I needed a two-night stop between Falls Lake, NC and Elizabethton, TN, so Fort Hamby fit the bill nicely. That it is also a USACE (Army Corps of Engineers) campground was a plus, since it gives seniors a serious discount on the daily rate. And it was only 15 minutes from Wilkesboro, where I could stock up and find some supplies at the hardware store that I needed.
The whole of Falls Lake State Recreation Area in North Carolina encompasses three separate campgrounds. This is a review of the Rolling View campground, east of Durham and north of Raleigh.
One of the best kept secrets in camping is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (or USACE, as my friend, Francis, pointed out) has a whole network of campgrounds, mostly located near or on reservoirs created by dam projects they’ve run. Almost all of them feature big sites, electric and water hookups, and easy access to watersports. I’ve camped in USACE campgrounds from Idaho to Virginia and every single one of them has been a nice experience. For those interested, you can make reservations at them through the recreation.gov website.
I love Asheville as a place to visit. It’s got all the big-name stores, an independent bookseller, some fun shops to wander around downtown, and ton of great restaurants. When I booked Powhatan for a week, I was thinking of all these things. I definitely wasn’t thinking of how it would be to visit when COVID-19 was in the picture. But here we are…
Art in musuems is fine, but when the art goes three-dimensional and outdoors, it’s an immersive experience and I love it even more. Such was yesterday’s visit to the Biltmore Estate and the Chihuly glass exhibit.
It was foggy when I arrived for the morning visit, making the photography easier than dealing with direct sunlight and glare on the glass pieces. There were a lot of the classic Chihuly shapes, familiar to me since I lived in Seattle and visited the Chihuly exhibit there several times.
What is most striking about the daytime visit is how well the glass installations mesh with the landscaping. Frederick Law Olmstead designed the gardens and grounds in 1890; Chihuly took two years to design his exhibit, and the attention shows in every angle of every piece.
Looking from one side, the white Tower echoes and highlights the the plants and architecture. From the other side, it reflects the trees behind it and reflects itself in the water, a lovely sight indeed.
In the daytime, the Sole d’Oro is a crazy wild ball of pieces that welcome visitors to the show.
At dusk, the yellows reflect the fading light and change the piece into something very different. And that’s the point of the Chihuly at Night exhibit, to see the pieces literally in a different light.
The pergola walk became a spooky tour of glass reeds, shadows casting mysteries on each piece. In the conservatory, the chandeliers, barely noticeable in the daytime, because the stars, hanging from thin rods like comets in the night sky.
My favorite exhibit at Chihuly Seattle has always been the boats filled with ikebana and floats, so I was pleased to see this installation in the garden. The placing of floats inside the boat, instead seeing them on the outside where they belong, always makes me smile.
The exhibit closes Sunday, and I’m happy I got the opportunity to see it while it and I were both in the same city. My time in Asheville has definitely been enhanced by the chance Chihuly encounter.
I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they have never experienced.
The year is 1903 and the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, have been working for four years on how to fly a heavier-than-air craft moving under its own power, under control of a pilot, and without losing speed while underway. On December 17, they did it.
Here’s the airfield where it all happened. The red circle shows the starting point of each flight, and the red rectangles show the ending points of each flight that day, with the first flight being the left-most white marker (and each flight was a bit longer in length, so the markers are in order of the flights themselves).
Here’s a closeup of that starting point. At the base of it, you can see the launching rail they used for each flight.
The photo below is looking down the airstrip at ground level, so you can see the markers and the distances between them. That little white dot on the right is the fourth flight, 852 feet and 59 seconds away from the starting point, and the longest one of that historic day.
Standing in front of this tiny airstrip, I thought of all the 12-hour flights to the UK and 14-hour flights to Australia I’ve taken in my life. It all started right here, on this windblown field on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. All that I’ve seen of this world by flight I owe to Orville and Wilbur Wright.
At the other end of the National Memorial is the official monument, set on top of Kill Devils Hill, where the two men made over a thousand glider flights, honing their skills as pilots.
What sticks with me as that these two guys had zero aeronautical training because there wasn’t any. As the National Park Service put it, “Dismayed that so many great minds had made so little progress, the brothers were exhilarated by the realization that they had as much chance as anyone of succeeding” in human flight. They simply studied whatever they could find about flight attempts and then started working.
Four years later, they changed the world.
In 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and in 1969, we landed on the moon. All because two bicycle mechanics thought they could do something no one else had. (Yes, they had the Wright stuff. I know at least one person is dying for me to make that pun so here you go…)
Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.
Leonardo da Vinci
After half a year of anticipation and with left hand in a cast, I finally made it to the rally in North Carolina. Over 100 people and more than 40 Alto trailers came together for a weekend that celebrated online friendships turned real-life meetups.
It may look from this photo like I was all alone, but…
… I definitely was not! It was so sweet to walk around the campground loop and see 95% Altos, instead of big RV buses, fifth-wheels, or vans. For the weekend, Stone Mountain State Park was Alto-Land and it was awesome.
One of the coolest moments was getting up close to this falcon, part of a presentation by Alto owner Lee Chichester. What a beautiful creature!
We all need a tribe or two and I’m very happy to be part of this Alto tribe. They have read this blog, cheered my solo adventures, helped me out with problems, and my life would be much quieter and way more boring without them. So to all of Alto-Land — here in North Carolina, and all over — thank you from the bottom of my very grateful heart.
When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of “me, too!” be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.