Part 17: Chapel Hill, NC to Waterlily, NC


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The Trip

We traveled east from Chapel Hill toward the Atlantic Ocean.  Our objective was to go to the barrier islands, but it would take a few ferry rides to get there.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Our first stop was a NC state park at Goose Creek.  Goose Creek empties into the Pamlico River and from there into Pamlico Sound.

From the state park at Goose Creek, we headed toward a ferry crossing. To get to the outer banks, we would have to take 2 ferries.  Across from the ferry station, there was a large machine spraying crops.  The apparatus looked like some kind of aircraft

Across the Pamlico River from the ferry station was a large mine and mill.  The plant produces phosphorus products.

Many folks that have private anchorages on the sound have the ability to lift their boats out of the water.  This one was somewhat unusual in that the boat was perhaps 10 feet in the air.

On the far side of the first ferry, we encountered the mine that provides the materials for the phosphorus plant.  To transport material to the plant, the company runs a whole fleet of these large earth mover trucks.  The trucks had to cross the main highway to get to the plant.  So, the company has a controlled intersection to allow the trucks to cross.  The trucks have crossing priority, of course.  Above, one of these fully-loaded beasts passes us on the way to the dump area.

After the second ferry crossing, we got to Cedar Island.  The south end of the island was grassy pasture and marsh land with minimal trees.

We stayed at a camp near the next ferry terminal on Cedar Island.  The ferry to Ocracoke Island is long, nearly 2.5 hours.  The camp was OK, but it's primary advantage was that we could make the departure time for the ferry without excessive bloodshed.  The departure was not particularly early, but sometimes Kathleen is a "hard start" in the morning.

We were sufficiently early that we got the first spot in line for "big" vehicles.

There were houses near the ferry terminal and they had private beach access.  Above, the tide is low, exposing lots of beach.

As the ferry departed, I spotted this large osprey nest on a harbor beacon.  One of the NPS facilities stated that osprey nests can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.  Above, these are not twigs, but rather branches and small logs.

As the ferry pulled out of the terminal, we got a glimpse of some of the wild horses that live in the area.  These horses are descendants of horses that were stranded by being shipwrecked during the Spanish exploration of the area back in the 1600s.

Once we got to Ocracoke Island, we headed to a raw bar for lunch.  When we finished lunch, we headed to the beach.  There are many access points and it is legal to drive on the beach.  Both visitors and locals go to the beach to swim and fish. The mog turned heads until necks snapped.

We saw some interesting things at the beach.  This "interesting thing" was much nicer than some of the other things that we saw.

From the access road to the beach, we got a brief view of the lighthouse on Ocracoke.

We continued north from the "populated" section of Ocracoke and got to see more of the beaches.  Compared to some beaches we have seen, this beach was flat and featureless.

There were plenty of sea birds along the beach corridor.

At the north end of Ocracoke Island, we had to take another ferry.  I shot the photo above as we pulled away from the dock.  That is not fog behind Kathleen, but rather a huge, smelly cloud of diesel exhaust from the ferry motors.  We had to evacuate the fan tail due to the fumes.

Check out the exhaust plume on this oncoming ferry.  The passage between Ocracoke and the island to the north is heavily traveled.  The passage is short, perhaps 30 minutes with ferries leaving every 30 minutes.  This is in contrast to the Cedar Island ferry that is 2.5 hours.

As we were heading north, the fog came in rapidly.  On the horizon, you can get a feel for what the deteriorating visibility is like.  Notice the channel markers?  The ferries have to travel between the markers to avoid the shifting sand bars in the area and the channel is not very much wider than the ferries making careful navigation a necessity.

The arrival at Hatteras was obscured in fog, but there were some really nice places on the water.  Note the danger sign: it warns of a shoal near shore.

From the ferry landing, we took the beach route to check things out.  The fog had things pretty much socked in.  From the beach, we continued north on NC 12 toward a NPS campground on the beach at Frisco.  Our campsite was on a high sand dune ridge with a respectable view.  That is, if there was no fog.

We had a pretty good night at Frisco.  The winds were strong, but not enough to cause us distress.  Mostly, the wind kept the bugs at bay and the camper cool.  Next morning, we broke camp and headed back to the beach for another sand session.  The sand was soft and deep enough to require us to use 4 wheel drive.  We did not air down the tires; that is too much work.  As a result of the high air pressure, we had minimal directional control while driving.  Gladly, there were not many obstacles to avoid.

The beach was nice and mostly deserted.  All the locals had racks for their fishing poles on the front of their trucks.

From Frisco, we continued north to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  Interestingly, we found out that the lighthouse was moved, intact, from its old location to its current location, about 1/2 mile.  It seems that the wave action had started to erode the foundation, so the NPS funded the migration of the lighthouse.  This was an engineering marvel in my mind.

From Cape Hatteras, we continued north.  At the north end of the island, there was a large bridge rather than a ferry.

From the top of the bridge, we spotted a dredge keeping the channel open.  Shifting sand make this a never-ending task.  Great work, if you have the contract.

We continued north past Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills and had lunch in Southern Shores at a place called Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar.  The food was great and reasonably priced.  From there, we continued north.  As we were driving along, Kathleen spotted several monster trucks parked along the road.  We turned around to check them out.  I am not a monster truck fan, but was aware of the existence of "Grave Digger".  It seems that our travels took us right past Grave Digger's "home crypt".  Above, you can see that I do, indeed, have wimpy tires.

There is not one Grave Digger, but rather a whole fleet of them.  The company that owns the enterprise runs 7 "brands" of trucks including Grave Digger and Tasmanian Devil.  The rig above is one of the original Diggers and has a steel body.  The later versions have fiberglass skins.

This promotional rig was based on an International 4300 unit.  At least the body is a 4300, but nothing else.

The unimog brought out all the mechanics in the shop and one thing led to another.  The fabrication manager invited us into the shop for a look around.  Above is one of the Grave Digger rigs under going some upgrades.  This is an actual race truck and currently has a 1400 horsepower alcohol-fueled, supercharged, Chevy big block motor.  The tires are used only for shop work and will be replaced before a race.  Note the braces on the axles, tube frame and custom shocks.

The Digger team runs a mix of semi-custom and full custom axles on their trucks.  Above, are full-custom axle housings that are being built for the various trucks.  The semi-custom axles area mix of a medium duty Rockwell axle, augmented by braces to increase their strength.  Additionally, to provide steering on both axles, the axle ends are mated to "cherry picker" crane wheels.

The fabrication manager showed us a new frame that was being built for one of the trucks.  He stated that the components get hammered pretty hard during the races and there continuous repairs and upgrades being done to the fleet.

This is another "brand" that the shop is running, the Tasmanian Devil.  Above, you can see the supercharged motor and straight exhaust pipes.

More super heavy duty axle housings being fabricated.

Look carefully, you will see a body in the operator's seat.  One of the mechanical team was a young gal and she climbed up into the truck and fired it up in the shop as part of testing.  Luckily, I saw it coming and was able to insert my ear plugs in time.  Kathleen was not so lucky and was looking for a place to hide until the noise abated.  This bad boy was really loud!  Look carefully at the photo above and you will notice that the motor is installed backwards when compared to a normal truck.  Unlike several of the trucks parked outside, the body of this truck is made from a custom fiberglass shell.

From Grave Digger's crypt, we head north on a side road to a nice camp right next to the water.  While we were at the crypt, we were told that there was a "tractor pull" competition being held abut 30 miles north of our position the following night.  Since neither of us had seen such a thing, we decided to change our plans and see some of the machinery in operation.

This was a very nice segment of the trip.  Generally, the weather was kind, being overcast most of the time preventing it from getting too hot.  But, as we approached the north end of the barrier island, things turned hot in a hurry.  We spent a steamy night on the water's edge, but somehow survived.  Kathleen is looking forward to the tractor pull; it should be an interesting evening.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2009, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.