10/3/03 Geneseo to Suffern NY
We were up and off at the crack of, oh, ten or so. Hey, we were told it was just a six hour drive. We put ourselves on I-390 and then NY-17 (soon to become I-86), which as fate would have it, goes all the way to Sloatsburg (JenM’s home base), Tuxedo (where the wedding was to be held), and Suffern (where we were to meet up with AJ and Karen who would be staying at the Holiday Inn there).
We stayed on the big roads, letting everyone pass us, until just before crossing the Delaware. At that point, Janie found a smaller road that followed the river. Part of the road was labeled as a scenic drive, and we were eager to see how scenic it might be. Just before we got off NY-17, we saw a bald eagle winging west. We took that as a good omen.
The road was rather nice, but, of course, there was too much traffic on it. Nonetheless, we had a nice ride, and the scenic part really was scenic. The road had been cut right out of the bedrock and was hanging high above the Delaware below. It would have been spectacular if the road had been a bit wider so I could actually look at the scenery.
After the scenic part, we descended into a tight network of small bedroom communities. It was around four on a Friday, so there was quite a bit of traffic. We eventually found our way back to NY-17, which has been channelized into a four-lane quasi-expressway with no center divider and buildings where there should be a broad shoulder. People were whizzing along like it was the Thruway.
A quick perusal of the map showed Campmor was only about fifteen miles from the Holiday Inn. AJ & Karen would not be getting in until after midnight, so we had the time. What the hell, may as well go to Campmor, eh?
Just past the Holiday Inn, NY-17 developed a median strip consisting of those three-foot-high concrete barriers. There were no breaks in the barriers, so, if you want to stop at a store, like Campmor, on the other side of the road, you had to exit, take an overpass, and get back on going the other way. We tried that, missed the exit to NY-17 North, and ended up having to turn around in a subdivision. Down here where everything is crammed into tight quarters, the signs for exits and such are located only a few tens of feet from the actual exit. That’s not the way it is out west in ND and NE where they tell you about an upcoming exit several miles in advance.
We had a real revelation as we were driving toward Campmor. About half way there, we crested a rise and straight ahead of us saw TA DA! the skyline of New York City . Far out! No, wait, I mean TOO CLOSE. We had no idea that we were that close to the city. It was a total surprise – and a little awe-inspiring. I imagined what it must have looked like on 9-11.
We eventually got turned abound and managed to get into the Campmor parking lot. Whew! It was just after five, so we planned to spend an hour or so in Campmor while the traffic died down. Campmor is much more informal than we had expected. It was also a bit smaller than we thought. We already knew that their catalog was extensive and covered everything on the web, and now we know that it also covers everything in the store. We browsed for a while, picked up some Velcro straps and a mesh laundry bag and checked out before it got too dark for my old eyes.
We found our way back to the Holiday Inn, being sure to follow the instructions about it being the SECOND light after the overpass – more about that later. I went inside to ask if we could park in their lot overnight. “We are meeting people staying here for the Mores-McKenney wedding. We have a small RV. Would it be okay if we parked in the parking lot for a couple nights?” The girl behind the desk just smiled at me and said, “We have lots of parking.” “Great, we’ll be over in the overflow parking area. Do you want our license plate number?” “No, that won’t be necessary.”
We parked in the back of the overflow area under a yellow birch, or maybe sugar birch, whatever, it was a birch, and we were all alone for both nights. The Spook Hill Rest Home bus/van was parked a row over, but we never saw it move or anyone go in or out of it. Must have been resting, or home, it was definitely spooky.
We got up and did our usual morning things. We had planned to have brunch with AJ & Karen before dressing for the wedding. Sure enough, AJ rang us up around ten, and we met them in the lobby. We had never met Karen, so this was a first. She is just wonderful and together, they make a great couple. AJ is still like a big lovable dog, and Karen complements him very well.
We asked the desk clerk about a place to eat, and she suggested a diner just down the road. Just down the road, in this case, means just across the I-87 interchange. We went in, sat down, and ordered while all the time trying to get caught up with AJ’s doings. We haven’t seen him for something like eight years, so there was a bit of catching up to do. We had two waitresses: a regular one with a trainee in tow. They had matching shoes. Even with two people writing down our orders, they brought wheat toast slathered with butter, when Karen had asked for dry. Ah, but that error was quickly corrected, and the rest of us used the excess butter as dip for our toast.
We left the diner with plenty of time to get back and dress for the wedding. However, while chattering away, AJ managed to turn one turn too soon. Remember, the diner was just on the other side of I-87 from the Holiday. Well, by taking the turn before, we ended up on the Interstate which quickly blended with another Interstate. When it was about to converge with a third Interstate, Karen said, “We are three Interstates removed; I’m beginning to lose track.” It seemed like forever before we got to an exit, and when we did, it was like the one Janie & I experienced the day before: a channelized road. We eventually got back on the first Interstate and made our way back to the Holiday, but only after a rather long detour through the surrounding country side.
As if that wasn’t hassle enough, poor AJ & Karen went back to their room to find it had been ripped apart by the maintenance people trying to fix their heat. They were sent to another room, which was already occupied by Don’s Aunt & Uncle! Oh, hello, uh, goodbye. The third room had the wrong beds in it, but by then, there wasn’t time to try yet another room.
We arranged with AJ & Karen to use their shower, and we dressed in their room afterward. Then it was down to the lobby to get on the bus JenM had arranged to take all of the out-of-town guests to the wedding. It was not just one, but two, school buses. The last time I rode in a school bus was the 50-man downhill bobsled event in, oh it must have been 1980 or so.
The whole event was spectacular – the quaint little chapel in the woods followed by the very nicely appointed Glenmere Inn where the reception was held. And the food … the food was marvelous. I could imagine Jen & Don going over the possible menu items with the representative from the Inn. You could have bla, bla, bla, … Oh, those sound good, let’s do them all. There were more menu items than I could possibly remember, let alone sample. And then there was the open bar … I’ll let the pictures to the talking.
Suffern NY to Hickory Run SP, PA
We had arranged to meet with AJ & Karen to say our goodbyes, but they were not answering their cell. We waited until a little after nine, called again, and left a message saying that we were anxious to get out before the traffic picked up, so we would have to wait to see them when they come for the spring picnic, and if not then, then when they come for next year’s homecoming. We certainly hope they come for both and any other reason they can conjure up. We greatly enjoyed renewing our relationship with AJ, and meeting Karen was a real treat. But don’t forget, kids, we are old, and if we wait another eight or ten years, I’ll be … ugh, w-a-a-a-y old.
We headed west at a leisurely pace toward Hickory Run SP. Apparently, it was a big fall weekend in the area because lots of people were out. They seemed to be heading to or coming from picking apples, buying pumpkins, and gathering cornstalks and such for Halloween. We had lunch on a nice little lake just over the NJ-PA border and arrived at Hickory Run around three. I set up the little TV and was astonished to discover that I got nearly perfect reception in the UHF range. I even got FOX. I later figured out that we were sitting on the side of a rise populated with relay antennas. At least one of them must have been an UHF station. Anyway, I watched the end of the Dolphins-Giants game and all of the Eagles-Redskins, and even a couple innings of the Cubs-Braves. However, I still don’t know if the Cubs won or lost.
We were pretty tired, and baseball tends to put me to sleep anyway, so we turned in around eight thirty. Although I really can’t complain about the Holiday Inn parking lot, this was a better site. We were bathed in nearly-full moonlight most of the night.
Hickory Run SP, PA
We got up at seven. It was below forty in the van. I say below forty because we turned the furnace on before we got out of bed. When we did get up, it was forty one. I looked at the mud puddles outside, but they didn’t appear to be frozen. Frozen or not, it was damned cold.
We had our morning beverages and headed down the road to the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail. We had done this trail a year ago in late August. It is a nice trail and it’s time to do it again. Rockport is just about in the middle of the trail, and that is where we parked. We did the north half first, returned to RVan for lunch, and then did the south part. All in all, it was 31.5 miles and a very pleasant, if cool, ride.
We were back at Hickory Run around four. I hadn’t called mom since we left, and we needed to tell Janie’s mom when to expect us. Of course, we can’t get a cell connection in a campground, so we headed up the road to the ridge where those relay towers are. Bingo – full strength signal. we called or respective moms, and then went back to the campground for a quick shower and some log-writing – and, shhhhhh, beer drinking, which isn’t allowed in PA state parks.
-10/9/03 Hickory Run SP, PA to Bowie MD & LaPlata MD
After leaving Hickory Run, we
headed to Bowie MD to see Janie’s mom. We negotiated the environs of
After finishing the wildlife loop, we headed down the road to Eastern Neck Island NWR. Although we were running out of time, we took a short nature trail that went around a typical coastal-marsh, wild-flower habitat. There were bunches of butterflies flitting among fall flowers. Hey, when there aren’t any birds, you do butterflies, right? It was quiet and peaceful, but US-50 loomed ahead, so we packed it in and headed for the Bay Bridge and the Bannigan-clannigan home.
As we negotiated the DC-burbs, we started thinking about where we had been. We had been close enough to see the NYC skyline dead ahead. We had driven through the outskirts of Philly, and now we were in the grip of the Washington DC megalith. We very rarely string together the yellow map-blotches like this. This has been a experience from which we have drawn some poetic inspiration. Now, I don’t want to offend any of you who live in metropolitan areas. Cities are necessary on many levels, and we have certainly enjoyed most of our interactions with them. It is just that, for the most part, we prefer a quieter, slower-paced existence.
Let me use Lawrence
Ferlinghetti’s well turned phrase to describe our feeling about large
metropolitan areas: a blather of asphalt and delay. We are old. We are
traveling in October for the first time. Someone told us that October
travelers are either “newly wed or nearly dead”. We are much closer to the
latter than the former. So here we go tooling down the city byways at the
posted speed limit when a slick little sports car zooms up behind us. Only
city people can afford fancy sports cars, and they have very few places to
enjoy the fruits of their labors. It is like the
Janie works very hard to find nice back roads around the big yellow splotches on the map. Inevitably, when she is successful, bucolic scenery displays itself as we round gentle bends in the road. Then there is the nearly ubiquitous DETOUR sign. As you might guess, the detour takes us right back to the road we had tried so hard to avoid, and there we are locked into the blather of asphalt and delay. That is the exact point in time when the phrase “fewer people, more plants” leaps into our heads. Within the last few months, the number of cars in the US has overtaken the number of people. Yep, there are now more cars than people. There are more dogs than people. There are too many people, so it follows that there are way too many cars … and dogs. There are also more horses now than there ever were, but I don’t know how they prove that. After all, there may have been billions of horses back in the Eocene. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure there have never been this many people and I’m very sure there has never been this many cars … and trucks. I love the signs that say Trucks Entering. You never see a sign that says Trucks Leaving. That is the exact reason there are so many trucks on the roads. They only enter – they never leave.
On the rare occasion when we do find a nice road, it usually turns out to be a bike route. We are bright enough to recognize that bike routes tend to be a less-traveled, more scenic web of back roads. Hey, someone has picked them expressly for those characteristics, and that is the kind of route we are looking for. The problem is that you never know where the bike route starts and ends. A few years ago, we followed US Bike Route 1 from somewhere in SC all the way to the outskirts of Richmond. We didn’t want to go to Richmond, but we just followed this nice bike route to see where it went. Where can you find descriptions of bike routes? We looked on the web for information about them and were hugely unsuccessful. Where does this information reside? If you know, please tell us.
I had a profound thought while driving in and around those yellow splotches on this trip. Well, I thought it was profound. You may have another opinion. You will recall my harangues about driving at the speed limit and having everyone else passing me, or wishing they could, as though I were as stationary as the yellow line they just crossed. On previous trips, I concluded that these people must certainly be illiterate; they just don’t know what Speed Limit 55 means. Well, at some now-forgotten point on this trip, I drew a radically different conclusion. No, these other drivers are not illiterate. In fact, they are very literate. They just live in a different reality. In their reality, Speed Limit 55 means the LOWER limit is 55. You approach this limit from ABOVE, not from below like the few of us that live in that increasingly alien world of yester-year when Speed Limit 55 meant 55 is an UPPER limit. To them, doing 80 on a posted 55 road is the correct thing to do. These are the same people that think a yellow light means speed up and a STOP sign means slow down, and if you do actually stop, take the opportunity to empty your ash tray.
LaPlata MD to Shad Landing SP, MD
Today, we found ourselves back on the Bay Bridge returning to the DelMarVa. Our next destination is Corolla NC, which is just south of Norfolk, on the northern-most barrier island in NC. How would you get from the DC area to coastal Carolina? You could take I-95 to I-64 and be there in a few hours. You could take US-301 to US-17 and be there in a few hours more. OR … you could go back across the Bay Bridge (officially known as the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, but nobody seems to call it that) and s-l-o-w-l-y wend your way down the DelMarVa to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge … and Tunnel (CBBT to those who are in the know). We opted for the latter, although it will take us at least a day and a half. Hey, we’re retired (retarded), so time is not that big of an issue, eh?
Ah, but Blackwater NWR is right on the way – and that is exactly where we arrived around twelve thirty. Pic There is an 8.7 mile nature road, which we biked in three and a half hours. You can do the math if you like, but I’ll tell you that is SLOW. It was marvelous to be out in the air and immersed in wildlife of the non-human type. Blackwater is known for its eagles, and it didn’t disappoint. Next to AK, this is the largest concentration of eagles we’ve ever seen. The brochure says there are as many as 200 during migration, and a year-round population of seventy-five. We saw about ten of them on this day. We also saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Cormorants, Canada Geese, Snowy Geese (both white and blue varieties), a bunch of Confusing Fall Warblers, Black Vultures, turtles, and almost no mosquitoes. Pic This was good therapy for two old farts who have spent too much time in yellow blotches and not enough time in green blotches.
An aside: many Octobers ago, while back-roading on our way to Allegheny NF (or Alleghany SP NY – yes, the two states spell it differently), we happened upon a collection of houses, the owners of which had christened as Pumpkinville. They had put up elaborate Halloween decorations, and one house even had some attractions. We stopped in and found a mock graveyard resplendent with old (cardboard) grave markers. One of them had the following epitaph: Peas and beans, oats and barley, under the sod lies our son Charlie – I told you he was sick.
Ah, but this is another October, and today as we were driving from Blackwater to Shad Landing we saw a much more natural death scene. You’ve all seen those Jacques Cousteau-like underwater images fish masses all moving in unison as if to some unheard orchestration. Today, as we were motoring along, we saw a large swarm of several hundred dark birds (starlings, redwings, swallows?) suddenly swirl upward in unison, and then, just as quickly, swirl back, all the while climbing upward and forming a curly-cue like on the top of a Dairy Queen cone. Suddenly, the swirling mass split in half with about equal numbers of birds above and below, and then they reformed into one large swarm again. As soon as they split, I knew what must have happened. Sure enough, right where the mass had parted, we could make out a larger, faster bird that had flushed two potential targets from the mass. It was a sharp-shinned hawk hunting its supper. The hawk picked its prey, ignoring the second, much luckier bird, and closed in. The prey, sensing the superior speed of the predator, began evasive action, but, as I’ve seen before, the hawk timed the swerves and zigged just as the little bird zagged – it ended in an explosion of feathers. That evening, we had spaghetti washed down with a little Chateau Cartone – pretty much the same color, but way different texture than the hawk’s meal.
Shad Landing SP, MD to Corolla
Janie had showered the night before; I waited until morning. Then we were off, heading south toward Norfolk, or more correctly, Virginia Beach. Janie put us on small roads as much as was practicable, but eventually, we had to get on US-13. Ah, but then we discovered an itty-bitty road, VA-600, that parallels US-13 and only carries local traffic, which made it terrific. It was on this side road that we saw the most hurricane damage yet. Until then, we had only seen things like corn stalks aligned in the direction of wind flow – generally NW. Now we were seeing downed trees with the same general orientation. Because hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, the pattern suggests the center of the storm passed to the west of these locations.
Okay, all you smart people out there, we all agree that hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, right? From that, we can conclude that they rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere, right? Sooooo, what happens to a southern hemisphere storm that crosses the equator into the northern hemisphere? Does it start rotating in the other direction? Seems kinda unlikely, right? Hey, TimO, you flew the Hurricane Hunter planes. Give us the skinny.
Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR is located at the southern end of the Delmarva, just about a mile from the tool booths for the CBBT. We stopped at the NWR visitor center and then took a little trail overlooking the Atlantic side. The place was overrun with migrating birds. The swallows were most obvious, but there were plenty of confusing fall warblers (CFWs) in the trees rimming the bay. And there were hawks of nearly all types. We had been seeing Kestrels all along VA-600, and now we were looking for Merlins. We think we might have seen one, but it was just too fast to be sure. This is a place that deserves more attention, but it was getting late, and Alice & Hugh were expecting us (yesterday!), so we ate a little lunch while birding out the skylight, paid our $10 toll, and headed across the CBBT. We hadn’t gone but a few hundred yards when we scared a hawk of some type off the guard rail. A bit later, I saw an exhausted swallow just sitting on the edge of the road, totally oblivious to the traffic rushing past. It was just too tired to move, and certainly it must now be compressed into the two-dimensional world of road-kill.
We popped out into Virginia Beach and took a smallish road along the shore. Of course, we couldn’t see the actual ocean for all the hotels, apartments, and other buildings, but we knew it was there nearby. Just south of the build-up area, we passed the entrance to Back Bay NWR, which is the northern extension of the barrier island Alice & Hugh’s beach house is on. However, there are no official roads that go south down the barrier island, so we had to drive about forty miles down the mainland side, take a bridge over to the island, and go twenty miles north to get to their house. We arrived a little after four and found Hughie and Caitlin waiting for us on the porch. Pic They were just getting ready to leave for an oyster feed sponsored by their soon-to-be-former realtor. We greeted each other, quickly climbed into Hughie’s Durango, and headed out.
I need to tell you about some of the signs we saw while heading out to the Outer Banks (OBX). The first “interesting” billboard we saw showed two heavily breaded pieces of chicken. They had so much breading it was difficult to tell exactly which part of the chicken they came from. However, they must have been thighs because the very large words printed over them said, “Why Would Anyone Want Thinner Thighs?” As we crossed over to the OBX, we were greeted by several billboards featuring a pirate-looking beach-bum with a burgeoning pot belly. He was looking out to the public with a devilish grin and proclaiming, “I Got My Crabs At Dirty Dick’s.” Shortly after that we started seeing signs for a shop specializing in nuts that issued the challenge, “Try My Nuts”. They even gave their phone number: 1-877-YUM-NUTS. Then there was the sign for Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet … or was it Buffett? Clever people, these OBXers.
Like most of the houses in the area, Alice & Hughie’s house, when not in use by the owner, is available to anyone willing to pay the rental fee. It is run like a free-standing hotel room with the realty company providing the services (clients, linen, clean up, maintenance, and such). Of course, the rental company gets its cut, but Alice & Hugh can make a little too, if they have enough renters. They weren’t getting enough clients and that is why they are in the process of changing realtors. However, that didn’t stop us from partaking of the free oysters and beer ;-)
Most of the houses have a theme name. You know, things like Sea View or Pure Pleasure. The same is true of Alice & Hugh’s. Theirs is Grand Central Station. No kidding, that is the real name of the house. It is most fitting when you consider Alice & Hugh have four kids who often bring their friends, and Alice is from a family of eleven, and Hugh is from a family of seven, many of whom come to freeload, er, visit, like we are. Oh, I should tell you, there are seven or eight bedrooms and nearly as many baths. Maybe that’s why it’s called Grand Central Station.
We learned that Hughie is an oyster-shucking fiend. I tried to keep us in beer while he provided oysters for anyone who wanted them. That included me, for a while. After a bit, I felt my allergy, or whatever it is, kick in, so I switched to saltines dipped in cocktail sauce … and beer.
Back at the house, we switched between football, baseball, and wrestling – it was the Don Zimmer/Pedro Martinez WWF smack-down. We also managed to sit through the Buckeye’s abysmal showing against WI. The only thing more discouraging was the Bills loss to NYJ the next day. Around twelve thirty, we headed for RVan and were fast asleep almost immediately. Holy crap, we stayed up until twelve thirty! Are we back in Alaska?
Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Unbeknownst to us, Alice & Hugh had to leave Sunday … something to do with w-w-w-ork, so we were to have the beach house to ourselves that night. But first, Hughie took us on a great adventure.
The paved road ends a couple miles north of their house. However, you can drive on the beach for another six miles. That’s what we did. Hughie took us all the way to the pilings that prevent you from going all the way to VA and the Back Bay NWR. It was as amazing as it was beautiful. There are dozens of beach houses even though there is no official road. Everyone has to have a 4x4 to get in and out, and those that live further away really need to plan their grocery shopping … and doctor’s visits.
By the time we got back, it was time to go to the wine and cheese soiree sponsored by Alice & Hugh’s new realtor. I was kinda tired, so I opted to stay and watch the Redskins game with Kevin and his friend, Dave, whom I christened Jody because he just seemed to be much more of a Jody than a Dave. Shortly after returning from the wine & cheese thing, the Breslins (and the tag-along friends) loaded up and headed for Hagerstown. Hughie says it takes them five hours to get there; it would take us the better part of a week.
We considered going out for dinner, but decided to eat RVan food prepared in the house. Having finished off a bottle of wine and having a football game to watch sorta helped in the decision-making process. We also wanted to watch the sun set over Currituck Sound (technically now a lagoon), which we did, and it was pretty awesome watching that deep red, seething mass of plasma being slowly consumed by the back bay. We drank more of the wine A&H left for us and retired to RVan around ten.
NC to Riverside Campground, Belhaven NC
The next morning, we had nothing to do and all morning to do it. We decided to walk to the wildlife preserve we had seen up where the paved road ends. For whatever reason, we thought it was only a couple of blocks. It turned out to be a couple of miles. We eventually decided it was too far, so we stopped at the Currituck Lighthouse and took the boardwalk out into the sound/lagoon. Pic We saw a bunch of CFWs and got a good view of a Carolina Wren, which we’d been hearing but not seeing.
We wandered over to the Whalehead Club, a very large home built in the 1920s by some wealthy guy for his wife’s hunting “cottage”. It seems women weren’t allowed into the male hunting clubs, so this guy built one just for her. It has thirty-six rooms and ten bathrooms. Apparently, cleanliness is necessary for huntresses. Pic
While walking back from the Whalehead Club, we were treated to a Merlin swooping in and around a bunch of grackles. Although it chased a few of them, we never saw it make a successful strike, which would suggest that it was an immature – being immature and successful almost never happen together.
Back at the house, we mixed our granola with some of the milk A&H left, showered, and packed up to leave. It was almost eleven before RVan rolled out of Grand Central Station. We wanted to satisfy our morbid curiosity about the hurricane damage, so we decided to go on south along the barrier islands beyond Kitty Hawk, where the eye came ashore. We had seen some evidence of damage around Corolla – mostly washed out piers and shingles littering the highway – but very little in the way of what you would call devastation. A&H’s house is surrounded by tall, skinny pines that look very susceptible to high winds. They did have a few blow down, but none of them caused any damage to the house. They were lucky.
Just south of Kitty Hawk, we took a side street over to the beach drive. There was obvious damage to be seen here. The first thing we noticed was the piles of sand on either side of the street. They were at least five feet high. In some places, there was still an inch or two of sand on the road. It was like we experience after a heavy snow – only this was sand. The sand was moved from the beach, a few tens of yards away, by the storm surge. That means all the buildings in the area were swamped with water … and sand. Where there weren’t piles of sand, there were piles of discarded building materials and home contents lining the streets. It was a little depressing. Still, most of the homes and buildings seemed structurally sound, just the contents were ruined … in most cases. There were a few, maybe ten percent that showed significant external damage.
Of course, there aren’t many trees in the beach area. The tree damage was concentrated inland. After we had seen enough, we drove back to the Manteo exit and left the outer banks, or OBX, as they call them here. Our destination was Pocosin Lakes NWR visitor center. They have a new, 1.5 million dollar facility and a mile long boardwalk into the adjoining Cyprus swamps. However, the boardwalk was closed due to hurricane damage, so we ate lunch and headed on toward Pettigrew SP, where we had hoped to secure a campsite for the night.
Before we got very far down the road, I noticed two large black objects in the grass along our side of the road. One was a crumpled piece of bumper molding and the other was … a roadkill bear. How many times do you see bear roadkill? This is the first for me. It had been there for a while, so it was a bit bloated with the right-side legs sticking up, sorta like a big bear balloon.
The road to Pettigrew is lined with big ol’ Cyprus trees. Better said, the road to Pettigrew is lined with the remains of big ol’ Cyprus trees. Most of them were still standing, but all of them had lost massive amounts of biomass, which was bulldozed into not-so-neat piles at their bases. The closer we got, the more we suspected that Pettigrew was no longer operating as a state park. Sure enough, the ranger dude told us that the campground (and bike trail) had been heavily damaged – more like destroyed. He suggested that we go to a private campground, which is where we are currently parked.
Tomorrow we are going to Mattamuskeet NWR, where we hope to find less damage and the possibility of biking in the refuge. We also plan to call the Carolina Girls (Irene, Amanda, and Lisa) to see about a rendezvous at a Carolina-Q place of their choosing. So far we haven’t been able to get a cell signal in this, the least densely populated part of NC (according to the ranger at Pettigrew). While heading for the private campground the ranger had suggested, we passed a side road with a most interesting name: Pity My Shoe Road (off NC-94 South of Columbia, NC). There has been a lot more to pity than my shoe around here recently.
Riverside Campground, Belhaven NC to Wal*Mart, Greenville NC
We called Irene and left a message that we would call again when we were closer to Greenville, where she attends East Carolina University. When we got to Williamston, we found Shaw’s BBQ that the nice lady at the NC Information place had suggested. When we found it, I called Irene again while Janie went in to check out the offerings. Irene had left a message saying that she would be home around five, so we went ahead and got some Q, slaw, and corn sticks to go and headed on down the road toward the nearest campground. We stopped and called Irene again to tell her where we were headed, and she answered. We eventually decided to go to the Wal-Mart that is not too far from her apartment. The 24-hour Wal-Marts allow overnight parking, so that is what we planned to do.
Irene came to visit us in the parking lot, we had a beer, and then we all got in her car and headed to her apartment to wait for Amanda and Lisa who were driving down from UNC and Duke. I tell you, it makes us feel real special when hard-working grad students will drive well over an hour to meet up with a couple old farts like us. That Geneseo bond is truly something special. We had time for a beer at Irene’s while kibitzing with three of her department-mates who had just returned from a field trip to Key West. Amanda and Lisa arrived just as the returnees were leaving. We hugged, jumped up and down, squealed, and hugged some more. Four of the principals from Amanda’s wedding, and the bride herself, were reunited. Now we can find out how Irene lost her dress and Erica lost her orange bra (the one that matches Frank’s thong?). We also learned a bit about the bachelorette party that proceeded the wedding – something about Amanda, a whip, and a strange man’s bare butt ??
It turns out the Carolina-Q place Irene had planned to take us was closed on Tuesday, so we all piled into Irene’s car and headed to Main Street Beer Company for some $1.49 pints and some bar food … followed by fried cheesecake with whipped cream and cherries on top. We got caught up on most of the news: Lisa doesn’t normally dress like this; Lisa wears skimpy clothes while cleaning her car; Lisa seems to attract lesbians for some reason; Lisa occasionally gets in bar fights; and Lisa is a published photographer whose mother is in a quilting club with Rachel Dunn's mother. For those of you who are not up on your People magazine reading, Rachel Dunn is dating Matthew Perry. But it wasn’t all about Lisa – don’t forget the lost dress and bra and the whipping thing ;-)
Although there were only about twenty people in the bar, we managed to lose every drawing for free tee-shirts and beer mugs. What we didn’t lose was the good times had at Geneseo, and we didn’t lose track of the people who weren’t there. Hey, you know the rules. If you're not there, you get talked about, right?
Around twelve, we pleaded old
age and had Irene take us back to RVan. Just as we turned into the Wal-Mart
parking lot, the wind picked up and it began to rain horizontally. We bid each
other a fond farewell before quickly jumping from the car to RVan. The parting
was truly sweet sorrow because I managed to leave my Geneseo Geology hat in
Irene’s car. Ah, she can bring it up the next time she comes to visit.
Wal*Mart, Greenville NC – Lake Powhatan NFS, Pisgah NF NC
I need to apologize to those of you that we missed seeing. This has been an unusual trip in that we have visited so many people: JenM, JenO, AJ, Karen, Janie’s mom, Janie’s sisters Mary & Alice, and alumni Irene, Amanda, and Lisa. Our last visit destination was Don Geddes in Winston-Salem. However, we both woke up this morning with sore throats and feeling kinda puny. Also, we were running behind our admittedly sketchy schedule because we spent an extra day in the OBX. So, Don, we are very sorry that we blew you off, but you are not alone because we blew off the whole middle of NC. We hope you aren’t upset. We really wanted to see you, and we promise it will happen next time we’re in NC. This is especially disappointing because we had just been to Sloatsburg, Don’s home town. Whatever, accept our apologies and keep a couple beers cold because you're at the top of the priority list the next time we set foot in NC. Oh, I expect you figured out that this time you got bumped by three beautiful young babes ;-)
We got up at seven after a surprisingly peaceful night and were on the road by eight. We decided to blow across the state and get on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) as quickly as possible. We had hoped to knit together a series of back roads and wend our way across the state while absorbing as much local color – and Carolina-Q – as possible. However, we remember trying to do that before and always ending up in the middle of some city at rush hour. We decided to blast our way across the state and save what little time we have remaining for cruising the BRP. Thus, tonight we find ourselves happily ensconced in a quiet campsite in the Pisgah NF, just a hoot ‘n’ a holler away from the BRP. Tomorrow we will start heading north.
Lake Powhatan NFS, Pisgah NF NC to Doughton Park BRP NC
We were up at seven, both feeling a bit under the influence of head colds. Although this campsite is quite pleasant, it is enclosed by trees, so we decided to go to the BRP and do our morning ritual at a pullout with a view. A bit down the road, we found ourselves at the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. Pic There was absolutely no one else there. Eventually, a ranger clanked up in a pickup towing an empty dumpster. He exchanged it with a used one and drove off. A few minutes after that, two large school buses, otherwise known as Activity Buses, arrived. Both were full of tweens, who immediately jumped out and headed for the restrooms. Must have been a long ride, eh?
We took the arrival of the buses as a sign to leave, so we headed down the main road to the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. We’ve been here several times and this is only the second time we’ve been able to see anything because the area is usually shrouded in fog. Not today. Today we had horizon to horizon sunshine and clear, brisk air – “Blue Canadian Skies, Doug”. We marveled at the surrounding scenery while eating our granola. Pic Slowly the parking area began to fill with other tourists – many from FL. Hmmm, we didn’t expect so many to be on the BRP in October. Ah, leafpeepers, that’s what they are. They were no newlyweds to be seen; all of them were nearly deads and quite a few should have been already dead. We had managed to miss them in New England, but we found them here in the mountains of NC – bunches of them, great big RVs of them, even bigger bus loads of them. I took advantage of the high ridge location to call mom. Pic Pic
We formulated our plan. We will putz along, stopping at whatever interests us and camp near the Galax VA exit. Pic Tomorrow we will go into Galax and see about doing the New River Rail Trail we looked at two years ago but didn’t do. Yep, that’s what we’ll do, assuming we are healthy enough. Right now neither of us has enough energy to sneeze. Oops, yes we do. Honey, where’s that rag we use to clean the screen?
We managed about 150 miles in ten hours, which, if my math skills aren’t too eroded, works out to about fifteen miles an hour, on average. Obviously we did a lot of stopping. We stopped at the Orchard, Cone Mansion, NW Trading Post, and finally, Doughton Park. We were looking for a footstool like the one mom got when we brought her down the parkway – and the one I got a couple trips after that. Alas, they no longer seem to stock such practical items, so we bought some fudge and apple butter to salve our feelings of loss. I was also looking for a replacement hat, but damned if I’ll pay $16 for a hat with one of those curved brims that makes you feel like you are looking at the world through a keyhole. Nope, I want one with a straight brim that shades my eyes but still lets me see the beautiful scenery. Why didn’t I buy a dozen of those Denial National Park hats? I could have bought three of them for what one of these danged things costs. Goddamnit, Billy.
Doughton Park BRP NC to Rocky Knob BRP VA
Today was a biking day. We puttered around at the campsite until nine and then motored down the BRP to Fancy Gap where we exited, got on a big ol’ Interstate (I-77), and headed to Foster Falls in New River Trail SP, which is pretty much in the middle of the New River Rail Trail. Soooo, we spent most of the day … Riding On That New River Trail. For the bluegrass impaired, that would be a takeoff on Riding On That New River Train. Speaking of bluegrass, we stopped at the Blue Ridge Music Center, but it was closed, with a big ol’ barricade and everything. However, we read that, when they are open, you can see live performances by old time bluegrass musicians. If you want to know who is playing, just check the schedule on the web. Apparently, all the new old timey bluegrass people have Internet access. Pic
While riding the New River Trail, we learned that rather than being an actual new river, the New River is very old, maybe even older than the Appalachians. We also read on the signpost that it is one of the few rivers that flow south to north. That got me to thinking. I’ve always thought people assume rivers flow south because the US map is dominated by the southward-flowing Mississippi. However, it may be the result of northern hemisphere dominance. The most recent glacial epochs occurred in the northern hemisphere, and the advancing ice sheets may very well have reversed the flow of several streams – not all, certainly, but many. Since we are descendants and residents of the northern hemisphere, we are used to a disproportionate number of south-flowing streams – remembering full well that the Genesee flows NORTH.
It was a pleasant bike ride although Janie nearly filled her handlebar basket with used tissues. She has a stuffy head cold and associated drippy nose. I’m congested, but not nearly so much; perhaps because I take a daily allergy pill with decongestant. We were treated to a soaring osprey, a couple towhees, chortling bluebirds, and a bunch of CFWs. It was a pleasant 22.5 mile ride that took us the better part of four hours to complete. Appropriately, it started sprinkling just after we racked and covered the bikes, and it is raining as I type this.
After the ride, we stopped at a Pure Oil gas station to fuel up. I thought Pure went out of business years ago. Apparently, not down here in the south. At $1.37, it was the cheapest gas we have procured, although we have seen gas as low as $1.33 – all in VA. VA must have much lower gas taxes or something. After fueling, we beat feet back to the BRP and headed to Mabry Mill to get some cornmeal, buckwheat, and grits. When we went to pay for our ground goods, we found our way blocked by a couple of very heavy customers. The Mabry Mill shop/restaurant was designed for much smaller people. Janie whispered in my ear, “The nearly dead and over fed.” So now we are traveling with Newly Weds, Nearly Deads, Ought To Be Deads, and Over Feds. We are in good company.
When we pulled into Rocky Knob, we were shocked to see not one but two Roadtreks. That makes something like seven or eight we’ve seen on this trip. We picked out a campsite, and while Janie was registering us, I did a hurry-up pit stop – dumped our holding tanks and took on a splash of fresh mountain water. We don’t drink the water in the tank, we carry bags of our RO water and when that runs out, we buy bottled water. However, I expect the Rocky Knob water is as good as or better than bottled, eh?
Last evening I had one of those mini-revelations. It has to do with touch and feel. I had put my hand on something with readily discernable texture. When I touched it, I could definitely feel the texture. However, after leaving my hand stationary for a minute or so, I noticed the sensation had abated. After a while, I couldn’t tell if I were touching a textured or smooth object. That struck me as odd. Apparently, like smell and taste, the sense of feel is not long lasting. Once you smell or taste something distinctive, your system seems to get saturated and you become less sensitive to the sensation. The same seems to happen with feel. Try it. Put your hand on something with a distinctive texture, leave it there for a while, and see if you can still feel the texture. Move it a bit, and you can sense the feel of it, but leaving it stationary seems to negate the feel. The sensation of feel is pressure sensitive. If you don’t change the pressure, the feeling is null. The whole thing makes sense, but it is odd that I’ve never noticed it before.
Rocky Knob BRP VA to Otter Creek BRP VA
We both had less than perfect nights. I went right to sleep around nine and woke up fully refreshed at 11:30. Janie had a lot of difficulty with drainage. Apparently, riding on that New River Trail is not the best remedy for a head cold. Whatever, we were up and out of the campsite by eight thirty. We stopped at the Smart View overlook. Like the park guide says, “go to the Trail Cabin built in the 1890s and you’ll see ‘a right smart view’, especially in early May when the dogwoods bloom.” Well, it wasn’t May, but it was a dang purty view nonetheless. We had our second cup of morning beverage enjoying the “scerenery”. Pic Pic
We chose the Great Valley overlook for our breakfast, and then we headed on down the road to Peaks of Otter where I bought a replacement hat. I didn’t like the logo at all. It looks more like a bear than an otter. I guess the people in Bangladesh, where the hat was made, don’t know the difference … or care, for that matter. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center is just ten miles from the end of the BRP. We stopped and Janie bought a BRP logo patch to sew over the silly bear-otter thing. Ain’t she good to me?
After exiting the BRP, we headed to Waynesboro for provisions … especially tissues for Janie. Waynesboro isn’t any megalopolis, but it is still a shock to the system to suddenly be driving where people are anxious to get from point A to point B and to be visually assaulted by all the billboards and store logos yelling at you. The BRP is pristine compared to “normal” roads. There are no commercial vehicles allowed, no billboards, and almost no litter. People driving on the BRP are there for the scenery, for the most part, and most of them are perfectly content putzing along at a mind-boggling 45 mph … or less. I really, really think there should be more national roads that ban commercial enterprises, including trucks. Let the trucks have the Interstates; they have effectively replaced the railroads anyway. Just let the rest of us have some interconnected roads that are commercial free. All of those franchise restaurants and stores homogenize the travel experience so much that you may as well stay home and watch the Travel channel or videos. I only know of one other national highway free of commercial enterprises: the Natchez Trace. If any of you know of others, p-l-e-a-s-e tell us.
Our original plan was continue on and drive the hundred miles of Shenandoah NP. However, once we finished in Waynesboro and turned into Shenandoah, we discovered a line of about twenty vehicles at the entrance gate. I’ve never had to wait in line to get into a national park. It was after four, which made it doubly perplexing. Janie used her binos to read the notice posted at the entrance: All Campgrounds Full. Damn. The road is extremely narrow and there is absolutely no way for even a small car to turn around before getting to the gate, so we had to wait in line just for the privilege of blocking the road while we turned around to go we didn’t know where.
We had noticed a tourist information booth as we left the BRP, so we stopped there to see if the BRP camping areas were also full. It is a Saturday, and we have learned to expect FULL signs at campgrounds. The very jolly but otherwise useless lady at the information desk didn’t know about camping availability but told us we could camp anywhere along the BRP. Yeah, right!
The nearest BRP campground was Otter Creek, some sixty miles back down the road. We decided to go back to the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center to see if they could tell us if there were any sites available at Otter Creek. Humpback is at mile post ten, so that wasn’t much of an investment in time. The ranger dude said he was sure there would be campsites available, but he would be happy to call if I’d like. Sure, call. Yep, campsites still available. While we drove the remaining fifty miles, Janie searched for backups. She found a municipal campground in Buena Vista and an RV friendly Wal-Mart parking lot. Okay, we have backups.
When we arrived at Otter Creek, we found ten or so possible sites and maybe more in the tenting area. No problem, we picked one at the end of the loop to minimize our exposure to weekenders and here we sit, Janie writing her log and me typing this. Tomorrow we will leave the BRP and go check out the Buena Vista municipal site for future reference and because it appears to be on a bike trail. From there, we will be back-roading as best we can with the next destination being either Ohiopyle or Pine Creek where we know there are good bike trails. We should be home in a couple days.
Otter Creek BRP VA to Ohio Pyle SP PA
We were up and out of the campsite fairly early. There was a misty patchy fog that pretty much summed up our feelings about leaving the BRP. We stopped at the Buena Vista overlook for our morning beverages. We were planning to depart the BRP at the Buena Vista exit, so this was literally the last possible stop on the BRP for us. Pic
We cruised through Buena Vista before the town had fully awakened. We were looking for the municipal campsite that adjoins the nature trail, which is a rail trail but doesn’t allow bikes – bummer. The campground was nice, as was the whole town. We had spent a similar morning at the Buena Vista overlook years ago. At that time, we decided to drop down into the valley for a country breakfast. No breakfast this morning, just some easy touring though the village.
We had a decision to make. Should we get on I-81 and get somewhere fast or try to find some nice back-roads with the idea that getting there is most of the fun? We opted for the latter. Surprised? Didn’t think so ;-) Janie found a fairly continuous back-road, VA-32, that proved to be very nice. When that ran out, we settled for US-219, which is a scenic byway in this stretch and much better than you might expect for a US highway.
Marlinton WV is located at the junction of WV-32 and US-219 and on the Greenbrier Trail. We stopped at the old depot, which has been converted into a trailhead and tourist information center. The Greenbrier looks like a very nice trail, and it was a nice day, but the way we felt was not nice. Janie got a bunch of info, and I’m sure we will return to do the “brier” someday.
We eventually found ourselves in Ohiopyle, which borders the Youghiogheny Trail. Can you believe Word doesn’t know how to spell Youghiogheny? Me neither. Anyway, we’ve done this trail a couple times, and it is one of our favorites. Our plan was to SHOWER – first time in three days – get some rest and get up early to do the trail. That was the plan, the reality is …
Ohio Pyle SP PA to Naweedna
Yep, we did shower, and we did get a good night’s rest. However, Janie’s head cold is still bothering her, so we decided to just pack it in and head home. There will be other times under better conditions – we hope.
We took a previously blazed route used on our return from Ohiopyle last year. It was a fairly easy 300 mile drive with stops at Ligonier, which we believe the locals pronounce “Ligon (like pigeon)-ear”. Then to Dilltown and the Ghost Town trailhead, which has a nice pavilion suitable for breakfasting (this trip) and lunching (previous trip). We spoke to an Indiana County parks supervisor who was there instructing the worker-guy cleaning the restrooms. He disgorged volumes of information about recreational activities in the county. We learned that the Lower Trail (rhymes with flower) is his favorite, so there is another trail for us to check out next year. He asked us about the trail system in NY. We looked at each other and said, “It’s getting better.” We know of no trails in NY that compare to any of those we’ve seen in PA and WV.
Around two, we found ourselves on PA-2001 otherwise known as Wykoff Run Road. This is where we once saw a young bobcat walking along the road. It is pretty wild country and very scenic. We stopped at a pull out beside a small falls on Wykoff Run for our lunch. I love the woods in fall and today, with marvelous weather, it was better than ever. We just wanted to pull off the road and stay for a while, but it was time to go home, and that is exactly what we did.