MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Beach, 2 Parks, A Science Center and some Funky Golfing

The first 3 day weekend of the year... it's a great way to get away for a few days after the craziness of the holidays. This year, I didn't go too far (but far enough). Just 4 hours down the road to Virginia Beach. I know, I know, heading out to Virginia Beach does not make much sense in January, and typically it would not. This year, however, its been warm. Say it's El Nino, blame climate change, say it's a weird quirk... we all know it is NOT normal to have 60 degree weather in January, but that is what we had (on Saturday).

First stop on this weekend journey was the Coastal Virginia Wine Festival at the Convention Center. Friends know, I am not a drinker and I can't say that I have ever been to a wine festival before.. sure I have be to more than a handful of wineries before, but never something as big as this. I thought it would be fun to check out, taste a few of the sweeter ones (those are my style), look at crafts, listen to music and watch the grape stomp. Well, I found an awesome sangria with Athena Winery - just the winery name alone makes me want to visit - we are talking about my favorite Greek God people! There were some yummy fruit wines from Top Hill Berry Farms (we got a raspberry and a melon) and a great white and red semi sweet Breeze from Davis Valley. It was a great way to sample, because the pours were really just a small sip (just my style). Now, that small sip times 30+ venders times at least 4 tastes per winery meant there were plenty of drunk stumbling people all around. And that leads me to my major gripe of the festival - where was the food? There was a definite lack of food in a place where alcohol was being poured so freely. Not good! Some dip people with free pretzels, one crab cake guy and the convention center snack shop did not provide too many options. So, when my date and I got to the hotel - we headed out to eat. PRONOTO.

After dinner we did the trippiest round of miniature golf ever... you simply must try a round of 3-D, black-lit neon indoor golf. Those glasses made everything seem deep and distorted. Fish seemed to move. Coral waved. And the floor seemed to drop at various holes. It was crazy and fun. AND, it was made all the better because I WON! (Ha, take that mister golf guy).

Day 2 of our weekend getaway was supposed to be another gorgeous day, but Mother Nature likes to keep my rain steak alive, so it poured. And when I say poured, I really mean it. But it was not just rain - no, it was snowing! The snow turned to rain as it fell because it was over 65 degrees the day before, the ground was too warm. I was grateful, because we were still going to the Outer Banks. From V Beach to the top of the banks is only 1 1/2 hours, so this was an easy trip. We got to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in time to hear the great Ranger lecture on the start of aviation. Did you know that the Brothers were inspired by Turkey Vultures, bicycles and boats - yep... the more you know! Humans have only been flying for just over 100 years (113 years if you are reading tis in 2016), and if you think about that, we have taken that initial flight and parlayed it into space... its incredibly inspiring. So inspiring that the park says that they commemorate not just the birthplace of flight but also the death of impossibility. Of course it is still pouring outside, but I don't let that stop me from hiking up the trail to the beautiful art deco memorial for the Brothers and their achievements. If you think about Art Deco and its inspirations (modernization and science amongst the list), the use of art deco makes sense - this achievement changed the world... it was worth a soaking, freezing walk on a trail to see it and pay tribute. And along the way, my fully charged phone died... I am not saying that it was ghosts, but that battery drained to quickly for my tastes. Good thing I took pictures on the walk up the hill because any views on the walk down were impossible with that dead battery and the pelting rain.

After I returned to the shelter, we headed back out and found our way to Roanoke Island and the First Colony. Have you heard of Croatoan? That name has been dropped on X Files, Supernatural, Haven... most good science fiction shows mention it because it of the mystery. The word Croatoan was etched into a tree at the site of the first English Settlement. Everything vanished. The colony disappeared and no one is sure what happened. When John White, the colony governor, finally returned from England after years of trying to secure more supplies, everything was gone. People gone. Homes gone. Vanished. The National Historic Site tells the story of the settlement, and lets you know of a few possibilities of their fate. Hint - William Shatner had nothing to do with it. (Haven reference)

I was still wet and cold after a walk to the theatre on Fort Raleigh. It was my fault. I was the crazy one walking trails in the rain... so what do we do - well, we head to a Tiki Bar (indoor) for some blackened fish and hot tea - yeah, I know, not the combo that they promote. I needed the tea, or maybe 5 cups of it. The blackened mahi tacos are "famous" there - and I have to admit they were yummy and spicy!  I did mention it was cold, right?

Day 3 was low key. We were back in Virginia Beach and needed to eat some pancakes at the infamous Pocahontas Pancake House on Atlantic. We then took off to see some fish and play science games at the Virginia Aquarium and Science Center for hours. There, we met a fantastic volunteer, Leon, with the most amazing career as a Navy Diver, and family history that dates to our revolution. He was sweet, knowledgeable and eager to share his knowledge - we both wished we had time to talk to him longer. You can find him in the Virginia woodlands and waterways areas. He also shared my outrage at the ray tank... someone had raked their fingernails over a poor ray, leaving bloody trails on its body. He told me quietly that someone did it over the weekend and the tank was closed afterwards. What is wrong with people? I have no words. Actually, I take that back, I do have words - I hope, dear lady, that not only were shamed for this action, but that you learned that these creatures are not toys. Keep your hands out of the pool! You do not deserve a chance to touch them again. (my PG version of what I want to say). I love aquariums because it makes science real for kids, it grows that sense of curiosity, appreciation and protection for creatures that can't speak for themselves. And good aquariums show you how your choices impact the world that these critters live in, and explain why we need these systems healthy and thriving. It is vitally important that people understand that the world is not a playground but a living, interconnected ecosystem. Actions have consequences. The lady with the nails did not learn that lesson BUT the kids that saw the aftermath will remember what they saw this weekend. "Ahh, poor guy" doesn't fix his injury, but those kids may help prevent on in the future because they learned and interacted with them at the aquarium.

(vacating soap box now).

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