Hanging above the doorway into the living area on Frying Pan Tower, the clock is stopped at 5:03. The first offer came a year after he bought it, when a multi-millionaire said he would double Neal's investment to take it off his hands. (CNN)A former Coast Guard light station off the coast of North Carolina is offering a unique view of Hurricane Dorian's power as the storm moves slowly northeast. Frying Pan Tower offers social distancing at its finest, where the only masks necessary are the ones used to protect from inhaling rust when working on a project. Visibility is 10 miles, if not more. Neal told CNN on Thursday that he wants people to see the hurricane's power. Once he made it, he began working on the smaller light tower’s electrical system, something that had been broken since Neal bought the tower. Before he left, he flipped the switch and lit it up. Pisgah in Pisgah National Forest. It is the tallest USFS lookout tower in Western North Carolina, and it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Still, he's already planning another trip next summer to give his daughters even more adventures from the other side of the camera. Here's a peek inside the cab. Looking south is Looking Glass Rock. Nearby: See more Quick Hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville and our mile-by-mile Parkway Guide. Walk around the gate and walk up the gravel road to the summit. The purpose for the ship and tower was to steer mariners around the shoals, which can get as shallow as a few feet even this far out. “He just didn’t get it,” Neal said. The tower was built in 1964 to help ships avoid the Frying Pan Shoals, a shallow area that was known for shipwrecks. Fifty-six years later, the tower is still a big, hulking thing, unmistakable from a helicopter or boat even six or seven miles out on a clear day. Enough to see the massive container ships far off in the distance. This somewhere isn’t just anywhere, though. The mountain received its name from neighboring Fryingpan Gap. You are free of all that.”. At any given moment, the loudest sound may be the whipping of the American flag waving atop a pole on the helipad, or the hum of the generator operating a lift to and from the water 80 feet below. But not all of the projects are as lofty and intensive. This fall, he’s welcoming a band out to the tower, who want to record an album on the helipad. The Blue Ridge Mountain views include a close-up view of famous Cold Mountain (peak is just five miles away). Volunteers like these wait months and sometimes years to get called up to duty on the tower. "It's just a labor of love, and you want to be a part of it. It’s just before noon and Richard Neal, 60, has dozed off on a patio chair on the helipad, catching up on the sleep he missed leaving his Charlotte home at 3 a.m. to catch a boat ride to the tower at 7:30 a.m. “You won’t find a better nap than up here,” he’ll later say. McCuin's trip this weekend is years in the making, and his 40th birthday gift from his family. One luxury volunteers will have to leave onshore, at least for the time being, is air conditioning, which the tower no longer offers. That didn’t sit well with Neal, who immediately questioned what about the families and friends who have fished around the tower their whole lives or the people who want to visit it for research purposes. “I was so proud of him and he was proud of himself,” Neal said. Looking for the best observation decks and towers to see the most dramatic panoramic mountain views near Asheville? The Coast Guard staffed the light station until 1979, when the beacon was automated. More major work is needed on replacing the cross pipes at the water level, battered by seawater and storms over the years; and the trusses bracing the legs of the tower, on which welders will need to go down and put in new steel. Then, in 5 or 6 years, he would sell it for a few million dollars.”. Whenever someone is at the tower, the deck house is left open to the elements, with all the steel containment doors propped open to help ventilate the facility. “It took a few years, but we recognized that we needed to shift away from any pretense of a B-and-B and go full speed into saving this tower,” said Neal, now propped up in another chair on the helipad, lighting a cigar with a propane canister. "You know, people all hear about the things going on with the ocean, but until you actually see it yourself, you don't know what it's like and only can imagine it," Neal said. Neal has spent up to six months at a time on the tower, but McCuin said he was ready to head home after a long weekend. It's a project that bigger than a single weekend, but McCuin and others manage to make a dent. “But we keep inching them all forward.”. At Frying Pan Tower, the to-do list never ends. “It’s been an education, I’ll say that,” Neal said, laughing as if the past decade of lessons is on repeat in his head. Yet, there the clock hangs, purposefully stopped just a few minutes past the hour for anyone in search of the excuse that it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.