Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New England, Part 3: Southbound

Sunday October 14
Woke up in Massachusetts.  We had breakfast in the trailer and then grabbed a geocache.  Back in the car, we started playing a little game particularly fun in New England:  Can you learn to spell that state name before we get all the way across it?

Who can ever get the whole word "Massachusetts" on a postcard anyway?  Hmmm.  What's the abbreviation?  There's so many states that start with M!  There's Maine, that's ME.  There's Mississippi, that's MS.  There's Missouri, that's MO.  There's Montana, that's MT.  Minnesota is MN.  Michigan, MI.  Maryland, MD. Good grief!  That leaves MA for Massachusetts.

Is this spelling game too easy?  (Not for me.  I'm a terrible speller.)
What's the capitol then?  How about the state nickname?

Finally, an easy one.  Except for the capital.  The capital of New York is not New York.

Almost stopped in Hershey for the night but decided to keep driving.

Spelling is easy... but the capital is not Baltimore.

It's the mountain state. 

Finally, a place (for lovers) to rest our heads.

At the end of the day we had found geocaches in seven states! (Another game only possible in New England.)

Monday October 15
There are some things you just have to do. 
Even in the rain.
There are no words for this place, only pictures:

This photo says the most:

Rain in the valley means fog on the mountain at the visitor's center in Shenandoah National Park:

Twenty minutes later the view was clear.  We ate lunch at a turnout down the road.  I opened my kitchen curtains to a beautiful view as I made sandwiches; regrettably I didn't take a picture.

In the afternoon we hiked the Stony Man Summit Trail.  By that time, it was hard to tell that the day started out so rainy.

We barely made it to the Byrd Visitor's Center across before they closed for the day.  Not long after our arrival it started pouring outside.  Suddenly, the rain was louder.  We saw hail out the window! Oh well!  Getting a "souvenir" in Shenandoah is better than getting one while sitting in the driveway at home!  Brian was in the trailer working.  The kids and I watched a CCC video and browsed the exhibits while we waited for the rain to stop.

Exhibits at the Byrd Center not only gave us a greater appreciation for the CCC, FDR, and the work in Shenandoah but also brought our attentions to injustices to local people in the procuring of these lands.  While eminent domain is always controversial, it is even more painful when facts are contrived to secure land.  The displacement of Shenandoah's mountain settlers was not unlike that of the American Indians.  Not to the same degree, but many of the time-tested techniques were used to convince others that the mountain settlers weren't civilized enough.  A study was performed.  The conclusions?  The locals were simple, uneducated people cut off from "civilization."  They were relocated with little compensation for their homes or the livelihoods they left behind.  Until visiting the Byrd Center, I had no idea the cost of obtaining Shenandoah as a National Park.

As for hail damage, there wasn't any.  Brian said he didn't even think it hailed.  It's pretty weird to think it might have hailed on the building but not in the parking lot.  Who knows.  I'm sure glad we didn't have any hail damage.

Loft Mountain Campground was our home for the evening, the southernmost campground in Shenandoah.  Just a few feet off of the Appalachian Trail on a mountain ridge, it was cold and windier than any place we've stayed in the trailer.  The sunset there was amazing.

Tuesday October 16th
Early in the day we finished Shenandoah's 105 miles Skyline drive and headed straight (that doesn't seem like the appropriate word) curvy onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.


At the James River visitor Center we met a man with an ant car.

We landed at Roanoke Mountain Campground for the night.  Our site was small and required us to unhitch.  We used the "trailer free" opportunity to go into Roanoke for some dinner.  We love sushi but always feel wary about eating it when we're out of town. Wasabi's was worth the gamble.  I highly recommend the "lover roll" (spicy tuna inside; avacado outside.)

Roanoke has an enormous star on the mountainside that lights up at night.  We watched it as we drove around town, memorized.

Wednesday October 17th
Roanoke Mountain Campground was close enough to town that we had cell-phone internet.  This left us lingering in the morning.  Brian put in some work hours, the girls made a chipmunk house in the woods, Samuel and I went to town for errands. By the time Samuel and I got back from town we had decided we wanted to come back to Roanoke.  No one else disagreed.  Maybe we could convince some visitor's bureaus that campground wi-fi is good for tourism.

Before heading down the road we followed the star...
...to get a picture. There are kids in that picture. 

The next visitor's center on the parkway was the Mabry Mill area.  It was lovely but a bit crowded so our stay was short.  We left feeling spoiled by our recent visit to the Jarrell Plantation in Georgia.

Driving on the parkway during the early evening hours, we made little progress.  The sunset was so amazing that I couldn't resist stopping at the turnouts to take pictures.  I was driving so everyone else just had to put up with it.  The view was amazing.


At dark, the deer were getting thick and it was clearly time to pull off the parkway.  Needing both laundry and showers, we drove to Boon, NC to one of those brand-named privately owned kampgrounds.  We've never stayed at one before but I can tell you that we were feeling pretty desperate to even consider staying at one.  This particular location was on a steep hill right off of "Harmony" Road.  (Seriously.)  Let's just say I wasn't feeling so harmonious when we got there.  I took a quick look around and decided to take my shiny hiney back down the hill.  Fortunately, we found some really great dinner in downtown Boon (Hob Knob Farms) to lift our spirits.

Later, we found a quiet place for the night... and slept great. 

Thursday October 18th
The parkway greeted us with a thick pea soup and another reminder that the weekend was close.  (Gettin' kinda crowded.)
What splendid pottery and hand-crafted arts were for sale in the Moses H. Cone House!  If they had an online store then I would be in trouble. 
Our last stop on the parkway was to visit the Linn Cove Viaduct.

As we left the Parkway, we noticed more and more rhododendrons. Maybe we'll come back and finish the Parkway in the spring, I'm sure it will be lovely.

We turned off of the parkway and headed toward Pisgah National Forest where our friends were camping.  Maybe we spent too many days on the Parkway: it took a minute to get adjusted to normal traffic speeds and patterns; our previous 425 miles were spent at the break-neck speed of 35 to 45 miles per hour.

In the late afternoon we pulled into the Davidson River Campground, parked, and walked towards check-in.  Someone said "Are you the Sanders?"  Me:  "Um, yes?  I guess our reputation precedes us."
Maybe Twobikes know us even better than we know ourselves!  They left word with the front desk that we might be arriving.  We planned to make it to Davidson River on Friday but showed up on Thursday instead. The campground was almost full but the site across from Twobikes was available, perfect!

Friday October 19th
Brian spent his day telecommuting while the kids and I headed off for a day of fun put together by our campground concierge, Twobikes.

 A trip back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to hit a few Pisgah area highlights:
Anyone need a ginger pill?

Curves ahead and curves behind.  It seemed like a piece of cake without the trailer though.  The hard part was remembering that we didn't have a toilet or kitchen sink with us. 

Looking Glass Falls
Sliding Rock
"Can we come back during the summer?"

While visiting the Cradle of Forestry Discovery Center, we learned about an evening play/Halloween event.  Poor Twobikes weren't feeling any better by the evening, so we headed back up the mountain for the "Legend of Tommy Hodges."  The event was well attended by locals who seemed to know all the details about how the play was different from last year's script.  When it was over our kids only had one thing to say about it.
"Can we come back every year?"

Saturday October 20th
Time to head home.  We lingered in the morning (at germ-safe distances) with our friends, longer than we intended (but still not long enough!) Twobikes asked about our route home.  Route home?  We'll naively follow our GPS, of course. 


I'm sure you can guess that following the GPS wasn't the best route.  We DON'T want to go back to Pisgah on that road again.  It's US 178, by the way.  I better remember it, too!  Especially if the kids want to come back for Sliding Rock in the summer and The Legend of Tommy Hodges in the fall.

Our second "naively following the GPS" incident on the way home nearly cost us some time in football game traffic.  We drove through Clemson just as the game was letting out.  Whew!  Barely beat the traffic!

Home again.  

It's a little late to do it now, but I am feeling the urge to go back and re-title these posts as "New England Scouting Trip."  Our list of places to visit continues to grow the more we travel.  We can hardly wait until we have the opportunity to visit New England again.