Yeah, Connie’s Feeling Better

And about time too…it’s Wednesday and she started feeling bad 2 weeks ago tomorrow. What started as a chest cold shifted into her head/sinuses about a week into it but Sunday she finally started feeling better and has continued to improve a little each day. She finally actually feels pretty good although her sinuses and head are still stuffy but even that is getting better slowly and the coughing fits are spacing out so even she thinks she’ll live. 

We went over to Mass at a nearby parish Saturday evening…tried to go on the base at first since it’s only 300 yards from the RV sites but found out that it was closed for construction for the weekend so we quickly regrouped and found another parish we could go to so we headed over there. Found out that it was completely packed to the rafters and had to stand in the back…turned out that it was First Holy Communion day for a portion of the second grade class. No worries there but a little more difficult since Connie had to stand the whole time and her improvement didn’t start until mid afternoon Sunday.

So…on Sunday she decided she had been sitting at home long enough and we were going out to do something…so we headed off to the first of our 3 Fun Stuff© destinations, two of which were NWRs and the third was a pair of lighthouses nearby. Sunday was the Back Bay NWR and they had a short 1 mile boardwalk that was our intended destination. She decided she could handle a mile…and it was a good thing it wasn’t a mile and a half or Neil woulda had to carry her at the end but she just kept at it and we had a nice walk through the marsh. Here are a few shots from our walk.

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Grey Catbird.

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Osprey with lunch.

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Yellow Bi-bird.

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Connie was getting tired after this so we came home.

Monday we headed off for our second visit…this one was a lot easier as it involved practically no walking. Our destination was to visit Fort Story which is on the south side of Hampton Roads, which is where the James River and Chesapeake Bay empty into the Atlantic…Norfolk’s harbor and several Navy bases are up the James River just a bit. Fort Story is located on Cape Henry which has both the old and new Point Henry Lighthouse which guided mariners around the northern end of the NC/VA Outer Banks islands and shoals into the harbor at Norfolk. Hampton Roads played a pivotal but largely unknown role in the Revolutionary War…in 1781 General Washington was desperate for a major victory over the British after 6 long years of war. He left the New York City vicinity with his army and headed toward Yorktown where General Cornwallis was fortifying the city. Simultaneously Admiral de Grasse sailed from his anchorage in the West Indies to challenge British naval supremacy in the Chesapeake Bay…and Admiral Graves sailed the British fleet from New York to Chesapeake Bay. Admiral Graves arrived after the French fleet and had the advantage of both wind and tide…but failed to prosecute these advantages and instead depended on the standard British naval tactics at the time. Graves allowed the French fleet to escape the bay and late in the afternoon of Sep 5, 1781 the fleets exchanged fire for several hours. The fleets sailed on parallel courses into the Atlantic for 4 days and then the French slipped away in the darkness and returned to Chesapeake Bay, joining up with additional French warships that came independently from Rhode Island. British Admiral Graves decided his ships were too damaged to return for another fight with the French so he returned to New York. This action…which involved no American forces and with relatively light damage or casualties on both sides…gave the French fleet control of the Chesapeake Bay and allowed General Washington to surround and eventually force General Cornwallis to surrender…which effectively won the Revolutionary War. Strange how we never learned this in school…I vaguely remember that the French blockaded relief for Cornwallis from the sea but had knew none of these details. 

The original Point Henry lighthouse was built in 1792 and is both the first federally funded lighthouse and the first federal construction project after the adoption of the Constitution. It is a 90 foot stone octagonal tower 26 feet in diameter at the base. In 1881 it was replaced by a slightly taller structure about 350 feet to the southeast after it was struck by lightning and damaged in the 1770s. The original lighthouse was left standing as a day marker and unlighted navigational aid. The new light is 157 feet tall with a more powerful light…but since the original was built on a small hill the new one is only 20 or so feet higher effectively.

Fort Story was established in 1916 and used as a coastal defense artillery station through WWII…originally with a 16 inch howitzer battery and then in the late 1930s with 155mm mobile artillery, 6 inch naval cannon and 16 inch naval cannon…the latter two being repurposed naval guns and the 155mm being the standard Army artillery piece for shorter range coverage across the Hampton Roads while the longer ranged naval artillery covered the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. The artillery was replaced by a Nike antiaircraft battery for defense against potential Soviet bombers in 1957 and the missiles were retired in 1974. In 1946 the Fort was converted to a Navy base despite but retained the Fort designation and was used as an amphibious forces base until 2001. The base is today a subsection of the amphibious forces base at Little Creek and houses primarily EOD, logistics, transportation, and naval reserve units. 

Interestingly enough…Fort Story is right next to First Landing State Park here in VA Beach…First Landing is the original landing spot on April 26, 1607 of Christopher Newport and the Virginia Company colonists. They stayed here for just a few days before moving another 40 miles or so up the James River where they established the Jamestown colony on May 14, 1607 since Newport decided that a location more sheltered from the ocean would be a better spot.

Here are a couple of HDR shots of the original lighthouse…Neil got a new version of Lightroom a couple weeks back and it includes a new feature to render HDRs directly rather than exporting them to an outside program like the older version. The good news is that it’s easier…the bad news is that there are essentially no options for how the HDR is rendered as opposed to Photomatix Pro which is what he normally uses for HDR rendering. The first shot is the new Lightroom version…the second is the Photomatix version which as you can see he varied the  settings to get a more vibrant depiction. Photomatix can do anything from minimal processing all the way through making it seem moody or stormy all the way to what is commonly called the grunge look where the image is heavily modified and starts to become more of an art thing than a photo thing…so he prefers to (mostly) stay away from heavy handedness with the HDR processing. What do ya’ll think…do you like the easy but no poetic license approach or the slightly harder but easier to get better results with approach of Photomatix Pro? The firsts one brings out the shadow detail a bit but the second one looks closer to what the sky actually looked like with the eye although the second one also has a little brighter green in the vegetation than the eye perceived. He’s leaning toward the latter because the eye will almost always give better results than automation, particularly as no two lighting situations are the same. Let me know in the comments and I’ll pass them along to him.

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Here’s a shot of both the old and new lighthouses…the two of the old one above were taken with the new one just behind and to the right of where he was standing.This one was also done in Photomatix Pro but with a different preset combination for a visually different rendering.

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We then walked over the dune that was behind and to the left of Neil when he got the above shot of both lighthouses and Connie got a shot of one of the breakwaters on the beach to prevent erosion along with a container ship that has exited the Gulf Stream to the east of the cape and is headed into Hampton Roads…but no idea whether it’s going to Norfolk or someplace further on up the Chesapeake…likely the former though. Neil got a shot of one of the amphibious forces ships tooling around as well but no idea what he’s doing out there but likely headed into the Navy Base based on his position and heading. He also got a shot of some flowers along the boardwalk over the dune that Connie liked.

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After that we headed home.

Tuesday Connie was feeling pretty good…so we headed out for a short hike and then a planned 3 or so mile bike ride around the dike at the Mackay Island NWR which is on the coast just south of here and across the border into NC. There were a couple of overlooks and a short hike around a pond that we planned and did…but the bike ride got truncated to just about a mile or so as Connie had a hard time breathing still once she started pedaling. Some sights from this mostly driving trip.

Tree Swallow.

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Juvenile White Ibis and and Osprey that flew by.

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A pair of nesting Ospreys…one of them is leaving to hunt while the other stays and guards the nest…it stayed sitting nearby for awhile then moved over to the nest to brood.

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And the one that went off hunting as it circled by us a little later.

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A Red Winged Blackbird displaying his epaulets to attract females and warn off other males.

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Some turtles sitting on a log…Connie got this one out the car window with the bird lens as they’re pretty skittish. Neil’s gotta learn her how to use a little smaller aperture to get a bit more depth of field for shots like this.

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The pond we hiked around.

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We then tried our hike after driving as far out the dike as we could…and after turning around due to Connie’s lack of being able to breathe we headed back in the dike towards the NWR entrance. We spotted this Osprey on the other side of the canal…he gave Neil the Stink Eye then flew off to another tree…then after hovering right over the canal caught itself some lunch. It flew about 10 feet from the car down the canal with the fish in it’s talons but we couldn’t get the camera up fast enough…so had to settle for some shots of it sitting in the tree eating…Neil likes the one with the bit o’ fish flesh hanging out of it’s beak. Pretty good sized fish though…looked like it was having some difficulties carrying it.

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As he got back in the car after the Osprey photos above Connie the Spotter spotted (naturally) this Nutria swimming in the canal…she had no idea they were as large as they are. Most are in the 30-40 pound range and probably 2 feet + long.

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With that our day was done…she was about of gas so we headed back to the rig. Neil checked the pressure in all of our tires on BAT and the rig and added a little air to most of them…then we had dinner and a shower.

Today Connie’s working and Neil ran over to the credit union branch to get some more cash and to the package store for more brews…we’re almost out and since this is the last base we’ll be on for awhile we wanted to take advantage of the slightly cheaper prices (albeit the slightly cheaper base price was partially offset by the slightly higher package store at the beach prices). Tonight we’ll have some leftovers for dinner along with some Italian sausage and a baked winter squash…Neil’s calling it fusion cuisine instead of leftovers and what-have-you.

Tomorrow is laundry day and probably more work for Connie then Friday we’re off to Fairfax where we’ll park at our favorite site in Bull Run Campground…one of the few that has satellite visibility and the utility connections in the correct location for easy hookup. Sunday we’re driving the Mazda down to Midlothian…Bryan is taking his mother out for Mother’s Day for the first time in recorded history along with Jen and Jen’s mom and step-dad. We’re going to the Melting Pot which is a fondue place…Bryan likes it and we’re easy. Most of next week we have things to do/people to see…dentist, financial guy, folks at the college. We do have a dinner scheduled for one of our favorite restaurants in the area…the Renaissance Cafe which is a small French place in downtown Vienna. Not cheap but we haven’t had a romantic, dress up dinner in quite awhile. We’ll be in Fairfax a week then it’s off to Midlothian where we’ll be at Pocahontas State Park for 5 days to visit grand baby Alex and offload some stuff from the basement that we won’t need on the trip to Alaska.

Before I go…a couple of funny ones for ya. First two is apropos for our upcoming trip to Alaska…this one is “What’s a bear gotta do to get a beer around here?”

Whats a Bear Gotta Do for a Beer

And “hello, anybody home?”

Anybody Home

This one…just in case you wondered…baseball really is a simple game ya know…all ya gotta do is score more runs than the other team.

Baseball  a simple game really


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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