Monday, October 31, 2011

Portsmouth, Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA

We arrived at the Portsmouth Moose Lodge, where they have a pool.

I don't think they have used this pool in a long, long time.

At the lookout for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel, Fancy tried to make friends with this little crab. No, she didn't get her nose pinched and Max was able to convince the little crab it would be better off next to the shore and not up in the parking lot.

Norfolk Naval Base is the largest naval base in the world with over 54,000 personnel. They give tours and even allowed a few pictures.

Two aircraft carriers were in port, the USS Eisenhower and the USS Enterprise. Several other ships were also in port as well. Five of the 12 aircraft carriers call Norfolk Naval Base their home.

They also had quite a contingent of helicopters based here as well.

The Navy's version of the Airborne Warning and Control aircraft.

This home is base housing for one of the many generals assigned to this base. It is one of many buildings built in the early 1900s a world's fair held at this site.

In old downtown Norfolk you will find some interesting architecture, like this old church.

But this is not a church anymore, but a restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch. It was once an abbey, hence the name Freemason Abbey Restaurant.

Norfolk is also home to the largest naval shipyard in the world. Here are two supply ships under retrofit.

In Old Portsmouth the streets are lined with older homes like this. Most have now been turned into apartments and condos. Portsmouth has a history in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Most of these homes actually date from the 1830s or newer since much of the town was burnt to the ground during the Revolutionary War.

You can't come to this area without visiting Virginia Beach. It was quiet and most things were closed since the season is over.

This former Life Saving Station now sits in the middle of high rise hotels and condo's on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach.

Neptune stands tall on the boardwalk.

One of the most prestegious hotels in Virginia Beach.

At the end of the point, on Fort Story which is an active base, is Cape Henry lighthouse, built in 1792.

It has now been replaced with this lighthouse, located across the street.

Memorial to Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse, captain of the French Fleet which stopped the English Fleet from rescuing British General Cornwallis. This allowed American General George Washington to defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown, effectively ending the American Revolution.

Memorial for all the colonists who first stepped foot on American soil in 1607. They landed first at Cape Henry before settling at Jamestown.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Assateague Island National Seashore, MD

I feel as if I have been going non-stop for the last few months, and when I look at all the places I've been and all I've done, I realize, I have. So I'm off for a few days of relaxation at the beach.

Assateague National Seashore is on Maryland's eastern shore, just south of Ocean City. They have both oceanside and bayside campgrounds. We are on the oceanside, with only a sand dune between me and the Atlantic Ocean.

Fancy really likes this place. She gets to walk on the beach every morning.

Assateague is known for its wild horses. They are totally wild and wander everywhere.

Even through the campgrounds.

This young foal is only a few weeks old.

They also have a small deer, called a Sitka Deer.

There are great bike trails throughout the park.

We did go into Ocean City one day just to check out the boardwalk.

About half the stores are closed for the season, as are most of the hotels and condo's. Even the beaches are empty.

But we did see some great sand art. I liked this one. It's so true.

We also took a trip down to the southern part of the barrier island, to Chincoteague. This is Misty. 'Misty of Chincoteague Island' is a book, based on a true story, about a foal from one of the wild horses. There are actually 2 herds of horses on the barrier island. The wild horses are on the northern end and are owned by the park service. The horses on the south end are owned by the Fire Department and they are rounded up, swam across the bay, and then selected horses are auctioned. It is a fund raiser and has been going on for close to 100 years. The horses on the southern end are not really wild, they are kept on the island, but are watched over and fenced in, not allowed to totally run wild like those on the north end. The horse swim is held the last week of July every year and they saw thousands of people attend this event.

Here are some of the horses down at Chincoteague. There are 2 stories about where the horses came from. One is that the settlers put their horses on the islands to avoid taxes. But the most popular and romantic story is that they are survivors of a spanish galleon which went down off the island many years ago. The park service says DNA shows the first story is more true, but most people still like the 2nd story better.

There were wind warnings out this day and the waves were angry. But that didn't stop the surfers and the kite boarders.

The lighthouse on Chincoteague. It is now several miles inland, but when it was built over 150 years ago it was on the shore. Being a barrier island, it is constantly being reshaped by the wind, waves and storms.

As we were leaving we spotted this bald eagle sitting in the marsh.

Did you know NASA has a facility on the eastern shore of Maryland? Neither did we until we drove by.

NASA Wallops Flight Facility has the distinction of being the most active of all NASA's launch ranges. They have conducted over 15,000 rocket missions since 1945. The visitor center wasn't real big, but it had some interesting exhibits. Many of the launch missions have to do with weather satellites.

A few more days just relaxing on the beach and then I'll be ready to start heading south, down the eastern coast towards Florida.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fort McHenry and Baltimore

Ft. McHenry sits on a point of land where 2 rivers meet near Baltimore. It is also where a battle took place during the War of 1812 and a young American lawyer, Francis Scott Key, watched the British bombard the fort with shells for 24 hours. As the day dawned and he saw the flag still flying above the fort, he wrote the Star Spangled Banner, which over 100 years later became the country's national anthem.

At the visitor center they have a short film about the battle and at the end of the film, while the Star Spangled Banner is playing they raise the screen and there outside the large plate glass window, flies our flag. It was very moving.

Another view of the fort and the flag.

The guns pointed out into the harbor, protecting the fort and Baltimore. The cannons at the fort could only fire about 1 1/2 miles, and the British knew this and stayed just out of range at about 2 miles out. But they had the means to fire their guns into the fort. But the Americans never gave up and never surrendered. After 24 hours the British knew they could not take the fort. It was a stalemate and another turning of the tide for the the Americans.

We saw this wicked storm cloud while we were there.

The old part of Baltimore is known as Fells Point. It is now a very touristy place with lots of small shops, art galleries and of course restaurants. The streets are still cobblestone and brick and the buildings have been shored up to keep from falling down.

You can even take a trip on a pirate ship.

This is the old pier building. Now most of it is closed off to the public. The police have a substation in one end. It was the location for much of a TV series which ran from 1993-1999.

The story was police show about a fictional Baltimore Homicide Unit. The show ran on NBC, won lots of awards and was succeeded by a TV movie. Funny, but I don't even remember the show.

Washington, D.C.

I spent two days visiting the highlights of Washington, D.C. It was 20 years ago when I last spent 2 weeks in D.C. for a class, and although I saw most of these sights then, it was good to see them again. And, it was different because of all the security now. But I was able to arrange a private tour of the capital through Senator Inhofe's office, Senator from Oklahoma, my home state.

Union Station, just a few blocks from the capital building and the mall.

Looking at the capital from halfway down the mall. We were there on Saturday when it was quite busy with all the protesters, plus they were getting ready for the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial on Sunday.

Looking at the Washington Monument across the WWII Memorial.

The stage where the protestors were speaking.

The Smithsonian Visitor Center.

Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Thomas Jefferson's Memorial.

John Paul Jones' Memorial.

Korean War Memorial. By the time we got to Arlington National Cemetary it was closed, so we did not get to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or Robert E. Lee's home.

The front of the Russell Senate Building, where the offices of Senator Inhofe are located.

Our own tour of the capital, led by one of Senator Inhofe's aides.

Walking through the tunnel which connects the senate office building to the capital. We only walked part way, then took a train the rest of the way.

Looking up at the rotunda in the capital.

Statue of Sequoya. Each state gets to place two statues in the capital. This is one of the statues for the state of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's second statue is Will Rogers. He stands in front of the House of Representatives.

Although this looks like sculpture around the walls, it is actually painting. Even in person and up close it is hard to tell it is not sculpture, it is so good.

We also had Senate Gallery passes and was able to hear Senator John McCain address the Senate on the republican's job bill.

Looking at the Capital from the front.

Max standing on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building.

Inside the Library of Congress, looking into the reading room. Not everyone could access this room, you had to apply for a special card first. But the rest of the building was open to the public and was mostly museum.

The Hope Diamond, on display at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

One of the displays of gold at the Natural History Museum.

The green looking rock is Amazonite or Microline. This was found in Florissant, Colorado. I used to live at the base of Crystal Peak in Lake George, Colorado, where there was at one time a Amazonite mine. It is a pretty rock, similar to turquoise, but much softer. Because it is so soft it does not tumble or polish well and is hard to cut, therefore, it doesn't make a good mineral for jewelry.

The Archives of the United States. This is where the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are located.

I could have gone back several more times and spent a day in each of the Smithsonian museums, but it's getting colder and I need to start heading south.