Thursday, April 22, 2010

Assateague National Seashore

Easter Sunday -- may we never forget why we celebrate Easter Sunday.  It's not about Easter bunnies, chicks, eggs or candy -- it's about the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He suffered and died on the cross for you and me, BUT on the third day, He rose again and is alive today.  We are thankful Christ took our place on that cross and we are truly blessed.

Tall Pines Harbor Campground is on the Pokomoke Sound.  On Easter Sunday, there was a sunrise service with the sound as a background.  Afterwards, they served a free breakfast to all participants at the service.

We were scheduled to have Easter lunch with Jon, Mindy and Allen at noon.  I had cooked the ham and they provided more food than we could ever eat -- potato salad, beans, the required deviled eggs, a delicious strawberry cake, wonderful lemon ice box pie -- and it was YUM, YUMMY!!  We all ate more than we should, but isn't that what you're supposed to do when you celebrate holidays??  It was really -- really good.  

Jon and Mindy have two new additions to their family -- Zoie and Lola.  They are rescue dogs and are sisters.  They kept the reigns on them tight until they became familiar with us.  It didn't take Dalton long before they were friends.

 After the big lunch, Alissa and Allen got a little exercise with a Wii dancing game. 

Then it was outside for an Easter Egg Hunt -- you never get too old to hunt eggs, especially if there's candy or money inside.  Dig the fancy Easter baskets:)

Even Papa got in on the hunt.

Our Happy Little Family

Matt, Alissa, Mindy and Jon

 Allen and Dalton

After all the picture taking, we decided to drive to Chincoteague Island, the Virginia side of Assateague National Seashore.  When Jon and Mindy arrived in VA last August, they first lived on the island but quickly outgrew the small summer home they rented and actually decided they did not want to live on an island because of possible storms that might close the causeway  That's when they found their current home in Greenbackville, Virginia.

Assateague National Seashore is cared for and managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Resources.  Visitors to the park in Virginia enjoy the beach, wildlife, dunes, wetlands and marsh islands, protected for public use and enjoyment.  We managed to take a few more pics -- it was a beautiful day, but the wind off the water was cold.

In hopes of seeing wild ponies, we next drove to the Maryland side of Assateague  National Seashore.  Two herds of wild horses make their home on Assateague Island, separated by a fence at the Maryland, Virginia line, and are often seen wandering the beaches, roadways, trails and campgrounds of the island.  They are small and sturdy and while they appear tame, they are wild.  Visitors are encouraged not to pet or feed them.  Almost immediately, we saw these ponies on the side of the road.

LITTLE BIT OF WILD PONY HISTORY:  The Virginia herd is managed by the Chincoteague Island Volunteer Fire Department and the Maryland herd is managed by the National Park Service.  Each year the Virginia herd is rounded up for a Pony Penning and Auction.  According to legend, the horses arrived on Assateague when a Spanish galleon with a cargo of wild mustangs sunk off the coast.  The surviving animals swam to shore and are the ancestors of today's herd.  However, the ponies have a more practical origin-- more than likely they are descendants of herds turned loose by early settlers.  Penning began as a way for livestock owners to claim, brand, break and harness their loose herds.  By the 1700s, it had become an annual event.  The penning continued on both islands for years.  By 1885, they were held on Assateague one day and Chincoteague the next.  Word of the events began to spread and hotels and boarding houses began to be booked for the festivities.  In 1909, the last Wednesday and Thursday of July were set as the official dates for the yearly event.  The most renowned aspect of Pony Penning is the swim across the Assateague Channel.  The herds were first transferred by boat, but in 1925 they swam across the channel.  Today, in July, cowboys herd the horses across the narrowest part of Assateague Channel at low tide.  They are then examined by veterinarians and then herded through town to a corral where they stay until the next day's auction. The proceeds from the auction are given to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department for updating their equipment, etc, and also serves to trim the herd's numbers.  To retain the permit to graze on the refuge, the herd must not exceed 150 horses.

As we drove down the road, we had to slow down to allow this big fellow to safely reach the other side:

We have never seen a bald eagle in the wild.  "Eagle-eye" Mindy saw one and we stopped the car to see if we could see it as well.  Take a minute and see if you can see the bald eagle in the picture.  It's in the upper-half, center of the picture.  You can always click on the pic to enlarge it and should then be able to see it.

We continued our journey and saw a Sika deer.

SIKA FACTS:  Sika deer were introduced to Assateague Island in the mid 1920s.  They are inhabitants of Japan and live throughout Asia.  Although smaller than whitetail deer, these animals exhibit elk-like behavior.  Sika eat the leaves of myrtle bushes, grasses, persimmons, shrubs, etc.  They even eat poison ivy.  Sika are highly vocal and at least ten different sounds have been recorded.  Their fur can range in color from chestnut-brown to a dark brown or black.  They have white spots on their backs which appear more visible during different seasons.  We saw no spots on this Sika.  This is the first time I had ever heard of Sika deer.

Next we saw white-tail deer, which we are all familiar with.

You can also camp on Assateague Island.  I thought for sure I had pictures of the camping area, BUT apparently I don't!!!  If you are interested in Camping on Assateague Island, check out the following link:  We wouldn't mind going back and camping on the beach.

By this time, the sun was sinking and we were tired and hungry.  We left Assateague Island, stopped off in Ocean City for a bite to eat and drove back to our little MH and all slept like babies.

Check back in a few days and I'll share our trip to DC with you that we planned for the next day.  In the meantime, may God bless our family and friends and may God continue to bless our voyage.

Friday, April 16, 2010

North Carolina to Virginia

We have wanted to go to VA to visit with Jon, Mindy and Allen since we arrived in NC, so we planned a trip around spring break and Alissa, Matt and Dalton joined us.  This trip would be the first time we towed the Honda.  Alan hooked up our new Blue Ox hitch to the Honda .

Alan and I slipped on the car cover.

We had never seen one of these car covers until we were staying in the RV park in Beebe.  Our neighbors had one and provided us with information.  We chose it because of its durability and the 100% lifetime warranty.  In case of damage, they will repair it free or replace it, if need be.  Each cover is custom made for the vehicle.  It's pretty simple to install, folds up and is stored in its own bag.  For more information check out:  

We finally got on the road around 10:00 a.m.  Supposedly, it only takes 4-4 1/2 hours to reach Greenbackville, VA; however, when you're driving a 38' MH, towing a car and driving around 60 mph, of course, it's going to take longer.

We had to drive through Norfolk, Virginia, a city with more than 237,000 population, host to the world's largest Naval base and one of the busiest international ports on the East Coast.  It is also home to the USS Wisconsin.  We would like to go back someday and see the naval base.  We zipped past these ships so fast we hardly saw them, but I was able to snap a picture.  It's not like you can stop a MH on the side of the road in a busy city to take pictures.

We are always a little nervous when driving through larger cities, but we plugged Garmin in, aka, Sally, and she helped us sail right through.  Alissa is the one who named her "Sally."  

We knew we had to cross Chesapeake Bay and drive through a couple of tunnels, but we had NO IDEA what that involved.  Chesapeake Bay Bridge is 17.6 miles long, from shore to shore, and is considered the world's largest bridge-tunnel complex.

I must admit I was a little nervous  -- sitting high in the passenger seat looking out the window,  it looked like it would be very easy for the MH to topple over the short railing.

As we approached the first tunnel, the road narrowed to two lanes.


It was especially nerve-wrecking when we saw an 18-wheeler approaching.

As we approached the second tunnel, through the fog that was beginning to roll in, we saw the largest cargo ship any of us had ever seen.  We were like, "OH MY GOSH, that ship just rolled over the tunnel."

It was a scary thought to think about something rolling across the tunnel as we were driving through it.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel was selected by the American Society of Civil Engineers as "One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World" following the tunnel's opening in April 1964.  The tunnel structure consists of prefabricated composite structural steel and reinforced concrete tube sections 37' in diameter and 300 feet long, sunk into place in a prepared trench in the seabed and covered with a minimum of 10' of backfill material and connected together and finished inside.  The tunnels are anchored on man-made islands constructed in 35-45 feet of water and the islands provide a transition from the roadway to the tunnel tubes.  Each of the four islands is approximately 1500' long and 230' wide, providing approximately 5.5 acres of real estate at a cost of about 5 million dollars in 1964.  In 1965 it was distinguished as "The Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement by the American Society of Civil Engineers."  From 1995 to 1999, the above water portion of the bridge was increased to four lanes at a cost of almost $200 million dollars.  However, the project did not include expansion of the tunnels, which will be constructed at a later date.  Revenue bonds were sold to finance the project with no local, state or federal tax monies used for construction costs.  Guess that's why it costs so much to cross it -- we paid $28 going and coming for the MH and our towed Honda.  I read if you are afraid of heights, bridges and/or tunnels, they will make arrangements to drive your vehicle across the bridge for you -- at no extra charge.  We also had to pull over and turn off the propane each time before crossing the bridge.  If you want more information, just Google Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnels -- there's a lot of info out there.

We safely made it across Chesapeake Bay and approximately an hour later, we arrived at our destination:  Tall Pines Harbor Campground in Sanford, VA.  When I was researching campgrounds near the kids, I found Tall Pines, which had wonderful reviews.  We were in such a hurry when we finally arrived, we failed to get a picture of the office/store area where we checked in.  It is new and very nice and the owners are extremely friendly and helpful.  You can see it at this site -- if you're interested.

They had sites located in the tall pines, but we chose a site that was clear to the sky so we would have good reception for our satellite.  However, we didn't stay around very much to actually watch TV.  We soon learned that there was so much to see and do and so little time.  We would like to go back when the kids are not with us and we are not on a time schedule -- we are retired, you know, we shouldn't be in such a hurry.   After arriving, we jumped in the car and made our way to Jon, Mindy and Allen's house in Greenbackville, approximately 30 minutes away.   We were starving and couldn't wait to see them and eat the delicious Mexican pork Carnitas, cheese dip, beans, etc. Mindy had waiting for us. 

Below is our campsite.  As you can see, we had plenty of room.  We had neighbors on both sides when we first arrived, but by the end of the weekend -- when I actually had time to take a pic -- they were gone.  However, the owner said it would fill up fast by the end of the week -- there was a truck camper rally on the

That's it for now.  Please watch for our next posting as we share our Easter and what all we saw and did in VA.  In the meantime, may God continue to bless our family and friends and may God continue to bless our voyage.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Little Bit of This -- A Little Bit of That

As we visit the area and sometimes venture away from Nashville, we are constantly reminded how blessed we are.  We try to encourage everyone we meet by telling them "our story."  God is good and we are thankful for the opportunity we have to share our lives and adventures with our friends and family.  

We want to share a praise.  After two plus months of unemployment, our son-in-law, Matt, has landed a job.  It is very different from anything he has done, but we are all optimistic that it is an opportunity for him to show his talents and excel.  He will be "the" service technician for a local pool and spa business and will travel 150 mile radius to open, close, repair, etc, pools and spas.  His first day will be on Monday, April 12.  We were excited to learn the owners are Christians.  It is difficult to find a job these days -- NC has one of the highest unemployment rates of 11.2%, with 13% in the county where we are.  Matt has applied and applied and applied -- and unfortunately not many callbacks.  He's also gone on a couple of interviews -- either they didn't select him, or it was part-time or crazy hours, but he never gave up.  It was through networking and talking to everyone he could that brought this job opportunity to him and the recommendation from his neighbor to the owners.  We are convinced this job chance is part of God's plan for Matt and his family. 

Alissa and Matt had a leak behind the wall of their shower, so they came up with a plan to enclose their garden tub and put in a shower and remove the old shower.  Alan helped Matt construct a wall around the tub.

They then placed water-proof sheets of paneling over the newly-created wall.

They worked steadily for two days, barely taking a break.  I stayed out of their way, but I did go for hamburgers for lunch one day.  Little did I know that when you order a hamburger with "everything," that means chili is added to the burger -- at least in this area.  

  They did a great job.

We drove to Greenville -- about 45 mi Southeast -- to pick up our Blue Ox hitch and have the base plate installed on our Honda so it can be towed behind the MH.  As we approached Bradford Creek RV and Coach, we couldn't help but notice the mobile homes in the area were sitting up high off the ground. 

We were told that following Hurricane Floyd a few years ago, FEMA required the homes be placed high off the ground in an effort to prevent them from being destroyed by flood waters in the future.

Bradford Creek RV and Coach and Kelly's Supply Store are in the middle of nowhere.  Due to the economy, they no longer have full-time technicians, so we had to leave the Honda overnight.  There is a retired gentleman who works in the small store and coordinates any necessary repairs, etc.  And he told us -- he does not receive an income for working -- he just wanted something to do.  The owner is a broker for high-end diesel pushers.

This is the back of the owner's home.  There is a camping area to the left and there are plans to expand in the next five years.  The owner expressed he was contemplating what to do with the house now that he and his wife are empty-nesters -- perhaps a Bed and Breakfast, maybe a clubhouse for campers, etc.

In this area of NC, it's a family tradition to celebrate milestones -- such as birthdays, holidays, etc.-- by having a "pig-picking" -- yes, you heard me right -- a pig-picking. You can purchase a whole pig that has been split in half and they cook it on a special grill.  When the cooked pig is ready, all participants line up and literally "pick" the meat from the pig.  One of  the kids' neighbors was celebrating a family wedding, so Matt took some pics for me.

It takes two people to turn the swine.

It sounds like we will experience this savage tradition first-hand ourselves.  We are going to have a  pig-picking to celebrate Sarah's graduation and of course I will share that  momentous event with you in more pics -- especially of everyone lining up to "pick" the pig.

Dalton has been studying earthquakes in science.  As a project, he had to construct a house that would withstand an earthquake and could not be destroyed.  A list of possible components to use to construct the house was sent home.  Papa came up with a plan -- large pretzels for the frame, lasagna noodles for the walls and crackers for the roof.  Small pretzels were used for the windows, doors and steps.  While Dalton was at school, Papa meticulous cut each pretzel and noodle.  Foam was used for the foundation and it was all constructed on a piece of plywood.  When Dalton got home from school, they took the cut pieces and created the house.

Dalton was proud to take his house to school where each child shook their house, dropped it on the floor, etc.  Dalton's house was the only one that did not break or crumble; thus he received a 100 for his project.  Thanks to Papa who came up with the plan and helped Dalton to put it all together.  Who would've thought a house made out of pretzels, lasagna noodles and crackers would not crumble when shook or dropped on the floor? 

We have not missed a soccer game and Dalton's team is still undefeated.  They will play in a tournament to determine first, second, third place.  We expect the "Cosmos" to place first.

  One last thing before I sign off.  We saw the following sign in the vet's office where we take Lucy and I wanted to share it:

What a great witness to those who come to this vet's office.  That's what it's all about -- sharing Christ with anyone and everyone.

We took Matt, Alissa and Dalton with us to VA over Easter weekend to visit Jon, Mindy and Allen.  Our next blog entry will cover our trip and visit.  In the meantime, we pray God is watching over our family and friends and we pray God will continue to bless our voyage.