Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Little Bit of Learning and Riding

First things first, kids. I'm on vacation. Go ahead. Be jealous! I started my vacation yesterday by traveling to Chesapeake, VA to visit one of my best friends, Giovanna, and her family. They moved from State College, PA to Chesapeake in June 2012 and I haven't seen her since. I had a wonderful visit with Gio and her family in their lovely home near the Elizabeth (yay!) River. 

This afternoon, I traveled from Chesapeake, VA to Ocean City, MD to start my "week at the beach" with my parents via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT). Chris and I traveled this route once before probably 15 years ago. When I reached the northern end of the CBBT, I saw a sign for the Eastern Shore of VA National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. I thought, "Sure...why not?!?"  

Hmmm...wonder what this place will have in store?!?

As I turned into the parking lot, I saw a sign for a bicycle trail and the gears started turning. All of the sudden - and despite the heat - I needed to ride my bike (Betsy). But first, I decided to tour the visitor center. The visitor center has a huge pollinator garden in the center of the parking lot. I managed to snag what I think are a few good shots of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

The visitor center is a little on the small side, but it has several informative exhibits on the different habitats found within the refuge - barrier islands, salt marshes, shrub, and the maritime forest - as well as information about the importance of the refuge to myriad migratory birds and Monarch butterflies. 
Each fall, like colorful clockwork, the refuge is the scene of a spectacular drama as millions of songbirds and monarch butterflies and thousands of raptors converge at the tip of the peninsula on their voyage south. Favorable weather patterns push migrating species through the area in waves. Clouds of tree swallows swirl over ponds and flame orange and black-winged monarch butterflies float aloft. (source: US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Back outside, I unloaded my bicycle from my new Thule hitch rack and set out on an impromptu three-mile exploratory ride.

Before it became a wildlife refuge, the land was part of Fort John Custis. The structure you see to the left is a WWII bunker. This gun is Barrel 393 from the USS Missouri.

There is a small cemetery on the grounds of the refuge.

This gravestone is for Sarah Hallett (January 18, 1825 - July 5, 1898)

I rode to the salt marsh viewing area.

The salt marsh... low tide. Lots of those little specs are crabs. I just couldn't zoom in far enough.

Then I rode to the viewing area atop the WWII bunker.

The view from atop the bunker.

I stopped at the photography blind...

...and took a photograph!

I wasn't a very responsible bicyclist this afternoon - shorts, a t-shirt, no helmet, and flip flops. I threw caution to the wind!

Even though my ride was only three miles and my visit was less than an hour in length, I enjoyed my stop at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. If you are ever making your way north from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, it's worth a stop in to learn a little bit about the area.

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