A Travellerspoint blog

Outer Banks, NC - August 2011

Sun, Sand, and Surf

sunny 85 °F

Every two years, my family (parents, sister and her family, brother and his family, and my family) spend one much anticipated and very restorative week in Ocean Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My brother and his family missed out this year because they were welcoming a new baby boy into their family. We happily excused their absence just this once.

Ocean Hills is situated a few miles north of Corolla at the end of the paved road. While it can be a real bugger to get to on a Saturday afternoon when everyone on the East Coast is trying to get on the island, the location plays a huge role in the feel of the trip. We've rented the same beach house for the last five trips. The house, called Sea the Light, sits on a small cul de sac with four other homes. My kids refer to it as "our beach house" and when we arrive it really does feel like home. While it is not beachfront, we have an unobstructed view of the ocean from any of the front windows or porches. The back of the property is adjacent to a wildlife refuge. Over the years we've seen timid deer, small grey foxes, and numerous wild horses. As a matter of fact, this is the first year I didn't see a single horse. Even though there are homes near us, there is a very real sense of privacy and wild beauty.

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I've heard that there are many things to do and see in the Outer Banks. I can't really testify to this. I don't travel to this spot to shop, dine, or tour. I make the arduous journey to Sea the Light to just be still. My days are filled with reading, swimming, napping and soaking up the sun. Most evenings we cook dinner at the house because no one can be bothered to pull themselves together to go out on the town. Nights are filled with movies or games. There is laughter and peace and no pressure to do anything at all ever. Sometimes, the ladies will spend a morning browsing at the fun shops of Timbuk II or Scarborough Faire. That's as ambitious as we get. Of all the travelling I do, the Outer Banks is the one place where I can completely relax. I don't put on makeup. I don't fix my hair. I have no pressing desire to see or do anything beyond the beach. I'm with the people who know me best and love me regardless of my many faults. For an entire week the pressure is off. And I love it.

Our daily schedule went something like this:

Mornings were generally for relaxing and goofing around.

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One morning my sister and I did manage to walk down to a boardwalk trail that travelled into the sanctuary behind the beach house. For very minimal physical effort we were rewarded with this.

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This is a lovely spot for sunset viewing as well because it faces west.

Late every morning we would slather on the sunscreen, make our way to the beach, fight the crowds for a meager patch of sand, and settle in for the day.

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The kids usually headed straight for the water and didn't emerge until they were scrubbed raw by the sand and completely water-logged. The adults tended to take a more moderate approach to the ocean but we all enjoyed it. From what I understand, the water temperature the first few days was pretty cold. My sister stated that it was so frigid it made her bones ache. By the middle of the week we could walk right in without pain. The waves were calm and gentle for most of the week - somewhat disappointing for people who like to body surf and boogie board. The water was sea foam green and crystal clear. In chest high water I could still see my feet. We saw numerous groups (are they called pods?) of playful porpoises just off the beach. One man ran down the beach, grabbed his kayak, and rowed out to them every single time they swam by.

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A bit of excitement happened Wednesday. A short distance down the beach, a beaked whale had washed ashore and was causing quite a rucus. The experts who were on site believed that the whale was ill and beached itself to die. It was dark grey with a lighter belly, had teeth and was about fourteen feet long. It's tail had barnacles and its entire body had long white marks like scrapes. To me, the whale looked like an overgrown dolphin. For curiousity's sake I did a bit of research when we got back to the house. From what I understand, very little is known about beaked whales because seeing them is a pretty rare occurrance. They reside in deep water and could be the deepest and longest diving of all whale and dolphin species. Recent research has discovered beaked whale populations near the Bahamas. Perhaps this whale came from that area. Needless to say it was an interesting sight.

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By early afternoon, the kids were ready for lunch and pretty much finished at the beach. (They really need to learn to pace themselves.) They would often hang out at the house alone or swim in the pool if an adult stayed at the house with them.

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Jay and I preferred to return to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Why would I want to be anywhere else? Seriously. We were so blessed with weather. I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

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There was a fence made of heay duty wire rope and telephone pole posts that separated our beach from the 4WD beach. Our attention was constantly being drawn to the 4WD beach because someone was always getting stuck in the sand. People are funny. There is a very large sign with the warning not to attempt the beach in anything but a 4WD vehicle. People drive right past that sign in their four door sedans and promptly get stuck up to their axles in sand. Or big tough 4WD drive trucks get stuck because their owners fail to let some air out of their big boy tires. How humiliating for them! How hilarious for us.

The fence itself was an object of fascination for me. Pelicans perch on the posts and wires. I entertained myself a couple of afternoons taking photos. The posts, by the way, are brown. You can use your imagination to figure out how they became so white. My sister, Kelly, thought she wanted to plank the top of one of those poles. Ew!

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Reading was an integral part of the vacation for most of the participants of the party. Since I was only in the Outer Banks for half the week (unforseen scheduling conflicts with band camp), I read just one book - The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. The ending is incredibly sad. How could it not be? The setting of the story is WWII Germany. I sat on that perfect beach in the late afternoon sun and sobbed. Although it is marketed as a young adult book, I found it to be an incredibly satisfying and original read.

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We usually left the beach around 5pm for supper. We all took turns making supper and everyone helped to clean up. Who was it that said, "Many hands makes light work?" The evenings usually included another jaunt down to the beach - either to do some surf fishing, take a walk, or find and catch the little ghosts crabs that come out to play after all the giants vacate the beach. I love dusk on the beach. The quality of the light and the peaceful atmosphere are soothing to the soul.

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Our last night at the house is always capped off with family portraits. This year's portrait is a little skimpy because we're missing my brother's family. And it will always be incomplete since my sweet niece passed away almost four years ago. We miss you Molly!

The proper, mandatory photograph:
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The much more fun, silly face photo:
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And so, another wonderful week at the Outer Banks came to an end. We said "Good-bye" to Sea the Light and began the journey home at the crack of dawn Saturday morning. And we didn't get home until 3:30 in the afternoon! I love everything about the Outer Banks except the drive. There just is no easy way to get there and back again to Lancaster County. It is a true test of patience and perseverence that my children seem to handle far better than I do. However, no matter how horrible the traffic is or painfully slow the going becomes, I will continue to go to the Outer Banks. It is my true respite from this crazy thing called life.

Posted by sjyoder 00:19 Archived in USA Tagged ocean beach family_travel corolla outer_banks beach_house Comments (0)

Camping in the Poconos, July 2011 - Day 3

A Day in Jim Thorpe

semi-overcast 90 °F

I was floating in that neverland between wakefulness and sleep when the first large dollops of rain began to hit the roof of the tent. Jay hadn't come to bed yet and I could hear him pulling tarps out of one of the bins as I shimmied out of the sleeping bag and quickly got dressed. We'd had such beautiful weather that we were lax in protecting the tents from rain. Now, at midnight, in the dark and heavy rain, we ran around like nuts covering the tents, throwing the chairs under the picnic table and pulling towels off the clothesline and throwing them the truck. It was just about this time that I was thankful for all those active bears we hadn't seen. It meant all of our kitchen supplies and food were already packed away, safe and dry.

We crawled into the tent again soaked from the rain and wide awake fron the adreneline rush of securing the camp. It rained for about an hour. We finally drifted off to sleep, hoping against hope that it was an islolated shower. It wasn't. A storm came through about 3:30am and then it rained continuously until morning. None of us slept well.

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When the final drops of water were wrung from the clouds, we crawled out of our tents to assess the damage. For all the rain we had, it really wasn't too bad. Everything that was left unprotected was soaked (chairs, firewood, picnic table, stove) but the sky looked promising. We made breakfast and attempted to dry out the firewood.

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While Jay cooked eggs and sausage, I watched several chimpmunks play tag around the open area behind our site. Photographing them was next to impossible. They were quick as a wink and the sunless morning provided little light. This was the best I could do.

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This little guy's home was a luxury two story condo. I never knew if he was going to come out the ground floor doors or the second story window.

Originally, my parents were going to drive up and spend the day with us. Because of the rain, I told them not to bother making the two hour trip to sit around a wet campsite in damp chairs. We didn't feel like doing that, either. After a brief family counsel meeting, it was decided that the Wandrin' Family would spend the day in Jim Thorpe and give the campsite some time to dry out. Jim Thorpe is a quaint little town that sits along the Lehigh river and climbs steeply up the side of a mountain. Originally called Mauch Chunk (mock-chunk) from a Lenape Indian word meaning "at the bear mountain", the town changed its name in the 1950's to Jim Thorpe to honor the famous American Indian Olympian. It's history lies in the excavation and transportation of anthracite coal. Now it is quite the tourist spot, with Victorian bed and breakfasts, adorable shops and (from what I understand) excellent restaurants. Because of its proximity to the Lehigh river and Lehigh Gorge state park, there are plenty of outdoor activites as well - biking, hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting.

We were headed to Jim Thorpe to tour The Old Jail Museum, a place of history and mystery which pleased everyone in my family. The drive took about a half hour and on the way we spotted six wild turkeys. No deer. No bear. Just big turkeys. Traffic getting into Jim Thorpe was wicked. And Jim Thorpe was overrun with humanity. We made it to the museum just as it opened. It was very hot and sticky outside. It was only a little less so inside. The building was finished in 1871 and was considered to be the epitome of a high security prsion at the time. It remained in operation as a jail until 1995 when it was privately purchased and turned into a museum. It's main claim to fame is the hanging of several supposed members of the Molly Macguires, an alleged secret society of Irish coal miners who might have murdered mine bosses and supervisors. Historians today believe that there was never a secret society of Irish coal miners called the Molly Macguires. It is also believed that most, if not all, of the executed men were innocent and that the trials were a complete surrender of state sovereignty. I won't go into the details of how miners and their families were treated by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company owned by Josiah White or the ridiculous excuses for trials that led to the hangings. I just want to state for the record that I believe more atrocities have been visited upon the human race because of greed and the love of power than any other reasons known to man.

We toured the small area of the women's quarters, the main cell block and the "dungeon" which contained cells for solitary confinement. A replica of the gallows was standing in the dining hall. Finally, we looked in cell 17, which has a handprint of one of the Molly Macquires on the wall. The story about the handprint goes something like this. On the morning of his execution, this particular Macguire still claimed his innocence. To prove it, he brushed his hand along the floor and then placed it on the wall making a handprint. He said that the handprint would remain forever, proving that he was an innocent man. The handprint does remain despite scrubbing, painting and even removal and reapplication of the plaster wall. It is quite a compelling tale. I do believe he was an innocent man (but not necessarily because of the handprint). Unfortunately, photographing the handprint was forbidden, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

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Between the gallows, solitary confinement cells, and the handprint, we were sufficiantly spooked. We were also getting hungry. On the way to the Old Jail Museum, we passed a pub with an outdoor deck that looked like fun. Guess what the restaurant was called - Molly Macquire's. Before we actually went to the pub, we bought tickets for the 3 pm ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. There were so many people around we feared that we wouldn't get tickets if we waited. We walked from the train station to the pub and were seated right away. The menu had a combination of standard American bar food and Irish specialties. I ordered shepherd's pie which was very good but way too hot for such a hot day. The rest of the family ordered fish and chips or hamburgers and everyone was satisfied. While we ate, a guitarist named Billy sang songs for us. The kids loved this part. Apparently, they've never experienced live music while eating before. Perhaps we need to get them out more. All in all, it was a nice lunch. The only thing that was lacking was air conditioning or an invigorating breeze. We baked (or should I say steamed) under the orange canvas awning. I was beginning to feel like an overcooked dimsum dumpling.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway travels from Jim Thorpe along the Lehigh River. The ride takes about forty five minutes and offers views of the Lehigh river and gorge. For most of the trip, a rail-to-trail biking and walking path parallels the tracks. For the majority of the year it must be a very pleasant way to experience the beauty of the area. For us, it was a test of endurance. The train is not air-conditioned and for the first half of the ride barely a wiff of a breeze came in the open windows. Yes, we were cheap and bought tickets on the standard coach car. But I would wager that even the open air car wasn't getting much air. Thank goodness on the return trip the wind cooperated and we enjoyed the sweetest breeze ever created by God.

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School-aged children used this bridge to walk over the Lehigh river to get to school in Mauch Chunk. Thank goodness for school buses!

After the steamy -I mean scenic - train ride, we headed back to the Pathfinder. It was time to leave Jim Thorpe and we'd barely scratched the surface of what this quaint little town had to offer. We blasted the AC while we waited a millenia to get out of the parking lot. Earlier, the kids located a Turkey Hill with their high-tech Slushie radar. After the heat of the day, a Slushie sounded like the perfect refreshment. There was some disappointment over the limited selection of just two flavors but it was quickly forgotten with the first tastes of that icy goodness. We headed back to the campground hoping that everything was sufficiently dried out.

The closer to Hickory Run we got, the darker the sky became. It started spitting big droplets of rain as we pulled into the site. Jay and I waited in the truck to see what was going to happen. The rain stopped, but the sky was getting darker and darker. Thunder rumbled from all directions, resonating off the mountains. We really don't enjoy camping in persistent rain, especially in the form of thunderstorms. I called my mom to get a good forecast for the area. She told me that a very strong storm with possible hail was headed our way. (How did we survive before cell phones?). That was all I needed to hear. In the next 30 minutes, we had everything torn down and packed in the truck. The entire family was hustling to get finished before the storm came. We were urged on by claps of thunder and a few flashes of lightning. After one last walk through the site to make sure we didn't leave anything behind, we hopped in the truck and headed out. The first torrents of rain started just after we left Hickory Run. Within a few moments, water was coming down in sheets. It was such a heavy downpour that Jay could barely see to drive. The kids had been very disappointed that we left a day early until the rain came. Suddenly, leaving wasn't such a bad idea after all.

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With just one stop for subs and ice cream, we made it home by ten o'clock. Many of the towns that we drove through were having firework displays for the 4th of July holiday. We enjoyed several shows as we traveled through Lebanon, Manheim, and Lancaster. We timed it just right to see the finale of the Long's Park fireworks as we drove by. They were fantastic, as usual. Being home felt so good - the hot shower, the AC, my Sleep Number bed. We had a great time but I was definitely happy to be back in my house, cool and dry.

Posted by sjyoder 17:15 Archived in USA Tagged trains nature history tent camping mountians family_travel Comments (0)

Camping in the Poconos, July 2011 - Day 2

Boulder Field and Shades of Death

sunny 87 °F

It was the perfect night for sleeping in a tent - cool and not too damp. We awoke refreshed and ready for some adventure.

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(Notice I am maintaining my "Best Mom in the World" status by supplying ample boxes of sugar-coated cereal and Poptarts.)

The boys built a "natual" fire, using items they found in the woods. We spent the morning around the campsite, relaxing and reading.

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This beetle was enormous - the size of Jay's thumb from the first knuckle to the tip. While I tried to photograph him, he turned his body to follow every move I made. Jay said he was squaring off for a fight. He probably would have won...

We lazed around until after lunch. While we were eating, we finalized a plan for the afternoon. Our first destination was the Boulder Field, a designated National Natural Area created by the last Ice Age. To get there, we drove the Boulder Field Road (fitting, don't you think?), a dirt road that meandered through forests of evergreen, oak, and hickory. The floor of the forest was covered with a carpet of ferns. Scattered throughout were mountain laurel and rhododendron. The mountain laurel was past peak bloom but the rhododendron was just getting started. It was very pretty drive and would have been extraordinary had it not been for the little white car that insisted on tailgating us the entire drive. Why the rush?? The only two destinations on that road were Hickory Run Lake and the Boulder Field. I could be wrong, but I think they are permanent exhibits of the park and aren't leaving any time soon.

When we arrived, the parking lot was packed. This was the first crowd we encountered but ended up being a theme of the trip. The entrance to the Boulder field was pretty busy with people and pets. Once we waded through the masses and got out onto the rocks it was much better. The field itself is 400 feet wide, 1800 feet long and about 10 feet deep with various sized sandstone boulders. It requires some amount of balance and agility to maneuver over the rocks and many people were not attempting it. Although it was very warm, we spent a long while climbing around, goofing off, and taking photos. We traversed the shorter length of the field and took a brief break in the shade. Once we'd cooled down a little, we picked our way back across the field and walked to the truck. My only disappointment was the amount of graffiti on the rocks. It was disheartening.

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There are several deep depressions throughout the field that beg for some fun. (Disclaimer: No one was physically harmed in the making of these photos.) I did find myself wondering how many people had injured themselves maneuvering their way across the rocks. I'm sure it's been more than a few.
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We left the Boulder Field and headed to Sand Spring Lake. The plan was to take Beach trail to Shades of Death and hike the Shades of Death trail. Sand Spring Lake is a day use area in Hickory Run. There are picinc tables everywhere and the lake has a beach for swimming. Judging from the multi-cultural representation, we thought that maybe it was a popular destination for escape from New York City. We saw numerous extended family gatherings with extravagant picnic spreads. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. The beach was too crowded for our taste, but many people were taking the opportunity to cool off in the lake.

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We found the unmarked Beach trail and hiked the short distance to the Shades of Death trailhead. For me, Shades of Death conjures up images of decaying corpses and dark evil places. The trail is anything but that (much to the disappointment of the kids, I'm afraid). Instead, it is a lovely 1.5 mile hike along Sand Spring through rhododendron, fern and oak. The name of the trail is a nod to the history of the area. Supposedly, in the 1700's, settlers in the Wyoming Valley were attacked by Iroquois Indians. To escape, they fled into the Pocono Mountains. Ill-prepared for the conditions, most of the settlers died - hence the name Shades fo Death.

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We did come across some contradictory information concerning the difficulty of the trail. The park guide labeled the trail difficult. A few other sources stated it was easy. Being a fairly experienced hiker myself, I have an opinion to offer. The trail is not easy. It isn't flat and has some serious (albeit very short) inclines/declines. The path itself is rocky and has exposed tree roots everywhere. It takes a fair amount of agility to traverse. However, I wouldn't call it difficult either. It's short and there are plenty of picturesque places to rest. Any average person of physical skill and fitness level can do this hike without issue. Our biggest problem was staying on the trail. It was not well marked. We often found ourselves at a dead end and had to retrace our steps. When the dead end is a grove of blooming rhododendron, though, who's really complaining?

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We were hot and tired by the end of our hike. One of the benfits of camping is that it enables you to recognize and appreciate modern luxuries such as air conditioning. It felt so good to climb into the Pathfinder and crank the AC! We drove to the nearest Wawa for slushies and a snack then headed back to our campsite. The boys wanted to fish so they spent some time at Hickory Run Lake catching sunnies while we girls took showers and relaxed at the campsite.

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We ended the evening cooking burgers over the fire and practicing the art of the perfectly toasted marshmallow. This was followed by storytelling and talking until late in the evening. When I finally crawled into my sleeping bag, I was tired and content.

Posted by sjyoder 09:38 Archived in USA Tagged hiking tent camping state_park family_travel Comments (0)

Camping in the Poconos, July 2011 - Day 1

Black Bears and Pit Toilets

overcast 88 °F

Camping for the Wandrin' clan is a complicated and laborious undertaking. Many lists are compiled and days of preparation are required for a successful outing. On the day of departure, the spatial expertise of an engineer is required to fit all the necessary gear into the limited space of one medium-sized SUV. Ever so rarely, I wonder if it is all really worth the aggravation for just a few days in the Great Outdoors. And then, when I finally find myself in the Great Outdoors - tents erected, bedding settled, and fire started - the agony of preparation is forgotten. There is just something about sitting around a campfire in the evening, telling stories and toasting marshmallows, that makes all the hard work very worth it.

This summer, we had only one weekend available to camp - the July 4th holiday. Although we knew it would be a busy time at any campground, we liked the idea of a long relaxing weekend. We chose Hickory Run State Park as our destination based mainly on the boys' recommendation. They had camped there with my parents last summer and wanted to return for a closer look at the Boulder Field and a chance to hike the Shades of Death trail. Of course, I did a little research. Hickory Run is located in the Western part of the Poconos near White Haven, PA. There are several trails to hike, some small lakes to fish, and one lake with a beach for swimming. If, by chance, we needed a change of pace, we could do whitewater rafting on the Lehigh river, bike the trail through Lehigh Gorge state park, or visit the quaint little town of Jim Thorpe. With all these options, we had no problem agreeing to head to Hickory Run for the weekend.

We left Friday afternoon, about 45 minutes later than we wanted to (our normal MO). Obviously, this put us in the thick of rush hour traffic on the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. We crawled through Centerville. Then inched through Manheim. And lastly crept through Lebanon. We were finally able to make some time on Rte. 81. We took a break for supper at Applebee's in Hazelton. It was just what we needed to make it through the last few miles. We arrived at Hickory Run about 7pm.

(As a side note, the kids traveled very well, considering they all had to sit in the second row seat, touching each other the entire drive.)
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I dutifully checked in at the park office. The woman behind the counter talked so fast that all I heard was "active bear population" and "keep tooth paste in your vehicle". She handed me a pile of papers, highlighted our campsite, and before I could say "thank you" was already yelling for the next person to step inside. Since we've camped in bear territory before, we already knew to keep ALL toiletries and food items in the truck. After engaging in a very active discussion concerning the size and ferocity of Pennsylvania black bears, we decided that we would be able to sleep without fear that one would attack our tent and drag us away in the night.

Our campsite was located in the more rustic section of the park. Rustic = no electricity or showers. Rustic also = pit toilets. The pit toilets became a frequent topic of jokes and discussion during our stay. Buddy, our middle son, complained regularly of the single ply paper that disintegrated in the midst of taking care of business. Jay griped about the limited space in the stall which required acrobatic contortions for him to take care of business. Lovey didn't want to take care of business at all because of the smell and put it off as along as possible. I shared all the different types of bugs I observed on the stall door while I was taking care of business. Little gnat-like bugs the color of new leaves in the spring. Small, delicate brown and white moths. Daddy-long-leggers. Despite the lack of modern conveniences like Quilted Northern and space to pull up one's pants without bumping one's head on the stall door, we were not unhappy. Our site was very nice. It was flat, backed to the woods, and had perfect trees for a hammock. We quickly set up camp and were relaxing around the fire by sunset.

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Posted by sjyoder 19:51 Archived in USA Tagged trees nature camping state_park family_travel Comments (0)

Almost One Day in Ocean City, MD

Ocean City Air Show

sunny 87 °F

As a kind of end of the school year celebration, we headed to Ocean City, Maryland for the annual Air Show. To make things a little easier, we drove down on Friday evening, stayed at the Spinnaker in 17th Street for the night, and then drove home after the show on Saturday afternoon. In restrospect, after considering the preparations for a family of five to stay overnight and the cost of the motel compared to the quality, I'm not sure the plan was really that easy. In the end, it did save us from hours and hours of driving on top of hours and hours on a hot beach in the sun all crammed into a single day.

Our drive down was destined to cause aggravation. We left later than we had hoped which put us right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Getting out of Pennsylvania was a true test of patience. I always enjoy the drive through the river hills of southern Lancaster County. This time of year, the pastures are still a deep green and the fields are beginning to push crops of corn. The houses and yards are tidy and decorated with a profusion of colorful flowers. The humid air hangs like a veil giving everything a muted, ethereal quality. While I was enjoying the scenery, Jay was having a stroke. We managed to get behind a tractor trailer that did about 10 miles an hour up the endless hills. At every passing zone, cars coming the other direction stole his opportunites to put the pokey eighteen-wheeler behind us. Even after the tractor trailer became a memory, traffic continued to slow us down until we got to Route 1 where it bypasses Dover, Delaware. When traffic ceased to be a problem, the kids took this as a sign to start fighting. By the time we got to Rehoboth, everyone was sick of each other and sick of being in the truck. Amazingly, the magic of being at the the beach began to infuse our Pathfinder, and the last half hour of the drive was spent in relative peace and harmony.

The beaches of Delaware and Maryland are a dose of nostalgia for me. Driving through these areas is like cruising into my past. Some of my earliest travel memories involve a tent at Holly Lake, the waves at Dewey Beach, and soft custard cones from Kohrs Bros. on the boardwalk at Rehoboth. As a teen, many summer days were spent doing day trips to Delaware State Beach, bodysurfing all day and getting burnt to a crisp. Those were the days when "sunscreen" equated to oil that had an SPF of 2 and smelled like a pina colada. The very first vacation my family ever took that didn't involve a tent, a camp stove, and a state park was to Ocean City, Maryland. My parents rented a tiny two bedroom apartment on 41st Street for a week. It was there that we were truly indoctrinated into beach resort life.

Much has changed and nothing has changed since that first stay in Ocean City. Shops and restaurants come and go. Buildings are torn down and replaced with spiffy new hotels. One of my favorite restaurants, The Hobbit, was sold to a developer who put condominiums on the spot where we used to get the best ever roast prime fillet. But, people still ride bikes and walk on the boardwalk every morning. It is still easier to get a hole-in-one playing miniature golf in Ocean City than it is at home. Cheap souvenirs are still available everywhere on the boardwalk. Traffic is still horrible in the evenings. And the beach and ocean are still free.

When we finally arrived in Ocean City, we were road-weary and starving. Our first destination was Dumser's Dairyland Drive-In. This is a tradition for my family and a mainstay of Ocean City. The food is just regular, good diner food - chicken fingers, fish and chips, cheeseburger subs, macaroni and cheese, etc. What makes the stop worthwhile for us is the made-to-order milkshakes so thick they come with a spoon and the fountain sodas flavored with vanilla or cherry syrup. Dumser's also makes their own icecream and it is delicious.

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After our Dumser's ritual, we checked in at the Spinnaker. Our room was a standard efficiency unit with a tiny kitchen, one bathroom, two double beds and a sleeper sofa. Nothing outstanding - just the typical efficiency found in so many motels and hotels in the area. Our small balcony looked out onto 18th Street with a very limited view of the beach if you leaned way out over the railing. It was very clean and suited us for the one night we needed a place to rest our heads. Because it was well after 10pm and we were all exhausted, we nixed the mini-golf plan and just relaxed in the room. I spent awhile on our tiny balcony, entertaining myself by watching the intricate and complicated mating rituals of American young adults on the street below.

We slept in until 9am. Being the exceptionally cool wife and mother that I am (snort), I supplied my family with ample little boxes of sugar-coated cereal for breakfast and bottles of prepackaged apple juice. When everyone was suffciently buzzed, we lathered on the sunscreen, put on our beach attire and packed up our stuff. After we checked out we headed to the beach for the purpose of the whole expedition - the Air Show. The official viewing spot for the show is at 14th Street. Many special events happen here and tickets are required to get in. We chose a spot on the beach between 17th and 18th streets and watched the whole show for free. When we arrived on the beach there was ample room to spread out without encroaching on anyone else's space.

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The kids wasted no time getting in the clear, sea-green water. Sixty-three degrees was brisk but refreshing.

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As the time for the show drew near, we broke out the Swedish Fish and settled in for the fun.

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The show began with Team RV and the US Navy Seals Flag Jump, followed by the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles.

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Team RV, made up of 10 Cesna planes, performed alone after the jumpers landed.

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The C5M Super Galaxy came for a visit. This is a ginormous plane! It can carry approximately 224,000 pounds of cargo. It reminded me of a dragon flying out of the mist.

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A quick and satisfyingly noisy Yak-9 was up next. Unfortunately, it darted around so quickly we couldn'y get any good photos.

The thick haze of humidity gave the illusion that the planes were materializing out of thin air as they flew down the coast. It was a very cool natural effect. And never more powerful than when this machine made its appearance, coming all the way from Missouri. A B2 Stealth Bomber called "The Spirit of Maryland". It was so stealthy, the camera couldn't focus on it. If this was a dragon, it would most definitely be a Night Fury.

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This guy did some crazy aerial acrobatics.

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Next up, a P-51 Mustang and an A-10 Warthog.

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The very nice thing about being at the beach for an air show is that boredom is impossible. When the kids needed a break, they just got in the water. We snacked, read, played cards and were entertained by the flying marvels all afternoon.

We watched a Red Bull stunt helicopter.

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Then this beast appeared - the C-17 Globemaster III. The winglets on the tips of this plane's wings are 9 feet tall.

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By this time, the beach had become a writhing mass of humanity. People were everywhere. Finding a path to the water was like trekking through the dense Amazon rainforest. When I finally made it down to the beach, this is what I saw. For the few minutes I was at the water's edge, I was plowed into by a boogie boarder and almost run over by a couple of walkers. It was pure craziness.

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When I finally made it back to the safety of my beach chair, I realized the camera battery was dead. With no charged battery to replace the dead one, I was unablel to visually document any more of the day. Which is unfortunate. Because an AV-8B Harrier jet performed a very loud demonstration, hovering above the ocean for what seemed like hours. The patterns of exhaust from the plane would have made for some very interesting photos. The Red Bull Air Force team jumped. And as the finale, an F-18 Super Hornet flew by at a little under 700 miles an hour. The sound was phenomonal, reverberating off the hotels and rumbling in my chest. It was a great show, made exceptional by the surroundings. The beach emptied quickly when the air show was over. We stayed around and just relaxed until the life guards forced everyone to retreat due to an approaching storm. We gathered our stuff and headed for the truck.

The ride home wasn't much better than the ride down - minus the fighting kids. Route 1 traffic in Ocean City on a Saturday night in the summer is mind-numbing. It took us about an hour to make it to Fenwick Island just outside of Ocean City - a drive that normally takes 15 minutes. We barely made it to Bethany Beach before we had to stop for supper at Grotto Pizza. The pizza there is very good. We like the thin, airy crust and the way the pizza comes with the sauce on top of the cheese. Two pizzas and several sodas were scarfed down in record time and we were quickly back on the road. Thankfully, traffic was light the rest of the way. The only other stop we made was for gas. The Shell convenience store had a Dairy Queen attached to it so we felt obligated to buy Buster Bars and Blizzards. We arrived home to a powerful thunderstorm with torrential rain, continual lightning and rumbling thunder. I think we were all relieved to finally be out of a moving vehicle and home, safe and sound. We threw our tired, sun-crisped bodies in the shower and then in bed, sleeping like dead people until the next morning.

Posted by sjyoder 13:00 Archived in USA Tagged beaches people planes coastline family_travel Comments (0)

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