvia and Lily of the Valley

We continued on to DE, The First State and land of the Dupont dynasty.  Our destination was Lewes to board the ferry to Cape May, NJ.  As we approached the ferry parking area, we stopped to double-check our height.  We were at 13’5”, below the ferry’s specified max of 13’6”.  It was a brisk, windy day as they loaded us onboard.  Hence, the waters were choppy, and the ferry was a rockin’, resulting in this stuffed rat retrieving a "just-in-case” barf bag.  Not to mention I was a bit stressed that our RV would hit the deck ceiling from the swells since we only had 1 inch leeway.  But we made it across safely to Cape May, with a couple of dolphins popping up to welcome us to NJ.

That's the top of our solar panel nearly touching the ceiling pipe

We arrived at our home for the next 3 months, Pomona RV Park in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.  It is a very small family-owned Park with about half of its sites occupied by seasonal guests.  It is a tight squeeze all the way around for large rigs, whether trying to back into sites, getting around road curves, or putting your awning out and hitting the next rig.  We were lucky to receive Site B1, which we feel is the best back-in site in the Park.  It is right next to the office and has some privacy due to hedge line.  A huge tree blocked access to the site on our left, so that site remained vacant.  Hence, we did not experience any Grey Poupon moments like most other Park guests.  However, the picnic table on our site and the tail of the RV unit behind us were like conjoint twins.  Thank goodness we left Rat Patrol II (our side by side) on our lot in TX, ‘cause no way Jose would we be able to access or fit into our site.  Since the Park caters to families, there are tons of screaming children and lots of barking dogs.  But it is a full-service Park, offering cable, Wi-Fi, pool, hot tub, game room, laundry room, propane refilling, camp store, and planned activities (most for an extra fee).   The monthly rate is $800 April-May and $1,200 June-October.  Electric usage is additional at a whopping 21 cents/kw (compared to 12.5 cents/kw at our home base.)  We utilized our solar as much as possible. But our site was almost completely tree-covered and we had a very wet, overcast summer. So we could only supplement about half the usage.  This place is a bit pricy for this stuffed rat’s taste, especially since we don’t utilize most of the facilities.  But it is NJ, it is the only RV Park that could fit our set-up for 3 months, and it put us within 45 minutes of Aunt Maureen and Uncle Ted’s farm.  So, we were extremely grateful to the owners for accommodating us.                


You can see how close the picnic table is to the tail of the RV on the site behind us.

See that squirrel sitting on the rabbit's head?  I thought for a minute that Mom got another outdoor lawn ornament.  The mystery of how Mom's figurines were knocked down every day is now solved.

Well, time for me to sign off--I’ve got to arise early to start training on my farm chores.  Talk to you again soon!