As we all have had to adjust and navigate a very different summer, travel and vacation has been put on hold for many. I had several large scale trips planned for this year that have all been cancelled. So instead, I decided to do a couple of quick localized (in state) road trips on vacation in 2020. The second road trip was a return to the Outer Banks after over 30 years since my first (and last) visit. Here are the photos.
As we all have had to adjust and navigate a very different summer, travel and vacation has been put on hold for many. I had several large scale trips planned for this year that have all been cancelled. So instead, I decided to do a couple of quick localized (in state) road trips on vacation in 2020. The first road trip was a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Asheville, NC to Blowing Rock, NC, an absolutely beautiful drive. Here are the photos.
As a child, I couldn’t wait to go to the beach every summer. Growing up, Myrtle Beach had it all-Beaches, Amusement Parks, Water Parks, Nite Life, Shows, Food, and more. And nearly every year growing up we spent a week there.
I don’t visit Myrtle Beach as often. They tore out one of my favorite amusement parks, the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, leaving a nearly empty plot of land there for nearly 15 years at this point. Then there was a large theme park built, Hard Rock Park. I didn’t get to visit until it’s second and final year, after it had made the switch to Freestyle Music Park, with much of the original theme already removed.
But I had a week off, and my original plans were put on hold due to work obligations, so I decided to travel to the beach. I didn’t plan on doing much. The only amusement park left, the Family Kingdom, would be closed during my visit, and since a hurricane had just came through, this made planning difficult. However, a couple of days after the storm passed I made reservations at the Crown Reef Waterpark & Resort for a few days. The entire city was dead for the first 3 days due to so many cancelling out due to the storm. That was actually nice.
I woke up Wednesday morning to absolutely beautiful weather. The temperature was around 60 degrees, the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds, and I decided to head back down to the falls for some pictures in better weather. The previous afternoon I was looking at the revolving restaurant and the buffet restaurant at the Skylon tower and tried to make reservations online, but it kept timing out, so I called and made reservations for 1pm.
So I headed to the welcome center by the falls and purchased tickets for the Behind the Falls experience at 11am. This was a chance to get up close and personal with the falls, taking an elevator down and first going behind the falls to 2 different shafts that are directly behind, and then to an observation area just beside the falls so that you can get an up close and personal view of them. It was definitely worth the $24 CAD to do, and I was able to get some more fantastic photos of the falls and the gorge.
Around noon I headed back up and walked to the Skylon tower, just up the hill from the welcome center. I found the ticketing office and informed them I had reservations for the buffet, but they informed me that the buffet isn’t open in the off season, and my reservation was for the revolving restaurant instead. So I was sent with my ticket to the elevator and up I headed.
Tuesday was going to be my last day in Toronto. I’d planned to go to the distillery district on advice from my server the day before at the brewery, but again it wasn’t a priority to wake up early, so I slept in. By the time I got up I’d decided to pack up, check out, and head on out to Niagara Falls. I have to say that the drive from Niagara to Toronto is much nicer when it’s not foggy, as was the case going up on Saturday. Today, however, it was clear and I could see the lake, which was completely blocked by fog on Saturday morning.
I stopped at the wrong hotel once I arrived in Niagara Falls. I was staying on the Canadian side, and they pointed me in the right direction to my actual hotel. Once I arrived I checked in, noticed that it wasn’t very busy due to the off season, and headed to my room. I scored another good hotel from Hotwire and this time at a much better off season/off peak rate of $31. After getting settled in I headed out to find some dinner. Someone had suggested the Flying Saucer, which I’d passed by on my way to Toronto originally, so I headed there. This was a great suggestion. I had a burger and it was super good.
After lunch I headed towards the falls. I parked in a lot near all of the attractions on Clifton Hill and walked down the street with my camera. Of course, the first set of falls you see are the American & Bridal Veil Falls, which are impressive. Although the day was overcast and gloomy, the falls were easily visible. I walked along the ridge of the gorge on the Canadian side, snapping pictures and enjoying the view as I made my way down to the Horseshoe Falls, which are even more amazing, and are the falls most people associate with Niagara.
In the morning we woke up and headed again to the beach after picking up breakfast at McDonalds. This time we went to Seal Beach, since we had plans in Long Beach later, and it isn’t far from there. Seal Beach was again, amazing. West coast got beach game on fleek. Isaac had his birding book, I had my camera, and we walked in the surf while looking at birds and taking pictures. It was great. And such a beautiful morning. I found several more shells that I liked, as I did at Huntington Beach. Isaac found me a really neat dried coral, which unfortunately fell apart on the last day during packing, but whatever. Seal Beach was very nice indeed.
There were some surfers, but the beach was mostly desolate. I’m used to being at east coast beaches, with warmer water, where a beautiful day like this would see quite a lot of people sunbathing and frolicking in the water. We walked north up the coast in the cold surf. Isaac was able to spot several west coast birds with his birding book. At one point we saw some kind of party hat that was wrapped in seaweed. Perhaps someone had too much fun on a party boat.
So we made our way up to Long Beach and onto a whale watching cruise (A three hour tour…). Both of us were looking forward to this. I hadn’t been whale watching since the early 90s as a child, and it was a life changing experience. We saw lots of blue and right whales on that trip. This time we were looking for hump backs like Star Trek IV. And dolphins. And birds. And the trip did not disappoint. There was lots of scenery going along the coast and between the coastline and Catalina Island. And we saw a Hump Back! Plus 2 pods of dolphins. And one bird flew onto the ship. It was a great time, and on the way back, as the sea got choppy, we enjoyed the airtime and aggression of the sea. Continue reading →
It had been about 3 and a half years since my last trip to one of my favorite theme parks in the Smokeys. In that time the park had changed quite a lot, with Adventure Mountain, Dueling Daredevils, and of course, 2012’s new attraction, Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster all being added. The offer of a new major credit was too good to pass up, so I planned a trip for opening day 2012.
I woke up around 5:30 AM on Saturday, got ready, and headed north-west to Pigeon Forge. I’d never driven this way before since this was the first trip to Dollywood since I’d moved to NC. It was actually quicker than going from WV, since you didn’t have to go thru Sevierville & Pigeon Forge. If you could go thru the national forests at a speed faster than the 35 MPH posted limit, I could get there in about 3.5 hours.
I mistakenly thought the park opened at 10 AM when in fact it opened at 9 AM, but that’s okay. I had all day. And I had decided to get a Q-Bot before I even went to help with lines. So, around 10:20 AM that morning, I was pulling into the parking lot. You can clearly see the top of the lift & loop on the new coaster from the parking lot. It looked impressive up on the mountain. I got in line behind the slowest family on this earth trying to get a one day pass. I’m so impatient. I was really looking forward to getting the Q-Bot.
Sunday morning we woke up, got all of our things together and packed into the car, checked out, headed out into the extreme heat, cranked the a.c. in the car up, and headed due east. The ride to Port Canaveral wasn’t very long, but it was very flat and mostly boring until we hit the coast. Upon arrival at Port Canaveral we headed over into town in search of a drug store and breakfast, eventually heading into a BiLo to get supplies. Breakfast was a few moments later at Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Port Canaveral was a very charming little coastal town from what I saw of it, and I’d love to go back and watch a rocket launch some day.
We headed over to port, dropped off our luggage, and parked. It was only around 11 AM and we couldn’t head to our rooms until later, so after checking in we sat on the Lido deck and had lunch and drinks. I had a burger and fries as oldies played over the speaker. Once we could go to the room I headed down and took what few things I had to drop them off. Then I laid around until we got called to our Muster station for the drill.
Once we arrived at our Muster station we received instructions and headed to the life boats. At this point, the boat was moving out of the docking area. I’d left my camera in the room so I wasn’t able to take pictures, but once we were finished, I headed to the room, grabbed the camera, and headed up with my family to the highest point on the front of the ship to watch as we headed out to the open sea. People waved from the beach at Port Canaveral. Once we were out in the open ocean we headed back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. I had to take a shirt to my parent’s room so that we could use the steamer on it, as I didn’t want to be wrinkly for my first evening. Continue reading →
The last time I was at Myrtle Beach prior to this trip was in September of 2006 for the final operating day of the classic Myrtle Beach Pavilion. A sad day, and a large part of the reason I hadn’t been back since. However, 2008was the inaugural season for Hard Rock Park, a new theme park which I’d been following the planning and construction of for quite a while. I had wanted to go in it’s first year of operation but never made it down to Myrtle Beach in 2008. Imagine my surprise when, after just a few months into its first season, the park abruptly closed and declared bankruptcy.
This could have been the end of the park, but thankfully a new owner stepped in for the 2009 season, even if they had to change the name and much of the theming as well as rip out lots of other theming. I didn’t want to miss my 2nd chance at visiting the park. Unfortunately the second season would be the last season for the park which has since had all of it’s rides moved to other parks and the site has since been demolished.
I decided to take off on Friday just before Memorial Day Weekend and offered to take my grandmother down to her house in Salisbury NC since I would be staying there overnight on Thursday. The trip to North Carolina was quick and uneventful and on Friday morning I was up early and ready to head further south. The ride to Myrtle Beach was pleasant. I did get slightly turned around a couple of times but still made very good time even with stopping for gas and a few pictures at the infamous South of the Border tourist trap.
Larry had mentioned that Nathan & Corey were going to spend Tuesday at Red Rock Canyon. So on Tuesday morning we met up with them to hike in the Canyon for the day. At first I opted out, but then decided to go ahead and go. My feet hurt and I didn’t feel like more walking, but I ended up going with the others. It took a while, but the boys finally arrived to pick us up, stopping at Carl’s Jr. for something to eat as I was starving.
Getting to Red Rock was an adventure, but once we arrived it was worth having decided to go. We spent a few hours hiking up the rocks and in the canyon, taking pictures, and even spending time relaxing on the rocks. I never did anything too hard, but I did some really basic rock climbing up a few small rock faces. Larry, Corey, and Nathan were a bit more adventurous. Corey had brought rock climbing gear, but left it at the room. We did watch other groups climb up some of the cliffs, though. We found some really interesting parts of the canyon to explore and take pictures of. The day was cool but not cold. The sun, however, was severely bright.
At one point we all climbed up to a point on the rocks and sat and watched over the canyon. Larry took some video, and we all just lay around and did some people watching. Even though we spent quite a few hours at Red Rock Canyon, and I really enjoyed going, there isn’t much to type about other than we walked, sat, climbed, walked, sat, climbed, and then we road the entire loop around to get out of the National Park. Once we were finished I told Corey that I was thirsty, and the guys that didn’t eat in the morning were getting hungry.