Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

A short walk from Roanoke Island Festival Park, lies the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. Lying at the end of a pier in the waterfront harbor, this was the third lighthouse we got to see close-up on our trip.

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Very charming!

From http://www.townofmanteo.com:

The Town of Manteo dedicated the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on Saturday, September 25, 2004. The lighthouse is on the Manteo waterfront, on the east side of Roanoke Island.The Roanoke Marshes Light  is an exterior reconstruction of the square cottage-style screw-pile lighthouse which stood at the southern entrance to Croatan Sound, near Wanchese. It was decommissioned in 1955, and lost in the Sound during an attempt to move it to private property.

Near the lighthouse, is a Weather Tower. The US Weather Bureau once used Coastal Warning Display towers such as this one to fly signal flags to warn mariners of wind shifts or approaching storms.

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The Manteo Weather Tower is believed to be one of only five towers still in use, and may be the only one with all of its original signal lights affixed.

While the lighthouse and the weather tower were undeniably the best sights to see in the harbor, we did see something else that was very cool!

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This guy was using a water jet pack to cruise around the harbor! Maybe this is not new to the average joe, but we had never seen one and were enthralled. I wanted to try this so bad, but it just wasn’t in the cards that day.

All in all, our impromptu trip to Roanoke Island was one of the best days of our trip. We left the island, picked the dogs up from the kennel and ended our day back on Hatteras, just in time to view a beautiful sunset.

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The Lost Colony

Our second to last day of vacation, we decided to visit Roanoke Island, known as the site of the first English colony in the New World. Having not been in a history class for many moons, we were a bit confused, as we were thinking that Jamestown, Virginia, was the location of the first settlement.

We got the scoop once we entered Roanoke Island Festival Park. The Park was like a living museum, complete with a reproduction Elizabeth II, the ship that brought the settlers across the Atlantic:

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Visitors are encouraged to go inside the ship, explore and converse with the reenactors.

On the grounds is an American Indian village (also reproduction):

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and a replica of the actual first settlement, including a working blacksmith reenactor (not pictured) who was forging nails for the tourist:

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The pictures don’t really do this place justice. There was much more to it. It really felt like a living history class. And speaking of history, we learned that Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, established around 20 years after Roanoke.

Roanoke, unfortunately, came to a mysterious end, and became known as the Lost Colony.  One of the colonists, John White, left for England in 1587 to obtain much needed supplies so that the colony would survive the coming winter. He expected to return to Roanoke within three months. Instead, he was delayed for lack of a ship, as England was involved in a war and all ships were confiscated for use in the war efforts. It was 1590 before he was able to get back to his new home on Roanoke. When he arrived, he found the colony had simply vanished. The only clue he found was the word “CROATOAN” carved into a tree, perhaps indicating that the colonists had headed to the island of that name (now known as Hatteras Island). He was never able to find the colonists, among whom were his daughter and granddaughter, the first English child born in the New World.

Next post: our third lighthouse on this trip!

Ocracoke Island

On Friday, we took a ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island. I’m a water person, and the ferry ride itself was fun. The fact that there was no charge (how nice is that?!) simply meant “Free Boat Ride” to me. Our destination became almost an afterthought.

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Trixie was eager to get on with it:

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At one point, we had a Coast Guard escort:

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Although I was really looking forward to seeing Ocracoke, a part of me was sad when the ferry ride ended.

If you’ve never been to Ocracoke, you are missing a very laid-back fishing village. I was delighted to see that it has retained the non-commercialized atmosphere. We saw no chain restaurants or hotels (same could really be said for Hatteras Island too, with the exception of a small Dairy Queen). Like Hatteras, one main road and many quaint side streets. Perfect for bicycling, which we saw was a prevalent activity on the island.

I found a little bookstore that had a mighty good selection of books and art supplies, ‘Books to be Red’ (www.bookstobered.com). For such a small store, I actually found 5 distinct books on brewing beer, which I was happy to tell Eric (who was waiting patiently outside with the dogs) about, so that he could take a look on his turn to go inside.

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We got to see another lighthouse, Ocracoke Light. Eric and Trix led the way, Holly in the foreground, yours truly taking up the rear:

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Not quite as tall as you might expect in a lighthouse, what it lacked in size was made up for in charm and history. This is the oldest operating light station in North Carolina, and one of the oldest in the nation. We did get to go inside (they even let Trix and Holly go in with us). This being my first time inside of an actual lighthouse, I am getting more and more hooked on them.

All in all, we had a splendid day on Ocracoke (so much so that we went back a couple days later, our last day of vacation).

Next post will describe our visit to Roanoke Island. We hadn’t planned on going there, but sure glad we did!

Hatteras Island Pet Resort

We love being able to take our dogs when we travel, and they’ve gotten quite used to the road trips that we love so much. However, sometimes it is nice have a little free time to do whatever we like without having to worry about them. We did our homework before we left for the Outer Banks, and found a boarding kennel that also offers day boarding, which we ended up doing for three of our six days there.

This post is intended to be a big “Thank You” to Andrea, owner and operator of Hatteras Island Pet Resort, and to her assistant, Marissa (www.obxpetresort.com).

Our dogs mean the world to us, and I tend to be picky about things such as kennels, when we do have to use them. I’d called Andrea before we left to see about things such as reservations, vaccination records, etc., and she was so very friendly that I felt immediately at ease.

When we got there,  she showed us around the facility and was just super nice. Her facility was immaculate and all the dogs staying there seemed so relaxed. Maybe the ocean air and sun does that to them as well as to us…?

Next up, our side trip to Ocracoke Island.

Outer Banks Brewing Station

When traveling, we always like to stop at the local brewpubs. Eric (DH) is a home-brewer, and as such, the two of us have become beer snobs connoisseurs. After we left the Wright Brothers landmark, we dropped in to the Outer Banks Brewing Station, also in Kill Devil Hills, conveniently located very near the Wright Brothers landmark.

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Great place! Great beers, too.

I had a LemonGrass Wheat Ale, and after tasting I could easily understand why it is a World Beer Cup Silver Medal winner. Eric had an Intergalactic IPA, also medal-worthy.

They served a decent lunch to boot. We’d already decided before we left for our trip to eat only one meal out, and the other two “homemade” in our efficiency room or packed and taken with us. So, we really made the most of our one restaurant meal each day.

We started with Fried Tuna Bites (from their menu: “Caribbean Jerk Seasoned tuna bites served with mango salsa”). YUM! I could have made a meal out of these alone.  However, I did go ahead and order a sandwich: Portabella Press sandwich (“Marinated and grilled portabella, red onions, mozzarella, sun dried tomato tapenade, spinach, & pesto on house bread”). This was a hearty sandwich and I took half of it with me for dinner. Eric had the Station Burger (“Half pound of beef burger marinated in beer. Hand pattied and spiced by an actual human being”).

(note – I will not go into such detail for each our meals on this trip; there were a couple that really stood out, and it’s kinda nice thinking about them again)

One of the coolest things about this brewery is the fact that they are America’s first wind-powered brew pub. They have a wind turbine right on their property, just behind the restaurant. (if you would like to know more: http://www.obbrewing.com/about-the-pub/wind-powered-brewery/) The photo below gives some quick facts:

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I hope the photo comes out to be legible, because it’s really impressive what these guys have accomplished. Hats off!

Anywho, that’s enough for tonight. Tomorrow,  I’d like to give a thanks to one of the nicest kennels we’ve known.

“…it is not really necessary to look too far into the future…

…we see enough already to be certain it will be magnificent. Only let us hurry and open the roads.”
Wilbur Wright

The Wright Brothers National Memorial was surreal.

The museum itself has been very nicely done:IMG_2720

What really makes the impact is outside, where those first historic flights actually took place:IMG_2732

Many of us might have grown up being taught and taking for granted phrases such as “Orville and Wilbur Wright, Kitty Hawk, first airplane flight, etc”, but when you really think about it, what an inspirational thing! Standing in the spot where they made those first flights gives it life and meaning.

A quote from Bill Gates says it best: ““The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural          force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.”

This was a highlight of our trip and something I hope to always remember.

Next up, the Outer Banks Brewing Station.

Cape Hatteras Light Station

We decided to start our first day on Hatteras Island with a visit to the lighthouse, which was only a couple miles north of our motel.  We’ve become a bit fascinated with lighthouses ever since our trip to Florida in 2011, during which we saw the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
According to the National Park Service, which maintains the lighthouse and the keepers’ quarters, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects one of the most hazardous sections of the Atlantic Coast. Offshore of Cape Hatteras, the Gulf Stream collides with the Virginia Drift, a branch of the Labrador Current from Canada. This current forces southbound ships into a dangerous twelve-mile long sandbar called Diamond Shoals. Hundreds and possibly thousands of shipwrecks in this area have given it the reputation as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.

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This is a beautiful lighthouse, and one of the most famous and recognizable in the world.

Climbing to the top is allowed. If one is up to the challenge, for a fee of $8,  one may climb the “257 steps from the ground to the watchroom, which is equal climbing a 12 story building. The stairs have a handrail only on one side and a landing every 31 steps. There is no air conditioning. It may be noisy, humid, hot and dim inside the lighthouse and there is two-way traffic on the narrow stairs.” Having the dogs with us, we declined. At least, that is our story  and we are sticking to it.

The lighthouse has an interesting history. Constructed in 1802, it apparently did not live up to the task. According to Wikipedia, in July 1851, Lt. David D. Porter, USN, reported as follows:

“Hatteras light, the most important on our coast is, without doubt, the worst light in the world. Cape Hatteras is the point made by all vessels going to the south, and also coming from that direction; the current of the Gulf Stream runs so close to the outer point of the shoals that vessels double as close round the breakers as possible, to avoid its influence. The only guide they have is the light, to tell them when up with the shoals; but I have always had so little confidence in it, that I have been guided by the lead, without the use of which, in fact, no vessel should pass Hatteras. The first nine trips I made I never saw Hatteras light at all, though frequently passing in sight of the breakers, and when I did see it, I could not tell it from a steamer’s light, excepting that the steamer’s lights are much brighter. It has improved much latterly, but is still a wretched light. It is all important that Hatteras should be provided with a revolving light of great intensity, and that the light be raised 15 feet (4.6 m) higher than at present. Twenty-four steamship’s lights, of great brilliancy, pass this point in one month, nearly at the rate of one every night (they all pass at night) and it can be seen how easily a vessel may be deceived by taking a steamer’s light for a light on shore.”

Improvements were made, but in the end, at the behest of mariners and officers of the U.S. Navy, Congress appropriated $80,000 to construct a new beacon at Cape Hatteras in 1868.

Being a barrier island, Hatteras is really just a big sand bar, subject to shifting and constant erosion. Due to this erosion, the lighthouse was actually moved from its original location at the edge of the ocean to safer ground 2,870 feet (870 m) inland. Prior to the move, the lighthouse was just 120 feet from the ocean’s edge and was in imminent danger. (Later in the week, we met a woman who told us more about the moving of the lighthouse from her firsthand perspective.)

While the above information was taken from Wikipedia, we had the good fortune to hear a talk from one of the Park Rangers while we were there. He described the shifting sand and erosion with the use of visual aids such as geological graphs and actual sand.

We walked to the beach area near the lighthouse and found the stones which mark the site where the lighthouse was previously located:

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During our explorations later in the day, we quickly saw that sand dunes are one of the prominent features of the Outer Banks. There is really just one main road that runs the length of the Outer Banks, with a few side streets here and there. Much of our driving during the week looked like this:

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The Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pamlico Sound to the west, the road just a tiny strip down the middle, connecting the small villages that dot the island.

More to come, including a visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

“We came down here for wind and sand, and we have got them”

That was Orville Wright, describing his experiences in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in October 1900.

Wanting to see the OBX for ourselves, we piled ourselves into the car and headed out last Monday at 0500. I have to say that the dogs were true champs during the 14 hour car ride. We drove straight through and were giddy by the time we saw the sign:

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We arrived at our destination, Buxton, NC, Monday evening, and were delighted upon checking into our motel room. Traveling with dogs, you don’t always know what you might get as far as lodging, and sometimes you have to make do with whatever is available. So, we made the best choice we could, based on Trip Advisor reviews and the like.

Our motel, the Cape Pines, was absolutely spot on, from the friendly innkeeper, Angie, to the spic-and-span room, complete with hardwood floors, to the fenced-in area for the canine guests (now that’s a real bonus!).

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Worn out from the drive, we grabbed a pizza from a place nearby (Papa Nino’s – delicious and very NY style-ish, just as my NY hubby likes it).

I’ll post photos and such from the rest of our trip over the next few days, so please drop back in!