Saturday, April 28, 2007

Williamsburg, VA to Cape Hatteras, NC

Jeff and Steve discussing politics inside Yorktown Pub

Steve offered to escort us to Yorktown today. We followed him over on our bikes. Visited the embattlements and Surrender Field, then we stopped in at the Yorktown Pub, which Steve calls a "biker bar". Pretty bad food, but the local atmosphere is what you're after in these places. Outside, at the mouth of the York River, many windsurfers were laying out their gear on the sand, though the day was still gray and calm.

Steve Berger and I outside the Yorktown Pub, Yorktown, Virginia

After taking our leave, we stopped for fuel at a 7-11. I was hit with diarrhea, barely making it to the restroom. I suspect the "pub grub".

Following Steve’s suggested route to Nag’s Head took us through the city of Newport News. It looked like we wouldn’t approach very near the Norfolk Naval Station, a base I had long been curious about. I could see the giant cranes of Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, the granddaddy of shipyards. (I've since learned that's an old title. It's now called Northrup Grumman Shipbuilding.) So, I decided to lead Jeff over to take a peek and see if there were any Navy aircraft carriers under construction.

Driving the shipyard perimeter, I stopped a worker who was coming off duty and asked where the best views could be found. He said the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush (ugh!) was under construction, and (I think) the U.S.S. John C. Stennis was in the yard also. (Later learned from the JCS website, that it was in fact in the Arabian Gulf at the time.)

I couldn’t find a good vantage point, so I gave up after 15 minutes of roaming the streets. Off to Cape Hatteras.

We had the "good fortune" to stumble into another Harley rally, this one apparently sponsored by the Nag’s Head Harley dealer. Literally thousands of Harleys crammed onto the narrow strand that is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Delightful. "There ought to be a law."

At Kill Devil Hills, I thought we "should" visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, but when we stopped at the entrance and considered the fees for driving onto the site, we decided we really didn't plan to stay long enough to justify the expense. We continued south, passing in the distance the memorial's tall marble obelisk.

Jeff and I were grating on each others’ nerves. I think he was eager to just ride and didn't particularly care for sightseeing stops. The congestion on roads and slow progress was not helping.

We considered abandoning Cape Hatteras and returning to the mainland, but decided to press on. Another stop to visit (or at least drive by) the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The campground there was closed, so again we moved on.

After one short (and free) ferry ride to Ocracoke Island, the hordes of Harleys had diminished. We reached the ferry landing in the town of Ocracoke, at the southern end of the island. No ferries until tomorrow. It looked like we'd have to find another motel (and it appears the town is a popular resort, so locating a room would be challenging at this late hour - 8:00 p.m.)

Free ferry ride between Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

It was Jeff who suggested checking into a national park campground we had passed back up the road. I was reluctant to backtrack, but it turned out to be only a few miles, and the Ocracoke Campground is a great setting with camping permitted in the sand dunes along the shore. At $23, it's a bit steep for a basic campground, but much cheaper than our other options.

I felt much better once we had an established campsite, and decided it would be fun to go back into town for dinner. After cruising around Ocracoke, and observing that most restaurants were likely beyond our budget, we settled on Jason’s. It's a casual family restaurant with a screened patio. We arrived just before closing and ordered a large pizza (and a hefeweizen beer for me.) Good food, and a pleasant way to unwind after a taxing day. $32 in total, not outrageous, considering the location.

According to Wikipedia, Ocracoke was the home base of pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

Back at camp, the air was damp and landscape dew-covered. Lots of bugs and mosquitoes, but once inside the tent, no matter. It's quite a treat to rest beside the ocean.

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