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.


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.


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.



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.


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

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.

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”).




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.


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.

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.

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

Bicycle Training Ride #1

After our dinner last night, we took a walk over to the Chippokes State Park (VA) Visitor Center which is right on the river. Unfortunately, there is a lot of rubbish-y growth between the VC and the river, so we couldn’t see much of the gulls and waterbirds we could hear careening around the waterways. The sunset was lovely, and, as we had expected, the bugs came out as the sun went in.

Two photos of some of the wild dogwoods blooming at the Visitors Center at Chippokes Plantation State Park.

Having actually gotten chilly in the night (which was a surprise, given we hit the hay with about 65 or so degrees), we arose bundled in sweat-wear, fixed the usual tea and coffee, and ate stone-cut oatmeal for breakfast.

That was the perfect start to our first real training ride of the bicycling season. At about 10A we began a mapped “loop” that started at the Chippokes Plantation proper (just up from the campground), and would have taken us to Fort Huger, out a penninsula into the James River, as well as Bacon’s Castle, a local destination hereabouts. The Fort was built in 1861, but as it turned out, we skipped that out-and-back part of the mapped ride, since it fell around mile 28, and both of us were ready to get off the bikes by then.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The weather forecast for the day’s ride had improved—it called for showers later in the day than what the prediction had been, so we were pretty certain we wouldn’t get wet. In addition, the temps were mild and the humidity was waaaay low. So we intended to ride as much of the mapped trail (along back roads, not along a bike trail) as we thought we could manage. Taken all together, if we were going strictly by the map, it would have been a 50-ish mile ride. Neither of us thought we were up to that level for our first day, and there were roads marked on the map to imagine one could shorten the ride and still cover a lot of the opportunities the route presented. 

Starting at home, the Chippokes Plantation house itself is made of brick, and there were a few guys working on a brick entryway sign or gate or something across the walkway to the house, so we didn’t go into the yard. And from the parking area, you couldn’t see the main building very well. So I didn’t get a photo, even though the gardens surrounding the house looked lovely.

We rode a while longer through the flatlands and agricultural areas, which was really pretty and good cycling. Although riding along flat roads is, in the most obvious respect, easier than climbing a lot of hills (which of course, is why we’re here in the first place, to begin training in an “easier” environment), the downside is that you’re sitting on the saddle of the bike without respite when you’re pedaling into the wind through farmland with few windbreaks. But that part of our bicycling needs “training” too, after all.

We saw several older homes with four chimneys at the four-square corners of the “typical” two-story, rectangular farmhouse. Several were in seriously deteriorated states, which was sad to see. Other wrecks included a church, and many barns, plus a fairly new home that had obviously experienced a chimney fire recently.

We took a wrong turn somewhere (the map didn’t include many route numbers and the geography didn’t include many road names) and headed into Surry by mistake. But that worked out well, as we found Anna’s Italian restaurant in time for lunch. We both had fish filet sandwiches that were quite tasty. 

Our “detour” cost us 14 miles, since we returned to the junction where we had made the wrong turn and carried on along the route. As we neared the river again (and we saw some of those rain clouds gathering in front of us) we began to really hit the wind. We thought there might be a way to “truncate” the mapped route, shaving off a few miles, but the roads shown on the map were gravel and sand, and each opportunity we might have considered included “private” signs and gates.

So we simply carried on as, by this time, we were headed back toward the State Park anyway. But by about mile 28-ish, when we had the opportunity to head out to the river to see Fort Huger, we declined. Bacon’s Castle was also at this end of the loop, and was “on the way” home, so we paused briefly to note that more construction was happening on that structure, too. So again, we did not go in. We did stop long enough to have a small energy boost in the form of a fruit bar.

While I’m sorry we did not get out to Ft. Huger, mainly because it was on the water, and we did not see the river all day (nor much in the way of interesting bird life), we were both ready to get back. The weather had held, the wind wasn’t brutal, the sun wasn’t cooking us, and the traffic volume was very low. It was, all things considered, an excellent first day’s training ride. We logged 38 miles in 3 or so hours of riding time, clocking an average of 12.5 miles per hour.

Most of our loud neighbors from the night before had left the campground by the time we returned from our ride, and remember those clouds? When we got back to the campsite, they appeared threatening enough that we went ahead and loaded the bikes on the Roomba-rack and covered them with their travel “raincoat.” But by the time we’d both showered, they had all gone away, too. It is slightly overcast as I write this at 5:30P, and the mobs of kids playing with their scooters and bikes and skateboards and etc, right in front of our campsite (which features a nice downhill along the main access road) are gone.  It is cool and a little breezy, so I’m thinking I’ll put on my hoodie and sweat pants again shortly.

Dinner will be a leftover game hen that Jack grilled Sunday night at home, plus some frozen tater tots cooked in the Omnia, and a salad. This is definitely my kind of vacation.

Tomorrow, we head to Janes Island State Park, in Maryland, where we will settle for about a week and ride, and eat fresh seafood, and ride, and sleep . . . Well, you get the idea. More later!