On Thursday, August 9, 2018 we drove from our place in the Fort Bragg area and set out on an extreme weekend adventure to the Outer Banks [aka: OBX – and it’ll be called that from here out]! Over the next four days I had a goal of visiting at least one National Park and five North Carolina State Parks. I had our route mapped out so that we would hit two State Parks on the way there, visit a National Park and another State Park while there and then take a different route home and hit up two other State Parks.
DAY 1 – Thursday, August 9th
We headed out a little bit later than I had originally anticipated but all in all things started out okay. Our first stop was to Goose Creek State Park. I will blog more about our park adventures another day but I will let you know that when we were close to the turn around point of our hike Ceci and I saw a snake off to the side of the trail and Ceci freaked out and took off running and I ran quickly after her as well. Sure it was a non-venomous snake but when you’re thinking you’ll see one in the wetlands and you’re back out of the wetlands and onto the main trail you freak out a bit. I’m sure if I had a heart rate monitor on it would’ve gone through the roof. Actually, maybe I should wear a heart rate monitor more just to see how my heart rate may spike due to various events. Many events over the next few days of our adventure I’m sure would make my heart rate burst. After double timing it back to the van we loaded up and headed to the next place on our map, Pettigrew State Park. At Pettigrew we got to chit-chat for a bit with the Park Ranger and he told us that snakes were out because they had gotten rain and there were a ton of mosquitoes out as well. As we were taking off towards the kids TRACK trail another ranger told us there was a spot to swim in the lake and not to worry because their lake doesn’t have any alligators…uuuuummmm…all I heard was the word alligator and was still thinking about snakes. Luckily our hike was rather uneventful in terms of seeing wildlife. We saw tons of mosquitoes and dragonflies, some spiders but nothing to make our heart rates break the monitor. We didn’t stay to swim because we had to keep on trekking and get to our hotel in the OBX.
At first the hotel seemed super cute. It had recently been remodeled and did have some adorable decor but the AC unit in our room was loud AF and then BAM, when all of the adults were busy, the window broke. We still don’t know exactly how it broke but something about Mikey falling off the bed and kicking the window was the story the kids were sticking to. Which when Sophia is also saying that’s what happens I tend to believe them, I don’t know maybe one day down the road we will hear something different but luckily Mikey didn’t have any cuts on him and no one was hurt but now we had a broken window. They had us move rooms for the night until the window was fixed. We decided to get out of the hotel room for a bit and went to the Bodie Island Lighthouse which was beautiful. Then we had the most ridiculously overpriced dinner where of course ONLY my meal got completely messed up and she tried to serve me something that I am allergic to. Side note y’all…this is on on going issue with me. For the last 10 years I can recall way too many incidents where ONLY my food was messed up when we went out to dinner. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 5 star restaurant or Crackdonalds…it’s usually JUST ME!
When we got back to our hotel room Tedy was absolutely WILD that night and was WIDE AWAKE! He tends to be this way when staying some place new for the first time. Yet I could not hang with him and ended up finally passing out for a bit. Then I woke up, reached for my phone to see what time it was and didn’t see my phone right away. Then I saw it, by Tedy, in the other bed so I grabbed it. I tried unlock it and nothing happened. Then I turned a light on and saw that he had somehow managed to bite the phone and destroy it. The screen was completely damaged, and I knew in my gut that what had happened to the phone wouldn’t be covered under our phone insurance policy. I woke Troy up. I was so pissed. There were many curse laced tears. I was so exhausted and a mixed bag of emotions.
DAY 2 – Friday, August 10th
So here I am without a phone but luckily we had brought Sophia’s phone so I had a back up. Yet then I managed to lock myself out of all of my accounts; Facebook, Instagram, gmail, everything. I have Sophia’s phone set so secure, I couldn’t do a thing! I ended up messaging my friend who was watching the dogs through Troy’s Facebook Messenger app on his phone. I’m glad she accepted the request and am super thankful that her taking care of the pups was one thing I didn’t have to worry about that weekend.
On Friday we made our way out to Jockey’s Ridge State Park to check another park off our quest. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the hike on this post because like I said, I’m saving it for a separate State Parks Adventures post buuuut…I will say that I think it was hands down one of the most difficult hikes we have done to date. The trail was ALL SAND and it was HOT and we almost ran out of water and we almost had to have the rangers called out to come get my mom off the trail. Even though the hike was only 1.5 miles the Garmin data does not do how difficult that hike was any justice at all. Yet I also really enjoyed the hike. Looking back, the times I was most at peace during this trip was when I was outside in nature, even though it could get spurts of heart rate monitor bursting crazy difficult.
After our park trip we had to move our stuff out of the room we had been moved to but our old room wasn’t ready to move back into. *insert eye roll here* So we headed out to the beach for a couple of hours. It was so relaxing to be at the beach. My soul longs for the ocean.
When we got back to our hotel room to clean up for dinner not only did I not get a warm shower, the water ran out completely! My hair was lathered in conditioner [first world problems yea yea, I know, I know but when you’re paying a pretty decent amount of money for where you’re staying, you expect a bit better and honestly at this point I would’ve rather been camping] so I combed it out and put my hair in braids.
Friday evening we went to the Surfing for Autism meet and greet dinner. Dinner was a decent catered BBQ meal with some yummy key lime pie desserts. We were THAT family and wore the matching bright green t-shirts that I had made for the event. I’m glad we all had the same shirt on because when my mom took the girls to go to the sibling fishing event on the pier it made them easier to find when we were done with the surf board portion for Tedy. Plus we received compliments on the shirts and when you do what I do as a side business it’s nice to get recognized for a design you worked hard on. The girls had fun fishing and I totally missed out that they each caught a fish but Nana got a few pictures so we could see.
We walked back to our hotel and BAM Mikey fell and got a nice goose egg on his forehead! We double timed it the rest of the way back to the hotel and moved back into our room. This move wasn’t as bad because at least our stuff was all in Nana & Sophia’s room, which was a connected room. Yet I was absolutely paranoid that something else horrible was going to happen and break. Oh an the AC that they “claimed” to have fixed was still loud AF! So loud that all night we went back and forth between being ridiculously hot because we turned it off to being awake because it was so damn loud! I don’t wear my Garmin while I sleep because I hate seeing the sleep data and how terrible of a sleeper I already am and during this weekend my sleep was even worse.
DAY 3 – Saturday, August 11th
This was the big day, the day of the main event, the whole reason why we went to the OBX for the weekend, Surfing for Autism. Tedy got to go surfing! Tedy is not a patient boy when he’s around the water. We got to the beach in plenty of time and let the kids swim for about an hour before we had to get out and sign him in for his surfing heat. Tedy was not happy about having to get out of the water and I was a bit nervous while we waited for his heat to begin that he would have difficulty transitioning into the event. When it was Tedy’s turn, he screamed and fussed a bit but once his assistant came over and once he met his surfer, he didn’t stop to help carry the board and get introduced to the board he darted off into the water and Troy darted off after him and then the volunteers followed. Tedy quickly got going and next thing you know, he was riding the waves. For an hour Tedy was “talkative” [in his own language because he is technically on the non-verbal end of the spectrum and has extremely limited functional language skills] and all smiles. Even when he would wipe out Tedy would look for his board, grab on and happily head back out to await the next wave. Troy stayed in the water with Tedy to assist the volunteers. The rest of us stayed on the beach and watched him surf wave after wave after wave. I went in once to get some pictures and videos but Audie wasn’t happy that mama left him so I didn’t stay in too long. For me, every horrible moment was worth it to see that beaming smile on Tedy’s face as he surfed! After Tedy was done surfing we had bagged lunch, which was provided by the event, and swam for a little bit longer.
I can’t speak highly enough of how amazingly awesome – totally rad dude – the Surfing for Autism event was. Every single volunteer we encountered was FABULOUS – all of the surfers, other families, it was so great!
After the main event as we started to head back to the hotel I thought about the GoPro camera and Troy couldn’t find it. I walked all over and asked so many people about the camera and we couldn’t find it at all. My mom had already went back to the hotel but Troy and I didn’t have a phone on us so we couldn’t call her to see if she had it. I cried the entire walk back, I had over 600 pictures on that camera and was sure that it was lost. Thankfully the camera had been in my Mom’s bag the whole time, so we got cleaned up for our next adventure, Cape Hatteras National Seashore & the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Of course again I didn’t get a hot shower but at least the water didn’t completely run out on me this time. I took a quick shower and gave up on my hair ever getting clean for the weekend so I put it back into braids. The drive down the National Seashore and to the Lighthouse was beautiful. We only had about half an hour at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse until they closed but it was juuuust enough time for the girls to get their Junior Ranger booklets from the National Parks Ranger. They were able to talk with the Ranger about rip currents [which we had experienced that afternoon, when swimming after lunch, and Sophia probably doesn’t realize that I made her swim out of one at one point] visit the museum and start on their booklets. We also picked up a National Parks Junior Passport guide so that we can collect stamps of all the National Parks we visit. Ceci wants to go to all 400 of them and collect all of the Junior Ranger badges! I told her we would do our best to visit as many as possible. The girls didn’t earn their Junior Ranger badges that evening but were given instructions on how to complete their tasks and told that they could finish everything at the Bodie Island Lighthouse [which was significantly closer to our hotel since we were staying in Nags Head].
We hung out at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for a bit after the park buildings closed so that the girls could work on their booklets but once the thunder started to roll in we took off back to the hotel. On our way back we stopped at Nags Head Pizza and ordered dinner.
DAY 4 – Sunday, August 12th
What had initially been planned as a more relaxing drive home day of course turned into a grand adventure and more was added to our itinerary at the last moment. Since the girls hadn’t finished their Junior Ranger Badge for Cape Hatteras National Seashore, after a feast of some Duck Donuts [because Sunday is Donut Day] we went back to Bodie Island Lighthouse as soon as they opened up at 9 AM. The girls quickly found a National Park Ranger and presented their booklets to him. He quizzed them on how to get out of a rip tide [y’all, I love this, as a former Aquatics Director, I absolutely LOVE how much attention every single parks staff both National and State gave to educating people about rip currents – it’s a big issue in the OBX and sadly kids have died but you can tell the Rangers are truly working hard to drive home how to get out of a rip tide safely] and he thoroughly reviewed their activities, engaging with them the whole time. They really make them work for those Junior Ranger badges. The girls were sworn in as Cape Hatteras National Seashore Junior Rangers and we took off to our next stop; Wright Brothers National Monument.
We arrived at the Wright Brothers National Monument just before 10 AM and the girls immediately found a National Park Ranger so that they could get their activity booklet and begin working on their next badge. We got there in the nick of time for a Ranger presentation to begin. I’ll go into more detail another day but y’all it was absolutely fascinating and if you’re ever in OBX I highly recommend visiting and staying to listen to a Ranger presentation. A couple hours later the girls earned their second badge [like I said, they really make them work for these badges] and the Ranger here added a little bit to their pledge about honoring their mother – haha.
Just after noon we took off again and grabbed some lunch at Wendy’s. Of course we didn’t get our entire meal but this time it was shockingly NOT my food that was messed up but my Mom didn’t get her drink. As we drove to our next destination, Dismal Swamp State Park, the clouds rolled in and it stormed for the last chunk of the drive. Luckily the clouds cleared up shortly after arriving at Dismal Swamp so we were able to get in our Kids Track Trail there.
Our final stop was Merchants Mill Pond State Park. Again, I’ll highlight these in another post some day but wanted to say how cool it was that the land for this State Park was donated by a real estate developer because he really enjoyed canoeing there and was afraid it would be bought and used for development where people wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beauty of that area so he bought the land and in turn donated it to the State of North Carolina for it to be turned into a Park for ALL to enjoy.
We had Cracker Barrel for dinner and no one’s meal was messed up. Thanks Cracker Barrel. We made it home really late and the dogs were happy to see us but we are so thankful they were well cared for over the weekend.
The trip was absolutely insane, chock full of madness and fun. Yet again, all of the bad crap that happened was completely worth it to see the sparkle in my kiddos eyes and hear that they had the “best day ever” every day. 5 State Parks & 3 National Parks & ALL the JUMP pics 🙂