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North Carolina and Hampton Roads

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

Part 5

On Tuesday, I got up early, like I had been (surprisingly, I had managed to maintain a 7:00 AM wake time the entire week), got ready, and then we met up with Aaron and Evan around 9:00.  The first thing that we did was go across the street to photograph a sign error on the road across from the hotel, which marked a state route as a US route.


Sign for SR 171 as US 171.  There is a real US 171, but it is in western Louisiana.  Hopefully the signs for the real US 171 are in better condition than this one.

Sign for SR 171 as US 171.  There is a real US 171, but it is in western Louisiana.  Hopefully the signs for the real US 171 are in better condition than this one.


We then headed over for breakfast.  As it would turn out, the breakfast service was the main source of safety theater at this hotel.  They had signs up asking that we wear these little plastic foodservice gloves on in order to serve ourselves.  I considered that to be ridiculous on its face, since Goldsboro didn’t do that, which told me that this bit of safety theater that they were trying to subject us to did not come down from corporate.  Rather, that was the decision of the individual franchisee.  So my already dim view of these measures was even dimmer, knowing that they were doing it on their own.  As I was paying a lot of money to be there, I was not about to submit to such nonsense.  So we ignored it, and when the attendant rather rudely informed us of the policy, we ignored him, too, and he did not press the point (as well he shouldn’t).

Finishing up with breakfast, we went back up to the room in order to gather camera equipment, grab the new drone, and so on, and then we headed back down to the car.  The first order of business was to get the new drone up and running, and do a quick test flight in the parking lot to verify all of its characteristics before taking it out for a real flight.  So I got it all connected up to the remote and the app on my existing drone phone, applied for LAANC for the test flight, and expected it to be “whirlybirds away” in short order.  Unfortunately, the hotel was in a DJI Fly Safe restricted zone due to its proximity to Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, so the drone would not take off.  This is a case where the manufacturer has tighter flight restrictions than the FAA, and therefore you have to get permission from the manufacturer in order to fly in certain areas, even though the FAA is fine with it as long as you apply for authorization through LAANC.  This has stymied me before, and it would do it again now.  I didn’t have time to go through the unlocking with DJI, so we packed the drone up and continued on to our first destination.

That first destination was the Noland Trail Head parking area behind the Mariners’ Museum.  We checked that one ahead of time, and we were clear to fly with no need for LAANC.  So I unfolded the drone again, set it on the ground, and this time, it took off without issue.  So this was not only a test flight, but it was also a proper maiden flight after I verified its handling characteristics.  Besides its being a bigger vehicle than the Mavic Mini, the Air 2S also made a lower propeller noise, befitting an overall bigger drone.  It also was able to travel faster than the Mavic Mini, with a top speed of around 35 mph, and the remote had a better transmission range and more stable connection overall.  I took the Air 2S two miles downrange towards the James River Bridge and it never once lost signal.  The Mavic Mini would never have made it that far downrange before losing its connection with the remote, and automatically turning back.  I could probably have gone further than that, but I didn’t want to push it too far on the maiden flight when I didn’t yet have a good feel for the battery life, especially when flying over water.  If it were to do a forced landing because it didn’t have enough battery power to get back, it would be gone for good, and I would have thrown $1,300 in the drink.


The very first photo taken with the new drone, showing the James River Bridge.

The very first photo taken with the new drone, showing the James River Bridge.


This is as close as I got to the James River Bridge on this flight before turning back.  If I wanted to get more detailed photos of the bridge, I would need to reposition myself closer to the bridge.

This is as close as I got to the James River Bridge on this flight before turning back.  If I wanted to get more detailed photos of the bridge, I would need to reposition myself closer to the bridge.


The Newport News side of the James River, upstream from the bridge.

The Newport News side of the James River, upstream from the bridge.


We took off from the Noland Trail Head.  You can see us in that little parking area at the center of the image.

We took off from the Noland Trail Head.  You can see us in that little parking area at the center of the image.


A large, fancy house on the waterfront just up from where we parked.

A large, fancy house on the waterfront just up from where we parked.


The Mariners' Lake, which flows into the James River near our location.

The Mariners’ Lake, which flows into the James River near our location.


Group selfie.  The shadow of the drone is visible in the bottom of the shot.

Group selfie.  The shadow of the drone is visible in the bottom of the shot.


Photo of Elyse after she recovered the drone following its first landing.

Photo of Elyse after she recovered the drone following its first landing.


So all in all, the Air 2S’s maiden flight went exceptionally well.  I was confident in my abilities with this drone, and I was going to go out and be quite productive with it on the rest of this adventure.

Our next stop was a quick one-two for some vintage signs on Warwick Boulevard, first at the former Boulevard Cleaners at the intersection with Randolph Road, and the second a few blocks down at Monty’s Penguin at the intersection with Franklin Road.


Sign at the former Boulevard Cleaners.  I hope that whatever e-commerce place that's being advertised as coming to this location doesn't demolish this classic sign.  Sign at the former Boulevard Cleaners.  I hope that whatever e-commerce place that's being advertised as coming to this location doesn't demolish this classic sign.

Sign at the former Boulevard Cleaners.  I hope that whatever e-commerce place that’s being advertised as coming to this location doesn’t demolish this classic sign.


Sign for Monty's Penguin.

Sign for Monty’s Penguin.


I quickly got the sense that I could easily spend an entire day just driving around Newport News photographing vintage signs and converted buildings (particularly former 7-Elevens), but I don’t think that anyone else with me on this day would have had the patience for that (my DC converted buildings day was a solo adventure), and I also wasn’t about to derail the entire day’s itinerary for signs and converted buildings.  Something for a future visit, I suppose.

Our next stop was the Hause Building, a smallish office building a little further down the street, which was an impulse stop that Elyse called in order to do an elevator.  She, along with Aaron and Evan, went in to check out the elevator, while I remained outside and photographed the vintage architecture – particularly the sign out front.


The Hause Building.

The Hause Building.


The very aged sign in front of the Hause Building.

The very aged sign in front of the Hause Building.


Stone in front of the building reading "The Hauses".  I found this surprising, because that stone didn't seem like it would be at a commercial building.  It would look right at home in front of a private residence, but not a commercial setting.

Stone in front of the building reading “The Hauses”.  I found this surprising, because that stone didn’t seem like it would be at a commercial building.  It would look right at home in front of a private residence, but not a commercial setting.


Elyse got a photo of me in photographing position in front of the sign for the Hause Building.

Elyse got a photo of me in photographing position in front of the sign for the Hause Building.


When everyone got back, we circled around to the back of the building, where we found a set of stairs leading up to the roof.  Considering that it was a full set of stairs with no barriers or anything on it, we had suspected that it might lead to some sort of roof deck space, potentially containing good views for photographing.  Everyone was curious as to what was up there, and so I went up to investigate.


The roof of the Hause Building.

The roof of the Hause Building.

The roof of the Hause Building.


Close-ups of some of the equipment on the roof of the Hause Building.

Close-ups of some of the equipment on the roof of the Hause Building.

Close-ups of some of the equipment on the roof of the Hause Building.

Close-ups of some of the equipment on the roof of the Hause Building.


I’m not going to lie to you: that was disappointing, but also not very surprising.  I didn’t go any further than the upper stair landing, because it was pretty clear that despite the appearances of the stair, this was a service access, and not intended for use by regular people.  And there were also no good views to speak of.  You win some, and you lose some, I suppose.

From here, we headed over to the James River Bridge.  We first drove across the bridge into Isle of Wight County, and then turned around and went back the other way.  We then stopped in the parking lot of a nearby church just south of the bridge, and I explored the bridge with the drone, getting some very nice looking shots of the bridge and surrounding area.


The James River Bridge

The James River Bridge

The James River Bridge

The James River Bridge

The James River Bridge

The James River Bridge

The James River Bridge


I found this cross pattern in the water to be a tad curious, but I have no idea why it exists.

I found this cross pattern in the water to be a tad curious, but I have no idea why it exists.


Flying back to the launch site.

Flying back to the launch site.


Windward Towers, two condominium buildings next to the James River Bridge.

Windward Towers, two condominium buildings next to the James River Bridge.


View downstream, with Newport News Shipbuilding visible in the distance.

View downstream, with Newport News Shipbuilding visible in the distance.


The area where we launched.  You can see us in the dark-colored parking lot next to the church.

The area where we launched.  You can see us in the dark-colored parking lot next to the church.


Drone selfie.

Drone selfie.


The new drone in flight, photographed with my DSLR.

The new drone in flight, photographed with my DSLR.


The view of my legs after landing.

The view of my legs after landing.


From here, we headed over to downtown Newport News.  There wasn’t that much interesting there, but Elyse spotted a building that she thought would have an interesting elevator: River Park Tower Apartments.  She piggybacked in the door and got her elevator, while the rest of us waited in the car.


The River Park Tower Apartments building.

The River Park Tower Apartments building.


After this, we went over the MMMBT, and found ourselves in Portsmouth.  After a quick lunch at a nearby Hardee’s, we headed over to Bayside Harley-Davidson.  Elyse was there to get a poker chip, but some of the things that I saw there amused me.


The entrance to Bayside Harley-Davidson.

The entrance to Bayside Harley-Davidson.


Sign in the dealership reading, "Just buy the bike... She'll be okay..."

Sign in the dealership reading, “Just buy the bike… She’ll be okay…”


"Adult trick-or-treating" display with bottled water, as well as cans of soda and beer.  I imagine that giving away beer like this is probably illegal, but it's still fun.  Elyse grabbed that Yuengling that you see in the bottom of the shot for later.

“Adult trick-or-treating” display with bottled water, as well as cans of soda and beer.  I imagine that giving away beer like this is probably illegal, but it’s still fun.  Elyse grabbed that Yuengling that you see in the bottom of the shot for later.


This was also when I learned how Harley dealers typically move the bikes around the showroom: they start them up and move them around with a small amount of power.  I was not a fan of that, because the buildings weren’t really designed for proper ventilation of the exhaust fumes, and that, in turn, gave me a headache.  Not a good time.

From here, we headed into downtown Norfolk, and visited Nauticus.  Nauticus was familiar territory for me, as I had visited it in 2002 on a trip to Norfolk that I made that year.  Longtime readers may remember that I did a photo set from that visit called “Mastering the Seven Seas“.  It was a pretty boring set, where I walked around the museum, photographing what I saw, and then commenting on it.  I retired the set at some point, and I feel like nothing of value was lost.  A second photo set from this visit, called “Aboard the USS Wisconsin“, still exists on the site.

Nauticus was, in many ways, the same as it was in 2002, and also very different in other ways.  Back then, tickets were required for the upper level exhibits, while the Wisconsin and other lower level features were free.  The exhibit space was pretty well done, and only the main deck of the Wisconsin was open to visitors.  The rest of the ship, including the entire interior, was closed, as the ship still technically belonged to the Navy, and was considered part of the reserve fleet (this changed in December 2009, when the ship was formally transferred to the city of Norfolk).  Nowadays, tickets were required for the Wisconsin, and the exhibits in the building were free.  And considering the sad state of the exhibits in the building, and the tremendous amount of effort put into restoration on the Wisconsin, I am not at all surprised.

The first thing that we did was the museum.  We moved through this relatively quickly, because while we wanted to see the exhibits, we didn’t want to spend too much time there, because we really came to see the ship.


"Please pass the salt" display at the entrance, about how much salt is on our planet, unchanged since my last visit in 2002.

“Please pass the salt” display at the entrance, about how much salt is on our planet, unchanged since my last visit in 2002.


The entrance ramp was a bit darker than it was when I visited in 2002, from a combination of a darker paint job and fewer lighting fixtures.

The entrance ramp was a bit darker than it was when I visited in 2002, from a combination of a darker paint job and fewer lighting fixtures.


Manufacturer's logo on the plate at the top of the ramp.

Manufacturer’s logo on the plate at the top of the ramp.


The museum looked pretty sparse for the most part, exemplified by this first room.  I couldn't help but think that it's no wonder they didn't check tickets in this area: it was pretty lame.

The museum looked pretty sparse for the most part, exemplified by this first room.  I couldn’t help but think that it’s no wonder they didn’t check tickets in this area: it was pretty lame.


The exhibit comparing the weight of the artillery shell to the Volkswagen Beetle is still in place.

The exhibit comparing the weight of the artillery shell to the Volkswagen Beetle is still in place.


The most interesting thing in this part of the museum was an interactive exhibit where the goal was to help your boat find the fastest way across the display.  The water flowed from one end to the other, and it was up to us to set panels along the way in order to help guide the water to increase the flow speed to help the boat along.

The most interesting thing in this part of the museum was an interactive exhibit where the goal was to help your boat find the fastest way across the display.  The water flowed from one end to the other, and it was up to us to set panels along the way in order to help guide the water to increase the flow speed to help the boat along.

The most interesting thing in this part of the museum was an interactive exhibit where the goal was to help your boat find the fastest way across the display.  The water flowed from one end to the other, and it was up to us to set panels along the way in order to help guide the water to increase the flow speed to help the boat along.

The most interesting thing in this part of the museum was an interactive exhibit where the goal was to help your boat find the fastest way across the display.  The water flowed from one end to the other, and it was up to us to set panels along the way in order to help guide the water to increase the flow speed to help the boat along.


Eventually, we got bored of navigating the boats and left them high and dry, and just played with the water.  Here, we constructed a dam at the end just to watch it fill up and then release.

Eventually, we got bored of navigating the boats and left them high and dry, and just played with the water.  Here, we constructed a dam at the end just to watch it fill up and then release.

Eventually, we got bored of navigating the boats and left them high and dry, and just played with the water.  Here, we constructed a dam at the end just to watch it fill up and then release.

Eventually, we got bored of navigating the boats and left them high and dry, and just played with the water.  Here, we constructed a dam at the end just to watch it fill up and then release.


Finishing up in the museum, we headed over to the Wisconsin.  We started out by going through the forward parts of the main deck, we then went inside and toured the interior of the ship (which was not accessible to visitors in 2002), and then did the after part of the main deck.  We took lots of photos of the ship across several different decks.  When it comes to the interior of the ship, I could not tell you where anything was within the ship, because we were up, down, and around all over the place, and it was easy to get disoriented in that massive ship.  Considering how small many of these spaces were, I mostly photographed with the wide angle lens.  Therefore, “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.


Top deck on the Wisconsin.  Top deck on the Wisconsin.

Top deck on the Wisconsin.


Inside the ship, I was simultaneously surprised and not surprised to find a modern fire alarm system.  Inside the ship, I was simultaneously surprised and not surprised to find a modern fire alarm system.

Inside the ship, I was simultaneously surprised and not surprised to find a modern fire alarm system.  I get it: for all intents and purposes, the ship is now a building, and as such, should be outfitted in a way that befits a building.  But at the same time, I feel like it does detract from the authenticity of the experience just a little bit.

Inside the ship, I was simultaneously surprised and not surprised to find a modern fire alarm system.




Shower room.  Note that the toilet is disconnected and covered.  Working restrooms were provided elsewhere.  Shower room.  Note that the toilet is disconnected and covered.  Working restrooms were provided elsewhere.

Shower room.  Note that the toilet is disconnected and covered.  Working restrooms were provided elsewhere.


A shaft in the Wisconsin.  People drop money down the shaft as a way of contributing to the upkeep of the ship.

A shaft in the Wisconsin.  People drop money down the shaft as a way of contributing to the upkeep of the ship.


Stateroom for a mid-level officer.

Stateroom for a mid-level officer.



Elyse models a helmet.

Elyse models a helmet.


A very old bar of Irish Spring soap.

A very old bar of Irish Spring soap.


Weekly cleaning list.

Weekly cleaning list.


Elyse is all smiles while touring the ship.

Elyse is all smiles while touring the ship.


Metal urinal.

Metal urinal.



Wardroom on board the USS Wisconsin.

Wardroom on board the USS Wisconsin.






Crew bunk.

Crew bunk.

Crew bunk.



I loved these sorts of signs because they are authentic from the period that the ship was last in active service.  It's clear that they were created on an old print program and printed on a dot matrix printer in the early 1990s, and look every minute of it.  I loved these sorts of signs because they are authentic from the period that the ship was last in active service.  It's clear that they were created on an old print program and printed on a dot matrix printer in the early 1990s, and look every minute of it.

I loved these sorts of signs because they are authentic from the period that the ship was last in active service.  It’s clear that they were created on an old print program and printed on a dot matrix printer in the early 1990s, and look every minute of it.






 



Water fountain.

Water fountain.


I believe that this space was an actual snack bar, i.e. the items shown here were actually for sale to patrons, though it was not operating on this particular day.

I believe that this space was an actual snack bar, i.e. the items shown here were actually for sale to patrons, though it was not operating on this particular day.


Vintage soda machine.  Vintage soda machine.

Vintage soda machine.


Ship's library.

Ship’s library.


Laundry facility.

Laundry facility.

Laundry facility.


Evan sits on a bunk in the brig.

Evan sits on a bunk in the brig.


Toilet/sink combo unit in the brig.

Toilet/sink combo unit in the brig.


All in all, we had a good time on the ship, and I feel like I learned a little bit about what goes into making a battleship.  Obviously, this is just a mere glimpse into life on a battleship, and is by no means complete, but it was very interesting nonetheless.

Finishing up at Nauticus, I got some photos of the Wisconsin from a nearby dock, and then took the drone up for a quick flight in the immediate area.


The bow of the Wisconsin.  The bow of the Wisconsin.

The bow of the Wisconsin.


The USS Wisconsin as viewed from the air.

The USS Wisconsin as viewed from the air.

The USS Wisconsin as viewed from the air.


Truist sign on 150 West Main Street, across the street from Nauticus.

Truist sign on 150 West Main Street, across the street from Nauticus.


The Norfolk World Trade Center.

The Norfolk World Trade Center.


A quick selfie.  Elyse was waiting in the car.

A quick selfie.  Elyse was waiting in the car.


The view after landing.

The view after landing.


We then repositioned the car, parking in the MacArthur Center garage, and headed into the mall.  There, we were meeting up with our friend Mikey, who was originally from the DC area, and who now lives in Hampton Roads.  We had a little while before he would arrive, so we went to a nearby 7-Eleven to get some drinks while Elyse got something to eat in the food court.  The meetup with Mikey was a lot of fun, and we all hung out together until the mall closed.

From here, we returned to the hotel, and changed gears a little bit.  We dropped off the photography equipment and the drone in the room, and briefly parted company with Aaron and Evan.  They were heading back to their house, and we would be there as well after getting something to eat.  We got food at a Wawa near their house, and then came on over.  We spent about two hours at their house, seeing the place, sharing some photos from our day, and having dinner.  All in all, not a bad time.

After we said good night to Aaron and Evan, Elyse and I had one more mission to complete: a trip to Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Hampton.  This was a relatively small casino, and they had mostly video slot machines.  Elyse played a few bucks, and lost all of it.  Fair enough.  I just watched, since having tried casino gaming, I have never seen the fun of it.  It’s not that I haven’t tried to enjoy it, but I just can’t, sitting there and watching my money disappear at the hands of a random number generator.  Perhaps I should have never listened to that Stuff You Should Know podcast about how casinos work before going to a casino for the first time, because it really sucked any possible enjoyment out of it, having some knowledge about how it all works.

In any case, once we were done at Rosie’s, we headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

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Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

Part 5