Monthly Archives: August 2015

Hanging Around UP in the AIR

sunset park

Closing out 2014. Sunset over the sound behind the ropes course.

Our new favorite place to play is Abby & Brad Carey’s First Flight Adventure Park in Nags Head. Into its second season it is fast becoming a must do for every Outer Banks vacationer and local.

While this is definitely Abby & Brad’s vision (Brad has helped build a lot of courses) I still maintain that without the guidance of then Nags Head planner awesome Liz Teague they would still be dialoging with town officials. She helped them cut through the paper trail in record time every step of the way.

rope and tape gone

Emily takes on one of our favorite challenges while Donald and Martin look on. For this one you had to get back on if you fell off because your lanyard was in the middle, but no fear, its gone. A first year element only. Glad we got to play on it. I did fall off my first time through but finally got back on. It was kind of tricky because you end up hanging below the loops with no good hand holds to grab. Still I wondered why I even fell the second time I took it on. It really was easy.

The course is a sixty feet tower of challenges formed in three almost circular levels. At least one section of the first level is mandatory, that is after also mandatory flight school. Then for two hours you can go on any section as many times as you like. Every level has two sections with seven individual elements each separated by a wooden platform built around the support pilings. Only one person at a time allowed on an element and only two people on a platform. The sections are labeled after hurricane categories. Tropical storm, Category 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.

I have been on all the sections save category 5 at the top. The hammock and I have yet to meet and the guy wire tight rope. The entire time you are on a section you are tethered to a five hundred pound load bearing strap that is locked in place on a lead wire. If you fall off of an element you just pull yourself along until you get to the platform. There are a couple of elements where you cannot do this because of the way the lanyard and the challenges intersect but they’re not too difficult to get back up on and keep going. After each level you zip line to the middle where you are untethered by a guide with the key. Then on to your next set of seven challenges.

zip to the end

Guest at Family Camp OBX for a week Henry zip line rides between sections.

My personal nemesis is was an element called Pirate Crossing. It’s two loose ropes that cross in the middle of the element. The point is to hold onto the rope while you slide your feet along a wire, switch to the second rope in the middle and continue. The first time I tried it I kept the rope too slack and while I didn’t fall off I used a lot of unnecessary energy staying the course. This time I stalled about even trying the level with Pirate Crossing but brother-in-law Robert, my climbing partner, urged me on. Turned out it is really easy once you get the hang of it. Speaking of Robert I’m so excited for him. He was only going to do the first level elements because of his compromised ankle, but we ended up doing all but those on Cat 5. And he aced every one.

the park new

Brand new not even yet open park 2014. Those buoy things above my head, my downfall this year. I refused to use the guy wire and just could. not. get. my leg around the buoy and hold on. Everything was that much too far apart. But I’ll figure it out.

Bested the Pirate Crossing but fell off of Braided Argile on Category 4. That section ends with hand over hand rings which I have yet to really try. I love monkey bars but these rings are thicker in dimension and smoother. Of course I could try and see if I can make any progress. Hanging by the first two is as far as I’ve pushed myself.

Playing on the course this past week was lots of fun because we had folks on almost every level and every section. Words of encouragement from any one of us were constantly floating from above and below and even the covered viewers deck where some of our party chose to hang out. The added elements of a stiff breeze and people unexpectedly juggling the course as they took on their personal challenges only upped the stakes for success.

The view is amazing, the vegetation below in the wetlands is lush and green with beautiful water flowers adding in color. From sea to sound the panorama is yours for the looking, that is unless you’re busy tackling a challenge. Or unless you’re son Lewis who likes to go through with his eyes closed.


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Don’t Ask An OBX Local For Directions They’ve Already LOST One Colony

lost colony 2005

Several members of the cast and crew with a few Irish friends in Youghal County Cork 2005. Left to right, Greg Purcell, Becki Rea, Joan’s sister (a YaYa) Donny Ball, Marsha Warren, Carol Adams, Joan’s other sister (another YaYa), Carl Curnutte III, Joan Brumbach, Bill Rea, Sandy Ball, John Buford, Marj Thomas, Jackie Pierce, Irish kid one and two and fellow countryman.

Our family history with Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green’s The Lost Colony, longest running outdoor symphonic drama, is not as lengthy as some but is a lot longer than many and has its own thread of fun. True we’ve never had a Virginia Dare baby in the family. For those of you who might not know, once a summer on Virginia Dare’s birthday, real babies are used in five different scenes. Lewis was the only child in our family eligible for this role since Richmond was our base when the others were the right age, but at 6 months and very active, I figured that he would not really enjoy the entire acting gig and didn’t take him to auditions.

However, we have suffered the agony of the wooden bench seats with no backs and jockeying for a good seat since all tickets were general admission. Bug spray was not an option it was a necessity. Any form of local id got you in free on Dare Night that preceded the show’s official opening and really the only night to go if you were a local. Everyone was there, literally just about everyone in the county. It was great to see wintered over neighbors with greetings of ‘Hi!’ and ‘How are you?’ creating a familiar early summer cacophony of sound not that much different from the cicadas that came along later in the season.

Once purchased seats became the norm, Emily trained us early on to opt for ones on the Indian side at her friends in the colony recommendation. One year the colony was so jammed pack with theater goers every night the best we could do was get seats in the last row of the center section.

barbara and her dudes

Bill Rea, HRH Barbara Hird, Chris Chappell Ireland 2005

New to the Outer Banks in 1984 we were lucky enough to see the 400th production of the colony when Colleen Dewhurst was Queen Elizabeth for the 4th of July weekend. Our arrival almost matched that of Barbara Hird who came on board in 1986 as HRH (her royal highness), a role which she owned for 10 years and later marketed into several amazing HRH one act plays penned by lebame houston. Lisa Bridge followed Barbara as Queen Elizabeth and she too owned the role. In 2006 Lynn Redgrave was queen for a week as a favor to director friend Jane McCulloch. Our family grew up with magnificent queens.

In 2005 Donny & I were fortunate to be included as part of the freshly formed abridged concert version of the Lost Colony. TLC was to be the feature attraction at the Youghal Through the Ages festival in County Cork Ireland. The Life and Times of Sir Walter Raleigh was the theme that year and no one knew it better than lebame houston. Board member of TLC, lebame, along with then executive director/producer Carl Curnutte III, assured the folks of Youghal that we could deliver and we did. I was official photographer and Donny tenor in the small company. He was Ananias Dare and I can still hear him start the Final March song (in this version Ananias does not get killed off) with his strong deep tenor solo beginning. “O God that madest earth and sky and hedged the seas around, Who that vast firmament on high with golden stars hath bound. Oh God our father Lord above, O bright immortal one, Secure with in thy mercy, we walk this death alone.”

This was and remains the only time TLC has been performed outside the United States in any format. And we were there. It was grand. We got a special viewing of Sir Walter Raleigh’s home, now a private residence. We were feted endlessly and got invited to the back after hours rooms of many a pub, where joviality continued through the night. We were given tours of the countryside and even had a day or two off to take on Castle Blarney and a few other sights on our own.

lydia martin old tom 2013

Lydia, Old Tom & Martin 2013

In recent history the grands have become attracted to the show. Lots of changes have been made. There are always changes every year but these are actually pretty major. The show starts and ends earlier. Time was when you could put solid money on getting home after midnight, especially if you live on the better island as we who hail from Colington Island good naturedly tell our Roanoke Island friends. Scenes have been reworked and some even cut. One of my favorite show stoppers, the girl with the dress on fire, taken out for years, is back in.  Actors now greet you after the show for photo opts and autographs.

And so with the show, our show, there is a constant ebb and flow, just like the tides around the barrier islands we call home, that is ever a part of The Lost Colony, our colony, the one that we lost, and found again.





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Filed under family, Ireland, Music

A SWEET Adventure

Warm up Hershey 2015

Lydia (center screen) has a nice warm up with a solid axel for the Hershey Open.

Donny has decided that seeing Lydia skate in the Hershey Open will be fun and he begins his quest for a room. Hotel prices around the park are crazy high in the season as are b&b rooms, if you can even find anything, and so when he locates Into the Woods in nearby Mt Gretna and it’s available and affordable he gets skater approval and books it. A cozy efficiency in the lower level of a private home it has two bedrooms with wide doors opening onto a covered patio that overlooks a wooded hillside. There’s a fire pit, an outdoor pizza oven and on the upper level a soft lawn edged by a stone walkway winding through a small vegetable and flower garden complete with a goldfish pond.

Andrew Wyeth in the 70s002

Mom took this photo of Andrew Wyeth in the mid-seventies. She and friends took a road trip to meet him.

We have discussed picking up Em and the kids in Springfield giving us just one car. In that discussion to spare the boys an early morning wake up call, I have offered to go with the girls to that dawn breaking practice and then go back to get the guys but Emily is not sure about how heavy the traffic entering the park at the later time will be so we agree to drive separately and meet at Into the Woods.

I am navigator as usual and in reviewing the roads ahead inadvertently touch the screen on Donny new phone such that we are unknowingly rerouted. We have opted to go the Eastern shore way and this change of route occurs shortly past Wilmington. After many turns and miles on beautiful but really small country roads, Donny asks if we are on track. We are supposed to be on a couple of secondary roads anyway to get to the Pennsylvania Turnpike for the last leg of our journey so we don’t realize that we are off course.  I get our trusty paper map and strive in vain to find where we are. Finally in frustration we pull off to regroup. A few miles back we have passed a road marker for Chadds Ford. Mom would be so happy. Andrew Wyeth territory. One of her favorite artists. She even purposeful took a trip with friends to meet him at his studio.

Donny & I deduct that we are still headed true just a bit differently than planned. Back on the road I take a video of the bucolic countryside and post it. I get a message from good friend, Robert Netsch, dad to our beautiful daughter-in-law Hilarey, telling me that we are in his neck of the woods. We have recently learned that he grew up in Chadds Ford. He recognizes exactly where I took the video. He suggests several worthy stops but we are still not sure how long this winding trip is going to take and forge ahead.


Third place FreeSkate Preliminary Hershey Open 2015

Many hours later and with our last gasp of gas we reach Old Mine Road. We have been so intent on getting there that neither of us has noticed the empty light come on. Emily and the kids are already settled in. Back up close at hand, Donny and I venture out for gas. We are in the wilds but resupply promises to be only a few miles away. Again our GPS takes us on a circuitous route. We find ourselves going in a circle headed back to Old Mine Road which is only a few miles long. In desperation, we pull into a driveway and button hole a kindly gentleman who assures us that gas albeit high priced is close by and points the way. Back home Donny collapses. Lydia chooses take out over going out and so Emily and I set forth for Manheim and food. Her GPS is much more direct. We quickly find the pizza place and a grocery store close by.

The next morning our drive takes us through a huge country road cycling event. Later Donny learns that it is the 5th annual Chocolate Tour, a very big deal. The girls are already at the rink and later report that they have been entertained by the lift off of a multitude of hot air balloons on their drive in to town.

Donny & I are very impressed with Hersheypark Arena, home to one of the oldest figure skating clubs in the country. It has that grand aged building feel. It is huge with tiers of seats. Lydia’s event is early. She does well enough to medal. And she just misses advancing by one place.


Lydia and Martin approaching the world of chocolate. On our way out Martin inadvertently photo bombs a lady so badly that we are sure her shot is a close up of his t-shirt. We are all weaving through the crowd anxious to get to our restful cottage. I notice the picture taking lady at the last minute and change my course but have no time to signal Martin. I try not to laugh but then Martin cracks up and I join in. We are in stitches. He says it’s the first time he can remember laughing at himself that hard. No one else has seen it but us. You had to be there.

Now we’re off to Chocolate World, a brief walk away, to get some lunch and to met Jen, Lydia’s awesome coach, at Create Your Own Chocolate Bar for our scheduled one o’clock tour. Equipped with aprons, hair nets and a beard net for Donny we begin by entering into a computer our choices of inclusions for our personalized bar. Later I get a lot of grief for creating a plain bar and truthfully it did look rather pitiful gliding along the conveyor stopping for no addition, not even a sprinkle topping. But its fresh milk chocolate taste is amazing. I stand by my decision.

We head back to our little island of calmness for rest and relaxation.While the others rest, I explore the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails path that winds below our property. We girls plan to meet up with Lydia’s skating friend and her family to watch her event that evening and then take advantage of the free with your day ticket park preview available three hours before closing. The guys choose to stay home.

Sunday morning sees us ready for our day at Hersheypark. It is overcast so we explore the zoo while we wait for the clouds to pass. Martin and I need sun to take on the water adventures on The Boardwalk. We hit the zoo at the right time. Cages are being cleaned and breakfast distributed. All the animals are active and very entertaining. It’s a really great small zoo. We are all enchanted and want to take most of the animals home with us, they are so captivating, the martens, the ring tailed ocelots. The road runner is hysterical, true to comedic form.

Back in the main park, Lydia and Emily meet up with their coaster riding friends. They are off to experience the new ride Laff Trakk. Martin & I ride Wild Mouse before changing into our swim clothes. For someone who doesn’t like roller coasters he has picked an aggressive level 5 ride. We have already ridden easy going Trailblazer. Martin comments that two roller coasters in one day is a record for him. We get the car key from Emily, still standing in the eternal line for Laff Trakk, and go change. We are on the far side of the park. When we get back the gang is still not out of the ride. Finally they emerge. We make a plan and go our separate ways. We divide and conquer Hersheypark.


Kuerner Farm on Ring Road of Andrew Wyeth fame. A fun piece of trivia for us is that it was the working farm of our Hilarey’s great-grandparents and where her grandmother, Lydia, was born. The Kuerners took young Andrew under their wing after he became enchanted with the farm and the rest is history.

Heading home Donny & I decide that we just have time before dark to stop by the family farm Robert has told us about. He has given us perfect directions. I send him a video. Is this the one? Yes, he replies. Except for the annoying power lines it looks the same he reports. It’s huge and so picturesque. I’m trying to figure out the exact connection Robert has to the farm. Finally after several texts and some wikipedia research I deduct that it was his grandparents farm and where his mother, Lydia, grew up. And also is the subject of literally thousands of Andrew Wyeth drawings and paintings spanning over seventy years.

Mom would be in love with this blog post. Her great-granddaughter medals in figure skating, a sport mom loved to obsession. (She would put her ice skates on in hot summer and stand on newspaper wishing for ice.) And Lydia medaled at Hersheypark, mom never met a chocolate she didn’t love. Lastly, her daughter runs barefoot (taught well by her farm girl mom) up the Kuerner Farm lane in the fading day light to take a video of one of Andrew Wyeth’s favorite subjects and which now has a family connection to her grandson, Lewis.






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Turtle Tales and Flippers TOO

loggerhead 2011

Loggerhead turtle nest boil Arch Street Kill Devil Hills August 2011

In mid-August 2011 just as we are leaving the beach two of the three original Camp OBX campers, Martin and Jake, and I get a real treat. The turtle nest that is due to boil any day begins to do just that. We have literally packed our things and are headed towards the steps when we look over at the nest carefully cordoned off by the hard working N.E.S.T folks. This is done from the time the eggs are laid until hatching, or boiling, in turtle lingo. As time for a nest to hatch approaches the volunteers also add a path to the beach carefully brushed smooth and blocked off with stakes and tape.

jake and martin 2011

Jake and Martin playing in the surf 2011

Most nests boil after sunset but before midnight. Because N.E.S.T volunteers are so protective of the new hatchlings no one is allowed to use a flash light to view a night crawl. The odd lights might confuse the babies headed to the more often than not moon lit sea. So on that rare occasion when a nest goes off in the day light hours witnesses get to actually see the process. We have come to play at this part of the beach every day of camp in hopes of seeing a boil knowing realistically that our chances are pretty remote. Lydia, the remaining original camper will be along next week. She is at German camp in Richmond this week or she would have been with us too. We really did get lucky.

aquarium turtle photoAugust 2015 brings another turtle adventure for Camp OBX. The aquarium on Roanoke Island is planning on releasing three green turtles that have been rescued and rehabilitated at their facility. Campers and I at various times throughout the past two years have seen all three turtles and Edward even got to chat at length with one volunteer about Augie’s broken flipper and how students at NC State made a custom cast using a 3-D printer.

The release is scheduled for Monday morning August 3rd at 8:30AM. Donald, Terri & Sebastian are at family camp and they decide that it is worth getting up and out for to witness. I drop them off and begin a search for a parking place. Car secure, I head to the beach access. There are already hundreds of people gathered on this pleasant overcast morning.

sea biscuit and info: augie info too crab info and augie cast augie in box AugieAs I cross the street to meet up with DTS, I hear an aquarium volunteer tell the Nags Head police officer helping everyone safely get across the beach road that the turtles are not here yet. Barely have I relayed this information to DTS when I spy volunteers with three plastic containers headed from the beach access to the area roped off a few yards north. The boxes are so small. Surely they cannot be holding the turtles. But they are. The turtles looked so much bigger to me in the hospital tanks.

goodbye augie

Goodbye Augie!

Sebastian and I wiggle our way to the front of the roped off section and watch while the turtles are paraded around for everyone to see. It is a well organized event and everyone gets a chance to see at least one turtle up close. We get a view of the special cast off of Augie’s flipper.

And then it’s time for the release. First Sea Biscuit all 6.16 pounds of him. After he is safely beyond the shore break, it’s Crab’s turn. He’s the middle child today, middle in weight at 11.88 pounds and middle to be released. And finally frantic to get out of the box is big bruiser at 13.64 pounds, Augie. It’s been two whole years. He’s grateful for the helping hands but he wants to get back to the sea.

And hour and a half from when we started our adventure we’re home getting breakfast. Should have been flipping pancakes but we settled for biscuits, in Sea Biscuit’s honor.


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