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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

After five months of traveling through the flat-lands of Florida and the Gulf Coast, I was genuinely delighted to see mountains again. I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I saw the rolling hills of the Great Smokies for the first time.  Even though we’ve been moving once or twice a week, the dramatic change in landscape made it feel like we landed someplace completely different. As much as we’ve loved our last couple dozen stops, this somehow feels new and fresh; like travel is supposed to.

The Big Guns

USS North Carolina, Wilmington

The big guns of the U.S.S. North Carolina battleship whooped serious Imperial Ass during World War II, earning herself 15 battle stars and the distinction as the most decorated battleship of the war. The USSNC participated in every major offensive in the Pacific, and still somehow managed to lose just 10 crewmen in action, even after taking a direct torpedo hit by a Japanese submarine. “Showboat” was the battleship’s official nickname, but “Bad Ass Mo Fo” seems far more appropriate.

USS North Carolina, WilmingtonDisplaying her uncanny ability to evade destruction, the North Carolina only narrowly escaped the scrapheap in 1958 due to public outcry and a grassroots campaign to bring the battleship back to its namesake as a World War II memorial. For the last 48 years, Showboat has berthed in Wilmington, NC, were it stands as a tribute to the 10,000 North Carolinians, and 400,000 Americans, who died during the war.

One of the most striking things about the battleship is its shear size. The giant guns on its deck are to be expected, but the rest of the ship is massive as well. A “quick” tour of its open sections takes a full two hours. One of the first things you notice when stepping inside is the ship’s large open spaces, USS North Carolina, Wilmingtonnot seen on any of the other navy vessels we’ve had the opportunity to visit. These spaces were likely needed to accommodate the 2,300 men who worked and lived aboard. Not just a floating fortress, the North Carolina was also a floating city. And like any city, Showboat had its share of luxuries and conveniences; everything from a dedicated mail room and barber shop to a theater and soda fountain.

War is terrible, but if you have to fight, make sure you get a spot on a kick-ass ship like the U.S.S. North Carolina.

And On The Other Side

Topsail Beach

The nifty thing about Surf City and Topsail Beach, NC, is that you have beautiful white sand beaches on the eastern side, and these cool boardwalks out into the marsh just a couple of miles away on the western side.

A Beach of Our Own

Surf City

Who needs a private island, when off-season travel is available to everyone? Here we are at famous “Surf City” where I was disappointed to find that there are definitely not “two girls for every boy.” Of course, I don’t know what I expected, we’re the only ones here.

Duke Chapel

Duke University Chapel

This chapel on a hill, isn’t actually in Chapel-Hill, but resides in neighboring Durham at the center of the Duke University campus. The ribbed, vaulted ceiling and cruciform floor plan are typical of gothic style cathedrals like this one. Duke Chapel has three pipe organs, one with an impressive 6,900 pipes. Outside, the single bell tower rises 210 feet, and houses a carillon with 50 bells.

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