Monday, June 13, 2011

A lighthouse and a VERY near disaster - Nov. 11th continued & Nov. 12th

On our way back from ferry we made one last stop for the day at the -


That's Cape Hatteras Light Station in case you can't make it out.  It's one of three lighthouses on the cape. The most interesting fact about this 'little' lighthouse, to us anyway, is that it was actually physically moved from one location to the another, a total of 2900 feet!  It was a mass operation, quite literally, but in 1999 they successfully moved it to its new safer location farther away from the ocean.  In the little museum, housed in the former keepers quarters I believe, we got to watch the news footage of it and it really was quite impressive!

Inside the visitor center we got up close and personal with an Osprey, obviously a stuffed one at this point, but it used to be alive.  We'd seen Ospreys fly high above us plenty of times, particularly in the Tetons, but this was the first time we could really take a good close look at one.  It has a wing span of five feet!


As for the lighthouse itself, it was pretty cool as well.  We couldn't climb up since it was closed for the season but we could go inside and take a look.  It was, well, an inside of a lighthouse.  Having climbed up one in Maine we were ok with not climbing up this one since at 200 feet it's a strenuous climb up 248 iron spiral stairs!


In the aforementioned little museum (seen below) we learned all about the roll the area and these lighthouses played during the Civil War as well as both world wars.  There are many many shipwrecks off these coasts thanks to major storms, shifting sands (both submerged and otherwise) AND German submarines (the U-boats) that sank many ships.  Some shipwrecks are actually buried by the beach and when sands shift, which they do quite frequently here, they are uncovered for a brief moment in time until sands shift again....Pretty neat.


Cape Hatteras is a National seashore and does have its own Jr. Ranger program but for the first time during our trip we had to pass it up.  Unlike other locations (such as Boston and Minuteman National Historic Site) they would not give us the booklets and badges to be completed and handed out later.  Some national parks are more serious and strict than others apparently.....oh well.  We just didn't have the time to complete the work then and there since it was getting late and tomorrow we had to hit the road to make it to FL by the 14th.  It was my grandfather's 99th birthday and getting to FL late was just not an option.

The other thing we learned at the Cape's visitor center was that a high tide was a-comin'.  Apparently, if we wanted to get off the Outer Banks (OB) tomorrow we had better start early...there's no telling when the roads will become impassible due to shifting sands and rising water.  Most roads would be ok we were told, there was just one area we needed to worry about in particular.  FYI, along the narrower sections of the OB roads one can routinely see snow plows parked.  Pretty odd.  They don't plow snow of course it's sand they're busy with!  Like I mentioned before, sands here shift very very frequently and the roads constantly need to be cleared.

Bottom line with all this was that we headed back home and got ourselves and the RV all set to leave first thing in the morning so we could get the h*** out of Dodge!

And so began our attempt to leave the Outer Banks.....

This was the first 'puddle' we met with once we hit the road.  We had been on the road for a grand total of 10 minutes.....


OK, not so bad, cars seem to be going through easily.  No danger to us or the RV here.  We kept going.....

Though it's not clear from the picture, things were starting to get a little more precarious....traveling in the middle of the road was the safest option for all.  The water was coming up through the sand very quickly....


Things began to get a little murkier.....

We stopped in the middle of the road so S could get out and assess the situation.


He stopped a driver coming from the opposite direction and inquired about the road conditions up ahead.


Yes, we were blocking traffic.  No, we had no other choice.  Going into this kind of situation without some information is not a good idea.  We had to make a decision a regarding whether to proceed or to turn around and go back.  Not that turning around and going back at this point was going to be easy, or even possible. There were a few problems with turning around:  1. The road is narrow and given we're close to 60 feet long we can't just turn on a dime.  2.  There were now several RVs and many cars behind us.  We couldn't just back up and find a place to turn around.  The other RVs btw were also trying to make some serious choices regarding the situation.  3.  We needed to be in FL in 2 days and I wasn't ready to give it up quite yet.

After consulting half the traffic, including several of the RVers, we decided to proceed.  Even though the road was beginning to look like this....


As we drove through, it only got worse....


Notice how close that water is to the bottom of the RV.....

It's a river.  An absolute river!


But, once we got through it we passed the location the rangers back at the visitors center warned us about so we were pretty happy.

Then, we saw this:


Apparently there was another spot we were supposed to worry about...The whole thing was very reminiscent of 'Lost'....The island wasn't going to let us go......

That poor fellow up there was not getting his car out in one piece.

Uh oh! BIG time UH OH!!  Not only was there GUSHING water to contend with, but now cars were getting stuck in the newly shifted sand ON the road!

And this is part of why:


The rising tide had actually taken out part of the dune that separates the road from the ocean!  Not only was the water rising through the sand now but it was gushing freely onto the road directly from the ocean, bringing all the sand along with it!


Soooooooooo NOT good.

S being the quick thinker that he is didn't stop to ponder this time.  He gunned it and plowed through at high speed without hesitation.  It's a good thing the camera was around my neck cause he didn't even have a chance to warn us!  My upper body was halfway hanging out the window taking picture after picture and I went flying, thankfully into the car and into my seat with the camera fully attached.  So, unfortunately no pictures of the actual parting of the Red Sea, but we did come out fully intact on the other side!  What was the greatest danger here?  Not being dragged out to sea of course, but getting stuck in the wet sand was going to be an extremely serious problem, especially with rising waters.  Water and cars, let alone RVs, don't mix.  Salt water is even worse.  To say the least.

It could have been really really REALLY bad.  But, it wasn't.  The water did not make it to the RV floor, let alone the truck's.  Yes, it did splash.  A lot.  But that's why we did this -


just as soon as we got onto the mainland about 20 minutes later.  I use 'we' quite loosely obviously.
Thankfully NC has nice travel/visitor centers fully equipped with RV services such as dumping and fresh water stations.


Once the RV and truck got a thorough wash down we were finally able to really hit the road!  We were officially on our way to Florida and we would be making it on time for Grampa's 99th birthday!


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