There was a loud smashing sound as the rock hurled at the windshield bounced over the top of the cab and slammed into the camper. A large crack immediately formed across the window, there was significant damage. We needed a new windshield; fortunately, the camper had no damage. This would be our second front window replacement since we left for Alaska. With the window replaced, we were back on the road leaving Washington DC and heading south to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
We now noticed that the rear view camera was not working. Tom got out checking the fuses, wiring etc but the screen remained blank. Reversing without a rear-view camera is tricky and we needed to get it fixed, “but where?” we wondered. Heading along the highway we noticed a gas station on the opposite side with propane gas, which we needed so Tom pulled off to do a U turn and there was “Auto Wizards Mobile Accessories and Electronics” right in front of us. Could we be that lucky? William Blake emerged with his tools and began the task of finding the problem. As he pulled more wires and more wires, removing part of the truck, I hope this wizard knew what he was doing. It all looked very intimidating how on earth, does anyone ever put all those wires back I wondered. William was indeed an auto wizard and he soon had us back on the road with an even better working rear-view camera.
We reached the shores of eastern Maryland to be greeted by wild horses on the beach. The weather was stormy with rain and wind. However, we were not deterred by the weather. The sea and beach were wonderful and wild and it felt great to be back in some wilderness. Barren landscapes of sand dunes, wild waves washing the secluded beaches and our only company a herd of wild horses. Assateague Island is a barrier island built by the sand that the persistent waves have raised from the ocean’s floor. Waiting to be explored behind the dunes, were island forests and bay side marshes. We laced up our boots and set off for a hike. A great Blue Heron waded through the muddy stream, snowy egrets alongside and an American wigeon swam past us.
The wild horses living on Assateague Island National Seashore are believed to have come from colonists 300 years ago who brought the horses to the island to avoid penning and taxation laws. They have adapted to surviving in the harsh seashore environment and roam the area free and wild. They are slightly smaller than other horses and they look heavier which is believed to be due to the high amount of salts on the grass and other plants that the horses eat.
The following morning we left the campsite after a lovely hot shower, which is such a treat. We then headed for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. I was a bit worried they would not allow us through the tunnels since we have propane bottles on board, but they just asked if they were turned off.
The bridge – tunnel was built in the 1960s, and opened in 1964 to traffic after 42 months of construction for a cost of $200 million. In 1965 in a worldwide competition, the Bridge Tunnel was selected as on of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the modern world. From shore to shore, it is 17.6 miles and is considered the largest bridge – tunnel complex in the world. It consists of two one mile tunnels, two bridges, almost 2 miles of causeway, 4 man made islands and 5½ miles of approaching road. In 1999, they built a parallel bridge – tunnel so now each direction has two lanes.
Driving it was amazing but before we drove onto the bridge, we stopped to look at the Chesapeake Estuary the largest in the USA. It was freezing cold and the wind was whipping up the waves. It is a remarkable bridge to cross and an engineering marvel. Just before we were, to go under and through the last tunnel, we saw a warship that would be passing overhead us while we were in the tunnel. Fortunately, when we came out the tunnel there was a visitor’s center so we pulled over and jumped out to photograph the ship. It is amazing to think we were under it.
We drove through Virginia and into North Carolina. We decided not to go to any cities or historical locations as we had seen enough history and just wanted to get outside and into some fresh air. The Outer Banks of North Carolina were calling us.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are fragile banks islands of sand along the coastline for 100 miles cut off from the mainland by various waterways and sounds. The islands are easily accessible by road as it is all the islands are link either, by bridge or ferry.
We stopped for lunch at the Monument to Century of Flight. The monument was dedicated in 2003 a 100 years after the Wright brothers made their first flight. It is amazing to think that it only took 66 years between the Wrights brothers’ first flight and man landing on the moon. It was on the Outer banks that the Wright brothers made their first historic flight at Kitty Hawks.
At the entrance to the monument is a granite marker with a poem by a 19 year James Magee called the “High Flight” James was killed in 1941 just a few months after writing the poem. There is also a time capsule, to be opened in 2103; none us will be around to see that opened. The monument itself consists of 14 wing shaped stainless steel pylons ascending in height from 10’ to 20’ in an orbit of 120 feet, the distance traveled by Orville Wright on the historic first flight in 1903. The faces of the pylons display black granite panels engraved with words and images of the 100 most significant accomplishments in aviation history.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is at the actual site of the historic flights. They made four flights before they crashed; I guess they got over confident. A rock marks the spot where Orville Wright made his first 120 feet flight. I walked the 120 feet of the first flight, then onto the 175 feet for the second flight and then onto the 200 for the third flight. The fourth flight they managed 852 feet (59 seconds airborne).
There is a large monument on the top Kill Devil Hill. Kill Devil Hill is named by the locals from the rum that was washed up from wrecks and tasted so bad that it would kill the devil himself. It was from these sand dune hills that the brothers made their first flights. The brothers had done a significant amount of gliding before attempting the first powered flight.
I certainly learnt a lot about the Wright brothers and after learning so much history, since we arrived in the USA I decided that there are only three types of people in the world. Geniuses, brilliant people who make things happen, Crooks who make things happen because they steal, kill etc and then the rest of us.
We stopped to see the Bordie Lighthouse but it looked like a shuttle launch pad as it was in the process of being repaired. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was great and I loved the base. At the beach, fishermen were out fishing, a family was flying a kite and some dumb surfers were trying to learn to surf in the cold weather.
We took the ferry across to Ocracoke Island where we camped for the night. They must have had a huge rain down pour as everything was flooded, they had the most ridiculous toilet doors I have ever seen, and I have seen many toilet doors in my travels. The door was hung too high so you could not see the person’s chest and head but nothing else was left to the imagination. No need to bend down look under the door to see if it was occupied!! The door’s lower level was above the toilet bowl level. Now the campsite was up for sale so I gather they are not doing too well and haven’t figured out why people leave and never return.
We got up early so as to catch the 7:30am ferry to Cedar Island; we were so pleased with ourselves that we actually made it. Still sitting in the line up at 8:00am we realized something was amiss. Soon an official arrived and tells us the throttle on the ferry is broken and they have no idea if or when it will leave, but we can take the ferry to Swan Quarter to get to the mainland. It would be a detour for us, we decided to take it as the weather, and camping facilities at Ocracoke were awful, so did not want to linger any longer. The ferry arrived in Swan Quarter at 11:30 and we headed towards Wilmington. We were both quite hungry as we did not have a big breakfast so when we spotted a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant we stopped for something to eat at Lin’s Garden. We were very pleasantly surprised it was a buffet all we could eat and it was delicious only $7.00 each so we pigged out and stuffed ourselves and nice change from sandwiches, pasta or rice.
We decided to head to Wilmington camp so we could do some washing and update our website. Heading along highway 17 we were deciding which side of the road we should be on, would the exit be turn left or did we need to exit right? Tom noticed a white car following us also changing lanes with us but not passing. When we turned off it continued to follow us and continued even following us into the campgrounds. As Tom emerged from the truck the driver said, “you must be Tom” They had noticed our website on the truck and had looked it up on their iphone and were reading about us as they followed us deciding they wanted to meet us. It was so strange but really funny.
We are still chasing the sun and today we head into South Carolina. Tom got up this morning and set the clocks back we are now ready for winter. We crossed into South Carolina and visited Myrtle and Surfside Beach. We did not want to leave, the beach was wonderful, people out fishing, walking their dogs, chatting with friends, the sun was shining and life felt relaxed. We were only just beginning to feel the southern hospitality charm. There was still a lot more to come.