North Bend Federal Campground, VA

North Bend is among our favorite camping spots. It is enormous, and nearly everywhere there is good privacy between sites. The variety of sites available is awesome, but for this last segment of our Spring Trip we chose our “happy place,” an unserviced peninsula reaching into Kerr Lake (Buggs Island Lake) pointing to the south (North Carolina). We usually take site 117, so we face the sunset, but right across the road are excellent sites as well, which face the sunrise. 

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It’s a bit of a walk to the bathhouse, which is 4 private shower/toilet/sink rooms that are roomy and clean. Just as a side note, the dishwashing station is so far away that you need to drive up—and it’s not even at the newer of the biggest bathhouses serving this loop. You have to go to the old bathhouse—now closed to users except for the dishwashing station—which consists of no countertops, just a pair of deep utility sinks, set rather low (and back-achey). So it’s good to remember to take a table along for placing your dishes on.

While North Bend only offers aluminum can recycling, the tremendous upside is that one can get between 3 and 4 bars of LTE nearly everywhere. 

For this trip, Jack had mentioned online that we’d be there, and a few of our Altoistes friends (fellow owners of Alto trailers) suggested they’d be interested in joining us. So, on Thursday, April 18, we arrived (after finding a self-help car wash in South Hill and hosing off all the pollen from the vehicles) to discover Mike and Barbara already arrived and getting ready to set up. Their friends who are on the waiting list for their Alto (July pickup), John and Dana, were set up in a tent next door to them; and down at the end of the spit were Hal and Dawn in their 1-year-old model 2114.

It was VERY windy when we arrived, so we decided not to erect the awning. But we did set up the Clam screen house, and Jack tied it down every way from Sunday to keep it secure. Rain was forecast for the night into Friday, so we didn’t take down or uncover the bikes.

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We all agreed to meet at Hal and Dawn’s site for a Solo stove fire and dinner, but it was so windy, no one wanted to have their food get icy before they could eat it. Most ate in their trailers and joined us for the campfire afterward. Meanwhile, friends of Hal & Dawn who don’t own an Alto pulled into the site next to theirs and set up. We met John and Ginger as the fire kicked off.

We enjoyed a beautiful moon sparkling on the water, and the light lined up for me to get a great fire-and-moon shot.

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Friday, Apr. 19 & Saturday, Apr. 20

Although the strong wind had kept us awake overnight, none of the called-for rain had yet arrived as I sat outside with my book and tea at 7:30 AM. I had a great time watching three bald eagles in a contest for territory. It began with the arrival of a juvenile.

There was a pack of vultures feeding at the nearby shore (a dead fish or such in the rocks?) and a juvie bald eagle flew very near to check it out. When it saw me so close, it peeled off to go across the inlet to sit in the “eagle tree” (named by us during last year’s visit when an adult frequently sat there). Shortly another slightly less mottled sub-adult came along and was either about to alight or challenge when an adult came and chased them both away, chittering and flying aggressively after the youngest. They all disappeared for a while over the trees, and then I saw two of them flying high and away to the east.

I also watched a common loon fishing along the shoreline. Checked out the list of birds one can see at Kerr Lake, and the common loon is an uncommon sighting. During our stay, we saw and heard lots of them (or maybe the same ones over and over?).

Later in the morning, I heard the peeping of an osprey, sounding distressed. I got my binoculars up in time to see an osprey with a fish being harassed by an adult bald eagle. The osprey was lithe and quick but burdened by its fish. The eagle was aggressive and determined, working very hard to get above the osprey—yet it was ponderous and clunky in flight, compared to its target. 

Eventually, the osprey got high enough above the eagle to catch more of the wind and beat a very fast retreat off to the southeast. The eagle gave up and flew westward.

Not long after watching that contest, I began to feel raindrops—the rain began in earnest around 11. Jack and I pulled out the next jigsaw puzzle during the heavy rain, and the wind returned with a vengeance, rocketing the Roomba with pelting rain.

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Before finishing the puzzle we headed to Clarksville to have dinner with Allen and Mary at their farm. In some places en route, the rain was so hard it was difficult to see the road, and we got quite wet racing from the car to their garage upon our arrival. 

We enjoyed a lovely dinner of crab cakes and conversation, followed by a quick song or two around the piano. They have a lovely room with excellent acoustics where Mary plays the piano and Allen listens to his robust music collection with a high-tech sound system. A very comfortable spot—and Allen was also working a jigsaw puzzle—a beach scene in the dark blue of late evening. The rain had stopped and the wind calmed by the time we left.

Breakfast in the very windy and sometimes rainy Saturday AM (April 20) was drop biscuits in the Omnia oven, with the last of the Edwards ham we’d gotten in Smithfield.

 

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Biscuits in the pan before dropping the lid

 

Because the weather was still dicey, we stayed indoors and worked at finishing that diabolical jigsaw puzzle. Its theme was National Parks, and it was a “poster” of a bunch of our parks’ postcards—so every park was represented at least twice in the picture. It was 1000 pieces, which nominally would fit on our nook table, but 1000 is too many to fit unassembled and still be able to work on the puzzle. So we had to bring in our smallest camp table, cover it with a towel and place a whole bunch of pieces there. It was quite a bear and a gift from a friend we might not be able to forgive (just kidding).

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As the weekend drew to a close, our Alto friends were leaving, and some Floyd friends were scheduled to arrive. Hari & Karl had come to join us in their Cassita, but the wind was so bad still, they didn’t want to try to get the tent for their kids set up. So they moved over to the C loop, where it was sheltered from the wind and decidedly warmer than at our site. They texted us this information and invited us over for a campfire. Before we headed to Hari and Karl’s after our cold dinner, I took a shot of the choppy water and clearing sky as the sun was setting. We enjoyed their Solo stove fire for a while, along with a few adult beverages, and closed out the evening with a forecast for better weather during our final days of vacation.

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Home Again & What Preceeded

May 3, 2016 – we’re home and Roomba is unloaded (only just made it before the rain came), but not in his cozy home because we have to take him for an inspection this month. So the backing into the garage part will come later.

But let me back and fill a bit.

Since my last post, the keyboard for my iPad died, and I forgot to bring its charging cable. This makes typing slow and fraught with errors, as I return to learning how to type on the face of the iPad.

In addition, we got notice from our cell service that we are nearing the end of our data plan amount, so this post had to be delayed until we returned to wifi access. So it is a compendium packed full with our 3 days and 4 nights at North Bend Campground.

With a slow start to our first day in camp (Friday, April 29), and overcast but not raining weather, I decided to head out on the bike for a bit of exercise. Meanwhile Kerry and Gloria set up below our site on the beach for a bit of fishing. Jack was snoozing under the awning and I don’t know what Jack, Martha, John, and Lisa were doing.

I rode basically the same route Jack and I had ridden back in March, through all the loops of the campground, when we had come this direction and camped in Occoneechee. I was able to really gain some speed and crank-turns going across the dam toward the closed (until May 1) area D. That is truly a lovely little area with a beach and pretty sites. I ended up hitting that flat dam road and the camp loops twice during my tour, so I managed to work up 10 miles on the odometer. 

A stop along the D-area dam was also a nice place for pix, and it tried to see Roomba from there, but could only see the roof of our screen house, and Kerry and Gloria fishing below.

    
For lunch, Jack and I cooked the truly glorious chicken, spinach, and cheese sausages we’d gotten from Trader Joe’s. On buns with a bit of mustard, it was a flavor sensation that we can repeat, as there were four in the pack and we ate only two.

Later, Jack, Martha, and my Jack took another, shorter bike tour of the area, and we saw some Canada geese with five little goslings moving along the grassy part of the shoreline. I wasn’t able to capture them very well, but some of those brown blobs in the grass are goslings.  

We also rode to Area B, that Jack and I had eyeballed last month, and with more leaves on the trees now, we could readily see that we’d have plenty of sun for solar gain, but also good shade during the hottest time of the day. It’s an unserviced site, but right on the peninsula, with fresh breezes and very few neighbors. 

   
As dinner time approached, we gathered at Jack and Martha’s site, enjoyed the stories, sunset, and watching the flora and fauna surrounding us. Martha had prepared a delicious meal we all shared and contributed to and we had a lovely time.

   
 The plan for Saturday, April 30, was to head out with bikes on cars to Boydton and check out the Tobacco Heritage trail there. Kerry and Glo decided not to ride, but all the rest of us took advantage of the excellent weather, and we drove the route Jack and I had taken in the fall of 2014: the Beaches to Bluegrass section ride we’d ridden with Alan and Mary’s tour.

We found the rail head, and began strongly, on a pretty and nice under-tire surface, for about a mile. Then we hit the end.

   
   
  
Hmmm. We had thought the trail here was supposed to be about 5 miles long, but, unless we missed something (like maybe a section of the oath that was not cindered, and therefore inappropriate for Jack’s and my skinny tires), it isn’t quite there yet.

So we turned around and found lunch at a little diner called Rose’s Pizza Restaurant, right in what passes for downtown Boydton. It was an excellent meal, well-presented, quickly delivered and much appreciated even though we hadn’t really ridden enough to earn such a meal.

   
 Since it was only about 10 miles from there back to camp, Jack especially, wanted to ride home. I was going to drive our car back while Jack rode, when Martha graciously volunteered to drive our car back so both of us could ride.

We set out and maintained a steady 16 mph pace, reversing the driving route that had taken us to Boydton. In no time, it seemed, we were back having exercised our heart rates and pedaling muscles.

Until dinner time, we hung out under the awning reading and such. I pulled out my binoculars to study the teensy birds foraging in the trees and undergrowth in front of me. I think I got a good read on three warblers, although it’s kind of difficult to tell for sure. While the black throated blue and black throated green females I’m pretty sure about, I believe I also saw a Tennessee warbler, which doesn’t nest south of the Adarondacks in NY (apparently), so this might have been a migrant. I’m quite sure that this is what I saw, but I’m always confused by warblers, so maybe not. Here are the photos I was able to find that most resembled my sightings.

 

Female black-throated blue warbler
  
Female black-throated green warbler
  
This is as close a picture as I could find to what I was seeing in the trees
 
Also, I didn’t actually see but heard several kingfishers plying the shallows around the cove. A while after Jack had disappeared from our lounge area, I began to get chilly. So I closed up the windows and turned on the heat pump for a bit of warmth.

I got everything ready for us to quickly grill some hamburgers to be served on pretzel buns and to heat up the mac-n-cheese with Hatch chilies we’d gotten at Trader Joe’s. After an adult beverage up at John and Lisa’s roaring camp fire, we all departed to “fix n’ fetch” our separate dinners, then re-gathered there to consume more of everything: food, drink, lies, tales, and jokes.

As the forecast had predicted, it began raining in the night, and we awakened on May 1 (happy European Labor Day, and Birthday to my niece, Lee) to gray drizzle.

To celebrate a new month and all that comes with fresh starts and birthdays (and to console ourselves for the bad weather that was forecast to stay with us all Sunday) we cooked cinnamon rolls in the Omnia oven for breakfast. I went on a cleaning spree and re-organized all our various stuff and trappings, high had gotten helter-skelter in Roomba.

Then we sat down in our nook to read and play games, write and plan our final dinner of this trip: bratwursts with grilled onions and peppers, fresh grilled asparagus, and fingerling potatoes roasted in the Omnia with rosemary and garlic. When the rain eased for a while in the afternoon (and the temps rose), we moved our lounging out to the screen house and I did a bit of digital drawing (as yet unfinished). Kerry and Gloria headed down to the beach to try another round of fishing between showers.

Jack and Martha experienced some anomalies with their RV, and the boys beavered during the day to fix or mediate the issues, which were electrical in nature. I stayed out of their way, except to find the electrical tape we’d stored in Roomba for use in the fixes.

After all was calm again, we performed another “fix & fetch”  dinner to gather and eat at Jack & Martha’s site for this last night in camp. Another lovely, cloudy sunset over the water, despite the all-day rain forecast, and we enjoyed our time so much, we began planning for another gathering, possibly adding in another Meadows of Dan couple if they’d be willing, for later in the summer.

   
 Our departure AM dawned sunny, but clouds on the horizon and the notes from folks back home indicated a swift departure might be best to beat out the rains apparently deluging Floyd County. Jack, Martha, Gloria and Kerry all broke camp and left before Jack and I had eaten breakfast. We weren’t quite as stirred up about driving in the rain or even arriving in the rain, so we took a bit more time and got away around 11:15AM. Listened to our audiobook en route and had an uneventful drive home, were greeted by our house sitters, who were packed and ready to leave for the Charlottesville area, chatted with them about this and that. We were very pleased to hear they had taken full advantage of our regional amenities, including the best restaurants in Floyd, the Old Mill Golf Course and their restaurant, hiking trails, Buffalo Mountain, and nearly everything we had suggested they might enjoy. They even straightened up and sorted out our refrigerator storage and spice/herb racks. We hope to have them back again some day.

So ends another Blue Roomba adventure. Until next time, may the road rise up to meet you and your way be safe and joyous.

Last day, VA Beach; First Day, North Bend

Finally got our lazy behinds moving enough to take a ride today (April 27). We suited up, lubed the chains, and met Kerry on the opposite side of the main highway (Rt 60 or Shore Drive) where the mainly day use areas and woodsy trails are in this enormous state park. 

  
We took a paved trail, named the Cape Henry Trail, in the direction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, until it ran out. Saw some interesting things along the way, once we left the Park and headed through some pretty residential areas. We were also surprised to see that we passed behind the grocery store we’d been shopping – knowing we could ride our bikes easily and off-road to get provisions is a good thing for next time.

  
 

It is difficult to see here, but one sculpture id Spiderman, made of wire mesh or mesh panels
   

Reversed course to see where the pavement on the opposite side of the main park entry road would take us, and the pavement itself was terrible, with deep potholes and high ridges pushed up by roots. It circled back to the main road at another entrance to the Cape Henry trail (and several others) which were unpaved. Kerry decided he had had enough for the day, and returned to the campground.

Jack and I deliberated a while, due to the fact that we’d placed skinny tires our bikes for the Cycle NC ride just passed, but then said, “How wrong can we be?” And took off into the woods.

While there were tree roots pushed up along the path, it was wide and flat and we had no trouble avoiding the hazards, which also included deep loose sand in a spot or two. But for the most part, the trails was packed and covered with a light dusting of pine needles, so it was soft and quite lovely.

We found a map that said we could exit the trail at 64th Street in VA Beach, so we checked that out and while we didn’t find a bike lane proper, there was a parallel road that had almost zero vehicle use, bordering a residential section, which served as a lovely bike road.

A little while later, as the bigger road turned into Atlatic Ave., we found something called the Maritime Trail, and that led us right to the boardwalk. Which, by the way, isn’t made of wood any more.

   
 The wind off the Atlantic Ocean was quite strong, and the clouds were gathering for the afternoon storm that was forecast. Jack had neglected to bring along a jacket, and we had to ride pretty fast to keep him warm, so we began looking for a bike shop so he might be able to buy a coat. Cycled down to the Pier without any luck, and decided it was time for lunch.

   
  

I was glad to see that the seaside amusement park remembered from my youth was still there
 
Had an excellent pizza and a salad at a place just off Atlantic Ave., looked for where our devices directed us to a cycle shop (evidently now closed with the space a barber shop today), and decided to beat a fast path back to the campground. Again followed the parallel road until the main road made a bend and turned back into Shore Drive, where we found excellent pavement and a dedicated bike line along both edges of the four-lane. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Jack was really cranking the pedals up the road, and I just managed to keep up, and we got back to camp around 3, and took hasty showers. The rain was definitely coming, so we took down the screen house and had the greatest time watching the osprey over the bay.

They were hovering like kestrels, using the wind (blowing strongly out of the east) to just “sit” in the air. We saw many of them dive into the water, where we would lose sight of them beyond the dunes. But now and again, one would fly over the campground and our site, carrying a fish overland to their nests. This went on for ages, and we saw many, many of them score successes and carry their bounty over our heads. Total bliss.

We left with Kerry and Gloria in their car to head out to Trader Joes. What a nice store! We had a great time looking at all the fun foods and planned and provisioned for the trip to North Bend Campground, where a grocery store is not just right around the corner but rather 20-30 miles away.

Got back home and began prep-and-grill of our quit late dinner together. Pork roast, asparagus, salad, and rice. Just as we sat down to eat the skies opened up and it rained significantly on us as we sat under our awning. We stayed dry, ate well, and enjoyed the close of our last day at First Landing. This is definitely a place we’d like to return to one day.

The next morning, April 28 (Roomba’s adoption anniversary) I was up just after dawn when I saw a blue grosbeak, just foraging around the campsite. I haven’t seen one of those for years. Later, as we were nearing the completion of the pack-stow-and hitch process, I first heard, then saw a little hummingbird in one of the nearby live oaks. Such a bounty of birds!

 

Not my photo, rather, borrowed from my bird guide
 
Headed west for the final camp-stop of this adventure, and lost track of Kerry and Gloria somewhere near Portsmouth. Had a fuel stop and lunch in Emporia, Virginia. Texted with Jack and Martha (coming from Meadows of Dan to meet us), Gloria and Kerry, to locate everyone en route, and got to our site at about 3:30.

 

The setting by the lake – site C-152
  
The view from our “porch”
  
The screen house
 
It is truly a lovely campground, and quite inexpensive for senior citizens — far les expensive than my fave state park, Occoneechee, nearly next door. But since this is a federal site, also on Bugg’s Island/Kerr Lake, as is Occoneechee, it is a true asset to the citizens of America, so is available for less cost.

Anyway, we gathered not only with Jack and Martha, and Kerry and Gloria, but also Jack and Martha’s friends, John and Lisa. All of us are near one another and John and Lisa built a fire and we told stories and lies, ate dinner, and laughed tougher until about 10, when we hit the hay. Two great days.