Sunday, November 8, 2015

An excellent vacation, despite the rain

November 8, 2015--This has been an excellent vacation, despite the weather (rain, rain, and more rain).

When we received the invitation to attend Webster's 90th birthday party, we decided to make a vacation out of the event. Originally, we intended to arrive at Webster's on Friday and leave on Monday morning. From there, we weren't sure where we would go...perhaps to the barrier islands, perhaps to the mountains.

We tried to find camping on the barrier islands (outer banks). All of the state parks are closed for the winter. We found some private RV parks, but their cost was prohibitive. So we canned the idea of camping on the islands.

It was then that Jim remarked that Colerain (the town of 200 in which Webster resides) is close to the Virginia border as well as the outer banks. Also, he said, that whole area was "full of history."
I'm sure I knew it at one time, but I had forgotten that North Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies. The coastal areas of North Carolina are rich in history, dating long before the Revolutionary War.

We decided to make Webster's backyard our home base and explore the coastal area and fish through day trips.

Our first stop was Edenton, a small community of less than 8,000. Sitting on the Albemarle Sound, its quaint colonial downtown stands sentry over the waterfront, complete with a number of cannons from the Revolutionary War era.

Outside of the town is the Edenton National Fish Hatchery, where shad, bass, sturgeon and other species are hatched, raised, and released in area streams and lakes. The biologists had just finished loading some fish into tanks to be transported to other locations, but one of the biologists took time to show us how the fish are hatched and raised. He also showed us some baby sturgeon. I did not realize how prehistoric they look! No scales!

We took a short hike on the 25-acre property. As we were returning to the car, the biologist started to feed the baby fish in the several ponds. Even before the food pellets hit the water, the surface teemed with thousands of fish, waiting for their meal. He said they hear the tractor and the food machine approach and wait to be fed.

From the hatchery, we drove into Edenton and found the visitors' center, which is in the Penelope Barker house, located on the waterfront. The visitors' center also serves as a small, free museum that shows off a number of items, mostly maritime-related.

A half block away from the visitors' center was the Roanoke River Lighthouse, which opened on the Roanoke River, about eight miles away from its current location, in 1866.
Roanoke River Lighthouse, Edenton, N.C.

This lighthouse is believed to be the last remaining square screw-pile lighthouse, which helped guide mariners along the North Carolina shore. The lighthouse was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1941. Finally in 1955 a private citizen purchased the lighthouse and had it moved to Edenton, to serve as a private residence. In 2007 the structure was moved to a location on the Edenton Waterfront in Colonial Park. In 2012, it was again moved to its current (permanent) location over the bay, in Edenton Bay. The interior restoration was completed in 2014.

We also drove around Edenton and looked at the historic buildings. During the summer, the town has trolley tours available for tourists.

The next day, we drove up to the coast to see Kitty Hawk and to fish. The biologist we spoke with at the hatchery had told us fishing was really good right now.

The Wright brothers had their historic first flights at Kill Devil Hills, a few miles south of the town of Kitty Hawk. A small museum houses reproductions of their first manned airplane, as well as the glider they used to learn about flying like the birds. A monument stands atop Kill Devil Hill. 

Likewise, monuments identify where the first flight took and where it landed (quite a short distance!), as well as the spots where the next three flights landed. Each flight grew progressively longer.
The first flight on December 17, 1903, lasted just a few seconds and covered 120 feet. How awesome is it that we are able to go beyond the moon in manned aircraft, just 112 years after that first humble flight.
Monument commemorating the site of the first flight of the Wright Brothers.

History and museums are interesting, but we wanted fun, too. We headed to the beach, where we lugged our fishing tackle to the shore, determined we would pull in all types of fish.

It was not to be. But we really had fun. Jim changed into shorts and waded into the surf. I tried to stay dry on the beach. The water was chilly; the sun did not come out; the mist threatened to turn into showers. But we had a great time. We also tried our hand fishing off a bridge. People were pulling them in...until we arrived. Then the wind changed, and the fish stopped biting.
Jim got soaked but had a ball surf-casting. He caught one little fish, which he threw back.

Oh, well.

We had a great time.

We finally left Webster's on Friday morning and drove down to south of Wilmington, where we hoped to do go to a kite festival and do some fishing. After calculating the time it would take to get to the kite festival, we decided to stay home. Jim wanted to be back in time to watch the FSU game; I wanted to watch IU. Alas, both teams lost heart-breakers.

After the game, we drove into Wilmington. Jim had perused a visitor's guide, which said the city of 89,000 had a river walk. We found the river walk (under construction and not appealing at night). We also discovered that Wilmington has a very vibrant after-dark downtown area on Front Street (near the river walk). Dozens of restaurants attract hundreds of patrons. We ate at a Vietnamese restaurant. We shared a Vietnamese pancake as well as a fried flounder covered with a fruity and vegetable salsa and a tasty sauce (all gluten-free). We've never had such good Vietnamese food.

Today, our plans to fish have been squelched by the weather. The temperature dropped to a high of only 58 today, with rain. I doubt we will wet a hook.

Such is life.

So what that we can't fish here? We can always fish at home. After all, Jacksonville is laced with creeks and rivers and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, so we can take a "vacation" any time we want.
This vacation, however, has been great.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

No opportunities in disguise

November 3, 2015--Some people say that problems are opportunities in disguise. I say (at least in regard to Junior, our motorhome), they are frustrations, plain and simple.

On this trip we have experienced a couple new "challenges"-- the gas furnace hot and the hot water heater.

First, the furnace. The RV has two heating systems: An electric heat strip and a set of two gas furnaces. The furnaces are actually new (installed at no cost by the manufacturer as a beta test three years ago). We've only used them a few times, since we rarely cold-weather camp.

I think the last time we used them was when we camped in Raleigh three years ago. At that time, the temperature fell below freezing. We had attempted to use the heat strips (which work off the AC condensers), but it was too cold for them. (I believe we actually damaged the rear AC condenser at that time.) After that trip, the rear furnace blower would come on by itself occasionally; Jim had to remove the fuse.

The manufacturer of the beta furnaces sent a tech out to identify and fix the intermittent blower problem, but of course, since it was an intermittent problem, he couldn't find the cause. (We're lucky like that.) The furnaces, however, worked fine, last time we used them.

Now? They won't come on. At all.

We can't run the heat strip because it takes too much amperage (we only have 20 amp power from our complimentary plug in at Webster's). This brings us to the second part of the heating problem--our space heater.

We bought a space heater when we purchased our first RV. Although it is five years old, it has only been used a few times. On this trip, the evenings have been chilly and damp, so we needed a source of heat. Since the furnaces don't work and we can't use the electric heat strips, we plugged in the space heater. The first night we had no problem; we were toasty warm running the space heater. The next night was another story. Jim plugged the heater in, and after a few minutes, he saw it arc, then shut off. So long, space heater.

Yesterday, we found a Walmart and purchased a new ceramic space heater.

Now for our second "opportunity"--out hot water heater. It was working fine on both electric and gas power sources, then suddenly it stopped working. No hot water, using either gas or electric heating sources.

Two years ago we had a problem with the hot water heater; the thermostat had gone bad. (That happens, no big deal.) This time, however, we don't think it is the thermostat. We think it is the circuit board, because the heater won't work at all, on electric or gas power.

These are annoying problems, but I am tired of them. Enough, already!

Until later,

Your frustrated Reluctant RoVer,


Monday, November 2, 2015

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

November 2, 2015--The adage goes, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." It means that when someone is kind enough to give a gift, the recipient should be grateful.

We are semi-dry-camping at Webster's, with the RV parked in the back yard near an out-building that has electricity. When we pulled in, Becky (Webster's daughter) said we could plug into a 20 amp circuit if we wanted to. We declined, saying we didn't need to; we had a generator. If we plugged into the electrical circuit, we would not be able to use all of our appliance or electric heat, because we need at least a 30 amp (and preferably a 50 amp) circuit.

So, we opted to run our generator so that we could have all the conveniences of home, on our own terms. However...

After only two days of running the generator (we had driven about 200 miles on the tank of diesel), the generator quit. The generator quits when fuel gets down to a quarter tank. It's a safeguard so that you can still drive to get fuel.

Once the generator quit, the gift of 20 amp electricity looked pretty darn good. We decided to take up the offer.  If we care careful, we can watch TV, make coffee, and run the space heater all at the same time, but we can't turn on the microwave. For that we can only watch TV and use the microwave. Figuring out which appliance we can use at one time is like doing a mathematical puzzle: Add up the amps and make sure they don't go over 20.

We had no hesitation in accepting Webster's offer to use his shower. Our water tank was only partially filled when we got here, and the grey water tank was also partially filled. Instead of taking "navy showers" we often use public showers when we dry-camp, so accepting Webster's hospitality was right in keeping with our boondocking. His water pressure is weak, and the water is very hard, but hey! We've learned not to look at gift horse in the mouth.

Until later,
Your Reluctant RoVer,


Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1, 2015--No tricks; all treats yesterday at Webster's 90ths birthday party.
Webster (Jim's uncle--his mother's brother and the only surviving sibling of nine) has lived in this rural northeastern North Carolina community his entire life, except for when he was in the military.

For most of those 90 years, he has lived in the same house!
Webster and Jim after his birthday party

The BIG birthday party

When someone resides and is active in a community that long (he was a successful farmer and an active supporter of education in the area), he becomes well known.

Webster is a genuinely nice man. He still drives (like a bat out of hell); fortunately his eyesight and reflexes still seem good); he still keeps a very large garden. And from that garden he keeps family and friends in vegetables all summer and fall. We will be going home with a huge bagful of green beans, many more sweet potatoes than I'll eat in six months. a bagful of raw peanuts (which are grown in the area), and some pecans from an ancient tree in his front yard.

Webster's birthday party was not a small affair. His five kids (and he) invited more than 175 people. Altogether more than 200 showed up for a luncheon party of fried chicken (really looked good), Carolina barbeque, barbequed potatoes, lima beans, corn, corn bread, and a whole lot of gluten-filled desserts in addition to the birthday cake. (Jim and I ogled the fried chicken and desserts and wished that the gluten could be taken out of it just this once.)

Although all five of Webster's children threw the party for him, his daughter Becky was the primary organizer. I asked her whose idea the party was. "Dad's!" she said. She said about a month or so before the party, he approached her:

"I guess I have a birthday coming up."
"Yes, you do, Dad. It's a big one."
"Guess it is kinda I'd like to have a party."

Although he said he wanted to pay for it himself, she and her brothers refused the offer. A father only turns 90 once.

I'm glad we were here to help him celebrate. It was a great time.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Back home again...

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