On Wednesday morning (the 4th) we left NYC and spent much of the morning and afternoon driving down to Washington D.C. to spend the evening with my friend Andrew, who I went to high school with and just graduated from George Washington. We got to DC at around 2:30 and were somewhat flabberghasted about how to get around. We did not immediately realize that their street numbers come in both East and West varieties. The avenues weren't too tough to figure out, but the lettered streets also threw us for a loop. It's become clear that NYC is very, very easy to navigate being on the grid with chronological street numbers going north/south. However, the Rand McNally atlas didnt let us down, and we were able to find Independence Ave. where we parked the car in front of the Smithsonian. A quarter for 15 minutes! Damn! With the museums free, it's no wonder the parking and the taxes are so high though.
We headed over to the Natural History Museum, which was amazingly impressive. The mammal exhibit with all the taxidermied animals was beyond cool and much more modern than NY's embarassing Hall of Mammals. However,. our dinosaur exhibit way trumps the Smithsonian.
It was a give and take, but overall I was thoroughly enchanted, especially by the gems, minerals and precious stones collection. While we were inside, a torrential downpour had started outside. Running back to the car, we moved it and then went to the Air and Space Museum, which was also very cool. Gus was a big fan of all the flight simulators. We left at around 5:15 and waited for a call from Andrew, who had just started a full time position in event planning at the Grand Hyatt three days prior. At 6 he left work, and we hopped onto the Beltway to drive to Alexandria, VA where he lives with his boyfriend. The traffic was unbelievable. However, once we arrived Andrew was an amazing host. We got dinner, had some wine, caught up, and watched So You Think You Can Dance, as well as The Anatomy of Sex on Discovery Channel which showed an MRI scan of actual copulation. That was wild! Gus and I took the bed, Andrew took the couch, and in the morning we all got breakfast together and saw Andrew off to the train dressed in his glamorous Armani suit. *sniffle* My boy is growing up.
That morning we visited the National Gallery. I had been hit with my period, so I was practically dragging myself through the exhibit, but well worth it. The In the Forests of Fontainbleu exhibit was a little ho hum, but to my surprise THe Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan exhibit were absolutely stunning. That was my favorite, mostly because I could geek out over all the Meditaranean and Greek artifacts they had. We then took the underground walkway to the West building and checked out the gift shop (which had lots of Galison products!) and a photography exhibit before the bloody caught up to me and I could go on no longer. I then dragged myself back to the car in the 95 degree heat, periodically stopping to breath through some cramps. Once back at the car, Gus did the driving, I got some rest, and we spent the rest of the day driving down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We reached Waves by 7:15PM or so, checked in, and set up our tent, which was located right on the other side of a sand dune for easy beach access. Sleeping in the tent was really quite nice, if perhaps a little hard and hot. We did not expect that it would torrentially rain again though and were woken by the very loud sound of thunder, which seemed to be right on top of us. The tent held and no water infiltrated.
During this trip our sleeping has coincided with the rising and setting of the sun. We've been up by 6 or 6:30 and asleep by 9:30 or 10. It's somewhat refreshing, but very different from the hours I usually keep. At around 9 we went to the beach, put our feet in the water (it was pretty warm), and sat on our beach blanket. All these little crabbies kept popping out of holes they dug in the sand. I tried taking pictures, but they were took quick for me, and ran back into the holes before I could get close enough.
That morning we got up and headed to Nags Head with the top down. There is a single lane two-way causeway that connects the first island to Hatteras Island, where we were staying. There was a guy sitting on the edge with a STOP sign and one of the lanes blocked. Yeah, that was interesting. Eventually we made our way across once the southbound traffic went by went to a place called Stack 'em HIgh, a self-serve breakfast place that was quite good. We then headed to Manteo on Roanoke Island for our dolphin-watch. The little waterfront town is tiny, so we wandered around aimlessly, sat in the shade, and generally tried to survive the 97 degree heat that was baking us. Needless to say, I am incredibly sunburned, bug-bitten, and itchy. Meh...
We set off in a little boat into the Sound off the Cape, which we were informed was only 4 ft deep! The captain said "If we go over forget the life preserves and just stand up!" He was a real hoot. This guy was like a 7th generation islander and had a lovely accent that I couldn't call quite southern, but it was something not eastern. Once we got to Channel Marker #5, we spied the dolphins! At first there were about 3 of them, but they quickly met up with a larger group of about 8, which included two babies! They were so cute. I was delighted. The only thing that soured the watching experience were the speedboats that kept zooming through the channels and right over the dolphins! There was much wooping hollering from the boaters. One word - assholes.
That evening we went and bought groceries and whipped out our stove. Gus cooked up stir fry chicken with asparagus and I made a salad. It was delish! Another early night.
The next day we got up bright and early to head to Frisco, a few towns south of us so I could go horseback riding through the state nature preserve and the beach. I got a horse named Zeus, who was very responsive to reign commands. He was also reigned English, so I was really more than fine up on the horse. It was like I had done it yesterday. I was right behind the guide in the front, so it was nice to be able to cha t with her as we took the trail to the beach. We saw turtles, rabbits, roosters and lots of pretty plant life along the way. Once at the beach we walked the horses a bit and then set them into a trot. My boy was very eager to GO, and took the lead of the bunch. However, the trot quickly turned into a canter and then a full on gallop! It was a lot of fun to have about three other horses parallel to me, all of the riders hanging on for dear life as we gave the horses their head. Clearly, our mounts were having a good old time themselves. We then slowed them down a bit, walked them in the surf and took pictures. I was the only person that opted to wear a helmet, but frankly I'd rather be safe than sorry, especially since I hadn't ridden in so long.
After the riding, we headed to Hatteras Lighthouse, but it was so frickin hot we decided to eat instead at a seafood place called Dirty Dicks! I had a tuna steak with penne pasta and some side dish called Hushpuppies. I think they're a southern thing. Like, deep fried corn bread or something? They were good, but I only had two because all I could think of was *cholesterol*. We went back to the campsite to take a nap, but there was a heat index warning in effect for something like 110, so we went to the movie theater instead and saw Kung Fu Panda for $13 for both of us. THat's what it costs for 1 person in the city. The movie was the shit, btw, and you should all see it. We laughed our asses off and then snuck into Indiana Jones, which was bullshit. When we headed back in the evening, we took a walk on the beach and picked up wampum on the shore.
The following day was also incredibly hot so we spent some time booking hotels using the wifi at the visitor center at the campsite and doing internet research. Airconditioning, yeah! In the morning we went swimming at the beach. The surf was a bit rough, but we stayed in. We were also back in the water in the afternoon and both times I kept seeing a huge sting ray fly out of the water intermittently. I've never seen a sting ray before in the ocean! Man, they're big and soar pretty high. I also saw some jellyfish and little minnow type fishies. Everyoe was running in and out of the water as they spotted the sting ray get close to shore. A fisherman actually caught what I thought wasa sting ray, but upon closer inspection it was actually a skate, which I also have never seen live and up close. Just dead ones or mermaid purses where the babies grow in their egg cases.
Yesterday we left the campsite early in the morning. It was a travel day. We were on two ferries. One from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke and then to Cedar Island. Ocracoke was really beautiul and was differnt from the other islands in that it actually had grass and trees. The Outer Banks are so stark because it's just stand, no landscaping. In that sense, I wasn't a huge fan of the aesthetics. I like me so trees and grass. We the drove to Wilmington and got here by evening, which is where we stayed overnight. In a few minutes we'll be heading off and continuing south to check out Savannah, GA and camp over night.