Tag Archives: National Parks

OBX 3 – Wright Bros Memorial

IMG_0145After we left the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse we drove north into Nag’s Head.  Since Mr. Dan is a pilot and talks about flying his planes to the boys and Pixar is releasing a movie called Airplanes this summer, I thought that it would be fun for the boys to learn a little about the first flight ever taken.


A 60-foot (18 m) granite monument, dedicated in 1932, is perched atop 90-foot-tall (27 m) Kill Devil Hill, commemorating the achievement of the Wright brothers. They conducted many of their glider tests on the massive shifting dune that was later stabilized to form Kill Devil Hill. Inscribed in capital letters along the base of the memorial tower is the phrase “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Atop the tower is a marine beacon, similar to one found in a lighthouse.








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OBX 1 – Bodie Lighthouse

IMG_0109After we left South Carolina, the boys and I headed eight hours north and east over to the Outer Banks.  This is one place that I always wanted to go see and since the boys and I are on a lighthouse mission, this just seemed like the best next stop.  By the time we arrived it was later in the afternoon and the sky was overcast and windy.  This first lighthouse that we came to was the Bodie Lighthouse.  This current lighthouse is the third that has stood in this vicinity of Bodie Island on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and was built in 1872. It stands 156 feet (48 m) tall and is located on the Roanoke Sound side of the first island that is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. While some people (including North Carolinians not from the Outer Banks) pronounce the name with a long “o” sound, it is traditionally pronounced as body. This is derived from the original name of the area, which was “Bodies Island”, after the Body family from whom the land was purchased. Folklore would have you believe it is due to the number of dead sailors washed ashore from this portion of the Atlantic Ocean, which is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.  An impressive array of ships have been sunk due to storms, shoals, and German U-boats in World War II.





Our next stop was the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  This lighthouse is right next to our motel, so we thought we would swing by and check it out.  Due to lightening in the area we were not allowed up into the lighthouse, so we wandered down to the beach and the boys ran off some of their energy from the long car ride.

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We checked into the motel, the boys went for a swim, we grabbed a pizza for dinner at a local arcade, and called it a day.

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Charles Pinckney, Charleston Market, Ghost Tour

After leaving Fort Sumter, we decided to drive over to see Charles Pinckney’s house to get a stamp for our Passport book.  Only 28 acres of Charles Pinckey’s 715-acre Snee Farm plantation remains undeveloped. The Friends of Historic Snee Farm, Inc. saved the property from developers and donated it to the National Park Service. Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, SC.


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Charles Pinckney was a member of an important low country family.  He began his government career at the young age of 22 and retired at 64.  Pinckney is considered one of our country’s Founding Fathers.  Some of his accomplishments include:  Militia officer during the Revolutionary War, Representative to State and National Legislators, Four-term government to South Carolina, Author of parts of the U.S. Constitution, Ambassador to Spain for 5 years.

Another thing that we learned about was the Gullah culture.  The Gullah are a distinctive group of Black Americans from South Carolina and Georgia in the southeastern United States.  There are roughly a half a million still living in small farming and fishing communities along the Atlantic coastal plain and on the chain of Sea Islands which runs parallel to the coast. Because of their geographical isolation and strong community life, the Gullah have been able to preserve more of their African cultural heritage than any other group of Black Americans. They speak a creole language similar to Sierra Leone Krio, use African names, tell African folktales, make African-style handicrafts such as baskets and carved walking sticks, and enjoy a rich cuisine based primarily on rice.


During the 1700s the American colonists in South Carolina and Georgia discovered that rice would grow well in the moist, semitropical country bordering their coastline. But the American colonists had no experience with the cultivation of rice, and they needed African slaves who knew how to plant, harvest, and process this difficult crop. The white plantation owners purchased slaves from various parts of Africa, but they greatly preferred slaves from what they called the “Rice Coast” or “Windward Coast” West Africa. The plantation owners were willing to pay higher prices for slaves from this area, and Africans from the Rice Coast were almost certainly the largest group of slaves imported into South Carolina and Georgia during the 18th century.

For the rest of the day we headed over to downtown Charleston, the French Quarter, and the Battery.  We parked off of Meeting and just wandered through the streets looking at all different kinds of shops and the outdoor market.

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For dinner we ate at Henry’s across from the market and no trip to Charleston is complete without an order of shrimp and grits.  Davy loved the shrimp and grits and this is when he declares to me that he just loves trying new foods.  He picked up a puzzle box and we stopped for some ice cream before going on our carriage ride.







Our carriage ride was a ghost tour and here is one of Davy’s favorite stories from the ride.

Philadelphia alley (AKA “Dueler’s Alley).  Tucked away just off Market Street, running between Cumberland and Queen Streets in the beautiful French Quarter, lies Philadelphia Alley, ca. 1766.  This alley has a high brick wall running down both sides meaning there would be less bystander casualties, so it is believed that this is the reason it was chosen for the dueling.  Dr. Ladd and Ralph Isaacs were friends, and after several disputes including one over a woman and then an article printed in the paper Dr. Lad fearing he would be labeled cowardly and that his reputation would suffer challenged Ralph Isaacs to a duel. If not for himself, then he must defend the honor of Perdita, the young doctor reasoned. Steeling his resolve, he whistled on his way to meet his rival with pistols at dawn.


They pair of duelists met in the misty morning light of Philadelphia Alley. Intending on letting the challenge blow over, Dr. Ladd fired his pistol into the air, a way to save face. Ralph Isaacs meant to fire into Dr. Ladd’s leg, intending only on a slight wound to embarrass the doctor, but the pistol ball fired erratically and struck Dr. Ladd in the stomach. The physician was taken by gurney to his boarding house on Church Street. He died of the wound ten days later.

It is said that Philadelphia Alley still carries the sounds of pistol shots, the smell of gunsmoke, and the eloquent trill of Dr. Joseph Ladd’s whistling on his way into the alleyway that fateful morning. Ghostly visions of ladies in gowns appear on photographs, as do shadows and violet fire. Some experience time loops. Considered to be the most haunted lane in Charleston, there are rumors of over thirty recorded deaths.

Davy also liked the story of Blackbeard’s 30 men being hung in the battery and left for 6 weeks to warn off any who were thinking about piracy and the story of the man who took a photo on film of St. Philip’s cemetery in 1987 and after having developed his pictures discovered this ghost of a woman grieving over her stillborn child’s grave.


Last night here….off to North Carolina next!


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Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown

The skies were a little cloudy this morning and The Weather Channel predicted a 40% chance of rain, so the boys and I decided to shift our activities for the day around and head on over to Patriots Point first.  Everyone knows that Davy loves the Civil War, so there is no way that we could come to Charleston and not go to Fort Sumter.  After decades of growing strife between the North and the South, on April 12, 1861, the Civil War officially began when Confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later. Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back.  We bought our tickets and boarded onto the ferry that took us out to visit the Fort.





Once we reached the Fort, we were given one hour to look around.  One of the things that we learned was, Fort Sumter National Monument has one of the best collections of 19th century seacoast artillery anywhere in the United States. Davy loves cannons so you can only imagine how excited he was to see all of these.

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The USS Yorktown (CV-10) was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy.  Under construction as Bon Homme Richard, this new Essex-class carrier was renamed Yorktown in honor of Yorktown (CV-5), sunk at the epic Battle of Midway (June 1942). Built in an amazing 16-½ months at Newport News, Virginia, Yorktown was commissioned on April 15, 1943, and participated significantly in the Pacific Offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. Yorktown received the Presidential Unit Citation, and earned 11 battle stars for service in World War II.

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I found the ship to be very moving.  From the Congressional Medal of Honor museum to all of the pictures that adorned the walls.  Looking around at the photos, I officially felt old.  The one thought that kept coming back to me from looking at the mannequins and the photos was that the boys fighting and serving all looked so young :(…  When did that happen??!!!  I guess I am almost 20 years older than most of them…. sigh….  Last thought, after following my boys all around the ship and up and down the stairs, there is no way Andy could have served in the Navy.  The ceilings were so low that there were times I even had to duck!

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Enjoying The View

Day two of our trip to the mountains, consisted of a drive through Smoky Mountain National Park.  We were hoping that the higher that we went in elevation, the more the leaves would have changed their color and the temperature would be cooler…we were right.  Sometimes it is a little hard for us to tell whether the fog over the mountains is lifting or if it is moving in to stay.  Instead of stopping at a few look out points on the way over to the other side, we decided that we would wait it out and see if the visibility improved at all.  It didn’t, in fact it got worse.  That was okay though, it all added to the fall experience.  We stopped at Newfoundland Gap for a few photos, but the wind cutting through was freezing and we all raced back to the car…. 🙂












The view from Aunt Barbara’s deck.


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4th of July in Washington DC 2012

Happy Birthday America!  Being so close to Washington DC, we had to take the kids in to celebrate with the Nation’s Capital.  We started our day with a red white and blue breakfast, blueberry pancakes with strawberries and bananas and then we loaded them into the car and headed for Springfield to take the train in.

Every little kid loves to take the train.

We got off at the Smithsonian stop and headed over to the mall to camp out our spot for the fireworks before the crowds came in.  We parked our blankets on the hill, right under the National Monument facing the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

It was really hot again today, pushing 100 and the heat index was said to be 105, so to cool off the boys we took them down to the WWII memorial fountain to put their feet in.

All throughout the mall there were water fountains, established and brought in, as well as hoses for the kids to spray themselves down.

Another fun find were the air vents…

On our way to lunch we stopped by the White House for the classic out front photo.  Davy was so sweet,when I told him we were going to see the White House he says, “Will we get to see President Obama???”  If only it were that easy… 🙂

We saw this hanging off of the side of a building, I thought that it was nice.

Ahhhh, an air-conditioned lunch… 🙂

Cucumber gin and tonic with some of the best macaroni and cheese ever…  Yum!

Street vendors were lined up everywhere selling water, ice pops, and fruit!

Fat suits, according to the boys…

The Marine Corps jazz band started playing at 6 and entertained us throughout the evening.  Right before 9 o’clock, 850,000 people sang the “Star Spangled Banner” together and then did a countdown from 10 to 1…  The beautiful fireworks shot off into the night…

After the fireworks were over, Davy turns to me and says, “Well that’s something you don’t see everyday!”  Love him!

Little Matty didn’t quite make it back to the train.  Although we were all hot, dirty, and tired…we finally made it home.  This was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to do it again!

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Canaveral National Seashore, New Symrna Beach

So it is Thursday morning, and I get a text from Andy that says…”I know what we are doing on Saturday, it’s a surprise, date day…but you have to be ready bright and early…and I’ll take care of everything!”  I was so excited!  We love having our weekends planned and not wasted.  We love taking the boys to new places and doing new things.

Andy decided that he wanted to take the boys to see the ocean, Matty’s first trip to the ocean.  There are so many beaches that we haven’t been too, so he decided on New Symrna Beach.  He packed the car for us, got us up nice and early, stopped for donuts on the way out, and we were off.  The drive didn’t take us long at all, and actually when we got there it was sprinkling a little bit (a typical summer shower that passes in 15 minutes) so we decided to just go for a drive.  And low and behold…what did we find???  Canaveral National Seashore.  Now if you know us, then you know that we LOVE National Parks.

Canaveral National Seashore is located on a barrier island off the east coast of Florida and NASA holds the title to the land, but not all of it is used for the operation of Kennedy Space Center. 

Here’s a little information that I found on the National Parks website.  The earliest evidence of man at Canaveral is found in the numerous mounds and middens within its boundaries.  More than 14,000 years ago, small nomadic bands of Indians entered Florida.  As time passed, regional cultures evolved in response to local environmental conditions. By the time the Europeans came various distinct Indian groups were distributed throughout Florida and southeast Georgia. Living in the vicinity of Turtle Mound were the Timucuan people, the first known inhabitants.  In their 2,000 years of occupation along the coast, the Timucuans did little to alter the natural landscape.  Their few remaining burial mounds and shell middens (Castle Windy) are like an unwritten book about the people who lived here.  By protecting it, we are assuring that future generations will learn of the Timucuan people. The large shell mounds hold undisclosed information to their way of life. From 800 to 1400 A.D., generation after generation left evidence behind to tell of their lifestyle at Turtle Mound.

The NPS has provided a nice boardwalk so visitors can walk up the 50 foot high mound to see the gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and Mosquito Lagoon.  What surprised us the most…were the Banana Spriders…  EEKKK!!!!  They were everywhere!!!

For lunch we stopped at a hole in the wall place off of the side of the road called J Bs Fish Camp and Restaurant.  The weather was so gorgeous today that we sat outside and enjoyed some of the best peel-n-eat shrimp we have ever had.  Andy also ordered some blackened gator bites and we bought a container of the shrimp spice to take home…. Yum Yum! 

All in all we had a wonderful day.  After lunch we headed back to the beach for a little while longer.  The boys went for a walk and then we packed up for the drive home.  We were home by dinner, the boys swam in the pool, and we were grateful for the beautiful day.

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