Pettigrew State Park, North Carolina

January 3, 2020, Friday: It was a warm night so we slept with the ceiling fan/vent exhausting and awoke to 65 degrees outside and in the low 60s inside.

One final note about Carolina Beach SP that I forgot to mention in the prior post: They close and lock the gate at 6PM. When Jack was checking in, this was mentioned, and when he asked what we might do if we arrive back and find the gate locked, some general arm-waving and vague references to a “driveway” were made, but we never followed up.

When we returned from Michael’s Seafood on our last night at Carolina Beach, it was 6:45. So we wandered around some of the turn-offs from the main road in front of the gate, and at one point ended up turning around in some poor soul’s driveway. 

For the record, if you go past the park entry off Dow Rd. The first right past the Park Road is, indeed, a gravel driveway, but it goes past a house and becomes the cut-through to get behind the gate and into (as well as out of) the park after hours. Sheesh!

Anyway, we left Carolina Beach SP, and en route, we encountered 75 degrees at 10AM, and clear driving the whole way to Pettigrew State Park. The temps were cooling by the time we arrived around 3PM.

Site 13 is in the sun (for solar gain as there is no electric or water at the sites) and nearest to the bathroom (the loop bathhouse remains closed in the winter, but there’s a heated toilet at the ranger’s office). By the way, the folks at the office are incredibly nice). You can get ice when the office is open, and firewood is on the honor system right at the camping loop.

Hal and Dawn (fellow Alto owners) were already there, as were the mosquitoes, which were pretty bad with the wet, warm weather. We put up the screen house and pulled out the Deep Woods Off to save my ankles, still bumpy from bites sustained at Hunting Island. David, Holli, and their dog Digby joined us shortly after we arrived (another Alto-owner family).

First thing, I took the dogs for a walk, and we ended up at the boat launch, where the sun was setting.

In nearby (relatively speaking) Edenton, NC, were additional Alto owners, Karen and Steve, who wanted to come for the birds but didn’t want to de-winterize their camper. Instead, they stayed at a BnB in Edenton, about 35-40 minutes’ drive away. We’d made a reservation in Edenton for us all to gather for dinner at the Edenton Bay Oyster Bar—one of the past registration sites of the Bike NC Spring Ride.

Needing fuel to even make it to Edenton, we googled nearby stations and found the one highlighted didn’t exist. So we had to go farther away from Edenton en route to dinner to get fuel, resulting in our late arrival to the party. Moral: Don’t trust solely on Google in this part of the state.

Very nice dinner—got some excellent seared scallops on risotto, and returned to the camper for a much-needed sleep.

January 4, Saturday: Overnight the rain began and it really pelted down. We were not looking forward to trying to spot migrating birds in the wet, but we all dressed for it and headed out in separate cars, once Karen and Steve got to Pettigrew and joined us around 9:30AM. Despite the rain, the temperature was quite warm. Got away, headed to Mattamuskeet around 10 after deciding that we’d try to find a cafe for lunch rather than packing our lunches along.

During the long drive to the Visitor Center (it’s actually called the “Refuge Headquarters”) on Lake Mattamuskeet, we saw a bunch of American kestrels and kingfishers, and I spotted one perched bald eagle—very wet and unhappy-looking—along the way. We stopped at the informational kiosk at the top of the VC drive to see loads of water birds (mostly ducks) in the wetlands (mergansers, “redheads,” mallards, pintails, herons, egrets, etc.). But in the area pretty far from the road (needed binoculars to see them) were a gang or three of tundra swans—but no snow geese that we could see. And where we’d seen several bald eagles in the wetland on prior trips, we didn’t see any this time.

Map0344Web

Strangely, the VC was closed so we not only were unable to speak to any rangers or biologists to get tips on where to find the big flocks of birds, but also couldn’t get the general introduction to what we might see and experience while there—this VC has a great display and lots of information about not only birds but also mammals, fish, trees, etc. Too bad those who hadn’t been there before couldn’t experience that.

So we drove around the opposite (far) side of the primary wetland (slightly closer to the tundra swans) and then headed to lunch. Found Martelle’s Feedhouse in Englehard and had a quite nice and filling (and warm/dry) lunch. Many of the local hunters and residents were there, so we knew it was going to be good. They served all kinds of seafood, Eastern NC BBQ, sandwiches and burgers galore, plates and smalls, and everything you might imagine at a “feedhouse.” I got a pork tenderloin salad that was superb.

We were headed to Pungo Lake, where we’d seen the most of the arctic birds in the past when we saw a white patch on the muddy landscape alongside the road. There seemed to be an access road to get closer, so we took it and got our first close-up look (and listen) of tundra swans.

Unfortunately, we spooked them as we peeked around the tree line, but it was quite breathtaking to see these enormous birds fly and sound the alarm. 

It was still rainy: When the actual rain abated, a fine mist fell steadily. So we retreated back to the cars after watching the enormous birds a while and resumed our trek to Pungo.

In another 40 minutes of driving along state rt. 45, we got to the Pungo Lake preserve, driving in at the south entrance, where the main road takes a sharp turn and the “straight” roadway turns into Pat Road. The pavement turned to mud and the pools and puddles on the road were quite deep and numerous. But at least the rain had stopped.

We saw a huge flock of tundras in a cornfield at the far side of a thin, raised bank of trees and bushes. We pulled the cars onto the verge and all piled out to cross the stubble field and use the line of vegetation as a “blind” to get closer to the swans. We saw several piles of bear poop in the stubble field, just as is the case back home.

As we approached the line of trees, however, we found that there was a deep, moderately wide canal between us and our “blind.” But a couple of us jumped the ditch and were able to take some photos of the swan gang. We stood there in the relative dry watching the birds landing, taking off, and just hanging out.

We thought that, logically speaking, Pat Road should somehow link to Phelps Lake from Pungo as the two are relatively near one another. But bouncing along the mud lane simply landed us in front of a “No Trespassing—Private Property” sign, so we turned around and bounced back to Route 45 North and drove around our elbows (it seemed) to get back to camp.

I took some shots of the sunset as the sky cleared and the rain clouds dispersed.

Everyone elected to eat dinner separately, and although Hal suggested a campfire, he reported that the mosquitoes were ravenous so we all nixed that idea. In our camper, at least, we turned in early.

January 5, Sunday: At 6AM it was 42 both in and outside the camper, so we cranked the furnace and crawled back under the Rumpl blanket. Didn’t get up until late, and Hal and Dawn headed back to NOVA around 9:30 because Hal had to be at work on Monday.

As they were pulling out, Karen and Steve arrived to see what the pulse of the group was. It wasn’t until about 11 that Jack and I decided to pass up the opportunity for more bird-finding in favor of taking more time to hike around with the dogs. Everyone else elected to drive around some more, although the two cars-full went on separate adventures. Karen later reported seeing a bald eagle. David and Holli headed back to Pungo and later reported good sightings of swans, but also snow geese (which I was sorry to miss).

At the end of the campground along the walk to the Plantation is an interesting hollowed-out tree that Jack can stand inside. He held the dogs with him and they were both intent on some sound or smell within (probably a squirrel). Jack himself was unmoved by squirrel scent.

HollowTree0381Web

We took the pups along the boardwalk from the Plantation to the ranger’s office, and then along the 2.8-mile trail to Moccasin Overlook. Along the grassy trail, however, we encountered a lot of pooled water, and some dogs we were worried had no invisible fence restraints, so we turned around early. In all, it ended up being about a 2 mile trek.

The wind came up and there was significant chop out on Phelps Lake. But it dried things out a bit as the temperatures began to drop.

Around 2 Alison and Andy showed up from Raleigh, just to see what all the bird-fuss was about, and after chatting a while, they headed off to Pungo also. I loaned them my binoculars and when we saw them again, they reported lots of arctic bird sightings and a very satisfactory trip.

I threw the ball for Mischief for a bit and Holli and David discussed sharing a bonfire and some adult beverages, and we set up for that and had a lovely evening with them and Alison and Andy. We set up behind the trailer on the slight rise where Jack had taken down the screen house, so we were high and dry.

CampfireTales0398Web

At about 7 the party broke up and Jack and I ate chili and “take and bake” rolls for dinner.

January 6, Monday: Holli and David rolled out of camp around 8:30 and we decided to delay breakfast until we were on the road. Jack had a special mission: to find the butcher who had made the sausages we ate when Edenton was the host site of the Bike NC Spring Ride a few years ago. He had done his research and thought we might have it pegged with directions to get there and an opening time of 10AM.

Tragically, Grandma’s Sausages was out of business. An elderly gent taking the sun in a carport next door to the shop kept trying to sell Jack the business or the building, even though Jack kept insisting that all we wanted were some of Grandma’s sausages. He said his wife used to run the business but had to stop, and now they were trying to sell it.

Sausage-less, we headed along back roads to Ahoskie, NC, where we ate lunch at a Golden Skillet. It was quite the place for “regulars” to gather, and Jack really enjoyed his chicken livers.

We kept to the back roads to NC Rt. 4, which is the Kerr Lake/North Bend Federal Campground road, and we crossed the dam and entered one of our most happy places. While our favorite peninsula was not open in the dead of winter, the loop available to us had a warm shower house sporting private toilet/shower rooms. Site #78 was relatively level so we could leave the truck hitched as we anticipated leaving for home the following morning.

Set up was minimal, so we grilled some bratwursts and re-heated leftover roasted veggies and potatoes for dinner. Then we walked down to the lakeside and watched the sun set as the evening star appeared.

The forecast for back home was for up to an inch or two of snow/sleet/icy mix early Tuesday, so we kept up with John via text and delayed deciding whether to head home the next day (as scheduled) or not.

January 7, Tuesday: The rains came in the night and the deluge continued most of Tuesday. We had only paid for one day as they would not refund if we decided to leave after spending just one night. But the gate attendant said as long as we paid by about 3PM, it was okay to delay our decision. We saw a total of 2 other campers, so there wasn’t any chance someone would come in and kick us out of our site.

At about noon, John texted that they’d gotten a slushy mix that was making driving on the mountain less than ideal. He said if we were to encounter trouble, it would be getting in our driveway.

While it was still pouring down with rain at North Bend, we decided to stay another night, and I walked with the dogs in the deluge to the front gate to give them another $10. The furnace was on when we got back, so my jeans and the dogs were able to dry out in comfort.

MischiefSleeping0411Web

We listened to our audiobook, took nice warm showers (knowing that the water at home was turned off) and simply chilled out for the day. The rain stopped around 3PM when the wind whipped up to blow away all the clouds. We fought the wind down to the beach where a previous camper had created some rock-balanced towers that were pretty neat in the back-lit dusk.

January 8, Wednesday: The temperatures dropped like a rock overnight and we quickly broke camp at 34 degrees under a clear, bright sky, as we were surrounded by frosted leaves carpeting the woods. Initiated the 3-ish hour drive home at about 9-9:30, and were able to begin the long process of re-heating our 48-degree home in the mountains by about 2PM on January 8, 2020.

Trip’s End

Sunday, Apr. 21

We finally got a break in the weather, but most of the Alto crowd had left. Jack and I headed to South Hill for foodstuffs enough to fix dinner for John (arriving without Mary, who has fallen under the weather, or possibly the pollen) and additional Floyd friends, Brad and Ellen. 

PanoKayaks4031Web

Because we’re settled and they’re arriving in the afternoon and likely won’t be set up before dinner time, we texted with them to let everyone know we’d handle dinner for all of us. We found the fixins for the fennel chicken dish we like to cook in the Dutch oven, and we also got some pork loins to grill for Mary and Allen who were coming to the campsite on Monday. 

I began cooking circa 5:30, completing it by around 6:30, and served directly from the Dutch oven, with Omnia heat-and-serve rolls and roasted potatoes. Afterwards, we cranked the Solo fire, and the Karl & Hari crowd came over from loop C to share.

DinnerCooking4020Web

Campfire4035Web

It was another glorious sunset, with the sun peeking below the clouds and shining brightly on the end of our peninsula, making the trees look like they were about to combust.

LightOnPeninsula4026Web

No good sunset is complete without a good reflection photo off Roomba (it’s a thing with the Alto models that have lots of windows).

ReflectionPic4027Web

Here’s a gallery of photos I’m calling “Sunset After the Storms”

Monday, Apr. 22

First thing in the morning, I watched an adult bald eagle fly over. The day dawned cold (47 degrees) but I was outside watching for birds and enjoying the clear morning by about 7. I wasn’t the only early bird, as a couple of fishermen were plying the waters near our site also.

Fishing4039Web

Before lunch, we took a bike ride with Brad and Ellen while John took a kayak paddle-about. We toured around the campground, and across the hydro dam, where we stopped both coming and going to watch bald eagles and osprey and enormous fish near the dam. I could have watched the birds all day.

Osprey2731Web

Instead of going back to the campground, we turned right at Rt. 4 and headed to the tailwaters of the dam, where there were tons and tons of birds all doing wondrous things, just carrying on with their birdy lives. We got off our bikes again to watch eagles and osprey and herons and cormorants and so many more. Saw this heron trying to hide while roosting in a tree.

HeronTree2728Web

Returned to eat a late lunch and enjoyed the sun. Even though the breeze picked up as we ate, the sky was incredibly blue-blue, and the sun was toasty hot.

Allen and Mary came for dinner around 6, and we grilled a pork loin. John, Brad, and Ellen brought their own dinners and we all ate together. Everyone enjoyed another campfire, topped off with a celebratory dram to mark the end of our trip, as well as Brad’s (Apr. 24) and Jack’s (Apr. 26) birthdays.

Tuesday, Apr. 23

Naturally, on the day we must leave, the temp soared to 52 degrees and the wind stayed dead calm. Heard several lonely loon calls in the early AM.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning and said goodbye to Brad and Ellen around 8:30. Watched a contest between a lone loon with a fish, versus an entire gaggle of cormorants. The cormorants were doing a tag-team “harass the loon so it drops its fish” game, with much of the action happening under water. The loon would dip below, with 2 or 3 of the cormorants flying over to where it dove and diving after it. The loon would pop up again and other cormorants would fly over to it and dive after it when it dove for cover again.

Finally, the loon surfaced and up-ended the fish so it would go down its gullet, and suddenly, all the cormorants looked like they were bored, as if they’d had nothing to do with the loon at all. They all went different directions after the game was won by the loon.

Once the water warmed up a bit, John took a final kayak tour before he began to load up for departure. We ate an early lunch and began breaking camp in earnest around noon.

JohnKayak2735Web

Just as we were nearing our own departure time, we saw a Canada goose family swimming by. The water was a bit choppy by then, but the little goslings were pretty easy to see. The hard part was getting the youngsters and both parents in my camera’s frame at the same time. But I finally managed.

It was an uneventful drive back home, and we parked Roomba in the driveway near his garage overnight. All was well with the house and critters and we were thankful for Surya, our house sitter. Naturally, the first thing Mischief wanted to do was play ball. 

RoombaHomeWeb

PlayBallWeb

I grabbed some meat and went out to see how Beebs (redtailed hawk) was doing, and she seemed quite keen on the food, but not so sure about me.

TakeoffWeb

Thus the 2019 Spring Trip comes to a close. It was wonderful and fun and so very exciting to share with so many of our friends and to meet new friends along the way. 

More adventures to come—watch this space for the next peregrinations we undertake with our Alto camper.

 

La Jolie Rochelle

Arrived Tuesday, July 10 after about a 3-hour drive to Saint-Raphël de Bellechasse, easterly from Quebec City. There (with a bit of hunting) we found Camping La Jolie Rochelle, a simply wonderful private campground along a beautiful babbling river. 

It was hot by the time we were able to get in and, with tremendous help from our host—he actually backed Roomba into the tight spot opposite a serious stone wall—we set up our Alto in site #13 of a long string of Altos of all stripes, model numbers, colors, and ages. We joined a mini-rally. I was seriously relieved that I did not have to back Roomba into that spot.

AltosAllInARow1210AltosOnTheRiver1208

Our grassy site was simply excellent, right on the river embankment, even sandwiched among everyone else, some of whom we knew from the rally we attended last year, some from shared Alto travels, and some only virtually, via Facebook. So it was really fun to put some faces with names we knew from the Altoistes FB group.

After setup, I shared a beer with Alto friend Jim, and realized I needed more beer. So Jack and I headed out to scope the area for a grocery. We found a lovely place called “Marche Traditions” and it was surprisingly good for a small grocer with only two checkout lanes. Full of good veggies, cheeses, beer, wine and everything in between. We got some go-alongs so we would not starve while camped in a parking lot for the Anniversary Celebration (which begins Thursday), and of course beer and wine to share and consume.

RoombaAmongFriends1211
Roomba is at the right of the photo, with the awning that has the blue noodles on the guy lines.

The evening was a “gathered meal,” or one in which everyone brought to a central location (six picnic tables pushed together beside the pool area) whatever they were having for dinner anyway, and if one chose, bring something to share. If nothing in the cupboard to share, no worries. We all just ate together, and it was a very fun evening. We had gotten some desserts pre-made from the Traditions grocer, and they seemed to be a big hit with the group, although I did not have one.

GroupDinner1186

PartialAltoArrayFrAbove1183
This is a pic from our picnic site of a few of the Altos gathered here.

Before and after we ate, we were able to tour one of the Alto model 2114s, an extra-long Alto version — the first than many of us had seen, and I think about the 11th ever sold (they had just been released earlier this year). 

GroupDinnerw-2114-1185

Also, another Altoiste who goes full time using a Safari Condo conversion van to pull an older yellow Alto rolled in to join us.

CondoPullingAlto1189

A campfire was built and many gathered around it into the night, but I cocooned in Roomba to read and get my eyes closed by ten. Jack stayed with the group until about 11, but I did not wake up when he got in.

On July 11, I arose early (6:30) to find the temps had dropped to 40 degrees outside. With an extra shirt and long pants, I carried my tea outside and watched some gulls preen and dry themselves on some rocks in the river shallows. 

GullMeetingCloseup1205GullRock1194GullPool1200GullFlying1202

I watched them for a long time before Jack got moving.The sun came over the trees and enlivened all sorts of life including a pair of kingfishers that flew above the water upstream and out of sight. 

After breakfast, we sat and read and visited and chatted with fellow Altoistes until plans began to come together for a bike ride. Mark, Richard, Jack and I ended up headed to a paved bike path that my understanding is was once a rail bed, now converted to a bike trail. In full, it is 70 km, paved the entire way.

We started by driving what seemed a long way to begin at “P7” in Armagh. This had been the rail station, and off the parking lot was a cafe/snack stand. We started at 1:30 and rode outbound about 12 miles, and turned around to come back for a total ride of 24 miles in 1:38 of ride time (we paused a few times to drink water and decide whether or not to continue).

Trail1227

Along the route I saw a female pheasant, likely near her nest, just standing beside the trail. We also saw a goshawk zip past along the timber line near a gravel road, and saw many Monarch butterflies. We also heard but did not see a red-tailed hawk soaring above somewhere.

The trail was very nice, fairly straight and pretty flat, and it was a good ride. Richard is a serious cyclist so he kept our pace up, and I averaged 14.6 MPH over the duration.

Richard peeled off at Route Principale, on our return and somewhat close to the end of the ride, to take the main roads back to the campsite via a more direct route than we’d traveled to begin. Mark, Jack, and I stopped at the little cafe to grab an ice cream and some more water.

Bicycle1230

Upon our return another 2114 had arrived. The family we have often camped with in the past “traded up” their 1723 for the larger 2114 to better accommodate their family. They came straight from the pickup at the factory to our little gathering, and moved that beast into their site with the Caravan Mover, with a little help from their Altoiste friends, since they’d never used one before.

A few of us gathered to share beverages at our campsite, and we talked to Cynthia and Gail—Alto owners from Australia here for the Celebration—for a long time, sharing stories and once again, putting faces with names we’ve corresponded with for years over the internet.

A simple meal after our showers, and more Alto friends, Michele and Claudette, whom we met for the first time in April when we were camping at Virginia Beach, arrived and we shared a glass and slapped mosquitoes together as the sun set.

Everyone is looking forward to the celebration activities tomorrow, so we (mostly) hit the beds early, although a hearty few sat by the campfire again into the evening. 

Mattamuskeet Journey v. 2018

Mattamuskeet Journey to see migrating waterfowl v. 2018

In January of 2016, we headed out with a newly-acquired Alto camper trailer (we named Roomba) to accompany tent-camping friends to Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge, camping at Pettigrew State Park in North Carolina, just on Lake Phelps.

That was so fun we decided on a reprise of that trip with the same friends, who are now also Alto trailer owners (they named theirs Moon Shadow). Last time, the temps were quite chill, and Mike and Barbara were tenting, although we shared our camper’s propane heat on a couple of occasions. But it was bitter cold.

This time was not as gray and frosty, but still cold overnights, and — well, I’ll let you read all about it in several posts.

Sunday, January 7

Left MoD when the temp was about 10 degrees. We began prep around 8:30 – 9:00 AM and had said goodbye to the doggies and were driving down Rt. 59 by about 11.

The weird thing about the whole stowing and prepping during this type of winter camping is that nothing that would be damaged by freezing could be out in Roomba nor in the back of the truck overnight. So we could not pre-pack as we so often do to assure an early departure. We removed our bathroom kits from our clothes bags, and put all the  food (including the ‘fridge food, as nothing was going in from our home freezer) and other things that would be damaged by freezing into the truck very last before hitting the road. We put the refrigerator food into the ‘fridge without turning it on, figuring that it would not freeze solid in the 3 hours it was going to take us to get to North Bend (halfway point overnight spot). Measuring by past experience, the interior of the camper gets really cold on cold traveling days, so we couldn’t even put the dishwashing liquid into Roomba where it usually stays.

So the whole packing up thing was a challenge. We’d left our bed topper rolled and in Roomba for the entirety of this deep freeze (started about New Year’s Eve and overnight temps were in the low single digits — one AM we had zero degrees F — steadily for the whole of 2018). So the topper was stiff as a board and we probably could not have unrolled it even if we’d wanted to. Our hope was that it could ride in the back seat of the truck and thaw a bit, but it was too wide/stiff to fit into the cab, so we had to leave it in Roomba.

Once we arrived at North Bend Federal Campground (around 3P, after a stop for lunch and another for fuel) we plugged up (site 51–with between 2 and 3 bars of LTE and/or 3G cell service) and cranked the propane heater which solved the problem of the frozen bed topper nicely.

North Bend was 28 degrees, and there was still significant amounts of snow along the roads, especially at the edges. The guard said that there had been about 5 campsites used last night, but everyone had left.

They had sites 51 – 77 open, with one heated bathhouse that has maybe 8 private toilet/bath rooms. Site 51 is far from the lakefront, but pretty close to the bathhouse.

We did not unhitch, only leveled and set up, again pondering what would go where when we take off for Pettigrew State Park in NC tomorrow. We’re about 3 hours away from our next stop and, happily—although tonight will be lows in the teens again—the temps will be trending upwards for our whole stay at Pettigrew.

We have brought yeast rolls rising in Omnia, plus a lovely (but untried) chicken stew in the Billy Boil. After set up and a quick walk down to the lake (water levels are waaaaaay low—the “beach” I walked along was really the lake bottom) we are now happily ensconced in the warmth, and getting ready to continue our listen to another of the “Department Q” crime/mystery series (by Jussi Adler-Olsen) with Carl Merk: The Hanging Girl.

Powhatan State Park, Virginia

April 26 & 27, 2017

Our hope to be taking one good bike ride on Wednesday, April 26 before leaving Belle Isle was dashed by the weather and timing. Rained off-and-on overnight, and was still spitting when we got up. Tried to wait it out, but decided to simply go ahead and break camp to head toward Powhatan State Park without a ride.

Of course, it cleared up around 11, but we were already in full stow-and-pack mode, so we continued. Oddly, we left sun and headed toward clouds — not our usually MO, since our philosophy while traveling is “If it rains, leave town.” We were headed from sun into apparent rain on our transit day (also Jack’s birthday).

Completely uneventful ride to Powhatan State Park, except for the sighting of “creepy French fry guy” at an old diner or beer joint along the way, leering at traffic while standing next to an old phone booth.

CreepyFrenchFryGuynOldPhone0401Web

We also noticed a sign for a local, Goochland County craft brewery, oddly called Lickinghole Creek (like a local physical creek near which it happens to sit). Liked their logo and figured we’d head out to check them out sometime during our stay.

LickingholeBreweryLogo0409Web

Set-up was fine (site #5) as we were the only people in the park. Even the camp host was “off duty.” And those earlier clouds had also abandoned the joint by the time we arrived, around 3.

RoombaJackFireSunset0403Web

Campfire0422Web

Powhatan State Park, sort of between Farmville and Richmond, is brand, spanking new. They have the most modern, private, and sensible bath house I’ve ever seen anywhere — every toilet and shower is its own lock-able room, all are unisex, and a couple for handicapped even combine toilet, sink and shower in one room. There is a laundry and two dish-washing stations. Oddly, though, the bath house for our 29 sites is the only one on the property, I think, although I’ve not been down to the group camping area. The dump station is pristine and has four offload ports.

PowhatanSPTrailMap0420Web

There is tons of room for expansion, and I anticipate there will be a third canoe launch area into the James River, and a whole separate campground at some future point. Already there is a huge playground/picnic area, a nature programming center, an area and story board of a preserve for tree restoration (and the newly-planted trees, too, of course); and still lots and lots of wide open spaces.

But on Jack’s birthday, we simply settled in, built a fire, enjoyed a simple dinner and hit the hay early. Hoping we will have an opportunity to prepare a special birthday dinner before we head home on Monday.

April 27

RoombaMorningLight0404Web
Roomba’s awning faces east, so got a good AM shot on the 27th.

A bit of backstory is required here. Through Facebook and various other means, Jack and I keep in touch with some of our rugby colleagues from our William and Many days (and Jack’s contacts continue through his post-W&M career, too). Anyway, from one of my blog posts, a fellow women’s rugby player I’ve known since the late 1970s got in touch and asked about our Alto trailer. We had also hoped to see her in Williamsburg this Saturday, but she’s continuing her  40-year involvement with women’s rugby by coaching a W&M Sevens team that is headed to a national tourney this weekend, and will be away.

Since we changed our original plan to arrive in Powhatan SP earlier than expected, we invited Pep and her partner, Lisa, up to see Roomba. They accepted, and we set up a time for their arrival on Thursday. Pep said she had a final practice that afternoon with her team before their departure Friday, so they arrived early and we did some catching up, met their lovely pups, Bella and Rugby, and toured and talked about Safari Condo, Altos in general, and our model (R-1713) specifically.

RugbyInCar0406Web
Rugby wants to come into the back seat as we drive to lunch.

Then we went off to lunch in Goochland proper, at a  placed small but crowded with locals called the Courthouse Market and Grill. Yummy sandwiches, burgers, onion rings, fries . . . very tasty and easy. More talk and catching up and rugby was enjoyed by all (with the possible exception of Lisa, who is not an “ex-rugger”).

CourthouseGrillSign0410Web

PepnLisa0408Web

PeopleWhoLove2Eat0407Web

It was a great time to be with them and I think we all had a great time, and they might sally forth from their summer home in Maine to Quebec and check out the Safari Condo operation, possibly sometime this summer.

After their all-too-early departure, and with many good wishes for a safe and successful tournament to Pep and many good wishes for further Alto exploration to Lisa (as I am, she is a layout person so we had some brief talk about magazines, etc., and as she cuts back on her teaching career, seeks freelance work in the print design field), we said our goodbyes.

BethBellaLisaRugby0414Web

PepLeeJack5138Web
Tribe Rugby!

Shortly thereafter I donned my cycling gear and left Jack lounging in the shade with his blues blasting from the Blue Bose Bluetooth and did a couple of circuits of the campground.

The two canoe launch areas are steeply downhill from the campground proper, offering more climbing practice than we’ve been able to experience to date on this trip, so I did those two downhill speeds and uphill cranks twice.

JamesRiverFrCanoeLaunchc0418Web
James River from Canoe Launch Area C

 

Cycling stats: Rode for about an hour and a half; 16.8 miles; average speed 11MPH; fastest speed 31MPH. Here’s the interesting stat: 500 feet of ascent (that’s a cumulative total). It is significant because all of our ascents to date along the flatlands of the Eastern Shore (with the exception of our ride through Assateague, which barely made it to the 100 feet mark) could be counted in the tens of feet, with a couple of our rides logging zero feet of ascent.

Thinking ahead to the Tour de Floyd ride, I was glad to get a bit of climbing practice into the training mix. And the canoe launch areas were quite nice, with skid launching areas, and one with a pavilion, and trail access to a canoe-in camping area (that I did not go down the trail to visit). Launch area A even had boat racks and trailer parking.

This is a very nice campground altogether, although all the signs prohibit swimming in the James River due to swift water flow, underwater obstructions, and steep drop-offs. Seeing the water speed past, I could imagine the dangers — even of being in a boat — of swimming.

CanoeLaunchC0419Web
Canoe launch with steps on either side of a boat skid to the James.

Thursday in Carmel

August 4 I had a “free day” during the NABA Convention, for which I’m here to take photos for the magazine I edit and lay out for the organization (National Association Breweriana Advertising). I got up early to take a bike ride along the famed Monon Trail, a completely paved Rails-to-Trails conversion that is quite popular around here, and which links up with many additional urban, suburban, and municipal trails to add onto a cyclist’s exploration. The Monon extends beyond the “multi-use only” part, at both ends, entering into urban riding through the cities at each end. I only rode the 8-ish miles of the non-urban riding part, and had a great time.



More on the bike ride a little later.

I also had the great pleasure to link up with someone I knew only “virtually” through the FaceBook Altoistes group (a place where about 800 North American Safari Condo Alto owners and owners-to-be gather to exchange ideas about our trailers). Jennifer, who lives here in Carmel, read my last blog entry and realized we’re in her “neck of the woods” and reached out to see if she and I might be able to get together. Very quickly, we arranged a lunch and she took me to Upland Brewery here in Carmel, only a short drive from her home of 25+ years.


I cannot express how much fun I had with someone who moments before had been a total stranger, except for the name. I have to say it: among each and every of the Altoistes we have had the pleasure of meeting, I have enjoyed a connection that goes far beyond ownership of a similar travel trailer. I cannot wait until next year’s Alto Rally, which is going to be held close enough to Virginia for us to make it a weekend, where we will meet so many additional Altoistes, and I hope I’ll be able to meet up with Jennifer again and meet her husband.

Not long after our lunch, I had the truly extraordinary opportunity to meet up with a long-ago (nearly 30 years) next-door-neighbor. Jack had remembered that Lisa and Bob had moved away from our cul-de-sac in Houston, TX, and back to their home stomping grounds of north Indianapolis. He said he thought it might be Carmel, in fact. 

We did a little Internet “stalking” trying to find their names and Lo! We found a link, followed it to a business and sent a somewhat random email. On the return was a very sensible “test” to see if I was really who I said I was and not just some phisher. Once we passed the test, Lisa responded and we set up an after-work sit down for an adult beverage or two, at my hotel. As it happens, her office was nearby.

It did take two beverages and a lot of Q&A and descriptions of our lives to catch up over these 30 years, but it was tremendous fun. She remembered things that I never thought about until she mentioned them, and I remembered others that she laughed about, too. It was a remarkable connection, and I hope we can maintain it into the future significantly better than we have done during the intervening years. And, I hope we can get together with Bob (he was working out of the area and was unable to join us this time) and Jack too.


I’m writing this post on Saturday, the last day of my Convention, and on a day I was able to take another bike ride. Cooler today than it ended up being on Thursday, and I went back to the Monon Greenway/Trail again, to see if I could do somewhat less meandering and somewhat more heart-exercise. Again I had a great time, and was gratified to see so many weekend users of the trail/greenway. Unlike Thursday, I attempted to take one of those spur trails to add some miles, but I got lost, then found myself in a seriously busy shopping mall/strip center area, trying to figure out where I was supposed to go to follow the trail amongst typical metro traffic on a Saturday in the summer. On the upside, I found a Panera’s and ate lunch there. 


There was a small fair going on near the Theater Arts Center, and another mass of folks strolling along the road in the Arts and Design District, so I was really glad I took photos of the wondrous sculptures by an artist named J. Seward Johnson, Jr., known around here as “The Normal Rockwell of sculpture.” The pieces are highly realistic, and depict people going about their everyday lives, and there are many many of them along the roads in the Arts and Design District.

I tried to take photos of most of them, but I became a bit worried about my bicycle. It seems that it’s been called a “hot bike” so frequently, it’s gotten a big head. It kept photobombing my pix. But I got a lot of the sculptures on digital film — I’m afraid you’ll just have to excuse the silliness of the bike in the photos below.

Tomorrow Jack comes to pick me up in the early AM, and we will return to the Hoosier National Forest and prep Roomba to hit the road again, heading back east to Breaks Interstate Park to meet up with friends as early as we can manage on Monday. ROAD TRIP!




Short Stop

First night, about halfway to Bike North Caronlina in Edenton, NC. We stopped at Medoc Mountain State Park near Hollister, NC. The place is nearly empty — Our Alto, an A-Liner, a large cookie-cutter trailer (they all look the same), and a tent. 

 

Medoc Mountain State Park, North Carolina, site #5
 
Nice little campground with about 36 spots, well-screened from one another. The bathhouse is clean and offers plenty of privacy and space. Found a tick crawling on me right after setup, however. 

Temperatures are in the mid-seventies, and it’s quite hot in the sun. But we put the sun shield in the Big Front Window, and that truly has made all the difference. With the roof fan venting and a couple of the shade-side windows open a crack, it was extremely tolerable inside. We have electricity, but we’re not “setting up” like normal since we’re leaving for the final leg to Edenton tomorrow morning. 

Chatted with one of the Rangers about the Alto, and gave her a tour. We were surprised to hear that she was somewhat familiar with the brand (from seeing one and then looking it up on the Internet) but she said she’d never been inside one.

The sun slowly sank to steal away the shade under our awning, so we moved around to the back and lounged about some in the gravity chairs, with a nice breeze blowing, until we munched the dinner we’d picked up along the way: chicken salad and crackers. We are unlikely to be able to check in for the ride until later in the day tomorrow. We’ll have a leisurely morning with tea/coffee and yogurt, hit the road and try to get a decent spot to set up without any electricity for the next 3 days of riding and eating seafood. At least the camper area where we’ve been assigned isn’t in the middle of a paved parking lot.

  1. Ride
  2. Eat
  3. Sleep
  4. Ride
  5. Repeat

Hoping for excellent weather, but we’re looking forward to riding along the flatlands for a change no matter what the skies do.