Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nothing like almost 20 miles of open water

 The Thimble Shoal Tunnel, about a mile long, lies under
 this expanse of
Chesapeake Bay water 
One could say it was ominous looking. 

At least, that’s the way I perceived it.

I was on the east end of an approximately 5-acre manmade island sitting in open water where the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

I looked east across the stretch of water under which the Thimble Shoal Tunnel, at 5,552 feet long, carried traffic on US 13.

I’ve been in tunnels  before, but this is the first time I got a good look at the area of which I was to go under.

It was quite an eye-opening and lump in one’s throat experience.

And then after the first tunnel, there was another, the Chesapeake Channel Tunnel at 5,237 feet.

The experience was one I anticipated as we headed to Hampton, Va., from our Mississippi Coast home in late May.

I had read about the 20-mile-long bridges and tunnels (officially named the Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge-Tunnel) and I just wanted to experience it. 

One could say, once is enough - not that it was that frightening to traverse, but I don’t need that roadway to get anywhere I need to go.

As we headed out of Norfolk, Va., I had been hoping that the wind would be kicking up and causing the water from the bay and ocean to collide in cataclysmic fashion, but no such luck.

The basic roadway was about 30 feet above the water and it was a pleasant, easy drive on the route that connected Virginia’s Eastern Shore and south Hampton Roads, Va. The water ranged from 25 to 100 feet deep across the area.

The island at the Thimble Shoal Tunnel, 3.5 miles from Virginia Beach, is known as One Island on the Bay (also Sea Gull Island). Travelers have the option of stopping and getting a  bite to eat at the Chesapeake Grill or picking up a souvenir at the Virginia Originals Gift Shop.

Other options include birdwatching and fishing off the pier at that location.

We had lunch at Stingray’s in Cape Charles five miles north of the bridge and then headed back and stopped briefly to take a look at the Chesapeake Grill.

The early June toll was $13 each way. 

Well, another item checked off my “to-do” list.

Next post: July 1, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Slow-going, but great day on the Ridge

Folk Art Center outside Asheville NC

It is not often that we travel six hours and are just about 60 miles from where we started.

That’s just 10 miles and hour, but that’s what happened one day on our recent trip.

We will blame our need to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for the slowness.

We were into Day 6 of our 17-day excursion that was to cover some 2,000 miles roundtrip and take us from the Mississippi gulf coast to Hampton, VA on the Atlantic Ocean.

Artisans provide demonstrations of their skills

Southern Highland creations

And luckily, we managed to travel at more than 10 miles an hour on most other days, unlike our experience on the parkway.

On the early end of our trip, we spent four nights in Georgia.  We then headed out for our fartherest destination.

The sixth morning of our trip found us just outside of Asheville, NC. The connection to the parkway was just a mile away, so we decided to give it a try.

About a mile north on the Parkway was the the Folk Art Center where local artisans display their creations for sale. Spending an hour really cut into our “miles per hour.”

We moved on, slowly.

Stopping at numerous overlooks, during which time we observed beautiful landscapes, also cut into our “miles per hour” forward movement.

And then, there was the unexpected.

Traveling along at about the speed limit, which is usually about 40 miles an hour on the parkway, I noticed a dark black spot up ahead on the side of the byway,

I was already past the spot when I came to a stop after applying my brakes,

“Look,” I told wifey. “It’s a bear.”

I checked the rearview mirror. Luckily there weren’t any vehicles behind us, and I started backing up for a better view.

The bear didn’t have any kind of reaction when we came to a standstill just next to him. He was nonchalantly lying in the grass munching on some greens.

After trying to get a few pictures, we headed on.

That seemed to be the pace from around 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., at which time we realized we needed to get off the parkway and make some time on Interstate 40 in order to position ourselves to get into the Hampton area the next night.

We have traveled the parkway numerous times and know it is slow-going if one wants to experience nature and the scenery.

Another side trip was to Mt. Mitchell State Park, the highest peak in the eastern US (6,684 feet), where we spent time to have lunch.

We had also stopped and visited the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. While there, a number of antique vehicles passed by. We saw a few others later, but could never find out what the occasion was.

Following a short stop at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals late in the afternoon, we realized the day was close to being over and we had to make a decision. 

We headed to Marion on I-40 and got another hundred miles or so behind us before stopping.

Looking back, the Folk Art Center, our first stop on the Parkway, was at mile marker 382. The Museum of North Carolina Minerals was at mile marker 331. Therefore during the course of about six hours, we had traveled only 51 miles.

But it was an adventure. And as wifey said, the day was a total success. How so? Well, we saw a bear, of course.

Next post: June 24, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

History repeats itself again and again

“What’s that pensive look?” wifey asked, breaking my concentration.

We were at Chownings Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. This was about the ninth day of our trip from our Mississippi Gulf Coast home to Hampton.

I had been giving thought of a place long ago and far away. 

Well, the long ago was right, but we were in the place.

Wifey gets off  a few shots in Chownings

I was trying to get into the moment, thinking about what a patron of the tavern would have been thinking way back then during the 1770s.

Some were probably revolutionaries. Others were Red Coats. And then there were the sympathizers.

Chownings Tavern in Williamsburg

And then I thought of where I would be back home in today’s world— in a coffee shop, not unlike taverns of long ago. Both places have been known to be hot seats of discussion and proposed action.

Back then, what were they thinking?

Tavern workers, dressed in period attire,  prepare to assist visitors

What about now? Are we thinking the same thing?

Concerning the authorities, did those back then speak in hushed tones? Do we do the same today when discussing certain subjects?

A little bit of Colonial entertainment

Today's so-called revolutionaries - - could they be patriots?
And today's "Red Coats" -- are they government sympathizers?

As I sat in that chair in Chownings enjoying the food,  I felt like I could have a suspicion of anyone there if it were 1776. 

Was the man sitting across the room attempting to listen to my conversation trying to determine if I were an enemy of King George?

Would the man sitting across the room in my favorite coffee shop back home nowadays be attempting to listen to my conversation and trying to determine If I were an enemy of today's power brokers?

All kinds of questions ran through my mind about who the revolutionaries were watching and who the Red Coats were watching?

Time passes on, but human nature doesn’t change. We’re the same today as we were back then. There are those who want power, who are abusing their power and there are those who want to see injustice rectified.

That’s the way it will always be. 

Individuals have to determine what is best and move down that path. 

Next post: June 13, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nothing like stopping for strawberries

More than a decade ago, wifey and I were on a trip to Hampton, Va., with her mother.

Wifey’s sibling and his family lived along the coast.

The journey took us from the Gulf Coast to Mobile, Al on I-10, then on to I-65 which hit I-85 in Montgomery. It’s was a long drive along I-85 crossing Georgia, South Carolina and then into North Carolina and all the way up to the Virginia state line.

On the previous trip we turned off of I-85 onto US 58 heading east to the coast.

And this time, as we were traveling this week back to Hampton to attend a wedding, we did the same thing, hoping for a similar experience.

Mary Anna Boze, farmer extraordinaire

A little ways down the highway, east of I-85,  it was still there.

Along the side of the highway near Brodnax, there was a hand-painted strawberry on a piece of about four-foot-high plywood.

A sign indicated a short trip of  about one mile and one could enjoy the scrumptious fruit.

On this trip, we had stopped at the Virginia welcome center and one of the attendants said the farm was still there, but the season for the fruit was almost over.

At least we could hope.

And we did luck up.

Mary Anna Boze, the matriarch of the Cabbage Farm at 1020 Airport Road, managed to pull out about a quart of the ripe, red fruit for us.

Mrs. Boze, who became a widow following 50 years of marriage,  said the farm had been in her family since the mid 1800s.

The season for strawberries was almost over, even though a few people were out in the fields doing the “U-Pick-It” thing.

Visitors get pick their own, and on some days, hands working for the farm bring in the harvest and sell to those of a different persuasion.

We didn’t go out in the fields, but instead spent time talking to Mrs. Boze in the shade of an old building that served as her sales location and a place to hang old farm relics.

Wifey said she managed to munch on some leafs on a few strawberry plants in her efforts to consume as much as the sweet tasting fruit as she could.

I found the strawberries were exceptional and better than any one would find in the bins of a local retailer.

The farm also produces a number of other vegetables along with selling flowers and plants of all kinds.

Next post: June 10, 2014