Friday, September 23, 2022

2021-03-23: Turning a 1400 Mile Drive into a 3404 Mile Road Trip! Day 1 in North Carolina and Virginia

WOW! What a roadtrip! So after two weeks, we finished up in Maiden, NC and now have to drive back to McCamey, TX to start the next project. Google maps says that it should only take 21 hours and 1400 miles. But where's the fun in that? BORING!! This wouldn't be the AwayWeGo Geocaching Adventures blog if we did that. NOPE, we took the LONG way back to Texas. It ended up taking us 12 days and 3404 miles later to reach our destination! So I hope you'll join us over these next few weeks as I bring you the stories and photos of the places we've discovered geocaching and sightseeing along the rural backroads and byways of the upper mid-west. So let's get started with Day 1 in North Carolina and Virginia...

Our first stop after checking out of the Lake Norman RV Resort on this cool spring morning, was for a virtual geocache (GC7B67D) in the historic town of Hillsborough, NC. On the grounds of the 1768 St. Mathews Church, later to become the Presbyterian Church, is the Old Town Cemetery. Not a traditional churchyard burial ground, it is one of North Carolina's oldest municipal cemeteries, established in 1757 by the Colonial Assembly and is the final resting place of several people who are significant to North Carolina history.

Among those buried here are William Hooper (1742-1790), who studied law in his native Massachusetts before moving to North Carolina where he established a law firm first in Wilmington and then Hillsborough. His gravestone lists several of his accomplishments, his greatest one was the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 1894, Hooper's gravestone, and perhaps some of his remains, were moved to the Guilford Court House Revolutionary War battlefield. After a statue of Hooper was erected a few years later, the gravestone was returned to Hillsborough.

The tallest headstone is an obelisk honoring William Alexander Graham (1804-1875), who was governor, a United States Senator, and vice-presidential candidate.

The oldest part of the cemetery is just north of the church buildings in what now appears to be an empty field. In 2016, a ground-penetrating radar revealed that at least 100 graves are located there. The original grave markers, probably rough fieldstones or carved and painted wood have long vanished.

The only other stop in North Carolina on this trip was to make up for a previous DNF, see previous blog. Located in Chapel Hill was a geocache for the North Carolina County Challenge. I first attempted the geocache back in 2019 while working on another project and taking a roadtrip to pickup new counties. At that time of my visit the cache was missing so I wasn't able to sign the logsheet. Last year I completed the last couple of missing counties I needed to complete the state, but wasn't able to make it back to avenge my DNF. Upon this return trip, I noticed a new earthcache was placed at the outdoor amphitheater. So we gathered the needed answers to submit for the find.

Then we made the short hike through the park into the woods to find the ammo can replacement to claim a find for finding a cache in ALL 100 North Carolina Counties (GC19YRC)!

Crossing over into Virginia, it's back to focusing on county caching, virtuals, and other places of interest. First up were a pair of geocaches in Brunswick County and the town of Alberta. Usually not something I want to do when I don't want to spend a lot of time and that is hunt for a train hide geocache (GC80MYC). However this one was found pretty quickly and I moved a few blocks down the road.

We drove to another cache (GC8WD4N) just down the road at the sight of the original school house. I was hoping to find the remains of the school or something. But it was demolished in the 1980's and nothing remains except the short entry road to an empty field. I did find the geocache though.

Every now and then you get the unexpected surprise of finding something interesting when geocaching and sightseeing along the backroads during a road trip. The old bank building, now abandoned, is still standing on Main Street and 1st. I did a quick search to try and find some history on the building but didn't have any luck. It looks like a similar building I saw down in a small town along the Rio Grande in South Texas.

Driving north on US-1 into Dinwiddie County, we passed by this old motel and I just had to stop and get a photo of it. Located in McKenney, VA, the Wilmurt's Motel first opened in the 1930's as Wilmurt's Lunch Room, Cabins, and an Esso Gas station. As automobile travel grew in popularity after WWII, it expanded into a motor court / motel style business and did away with the cabins. It finally closed in the early 2000's and sits empty.

For this counties cache, we drove up to the town of Dewitt at the old fire tower (GC84NWP). The fire tower is no longer in service but at one time there were more than 150 fire towers scattered all across Virginia and were used to detect forest fires. Tower operators would sit up in the small room at the top mostly during the spring and look for smoke columns. When they saw one they would check with a neighboring tower for a cross reference and then call or radio a forestry person who would respond. Virginia on average has about 1,000 wildfires each year.

When we got to the city of Richmond, we had originally intended to find the virtual geocache at one of the large cemeteries that contain some significant interments of Virginia history. However by the time we got there they were just closing the gates so we couldn't get in.

So we drove over to the Virginia War Memorial for the virtual geocache there (GC7B656). In 1950, five years after the end of World War II, the Virginia General Assembly authorized the building of a memorial to honor and remember the nearly 10,000 Virginians who made the ultimate sacrifice serving in the U.S Armed Forces. A design was chosen, as was the location – nearly five acres overlooking the James River and downtown Richmond along U.S. Routes 1 and 301, the primary route from Maine to Florida before the construction of Interstate 95. As construction began, America entered the Korean War and plans were changed to include the heroes of this conflict. Construction was completed in 1955 and the Memorial was officially dedicated on February 29, 1956. The Memorial celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016. The photo of the statue at the top of this page is looking through the center of this building below.

Our final geocaching stop for the day was in Hanover County at the I-95 Travel Bug Hotel (GC8132F). By now it was around 7:30 PM and we were hungry and tired ourselves and still needed to figure out where we were gonna stay for the night. So stop by next week when I'll show you Day 2 traveling through Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia's colonial history, Revolutionary and Civil War sites and more.

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course by clicking the "Follow" button to the right. But also by using one or more of your favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitterRVillageGETTRInstagram, and TruthSocial. These all link directly to my profiles. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

Friday, September 16, 2022

2021-03-05: Touring the Mississippi Gulf Coast for History and Lighthouses

Finishing up the eastbound segment of our huge looping roadtrip around the east half of the United States, we followed the Mississippi Gulf Coast to check out some lighthouses and other historical sites. Obviously picking up some geocaches along the way too. So join us as we exit the Interstate, drop down to the backroads highway of US-90, and let's see what (and who) we found...

Our first geocaching stop was for a virtual geocache (GCED4C) at the statue of French explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne. Born in Montreal, New France (now Canada) in 1680, he landed and explored this area of Bay St Louis, MS in 1699. He was appointed governor of French Louisiana several times  in the early 1700's. Also known as Sieur de Bienville, he died while in Paris, France in 1767.

Moving along to Gulfport, MS, we come to our first lighthouse. Ship Island is located out in the Gulf of Mexico, about 12 miles south of Gulfport. The island got its name because it was often used by early explorers and larger ships to anchor, sending smaller boats navigating the shallower waters to the mainland. With the efforts of Congressman, and later as Senator, Jefferson Davis in the 1840's, Ship Island finally got its first lighthouse built in 1853. It was a 45-foot round tower made of brick.

In 1861, Confederate soldiers abandoned the fort and lighthouse on the island and returned to the mainland. They set the structures on fire to make it more difficult for Union troops to use the lighthouse to aid in navigating the waters. However, Union forces occupied the island before long and had the lighthouse operational once again by late 1862. In 1886, the brick lighthouse was considered unsafe and a square wooden lighthouse was constructed later that year. The lighthouse continued operating by the U.S. Coast Guard until 1957.

In 1959, a private use permit was granted to Philip Duvic who renovated the bottom floor to a kitchen and bathroom, second floor into women's quarters, third floor into a men's dorm, and the top floor a honeymoon suite. He eventually purchased the lighthouse in 1965 when the Coast Guard put lighthouses up for sale.

In 1969, Hurricane Camille severely damaged the wooden structure. And in June 1972, two campers lit a campfire too close for the windy conditions and caught the lighthouse on fire, completely destroying it. In 1999, a replica lighthouse was built on the island but destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. And finally, another replica (pictured) was built in 2011, but not on Ship Island. This time right on US-90 in Gulfport making it more accessible to tourists.

I also grabbed the geocache near the lighthouse (GC6ZKCN) before driving off to the next location.

Further east down the beach and a block off of US-90, you'll find this red-brick building and our next virtual geocache (GCD69F). The Mississippi City Courthouse building was originally constructed in 1893 as part of the Harrison County Clerks office, the "Old Courthouse." It was the last remaining structure associated with a complex of courthouse buildings in Mississippi City, which served as the county seat from 1841 until 1902. After that the county seat was moved to Gulfport. The original building was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This replica you now see was constructed in 2009.

Moving on over to Biloxi, we come to one of the lessor known lighthouses on the Gulf Coast. Constructed in 1965 as part of the Broadwater Beach Resort, the resort was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969. Rebuilt as the President Casino in 1992, it too was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. This is all that remains. Even the geocache hidden near the base tends to disappear often and I had to DNF that one (GC6DTPB).

The Biloxi Lighthouse (GC7B8V6) was one of three Mississippi Sound lighthouses authorized in 1847 by legislation sponsored by Mississippi Representative Jefferson Davis. The Biloxi Lighthouse was erected in 1848 and was one of the first cast-iron lighthouses in the South. It has survived two of the deadliest hurricanes in Gulf Coast history, Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005. Katrina’s record-breaking storm surge crested at 27.8 feet above mean sea level. It destroyed nearly the entire city, but the lighthouse remained standing.

One of the features of this lighthouse is that it contains a webcam. You can login to the live feed from your smartphone to take that unique selfie as if you were both on the ground and up inside the lighthouse. Yep, that's me down in the lower left corner by the light post.

Our final stop was in Ocean Springs, MS for another virtual geocache (GCEC3D) at the Mississippi Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

Making our way back to Interstate 10, yeah I know it sounds boring, but we have to get to Central Florida. We spent the following day with family and the next morning saying my last goodbye at my father's funeral. After the funeral we had to get back on the road up to North Carolina where we return to the Maiden Creek solar project for a couple weeks of touch up work. Then we head back to Texas for the next project. But we'll be taking the LOOOONG WAY back via the northern route! So be sure to check back in soon. Until next time...

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course by clicking the "Follow" button to the right. But also by using one or more of your favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitterRVillageGETTRInstagram, and TruthSocial. These all link directly to my profiles. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.