Tuesday, May 31, 2011

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

On Tuesday morning we headed to the aquarium located just down the island from our hotel. We arrived with around 500 kids who were having a school field trip to the facility.

This reptilian critter looks real but actually is a life sized model.

The North Carolina Aquarium features two hands-on exhibits: the Tidal Touch Pool, featuring a large variety of aquatic invertebrates, and Skate and Ray Encounters.

I was a little crabby during our tour of the aquarium.

Most of the larger creatures inhabit the Aquarium’s centerpiece exhibit, the 306,000-gallon Living Shipwreck. Along with hundreds of schooling fishes and other animals, they create a swirl of constant motion around a replica of U-352, a German submarine that lost a World War II battle with a Coast Guard cutter off the North Carolina coast. The Aquarium’s river otters also have lived up to expectations of stardom. Judy and I enjoyed the otter show at 11:00 A.M.

Tomorrow - Tour of Historic Beaufort, N.C.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fort Macon

Even before checking into our hotel, we toured Fort Macon located on the far end of the barrier island from Emerald Isle. Fort Macon is a five-sided brick and stone fort with 26 vaulted rooms, which was used during the 18th and 19th centuries to protect the area from naval attacks by pirates or enemy warships.

Construction of the present fort began in 1826. The fort was garrisoned in 1834. In the 1840s, a system of erosion control was initially engineered by Robert E. Lee, who later became general of the Confederate Army. At the beginning of the Civil War, North Carolina seized the fort from Union forces. The fort was later attacked in 1862, and it fell back into Union hands. For the duration of the war, the fort was a coaling station for navy ships.

Fort Macon was a federal prison from 1867 to 1876, garrisoned during the Spanish-American War and closed in 1903. Congress offered the sale of the fort in 1923, and the state purchased the land, making it the second state park. Restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1934-35, the fort was garrisoned for the last time during World War II.

Fort Macon was designed by Brig. Gen. Simon Bernard and built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It was named after North Carolina's eminent statesman of the period, Nathaniel Macon. Construction began in 1826 and lasted eight years. The fort was completed in December, 1834, and it was improved with further modification during 1841-46. The total cost of the fort was $463,790. As a result of congressional economizing, the fort was actively garrisoned only during the years of 1834-36, 1842-44 and 1848-49. Often, an ordnance sergeant acting as a caretaker was the only person stationed at the fort.

These cannon balls reminds me of an old saying and myth. You probably have heard of the saying that "it is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".

Some references say that the brass triangles that supported stacks of iron cannon-balls on sailing ships were called monkeys and that in cold weather the metal contracted, causing the balls to fall off. The derivation of this phrase is difficult enough to determine without such tosh, so let's get that oft-repeated story out of the way first:

Cartoons of pirate ships always come complete with the usual icons - parrots, peg legs and pyramids of cannon-balls. That's artistic license rather than historical fact. The Royal Navy records that, on their ships at least, cannon-balls were stored in planks with circular holes cut into them - not stacked in pyramids. These planks were known as 'shot garlands', not monkeys, and they date back to at least 1769, when they were first referred to in print.

On dry land, the obvious way to store cannon-balls seems to be by stacking them. On board ship it's a different matter. A little geometry shows that a pyramid of balls will topple over if the base is tilted by more than 30 degrees. This tilting, not to mention any sudden jolting, would have been commonplace on sailing ships. It just isn't plausible that cannon-balls were stacked this way.

For those wanting a bit more detail, here's the science bit. The coefficient of expansion of brass is 0.000019; that of iron is 0.000012. If the base of the stack were one meter long, the drop in temperature needed to make the 'monkey' shrink relative to the balls by just one millimeter, would be around 100 degrees Celsius. Such a small shrinkage wouldn't have had the slightest effect. In any case, in weather like that, the sailors would probably have better things to think about than coining new phrases.

The folks have done a great job in reconstructing the specific rooms in the fort and with super interpretative displays.

In 1923, Fort Macon was offered for sale as surplus military property. However, at the bidding of North Carolina leaders, a Congressional Act on June 4, 1924, sold the fort and surrounding reservation for the sum of $1 to the state of North Carolina to be used as a public park. This was the second area acquired by the state for the purpose of establishing a state parks system.

During 1934-35 the Civilian Conservation Corps restored the fort and established public recreational facilities, which enabled Fort Macon State Park to officially open May 1, 1936, as North Carolina's first functioning state park.

At the outbreak of World War II, the US Army leased the park from the state and actively manned the old fort with Coast Artillery troops to protect a number of important nearby facilities. The fort was occupied from December, 1941, to November, 1944. On October 1, 1946, the Army returned the fort and the park to the state.

What a great historical site!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Atlantic Beach

You will notice that in all our beach locations throughout our road trip, the population of people on the beach is sparse. I am certain that it will be different once school is out.

Atlantic Beach is a small town of 1,781 people. It has been a popular seaside vacation town since the 1920s. Atlantic Beach is on Bogue Banks, part of the southern Outer Banks chain of barrier islands, between Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The nearby communities of Pine Knoll Shores and Salter Path are often considered to be part of Atlantic Beach.

Here is the back of The Windjammer.

This pier is located beside the Sheraton Hotel and within a short walking distance of our hotel.

I checked out the invertebrate populations that live on the pier and survive in this intertidal zone.

The fellow below is more interested in fishing for the marine vertebrates.

The ocean is so different from our mountain ecosystem. Judy and I enjoy the beach, but it is always wonderful to see the mountains when we travel back to Glenville.

There was not a possibility of seeing a fine sunrise on the ocean on Atlantic Beach. The reason is that this barrier island is unique in that it is oriented East and West. Sunrise is on the end of the island.

Tomorrow- Fort Macon

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Windjammer

We found this neat hotel with an ocean view up the road from Emerald Isle at Atlantic Beach. The folks here were great. We were going to stay one night and ended up staying three!

This hotel is privately owned. The owner has done a fine job in establishing several great water features. Note the cabana beds located under the white columns.

Behind the cabana beds and closer to the ocean were a series of hammocks.

Here is a tourist (from Glenville, WV, most likely!) relaxing in the woven lattice of the hammocks.

Here is another Appalachian tourist taking his beauty nap. (Man, does he need it!)

From our 4th floor room, we not only could see the ocean and water features, but the hot tub and patio area. The swimming pool was located to the left of the hot tub. That pool was too cold for we geriatrics - the hot tube was more our speed.

Tomorrow- on the beach.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Welcome to The Crystal Coast

Throughout our trip, we had great weather. We arrived on Emerald Isle around 1:00 P.M. and searched for a place where we could have lunch.

There on the bay was a great little restaurant. With a name like , The Crab Shack, and with fishing boats moored outside, how could we lose?

Our first seafood meal of the trip was great. Fresh fish and shrimp plus okra, black-eyed peas, and wonderful hush puppies created a tremendous lunch.

This restaurant had all the trappings of the sea.

They sold seashells are very reasonable prices. Local fishermen clean the shells that are collected in their nets. On Tuesdays, The Crab Shack serves conch soup. We were a day early for this yummy soup. The only time we have had this offering was when we were in Bermuda.

Next blog - Off To Find A Hotel.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Start of Our Road Trip

On Sunday, May 8, 2011, we left home around 10 A.M. and started our road trip to the barrier islands of North Carolina. This is one of the few times that we decided not to pre-plan our hotels and just see where the road leads us. Remember the TV show, On The Road With Charles Kuralt?

For lunch we stopped by one of our favorite places, Tamarack.

This gal was still smoking. She just has to address her addiction problem.

There were ladies of class in Tamarack this day. Do not know what part of the brier patch she lives in, but it must be an upscale neighborhood.

We were wondering where one might hang a $200 bird house. Surely not outside!

Once we finished lunch and some more looking at all the fine crafts .....

....down the interstates toward North Carolina we went! (Sounds like a possibility for a great song)

We made it to the Raleigh area and stayed the night at a a fine Wingate Inn in Garner, NC Tomorrow we arrive on The Crystal Coast.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sam's 5th Birthday

You will notice the wonderful meatballs being prepared. Sarah has everything needed for gourmet preparation. Who knew they sell special goggles designed to be used when dicing onions? No tears from those eyes!

Nate is already ready for a party. When we say, "Nate, show us your scrunchy face", here is what we get.

Lucy was in a posing mood. Cute!

Sam received an early present from his Mom and Dad - number five - his soccer number and his age. Sam loves sports and especially basketball. Basketball was the theme of the party. I swear this photo is not stretched. Guess it is the way the shirt extends down his pants.

Around 3:oo the kids and their families arrived and it was time for the Dodson family to feed the masses.

Sarah and her friends rolled over 300 pork/beef meatballs for this party. (I was concerned that we may run out of these delightful orbs - NOT!)

After the lunch of meatballs, salad, chicken strips, and other goodies, it was cake time. Yes, the cake continued the basketball theme and the number five.

You have to love the cupcake cake. It certainly is a great alternative when you have a lot of kids. No cake cutting - just break away the cupcakes and hand them to the waiting crowd. Sam blew out his candles (which were, of course, basketball candles).

Aunt Judy sampled the meatballs, but it was not long that she had...

...a cupcake in hand. I really do not know why John is looking so perplexed.

Grandma Great will on June 13th be 87 years young. We are so blessed to have her with us.

My lovey wife attacked the cake with gusto!

It was a great party. I will leave this blog with another of Nate's "scrunchy faces".

Tomorrow we start the Jim and Judy road trip.