Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 Jekyll Island & Outer Banks Exploration

Sep. 8, 2016:  Prepping the trailer today for about a two week trip.  We are leaving tomorrow morning and will spend a couple of nights on Jekyll Island (we hope) and explore it, then head up to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a few days of relaxation and exploration.  After that we may travel north up to the Blue Ridge area and/or go to Vogel State Park up in the mountains of North Georgia.  We camped there many, many years ago when the kids were little in our pop-up camper and spent a few days in a cabin several years ago.  It's a beautiful area and we hope to spend a couple of days or so.  Stayed tuned for further updates while we are on the road, depending on internet access.

Sep. 9, 2016:  We left home this morning at 10:15 AM for the fairly short 110 mile drive up to Jekyll Island. Not long after leaving we stopped at a Flying J just up I-95 a short way to fill up the truck with gas.  There were two huge motorhomes already at the pumps and wouldn't you know that the one I selected to get behind was also dumping his tanks, so we waited a good while for him to finally move on.  We drove up through Jacksonville, taking I-295 around the east side, then getting back on I-95 north.  It wasn't very far to where we turned off onto highway 17 at exit 29 in Georgia to go to Jekyll Island.  We also stopped at the Georgia welcome center and Jeri collected some information on Georgia.  While we were going through JAX she called the Jekyll Island Campground and made reservations for two nights, but there really was no need because there are lots of empty campsites here.  The mosquitoes were/are rather voracious!

After setting up camp (and fighting off the damn mosquitoes) we headed out in the truck and toured the island a bit, stopping at the museum (very interesting), getting the island tram times for tomorrow and went to the turtle rescue facility (also very interesting).

Our Bullet!
Our campsite (E6)
A Loggerhead turtle rehabilitating at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center
They keep the turtles until they are capable of surviving on their own in the sea.  If they can't be rehabilitated I guess they give them a permanent home.  There were over 3,500 turtle nest found and protected this year alone!  Very interesting place!

On the way back to the campsite we stopped at the store for a few things and Jeri fixed us some tasty nachos for dinner.  Yummy!!

Sep. 10, 2016:  Wow!  We really slept in this morning--did not get up until 9:30 AM.  Have I mentioned how sweet our bed is in the trailer?  Plushness!  After some toast and juice we went off to visit the Driftwood Beach and fishing pier.  Lots of folks catching crabs out of the creek, too. 

After Driftwood Beach we drove to the southern end of the island to go to Glory Beach, but it ended up being beside or behind the big soccer complex and it was quite busy, so we went to the Great Dunes Beach area.

Sea Oat close up
Sea Oats on the dunes
After the dunes we drove to the historic section and had lunch at Latitude '31 which is located on the historic wharf where all the rich tycoons of days long gone by moored their huge yachts.  The Morgans, Astors, Goulds, Rockefellers were just a few of the original 53 share owners who had yachts there.  See the history sign below.
Jeri & Bill at lunch at Latitude '31
Bill's Shrimp Poor Boy & a frozen Margarita! Yum!
Sign telling about the yacht owners and their big yachts at the old wharf.
Latitude '31 restaurant out on the old wharf.  Pretty good.
After a very filling lunch we went back to our trailer for a short rest before our scheduled and book tram tour of the old cottages (mansions) of the rich.

The tram tour was 90 minutes and was very interesting, as part of the tour we got to go inside two of the cottages (we were told we could not photograph inside them).  One can only imagine how life must have been at the Jekyll Island Club during the Club's heydays of 1886-1942, but primarily from the 1890's to the late 1930's.  It must have been something during the Winter months of January through March when the rich were there!  If you ever come to Jekyll Island I urge you to take one of these tours.  Only a few of the rich actually built their own cottages--most stayed in the Clubhouse and sadly, some of the cottages have been destroyed by fire and time.  This was definitely a place owned and run by the elite of the elite for the elite.  It was primarily built has a less formal social conclave and a hunting club.  All game taken was collected from the hunters and served in the dining room of the clubhouse where the members were required to eat.  Most of the cottages had no actual kitchen.  The state of Georgia owns all of Jekyll Island and while there are some 1,500 private homes here with people living in them they only own the home, not the land, which is leased longterm.

Here are some pictures.
Jeri ready for the tram tour
On the tram
The Struthers' cottage.  We got to go inside this one.

We also got to go inside this one, but I don't remember who built it.

This was actually the first condo--six different apartments.
The massive Jekyll Island Clubhouse (now a hotel)
Side and pool of the clubhouse (now hotel).  We may come back here and stay in the hotel one of these days, so we can add it to our list of old, classic, famous hotels we've stayed at (the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, CO and the El Tovar Hotel on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Crane "cottage".  When the Club saw the plans for it Mr. Crane was told he had to tone it down because it was too ostentatious and did not fit in with the simpler style of the island, so instead of using imported marble floors he changed to wood floors.
Add caption
Crane cottage 

And here is a short video of the campground.

This evening we drove over to St. Simons Island, then on the way back stopped at a grocery store in Brunswick for a few supplies.

The bridge over the Brunswick River
St. Simons Lighthouse
Sep 11, 2016:  We broke camp on Jekyll Island and left at 9:50 AM, heading back to I-95 where we gassed up at a Flying J and north toward North Carolina.  The drive was uneventful and after a couple more Flying J gas/potty stops and lunch at a KFC we stopped for the night at a very famous location on I-95, literally right on the border of SC and NC, but in SC.  Can any of you maybe guess where we stopped for the night?  If you said, "Pedro's famous South of the Border," you would be correct.  We must have seen 100 billboards advertising it along I-95!  I think we were both surprised at the size of the entire complex, with all it's shops, restaurants, viewing tower, carnival rides, motel, campground, etc., etc., etc..  The campground is pretty nice and as I type this at 9:25 PM, it is very quiet.  

We asked one of the people working in a shop about the restaurants and he recommended The Peddler Steakhouse.  It is the only independently run restaurant in the complex.  We checked out reviews of the place on Trip Advisor and virtually all them them gave excellent reviews of the place, so we went there for dinner.  In a word, EXCELLENT!  It's a bit pricey, to be sure, but well worth it and when we are on our RV trips I like to treat Jeri (okay, me, too) to a nice restaurant dinner once in a while.  We both had the prime rib and it was superb.  The service was outstanding, too.  The only negative and it's only because we were in South Carolina, where the Bible Belt still rules on Sunday drinking, they could not serve any alcoholic beverages--but the sweet tea was very good.  LOL  This restaurant and the quality of their food and service seemed somewhat out of place for the touristy stuff at South of the Border.  Anyway, if you pass through here--check out The Peddler Steakhouse-I've already gave it a five star review on Trip Advisor.

Some pictures of the day.
We are the blue dot on the right side
Stopped at KFC for lunch--we eat in the trailer.
Our stop for the night.
We ran across this 27' big boy Great White--supposed to be real--HUGE!

The gorilla was NOT real. LOL
Our campsite last night at South of the Border campground
My prime rib at The Peddler Steakhouse.  Yummy!
Sep. 12, 2016:  We broke camp this morning and got on the road around 10:00 AM.  Part of the drive was kind of windy--not real fun when you are pulling the big 26' sail behind you called a travel trailer, but the truck handled it well and no big deal.  We got off I-95 onto US64 at Rocky Mount, NC and headed mostly east.  we drove over some long bridges that spanned the Alligator River, then the Crotan Sound into Roanoke Island (where the early colonists disappeared several centuries ago, the another bridge over the Roanoke Sound to the actual Outer Banks at Nagshead.  From there we took highway 12 south around 25 miles down to Rodanthe and the KOA Campground.

Here are some pictures.
Our campsite at the KOA is the blue dot.  That's the Atlantic Ocean on the right.
Some videos of our drive out to the Outer Banks (from Jeri)

Our campsite at KOA (#313)
Jeri's sea shell collection after her first walk on the beautiful beach.
Sep. 13, 2016:
Today we did some exploring of the island.  We drove up to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk. One nice thing is that our Interagency Senior Pass got us in free! This place memorializes the historic first manned airplane flights by Orville and Wilbur Wright and has an excellent museum inside with many pictures and artifacts of their times at Kitty Hawk.  It even has an exact-sized replica of their first flight plane inside, along with portraits of people who committed "firsts" in aviation history around the walls.  Outside they have the flight line intact with large boulders marking where the take offs occurred and the distances of the first four manned flights.  Seemed the brothers alternated who flew the plane each flight.  Very interesting. They picked a lovely spot for their flights.  Some pictures.
The very large memorial on top of the hill.  There were paved trails up to and around the memorial, but we did not make the hike.
The memorial has both brothers' names on it.  In this close up the names can just barely be made out.
Me standing in front of the outdoor sculpture of the plane.  Very interesting.
Life-size replica of the plane inside the museum.
A park ranger was giving a talk to a crowd of tourists about the flights.  They are standing in front of the large boulder commemorating the take off point of the flights.  On the far right you can see a smaller boulder marking the end of the first flight, 120 feet.  On the far left is one of the buildings restored where the brothers built and serviced their planes.
The write boulder just left of center indicates where the fourth and longest flight landed.  800 feet and around one minute.  They flew at something like 30-35 miles per hour.
The two restored buildings.  The one of the left is where the brothers lived and the one on the right was their workshop.  On the right is the crowd in front of the take off boulder and rail.  Honestly, I did not mean to get the young lady on the left into the picture.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it. LOL
Markers for the four flights.  The closest being the 120' shortest and way toward the back is the longest of 800'.  One could only ponder the brothers' thoughts about the magnitude of what they had finally accomplished--manned flight!!  It was awesome just standing there thinking about it.
I was so excited about it I had to shake hands with one of the helpers!
Yea!!!!  They did it!  I got caught up in the their moment of accomplishment and greatness!
If you ever get to the Outer Banks, make sure you go visit this national monument in Kitty Hawk.  Well worth exploring!!

On the way back to Rodanthe and our KOA campground we stopped by the pier in Nagshead for a while to browse around then stopped again further south at the Bodie Island Light Station.
Jeri at the lighthouse.

Lighthouse keeper's living quarters.
Bodie Island lighthouse
After getting back to the KOA campground Jeri decided we should go to the beach for awhile.  It was only a couple of minutes walk from our campsite.
Jeri at the beach.  By the way, the Atlantic Ocean beaches here are very huge and very nice.
I took this selfie just to prove that I was at the beach--note cocktail! LOL
Sep. 14, 2016:  This morning we drove way down south as far as we could go on the island  and that was to the ferry going to Ocracoke Island in Hatteras. We might have taken the ferry over, but there were huge lines of vehicles waiting for the ferry, so we decided not to try it.  We did stop at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  It had a gift shop and was quite crowded with tourists.  I bought a cap.  At most really neat places we go I tend to buy either a cap or a T-shirt.  My favorite cap is the one I got at Devil's Tower in Wyoming and it's beginning to show how much I wear it.  :-)  We stopped at a Food Lion grocery store in Avon, the closest one to the KOA campground (17 miles away) and picked up a few grocery items. 

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  The large boulders in the front serve as seats and each one of them has the names of the lighthouse keepers and the years they served here.  This was the most crowded of all the lighthouses we visited.
That evening we drove all the way up north to Duck to go on an adventure tour Jeri had booked us on to find the famous wild horses of the Outer Banks.  It was fun. We rode in the back seat of a Humvee that was all open on the sides and back.

Here we are in the backseat of the Humvee.  These have been specially modified with three sets of seats, each holding four people.  I've ridden in Hummers before out West and it is amazing what these things can do!  They turn on a dime!  I'm not sure but it seemed like the back wheels also assisted in the sharp turns.
Our driver was a young woman named "KC" and she did a great job of driving and explaining about the wild horses.  For example, there are 81 of them and the mares (females) are given birth control so that only a few colts are born each year.  We were stopped on the beach and she was telling all about them, when I looked beyond her and spotted the wild horses coming down from the dunes toward the ocean.  Wow!!

Wow!  There they are!  They were really quite beautiful and healthy looking.
They walked right down the beach, mostly just ignoring all the people. There are regulations that call for people to remain at least 50' from the horses at all times so as not to bother the horses, but a lot of people ignored it.  Our guide did her best to keep us, her charges, in line with the regulation (the guide company can get $500 if any of their tourists get too close).  Jeri got out of the Hummer with her good camera to get better pictures, but I stayed in the vehicle.  (BTW, the lady in the edge of my pictures is not Jeri.)
 We spent quite a bit of time watching them, then KC rounded everyone up and back into the Hummer and we continued on the exploration of this part of the island looking for another family group of horses, although we never found them.  She was slicing and dicing around the bushes and sand as we went over the dunes into the interior of the island.  It is very narrow through here.  We ended up at a lovely high spot overlooking the Sound to the west.  The sun was setting gloriously as we headed back to where we had departed on the tour.

This is Jeri.
I somehow managed to mess up the focus on my iPhone's camera and didn't realize it until later. So this picture is quite blurred, but at least gives an idea of how beautiful the sunset was.  
It was some 40-50 miles back to our campsite and it took around an hour and a half.  We had planned to stop for dinner at this really nice restaurant, but it was getting pretty late, so we didn't stop.  While from Duck down to Nagshead is practically wall to wall commercial stuff, from Nagshead down to our KOA in Rodanthe there is virtually nothing but road and sand and it was pretty neat driving it after dark.  Almost kind of spooky.  Sorry, but we failed to take a picture.

Sep. 15, 2016:  We loaded up and said goodbye to the Outer Banks late this morning and headed west across North Carolina toward Asheville and the North Georgia mountains, hoping to get a campsite this weekend for Vogel State Park in the North GA mountains.  We camped there many years ago when the kids were little in our little Starcraft pop-up trailer and we spend a couple of nights in one of the cabins there several years ago.  I visited it a couple of years ago when up there on a motorcycle trip, but didn't camp there.  It's my favorite state park anywhere.  It sits at the base of Blood Mountain and the Appalachian Trail passes nearby.  Many years ago, I spent a lot of time in the North GA mountains with friends and family and backpacked, over multiple trips much of the AT in Georgia.  It runs from Springer Mountain in north GA all the way up to Mount Katahdin in Maine, over 2,000 miles away.

Stopped for a lunch break at a rest area not too far west of the Outer Banks.
We took mostly non-interstate highways (US64 and US264 west to I-40 west near Raleigh, then I-40 west toward Greensboro, NC. Fairly heavy traffic as we went around Raleigh/Durham, but for the most part a fairly nice drive today.  We stopped for the night at a KOA just east of Greensboro. (If I haven't explained it before, we have a KOA Value Card and get a discount at all KOAs.  Some are really nice and some aren't quite as nice, but on the whole they usually have everything like full hookups, etc..)

The Greensboro KOA
The view out of our back window at the Greensboro KOA
Spaghetti, Italian sausage and a salad for dinner.  Jeri is awesome in the galley!
Interesting fire!  We bought this block of wood at the KOA store.  It had a large hole drilled down from the center vertically, then another coming in from the side.  A piece of fat wood was inside it.  You light the fat wood and stick it in the vertical hole and wah-la, instant fire.  I had my doubts, but it worked great, although not a very pretty fire.  It burned for almost four hours!
Jeri finally getting her groove on with marshmallows. 

We had a peaceful, quiet night here.  This KOA is very close to I-40 though and it's pretty heavily travelled at all times, so we did get some traffic noise all night.  Really didn't hear it much except when the trailer's air conditioner would cycle off.  

Sep. 16, 2016:  We got a fairly early start out this morning, but I checked our propane and found one tank had finally run out and when we stopped at the KOA office to get it filled (they about always fill propane tanks at KOAs) there was a sign on the store saying it would not open until 10:00 AM!!  Not a big deal, since there are lots of places on the road to get propane.  As we were about to leave a KOA worker noticed we were there at the propane tank and came to our rescue and filled our tank.  After putting the tank back on and paying him we got back on I-40 and headed west toward Asheville.

This was a fairly pretty drive today.  We thought about stopping and touring the famous Biltmore estate, but finally decided it would take too long and continued on.  After Winston-Salem I-40 took us more southwest toward Asheville. A few miles west of Asheville we got off I-40 and just before I-40 swung back to the north we got off onto US74 and US23 and headed more southwest down toward Franklin, NC.  We stopped at Waynesville, NC for our only Walmart visit of the trip (a rarity) and Jeri picked up a few things we needed.  Then it was onto US64.  We stopped at an RV park kind of out in the middle of the mountains a few miles north of Franklin, NC called the Great Outdoors RV Resort for the night.  Nice place.  It rained a bit, but we did some laundry and had a quiet night.

We drove over some really steep up and down grades through the mountains today, a couple of times, as this picture shows we were in the clouds and visibility was not very good.  Most of the time on these we would just stay behind a semi and let them lead the way.
The blue dot is our campsite (#38)
View out our rear trailer window.
View out our dining window.  This was actually a pretty place and the staff was very friendly.
One of the reasons we stopped here was because we could not get a campsite at Vogel State Park in Georgia until the next day (Saturday).  We are not very far from Vogel at this point so tomorrow should be a short travel day.

Sep. 17, 2016:  Before breaking camp this morning I used the full hookups at our campsite to dump both our gray and black tanks.  We re-prepped them, then got back on the road, heading south toward Georgia and Vogel State Park.

Some pretty flowers along the highway--we were moving so they're blurred.
More pretty wildflowers along the road.
Pretty drive, but with lots of fairly steep grades up and down.  Our rig handled it all easily.
We pulled into Vogel State Park around 1:00 PM.

Pulling into Vogel.  Nice!