There’s Bodie and Ocracoke and Roanoke; the Islands. There’s Hatteras and Lookout and Fear; the Capes. There’s Currituck and Hatteras; the Lighthouses. There’s Avon, Waves and Rodanthe; the Communities. There’s Corova and Coquina and Duck; the Beaches. There’s Albermarle and Pamlico; the Sounds.
They are part of the OBX. There’s one highway that unites them all. And if there’s a highway around you know our six wheels are out there adventuring on it.
“The weather’s looking nice for the next few days” said Dave, “Maybe we should plan to go now? There’s a nasty system coming in after that!”
“Let’s get going, then” I replied, as I quickly prepped MoHo for the road ahead.
Whether cruising on our boat or driving the highways, we’re always and ever mindful of how weather affects our daily lives and routing. We were hoping for an awesome adventure ahead of us and certainly didn’t want to spend our days windswept away with umbrella in hand.
A quick phone call to the NCDOT and a totally affordable $30 credit card payment later had us confirmed on the two hour ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke that same afternoon. We were the only RV in sight as we embarked a few hours later. The time passed quickly as we explored, chatted with the crew who were curious about our Unity IB, and even had a nap in the cozy comfort of our home.
As we got closer to Ocracoke the skies were bluer than blue, the shallow waters around us calm, and the Air fresh with Sea and Salty smells.
“The Outer Banks. Hmm, what an odd name…“ I mused out loud.
“Sounds like that TV show” quipped Dave. “That science fiction twilight zone one?”
“Right! The Outer Limits…” I responded. “I used to watch that all the time…” And would you believe that, at that precise moment in time, we heard the ferry captain broadcast on the ferry speakers: “Please stand by…” We laughed out loud, and eagerly inhaled the anticipation of our arrival at the Outer Banks.
Located off the coast of North Carolina/Virginia, the Outer Banks (OBX) are a chain of barrier islands separated from the mainland by the sounds on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. As you might imagine, they’re exposed and weather beaten by either landfall or offshore ocean storms. Not to mention that this is one of the most hurricane prone areas north of Florida, resulting in the coastal waters around this area being named the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. Now you know why, even though we were driving, we were being a tad weather cautious.
And what unites them all? NC Highway #12. The OBX Highway is a 130 mile long, two lane wide road and includes one (free) ferry and a bridge that drives you from one end of this incredible and very narrow chain of (is)land(s) to the other. Exploring it all, one mile at a time.
Please stand by. You are about to adventure with us … on the Outer Banks.
Standing by on the islands are lighthouses! Five of them to be exact. All of them gorgeous, but this one? Incredible. With its black and white candy cane type of stripe leading 208 feet high, where at the top the beacon of a light shines 20 miles into the horizon of an ocean on one of the most treacherous Capes in the world.
4 minutes and 19 seconds. That’s the time it took us to climb the the 260 some stairs to the top. Why? Well, it was a bit of a dare from friends! We wore (yikes) flip flops, and please no running! Our journey upwards had us stopping twice–once to chat briefly with the ranger, and the other? To catch our breath.
The ranger later affirmed that they train regularly on these stairs, as they need to be able to run up them should a crisis happen. Her best time? Ten seconds more than ours. So we did OK, right?
Outside on the tower, breathing in the blustery salty wind, we stood by gasping at the views of the marshlands and over yonder, at the eternal ocean-ended horizon. And at the very obvious trail that, in 1999, was landscaped into the geography as a 700 foot rail system moved the lighthouse, in its entirety, about 2900 feet inland.
In Nags Head we discovered sand, and lots more than just beaches of it. The landscape here is one of the things that never just stands by.
The State Park here is called Jockey’s Ridge and is home to 420 acres of expansive flats and mounds of sand, and also the tallest natural sand dune system in the Eastern U.S. We walked for a long time, and wondered why it was named Jockey’s Ridge.
“Jockeys? As in relation to horses?” asked Dave.
“I guess that way back the people who lived here captured the wild ponies and raced them on these sands” I replied. “People came to watch the races, staying out of the way up here on the ridge and voilà…Jockey’s Ridge.”
Walking on the beige coloured medanos (massive, asymmetrical, shifting hills of sand lacking vegetation) we were in total awe at the immenseness of what we were experiencing. And wondered, as the wind picked up, about sand storms.
“Did you know that there is a local putt putt course that got buried under one of these mounds?” I said to Dave.
“Hmm…” he replied, as he looked around. “I wonder where…”
Whilst we never did find any buried mysteries we did notice some people on top of one the mounds off in the distance. Hang Gliders just standing by. Bravely facing into the wind, waiting for that giant leap of faith that would propel them into the skies.
It is on Kill Devil Hill in Nags Head that on December 17 1903, another 12 second leap of faith made history. Where for the first time a machine left the ground by its own power, moved forward under control without losing speed, and landed on a point as high as that from which is started.
Why here? This area was private and sheltered from crowds, and provided strong and consistent winds. And the sand? Made for a soft landing. Here Orville and Wilbur tested and retested, calculated and recalculated, built and rebuilt their ideas. And definitely climbed and re-climbed Kill Devil Hill countless number of times each and every single day, in anticipation that one day, one trial, one improvement…it might all just fly.
Where today at the very top of Kill Devil Hill, we humbly stood by the 60 feet tall Wright Brothers Monument in awe at their accomplishment, and wondered…
Which one of the brothers would you have been? Would you have been the one to test drive your very own creation? Or would you have stood on the ground watching it all unfold in the skies in front of you.
These are just some of our Adventures on the OBX. Thanks for tuning in. We now return control of your computer screen back to you. Please stand by…for our next adventure. On On!
Travel Tales, On On! Brake(ing) ~in the~ Bad(lands)
* Break Bad * is a term with many meanings. One of them relates to adapting to a new lifestyle. One that is totally different from the one you had. Or it can mean someone who is *good*, or *follows rules & regulations * but who then adopts behaviours which deviate from that, behaviours that could be seen as *bad*. Rest assured that while we are certainly adapting to a new-to-us lifestyle (from sailboat cruising to highway driving), there were no rules broken during today’s Adventures. Other than (perhaps) braking when we shouldn’t have, or (perhaps) braking a little too often to the chagrin of anyone who might’ve been stuck behind us. And of course (perhaps) this pun of a play on words.
We’re somewhere on the road again, this time driving along an inconspicuous two lane state highway. It’s sunny and hot and dry, the skies bluer than blue and the landscape that surrounds us quite blah and nondescript. The green prairie grasses are billowing in the wind, showing no promise of what was to come.
Dave braked suddenly and hard when I yelled “Stop the Car!”, and I instantly focused my camera lens on the brown wooden “Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway” sign. “In here” I exclaimed, pointing my finger along the stretch of highway that disappeared over yonder horizon.
The Badlands Loop, or South Dakota Highway 240, is a breathtaking Journey through some intensely dramatic Lands, that were way back when (geologically speaking) the bottom of a very wet streambed. With time and extreme temperatures the streams evaporated, the winds gusted and eroded, and the lack of rainfall certainly didn’t help. The landscape spiralled out of control, emerging from the horizon dry and rugged and jagged.
Would you believe that the Badlands didn’t exist until 500,000 years ago? And with each passing day the formations are eroding and changing, growing and disappearing. Who knows what it will look like tomorrow, or if they’ll even exist 500,000 years from now?
The Visitor Centre informs us it takes about 1 hour to navigate the approx 35 miles of the Badlands Loop Road. “If you don’t brake too often” continued the Park Ranger, with a smile. Back in our MoHo, a sudden brake at the Stop Sign, a Left out of the Parking Lot, and we were on our way. What happens next was a true episode of Brake(ing) ~in the~ Bad(Lands).
We drove along the road ahead of us revealing nothing. And then, almost out of nowhere, a rock formation appeared. A little small, a little grey, a little jagged on top. We kept driving the curvy road and the rock formations exploded exponentially, bigger and bolder with each passing twist in the road.
The Lakota people named this place Mako Sica, or “Lands Bad” . The French-Canadian fur trappers travelling through here also called this place “les mauvaises terres” (bad lands). Today, in the comfort of our MoHo, we found ourselves braking every few minutes (thank Goodness there was no traffic behind us!) as we stopped at every turn and corner, scenic overlook or not, for that picture perfect Photo Op.
We spent the day getting in and out of the MoHo as we hiked the numerous trails. Driving through the passes where we were left gasping at the majestic height of rugged walls of sediment and rock that surrounded us, marvelling at the sharply eroded buttes, and mouths agape at the jaw dropping views of colourful and indescribable pinnacles and spires.
There are two designated campgrounds at the park (Cedar Pass and Sage Creek) for those interested in staying and exploring for longer periods of time (reservations recommended). We hadn’t planned for either, so no braking here! But we did stop for Lunch at the conveniently placed and well shaded picnic table, hot soup and sandwiches courtesy of MoHo’s well stocked galley cupboards.
That afternoon we just *had to* brake for some wildlife snaps, and for a scramble up some dusty hilly terrains to capture this splendid shot of our amazing LTV Unity IB.
And then just as it had all dramatically appeared out of nowhere, it all disappeared away into nothingess. We were back on the two lane state highway. It was still sunny and hot and dry. The skies were still bluer than blue and the landscape that surrounded us was once again blah and nondescript. The green prairie grasses were still billowing in the wind, except this time we knew exactly what secrets they were hiding.
Two hours later I yelled “Stop the Car” as I eagerly pointed at the brown wooden sign, and read out loud “Horse Thief Lake Campground”. Dave braked, suddenly and hard, turning left and heading towards the campground office, enquiring about any openings for the night.
Moments later we were backed into our non serviced cement pad of a lot, instantly level with no overhead branches to worry about. A hard pull up on the Emergency Brake, and we were home.
The next morning, we grinned as we grabbed our hot coffee and settled in our comfy seats, this time releasing the Brake and shifting into Drive, wondering what new Adventures waited for us over yonder horizons.
On On !!
“What a catchy title, sort of the slogan for LTV, isn’t it? “ asked Dave, as I sat there, pen in hand and fingers to keyboard, trying to find a way to put our last year into words.
“Hmm, you’re right!” I replied, “But it somehow perfectly describes how we hatched a Plan, extracted from a Dream, Generated by a Sighting, Researched from The Internet and totally Purchased Sight Unseen”, I grinned, rather excitedly.
We are Dave and Alexandra, of Sailing Banyan and now, Banyan Travels.
We sailed away from Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) in July of 2012 and headed South.
Since then we’ve been cruising and adventuring the Caribbean Islands, spending hurricane seasons in Grenada. Last year though we found ourselves sitting around, trying to come up with a new plan, driving to do something different for our next hurricane season. We were at a loss and nothing was sounding quite right… we just didn’t know what we were looking for.
“The Universe sure has a way of placing things in your path, doesn’t it?” I mused out loud, as I let the memories of the past year overwhelm me, and Dave just silently nodded his head in agreement, knowing better than to challenge the doings of The Universe.
Last summer, while we were home (in Canada) for the summer (eh?) and travelling the highways across the provinces to visit family and friends, we saw something tall and sleek zoom-zoom by.
“What was that?” I asked Dave, as my head whipped around for a better look. He swerved quickly (and safely), into the passing lane so we could get a better look, and “Leisure Travel Van” is what we read out loud.
“Nice!!” We both exclaimed, our curiosity piqued. During the next few days we Googled ourselves some information on this unique gem of a touring coach. Slowly, with time and research, an idea emerged. An idea that already existed in our Bucket O’Dreams, but that had been pushed down into the depths of later, something we would do down the road (pardon the pun).
“I can’t believe not one of the LTV dealers has one of these on their lot” Dave said, rather dejectedly, as we exited yet another parking lot. “Well, it is a long weekend” I said, “But still…”
Returning to Nova Scotia, we became even more intrigued and with nothing better to do one cloudy weekday, we drove over to Auto Wheels in Motion, the only LTV dealer in the Atlantic area, to see what they could tell us about this Travel Van.
“We don’t have one to show you” said Terry, but what she did have was some brochures and swatch samples of the interior. “Let me see if I can call a few owners who might be around and might be willing to show you theirs” she said, as she dialled some numbers on her phone. It being summer, everyone was out and about enjoying the short summer that is most of Canada, and there were unfortunately, no call-backs. This time we walked away a little wiser, but still hadn’t seen one, drove one or stepped foot in one.
“I guess it just wasn’t meant to be” I mumbled a couple weeks later, as I sat back in our seats on the flight back to our sailboat in Grenada. Somehow thought, we just couldn’t get the van, or the Dream that was beginning to form, out of our heads. The more we queried and debated our future plans, the more the idea of Travelling on Land, Adventuring in North America during the summer months seemed to answer our current Want of a Change in Adventure. Didn’t much matter than neither one of us had ever camped like this before.
The next few weeks were a flurry of cyberspace research. We discovered that there is not one second-hand unit to buy readily, anywhere. And Terry, always at the ready at the other side of the Return Key, replied quickly with answers to our way too many questions, surprising us with videos for visual look-see’s to our scrutinizing eyes, and calculated price quotes on the different options as we agonized over details.
“What if…” asked Dave, “What if we… “ “Let’s not be silly” we replied, sort of squashing the idea before it got too serious. But we kept asking, quizzing and wondering.
“Would we want an exterior ladder?” mumbled Dave, thinking about the ease of cleaning the solar panels mounted on the roof, but also knowing that it would take away from some of the sleek exterior look of the van.
“Or how about the generator?” He asked me. “Should we get propane or diesel?”
“I don’t know how to answer that” I replied, my mind trying to visualize an interior that might be traditional (Chestnut Cherry) versus Contemporary (the new and sleek lines of the Espresso Brown).
“And just exactly what kind of Colour and Hue is Fog?” I wondered as I stared at the pixelated colours on the iPad Screen and tried to compare it to the colours printed on the Brochure.
Then, one hot and sunny afternoon in September, the now habitual sound of yet another incoming email ding stopped us from our current task. I looked up from the iPad at Dave, and he, fingers cramped over his keyboard, looked back at me, as we both read,
“If you really want one, a new one…” wrote Terry, “then you might consider ordering it soon.” We continued to read: “There is an eight month backlog at the factory. If you place your order now, you should be able to pick it up in May or June”.
“Could we? Should we?” we asked ourselves. “How can we? How Out on a Limb is this? We’ve never trialled one! Never even driven one…” we hush- hushed the crazyness and pooh-poohed the possibilities.
Yet the more we debated and hemmed and hawed the more we knew we Would. We Could. And we Should. And what happens when you go Out on a Limb? You just close your eyes and step forward.
Within the week we had signed our dollars away, emailed Terry, who emailed Triple E with the following message:
Now we were faced with focusing on the reality of our decision. Knowing we’d have to store SV Banyan in Florida for H-Season, we turned the Bow of our Boat Northwards. What follows is a tale of how somewhere in the Virgin Islands, as we sat watching the spectacular sunset, we heard the Inbox ding another email arrival, this time with increased excitement we read “May 16th”, and noted it on our agenda. Flights from Florida to Winkler were booked while in Puerto Rico, and the Winkler Hotel Room was reserved while we were exploring the Dominican Republic. In the Bahamas, Dave said “We need to buy some RV stuff, maybe we can have it delivered right to the factory?”
This time, Mark, of Triple E, came to our rescue, providing us with his office address. And on one email he added “I’m running out of office space!” as he acknowledged receipt of yet another package. “I’m sure he knows we’ve ordered everything but the kitchen sink” I teased.
We flew into Winkler on May 14th, where Mark was at the airport waiting to pick us up, one of the perks of factory delivery. We had carefully crafted our arrival on a Saturday so that we could spend Sunday the 15th shopping for groceries and dishes and the list of items we had detailed. Except we’d forgotten one small minor thing.
“Sunday shopping in Winkler?”
I laughed at the Closed Sign on all business doors. “Not so much”.
And so we grabbed a coffee a Tim’s, enjoyed the beautiful Bethel Park, all the while the seconds and minutes and hours ticked away to a countdown that’s been a year in the making.
For the past year we’d been asking ourselves a million “what if” questions and we were now, finally, almost there. On the quiet street that afternoon, we walked by the Triple E parking lot hoping to get a glimpse of our unit, but the green factory doors were closed shut and squinting through the tinted windows didn’t help our vision any.
We woke up Monday morning, grabbed a hearty breakfast at the hotel dining room, ready for our morning appointment, but too anxious to even speak as we grabbed a refill on our coffee.
Would our Dream, our Unity, be all we’d researched? We wondered as we walked to the Triple E Main Office. Just how much room exactly is 25 feet of space?
Wanda greeted us with a smile as we entered the reception area minutes after they opened on Monday morning. “You must be here to pick up your new van” she said as she picked up the phone, “Let me page Willy”.
Would she look just as good as the laptop screen promised? We wondered as we waited and looked at the photos of LTV’s on the reception area walls screaming Freedom on the Roads in their Glossy and Perfect Photo-Ops.
Minutes later Willy arrived and greeted us with a hearty “Good morning”. We were excited, anxious, nervous as we walked across the street towards the green factory doors, butterflies flitting about in our tummies.
Would she drive as quietly as the video sounded? We wondered as we saw a few units in the parking lot. Would the Chestnut Cherry Cabinetry and Mirage Décor we’d chosen be the fit for us?
“Have you really never seen one before?” asked Willy having heard our story through the office network. “We haven’t” I responded, and we recounted our story, mentioning how we’d even tried to peek through the factory windows the day before.
“Oh yes” he answered, “the security guy noticed you”. We laughed our embarrassment away as Willy punched in the security code for the door.
And there she was. Parked in the first spot by the door, waiting for us. Our jaws dropped, a mélange of gobsmack moment of wonder and incredulous amazement.
“Tall!! She’s so tall” I said to Dave. “Love the colour” he said. “Silver is perfect” “It sure is” I sighed, falling in love.
We were floored. And thrilled. And seriously at a loss for words as we tangibly touched and face to faced what had, for so long, been just a series of Cyber-Space Images and Videos.
We spent the next few hours inspecting and absorbing all that Willy was patiently explaining.
Three hours later he handed us some certificates, and the keys, and said “It’s time for lunch. Why don’t you take her for that test-drive”.
We clambered into the front seats. Gazed outwards and adjusted the mirrors. Smiled a crazy smile and laughed a nervous giggle as we looked at each other and were, for a serious moment and a few brief minutes of time, quite at a loss of what to do.
Well I guess I should put it in Drive” said Dave. “I guess that would be a good thing to do” I laughed in reply.
A gentle press on the pedal and we inched out of the driveway. The bumpity-bump as we crossed the curb had us anxiously grip the seats and then around the block we drove, our confidence growing with each stoplight we stopped at, with each corner we turned to, and finally we let ‘er loose on the highway. Nice!
That afternoon, we toured the Factory, where we learned all about the assembly process, the thought and work behind the designs and structures, the real people behind the van.
“Who knew you could fit this much cable behind the walls of our 25 feet of space?” I wondered.
It was full-circle closure to witness first hand all the other units we’d only cyber-inspected, to touch and feel the other options that we’d cyber-surfed so often. And satisfyingly know, that if we had to, we’d pick our Silver Unity IB, Cherry Wood Cabinetry with Mirage Interior, Diesel Generator (minus the ladder), all over again.
“But in hindsight” I whispered to Dave that evening, totally exhausted and celebrating over a glass of wine. “Yes?” He replied. “With so much information to have to absorb, I would opt to do the factory tour on another day. Not the same day as the van possession.”
And as we tucked ourselves into our very new and very comfortable bed, in the Customer Service parking lot that evening, we knew that the last year of Journeying had come to an end.
And a new Adventure of a Different Kind was about to start.
We had asked Triple E to Build It. Told them that we Would Come. Build it they did. Come we did.
Dreams do Come True!