Pirate festivities on Okracoke Island

We’ve stumbled on some great festivals so far in our journey: The Blueberry Festival in Macias, Maine; the Arrival of the Godspeed (John Smith) in Onancock, Virginia; and last week the Pirate Festival on Okracoke Island, North Carolina. One of Pirate Blackbeard’s favorite places to hang out was a cove on Okracoke, and in response to complaints about his activities the royal governor of Virginia sent the Royal Navy to Okracoke to take care of him. A great naval battle took place in the harbor, and Blackbeard got the worst of it. The soldiers beheaded him, stuck his head on the prow of the ship, and sailed back to Virginia.

The town had three days of activities, including an amazing reenactment of the battle in the harbor. Cannon on shore were blasting the ships, and the ships were cannonading each other. In the evening were parties and singing and a great lecture by Blackbeard scholar Kevin Duffus (The Last Days of Blackbeard) on the truth vs the myth of the man and what he did. According Duffus, he was only 27 when he died. He wasn’t the rapacious figure represented in history, but merely an effective pirate who overstayed his welcome on Okracoke Island.

The island, by the way, still feels fairly remote, probably because you can get there only by ferry or plane. The prices were surprisingly low, and the locals very friendly.

The kids, as might be expected, had a great time cavorting with the pirates.

Raggedies w Pirates


Raggedies and pirate

Near Tragedy on the Interstate

Near Tragedy on the Interstate.


We had left Cape Cod a few hours earlier and were driving down the interstate south of New Haven, Conn. at about 69 mph. We were on our way to Dover, Delaware. Traffic was bumper to bumper.  We heard a loud clunk from the rear of the car. In the rear view mirror, we saw to our horror the bike rack with both bikes attached careening off into the traffic behind us. My first thought was: the rack will fly up into someone’s windshield, the car will swerve hitting another car, and a horrible bloody chain reaction will smash up cars as well as bodies.

I pulled over to the side and called 911. The dispatcher said a state patrol car would be on the way. I looked behind me, as far as I could see were automobiles. The rack, by the way, was a very expensive Thule contraption, in which the carrier with the bikes on it swung out from the back so you could open the rear door to the car without taking the bikes off. Which is to say, it was heavier and larger than usual. We checked it out every morning.

A patrol car pulled up beside us. The officer leaned over and asked us if we had moved the bikes off the roadway. We shook our head. Someone had, he said. There were no injuries. We followed the officer back to the place were the bikes and the racks were piled on the side of the road. Some courageous soul had stopped his car, gotten out in the traffic and moved the bikes and rack to the side of the road. The cops were cool about it. They didn’t try to figure out who was at fault, nor did they ask for my license or registration. Instead they called a state truck which they said would take the bikes to a Wal Mart up the road for us, where we could try to get things fixed.

When the truck arrived, the driver looked at the tangle of steel and aluminum, grinned, and said to the cops: “Another one, huh? This is the third rack this week.” We untangled the bikes from the rack, and he put everything on his truck. We thanked the cops for their help, God for saving those drivers behind us from injury or death and us from years of trials and tribulation. We followed the truck up the road to the Wal Mart.

In the lot, the driver dissembled the damaged rack and studied it. He diagnosed the problem—the bolt supposedly serving as a back up to stop the rack from sliding out of the carrier had come loose. The rack had slipped out from road vibration. He put it back on and tightened it up. Julya and I went in Wal Mart and bought a roll of duck tape and a strap. We wound it around the bolt to hold it tight.

Now, what were we to do? We were in Milford, Conn., with a broken rack and two damaged bikes. I was tempted to toss everything and go bike-less for the rest of our trip. Julya insisted we go to the closest bike shop.

The bike guy, Chris Chapman, took care of us. He examined the bikes, said he would drop everything and get them back in shape. Then he told us that Thule’s North American headquarters was only eighteen miles away. But no use going there, he said, because the problem wasn’t with the rack but the way it was installed, back in Denver. We would have to go against the dealer who sold it to us, over 2000 miles away.

What the hell, we thought, let’s drive up to the Thule building and tell them the story. The most they can do is blame it on the dealer and refuse to do anything. The representative there listened carefully, examined the rack, and, after hearing that we were on the road for another nine months and consulting his supervisor said that the Company would give us a new rack and install it right then and there. We could submit a claim form for expenses for bike repairs.

We returned to the bike shop, where Chapman had tuned the bikes up beautifully. He checked the rack out and put the bikes on it. Four hours after the accident we headed out of town with a brand new—and updated—rack and bikes a little the worse for wear but still rideable and heads full of thanks to whatever or whoever had put that driver who cleared the rack and bikes behind us. IMG_0495Bike snafu

Martha’s Vineyard

We took a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard yesterday. We biked around the island in hopes of spotting Meg Ryan, Dan Acyrod, David Letterman or some other famous dog. No luck. The guy at the information booth showed us on the map where John Belushi is buried, but noted that the cemetery was a long way away and there were no markers to his grave. As for Chappaquiddick, that too was along way away, and you needed a four-wheel drive to get there. The bridge had been rebuilt with walls that weren’t there when Ted drove off. Why, he insisted, anybody could have driven off the bridge.

The only note of the Kennedys was a photo of the brothers in a gift shop next to the Chappaquiddick ferry landing. I bought a sweatshirt at the shop in commemoration. See photo.

Martha’s Vineyard has some of the finest bike trails in New England. We only got turned around once, and made it back to the ferry with a few minutes to spare. I can only imagine the place knee deep in people in July and August.


Warm weather bound

We’ve settled into Cape Cod for a couple of weeks. We found a cottage close to the beach in what they call mid-Cape, in the town of Barnstable. In the morning, Julya walks the beach looking for shells while I write. In the afternoon, we set out for an adventure, which could be a drive to Provincetown or Chappaquiddick. The prices have dropped dramatically, and there are very few people in town. The weather is variable, ranging from high seventies to low sixties. Most places close after Columbus Day.

We’ve decided on one criteria for guiding the rest of our trip: warmth. Sunshine, and if possible the beach. We’re going to bypass the big cities of Boston, New York and D.C. and spend the rest of the fall on the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Come December, we’re thinking of Nicaragua and possibly Cuba. Beyond that, we know nothing.

On our visit to Hyannis yesterday, the kids insisted on having their photo taken with JFK outside the museum. Across the street was a restaurant with a Marilyn Monroe mannequin out front, which we all agree was tacky.

Trapp Family Lodge

Our last day in Vermont was warm and sunny. The autumn colors of the maples and birches were in full bloom. The town of Stowe was crowded with “leaf peepers” from New York and Massachusetts.

We spent the day at the Trapp Family Lodge and working farm outside Stowe, learning the history of the family, talking to a family member and hiking the trails. The facts left out of or turned around in the movie, “The Sound of Music,” are compelling. The father of Agatha Whitehead, the Captain’s first wife, invented the torpedo. The Captain refused an invitation to sing at Hitler’s birthday. The family left Austria soon after, but by train, not hiking over the Alps. In the movie, Agatha died in childbirth. In fact, she died from Scarlet Fever.

Young Marie, the girl in the movie who suffered scarlet fever and whom the older Maria was brought in to tutor, is 99 and lives in a small house on the farm. The lodge/working farm consists of 650 acres and runs cattle and sheep. The family grows and processes apples and maple syrup, and maintains over 13 miles of bike and ski trails.
Johannes von Trapp, one of the three children by the Captain and Maria, is 74 and runs the lodge and farm. His daughter, Christina, spoke to us and posed with Ann and Andy.

Christina von Trapp Frame with Ann and Andy.

Christina von Trapp Frame with Ann and Andy.

Werner von Trapp, the fourth child of the Captain and Agathe, trained with the 10th Mountain Division in Colorado and served in Italy in WWII.

Grave of Werner von Trapp, who fought with the 10th Army Division in WWII.

Grave of Werner von Trapp, who fought with the 10th Army Division in WWII.

As an author who sold movie rights to one of his books for far less than they were worth, I sympathized with the family who sold the right to the movie based on Maria’s book for $9000. We left feeling it was too bad that the story of this amazing family had been absorbed in our culture in the form of “The Sound of Music.”

The Captain and Maria

The Captain and Maria


The Von Trapp Family.

The Von Trapp Family.