Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Keeping ourselves busy in Virginia

After enjoying a relaxing long weekend, it was back to reality for Nicolas as he prepared for his upcoming underway at the beginning of June . . . and me, too, as I got back to work. 

He was working full days, but he still got home for dinner most of the time, and we did manage to have another campfire one evening before he had to start saying on the ship again.

The weather was great  -- it cooled down a little, and we didn’t have to keep the A/C going 24/7 for several days!

On the day we thought he was leaving, we drove down to Fort Monroe in the afternoon, in hopes of spotting the carrier as it made it’s way out of the river and into the Chesapeake Bay.

When we arrived, we could see the ship still at the pier.

Fort Monroe is on the edge of the water, where it protected this major shipping channel during the Civil War,

surrounded by beautiful residences.

We killed some time walking along the seawall, and then took a drive around the grounds.  There’s a beach at the north end of the peninsula, and a small RV Park overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

Lots of good spots for getting pictures of the ship as it goes out to sea!

While we were driving around, though, Nick called to tell us that they weren’t leaving that day.  He had the next 4 hours off, but didn’t want to drive all the way home.  Since we were close, we fought with the rush hour traffic and made our way through the tunnel over to Norfolk to meet him for dinner before heading back to the campground.

They were re-scheduled for the next afternoon, and we considered driving back out to the Fort again, but by the time Nick called to tell us they were definitely going, it was pouring down rain and we decided against it.

Maybe we’ll get another chance to see them go out before we leave Virginia.

While he was gone, Tom and I were on our own . . . I kept busy with work during the day, and did some sewing in the evening, and Tom found people to talk to and projects to work on during the day.

We had some beautiful weather . . .

with some great sunsets!  Casey likes to look at the sunset, too!

We enjoyed a few beautiful days at the beach here at the campground,

and ventured out into the surrounding communities, too

We went back to Virginia Beach for the Honey Festival, and back to Smithfield again to pick more strawberries.

Smithfield is well-known in the country for their hams and bacon and sausage, and the company has a restaurant in downtown Smithfield.

Taste of Smithfield

We enjoyed a delicious dinner!

Back at home, Tom got a new T-shirt for Father’s Day, and we got a new flag to replace ours that got a little battered in the wind recently.

As our first month wound down, we moved sites so that we could add a few more days to the end of our stay, getting us through the holiday weekend.  Our new site was across the loop from our first site, out in the full sun rather than under the trees.  It means we don’t have any shade, but it’s also much cleaner, for both the RV and Casey!

Nicolas had to spend his birthday and Father’s Day at sea, but the time passed pretty quickly and before we knew it, he was calling to tell us that he was back at the pier!  He didn’t get much time off that first week back, but we did manage to have a birthday dinner for him one night, and enjoyed a beautiful evening at a baseball game in downtown Norfolk with Nick and one of his friends, Cameron.

It was a great night for baseball!

It was nice to have him home again!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend

It may not feel like summer in many areas of the country, but here in Virginia, summer got off to a roaring start!  After our arrival at Davis Lakes Resort, we got all settled into our site for the next couple of months,

and we saw Nicolas’s new site that he had moved into at the end of last summer.  It’s a lot bigger than his old site, and he’s got some decent shade for at least part of the day.

He was at work during the day, but home most evenings for dinner with us – we were happy to have him over, and he was happy not to cook!

Summer had definitely arrived, as the temperatures that week rose well into the 90s every afternoon!  Our air conditioners were getting a workout, and we discovered that the middle A/C was not working at all – it would try to start several times, but eventually just shut down.  Luckily, we had two others, and we never run more than 2 at one time anyway.  One afternoon there was a local RV Repairman in the park, so he stopped to take a look and determined that our start capacitor on that unit was burned up.  Tom called around a few places, and found a shop to order a new part for us from Dometic.  It arrived a week later, and Tom replaced it – now we have three working A/C’s again!

Memorial Day weekend arrived, and the campground filled up – it was going to be a beautiful weekend, but HOT!  Nicolas had duty on Friday, but then he was off Saturday – Tuesday for a nice long weekend!

When he got home from work on Saturday morning, we decided to take a drive down to Virginia Beach for the Pungo Village Strawberry Festival. 

There were cars on display,

typical rides, fair food, and craft booths,

multiple stages for music,

and delicious-smelling food!

One booth was selling strawberry tacos, which sounded interesting, so we tried a couple.

They were waffle cones in the shape of a taco shell, filled with strawberries and topped with whipped cream and candy sprinkles.  YUM!

After our snack, it was time for the next pig race, and we grabbed seats on the bleachers.

It was pretty hokey – several pig races and a couple of weiner dog races – but it was cute and fun, so we watched and cheered!

After the festival, we headed back to the campground.  Saturday was the Memorial Day potluck dinner, so we joined the rest of the campers for dinner and then Nicolas went out with friends in the evening.

Sunday was forecast to be hot and sunny, so we made plans to go to Virginia Beach for the day, and then Nicolas was taking Tom & I out to dinner in Norfolk for our birthdays.

It was a beautiful day at the beach!


There are many beaches to choose from – the Boardwalk in downtown Virginia Beach, Chic’s Beach on the Chesapeake Bay, Croatan Beach which is a little south of Virginia Beach, in a residential area near the Navy bases, and then Sandbridge Beach which is the most remote, near the North Carolina border.  We decided to go to Croatan Beach because Nick said that parking is free and easier to find, and it’s a little less crowded than the Boardwalk area.

Tom and I walked along the beach, almost to the Boardwalk, but there’s a channel that separates the two beaches, so you can’t get from one to the other without crossing a bridge.  There were lots of people fishing near the channel, and the Boardwalk looked crowded.

We could see tour boats, jet ski tours, and parasailers – it was definitely a great day to enjoy the beach!

Walking back towards where we were sitting, it was less crowded and a little calmer.

There are lots of beautiful houses on the beach.

There was a group of young guys with their skim boards, jumping the waves.  They moved into the area right in front of us (I guess the waves were good there), and they were fun to watch.

Nicolas went for a swim (brave soul!) . . . and he said it was COLD, but Tom thought he needed to see for himself . . .

Yep, that’s cold!!

It was a wonderful day, and after a few hours we were getting a little crispy!  We headed home to clean up and go to dinner.

We found a restaurant online that looked pretty good – Freemason Abbey – and Nicolas said that he had heard good things about it and had been wanting to try it.  It was in downtown Norfolk in an old church.

All of our meals were excellent, and we greatly enjoyed Nicolas’ company!  Thanks for the birthday dinner, Nick!!

We even got a couple of beer glasses for our birthdays . . . we let Nicolas keep those!

On Monday, we stuck around the campground and helped Nicolas take care of some projects on his camper, and on Tuesday he hung out with some of his friends.  It was a really nice weekend, and we loved spending all that time with him!  A great kickoff to summer!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Finally visiting the Mighty Ike

We got an early start on that Sunday to make our way from Mount Airy to Suffolk, Virginia.  It was 275 miles (which is a long day to begin with), and Nicolas wanted to give us our tour of the Ike since it’s quieter and less busy on Sunday.  With only duty sections on the ship, we could go more places and see more than we could on a normal work day.

It might have been shorter to take 77 up to 58, and go across all the way to Suffolk, but there are some twisty mountain grades on 58 that far west in Virginia, so the safer bet was to go back south to I-40, and take it across to I-85, and then take that up to 58 . . . so that’s what we did.

It was a nice, easy drive on a Sunday morning . . . we drove past Pilot Mountain again,

and through Winston-Salem and Greensboro, before getting on I-85 and heading north into Virginia.

We arrived at Davis Lakes Campground in Suffolk in good time, and got set up on our site with enough free time to have a quick snack and a little nap before we had to drive down to Naval Station Norfolk to meet Nicolas when he was done for the day.

We met him out at the NEX, and he drove with us in the Jeep to get on base.

Our first view of CVN69, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower --

BIG, isn’t it!?!

We followed Nick up to the hangar deck where he boarded, and we turned in our drivers licenses to get visitor passes.

We stopped to look at the display on the quarterdeck,

then went below a deck or two, to where Nicolas lives and works.

That was about as close as we could get, but we did see the doors that he goes through to get down to the Plants, and we saw where their offices are.  Not much to take a picture of – just a door!  Top Secret stuff!

Just down the aisle from where their offices are is the bakery . . . we must have walked by about a dozen times as Nicolas took us back and forth to different areas . . . and they were baking something chocolate!  Nicolas says they don’t get to eat it, just smell it all day!

Hmmm . . .

We did get to see Nicolas’ bunk, though.

Not a lot of space . . . but I did get him a memory foam mattress topper, and he says it helps a lot.

Nicolas just got pinned with his Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin – he completed the requirements a couple months ago, but just officially got pinned on the last underway.

We could only stay for a minute, and had to be quiet, because somebody was sleeping in the berthing.

From there, we went out to the fantail, although we had to take a roundabout route – there was some floor painting being done on this off day.

Walking through one of the small gyms – open to outside.

View of Hampton Roads

View of the ships on the next pier.

This is the back of the ship, and the aircraft that come in to land come from this direction.

The light tower mounted on the back of the ship tells the pilots whether or not they can land  -- kindof looks like the light tree at a drag strip.

Above us is the flight deck, and we went up there next.

Looks really huge without a bunch of planes parked up there!

Another good photo op --

it was hot and windy up there!

The only plane we saw was the captain’s plane.

The flight deck is the main function of the aircraft carrier (although they can’t function without the steam and power produced by the reactor department!) --

Nicolas has had the opportunity on underways to watch flight operations from up on the Bridge,

so he’s got a pretty good handle on what goes on up there, and he was explaining it to Dad --

arresting cable – for stopping the jets when they land,

and jet blast deflectors  -- used to protect everyone from the jet engines when they take off.

We walked all around the flight deck,

and we could see the Stennis and the Truman on the pier to our Port side,

and the USS Comfort on the Starboard side.

See – I’m getting that Navy lingo down!!

Back below, we walked through one of the galleys (this one is undergoing renovations right now, so it wasn’t open),

they even have fancy table covers!

Our next stop was the fo’c’sle – the upper deck in the forward portion of the ship, and it’s where the anchors and anchor chains are located.

Two hours later, we felt like we had walked several miles as we travelled front to back and up and down multiple times – but it was great, and we were so glad to be able to see where Nicolas spends so much of his time, and to meet several of his shipmates.  I never did master going up and down the ladders like they do, though, – I definitely needed the railings, and was much faster going down backwards!!

Thanks for the tour, Nick!