I’ve been on hiatus from the blog-o-sphere this summer. I actually didn’t realize until today that is has been over 2 months since my last blog entry. I guess I’ve been busy enjoying the HOT weather. In July, my family took a vacation to Virginia Beach. This was no ordinary vacation: it included a 12 hour drive in a 7 passenger van with my parents, boyfriend, brother, 4-year-old nephew, and 89-year-old grandma. Our destination was my aunt and uncle’s house in the Dam Neck area of Virginia Beach.
Day 1: Monday. We loaded the van and headed up to Virginia Beach, via I-81. I must say the drive between the Tri-Cities in TN and Christiansburg, Va is beautiful. Multiple “pit-stops” later, we entered the Williamsburg-Chesapeake area. This area always fascinates me because it is deeply rooted in both Revolutionary War and Civil War histories (The Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, during which the French fleet defeated the Royal Navy was the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War). Also the cutting edge stormwater research and conservation efforts come from the Chesapeake Bay area. The Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the United States, and in the 1970s the first “dead zone” was found in the bay. The “dead zone” is an area with hypoxic water, meaning there is little to no oxygen. The zone kills many aquatic organisms, including the food source of the blue crab. The hypoxic zone is partly caused from large algal blooms, which are nourished by sediment laden and phosphorous rich stormwater runoff from residential, farm and industrial land throughout the watershed. Check out http://www.chesapeakebay.net/ for more information about the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Day 2: Tuesday. We visited the Virginia Beach Aquarium. The aquarium had a large exhibit explaining the perils of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, particularly those caused by stormwater runoff.
I thought it was cool, but I think I was alone in that thought. My nephew was unenthused.
The aquarium has a lot of hands-on educational components that may be over the heads of younger children, but the cool animals and the opportunity to pet a sting ray make up for that. It’s a great place to visit, especially in the heat of the day. I highly recommend!
Day 3: Wednesday. Coastal Discovery. The beau and I decided to spend a day to ourselves exploring coastal ecosystems. So after eating breakfast with the family we headed off to Sandbridge Beach and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This was one of my favorite days of the trip.
We hiked along boardwalk trails to the beach where we encountered ghost crabs (Ocypode quadrata), horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus), gulls, and jellyfish. We even saw a pod of dolphins swimming just off shore.
After the shoreline excursion, we hiked along the coastal marsh where we observed great egrets (Ardea alba) and great blue herons (Ardea herodias) staring into the marshy waters for a meal, and warblers perched along marsh hibiscus.
Day 4: Thursday. Military Tour 2011. My uncle is a retired military Captain and a Civil War history enthusiast. The entire family, plus he and my aunt, loaded up in two vans for a tour of Virginia’s rich military history, which included Fort Monroe and Norfolk Naval Base. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed Fort Monroe. My uncle told us that the Fort will be decommissioned by the US Army at the end of September 2011, and most likey will be converted to a National Park because it is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. I hope this holds true. The history of Fort Monroe begins in Colonial times as the Old Point Comfort for Jamestown (1609). In 1819, President James Madison ordered the construction of a fort to safeguard the Chesapeake Bay, this became the largest stone fort built in the U.S. Prior to the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was stationed here [Fort Monroe] as a lieutenant and engineer. Even after the succession of Virginia, Fort Monroe remained a Union stakehold. Lee never ordered an attack on the Fort during the Civil War because he said it was too great of a risk to overtake. Offshore from Fort Monroe was the location of the Battle of Hampton Roads, more commonly referred to as the Battle of the Ironclads. Following the Civil War, Confederate President, Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at the Fort Monroe Casemate. The Casemate Museum is open to the public and depicts the history of Fort Monroe and Old Point Comfort.
This is the original flag that hung in Jefferson Davis's cell to remind him of the union he betrayed during his Confederate Presidency.
Day 5: Friday. Virginia Beach Boardwalk. The
tourist trap visitor’s portrayal of Virginia Beach is the Boardwalk, which won the American Planning Association’s “Great Public Spaces” award in 2009.
Neptune's Park, the perfect place for photo-opts and music on the Boardwalk.
It offers biking, outdoor concerts, open air cabanas, and front row seats for people watching. The surf was a little rough the day we visited, but it made fun for body surfing. If sun-bathing, surfing and frolicking in the sand isn’t your thing, I guarantee you will find something to your liking ♫down on the boardwalk♫.
Day 6: Saturday. The LOOOONG trip home, via North Carolina. My mom is
obsessed with fascinated by lighthouses. She also promised my nephew that he could climb one. So before leaving Virginia Beach we made a stop at Cape Henry to see the United State’s first lighthouse. There are actually two lighthouses on Cape Henry, the original built in 1792, and its replacement built in 1881.
My mom and nephew in front of the original Cape Henry Lighthouse.
15 very long hours later, which included stops at an outlet mall near Burlington, NC, we arrived home. Very tired. Very grumpy. But very glad we took the trip together. We made wonderful memories, and my boyfriend survived his first true bonding experience with the family.