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Posts Tagged ‘history’

OK, stupid title for a blog post (though a spin on a great tune), but it accurately describes our time in this state.  Our plan was to pause briefly in Gloucester to wait out a day of weather, then keep on moving.  We should know better than to think that our plans matter.

In a text exchange the night before we left Gloucester, a friend asked where we were headed the following day;  I replied “Plymouth-ish”.  The route into Plymouth Harbor is long and well off our track.  Our goal was to spend a night at anchor closer to the Cape Cod Canal so as to be able to time our transit through the canal.  In short, we had no intention of actually stopping in Plymouth.  If we manage to get off the dock tomorrow as is our current plan (there’s that word again!), we will have been here 15 days.  15. Days.

We were maybe 5 miles off of Scituate, MA, motoring in very light winds that were mostly directly behind us.  Shortly after 1pm, Mike called me to the cockpit.  We’d developed a horrible shudder.  Thinking we’d caught something on the drive leg or a rudder (think lobster buoy), we went through our usual routine of clearing them. Except that that didn’t resolve the shudder.  Some quick diagnostics let us know that we were fine in neutral, but with any kind of rpms, the shudder was back… pointing to a likely drive leg or transmission issue.  We shut the engine down and put the sails up in hopes of maintaining some steerage and kept creeping south, albeit slowly (remember the very light winds and mostly behind us). Eventually we called TowBoat US (think AAA for boats).  Shortly after 3:30pm, we were under tow by Captain Matt who could not have been more helpful.  We were on the dock  at Brewster Plymouth Marine by about 5:15pm that evening, Thursday.

While we were bobbing around under sail, we caught sight of the Lightship Nantucket, headed somewhere I haven’t been able to determine.  She’s now a museum ship, generally docked in Boston Harbor, one of only a couple of lightships able to move under her own power, so it was kind of a big deal to see her underway.  Find a bit more of her story here.  Our route in under tow would also take us past a couple more lighthouses.  Matt, our TowBoat US guy, would be less likely than Captain Mike to detour for closer photos, but nevertheless, I took photos.

With Cheshire safety tied up to the dock, and marina staff gone for the day, we headed to town to decompress.  On a tip from friends, we stopped into Dirty Water Distillery, followed by dinner at KKatie’s Burger Bar.

The good news was that the following morning we had our new bff/mechanic Colin on board and the problem diagnosed.  Turns out Mike was pretty close.  The Red Queen (our diesel engine) herself was fine, however our flex coupler, the complicated bit that connects the transmission and drive leg, had failed. Mind you, before today, I wasn’t even aware that we had a flex coupler;  diesel mechanics is definitely not my strong suit.  The bad news was that despite this quick diagnosis, we still had to order parts from Sillette in England, who, given the 5 hr time difference, by noon Friday our time were already closed for their 3-day summer bank holiday… translate we couldn’t even order parts until the following Tuesday, at 3am to be precise.

We spent a few days on the dock in a temporarily vacant slip during which Cheshire got some much needed spa time, having not been dockside with access to a hose since our last project stop in North Caroline a couple of months back.  I cleaned/waxed all of the nonskid, always a multi-day project, and the ground tackle (anchor, chain, etc.) got some love.  We did some playing as well though.  Saturday afternoon’s Plymouth Waterfront Festival was not as awesome as advertised, unless of course you’re interested in aluminum siding, tub inserts or really really bad arts & crap.  The afternoon was salvaged though when we found that a local-but-too-far-to-bike-to craft brewery,  Mayflower Brewing, had a pop-up beer garden at one of the local museums.  Come Monday when the slip holder was due back, the marina staff hip towed us out to the mooring field.  End of projects that require a hose and copious fresh water.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Mike set an alarm for 3am Tuesday so he could be on the phone with Silette when they reopened after the holiday.  Parts were ordered.  Then it got hot.  Wicked hot.  We were thankful for breezes in the mooring field, but still found multiple reasons to be ashore for next few days. We did errands early, then hid out in the public library and restaurants until the evening time when it finally cooled a bit.  Dillon’s Local for beers/snack, then buck-a-shuck oysters at Surfside Smokehouse on site at marina were both quite good.  Wednesday we figured out the public bus system and caught a bus to a local mall which was perfectly awful.  I’ve never been a big mall person, but this one was bad.  The nearby Target however, our really goal, did not disappoint.  Ice cream from Peaceful Meadows back in Plymouth was a nice treat as well.

By mid-day Thursday we’d gotten notification that our parts had arrived.  We were thrilled to have them so quickly, only to be deflated again when the yard staff informed us that there was “no way” they’d get to us before the Labor Day/holiday weekend, and suggested we touch base the following Tuesday.  We consoled ourselves with a visit to Second Wind Brewing Co which was quite good, followed by a great meal at Thirty-Nine Court.

Our holiday weekend involved some windy weather, and a few more errands and smaller scale boat projects (including Mike’s replacing our inverter that also started misbehaving shortly before our arrival here).  We caught a concert at the Spire Performing Arts Center followed by beers at British Beer Co, had our best breakfast in Plymouth at Will & Co. and did a bit of touristing by bike.

Plymouth is actively engaged in a bit of sprucing up in anticipation of its 400th anniversary upcoming in 2020.  Consequently some parks, sites, etc. are fenced off while improvements are underway.  We of course saw Plymouth Rock, which was hard to photograph despite multiple visits… weird shadows, and is a bit over-rated imho.  There’s also some question as to whether this rock marks the real location of the Pilgrim’s landing.  Check out this link for the real story behind Plymouth Rock.

P1070808 Forefathers Monument + Mike

Forefathers Monument, Plymouth MA

A bit off the beaten tourist path but more impressive was the Forefathers Monument commemorating the Mayflower Pilgrims.  Completed in 1888/89, it stands at 81′ and is built of solid granite.  Years ago it apparently was much more prominent a feature overlooking Plymouth.  Today it’s surrounded by trees on mostly private property, so much so that despite its size, you don’t see it until you’re nearly on top of it.  For a bit more info and photos of this monument, check out this blog post. Note Mike in the photo for size reference.

Also worth a visit and unfortunately even more off the beaten path is Plymouth’s 9/11 Memorial.  It was started by a local businessman, a personally funded memorial in front of his produce store.  It’s grown to be a much bigger deal, now managed by the city,  featuring a piece of steel from the WTC, and several granite pillars bearing the names of every person who lost their life in the tragedy, reportedly the first 9/11 memorial to do so.  Other granite pieces feature powerful quotes by FDR and DQ, the latter of whom I’m fairly certain was the memorial’s originator, and another by R Giuliani (not pictured).  The light and polished granite made for interesting photographs.

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships — the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.  – FDR

Back downtown, tucked into an area called Brewster Gardens is a sculpture I found most captivating, the simply named Immigrant Monument, by artist Barney Zeitz.  I’ve read both that it was a tribute to the original Pilgrims, and alternately, as the inscription on the sculpture appears to indicate, to later immigrants to Plymouth.  Either way, it’s a beautiful piece, commissioned before and installed about a month after 9/11.  Take a look at the link above for a local news piece including some bits about the sculptor who travels from Martha’s Vineyard every couple of years to maintain/polish the piece. 

To the enduring memory of those immigrant settlers of Plymouth who as latter day pilgrims from many cultures and countries over the course of three centuries helped build upon these shores a robust and hospitable community.  At great personal sacrifice, they established new homes in a new world and by their hard work, enriched and transformed this town of their adoption. Precious to a grateful posterity is the remembrance of their lives and labors.  – inscription on Immigrant Monument, Plymouth MA

P1070830 Immigrant Monument, Plymouth MA

Immigrant Monument, Plymouth MA

Obviously there’s a lot more history to Plymouth that I won’t even begin to try and cover here, but the above were some of our highlights.

Tuesday morning, we were out on the mooring ball, enjoying a leisurely morning after a busy weekend,  finishing our coffee, when at 8:30am there came a knock on the hull.  We popped out to find a couple of the marina staff out to collect us for yet another tow into the dock.  Colin was ready to start our repair.  Later that day we encountered another delay when he found that the engine mounts were also trashed, which required another day of waiting for parts.  Wednesday morning we again got towed in a game of musical boats, this time to the fuel dock.  While Colin spent 2+ days on the engine, we finished some last minute chores… laundry, a hardware store run and some final provisioning, including a celebratory dinner out to a nicer-than-our-usual place called the Tasty… yummy Asian-inspired offerings.

IMG_5824 new flex coupler

new flex coupler

Finally, today we moved off the fuel dock, under our own power for the first time in more than two weeks… all the way to the marina’s face dock where we spent this evening  waiting out a nasty blow which thankfully brought some cooler temps.  Tomorrow we’ll be on the move again, keeping a close weather-eye on the storms brewing in the Atlantic.      And that’s as much of a plan as we have for now.  Stay tuned.

 

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Because the weather was forecast to be a bit sketchy and the anchoring options limited, we opted to spring for an inner harbor mooring for the couple of nights we’d be in Gloucester.  Although there are a few spots that allowed for dinghy access, we got our money’s worth out of the launch service that was included in the mooring rental.

Although some cruisers pass through, the harbor serves a lot of locals, including fishermen who keep their boats here.  We met a lobsterman and his teen-aged son on the launch who were also on their way ashore after a day on the water.  I asked how their day fishing was and were treated to a great story, complete with video, of their having caught/released a huge 15# female lobster in one of their traps.  It was released because it was well over the size limit for what can be kept.  Amazingly though she was not “notched”.  (If a lobsterman traps an egg-bearing female lobster, he/she is required to cut a small triangular notch in its tail and return it to the water.  If she’s caught again, the notched tail flags her as a breeder, and she again must be released.  Smart way to protect the population. More here, including a photo of a notched tail for, those who are seriously interested.)  We agreed that this must have been one smart lobster to have eluded capture for so many years, to have grown that big.  The son was excited to share his video and both were impressed that we knew anything about lobstering.   We chatted ashore a bit and got some restaurant recommendations.

Our first stop was the Crow’s Nest bar, made famous by Sebastian Junger’s book and film, “The Perfect Storm”.  The bar is real and is a quintessential local watering hole even to this day.  The walls are lined with photos not only of the folks on which the book/movie were based, but also of the actors who portrayed them. While the film crew apparently frequented the place during filming, the ceiling of the place were deemed too low by the camera crew, so a mock-up was constructed in Hollywood.  We chatted with a few of the locals, one of whom told of her efforts to get on “Wicked Tuna“, a National Geographic reality TV series on the boats that fish out of Gloucester.  Not having a TV aboard, we were unfamiliar with the show, but based on “licensed product” for sale around town, it’s  apparently a pretty big deal.  Stone’s Pub for dinner was quite yummy.

The following day we did some touristing.  Walking along the north shore of Gloucester Harbor, it seemed appropriate that we had a bit of fog.  The Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, sometimes referred to as “Man at the Wheel” was impressive and sobering.  Artist Leonard F Craske completed the sculpture in 1925 for Gloucester’s 300th anniversary, and since then additions have been made to include the names of those lost at sea from 1716 – 2001, incl the captain and crew, 6 all told, of the Andrea Gail.

A bit further down and of more recent vintage is the Fishermen’s Wives Memorial, per their website “the memorial honors not only the faith, diligence, and fortitude of the wives of fishermen and mariners everywhere but also honors all women for their unselfish contribution to the well being of their families and their communities”.

At our furthest flung, we arrived at the sizable Stage Fort Park where Tablet Rock has a plaque commemorating the landing of the first settlers in 1623, the 2nd permanent settlement of the early Puritans in the New World, though there is some question as to the truth of this claim.  Causeway Restaurant , recommended by the lobsterman we’d met the previous day, made for a filling lunch, which was followed by a walk back into town and a stretch at the lovely public library.  I managed to squeeze in a long walk to the grocery and back to a launch pick-up, arriving back to the boat just ahead of what looked like a nasty storm that never amounted to much.

And of course there were lighthouses, from the water on both our way in and again at our departure, the twin Thatcher Island Lights, Eastern Point Light and a bit deeper into the harbor, Ten Pound Island Light.

 

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From Oriental NC we made our way north, boat-camping our way up.  Although we love the Dismal Swamp Canal, for this run we opted for the more time-efficient Virginia Cut route.  We paused for an afternoon on the Great Bridge Free Dock so that we could make a provisioning run. (We’d provisioned up before leaving Oriental, but the grocery there is a small one, and we missed some things.)  In Chesapeake, we were disappointed to find that the very nice Farm Fresh grocery that was walking distance from the dock is no more; renovations are underway for a Kroger to open in its place.  I do hate to see the Mom & Pop and even regional chains get squeezed out.  Speaking of squeezed, we had some company on the dock, though only one of the boats pictured (the one forward of our Cheshire) actually spent the night.  It’s a bit unusual to see vessels of this size ($$$) on a free dock forgoing power and water.

20180608 Cheshire on the dock, Great Bridge, VA

Cheshire sandwich, Great Bridge Free Dock

We’d hoped to pass through the Portsmouth/Norfolk VA area and head offshore without much delay, but Mother Nature wasn’t having it.  The local weather was lovely, but further north we’d have run into some snotty stuff.  We opted to wait for a better window.  Turns out we had plenty to entertain us while we waited; it was Norfolk HarborFest week-end.  We’d missed the Parade of Sail the previous day, but what a treat to watch a great fireworks show while relaxing on our bow.  Of course we had plenty of company.  Hospital Point is a popular anchorage for cruisers moving north and south, but for this occasion it was jammed with all variety of floating stock.  Mike counted 150 boats. (There were exactly 6 one week later/this afternoon when we departed.)  It was a calm evening or some of these floating messes could have been hazardous in such tight quarters.

Our few days of waiting for weather spilled into a few more days of waiting for mail.  These days we receive very little via snail mail, but when our credit union unexpectedly issued new debit/chip cards, we decided to wait long enough to collect them. Fortunately there is plenty to keep us occupied in the area.  The Portsmouth/Norfolk area has plenty of ginormous vessels… tugs, barges, cargo ships, military vessels, a couple of which are now museums.  We decided to check them out.

We’d seen the Lightship Portsmouth a couple of years back, but with very limited open hours, we didn’t get an opportunity to tour the inside.  This time our timing was better.  Built in 1915, this vessel is over 100 years old, and the docent who gave us our tour isn’t far behind.   Find a bit more history here on the Lighthouse Friends page for this light.

IMG_5355 Lightship Portsmouth

Lightship Portsmouth

 

Elsewhere in Portsmouth, we had a great meal and some interesting local beers at Gosport Tavern, followed by a leisurely stroll around the historic district, very quiet on the Sunday evening we visited.  We were less impressed a few days later with Legend Depot Brewing.  This is a second location for a craft brewer who started in Richmond VA.  To be honest though, the food and beers weren’t bad; our bartender just couldn’t be bothered.

IMG_5358 I've Been Kissed, Portsmouth VA

I’ve Been Kissed!

The real highlight of our stop in the area though was our visit to the USS Wisconsin, a Navy battleship affectionately known as Wisky.  It’s always impressive to cruise through Norfolk, home of the Norfolk Naval Ship Yard where the Navy’s largest vessels are born/built, remodeled and repaired.  How appropriate then that the Wisconsin, said to be one of the largest and last battleships built by the US Navy, came to rest here to serve out the remainder of its life as a museum ship.

It’s been relatively recently that the ship came to be part of Nauticus, a science center and maritime museum.  It’s one of the more accessible military vessels we’ve toured, yet there are huge sections that they haven’t even opened yet to the public.  We enjoyed wandering about on our own, but also sprung for one of the behind the scenes tours, the guided Command and Control tour which just sounded more interesting to us than touring the recently opened Engine Room.  This mighty vessel served during WW2, the Korean War as well as Desert Storm.  (Option to click on the photos below for a larger view.)

IMG_5362 Battleship Wisconsin

big guns, Battleship Wisconsin

After hours aboard the ship, we pedaled about the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk for some exercise and errands.   Mr Shawarma was a yummy casual Mediteranean place where we grabbed some lunch.  We were also successful in getting Mike’s phone fixed, picked up our mail and wrapped up afternoon sampling some more local brews at O’Connor Brewing Company.  A quick stop at Harris Teater (awsome grocery store we don’t find often enough) and we were back aboard Cheshire.

Today we took care of some chores, including our first attempt at rebuilding a winch.  I’m pleased to say that no parts escaped overboard during this process.  We moved up to the Hampton area where we topped off fuel and made ready for an offshore run we’ll make starting tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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Road-trip 2017, Days 27 – 30

In the home stretch of our month long road trip, we headed into familiar-to-us territory in the Florida panhandle, but not before checking out a new-to-both-of-us area, Pensacola, Florida.  Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida panhandle, nearly 832 miles by road from Key West, or 524 miles by water.  Pensacola’s big claim to fame is Naval Air Station Pensacola, the first naval air station commissioned by the US government back in 1914 and home of the Blue Angels.  We spent the entire day exploring the area, including the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, the National Naval Aviation Museum and Fort Barracas, all on base at NAS Pensacola.

The Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum was quite interesting.  My favorite source for all things lighthouse, LighthouseFriends.com, has some history.  It is one of few that was actually occupied by both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War.  The tower and the Keeper’s Cottage nearly became casualties again in the early 70’s when there was talk of it being an obstacle for the nearby jet traffic on the naval base.  Preservation-minded folks prevailed, and today the lighthouse complex as well as the nearby forts are protected as part of the Gulf Shores National Seashore.  A most pleasant surprise during our visit was the “Women Who Kept the Light” exhibit, showcasing not just the women keepers at Pensacola but across the country.  It was an exceptionally well done exhibit and in my humble opinion, too much of a well kept secret, even on the lighthouse’s own website.

 

P1050771 Jeremiah Pelican Lighthouse Keeper

Jeremiah Pelican Lighthouse Keeper

Outside I was captivated by yet another creatures-as-public-art-project, this one entitled Pelicans in Paradise.  This was one of a flock of 41 5 ft tall 70 lb birds, hatched in 2004-2005 and scattered about Pensacola as a fundraiser for the local newspaper’s Newspapers in Education literacy program.  I’m not certain how many of them remain (though I was tempted to seek a few more out), but Jeremiah seemed to be in fine shape, obviously a well tended to bird.

The nearby National Naval Aviation Museum was at the same time impressive and a bit overwhelming.  With 350,000 square feet of exhibit space on a 37-acre campus, they obviously covered some history.  The chock-full space and the shear volume of exhibits made photography more than a bit challenging, at least for yours truly, but I couldn’t resist a shot of a few Blue Angels.  I loved that so many of the aircraft were shown suspended.

P1050777 Blue Angels, Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola FL

Blue Angels, Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola

Having spent way more time at the museum than we’d anticipated, we had only a short time to explored Fort Barrancas and none at all for nearby Fort Pickens.   Still, I was able to grab a few photos and Mike was recruited to help the onsite park ranger take the flag down at days end.

 

LS_20170424_140846 Hamaknockers BBQ, Crawfordville FL (so of Tallahassee)

Hamaknockers BBQ, Crawfordsville FL

Leaving Pensacola, we opted for the scenic route which took us through the Florida portion of Gulf Shores National Seashore. We spent a couple of nights at (Lori’s) Mom’s place in Panama City Beach, catching our breath, doing some laundry, generally slowing down a bit.  Mike’s nose found some good eats at Hamaknockers BBQ one afternoon on our way to Gainesville where we visited with friends for a bit.

 

On our last stretch from Gainesville to our Cheshire in St Augustine, we decided to stop and check out our new hometown so to speak.  We’d recently signed up for a mail handling service, officially known as St Brendan’s Isle, who handle mail for literally thousands of cruisers, RVers and others who travel.  They grew so much over the years that they outgrew their storefront (see Mike in photo below), but the post office (wisely) didn’t want to change their street address.  The little vertical bit between the windowed storefronts below is technically where we live.  We stopped by their new facility just outside of town to pick up our mail, along with that of a number of our friends, which saved us all some forwarding charges.  While we were in town, we also picked up library cards for our new city of residence.  Truth be told though, I’m not excited about Clay County Library’s e-book collection… it’s just not that big a population, but thankfully we’re also able to keep our cards for the Gainesville/Alachua Co Library which is awesome.

And thus ends another successful road trip.

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Although we love our life aboard our Cheshire, we also love a good road trip now and then.  With our engine issues last fall, our late start on moving south, we’d opted not to get too far flung this year… at least by water.  Instead, at some point during our month + in Vero Beach, we decided we’d take a month long road trip to Los Angeles where Mike’s son and daughter-in-law are living currently. We made arrangements to leave Cheshire in St Augustine, booked a rental car and started researching.

Road-trip 2017 Days 1 – 8

Our first couple of days on the road were mostly making tracks.  We spent a night with my (Lori’s) Mom and sister in Panama City Beach, FL (with a plan for a longer visit on the return leg), then on to a HoJo’s (yes, they still exist) in Lafayette, LA the following night.  Days 3-4 found us in Texas where we found a great little ethnic enclave just outside of Houston where we lunched at Little V Vietnamese in Katy TX.  That afternoon we arrived  in Warda, TX for a stay at the Garrett Ranch and a visit with Mike’s Uncle Bob and his wife Altha.  We enjoyed a couple of days of catching up, touristing about LaGrange (yes, of ZZ Top fame, but we didn’t visit the Chicken Ranch).  We did stop into the Texas Quilt Museum  one day;  the Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry exhibit that we saw was quite beautiful, and much different than the more traditional quilts I’m familiar with from our time in central Ohio and Amish country.  We also took daily spins about the ranch on Bob’s Kubota 4×4 to check on the cattle.  The boys also enjoyed talking about the rolling stock and reminiscing.

 

LS_20170331_123138

Mike getting his groove on with SRV,

From Warda we headed a short distance to Austin.  We’d originally thought we’d spend a bit of time here, but decided instead we wanted to get up into the nearby Texas Hill Country explore a bit.  We did pause in Austin long enough to visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum.  It was a nicely done museum, but a bit overrun with school kids at our visit.  The Stevie Ray Vaughn exhibit was a highlight.  On our way out of town, we checked out a public art spot known as Graffiti Park at Castle Hill aka HOPE Outdoor Gallery, then headed out of town to stage for an early morning start into Hill Country.

 

 

LS_20170401_124653

Lark Sparrow

 

Day 6, we grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and headed out for a morning hike at Balcones Canyonlands NWR.  This refuge exists in part to protect the nesting habitat of a couple of birds, specifically the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo.  The warbler in particular nests only in Texas.  Alas, I was unsuccessful in spotting either of them, but we did enjoy the hike and saw plenty of another bird I’ve been unsuccessful in identifying.  (ID help welcome.) Wildflowers were also plentiful, but I for some reason was having issues with trying to photograph them.

We were on to Stonewall TX for the afternoon to explore the Lyndon B Johnson National Historic Park.  It was a fascinating walk through history and the life of a man I was previously not terribly familiar with.  No doubt it was in part his humble beginnings in this Hill Country of Texas that shaped the kind of president he would become, at least in terms of his Great Society legislation, although it seems for some these actions were overshadowed by his handling of Vietnam.  We were able to tour the residence, the Texas White House.  No photography was allowed inside, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was like stepping back into the mid-60’s.  No gold plated anything here.  LBJ’s indulgence however was to have numerous sets of televisions scattered about this Texas Whitehouse, in groupings of three, one for each of the channels available at the time.

I was also previously unaware that LBJ had been such a friend of the environment… read more about his accomplishments here.  I can’t help but wonder what he would think of our current state of affairs.  I found it interesting in reading the document linked to see that Florida’s Mar-A-Lago had been declared a National Historic Site during LBJ’s tenure. I had to dig a little deeper and found this bit of history.  It turns out Marjorie Merriweather Post (a quite wealthy heiress in her day), upon her death in 1973, turned her outrageously expensive private estate over to the federal government for use as a presidential retreat… except that a few years later they gave it back, having decided that it was too expensive to maintain and provide presidential-grade security for such a place.  Most interesting…

 

The following day was mostly spent on the road, though we did spend the afternoon/evening in Marfa TX to check out some art/sculpture at the Chinati Foundation and later had a most tasty dinner at the Hotel Paisano.

From Marfa, we were positioned for an early visit the following day to Fort Davis National Historic Site, an old frontier military post that protected west Texas and travel along the San Antonio – El Paso Road.  It’s an impressive collection of preserved and restored buildings with some hiking trails in the surrounding hills, another great opportunity to stretch our legs.

It was pretty desolate in terms of wildlife, but I did see a hawk and another small bird I’ve yet to identify, and was most entertained by my first Greater Roadrunner.  Beep Beep…

LS_20170403_130848 Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner, Fort Davis National Historic Site, TX, side view

 

We finished out this day with a drive on into Arizona.  More exploring to come.

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Successfully navigating the East River and New York Harbor marked the end of our summer exploring.  From this point, we’re on a mission to make tracks south.  Unfortunately we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature as we’ll run outside/offshore from here to the Portsmouth/Norfolk area, likely in hops as weather permits.  We arrived last Friday, and so far, the weather has been beautiful for some exploring, but not so much for an outside run.  Fortunately there’s quite a bit to explore in this spot.

Shortly after our arrival, we hiked up to Navesink Light, aka the Twin Lights of Highlands, which in its day was a primary aid to navigation for traffic into New York Harbor.  This is an unusual light, a castle-like brownstone structure of two non-identical towers linked by the keepers’ quarters and storage rooms.  In 1841 it became the first light in the United States to use the then revolutionary Fresnel lens; fast forward to the late 1970’s, they tracked down this original lens, currently displayed in the original powerhouse/generator building on grounds.  The recently renovated exhibit space also featured a great exhibit titled “Seeing Stars” that traces the American flag from its inception through the current day.  And of course, we climbed the south tower (the only one open for climbing).  Later in the afternoon, we checked out yet another local craft brewery, Carton Brewing; we got a tour of the facility and a tasting in the 2nd floor tasting room.

The following morning we had breakfast at Zoe’s Vintage Kitchen, and set off on another hike, this time to the Mt Mitchell Scenic Overlook.  Mt Mitchell is a Monmouth County Park, said to have an amazing view of nearby Sandy Hook and the New York City skyline, though it was pretty hot and hazy during our visit, so the view wasn’t quite what it might have been.  What was impressive though was the 9/11 Memorial.  Artist Franco Minervini designed an eagle sculpture, incorporating a piece of beam from one of the fallen towers, that sits atop a stone base carved with the names of the 147 residents of the county who lost their lives that day.  They were setting up for a commemoration event scheduled for the following morning (9/11), but we were two of only a handful of folks present on this day.  I couldn’t help but wonder what the view to NYC might have looked like from this vantage point on that fateful morning 15 years ago.

After a day of rest, we decided to haul the bikes ashore for a long pedal over to Sandy Hook, a barrier peninsula on this bit of the Jersey Shore.  A couple of days prior, we’d discovered a weather-beaten (think Superstorm Sandy) rails-to-trails path, the Henry Hudson Trail, along the water that we deemed “good enough” to pedal.

The trail ended in the Highlands area, but we picked up another on the other side of the bridge to Sandy Hook as we entered what’s known officially as the Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.  Managed by the National Park Service, this recreation area covers more than 26,000 acres of property in New York and New Jersey, including the Sandy Hook area that kept us plenty busy for a day.  The area was whacked pretty hard by Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy in Oct 2012.  The damage, as well as the rebuilding/recovery, was evident all around.  I’ve read that the park was flat out closed for about 6 months after the storm; obviously, the recovery is ongoing.

The old Life Saving Station had served as the Visitors’ Center; post-Sandy, it (the visitors center) moved to the Keepers’ Cottage of the lighthouse.  We had anticipated that the Sandy Hook Light would be closed; according to its website, it was to be undergoing some repairs and restoration.  Lucky for us, the contractors who were scheduled to do the work were not showing up.  The NPS park rangers decided if there wasn’t work going on, they’d reopen tours.  The sign went up as we were approaching the keepers’cottage/visitors’ center.  The Sandy Hook Light is said to be the oldest lighthouse still standing in the United States.  First lit in June 1764, it stood 500 ft from the tip of the spit.  Today is stands more than 1.5 miles from the tip, safe from the erosion that has claimed so many of these old towers.  We tried unsuccessfully to take it our ourselves with cannon fire when the British loyalists had control of this spit during the Revolutionary War. Even Sandy, who wrecked the surrounding area, did only minimal damage.

 

Sandy Hook also has a long military history.  A bit further out the spit, we came upon Fort Hancock, a former US Army fort.  This installation served as part of the harbor’s coastal defense system from 1893 until 1974 when it was decommissioned; many of the buildings and fortifications remain to this day.  It was difficult to tell, particularly in some of the water-facing buildings, how much of the disrepair was compliments of the storm versus the ravages of time, the latter compounded by the park service’s limited budget relative to the number of buildings needing maintained.  Either way, it was an interesting place.

Near the lighthouse complex, we wandered about the  Mortar Battery… creepy place actually.  Pedaling about the grounds we came upon several other batteries.  Lots of history here. Battery Potter sported the country’s first so-called disappearing gun battery in the late 1800’s.  Other batteries followed as the technology changed.  Apparently lots of big guns were required to defend New York Harbor from an attack from sea.

In the late 1950’s as the Cold War came upon us, surface to air missiles arrived on the scene. Now the threat was from the air. Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock became home to NY-56, one of a number of Nike Missile sites that surrounded New York City.  The missile launch area is now used by the park’s maintenance team.  The radar site had gotten quite overgrown but has since been reclaimed.  In the last ten years or so, much effort has been put into reclaiming this history, although they have a long way to go.  (Apparently a herd of Nubian goats has been helpful as well.  More here.)  They do have a couple of missiles on site though, and have replaced some of the radar equipment.  Infrequent tours are available, though our timing wasn’t good enough to catch one this trip.

 

Having gotten our fill of fresh air and history, we pedaled back,  pausing at Moby’s Lobster Deck (which is every bit the tourist trap is sounds to be) for a snack and some local beers to replenish ourselves.  A bit of local “art” and and a nice sunset also were nice additions to our days of exploring.

Other bits worth mentioning… The Hudson Cafe was a fine spot of breakfast and a bit of wifi.  Gaslight satisfied the Captain’s beer & wings craving one night after a movie.  Yes, we saw a movie… in a theatre… the first in we can’t even remember how long.  For the record, “Sully” is well worth a look, and was particularly powerful for us after our recent trip through NYC.

So, Atlantic Highlands … been here (for nearly a week now!), done it all, ready to go.  Now, if Mother Nature would just throw us some weather to work with, we’d be out of here.

 

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Having survived the non-event that was Tropical Storm Hermine, it was once again time to get moving.  Our next stretch would need to be carefully timed though… wicked tides and currents that would work to our benefit if we planned carefully and would be quite challenging if we didn’t.  An area in particular referred to as Hell Gate demands respect.

After topping off fuel and water, we were off at about 14:30.  Our planning paid off.  The current was in our favor, though the Captain had a most challenging afternoon into early evening as there was much going on along the way.  Not surprisingly, but definitely new to us, there was lots of activity on the East River through New York City.  We were one of only a few pleasure boats, but there was plenty of traffic on the water… tugs, barges, and some huge ferry boats.  The skies were busy too.  I wondered if jet pilots use the East River as a guide on their approach to LaGuardia as we had a plane every couple of minutes off our stern as we approached the city.  It was a bit freaky actually.  Too fast to get a good photograph though; they were that close.  Further down, as we approached the Wall Street area, we were surprised at the amount of helicopter traffic.  There were even a few seaplanes taking off and landing in the river.  Crossing the river via cable car had to win the prize for most unusual though.  Bet that was an impressive vantage point.  Like I said, there was lots going on.

While Mike was busy dodging traffic, I was busy taking photos.  As usual, it was challenging from a bobbing boat.  Our late afternoon run also meant we were headed directly west into the sun for much of the time.  Also as usual, I was particularly captivated by the beautiful old bridges, 8 in all, though I didn’t get photos of all of them.

Of course there were lighthouses, many of which must have been much more prominent when built, but in many cases now are dwarfed by all that surrounds them.

Seeing the Statue of Liberty from the water was most impressive.  Interesting side note: from shortly after its installation in 1886, Lady Liberty and her torch served as an official aid to navigation, in fact the first “lighthouse” to be lit with electricity.  In 1902 it was discontinued as an aid.  In the fading light, we dropped anchor not far behind the statue, just off Liberty State Park, her torch visible above the trees from our cockpit.

We might have stayed a bit longer, but favorable weather the next morning prompted us to move on, finishing our run through New York Harbor .  The bright orange Staten Island ferries were flying quite busy, at least one of them with an armed USCG escort.  Another bridge, a few more lighthouses, and we were anchor down just off Atlantic Highlands in New Jersey.

Here we’d wait a bit for some favorable weather.  Our next stretch will be an outside run down the New Jersey coast.

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