About Us

Welcome to our blog of our 2013 trip. We Have been camping since our honeymoon. Each summer we take a trip to a new part of our country. We try to stop at local fairs & festivals, take tours of manufacturing plants, do a little kayaking, and try to get an up close look at how people live! Join us! This Bog runs from our most recent post backwards. At the end of this year,I have left the past years blog. Double click on any picture to get a larger image. These are all low res versions. If you see one you really like, let me know and I'll send you a better image.

Liz & Bruce on the way to Minnesota, last year

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 5 & 6th

We have arrived at Cape Hatteras, specifically the National Seashore and the national park campground. We decided to do a couple of days kind of for old times sake. i first stayed at this campground when I was 12 years old, and we had a couple of great times here with our kids. This campground has no hook-ups, but the onshore breeze provides the required cooling, and the sand dunes that surround some sights are impressive. The Oregon inlet fishing center is right across Rt 12, and is always a required visit around 4:00 when the sport fishing boats return with the days catch. I still recall my first trip here.
 It was on my birthday, that they announced on their big speakers that an incoming boat would arrive with a huge Marlin. We went over and the fish turned out to be a world's record setting catch. The record held for at least 30 years. This park was also the place Liz fell in love with her favorite light house, the Bodie Island light. This light is not a popular as the Hatteras light and was closed for climbing in the past. Liz recalls laying in bed with the side curtains to the pop-up open and looking at the light. It's also her favorite sight as we come down the cape, to see Bodie . Our kids learned to crab with a ranger on the road at the end of the parking lot, below. We're going to get a different view of that site now, because the Bodie light house has been restored and is now open for climbing, and climb we did.
The restoration story was interesting to us, because we knew from prior visits that the lower steps, and many other cast iron components were corroded beyond repair. Turns out they removed them all, and made molds from them, then melted them down, had them analyzed, added missing components to the metal, and recast them. It seems that liz was not alone in her love of this lighthouse, because there were many among the climbers in our party who were visiting because they'd heard that it was no open. Because this light is 50 miles closer than Hattras I think that this one will become a popular stop for those visiting Kitty Hawk and Nag's Head. It was also nice to be able to get an aerial view of  the Oregon inlet area, to see the "landscaping" that Hurricane Irene did.
 While we were here we stopped back at the site of the first flight, the Wright Bros. memorial. They have a notable addition, an actual a sculpture of the Wright flyer, and several sculptures of the observers of that first flight. The really cool aspect of this sculpture was that kids could climb on it. I remember the fascination that our daughter, Meredith had for the Wright Bros in third grade. I can see her now laying on the wing looking up and imaging flight, just like the little boy is doing in my picture.. Tomorrow our last stop of the trip, the KOA in Rodanthe.


Friday, August 9, 2013

August 1-4,2013

After leaving Lexington we went over to The Raleigh Durham area. My Sister Shirley Rodgers lives in the nearby community of Fuquay-Varina. Shirley was in IT when she lived in Ohio, and continues that today with her job in the NC State Library.  She suggested a State Park, Jordan Lake, which we loved. You've heard my moan about the sorry state of CT State Parks before, and this is a reminder, of what they could be. Jordan Lake is a flood control/water  supply reservoir west of Raliegh. The park has about 500 sites, most near the lake, and with electricity and water. The cost is $22.
The picture, above is from our site, where we launched the kayaks.  The picture, left is of Shirley demonstrating the new robot in the brand new $115 million (+donor support) Engineering library. She volunteered a tour for us , and we quickly accepted. This "Bookbot" is an automated book storage and retrieval system that enables NC State to keep 2 million books (in 1/9 the space) and have them at the touch of anyone with an internet connection. The books are all kept in the drawers, you see below. The machine is 50' wide by 160' long and 50' tall. When a book is called for, the computer consults it's directory, finds the drawer it placed the book in when returned, and then sends the bookbot for it.
The bookbot retrieves the entire drawer to the clerk at the top, who finds it in the drawer, takes it out, and sends it on it's way, either by handing to the person at the pick up point, or some other delivery system. There are two floors of operators, like the one pictured below, who control the machine. They take out the books, scan the bar code, and reverse the process for returned books.It was interesting to note that a book is stored in the next available drawer that will accept it. This means that after a period of time this device will feed the most frequently withdrawn books to the front of the system.
The building itself is an amazing array of multi media, digital video, and computer technology.
Shirley, in the next picture is demonstrating one of the couple of hundred types of chairs the library has, in a "game" room. This is a practical lab that gives students and their professors the ability to develop computer games - not to play them.The monitor you see there is capable of displaying three games or various types of Wii, or integrating games. Above my pay grade. But this is a skill that is in demand in the "triangle" area with several game companies located there.
They have several very large monitors similar to those used in stadiums, a variety of special use labs for creativity, simulation, etc. They have loner digital & video camera's and a 3D printer available for engineering students to make use of. All in all a great effort, and a beautiful facility.
We spent a few days kayaking and just enjoying the scenery, running to Camping World , etc, etc.
Here is a movie I shot, with my new WATERPROOF digital video camera.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Richard Childress & Lexington

While we were touring NASCAR we stayed in a nice RV park at High Rock lake, in Lexington NC. Lexington is where Duracell had their plant when I was making 12-18 trips per year while I was working for Delker/Dexmet. It is nice little town better known for it's BBQ than Duracell. I almost never left Duracell without some of their pulled pork BBQ for our kids who were small when we were here before.
The BBQ is great, served as a chopped plate, with cole slaw, and hush puppies, or a sandwich. It has a vinegar based BBQ sauce which is pretty characteristic of the Western NC type. Lexington BBQ is a generic name for this type of preparation over here. I won't say much about how good this is, if you would like to know ask Meredith or Erin.

I never spent any down time in Lexington while visiting, except one day I had an afternoon because of a flight cancellation or something. I had passed a sign for Richard Childress Winery along US 64 on my way over from Valdese. With the incongruity of a famous racing name, and a winery, as well as it's location in the Piedmont of NC made me go back and see what was up. What I found in 2004, had grown, and become much more beautiful today. 
Richard Childress was Dale Earnhardt's owner when he won all those championships. He and Dale, when in California, would visit a winery, enjoy a glass(or two) of wine and talk about bringing a vineyard To NC. The state had targeted Wines as a replacement for tobacco in the economy. So Richard began growing a few types of grapes in the front yard of his house (estate!) 
He met with some success, and the state targeted the Yadkin river valley as a prime spot. Richard hired a well known vintner to scout out an area for the Childress Vinyard. This site then, has been the recipient of Richard"s time, and funds to become a showplace for the state's wine business. When we arrived Liz just exclaimed,  Oh! this is beautiful!
Richard, of course needs to keep those cars running, to generate the cash for his wine business!  He has two shops, one for his Sprint cars and one for his Nationwide cars. His original shop here in Welcome, NC is devoted now to the Childress museum. As I said Dale Sr. drove Richards cars in the 80's and 90's, to an amazing number of victories, and Winston Cup championships.
Most of those winning cars are here, along with a full collection from Richard's racing past, (including his first race car, a sop box derby car) and his other drivers. It was really impressive to look at the collection of black Goodwrench Chevy's, and think Dale drove all of these cars to a checkered flag.
This car was the chilling one in Richard's museum. This  car was back in the shop being prepped for Dale to drive in the next race after he died. Rookie Kevin Harvick got the call, and the car was painted white instead of black. He battled Gordon and two other drivers with 10 laps remaining, and at the end pulled out  a victory in Earnhardt fashion, by .002 of a second. The two of them went on to win more races that year,and Kevin won rookie of the year for 2001. It was the shot in the arm that NASCAR needed after losing Dale Sr.

As I said earlier Richard has a separate shop for the each circuit. We toured them both,and I would imagine you're getting pretty tired a looking at race cars being prepped  , so I'll just give you an overview of The Sprint shop with Burton's,and Menard's cars being readied. They did an excellent job of describing the suspension prep steps, the frame construction, as well as giving a lot of technical info in the museum.
 They had an older Earnhardt hauler there with a couple of #3's above your head as you walked through. This is one of Burton's haulers being readied for departure later this day. So all of Richards facilities were a surprise to me after years of visiting Lexington only to discover on this trip that all this history was only about 5 minutes away.
So that about wraps up the NASCAR part of this trip. On To Raleigh.

Oh and by the way. The Duracell plant is no more.Demolished:-(

Monday, August 5, 2013

July 29-30

So now we've had a taste of it, and we're both NASCAR fans! We head off to the "King", or the "evil empire" depending on who you're talking to - Hendrick Motorsports. Rick Hendrick has a campus of 16 buildings. We went to his museum first only to find it closed for inventory. There are  transmission. engine, frame, body composite, and the engineering  buildings to name a few, and of course a building each for his 88 & 48 cars, and his 5 & 24 car.We went to Dale Jr's (88) and Jimmy Johnson's (48) building first.

We observed the team owner is really more than the owner of a pro sports team. They are more of a player/coach/owner. Virtually all of the owners were great drivers first. We saw the "family" tradition in this sport, as well as the "work your way up" hiring environment. We also saw how the entire organization, from the guy who cleans the cars to the crew chief really does work as a team for every win. The trophies below are Jimmy Johnson's and Jr's, and they are not in their homes, they are in their shop.
Unfortunately, we also learned that the access is not nearly as good at the Hendrick shop, as it was at Jr's. They had two cars in the lobby, and you could see into the shop where the work was being done through a relatively small door. On the left side Jr's cars were being worked on and the right there was a line of Jimmie's. But that was all we could see. There was no one to explain what was happening.

The story was the same at the Gordon/Kahn shop. They had a very large window you could look through. We could see a little more but it was a bit disappointing. We were impressed with the size of the organization, and being a Jr. fan it is hard to knock his team. We were to find however, there are much more open operations that are able to keep their secrets.

One such shop was Michael Waltrip's. I have watched Michael and his brother DW on Fox, and they are fun to listen to. His shop is the same. When we walked in the door, instead of the car of a winner there was this 3' square cube of  crushed car. You can enlarge the picture and read all the details, but in this car Michael had won Daytona the prior year & his team had won all of the recent restrictor plate races. All was going well until he got caught between 2 crashing cars, spun out, rolled over a few times, and ended up on the grass upside down. It took rescue crews 10 minutes to extract him. DW told him that he wasn't a real winner until he had rolled a car at Daytona. So Michael is now a "real" winner, and here is his car. The whole shop is done with a sense of humor from the bubble gum vending machine where you can buy 2 experienced lug nuts for a quarter, to the handmade box of "restart tissues" with Jimmy Johnson's picture on them next to the guest register.
When we walked in they gave us each tickets to the tour. While we waited until 3:00 they invited us to look over the shop floor. They weren't kidding. Michael had purchased a multiplex movie theater, and converted it into a shop. There was a catwalk suspended over the cars below and we could see everything going on. We watched the two guys to your right as they selected the correct springs from an inventory of a hundred, and installed them in the car.
We watched and learned from the video presentation they had going on as they made parts on six large CNC machines. They had a good video explaining the suspension adjustments that crew chiefs make, how the cars are set up, and the changes that are made at the track. We watched the guys doing it below. We learned more at Michaels shop than all the rest combined. When the tour started, we were the only two people there. So we just kind of walked from place to place as our guide filled us in on the why's, hows, and who's of NASCAR racing. The "evil empire" reference was borrowed from this tour guide. They let us peer in the engine.
We stopped by what looked like a movie set of a pit, where Michael trains his pit crews.

He looked at  the tires and told us that they were all Kurt Busch's teams. They rent Michael's practice area. We went next door to a renovated skating rink, where the team builds all their frames, and does their fabrication work. No one had let us in these places before. In this one the guide just asked that I not take pictures. The last picture is of their haulers, the trucks that take the cars and the traveling shop with them. Each has an upper level with room for two cars, and below there are lockers with car parts. There are coffee machines, microwaves, etc. Each one of these cost about half a million $. So we'll watch Michaels drivers with a new sense of loyalty, because of the openness of his shop. BTW they are; Micael Waltrip, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, and Brian Vickers

Sunday, August 4, 2013

July 27-28

Welcome to Charlotte, HQ of, among other things, NASCAR. There are more NASCAR team shops in the ~25 radius of Charlotte Motor Speedway than any other place in the country. We started at the Speedway, staying on the grounds, and taking our first tour there. We opted for the 2 hr. long tour, and we were put into an Econoline van,and taken out to the track. Our guide went through some of the history of the track, the idea of Bruton Smith. Kind of like the Packers, there was this new thing called Nascar, being run in the south, and he thought there should be a track in Charlotte.
He sold stock in his company, and built the track, on the on eastern side of town. Today he owns 2100 acres, 3 tracks and a speedway that sits around 140,000 on race day. We rode around the 24 degree banked corers at about 80 MPH in the econoline!