Post by Cynthia, Photos by Bobby
We left Jordan Lake State Park and drove to Cedar Island, NC, which is one of the places you can then catch a ferry to Ocracoke. Cedar Island, while an island, is still on the mainland side of NC and you really start to feel like you’re in an old seaside village. In fact, Highway 70 ends here.
It is not a very populated place – the majority of the island is a Wildlife Refuge. We did get to do some lovely birdwatching and I researched the difference between herons, terns and egrets. It’s still hard for me to identify some of the different egrets, so these are guesses for the most part.
Our campsite was right on the water of Pamlico Sound, where we got to watch three Canadian Geese couples with their babies do daily strolls.
We also saw this lovely blackbird, called a Red-Winged Blackbird.
And this lovely flower, in the Coreopsis family.
After two days we took the Cedar Island Ferry to Ocracoke Island. The ferry takes over two hours, and it was $30 to drive on with our truck and camper. The dogs did fine on their first boat ride. You can get out and go to an observation deck, or just stay in your vehicle. I had been rather nervous about it, but it was fine.
We arrived in the charming village of Ocracoke, which has a population of 948 as of the 2010 census, but in 2014, the population was estimated at 591 – apparently that is the number during the tourist season, it may drop even lower during the cool months. Ocracoke is at the southern end of the Outer Banks and was the place where Blackbeard was killed in 1718. It also is home to a British cemetery that is the resting place of British sailors who were in ships sunk by the Germans during WWII and whose bodies washed ashore. A British flag flies there and the property is taken care of by the US Coast Guard.
We stayed at the National Park Service Ocracoke Campground, where there were no hookups (i.e. no electric) and only cold showers. The beach was just over a bank of sand dunes – and the pups got their first dip in the ocean! Banner loved it, Penelope less so.
We saw the Ocracoke Lighthouse.
I had a love-hate relationship with our stay on the Island. I had always wanted to visit, and I found the village charming, the birds and scenery at the campground great, and walking on the beach at the ocean very soothing.
There were bugs. Some sort of biting flies the first day and mosquitos at dark. And after it rained, which it did quite a bit, SWARMS of mosquitos. And without an electrical hookup, we couldn’t run the air conditioner, and with rain even our windows became somewhat useless. It was hot. We do have a generator, and we could use that other than quiet time (10 pm to 6 am) but it wasn’t supporting the AC correctly. When it isn’t raining though, we can keep the camper pretty cool with the windows open and using the fans to pull air through for a nice breeze.
Overall, we did enjoy Ocracoke – I went to the little museum, Bobby took lighthouse pictures, the dogs got in the ocean (and then had a cold bath – with the same level of enthusiasm each showed regarding the ocean), we had some yummy meals, and we met the Park Ranger and Campground Host who were both lovely and very interested in learning about the camper.
From Ocracoke we headed to the north side of the island to get the ferry to Hatteras. This one is free and runs every 30 minutes. We stayed at another National Park Service campground at Hatteras. We relaxed a bit. We saw some lovely wildlife.
Again, we didn’t have electrical hookups. We charged the battery using the generator the first day but when we went to charge it the second day we realized it wasn’t working.
Bobby’s troubleshooting led him to believe the installed battery charger/battery management system device had gone caput. That meant we weren’t able to recharge the battery either by plugging it into a generator or shore power. The solar panels charge through a different device, but we don’t get enough solar to do much more than keep the fridges running. And we plugged it into the Anderson Plug but that didn’t seem to be helping either. The camper has a lithium battery and the concern was, without a way to recharge it, the battery would eventually drop so low that it could be permanently damaged.
We wound up finding a mobile RV technician who looked at everything and eventually came to the same conclusion. He suggested that we get a battery charger that we could use to externally put a charge into the battery – like charging a car battery. We frantically drove around to find one that gives out a high enough voltage charge – tried two different ones – but it didn’t work (we believe it just isn’t high enough voltage to recharge a lithium battery).
We didn’t use anything in the camper that night for fear of draining the battery further and the next morning packed up with the idea we’d try to find an RV repair shop that could install a new battery management device. This was by far our worst day in our new life due to concern over the battery, and to top it off, we had put up the awning for the second time but spent about an hour trying to break it down as the tension poles had warped to the point we couldn’t get them to retract. We were beyond frustrated.
But we got on the road and scrapped the rest of our Outer Banks plans and headed to Norfolk, VA, the closest city of any size. We did stop at the Hatteras Lighthouse (tallest brick lighthouse structure in the US, but because it’s built almost at sea level there are 14 others where the light is actually higher).
As we were trying to find an RV Repair shop we realized two things. First, it was hard to find an appointment that day (Saturday) or really any day soon. Second, the RV Technician who had come out to look at the battery at the campsite had mentioned an electrical engineer would be helpful – and our brother-in-law Joe happens to be an amazing electrical engineer and problem-solver. The only thing is, Joe and Bobby’s sister, Sara, live in Rochester, NY.
So, we altered everything and drove to Rochester. We had planned to come here anyway but in another week or two. We got to cross this cool bridge, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a 23 mile bridge that has portions as tunnels so the eastern fleet of the US Navy can’t be trapped in Norfolk but instead will always have an open channel to the ocean.
Anyway, Joe saved the day, as usual, by confirming the battery charger was caput. We were able to discuss the issues with Kimberley Kamper and they are mailing us a replacement device. We also found along the drive that the Anderson Plug was working (it apparently does bypass the battery charger device) so the immediacy of not being able to charge the battery at all was alleviated.
So we are having a little pit stop in Rochester to catch up on some repairs, etc. for the camper and having fun visiting with Sara, Joe and our adorable niece, Tula!