Point Comfort Ligththouses - 20 JUN 2010

The Cape Henry Lighthouses are located on the Fort Story Naval base near Virgina Beach. Old Cape Henry was the first lighthouse authorized by the US Government and was built in 1792. It was a great drive from Fort Monroe to Fort Story, crossing the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel; 3.5 miles of bridges, trestles, man-made islands and tunnels, at one point driving under the water.
You walk into a lovely air-conditioned gift shop where they charge a small fee for admission to the lighthouse. Out the back door, into the grueling heat, up a long flight of stairs, to the base of the lighthouse. Another 12 steps up the front stairs and you enter the original doorway which puts you at the base of the internal cast iron spiral staircase, at the and of which there is a ladder type climb to the very top.
When you get to the top there is a wonderful view that you can not enjoy because it is all enclosed and the heat is stiflingly. Quickly returning to the gift shop, it took 10 minutes for the AC to cool me down.
In 1872 a routine inspection found large cracks that presented the question of stability and safety which lead to the building of New Point Comfort Lighthouse in 1881, which stands 350 feet high.
As hot as it was, I had to walk over to the beach to see if I could get a better shot of the lighthouses. On the way back to the highway, my navigation system started acting up, directing me to side streets that made no sense, until I saw this mail box and realized there are no mistakes, just adventures!

Old Fort Comfort Lighthouse, VA - 20 JUN 2010

Located on the grounds of Fort Monroe, you have to pass through Army security to get close to this lighthouse. I jumped out of the car and set Tinky Winky on a fire Hydrant wanting to get a shot before the wind blew her off her precarious perch. When I traveled to the Yukon, I prepared for the possible problems of shooting in cold weather because the lens can fog-up when you return indoors. I never had a problem, but this day...when I went to shoot TW, it was sooo hot and humid, that my lens fogged instantly. While TW fell to the ground, I had no option but to sit and wait for my equipment to return to normal. It took over 10 minutes sitting in the heat, waiting for the sun to warm my lens, inside and out. Even the internal SLR mirror was fogged!
During the Civil War, Fort Monroe was one of the few Southern forts that remained in the Union's hands. It served as a staging point for attacks on Richmond.In 1891, the new keeper's house was built. Today it serves as housing for an Army Major.54 feet high, it is not open to the public, but I found this description of the inside: "the tower possesses a spiral staircase composed of hand-cut stone, stacked strategically on top of each other. The stairs lead to a ladder that ascends to a trap door, beyond which is the lantern room. Eleven oil lanterns, which consumed 486 gallons of oil each year, were set in fourteen-inch reflectors to produce a light that could be seen from fourteen miles at sea." (Ref: www.LighthouseFriends.com)I wasn't sure what this ruin was......until I read the sign:With your back to the Water Battery, you see this WWII battery, which I had to climb to get a view of the turrets.

Assategue Lighthouse, VA - 19 JUN 2010

On my way to the Chincoteague, I spotted a local car show taking place, so I stopped to grab a few classic shots:




I drove over Maryland's longest fixed water crossing; the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, made up of two spans, each over 4 miles long. But, there was no place to stop for a Kodak moment. Then I got to drive through a long stretch of wide open marsh lands whose beauty was cluttered by an endless line of large billboards giving the eerie impression of Burma Shave in the Land of the Giants.
The Assategue Lighthouse is located in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. There is a $5.00 entry fee and after you located the lighthouse parking area, you walk a 1/4 mile up a beach sand trail. In the staggering heat it felt like a steep graded treadmill workout in a sauna. The original structure was built in 1833, but this one was erected in 1867.For a small fee, you can climb to the top and walk around the lower outside platform.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it is an active navigational aid.
Since 1850, the waterline has been "pushed back" about 5 miles, so this structure is not threatened by beach or cliff erosion.
154 feet tall, its' light can be seen for 19 miles.
Because I struck up a conversation with the docent at the top, who had just returned from a visit to Northern California's Point Reyes Lighthouse, she let me stick my head in the upper loft. It has twin rotating lights that flash one after the other.
I noticed several of these satellite/radar dishes and found a NASA museum, where I learned the Wallops Flight Facility is NASA's only owned and operated launch range, which has launched over 16,000 aerial vehicles.

National Zoo Washington DC - 18 JUN 2010

I drove into town to check out the National Zoo. It's a great bargain if you take the metro because there is no admission charge, only $2.00 to purchase a map. However, it turns into the most expensive zoo I've ever visited when you drive, since the price of parking was $15.00 (and I only stayed a half day).
Love this motif on the outside of the Reptile House:Found some cute critters inside.
This guy reminds me of a much larger model, I ran into at a Wildlife Reserve in Barbados:
This is the same poisonous frog I found at the zoo in North Carolina (http://travelswithauntiem.blogspot.com/2008/02/february-16-2008.html). Only here, I learned that they are not poisonous in captivity because their diet is different than in the rain forest...no rain forest ants.
The Golden Lion Tamarin has been downgraded from "critically endangered" to "endangered" thanks to conservation breeding.
This Prezewalski's Horse, from Mongolia, China was listed as extinct in the wild in 2008 but thanks to successful reintroductions they are now "critically endangered". They are the last truly wild horse in existence since they have never been tamed for riding.
This must be an old sign:
Luckily, there was one Giant Panda sitting out eating. The National Zoo has a Pandacam and as I write this, there is one lying on his back eating.
This is the coolest Panda cam I've ever seen...it follows the Panda around!
This cheetah was enjoying a stroll around his compound. A sprinting cheetah can reach 45 miles per hour within 2.5 seconds...beats any car I've ever driven. Their top speed is 64 miles per hour but can only be sustained briefly.
I also enjoyed catching people photographing their loved ones with the many statues in the park:
I was also able to get some good invertebrate shots:

Aviation Day Centennial - 12 JUN 2010

I read an article about a Centennial Aviation Day celebration, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first Aviation Meet held in the United States (the second in the world). It was taking place a few miles away at Dominguez Ranch and I thought it would be fun to check it out...finding it was another story. I had verified the address on their website but found my car's navigation system did not recognize Rancho Dominguez as a valid city. There were four of us in the car and we figured we knew the address was on Alameda, all we needed to do was drive down Alameda until we found it. Not quite. The address was on South Alameda but the street signs were labeled East and West Alameda, plus the street was divided by walled railroad tracks and we couldn't tell if we had taken the right fork in the road...after much frustration and arguing we decided to head over to the Dominguez University campus to find someone who could tell us where this event was taking place. On our way to the information booth, we found a parking lot attendant collection money for the Aviation Meet parking. After driving around for half an hour we found, by accident, you needed to park at the college and take a shuttle bus over to the Ranch which was just around the corner on one of the streets we had driven down. As we arrived, we saw this bi-plan but it turned out to be the only one, to be seen, all day.There were several vintage automobiles...
...some with traditional hood ornaments...
...others with creative trimmings.

Rob poses with a 1913 Rolls-Royce.
Tinky Winky checks out his upside-down reflection in its' head lamp...
...and then jumps inside to check out the view.
There were a few more flybys:
There was the only one canvas winded plane on display:
Rob and I took a free Ferris-Wheel ride to catch a view of tree tops.
There were a few people in vintage costumes and some entertainment.
There were a few parachute jumping demos.
The excitement of the day was when one jumper miss-calculated the tree clearance because he was toting a large weighted flag. He was looking beautiful coming down with the National Anthem playing over the loud-speakers.
But, the flag caught on the trees, throwing him into a crash landing.
Luckily, he only received a gash on his cheek.
Several people quickly climbed up the tree to retrieve the flag, and the excitement was over.
This was the poster from the 1910 event which ran for 10 days.
This poster was from the 1st world aviation event which took place in France the year before.
The best laugh of the day was when Rob and I were sitting in the shade listening to the key-note speaker who was thanking the crowd for attending. There were over 200,000 visitors at the 1910 event and this one looked rather thin by comparison, so I leaned over to Rob and said, "Doesn't seem like much of a turn-out." And with out skipping a beat, he said, "The rest of them couldn't find it."