Thursday, July 31, 2008

Places to go

We have some "obligations" coming up on our social calendar ... things to do, places to go, people to see ... so we have decided to make the time to take care of some things that need to be done before our social calendar gets too busy.

We have been doing a lot of research about how to improve Bella's electrical system (additional batteries, inverter, what-have-you, etc.) and today spent time online and on the phone, getting directions, asking questions, and figuring out where to go.

Today we drove from NC to VA. We found an rv mechanic someone had recommended to us, to get an estimate for the work. We learned a lot by talking to him but it would take at least 3 days for him to get all the parts we need and then a couple more to get the work done, so with the weekend almost here, we just couldn't wait around, because remember we have things to do, places to go, people to see ...

Next we drove on to find the nearest Camping World. We spoke to them on the phone earlier and found out they had hookups (electric only) and we could park overnight to wait till the store opens in the morning. So that is where we came to spend the night.

Hopefully they will be able to get the electrical work done and also fix our generator.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Watermelons everywhere

Murfreesboro is a small town. When Bernie got up today she went for a walk to find out what was around us. She stopped in several small shops and a few restaurants to ask if anyone needed help for the night, but no luck. Everyone was closing early to go to the Watermelon Festival, which starts tonight.

Shortly after Bernie got back to Bella the generator stopped working, it just shut off. We got out the books and all the paperwork to try to figure out the problem. It seems the air filter is clogged. There might be an oil leak somewhere because the spongy-looking-thingy between the filter and the carburetor is full of oil. Bernie cleaned out the filter, which also had oil in it. Then closed it up and tried it again and it worked. It’s a good thing because it is way too hot not to have ac.

Then we went to the Watermelon Festival. They had tons of rides for the kids and lots of food. There were two tables with free watermelon slices. One had a chocolate fountain to dip the watermelon. We tried it but did not like it at all. Watermelon is too watery and squishy. However the chocolate was good enough to lick off the plate … mmm mmm good.

We had the blooming onion from one of the food stands. We thought we might regret it in the morning but oh it was so good. Why is fair food soooooo good? Later we had a funnel cake. This one was not as good as we have had at other fairs but it had tons of powered sugar so that made Mar happy.

We found a place to sit and listened to the band play. The Band of Oz was really good, they played a lot of oldies all night and lots of people danced on the street.

Afterwards we had the piece ‘de resistance’ … fry bread. We had seen someone eating one earlier and asked her about it. She didn’t know what it was called but told us how good it was and where to find it. It looked so good we just had to try it so we went to get one. It is a version of a Native American recipe: fried thick flat bread with some corn in it, and topped with honey and powered sugar. It sort of tasted like a fried biscuit only better. It was really, really good.

We had a really good time tonight. Our very first Watermelon Festival was a great experience. We are very glad we came to visit Murfreesboro NC.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Goodbye to the Outer Banks

Today we did a little bit more exploring around the northern Outer Banks. We visited some very unique and charming stores, several of them have the works of local artists for sale. We wish we could contribute to these talented artists but who needs any more stuff in an rv, right?

One of the stores we visited was called The Peanut Shop and we got to sample about 15 different flavors. Very interesting, to say the least.

Then we drove towards the mainland. Along the way we noticed each gas station’s prices were lower than the one before, and were very surprised, the cheapest one we saw was $3.61 today.

We drove over two hours towards Murfreesboro NC, where their 23rd annual Watermelon Festival starts tomorrow. We found the festival grounds and parked right next door for the night, so we can be here when the festivities start tomorrow.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Barefoot in the sand dunes

Last night we woke up again and again to the sound of rain pelting our Bella. It was loud and aggravating. The rain would let up for a little while and then boom! it would start again. We thought we were going to wake up under water. It finally had stopped raining by morning.

When we got up, Bernie went down to the water on the sound side. It was a very hot day out there with almost no sign of the rain. It had all dried up from so much heat. Meanwhile, Mar got Bella packed and ready to go.

Bernie said the water was almost boiling hot. She didn’t get to see any crabs. She walked almost a mile out and the water wasn’t even knee deep out there. With the sun beating down on her she decided to return to Bella.

We left camp and again headed north on route 12. Along the way we got to see two very famous lighthouses … and a spaceship. The first one is known as "Americas lighthouse", built in 1870, it is the tallest brick beacon in the world, with its spiral black and white stripes, it is the international symbol of the North Carolina coast. The second lighthouse we saw today was the Bodie Island Lighthouse, equally as impressive, yet not as tall, and this one has horizontal black and white stripes.

The spaceship was very interesting (see pic) with alien faces on the windows, pretty neat.

Our next stop was Jockey's Ridge State Park, which has the highest living sand dunes on the east coast. Amazing. We climbed up the sand dunes barefoot. Once we got to the top we sat down to watch the hang gliders and the many people flying their kites. You could see all the way from one side of the island, the ocean, to the other side, the sound. A truly amazing place. If you’re ever in the area you should definitely visit Jockey’s Ridge. It is quiet and fun and a great place to spend the day.

We passed several campgrounds on our way. We stopped in one and asked about using their dump station. They wanted $10. We haven’t had to pay to dump yet so we decided not to dump here and asked if we could just get water. We filled up our water tank and kept going, on the lookout for another place to dump.

Dinner was a cheeseburger and beach fries, sitting at a picnic table outside at Kill Devil's. It was the sign for "beach" fries that got us. We wanted to know what they were and of course once we stopped we just had to get some. Turns out beach fries are unique to this little food stand. They are homemade French fries made with Idaho potatoes with the skins left on. Pretty tasty and the burger was good too.

Not far from there we found the beach access in Nags Head NC and parked for the night and went to check out the beach.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The sound side

We wanted to hang out at the beach today. Bernie wanted to go swimming but after seeing the large and numerous waves decided against it. She doesn't like the waves. She just walked along the water and collected some seashells. Then she sat in her lounge chair to read her book, almost until sunset. Then it was time to head north once again on route 12.

Mar had seen an ad for what appeared to be a seafood market. It had lovely pictures of meats, seafood, and veggies, all advertised as fresh. Mar had her heart set on a grilled fresh seafood dinner. So we found the place in the ad, but it turned out to be a small grocery store. It was truly a disappointment. The meat department looked good though so we purchased a porterhouse steak to split. And left in hopes of finding a real fish market.

We first went to a place someone at the other market had recommended but they had just closed when we got there. We asked some guys who were standing outside and they told us of another place to go for fresh seafood.

We went to find it … not far down the road there it was and they were still open. We ventured in. Here we saw an assortment of fresh fish. We settled on a snowy grouper and another fish called "poor man’s lobster". The owner was super nice and we found out it is a family business. They are all commercial fishermen and have just recently opened their own retail store.

We left there with our fresh catch and kept going north on route 12 until we found the next beach access where we parked for the night. Across the street was also a sound access (the opposite side from the ocean) so we got to experience both sides of this narrow island at the same time. Bernie was glad about this because she wants to do some crabbing again and everyone says it is better to do it on the sound side.

Bernie fired up the grill and let the coals settle while we went to explore. We found on the sound side several paths to the water … and lots of mosquitoes … and one crab, which Mar almost stepped on and Bernie wished she could catch it. Then we headed back to Bella to start dinner.

We had the most wonderful dinner of steak, two kinds of fish, and twice baked potatoes ... along with some mojitos, it was the perfect dinner ... the stars were clearly visible in this very dark sky … lovely and wonderful ....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Invasion of the ants

Last night we parked under a big tree, which at the time seemed like a good idea so that we would have shade in the morning. Well, this was one good idea that turned into a bad idea. We woke up to an ant invasion: hundreds of black ants all over the bathroom and kitchen. They were everywhere. After spraying them, Bernie looked around and found that they had come from the tree we parked under because some of the tree branches were touching the roof. So the ants marched their way right in all night. We have been trying to get rid of them all day, and the ants are winning … grrrrr!!! On the other hand, we were in the shade and woke to a beautiful day.

We headed out and drove through Beaufort again. As we turned the corner of the main street we saw the cutest little red wagon which was a library on wheels, it was full of books for sale by Friends of the Library. We decided to stop and check it out. All hardbounds were only $1.00 and all paperbacks were fifty cents. We walked away with a bunch of books for a grand total of $6.00.

We recently saw the movie “The Jane Austen Book Club” and think it might be fun to read all of her books and we were lucky to find a couple today.

We then drove about an hour to Cedar Island to catch the first ferry to the Outer Banks NC. Once we got there we had to wait about 45 minutes so we checked out the gift shop, the restroom, and the beach. The beach was really nice, the water was shallow, there were no waves, and the water was crystal clear. Bernie wished we had time to swim but the ferry was ready and we were off to the island of Ocracoke.

The ferry ride cost $30 and it was almost two and a half hours, which we didn't really notice because we both took a nap and woke up just before docking.

Once on the island it was one cute store after another and lots of restaurants. We found parking (not an easy thing to do on this narrow island). As we were going into a store across the road from where we parked a guy approached us and said we had to move our rv. He said we couldn't park there unless we were going to the stores there. We said we were going but we just wanted to see this one store first. He was unrelenting. However, this store was closed so we just went back to where we parked, and did some window shopping.

Back in Bella and down the street a bit we saw a small shopping village. We stopped in there and looked around, mostly in windows because most of them were already closed. But we were able to check out the wine store … always a good thing.

We then followed route 12 to the next ferry. Unfortunately there was a long line and the attendant said we’d probably would not get on the next ferry which was the 9 pm, that we would have to wait another hour for the 10 pm ferry. So we had dinner, we read up on the islands of the Outer Banks, and took a walk on the beach.

Before we knew it the ferry was here and it was time to go. This ferry was free and it took about 40 minutes to go from Ocracoke to Hatteras. When we got off the ferry, we found the first beach access and parked for the night.

Friday, July 25, 2008

On our way

Bernie and Cory worked on Bella. Then we took the tour of each other’s rv’s. They have an Itasca, which they love. It is always interesting to see other people’s rv’s and what they have done to it and how they adapt it to their use.

Then it was time to say goodbye to our new friends, Cory and Grace, who made us promise we will come back to visit on our way back home. They were so nice and so much fun, and we loved their place so we know we will stop by on our next trip down.

We drove to Morehead City where we got gas and groceries at Walmart. Gas was $3.90 What a welcome relief.

Then we drove to Beaufort (about 10 minutes away) which is a cute little town on the water. We drove around for a little bit but we were too tired to get out to go exploring, but maybe we will tomorrow. We found a public park with a boat ramp and lots of people were there with their boats. This seemed like a great place so we parked under a tree for the night.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sneads Ferry

We decided it was time to hit the road again today. It is amazing that in just a few days outside of the rv, we manage to unpack so much stuff. So while Mar packed up, Bernie started taking our stuff back to Bella.

Everyone was interested in the process. Mittens (Grandmother’s cat) wanted to check out what this big thing sitting in her driveway was, so she kept us company. Aunt jean was interested in the rv. She had owned an rv once and told us some stories of her travels. Grandmother Mary Ann kept giving us food for the trip. She sent us off with homemade cookies, fruits, veggies, cheese, milk, and some other goodies. Enough food to feed us for a while. Our tummies thank her.

It was finally time to say our goodbyes. As always, this was a hard thing to do because we had such a wonderful time with them. We promised to come back and visit.

Then we headed north along the east coast once again. We had an email from Cory and Grace inviting us to park on their driveway in Snead's Ferry NC, about an hour away. What a surprise when we got there and they had full hookups for us: water, electric, cable, wi-fi and sewer.

After setting Bella up, we joined Cory and Grace on the second floor
back porch overlooking the water. Their house has its own pier and it
sits right on the intercoastal waterway. We sat and watched the many types of birds and animals that visit this oasis. We saw a bunny rabbit. We learned all about these two fascinating people. They shared some of their treasures, like a rock filled with amethyst and wood antiques. They were so nice and very funny.

Later we went down to Bella and brought our parrillada leftovers up to eat for our dinner, while we visited. Cory helped us with tips on how to drive up the east coast and where to go. And of course the stories of their adventures only made us want to keep going.

We are planning the next part of our trip, we want to go to the Outer Banks and that adventure starts with our next NC ferry. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Good mojo

Bernie and Grandmother Mary Ann went to Home Depot today. Grandmother offered to get us some leveling jacks for Bella. Bernie said they would cost too much but Grandmother wanted to check them out anyway and then she did buy them for us! Thank you, thank you, Grandmother Mary Ann! (If you have ever had to stay in an unlevel RV, you know how important it is to have these jacks.)

Back at the house Bernie went to work and fixed some things for Grandmother Mary Ann. The dryer wasn’t heating properly. The vent had fallen off so Bernie put a new one on with a box, to make it easier for Grandmother to clean the lint. Then Bernie replaced the shower head with a hand held shower massager, just what Grandmother wanted.

Then we cooked a traditional Cuban meal for Grandmother Mary Anne and
Aunt Jean. We had mojo chicken, arroz con gandules, and avocado salad. Dessert was a delicious sliced mango with white chocolate ice cream. The compliments went around the table several times and everyone cleaned their plates. It was wonderful to share part of Mar's background with Grandmother Mary Ann and Aunt Jean.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Parrillada for two

We awoke today in a wonderful bed in an air conditioned house … the simple pleasures in life … we were happy to be able to take a nice, long, hot shower … Bernie was able to finally shave her legs, which is one of her greatest pleasures ... (Mar had laser hair removal treatments so she doesn't need to shave, and that is a great pleasure :-)

Mar spent the day helping Grandmother Mary Ann with her new laptop. Grandmother Mary Ann is now ready for email, the internet (she likes google) and now she can play her favorite card game (bridge) whenever she likes.

Grandmother Mary Ann and Aunt Jean suggested we go out to dinner. Mar remembered seeing an ad for a local Latin American restaurant and everyone was feeling a little adventurous, so off we went to Café Boleros.

Once there Grandmother Mary Ann felt really adventurous and decided on the ropa vieja with rice and beans for dinner. She loved it and said she would order it again. Aunt Jean had the fillet, which was melt in your mouth good. And we ordered the parrillada for two, which really could have fed a small army, and it was absolutely delicious.

At dinner we learned that Grandmother Mary Ann had visited Puerto Rico once and stayed at the Hilton. The same Hilton where we went to take pictures with Mar’s kids and got coffee at the Starbucks, the last time we were there. What a coincidence.

After dinner Grandmother Mary Ann and Aunt Jean wanted to show us a very unique grocery store called Fresh Market. This grocery store had wonderful and diverse foods. Just like a kid in a candy store, we were having so much fun discovering new things that it was actually hard to leave the store!

When we got home, we sat down to talk and play card games on the computer and all of us stayed up pretty late … again.

Buenas noches!

Monday, July 21, 2008

To grandmother's house we go

Yay!!! Today we made it to Wilmington NC and we went straight to the house of Bernie’s grandmother. Bernie knocked on the door and her grandmother answered with a big smile and open arms. It was the first time Mar had met her and as grandmothers are, she was equally welcoming to Mar.

We were actually lucky enough to get two for the price of one because Grandmother Mary Ann’s sister, Aunt Jean, was there too; she’s visiting for a few months, just like she does every year. Aunt Jean is great fun, she can be pretty funny, and it was nice to see her.

We offered to stay in our RV on the driveway, but Grandmother Mary Ann wouldn’t hear of it. So we got our stuff out of Bella and made ourselves comfortable. Grandmother Mary Ann and Aunt Jean made sure we felt welcome. What a pair of great ladies!

We sat down and did some catching up, looked at pictures and listened to their stories about family and the good old’ times. Then Grandmother Mary Ann and Aunt Jean served the dinner they had planned for us. It was a wonderful meal of BLT sandwiches and marinated veggie salad. For dessert they made us delicious strawberry shortcake.

Then we went back to the family room to talk and have our coffee, while catching up on our laundry, as Grandmother Mary Ann was kind enough to let us use her washer and dryer. We stayed up with them pretty late, we actually talked until 1:00 am.

It was a wonderful, wonderful day!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another day another beach

We drove to Wrightsville Beach NC. It didn't take us long to get there. Once there we found the local Catholic church: St. Theresa’s, which is one of Bernie's given names and she thought that was cool. The Church was a little hard to find, it is behind a row of houses, right on the beach. After Mass, Bernie talked to the parish priest and he gave us permission to park overnight in the church parking lot which is located behind the church and happens to be right on the beach. We could not believe our luck!

Now that we knew where we were spending the night, we set out to explore the island. We drove from the south end all the way to the north end (in about five minutes) and found the local pier halfway. This pier is solid concrete, no wood here anywhere. It is huge and quite impressive. Even the picnic tables are concrete. It was massive yet the store at the top was pretty small.

Once on the pier we noted there were not as many people fishing as we have seen on other piers, but there were a lot of surfers to watch and it was very relaxing to watch them. Suddenly there was great excitement over to one side and we went to see what this fisherman had caught … maybe a shark or a maybe bluefish … but no, it was a crab.

We went down to the beach. It was around sunset. Mar sat down to read and watch the sunset while Bernie went "hunting" for interesting things. Among her findings were the inside sole of a shoe, a pacifier, and tons of plastic bottles. There were tons of people still in the water and playing on the beach, even though it was getting dark. Bernie has this thing about not swimming at sunset or after dark because that’s when sharks feed. Therefore she was surprised to see so many people still in the water, they didn’t seem to be worried about sharks.

Once it was completely dark we headed back to the church. We found a good spot in the corner of the sandy lot. Bernie put the charcoal on the grill and then we went to explore the beach in the dark. The moon was bright and the stars were out. It was amazing. When we got back to Bella the grill was ready for our feast: Italian sausage stuffed with artichoke hearts and garlic. Dinner was scrumptious. Then we settled in for the night.

Another great day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Our first NC ferry

Last night it rained long and hard. It rained on and off all night. In case you don't know this, rainfall on an rv's roof is pretty loud, so it kept waking us up … all night.

When we were finally fully awake and up, we drove straight to the ferry. We paid $10 and went about 20 minutes from Southport NC to Pleasure Island NC. It rained the whole time.

We drove up on 421 through Kure Beach and Carolina Beach. It was still raining on and off all day.

Driving through Kure Beach we saw a long pier and decided to check it out. We found parking for Bella and went to explore. There were pelicans walking among the people on the pier and they looked hungry.

A fisherman caught a small fish and he was kind enough to give it to Bernie so that she could feed it to the pelicans. The biggest pelican ran as soon as he saw the fish in Bernie’s hands so she had to throw it quickly before the pelican attacked! He gulped it down in one swallow and walked away.

After we left there, we kept going north on 421 until we found the next Walmart and parked for the night. And yes, it is raining again.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The end of the road

Today we drove through downtown Southport NC and discovered the Cape Fear coast. It was so charming with beautiful houses, right at the edge of the water, and lot of piers behind the houses. The place had a small town atmosphere, lovely town.

We tried to find the road to get to the barrier island but at the end of the road heading east we only found the ferry. The last ferry of the day had already left, so we decided to stick around and wait to take the ferry tomorrow.

We then decided to go explore Bald Head Island and discovered we couldn't get there either without another ferry, but this one is not for vehicles, only for passengers. We went back to Southport.

We got gas at $4.02 per gallon. It is the first time we've paid over four dollars for gas. Then drove around the beach looking for a place to park. The manager at Fishy Fish said we could park in their lot as long as we parked towards the back on the grassy area.

We parked and went to explore the area. We walked on several of the docks and stopped to admire the full moon, we could see the flashing lights from the lighthouse across the way, and even fireworks across the water. What a cool place and what a great way to end the day.