The day after Page flew back to Berlin, Jack and I embarked on a reprise of our last fall’s trip to Cooperstown, NY. This trip had been excellent last year, but did not include our friends, JB and Martha, due to health reasons.
Almost immediately upon our return last year, Kerry & Gloria, JB & Martha, and Jack & I put another excursion to the same location on our calendars so that JB, who is the true baseball fan among us, could go to the Hall of Fame as we’d hoped last year. So we set off on Sunday, September 25.
Our first stop on this reprise trip was Shenandoah River State Park near Bentonville, VA. Once there, we hitched up with Kerry’s brother Ken, and Diane, who are moderately new to RV-ing, and are big on both hiking and cycling.
Jack and I have stayed at this state park several times in the past, and really love it not only for its situation along the Shenandoah River, but also for its hiking and cycling paths, lovely (flat) sites well-separated from one another with full hookups (except sewer), friendly hosts, clean and upgraded bathouse with private showers, nice laundry and dish-washing facilities, and general quiet. The only downside is that in summer, the open-ness and gravel substrate of the sites would make for a lot of heat. It’s also one of the few state parks in VA that stays open for RV camping year-round. Certainly, it gets cold here, but the water hookups have freeze-protection, and can be slightly fiddly to engage in warmer weather if you’re not familiar with the sequence of steps to get the water up from the well.
Another positive feature I’d forgotten from prior stays until I sat outside to write this missive this AM (Sept. 26) was the plethora of bird life in occupancy. Waves of bluebirds passed through, nibbling on sumac berries and bugs, as I was working. Today we saw not only the sexy species like bald eagles and osprey, but also kingfishers, woodpeckers (both downy and pileated), a couple of meadow larks, and the usual suspects like jays, crows, titmice, chickadees, and more. I’m no expert bird identifier but there were multitudes of sweet-singing warblers in the brushy growth around the camp sites.
Anyway. Long, long before we actually arrived at Shenandoah River State Park last night, our travel day was an interesting one, to say the very least.
We didn’t leave until around 11, knowing we had an “easy” drive north. We linked up with Kerry and Gloria in their Class C RV at their driveway, and tootled along Rt. 8 to get onto Interstate 81. The entry ramp we always use for this Interstate is at about mile marker 114, and the first stoppage we encountered was before the 460 bypass to access Christiansburg and Blacksburg, about mile marker 117.
Easily an hour and a half later, we had at last made it to Salem/Roanoke – usually a 40-minute drive, even at our usual trailering speed of 55. This delay (due to a vehicle accident which was completely cleared up by the time we got to where it had been) persisted in clogs of traffic-slow-downs all along the way until well past Roanoke. Our plan to stop at about 1:00 P for lunch, fuel, and groceries after we left the Interstate and got onto Rt. 33 toward Front Royal was a bust.
We finally stopped just outside of Staunton, VA at about 2P. But found good parking, fuel, groceries, and lunch all at one stop. We were on the road again, with me behind the wheel, by about 3:30. Still plenty of time to get to the campsites, which by the way are reserved but not designated, well before dusk.
Tootling along Rt. 33, the navigation system suddenly suggested an unexpected left turn. Looking at the map, it appeared that it might slice off some time and be a pleasant drive, so we followed. Right off the bat, I saw a sign that said there was a low bridge (11 ft. 2 in.) about 8 miles ahead. We called Gloria in the RV behind us to double-check, but we thought it was too low for their Class C.
Sure enough, they need 11 ft. 14 in., so we began to search for a place to turn around. I was going slowly hoping there would be a handy church parking lot we could easily ride through or circle inside to retrace our path back to 33.
We saw the church steeple before we saw the gravel parking lot, and I slowed waaay down. We (unfortunately) passed the first, best entrance to the lot, but it had another entry downhill and along a curve that I saw and went for.
As I turned the car toward it, I saw there was a very deep ditch between the paved road (a downhill slope due to the fact that it was a significant sweeping curve) and the gravel rise to the unpaved vehicle path toward the higher parking lot. I was able to steer a bit wide to avoid the worst of the V, but our hitch still scraped the pavement before getting into the path and turning up toward the parking area.
It was a horrible noise, and Jack and I were immediately jumping out of the car to check our trailer health when we saw that Kerry’s long-body Class C had imbedded the trailer hitch (on which they often drag their car, but had not brought it this time) into the pavement, suspending the wheels over the V and he was stuck like a turtle on its back.
Gloria and I immediately tried to direct traffic, standing on a shoulder full of poison ivy, so no one would either hit Kerry and Jack who were trying (unsuccessfully) to lift the vehicle off the hitch ball and forward out of the road. About half of the lane, which descended around the curve, was blocked by the RV.
None of our initial efforts dislodged it. Then people began showing up. People with strong backs, planks of wood, possible solutions, and tools. A veritable beehive of activity was established and for about 45 minutes Glo and I stood on the road trying to keep everyone from killing any of the workers with their vehicles.
At about 4:30PM, the pastor of the church showed up. Jack asked if he was holding services this evening, and he said that his parishioners would come at 6. At the beehive, enough folks managed enough of a shift of the RV to remove the ball itself from the hitch; but then the hitch structure was on the pavement, and the wheels were throwing the gravel onto the road (whose name we discovered was East Point Road) instead of offering forward momentum (or even backward momentum – the kindly deputies stopped traffic altogether so the RV could shoot backward into the road, if possible).
Around the same time, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Department personnel and vehicles came, and they took over the traffic directing duties (thank goodness). Many kind souls were helping to solve the problem, using the RV’s stabilizers, its leveling pads – anything and everything was attempted. To no avail.
Gloria was calling Good Sam Roadside Assistance (that’s how we discovered where the heck we were as we Googled our location and gave them the name of the road) when the pastor came out and asked if I could move Roomba, still sitting in the middle of the lot where Jack and I had abandoned it as we realized Kerry’s predicament – one caused by me, of course, for choosing what I knew to be a dicey pull-off. Our hitch by the way, was not damaged in any way.
The pastor reported that he had a hymn-singing that would commence at 5:30, and his choir members needed someplace to park. I apologized and moved Roomba as Gloria got ahold of Good Sam (“if you can get a tow truck on a Sunday night, your GS insurance will pay for it,” the Good Sam rep said); and as a kind fellow with a white truck with a tow chain showed up on the scene. Meanwhile, the State Trooper who had arrived called a tow truck, but said it might be as much as 2 hours wait until he got there.
Some more machinations orbiting the planet called Stuck RV went on while Glo and I just tried to stay out of the way, and not watch in case anyone was killed. A young woman and her friend walked up to me to ask if I was with the owner (Kerry was constantly jumping in and out of the RV’s cab to start or drive or reverse or operate something) and she was the sweetest thing to offer to help pay for a tow truck if one was coming. This woman was probably less than half my age! I thanked her and said I thought that we’d all be okay, but it was kind of her to offer. She detailed how she and her friend had gone up the road, upon seeing us stuck, to see if the guy operating the nearby garage was in, but no. He was closed up for the weekend. So she tried to find a local sheriff’s office to report that we needed help, but that office wasn’t where she thought it was, so she called them. Then they came back and helped Gloria with traffic management. Gloria was downhill and around the curve from me while we were directing traffic, so I couldn’t see the young woman. She was very sweet.
Very soon thereafter, the pickup with the chain was able to drag the RV just far enough forward to get it un-stuck, and a rousing cheer went up from the assembly. Kerry offered the guy a hundred dollar bill for his help, but he refused. Jack got directions from the officers on how best to get back to Rt. 33 without either re-tracing our path nor having to scrape Kerry’s roof off his RV with a low bridge clearance.
We thanked everyone left on the scene, apologized again to the pastor, and Jack & I jumped back into our vehicle, the deputies stopped traffic both directions, and at 5:45 (15 minutes to spare until Sunday evening services began) we headed along the alternative path to get back to Rt. 33, praying there were no narrow bridges or twisty roads en route.
Somewhere during the most harrowing part of our day, Gloria had called Kerry’s brother and they were at the campsite, set up, and wondering where the heck we were. They had placed chairs in front of empty sites near their own setup, and when we got to the park, we had proximate sites, just across a brushy border from the riverside hiking path. They were a welcome site, especially as the park was much more full than what we had expected it to be at the end of a weekend after Labor Day.
We did a quickie set-up (for us) and I put the Omnia Oven with the fully-risen bread dough inside on top of the stove to begin baking. It was full dark before we felt we were organized enough to head down the road to Kerry and Glo’s spot to enjoy an adult beverage and a bit of downtime with our friends. We ate a chicken salad supper and shared our fresh-baked rolls with our RV fam at about 8P, and everyone hit the hay around 9:30P.
JB and Martha have had houseguests and are set to meet us here at Shenandoah today, Monday, Sept. 26, to fully begin our long-postponed adventure north. They also will be looking forward to some kick-back time relaxing with friends. We share a dinner and a campfire tonight and set off for Lakawanna State Park (PA) in the morning, where we will spend two nights before hitting Cooperstown and Glimmerglass State Park (NY) for the majority of our overnights on this journey.