Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Waterspouts and The Outer Banks

It's been too long between posts lately.  Part of the reason: for a few days, antique car owners of various marques descended upon the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  (Just as Tropical Storm Ana was - thankfully - leaving.)

Monday night we were at dinner in an oceanfront restaurant, and I looked out to sea - there was what appeared to be two rotating white pouches hanging down from the dark offshore cloud deck.  I believed it was the formation of twin waterspouts (later confirmed from others) and ran outside to try for a picture.  The waterspouts never formed trademark "full funnels", but there was spray on the ocean surface beneath them for a short time, leading me to believe the circulation was just too weak to develop further.  They paralleled the coast for a short while, and then disappeared. This is the best picture I was able to take of them...not long before they vanished.


For those who aren't familiar with the Outer Banks (or OBX as the locals - and the bumper stickers - say), they are a very narrow strip of sand (under a mile wide and maybe as much as12 ft above sea level) called barrier islands, just off the NC coast, some accessible by bridge or causeway, and others by ferry.  We traveled to a few, but by no means all, of the islands, and had a fabulous time.

Our little jaunt was actually fairly tame as far as "miss-identifications" were concerned.  There were some, to be sure.  Most of the time at restaurants, no gendered forms of address were used for us. Instead, we heard "y'all." "folks," and "guys", but we were almost always asked if we wanted one, or two separate, checks.  Hmmm, very curious.  

Then, when they finally gave the check to us, it was always placed midway between us, like they typically do for ladies dining together.  Only one time did I actually hear "Sir," and that check was given directly to me.  Their confusion might have been because my presentation (as you can see below), was less feminine than I prefer,  but still not clearly male.  Fortunately, my wife was fairly comfortable with how I looked.  And, she was not always by my side for the true "miss-identifications."  Only for the men holding doors for us - "go ahead, ladies" and the like.  Which she seems to take in stride.

She definitely got some exposure to  me wearing my new "blue for boys" lounger, whenever we were in our room.  Unless the folks we were touring with, were paying close attention to the fine details of my daily presentation, I doubt anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary.  At least, nothing was said.  And, despite my lack of a good feminine presentation, it was a wonderful trip...

Early on, we made a stop at the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station in Rodanthe, NC.  Per Wikipedia, Chicamacomico was an active US Coast Guard facility from 1915 until 1954. After its decommissioning the facility was transformed into a museum.   The CLSS is perhaps best remembered for the 1918 rescue of the British tanker Mirlo. Forty-two crew members of the Mirlo were saved by station personnel. Numerous accolades and awards were bestowed upon the 6 life-savers including gold medals in their honor presented by King George V of the United Kingdom  and the Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor. To date only eleven Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor awards have been bestowed in the history of the United States with six being bestowed upon the members of the CLSS.

Wonder what the gold dome in the center of the picture, between the big building and the outdoor kitchen, is?  If you guessed a cistern, you'd be right.  The roof gutters connect to it, to store rainwater for future use.  Remember, back in the day,  town utilities were not common...nor were towns...especially out in the hinterlands like the Outer Banks.

Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, Rodanthe (Outer Banks), NC

Below is a pic taken on the ferry boat to Ocracoke Island.  You'll notice that I'm not smiling at all.  Before you ask, yes, there's a reason... mainly because I don't feel comfortable on boats of any size.  Knowing how many boats (particularly ferries, but do remember the Titanic, Andrea Doria and Costa Concordia as well) have sunk, worldwide.  And. being almost out of sight of land in choppy post-tropical-storm seas mid-voyage, did absolutely nothing to ease my anxiety.  Fortunately, neither this ferry, nor the one we rode back to Hatteras, sank - thus, I'm still around to talk about my experiences.  And,  having survived two more voyages,  I can do my own version of the "happy dance"!  (Just don't expect to meet me on any cruises!)

At least I was wearing my typical touring outfit...but with my 2" heeled clogs instead of strappy sandals.  They collect less sand and are easier to remove sand from.  Just ignore the glare from my un-tanned "winter legs."  Maybe some day temperatures will be conducive to wearing shorts more of the time...

On the car ferry "Lupton" enroute from Hatteras to  Ocracoke. My GPS showed the icon moving across the water at 12 mph!   Follow Route 12 any way you can!

What's that white stuff we see in the following picture?  It looks and acts like snow, but it really was sand.  Pictures can't accurately show the fine streams of sand blowing over the top edge of the dune.  Sand blows around so much that the state has to use front end loaders and road graders to rearrange it.  Must be a boring job, going from place to place, scraping the same stretches of road and shoulders, time and again.

That's not snow, it's sand!  The grasses they planted to stabilize the dunes haven't started to do their job yet...

And I'm still trying to wash the sand off my car...with all the nooks and crannies, "it's everywhere, it's everywhere!"

I could bore you with lighthouse pictures from the tour...my wife and I both enjoy lighthouses.  I've climbed a few "back in the day" (Cape May, Aquinnah, Concord Point, and so on), so I'm not completely opposed to it.  The views are always spectacular, and occasionally I have gotten right up next to the Fresnel Lens, usually off limits.  But my wife's view of climbing is, well, "not so much."  And, the older we get, the less appealing we both find the thought of climbing 248 steps (more or less) up, and then back down again.  It's simply lost its appeal...seems too much like unnecessary work.  One of these days, I'll do it "one last time, just for the memories".   But not now...

This (Currituck light, north of Duck) is a  fine example of one of the very few brick lighthouses.  And the place was very crowded when we were there.  It took a while to arrange this relatively human-free snapshot.

Currituck Light

Paved road ends at the northern border of NC, as in  "way north of Duck."  We're told that parts of Route 12 were paved as recently as 1985 north of Duck (don't you just love that name?), remaining unpaved in Virginia.  If you have a 4wd vehicle (which we obviously didn't), you can continue north into Virginia, where Route 12 actually moves out onto the beach.  We're told there are even speed limit and route signs out there on the sand!

As if to end a very fine trip on a high note, at sunset the last night, Mother Nature provided a spectacular color show, seen right outside our hotel room balcony...we watched in awe for a few minutes, enjoying the ever changing colors.

Where will we go next, and when?  Only time will tell...


  1. Thank you for the travelogue. The photos and commentary were enjoyable. The concept of a cistern is largely unknown to most Americans. If you ever get to Bermuda you will see the pastel stone houses with white stone roofs. It is my understanding that under the houses are water collection basements where the rain water that falls on the roofs is stored. I understand that there is a form of small fish that is placed into the basement water that feeds on any algae growth.

    Lighthouses are an interesting part of our history. There is a small lighthouse at an idled coast guard station in Sea Girt. It is only open to the public seasonally for two hours on Sundays. It is only 4 stories up so not a problem even for our aging legs. The last major lighthouse that we climbed was the Jupiter lighthouse down in Florida. It was a lot of steps but the view was worth the effort. It was completed just before the Civil War.

    The photo of you on the ferry is interesting. I would guess that if that photo were shown to a group of civilians who did not know you and they were asked to guess your gender that more than half would ID you as a woman.t


    1. Perhaps if more people stored their roof rainwater in a cistern and used it for lawn care (not as potable water) there would be less draw on public sources and less of a water shortage. Everything old is new again...

      Glad you like the travelogue - since I'm not able to dress right now, it's about the only thing I can blog about!

      And, glad to hear your comment on my picture. I wondered about that concept, and since I recognize myself (lol) I didn't think it looked all that feminine. But you may indeed be right - or at least, I hope so!