Time spent with friends

True to my commitment to better embrace fall and winter (this Cajun girl is not particularly fond of either), I decided to make sure I got out and about this week during the beautiful weather!  The week was filled with Comic Con, continued leaf peeping, a military aviation museum, muckraking, 2-wheel therapy, and lots of time spent with friends!

Though social media has multiple pitfalls, I have to say that it has proven to be a great tool for keeping in touch with folks from multiple phases of my life.  When I saw a former shipmate post that he would be in town for Comic Con this week, I jumped at the chance to reconnect and headed towards Fayetteville on my bike.  Chris and I flew together back in the day, so it was really cool to see him living his best life post-Navy.  Not only is he an accomplished SciFi author, he has his own publishing company!  How cool is that?! 

With Chris in Fayetteville at my very first Comic Con experience!

As it became apparent that the warm days were going to continue throughout the week, I decided to head back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but this time further north.  The mornings were in the high 40s, so I took the truck instead of the bike for the trek to Linville Falls, a three-tiered waterfall that plunges into the Linville Gorge.  From the Visitors Center near Mile Marker 316, it was a fairly easy half-mile hike to Upper Falls, and just a little bit further to an overlook where you get a full panorama of the waterfalls and the valley below.  This was certainly one of the times I was happy to be a morning person – as I made my way back down the trail to the Visitors Center, crowds of hikers were headed up.  

Upper Linville Falls.
Linville River continues it’s path over the Falls cutting through the Linville Gorge Wilderness area.

Once back on the road, I took the Park Ranger’s advice and travelled north on the Parkway to hike the trail that starts from the southern terminus of the Lin Cove Viaduct.  With 153 segments weighing 50 tons each and spanning 1243 feet, this Viaduct is an engineering marvel.  As the Parkway neared completion in 1983, the last segment needed to connect the sections through Grandfather Mountain in an environmentally responsible way.  Instead of cutting into the side of the mountain, this section was accomplished by elevating the road and creating a complicated “S” curve concrete bridge that snakes around the boulders of Linn Cove.  The resulting glimpses of the concrete viaduct through the dense forest of the mountain is a stunning combination of man-made and natural beauty.  I also stopped at the northern terminus of the viaduct and walked the path that runs parallel to the road for a different view of the viaduct and valley.  Incredible!! 

Fall at the Linnville Viaduct
No need to enhance these colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway!

As the Parkway started to get crowded with more tourists, I travelled back down the mountains to visit another retired friend living her best life, post-Army.  Tamara, a fellow retired Army Dietitian, and her husband Jason, provided luxurious guest accommodations, a tasty dinner, and an evening of fascinating, easy conversation with a stunning view of a spur of the Catawba River.  Both their home and hospitality were wonderful and left me thankful for the re-connection.

Fabulous waterfront view from Tamara & Jason’s back porch!

Just a few miles down the road from Tamara & Jason’s neighborhood was the Hickory Aviation Museum.  Though located in a very small regional airport, this museum hosts a surprisingly wide array of military aircraft static displays.  A news story I read in 2017 about the P-3C aircraft this little museum acquired put it on my radar of places to visit, and it did not disappoint.  When I asked if I could tour the inside of the P-3C, I was told that viewings of the interior had been temporarily suspended.  I guess the look of disappointment on my face indicated that I had a personal connection to P-3s, so she asked me if I had served on them.  When I responded that I had, she immediately called the volunteer to get the key to unlock the aircraft for me.  As he unlocked the door and I stepped inside, the sight of the tannish/beige interior took me back 30 years.  A second later, the visceral response of familiarity I had to the distinct smell of an Orion fuselage that still housed avionics equipment nearly brought tears to my eyes.  Though my aircrew time was spent on a different version of the airframe (women would not be allowed to fly on P-3Cs until my second enlistment), I spent an untold number of hours maintaining P-3Cs as a “ground-pounder” early in my Naval career.  This particular aircraft (BUNO 156515) had previously been assigned to VP-30.  The museum’s online virtual tour of the P-3C lets you feel like you are right in the aircraft!

Small but mighty Hickory Aviation Museum.
P-3C at Hickory Aviation Museum

After returning home from my jaunt to the west, I enjoyed a little community service with my downtime.  I spent a morning on our Village muckraker, but I’ll leave that experience for a post another day 😉 With daytime temps still in the 70s, there was more 2-wheel fun to be had, so I met up with the “girl gang” for a little brunch and wind therapy over the weekend.  The Litas is not a really a gang, and is not a motorcycle club, it’s a worldwide moto collective that connects women riders.  Until a trio of visionaries founded the Litas of Southern Pines, I had no idea there were so many other women that rode their own bikes around here!  In the few months that I’ve connected with these gals, I’ve met some bada$$ females, done a few scenic rides, and even went on a weekend moto camping trip with them over the summer.  Today was a great day of connecting with almost a dozen gals for brunch, then rolling out a few miles to check out two local Truss bridges, led by our fearless planner Charlie!  The Deep River Camelback Bridge in Sanford was built in 1908 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Though it is no longer open to regular traffic, it is still an impressive piece of engineering.  The Rocky River Bridge near Pittsboro was only a short ride away, so a few of us made the trek to ride across the historic one-lane bridge made of asphalt covered timbers held together with pins instead of bolts.  After crossing the bridge, we parked our bikes and walked on it to view the Rocky River below.  As we pressed ourselves against the guardrail to allow a vehicle to pass, we could feel the bridge moving under our feet!  Both bridges, and the company of these crazy, fun ladies, made for a fabulous day.

The crazy ladies of the Southern Pines Litas at Deep River Camelback Bridge

As I close out this week, I’m looking forward to a little down time.  But who knows what adventures may present themselves in the coming days!  For those of you who keep asking…nope, I’m not bored yet 😊

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