Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On to Onancock

Check out time at Cherrystone is 11:00, so we had to get up and get moving. The sun was shining today and the herons were back in the pool, so I took some more pictures. You can't go wrong with herons and egrets.

 Our first destination was the town of Oyster on the ocean side of the peninsula. We do not have any detailed maps of the Eastern Shore; neither in the Virginia highway map or the map in the Eastern Shore guide. After making a couple of guesses, we drove into a small settlement on the water. We parked by the water and in a little while a local drove up and parked nearby. I walked over and asked if this was Oyster and he said it was. I mentioned that I had met someone from there named Hardtimes Hunt. He pointed out a house and said it was his. He had since passed away but his son was still there. He had a very heavy accent and it was a little hard to make out what he was saying. I had not heard that accent before, but I assumed it was the local one.

Following our usual inclinations, we didn't go back to the main highway (13) but took a back road that headed north. The countryside here is mostly farming, lots of soybeans and some impressive tomato fields that were being picked. At one point Jean spotted a sign for a bird and wildlife viewing trail, and we turned off. The road got narrower and went into deep woods. Just before the end (where the birding trail began) we spotted a sign proclaiming "Office." We wondered what kind of office there would be way back here in the woods, so we turned around and followed the dirt road a short distance. We ended up in a parking area with a couple of cars in front of a substantial building set in a neat lawn.

It turned out to be the Eastern Shore office of the Nature Conservancy. We went inside and had an interesting conversation with a man who told us about the area that they control, and also gave us some useful local information to supplement our inadequate maps

Leaving there, we went in search of a fairly remote campground called Virginia Landing that we found on one of our campground apps but not the other. After driving for quite a while, we ended up about a mile from the Conservancy office  --- as the gull flies, but a long way if he has to walk. The campground was (or perhaps is, it wasn't clear) a unit of the Thousand Trails campground membership club (an expensive bunch) but we would be able to stay there if we wanted. After getting a lot of information, we decided to move on since it was still early in the day.

Our next task was to find some diesel since we were getting low. The ranger at the campground gave us directions to the nearest gas station and we were off again.

By now it was early afternoon and we were getting hungry. So we set a course for Wachapreague, where Jean had been once several years ago. There we went back to a restaurant where she had eaten before and had a nice (and filling) meal out on the deck overlooking the marsh with the barrier islands in the distance.

The view from the deck

We walked around Wachapreague a little, but there really isn't much there unless you are a fisherman, so we headed for Onancock.

Gene had been in Onancock several times before --- generally on a boat. We got information about the ferry to Tangier Island and after some discussion decided the cost was more than we were interested in. We walked around downtown Onancock (all two blocks of it) but it was late and many of the places were closed. This is a larger town than Cape Charles and not so much dependent on tourism, so there were mostly normal businesses. We stopped at a bakery and got some cinnamon pastries for breakfast, then went back out to the highway and found the local Walmart. We needed to do some shopping, both in the grocery and the pharmacy section.

Our campground apps did not show any campgrounds near Onancock and we didn't want to go all the way back to Virginia Landing so we settled in for the night on the quiet back side of Walmart. We will be dry camping tonight. Who knows what adventures await us tomorrow?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cape Charles

Monday. The campground was almost empty. It is definitely off-season. The day was pretty much overcast which didn't make for very exciting photography.

We got up at more reasonable time today in order to meet someone at the hawk-watch. We got there about 10:30. This is a nice spot. Several people were set up on a raised platform with a roof over one end. People were spotting and identifying various hawks which I couldn't see even with binoculars. We met the person we had been told about and we (mainly Jean) had a long, interesting conversation with a young man who was very active in developing butterfly habitat. He was especially knowledgeable about Monarchs.

We left about 11:30 and prepared to head out. We had a fairly long conversation with the camp host before we pulled out. Our main goal for the day was the city of Cape Charles. I had been there several (15?) years ago and found a dying town with half the downtown buildings boarded up. Today it is a tourist destination and I was interested to see what it looked like now. I'm not sure what the attraction is for tourists, though I understand there is quite a bit of golf there now.

One of the first things you see as you come into town from the highway is the water tower. It has been tricked out to look like a lighthouse on legs. It even has a strobe on top.

Most of the buildings downtown have been fixed up, and obviously cater to the tourists.

There is now an Irish pub and an interesting coffee shop.

We walked around and checked out some of the things I remembered. Most had changed but some not. Down at the end of the main street, where there is a new fishing pier and the beach begins, we found one of the Love sculptures that have been cropping up all over the state.

 We both got into a long conversation with one of the shop keepers. Mine ran from historic ships to soldering techniques. Jean went into the shop next door and found someone from our home area. So we spent a pleasant half hour that way.

We don't play golf so there didn't seem to be much else to do. I was disappointed --- though I don't know what I expected. By now it was about 4:00 and we headed out to our next campground just north of town.

We checked in to Cherrystone camp ground and got a site right on the Bay. There was a great egret working a little inlet right in front of our site.

There were also a couple of colliers anchored in the Bay offshore. I got very curious because they were pointing in opposite directions. While examining them through the binoculars I got into a conversation with our neighbor and learned that this is the campground that got hit by a tornado last spring with the death of three campers. (And if anyone is interested, while we were talking one of the colliers swung around to point the same way as the other, so I guessed that they were riding in different parts of the tidal current.)

So a mostly quiet day but not without its interest.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Eastern Shore Adventures

Sunday night. We left Forest yesterday, but I didn't write anything because it was just a travel day. Today was very quiet, so I am combining the two days. Maybe it will add up to a whole day.

We left the farm a little after 10:00 and drove east all day. We arrived at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel a little after 3:00. For those of you not familiar with eastern Virginia, the CBBT is a 17-mile complex of trestles, tunnels (2), and bridges that crosses the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. It connects at the northern end with a long peninsula that separates Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. It is called the Delmarva Peninsula because it contains parts of three states: Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. But it is commonly referred to as the Eastern Shore.

We stopped for lunch on the island for the first tunnel --- the only place you can stop in the crossing. Out in the middle of the Bay, looking toward the ocean, we saw several empty colliers waiting to take on a load of coal in Hampton Roads (which is a major coal-shipping port).

Colliers anchored at Lynhaven. In the distance is a container ship putting out to sea.

It was a pleasant crossing, sunny, warm, and not windy. We arrived at the Visitor Center at the end just after they closed. Our usual luck.

We proceeded a few miles up the road to Kiptopeke State Park and got a site in the campground. We had stayed here once before and liked it. The campground was fairly crowded but not full, so we claimed a spot and then drove a few miles up the road to a Food Lion to get some additional groceries.

Back at the campground, we walked down to the beach (it's on the Bay side). Along the way we passed a camper with three kayaks on top of his car. Two of them were wooden. We talked with him for a while, comparing his Chesapeake Light Craft kits with my Pygmy kit and other kayakie things.

We arrived at the beach in time for sunset, then back to the Roadtrek for drinks and snacks and a quiet evening.

Sunday (today) the campground pretty much emptied out. Only one RV came in during the afternoon. I walked back to the office to pay for another day. We walked down to the beach to sign up for a kayak tour of the concrete boats and the bridge, but the tour operator was sick today. The black line along the horizon (above) is a row of WWII ships built out of concrete; since sunk off-shore to form a breakwater. There was a period in the 60's when ferro-cement (concrete) was the hot material for amateur boat-building (snidely called "sailing sidewalks") and some very nice boats were produced. More common were large, half-finished hulls in people's back yards.

With no kayaking, we took a walk on a boardwalk through the woods and down to the beach. Since we expected to be out in kayaks I didn't bring a camera so I have no pictures from today. After all that walking, I sat down on the fishing pier to rest. Jean had a long conversation with a park ranger and I looked for migrating hawks. She was much more successful.

By the time we got back to the Roadtrek, I was ready for a nap. We lead such a hectic life when we are on the road.

After supper we went on an owl walk with the ranger. Not much action, perhaps beause it was overcast and owls need at least some light to hunt. After much calling, a screech owl showed up, though you could only see it when it flew between trees. It answered briefly, and I learned that despite its name, the screech owl is the quietest of the owls.

Then back to the ranch for some Cuba Libres and to write this blog. Another eventful day.