We were on the road by 8:30AM, headed toward Kelly’s Island State Park, Ohio. The island is in Lake Erie, and the ferry departs every half-hour during the summer for the Island, from Marblehead, OH.
The ferry ride is short and sweet, although expensive for a trailer, Tow Vehicle, and two old gits on a there-and-back-again: $113. Especially since it’s just a 20-minute ride.
But worth every dollar. The roads on the Island are narrow, but there are very few fossil fuel vehicles, and the island-wide speed limit is 25MPH. Most of the vehicular traffic is bicycles and these undersized electric golf carts. We had not the first clue which way to turn out of the ferry landing area, so we went left. The Lakeview road took us past the “downtown” area (such as it is) and 4 miles along the pretty drive to the state park. As we moved away from the commerce center, there were fewer vehicles and more lovely homes and lake views.
Our site is one of the premium lake front sites but without any power or water (site #103). The bath houses are modern and clean, although there are only 3 each of shower, toilet stall, and sink. I’d imagine during the busiest of summer weekends that would not serve (or you’d have to wait a long time for your turn).
We’re right next to the “beach” however, meaning there are plenty of shouting, screaming kids swimming in the shallow waters protected by a stone breakwater. To our right (facing the water and east) is an area with lots of boats anchored and motoring through, with a couple of pretty sailboats. Unfortunately, about an hour after we’d arrived and (mostly) set up, a boat with two couples on it arrived, anchored, and started blasting their very loud, very bad music for all to enjoy. They stayed, swimming, (probably) drinking, playing their awful music too loudly, and being totally obnoxious for hours. I finally had to take refuge inside, although it was really really hot.
The good news/bad news about site 103 is that, since it has no services, it’s a good thing it’s in full sun. That does, however, make it a challenge to manage the interior heat. The shady part of our site has many trees and a clear understory, with a well-placed fire ring, so setting up away from the camper and in the shade (and with the lake-breeze a constant cooling effect) is perfect. We hung both hammocks, got some firewood (for when BoomBoxBoat decided to go away) and chilled.
Through the Alto owners Facebook group, we arranged to meet up with Tim, who is on the waiting list for a 1713 like ours, but wanted to see one “in use” to help him decide what amenities he would finalize for his unit. He is a musician and a bicyclist, and since he was playing a gig on the island Saturday night, decided to stay until we arrived (before heading back to his home in Cleveland) so he could check out our Roomba.
He arrived before we’d completed the set-up, and chatted a long time before he headed back to is car to make the ferry back to the mainland. He was especially interested in the bike rack and the awning options. Of course, our awning is no longer available from Safari Condo, so seeing ours probably didn’t help him much.
We had a lovely fire and dinner (BoomBoxBoat had left by that time), ended the day with a lovely adult beverage, and hit the hay.
Monday, July 31
I got up early (5:30-ish) to see the sunrise over the lake. The best thing about getting up that early was listening to and watching the birds awaken. It was truly lovely and I’m glad I made the effort.
After our usual breakfast of sausage patties on slider buns, we kitted up for our bike ride. Not only did we want to get into town to purchase some fresh veggies (if possible), but we also wanted to circumnavigate the island on the roads, and see what we could see.
It was a wonderful ride. I didn’t stop to take photos of all the lovely lakeside homes we passed, but there were a passel of them. After finding the primary market and getting some veggies to grill with our pork chops this evening, we hit the Kelly’s Island Brewery for what turned out to be their breakfast menu, but we called it lunch anyway (the didn’t begin serving lunch until noon, and we arrived there at 11). Eggs were involved, and really great home fries, and I had mine topped with chili, while Jack got sausage gravy on his.
A short ride later, we were back at camp, and enjoying a lovely shower. While the screaming kids were there again swimming and making tons of noise, BoomBoxBoat did not appear by the time of this upload. Our total mileage for the day was 15.25 miles, and it was a lovely, leisurely ride, followed by a leisurely time in the hammocks.
We made ready to build a fire and work on our final Kelly’s Island dinner when I popped up to the Camp Office to borrow their wifi for this upload (there’s zero Verizon service here). We aren’t going to break our necks to move on tomorrow AM, but our next stop is Oak Hill Federal Park near Lake Vesuvius, OH, for a two-night stay before hitting Virginia again.
Due to several late nights in a row—a couple of overhot sleeping nights when our own ceiling fan could not keep up with the humid, still air; housesitters’ lost luggage flying from Buffalo NY to Greensboro NC; a trip to Roanoke to close on my mother’s house (and a lovely lunch afterward to celebrate—and in no small measure, to mourn—that milestone with her); and a wonderful evening on a classic “southern porch” with ceiling fans and wide floors for a delightful meal and wondrous company and conversation—we arose on our departure day pretty exhausted. With the timing of everything having to do with the housesitters’ later arrival than expected and our desire to squire them around, showing off the sights and “gotta-dos” in our area (not to mention the house and critter minding routines), we elected not to hitch Roomba nor even load our 2015 Subaru tow vehicle on Saturday.
So our departure morning began with these final load-and-hitch routines. All along, we’d figured on leaving by about 10A, but we had a long way to go (guestimated at 6 or so hours) to our first overnight, Paint Creek State Park in Ohio. So anything earlier would have been excellent. But alas, even with the help of Angela and John doing the “morning run” for critter management, we did not pull out of our driveway until 10.
Briefly stopped at the intersection of I-77 and Rt. 58 near Hillsville for an AM snack, and found the interstates totally packed with semis and probable vacationeers headed home after a weekend or so away. Lots and lots of traffic.
Listened to the beginning of an engaging mystery novel, and ended up trading drivers much more often than normal because we were both tired. Jack got us into West Virginia where we took another break and I took a photo of our Roomba next to an enormous three-axle fifth wheel whose weight I could not possibly imagine. So glad we have our modest teardrop.
I took us through all the WV toll plazas along I-64 to make it to OH. A final stop in Chillocothie at a grocery to get our usual chicken salad to go on the lettuce we’d brought along for a quick-and-delicious no-cook dinner after set-up, and we got to Bainbridge, OH, which was the closest ‘burgh Jack had been able to find for the onboard mapping system. So, because Jack was driving by this time, actually finding Paint Creek State Park and their campground fell to Siri on my phone using AppleMaps.
Even when I’d plugged it in, the route seemed “around our thumbs to get to our butts,” but sometimes, especially when you’re navigating around a lake upon which the target state park is oriented, that’s how you have to go. So we headed out of Bainbridge on Rt. 50, with the map image and brown signs indicating that Paint Creek Lake and the State Park properties were all along our right-hand side. Small brown signs appeared at intervals along our route indicating marinas and boat launches. Nowhere was there a major sign that actually said Paint Creek State Park. One small, narrow brown sign packed in with a bunch of other thin brown signs along a short signpost (most of them about boat access points) had the words “camping: 5.” We were unsure if that was attached to the park or not even though it was a brown sign.
So we skipped the only indicator of camping of any sort, and carried on the way Siri was suggesting. By this time it was 6PM and we had encircled the entire park (judging by the map) but there was one narrow road that showed a bridge across a part of the lake, and we figured it was possible this was the only way into the park if you’re not launching a boat. From the 7-hundred numbered road (753) we had taken from Rt. 50, we wound up on a small farm road whose sign near our turn-off said “no outlet.”
Maybe that meant that it dead-headed into the park?
Still marginally hopeful, and noting that there were no handy turn-arounds at this end of the road in any case (and dead tired by this time) we carried on. Another mile or two and we saw a sign that said, “Road ends 500 ft.” Sure enough, a low road with a barrier across it was, in fact, the end (I figured it had been flooded out at some point, and never re-opened). But we were obviously not the only trailer rig that had made this error due to lousy mapping, and there was a decent pull-in/back-out spot for an about-face right next to the barrier.
Around 6:30PM we were back in the neighborhood of Rt. 50, re-tracing our earlier route (which was only about 13 miles all told), and searching (in vain) for a State Park sign. Along the route (I was driving at this point, as I did the back-and-go at the turn-around) Jack was able to get a street address for the park, and we mapped that, but it wasn’t anywhere near where we were, so we decided that was a mail box or an office address. We tried to call, but by this time, the office or check-in station or wherever we were going to pick up our reservation materials was closed. So we decided to take the small “camping” indicator sign direction, down another narrow road, and at long last, found the park camping entrance.
Our site (#125) is very nice and shady, with a well-positioned fire ring (unused by us). We’re near the bath house, which is old but clean, offering additional laundry area, but no dish washing station. The sites have electric but no water, although there are well-positioned faucets everywhere. The sites, we’ve noticed, however, are very short and narrow. There’s only one position in which your trailer or rig can sit. Some are in the full sun, and others, along the lakeside, are very shady to semi-shady. Our site does not have access to the lake — in fact on our side of the camping area, one can only glimpse water down a thoroughly forested (and poison oak infested) bank.
The site next door is one of the camp hosts and we met the couple minding this area as they were headed back home for two days to mow their lawns and re-stock their stores. Very friendly. The other big rig we are sandwiched between had to park their tow vehicle cross-wise to their camper because both would not fit on the asphalt back-in area. There are many big rigs whose TVs do not fit on the parking sites — and many of the sites, while there’s a nice, level, narrow asphalt place to put your rig, many are placed such that the ground around the asphalt falls off substantially, sometimes to both sides, making putting up an awning like ours impossible. In these cases, the fire ring is way away from the trailer site, and in others, they had to build a “deck” off the asphalt (and the user must pay more for that privilege) so one could set up even a chair. Forget having a convenient place to set up a screen house.
Still, many sites are nice with generous spacing between — while others, like #125, are fairly tightly sandwiched.
So we felt a bit crowded (especially because they were cigarette smokers and our site is downwind of them) and we turned on our AC to help close out them and their smoke — they also chose to build a campfire, which of course, blew smoke into our space and would have filled Roomba if we’d chosen our normal routine of merely letting the exhaust fan keep the inside cool. Happily, before leaving the hosts had told us our neighbors were scheduled to leave tomorrow. Besides, we were glad for the AC as it was warm and muggy, and the hosts reported they’d had a deluge the night before.
We did a minimal set-up both inside and out (just the awning and a couple of chairs outside) and ate dinner around 8-8:30. Shortly afterwards, a gang came along and wanted a tour, as one of them had seen an Alto model 1743 in the past, and he wanted his friends to see ours. They were nice and kept it short and sweet, so we could enjoy the rest of our adult beverages, and so I could make up the bed. We called it a day around 9 and neither of us read for very long before the eyes were slamming shut.
July 24, 2017
The day dawned without our knowledge and we didn’t climb out of bed until around 8A. But it was cool and breezy — even looked a bit like it wanted to rain, but didn’t — as we sat outside to enjoy our coffee and tea. A toasted croissant with jelly served for a meal, and around 11 we boarded the bikes to have a short tootle around the grounds.
Our first stop was at the “camp store” which is also the check-in area, and we got our proper paperwork and a couple of maps of the immediate environs. This is quite a nice campground, with putt-putt golf, a frisbee golf course, several nice playgrounds and open areas, a nature preserve with identification signage, and other amenities.
There are quite a lot of hiking and horse-riding trails, and also some mountain-biking trails, but we stuck to the paved roads as we had not changed out our road tires for nubbies. We rode our bikes around the biggest camping loop (ours), and then down Tyler Road to one of the boat launches.
Two views of the lake from the boat launch.
There was a significant amount of flood debris scattered around down at the launch area, and you could see that the flood waters had risen a serious level above the parking area there. My guess is that the parking had to have been 20 or 30 feet underwater, judging by the mess left. This would explain the washed out road we encountered yesterday, but after looking at a map, I still don’t know why any mapping system would send folks to that area, since there’s nothing there but lake and natural area.
We climbed back uphill and went the other direction from the campground until Tyler Rd. met Rapid Forge Rd., and turned around to head back, did the smaller of the two camping loops, and returned to Roomba for lunch. The breeze was still quite lovely, and managed to keep most of the bugs away. Nevertheless we kept the AC going as the sun moved around to bear down on Roomba’s Big Front Window (BFW) for a while before the tree closest to our parking pad could offer the shade that the later afternoon promised.
Jack had arisen in the AM with a sinus headache, so after our ride, during which we found enough cell service up at the camp store to receive a few emails and texts, he hit the bed for an afternoon lie-down. As the sun and heat rose, I joined him—just to read my book, mind you.
We awakened around 3 and decided to rouse ourselves with another short pedal up to check out the weather where we could get cell service. All forecasts were for cooler and dry weather. Not having to deal with humidity is a true blessing after the prior week at home.
For dinner we enjoyed some tamales that cousin Laura and our mutual friend, Steph, had fixed and then frozen earlier this year. They had given us some to try, and they packed small and stayed frozen, so we had brought them along. A little steam in a pot and presto, we had fresh, home-made tamales! They were the best I’d ever eaten, and I’m not a tamale fan, normally.
Because we had a long drive to reach Kalamazoo, we did most of the break-down after dinner, and again enjoyed an early night, setting the alarm for 6A to have tea/coffee and hit the road west.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day One of our Eastern Shore bicycling vacation was mostly driving, and as I write this note, we’re set up at our campsite (#07). One of the first things we did was get out of our jeans and into shorts. We left Meadows of Dan at about 9:30A with temps in the mid-fifties, and arrived at Chippokes Plantation SP around 3:30 to 86 degrees. Inside Roomba it was a toasty 94.
We’d left home with a vat of chili in the Billy Boil (Yeah, yeah. The ingredients were handy, easy to prepare, and chili in the Billy travels well – so what that it’s really a “winter” dish? We’re cooling down under the awning, enjoying a nice breeze, while it’s still 82 degrees, but there’s no humidity [thank goodness]). We also left home with frozen dinner rolls in the Omnia oven (dressed up in its new silicone liner) and rolled into camp with them ready to bake.
I cranked up the Omnia and its thermometer, and the rolls were done in about 20 minutes. I’ve done rolls like this in the Omnia before, and the bottoms often get more “done” than the tops – okay, they get overdone. But with the silicone liner, the bottoms are nicely browned without that “charred” look (and taste) about them. Looking forward to continuing to learn stovetop oven management.
Roomba’s in a nice site, but the leaves are still emerging so the sun is pretty serious at this time of year. While it’s still light at this point in the evening—mind you, with the setting sun things might change—we are not bothered by mosquitoes.
En route, once we were near enough the James River, we saw two adult bald eagles fighting or courting in the sky above. As we set up camp, a fox sparrow graced us with its presence. I love the birdwatching prospects along waterways.
We’re just relaxing now, after being interrupted by someone wanting an Alto Tour once we arrived, and taking our time to set up for our brief, 2-night stay here, without unhitching from the car. Looking forward to a nice bike ride around the campground and plantation area tomorrow (although they’re calling for rain).
Most of us did a lot of lazing around on Wednesday, October 5. JB and Martha got into camp from their adventures in RV Repairland at about 11:30A. Ken and Diane wanted to spend a lot of time with Barley hiking some of the many, many trails around the park, and I think in the end they made some 6 miles.
They highly recommended a portion of their hike that went past a waterfall and up a ridge to the Tuscarora Overlook. They said the best way to get there was to traverse Blue Suck Falls Trail, and some of it is challenging and steep, but well worth the effort, they said. There’s a shelter and bench and resting/picnicking area at the overlook, and if you start at the dam end of Douthat Lake, it would be somewhere in the 4 mile range. We might think about carrying a few snacks when we go up there. Next Time.
We did hop in the car and run up to the park store and restaurant to grab some ice, and at the same time, we got a trail map. There’s apparently another waterfall to see along a different trail, and the waterfall is maybe a mile and three-quarters before the path begins climbing and switch-backing. The trail is called Stony Run, and there’s a parking area at the trailhead near the road. Jack and I wanted to do some biking this time (we hadn’t even brought our cycles last year when we made this trip) and we noticed another trail, part of the Allegheny Highlands Multiuse Equestrian State Trail. Its trailhead is tucked in the woods right at the very beginning of the Whispering Pines campground loop, near the (narrow) main road. We were lamenting the fact that the main road carries big rigs, and is actually a commuter road through the middle of the park, even though the speed limits are quite low (35 and 25 MPH). It has zero shoulder, and so we were worried about riding along it for 3 miles just to get to the Park Office, not to mention adding another half-mile of curvy uphill to get up to the restaurant and lakeside.
So we asked the person in the Office if the Equestrian trail (called Flat Run Trail, sounding more positive for us) was appropriate for bicycles, and she said sure. It ends at the day-use Horse Trailer parking area, but that’s only a few hundred yards from the Office. Sounded good to us for an exploration next day.
Wednesday evening, we wanted to grill a pork roast for everyone, and each couple volunteered to bring a go-with. I’d thought I’d boil up some potatoes to accompany the meal, but a pasta/pesto side, a salad, a sweet potato casserole, and some fresh tomatoes all ended up being tossed into the hopper, so I didn’t have to do anything except start and mind the fire.
We had a lovely meal that night around a beautiful fire (even if I do say so myself). The wind was still, and the temps mild, so it was simply a perfect evening with friends.
We began our last full day of this camping adventure (Thursday, October 6) by saying an early goodbye to Ken and Diane. They live in eastern North Carolina, and with hurricane Matthew bearing down on FL and SC, they felt that it might be wise to get home and see if they can batten down any hatches. Frankly, they might have to turn right around and meet Kerry & Gloria back up in VA, to seek refuge from the storm.
The day dawned with a blue sky, and Jack reported that he’d seen the constellation Orion when he got up in the night. It was, however, 44 degrees inside and 43 outside at our site, so we had to run the heat pump for a little just to get the chill off.
With our coffee and tea, we heated some frozen spanakopita (spinach and cheese) filo dough triangles, and I must say, they turned out pretty darn good in the Omnia oven. I used the rack, could get only 7 in the one layer, and heated them up on medium-low for 15 minutes, and at medium for another 15; then I turned them back down to medium-low for the third 15 (in my experience, nothing cooks quickly in the Omnia, which is fine with us). Yum.
The temperature was still in the mid-50s when we hopped on our bikes, and I elected to leave my jacket behind, so I had to ride a fast loop around the paved campground to warm up. Then we headed to the Flat Run Trail origin.
We were fine for the first section – rocky but pretty manageable. Then we got to a deep ditch that we had to walk through, and things went quickly pear-shaped from there. Jack let some air out of his tires so he could keep the fillings in his teeth. I soldiered on, but it was tricky going. The path more-or-less paralleled the road, so all of the drainage culverts carrying water off and under the road intersected the trail, and dried debris carried by the stormwater made parts of the trail unnavigable.
As a trail, it’s a great horse path. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone on a bike without fat tires and some suspension on their machines.
There are, however, two excellent bridges. One is a suspension bridge that I would not have touched with a ten-foot pole (vertigo), but I asked Jack to give it a walk so I could take some photos. This one is in place to cross a shallow but wide creek to carry hikers along an intersecting trail.
The other is a part of the Flat Run Trail itself, and is sturdy and an interesting color blue. We crossed it and soldiered on, though the trail’s footing was quickly deteriorating even more. Large stones, both well-set but sticking above the trail surface; and those kicked loose by hooves and feet made the cycling very unsteady. Several additional ditches were not ride-able with our cycles, so we had to watch the path carefully and dismount on many occasions.
At last we made it the 2.58 miles to the parking area for the horse trailers, and we scurried onto the main road for the last bit to the Park Office. We really didn’t need to stop there for anything, so we carried on along the road to the Lakeside Restaurant (open only weekends this time of year).
Jack felt his tires might be rolling on their rims (well, not really, but they were very soft) so we stopped and he got out a cartridge to refill to something nearer pavement PSI (80 for his tires). We went on to the end of the park where the horse camping is (Beaver Dam Campground), and took our Site Tour Boogie through there; then headed back toward home with a long stop at our fave camping area discovered last year, which is the Lakeside Campground, a no-hookups area that is quiet, beautiful, and as the name implies, right beside the Lake. While the sites are not reservable, they do allow pets, so Next Time, we will check them out to see if we might boondock there.
After visiting the last camping area (White Oak), we returned to Whispering Pines along the road, and made one stop to see the trail head for the Stony Run Trail, and our intention was to have lunch, then drive back with appropriate foot gear and hike up to the waterfall.
Our cyclometers indicated it had been a 13 miler, and we raced back along the road to beat the traffic (not one vehicle came up behind us), and Jack’s computer said his top speed along the road was 29 MPH.
Leftovers for lunch, and we got sleepy in the sun. Jack wanted to do some packing that afternoon, so we decided to ditch the hike and take our showers and tidy the campsite. Next Time.
As the afternoon segued into evening, JB built a fire at his site, and we all gathered there for the cocktail hour.
Still emptying out the refrigerator and cupboards, we had leftovers again and I got to make the potatoes I’d intended to make the night before, and we used up the fresh veggies in a big salad. The evening was clear and relatively warm, but the forecast was for rain beginning overnight, and everyone said they were going to try to beat the damp by breaking camp early the next AM.
Jack and I finally pulled out around 10A, and had a totally uneventful but quite wet drive home; about 3 hours, plus a stop for lunch and fuel along the way. We followed a full dump truck the entire length of Rt. 8 from Christiansburg’s Floyd exit off I-81, so the speed along there was only about 45 MPH.
In the pouring rain, we off-loaded most of the stuff in the car and in Roomba, then (after the Subie engine had cooled down) backed Roomba to stand the week in front of the garage.
Next adventure is the one we’ll take right before winterizing everything for a winter’s sleep.
Bald Eagle State Park is an enormous area, with plenty to do and plenty to see.
We debated whether to take our bikes up to the Pine Creek Trail on this gorgeous day (Monday, October 3). In the end, we elected to do our Bike/Site Tour Boogie, riding the Park, while Ken and Diane headed to the Pine Creek Trail.
Armed with a pretty good map and a desire to eventually end up across the lake, where the primitive camping area was, in addition to a little town called Howard and a lakeside hiking trail (that we hoped might accommodate cycles) we set off using the “every right turn” directional program.
There are at least 10 miles of hiking trails in the immediate area, and several marks on the map for cross-country skiing trails, and hunter’s trails outside of the campground (but still in the Park).
Our first right was a “connector” trail called the Shrike Tr., that was just grassy and obviously not for bikes, but we rode through (it was only about 25 yards). The next right turn carried us to a boat launch area where we got right up to, not the lake proper, but Hunter Run Cove.
On the map it looks more shallow than the main lake, which is called Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, or Sayers Lake for short, which is actually a reservoir. Here’s a bit of the history:
Leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the 5900 acre state park was opened to the public July 4, 1971. Completed by the Corps in 1969, the 100 ft high and 1.3 mile long dam forms the Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir. Created to reduce flood damage and provide water-based recreation, the reservoir/lake is1,730 acres where visitors can recreate year-round. The reservoir honors Foster Joseph Sayers, Private 1st Class. A native of Center County, 19-year-old Sayers was killed during a valiant assault on enemy forces during WWII. For his heroism, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
At Bald Eagle State Park the Allegheny Plateau’s rolling highlands meet the steep slopes of Bald Eagle Ridge, creating not only spectacular scenery, but also prime wildlife habitat. Migrating hawks ride ridgeline thermals, black bear, bobcat, porcupine, and turkey inhabit mature forests of oak and hickory. Great blue herons wade in Bald Eagle Creek while osprey pluck yellow perch from Sayers Lake.
The park is the site of one of the most intensive woodcock, songbird, and native habitat restoration projects in Pennsylvania. In addition to the American woodcock, many rare and declining songbirds, like the golden-winged warbler, nest at the park. Partners across the state have been working together to improve and maintain the shrubland habitat for woodcock and other declining scrubland-loving species.
Our next stop along the Site Tour Boogie (the next right would have taken us to the Office and Rt. 150, so we saved that until we had to get onto the highway to get to the other side of the lake, and we went straight through a 4-way intersection instead of turning right) was the Marina. We thought to go up to the Ecological Learning Center, but workers were re-roofing it, so we skipped it. Next time.
The Marina offers summer and winter dry storage for boats, and a variety of boats that are for rent during the high season (closed at this time, however). I heard through the grapevine that there are 200 slips for private use here, and across from the inlet defining the Marina was a lovely picnic and fishing area (there were tons and tons of walk-in fishing sites/trails designated all around the shoreline we visited).
To get over the water to that picnic ground (and more) we rode back up to the four-way intersection and took the next right, which carried more deeply into the park. We crossed a small dam/bridge dividing the “entry area” from the larger park area, and visited an enormous day-use area that includes the picnic site we could see from the Marina. At this point, we got to the northwest shore of the Lake proper.
After biking all those loops (there was a beach area, several pavilions, fishing areas, public rest rooms, etc.) we took our next right and headed toward the Nature Inn, a significant lodge, where we were told many, many Penn State fans come to stay for home games – last weekend, we heard, the entire camping and lodge areas were packed due to a Penn State football game.
We tootled along two more right turns to boat launch places, at one of which we saw a blue heron and a praying mantis.
Then, instead of heading more-or-less straight up the hill to the Lodge, we took an apparently little-used road down to the inlet between Hunter Run Cove and Sayers Lake. There we saw what was once old Rt. 220(?) disappearing below the water and re-appearing on the other side of the narrow throat connecting Cove with Lake.
We also were accosted by Sadie, an Alsatian mix on a lead with her humans (whose names I forget) who engaged us in a monologue for quite a bit longer than we’d expected to be viewing the watery end of this road.
We at last extricated ourselves and headed back uphill, and the next right turn was uphill some more, all the way to the top of the ridge we can see from our campsite, where the Nature Inn stands. A lovely place inside and out and the views for the guests are truly lovely.
Upon passing several of what looked like interesting trail heads, we briefly contemplated doing some “cross training” (walking as well as riding our bikes) to see where the trails went, especially one marked Skyline Trail with another sign that pointed us to our camping spot (which, incidentally, is called “Modern Campground,” I suppose as opposed to the “Primitive Campground” on the opposite side of the lake).
But we refrained and took another paved road (which was a left hand turn, by the way) that took us off the ridge and down to another boat launch area from which we were unable to escape, except by reversing our path back up toward the Inn, skipping that right-hand turn back up the Inn’s driveway, and again retracing our earlier steps back to the picnic and day-use area opposite the Marina.
Before we headed out of this part of the park, we took one more uphill, due to the fact that a sign labeled “Overlook Sledding Area” piqued our interest. There we found a FedEx guy parked for his lunch in a shady area next to one of the public restrooms, and through the weeds and along a “no vehicles allowed” walking path, saw the Inn from the opposite direction, straight along the top of the ridge. The views were nice from this high spot as well.
Taking a rest stop ourselves, we left the sledding area (might look more promising covered in snow, but who can say?) carried on to Rt. 150, and the narrow road blessedly had a decent shoulder relatively clean of debris, keeping us away from the traffic (a little bit, anyway). We turned left again onto Rt. 26 headed toward another bridge with a view back to the Marina (pic below) and rode on toward the teensy burgh of Howard.
Had to endure no shoulder along some of 26 to get to the road to the primitive campground, and found an unkempt road full of patches and pots and gravel and humps; and found the majority of the primitive sites to be totally unsuitable for anything except tents (although the walk-in tent sites were quite lovely), despite the area being billed for both tents and RVs. There was, in fact, one RV there, but it looked quite lop-sided and uneven in its site.
The best primitive sites were along the rail road; while we were there, no trains passed, but it was obviously a working RR, and I’d hate to camp there and be awakened in the small hours by a huffing train passing by.
Back along Rt. 150 was a scenic pull-out, which we took and caught a decent photo.
And we saw an osprey perched in a snag near the road over a swampy/shallow water area. It didn’t like our presence so near, and flew away before I could get a photo. Other wildlife and critters we saw (in addition to the bald eagle we saw on the first day) were many, many Monarch butterflies, two red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, several great blue herons besides the one I was (marginally) able to photograph, and many songbirds. Not any pesky insects, however, another plus for “shoulder season” camping.
By the time we made it back, it was 3:00 and our cyclometers indicated we had 28 miles under our belts. We had not taken anything along except water, and we had a date with the extended Russell family to meet up in Mill Branch, PA, at the Clinton Country Club, to have dinner together at Haywood’s On the Green bar and grill. I gotta say, I was quite ready for a meal, since we skipped lunch in favor of our long ride.
Along with walking the lakeside trail on the southeast side of the Lake on the list for Next Time we visit, is to go farther along Rt. 150, either by car or bike, and visit the Schenck and Sandhill cemeteries, farther to the east of the Rt. 26 bridge. Also, to see if it’s possible to bicycle along the dam road; and to hike just a few of the miles of trails within the park.
We made it back before the rain (which came down for a while as we were trying to do a little pack-and-stow, and also to shower) and well before our collective departure for dinner at about 5P. Through texts, we discovered that the fix of JB & Martha’s RV took longer than expected, and they would miss the dinner. But all of the remaining group of us, plus three of Jack’s cousins and their spouses gathered to enjoy some beverages and a meal together. It was quite a fun evening. One or two stories of the young cousins misbehaving at the homes of the generation now gone were told with laughs and fondness.
The following day was our departure to Douthat State Park in VA, and so we hit the hay and arose early to get a jump on a very long day’s drive. Happily, the drive was uneventful, except for several stops for construction projects throughout MD, WV, and VA – at one of which, Jack saw a bear cross the road in his rearview, but I missed it, it went by so fast. The only items of note from the windshield viewfinder were the Seneca Cliffs in West Virginia.
Had a late set-up in site #14 in the Whispering Pines section of the Douthat State Park, and enjoyed a short confab with Kerry, Gloria, Diane, Ken and Barley Boy (JB and Martha finally finished up the RV repairs and were spending the night in Winchester, VA, having another sublime experience camping in a second WalMart parking lot as they sorted the dashboard warning light issue – we discovered marginal cell service at Douthat, allowing texts about RV repair updates, and [obviously] an upload of this post, albeit a very slow upload, indeed). Our “quick” dinner was mostly leftovers, but included fresh-baked rolls (risen during the drive) with our pasta and dinner remains from Haywood’s On the Green.
We got a late-ish start, but departed Shenandoah River State Park on Sept. 27 with JB & Martha (the other two RV-ers had left by 10A). Almost immediately, as we trundled through Front Royal, we lost JB & Martha in their Class C dragging a dolly with a Prius.
Saw an adult bald eagle perched in a snag near the interstate as we headed through MD on Rt. 81 N, just before entering PA. Of course, I didn’t have my camera handy enough to snap a pic. There was tons and tons of construction zones along the route of our very long day.
We stopped off Interstate 81 near Harrisburg, PA at a Panera’s for lunch (around 1P) and as we finished, we got a phone call from Gloria, who reported JB & Martha were looking for our cell numbers because they’d experienced some strange dashboard warning lights since the day before.
The backstory on that: en route to Shenandoah River SP, they had been squeezed between two semis and a couple of vehicles when someone hit their breaks or did something unexpected, and JB had to really hit his own breaks which locked up and skidded, but everything that was supposed to work did, even the breaking system on the Prius dolly, so they were able to avoid disaster. After that incident, they pulled over to the side of the road to get their nerves back on level and take visual inventory of their situation. When they got back into the RV, the yellow lights were illuminated on the dash.It took them a while to find the Operator’s Manual for the Class C to see if there was a problem if they continued, their thought being that, since all appeared well and their breaks were still working as expected that the yellow lights would cease at some point.
The Owner’s Manual, however, urged them to seek a dealer to double-check and re-set the lights indicating the ABS and Anti-Skid and a couple of other safety measures were okay. So they had pulled over in a rest stop and made some phone calls, but no one had gotten back to them by the time they called us and we stopped by the rest area to check up on them.
After some discussion, they still felt that their ability to stop the vehicle was not compromised, and that if they took it easy, they could carry on. So instead of waiting for a call back (which incidentally never came) while sitting, they thought to carry on to Lakawanna State Park (PA) with us, and wait for the call while gently moving down the road.
All went well, and we all made it to Lakawanna in good shape, if a considerable time later than we’d expected. Ken and Diane had been shuttled off to a dog-friendly part of the camping area, while we were next door to Kerry & Gloria (ours was site 28, a lovely woodsy spot with a path through the woods to the main road in front of the lake); and JB and Martha had the third site down, in which they were unable to get level. They moved the next morning, slightly farther along.
Any of you who remember our Cooperstown (or several other trips) of last year, know that we dearly love Lakawanna State Park. It is really a great location, if the sites are a bit of a leveling challenge. Getting there, you roll through lovely agricultural country with barns + silos, stone houses, well-kept fences, and just an amazing, rolling countryside.
Anyway, with Ken & Diane (and Barley Boy) up the hill and around the bend, it was difficult to get together for campfires and meals, so during the stay we mostly hung with JB & Martha while Kerry and Glo hung with brother Ken and Diane.
That night, Martha was kind enough to share with everyone some leftover ribs JB had smoked for their house guests before joining us. Gloria added some baked beans to the repast and it was very nice (for us) not to have to cook after a very long day. Everyone except Ken & Diane ate at our picnic table, but we all turned in early.
The following day (Wednesday, Sept. 28) dawned clear and chilly. It was in the middle 40s when we awoke, but the temps rose to the mid-60s by noon. The wind was blowing falling leaves everywhere and it was truly a taste of autumn.
Jack and I unloaded the bikes and took a lovely tootle around the whole park, using our “take every right turn” method of seeing all the loops and public areas. JB suggested we call this the “bike tour boogie,” based on what he and Martha used to do with their dinghy when they piloted a boat. But for them it was the boat tour boogie. Maybe we should call it the Site Tour Boogie, because we do it mostly to check out the campground and see where the best sites are, and what amenities we can find.
We went into several areas that were closed to camping, up high above the lake, and then carried on down along the lakeside public areas. There are access areas for picnickers, boaters/fisher people, family gatherings, hiking trails, and the water park they were still constructing last year when we were here.
There were many of these dry-laid stone walls scattered around the area.
As we rode, the sky began clouding up, the wind was colder/wetter, and the predicted rain showers appeared to be moving in. We decided to get back to camp, and begin the breakdown process early, so if/when it rained, the awning and stuff would not get wet. I fixed us some sandwiches for lunch while Jack began breaking down camp. Our plan was to leave space in the car for the grill, because we thought we’d be grilling brat-type sausages with onions and peppers on the griddle for dinner.
We went into Clark’s Crossing or South Abingdon Township (not sure if Clark’s Crossing is a part of the Township or what, but our navigation system called it South Abingdon Township) to a Weis grocery store to re-supply and get some firewood. It did begin raining but only for a little while as we went and returned. While in Weis, I found some pre-made, refrigerated pizza dough, so we changed plans and decided to try a pizza in the Omnia Oven.
The moment we began merely thinking of making a fire, the rain came again. So we retreated for some Camembert on nice crackers while we waited to see what the weather would do. When it stopped again, JB came over and he and Jack started a fire, while I looked for a fire-poking stick. Once it was going pretty well, and we were having some adult beverages, it started raining again. We decided to remove to our respective abodes for our dinners and re-assess once we’d been fed.
The pizza turned out okay, but next time I would pre-bake the crust just a little before putting on the toppings. We tasted a hunk each and found it to be slightly undercooked, so we put it back on the fire for a bit, and our second lumps were quite good indeed. I only used half of the dough, so we’re going to try again within the next day or so.
Ended the evening with JB and Martha ’round the fire (Ken and Diane had already built a fire up at their site by the time we had built ours, so Kerry joined his brother up the hill). We had a final toddy around 9:30 while the last of the wood burned, and then all turned in expecting an early departure in the AM.
Jack and I stayed two nights in the Charles C. Deam (yes, that’s supposed to be an “m” not an “n”) Wilderness area, 13,000 acres of the Hosier National Forest in Indiana. The campground we stayed in Sunday, July 31 and Monday, August 1—Hardin Ridge State Recreation Area—is one part of the Wilderness area that was designated as such in 1982. The entire area is managed to preserve a natural condition and provide opportunities for solitude.
The campsites are mostly level and actually better-maintained than the above description might lead one to believe. The really noticeable aspect of this being a wilderness area is there is quite a lot of greenery and un-tended space between each site.
On Monday, it was raining, so we decided to head into Bloomington to do some shopping. A nice bridge or causeway spans the enormous recreational lake adjacent to the area, Lake Monroe. It was fun to drive through Bloomington, because one of our fave movies is Breaking Away, a cycling story set in that college town. We did our shopping but it was still rainy or threatening rain, and this was my “send off” dinner night (before I went to Indianapolis/Carmel for my business meeting). So we endeavored to build a campfire in the intermittent rain, and had some success. Grilled steaks with fresh corn on the cob and portobello mushroom caps (also grilled—Jack was the chef of the evening) were yummy.
It finally cleared up enough for us to sit by the fire to finish up our wine and the day.
We took a bike ride Tuesday morning, before I had to head north. We rode all around the campground and rec area and logged 12 miles by following all the loops, and heading all the way down hill (a rather steep grade, at that, which was delightful heading down, but somewhat of a chug climbing back up) to the beach and public access area for Lake Monroe.
Our observations, having seen the 4 or 5 loop areas where camping is permitted (plus one section where there are just a couple of cabins) indicated that the first two loops closest to the ranger station are the oldest. The shower/restroom structures in these two loops are the oldest. While they are certainly clean, the fixtures and structures themselves are showing quite a lot of wear.
The loops farther away from the ranger/check in area appear to be newer facilities. Not all—in fact, relatively few—of the sites have water hookups on site. There is a wide variety of electric, however, but also many areas where walk-in camping sites for tents are available, and even sites that have tiered levels for tents and RVs, and primitive RV sites with no hookups.
A person can find most anything in this camping area, and the managers and rangers are all quite nice and helpful, and (at least at this time of year) there is hardly anyone using the entire place. We might have seen a total of 12 users other than the camp hosts on each loop. Of course, it was Sunday/Monday, and one of the folks said that school starts hereabouts in a week or so. That might have something to do with it being relatively quiet.
There are lots of trails for all types of uses—hiking only, multi-use, equestrian. And among the materials about the area the Rangers hand out when you register is some interesting history about the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, which I’ll reproduce below, for those of you who like local lore as I do. If you don’t want to read about it, you can skip that part.
With the rain and humidity came the flowering of rather amazing fungi. I loved all the shapes and colors, so I took a few photos to share. These were all around our campsite and all totally amazing.
We left around 1PM for the ride to Carmel and my convention at the Renaissance North Hotel. Everything you never wanted to know about beer will be my life for the next 4-5 days, although Carmel Indiana is reported to have some very fine bicycling trails so I will also be exploring those if the weather cooperates.
Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower
This structure stands guard over the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area, the last lookout tower remaining in the Hoosier National Forest. Built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it was manned and used for fire detection until the 1970s. It is 110 feet tall, made of steel, with a 7 share foot cab and 123 metal steps.
Early lookouts were simple perches in the crowns of tall trees, or mere ladder steps nailed to a tall tree so someone could climb up to look around. By the 1930s, however, the design for lookout towers had become uniform. At their peak, there were 5,060 towers in the nation, eight of which were in the Hoosier National Forest.
Inside the cabin, entered through a hunger trapdoor in the cabin’s floor, was an alidade on a podium. The alidade was a circular map with the fire tower’s location in the center, and compass directions around the edge (it has been removed from this tower). Attached to the map was a swivel range finder with a sighting wire. When smoke was sighted, the tower man lined up the sighting wire with the smoke, and by plotting the intersection of the lines of sight from different towers, the precise location of the fire could be determined. A telephone or radio could be used to report the fire and dispatch crews. It was common for the towers to be the first site in a rural to get a telephone or radio, and they often served as the community’s link to the outside world.
Raymond Axsom manned the Hickory Ridge Lookout for 26 of the years it was in use. Axsom stayed in the tower during periods of high fire danger. When he wasn’t on duty in the tower, he helped survey land lines, marked timber, routed signs, and did maintenance work on the Forest.
Axsom had a farm 2 miles from the tower and was hired in 1936 as the first tower an. He was replaced in 1938 and 39 by young men from the CCC camp who were assigned to keep watch. Axsom noted the young men kept falling asleep in the tower: a few fires got unnecessarily large because they were not reported promptly. So in 1940, Axsom was called back to be the lookout.
While many of the towermen were local farmers recruited to man a tower during high fire danger, at least two of the towers were “manned” by women. These were the wives of the men originally hired to do the job. According to Clarisse Carroll, former lookout in one of the towers, her husband just gave her the job when other duties called him away. “The rules weren’t as strict as they are now,” she said. “I never told anyone I was taking over. I just did it.”
During periods of high fire danger, a small crew of fire fighters was stationed at the base of the tower. If smoke was spotted, the crew was immediately dispatched to put out the fire. Axsom recalls periods when there might have been 4-5 fires a day, so the fighters were kept busy.
He recalls the wors fire in the Hickory Ridge area was in 1952. A farmer was burning off his garden plot on a windy day, and the fire got away from him. Before it was put out, the fire burnt 2,000+ acres and spread over ~6 miles. It was stopped with on a half mile of the Hickory Ridge Tower.
As frightening as the fire was, Axsom said the time the tower was struck by lightening with him in the top was worse. Still, he said he was the most frightened when an unexpected storm hit with high winds. Since towers had been known to blow over, he had quickly started down toward the ground. But the wind blew so hard he said he had to sit down and wrap his legs around the stairway to keep from being blown off the top.
Over time, the open farmlands around the tower have reverted to forest. Raymond Axsom is now gone, and the house near the base of the tower has been torn down. Today, the tower serves visitors to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness by offering them a panoramic view of the forest and Lake Monroe.
We arrived at Crabtree Falls Campground around 3 in the afternoon, Monday, July 18. This was a quickie excursion for me to participate on behalf of Blue Ridge Heritage, Inc., in an event put on by the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association. BRHI’s Master Pan for our future facility won an award, and the presentation was scheduled to be during the Chapter’s annual conference in Wintergreen, VA.
Just as the road (Rt. 56) began winding and twisting uphill toward the mountain range we could see surrounding us from a decidedly and surprisingly flat section of the road, we approached a nondescript left turn with the campground sign.
Narrow gravel roads and narrow gravel sites, defined by boulders and trees pretty much describe the entire place. The owners live above the registration office. Off the primary set of sites is a lovely creek whispering over falls and around more boulders—along a very pronounced cut in the mountains—ever-falling to parts unknown. I learned later that this was, in fact, the Tye River (or Creek?). The narrow sites are separated only barely by a few trees and rocks. At the time we were there, the place was virtually empty, but I’d hate to see it if it were full. It looks like a tent camping only spot that has only partially been converted over to RVs.
We had been assigned site #14, which, by web-view looked fine. We backed in every which way from Sunday to try to get her level and maybe allow enough room for the awning to be erected.
In the end, we gave up. No amount of Anderson leveling, or pyramids made with the plastic blocks would do the job. So we moved to #16. After all, the owner had said, when I spoke to him about reserving a site, that we could pretty much choose where we wanted to be when we got here as he did not expect to be busy in the middle of the week.
In Site 16, there was no hope of getting an arrangement that might include an awning, but at least we got ‘er level.
Shortly, we had the power and water hooked up, and especially, turned on the AC. When we were in the Lynchburg area (we drove up the BRParkway and got onto 460 at Blue Ridge, then took 29 toward Charlottesville for a while, then exited onto 151/56) it was in the mid-90s, on this, the hottest day so far this summer. By the time we turned into Crabtree Falls CG, it was 87. Not too shabby temperature-wise, but set-up had made us both steamy with the humidity. And inside Roomba, it was quite toasty from the sunny haul.
I checked the dinner rolls rising in the Omnia Oven, and found them to be too poofy to sit for another couple of hours until dinner, so I popped the air pockets so they’d collapse a little, and then let them rise another couple of hours. Our main dish was still hot in the Billy Boil: chili with beans that Jack had put together right before we left the house, and had continued cooking during the drive.
We put our feet up for the evening, and realized there was a total absence of cell service—not just a little, not a half-bar—zilch. So we read our books as the sun crept along to hide behind the western ridgeline.
Dinner was quite good, if a bit warm for the weather. The plan was to have the rolls and chili again for lunch the next day, but the rolls straight out of the Omnia were so good we almost ate them all.
Hit the hay early, and turned off the AC in favor of the vent fan and the cool air coming in through the windows and across our bed. Lovely to hear the babble of the creek nearby as we fell into slumber.
The Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association award event was not due to begin until the evening of Tuesday, July 19. So we figured a nice morning hike up to the falls for which the campground (and possibly, state park?) was named was in order. As we were hiking across the campground to pick up the trail to Crabtree Falls, Jack checked into the office (which had been closed by the time we discovered we could not level Roomba in #14, and we moved to #16 last night) to let them know we’d chosen a different site.
Unfortunately, the owner had promised site 16 to a return user who had requested that site specifically, so we had to move. The party was due to arrive in the early afternoon, so we had to scratch our hike.
The good news in this was that we selected a site that allowed us to erect the awning (#18). The bad news is that we had to re-hitch, stow a bunch of stuff inside, lower the roof, yadda, to move two sites along, and then try to level everything again, set everything back up, get everything back out from stowage, etc. And miss our hoped-for hike. And miss our lunch, which turned into a snack of yogurt and a banana. And run the water hose and the electric cord across the opening of the site, the pedestal being on the wrong side of #18 to accommodate both 18 & 19.
Along with being able to deploy the awning, more good news resulted when we discovered a path from site 18 down to the water, where there were excellent places to sit and dangle one’s feet in the cool river, observe critters, and just become immersed in the lovely audio of the rushing water.
We left the relaxing remoteness of the spot to head into Wintergreen Resort slightly early, as our Design Team Leader, David, had said he’d send some details about the place and timing of our meet-up for the event via email. It wasn’t long down the road before we began to see cell bars lining up on our devices.
As it turned out, we were about 40 minutes early, but we found a parking place, and were ready to just sit in the car checking the news, etc., until an enormous thunderstorm threatened to dump on the area. We high-tailed it into the Mountain Inn from the parking lot, and then just had to hang around for a while until David, who was attending the larger conference of which the awards event was just a small part, got free from his schedule to meet us in the lobby.
We learned when we spoke with him that another individual involved in the project for which the award was being given, Kevin, was also a participant in the conference. I was at the award event because I’ve been involved in the Blue Ridge Heritage, Inc. process of acquiring land, planning, and designing a facility that is intended to become an economic development asset to Floyd and Patrick Counties, in southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. Here’s a link if you would like to know more: brheritage.org
We had a nice time, and there were several types of awards being given that evening, for various students, professors, regional planning groups, and projects like ours. This was somewhat of a big deal, and I was proud to be a part of the team to receive the Chapter’s 2016 Outstanding Design for a Nonprofit Organization Award.
After the ceremony, the group held a reception with heavy appetizers and a cash bar. We met quite a few folks that David and Kevin know, and were congratulated by several of the conference participants.
The food was good, but didn’t quite fill the hole left by the light lunch we’d eaten, so when we got back to the campsite, we heated the leftover chili and ate the remaining rolls with it. While the rain had obviously hit the campground, our awning kept most of the important stuff dry, but the forest duff had splashed up on all the leveling blocks and some of it had run through the “footprint” we place on the ground to help keep the dirt out of the camper, running along the inevitable slope of the site.
It was a lovely night, although the passing thunderstorms had left things quite wet and humid. So after sitting outside for a while (and as more thunder rumbled beyond the opposite ridge), we returned to Roomba and this time, we left the AC running.
We had enjoyed a passing thought that we might hike to the falls before heading back home, but both of us felt it was simply time to go. We ate some breakfast, broke camp at a leisurely pace, and headed southwest.
Okay. I believe I have recovered enough from yesterday to actually offer a summary here.
We arose at 6A to be completely ready to ride by 9, when we were to meet Mary and Tom (from Canada) at the upper driveway of the campground, where it intersects the Cap2Cap Trail. There were several things we had to see to beyond biking gear: adjusting everything that helps keep Roomba cool during the sunny day, remembering to get some snacks (we were unsure exactly where/when we’d be fueling this ride along the way), putting on sunscreen and spraying bug dope, filling our water bottles, taking anything that might melt out of the car for the day, assuring the cooler would stay in the shade during the day, final pit stops (amongst a veritable run on the facilities, i.e, 3 toilets and 3 showers, from all the many, many peeps who’d come into the park to camp the night before), etc.
And we had to eat breakfast. Not the greatest time of my day to consume food, but I did anyway, despite it being too early for me to be hungry.
When we finally headed up to our meeting spot we realized that hundreds and hundreds of other people were gathered, parked in the day use areas, to bicycle along the trail. There were club groups, triathlon trainers, Boy Scouts, and various random riders unloading their bikes, taking exercise runs, getting instructions from ride managers and I-don’t-know-what-all. Hundreds.
When Mary and Tom arrived (they had ridden from Jamestown’s “Mile 0” having been dropped off there by Alan), Mary wanted to immerse herself into all that spandex and sprockets to use the facilities. Tom wanted to see our trailer, so we rode him back to show it off.
By the time we returned to the trail, many of the groups had already left, including the Boy Scouts. So we began around 9:15, and the first thing one does headed from here west toward Richmond is climb over the bridge spanning the Chickahominy River. Happily, there is a dedicated bike path for that, too — but it is quite narrow, and another group or two of “rabbits” (fast riders who often race—these appeared to be in training for an event of some sort) came along behind us.
As the day progressed, we experienced fits and starts of rabbits passing in pace lines, or the odd racing bike coming or going, but for the most part, the rest of the individuals and groups we saw along the trail were families and leisure riders like us. The morning was splendid: sunny and cool. The four of us rode a decent but not fast pace through cornfields, oat fields, past homes large and small, and many instances of tunneling through the shady forests along Rt. 5.
Our first mission for the morning was to link up with Michael and Kathryn, who were meeting us along the way, riding (with their bikes in tow) in the van with Alan. Our first break stop was the Charles City Courthouse, where we thought we might link up with them, but when Mary called, Alan was surprised that we had gotten that far so quickly, and suggested we head on along the trail and he’d meet us a bit later.
At the courthouse, there are pretty old buildings, a visitor center, some interpretive signage, and a convenience station. We rested a bit, took advantage of the facilities, and moved on.
Because our second mission for the morning was to assure that Tom would meet Alan and the van in time for Tom to get to the Richmond airport by noon-ish, so he could catch his flight back to Calgary, we increased our pace a little. It was still a cool, easy ride at this point (about 20 or so miles for Mary and Tom, about 13 for Jack and me).
We linked up with Alan, Michael, and Kathryn slightly farther along, at a gravel road. Alan saw us pedaling along, honked, and pulled across the trail (maybe around MP 28 – since the mileposts started where Mary and Tom started, they indicate their total mileage. Subtract 7 miles to get mine and Jack’s totals, where I reference MPs) and onto this road so we could gather up Michael and Kathryn on our journey. This might have been a bit before 10A.
Alan assured Tom we could make it to a nice park about 10-15 miles ahead by or around 11:30, which would be plenty of time for him to get to the airport by noon. So we carried on.
Around MP 32, we ran into another Bike Virginia crowd, headed east, opposite from our direction. We halted to hug necks and have a visit. Rosemary warned us that ahead on our path was a lot of chaff from the storm a couple nights ago, and since it was mostly shady, that some of the footing was hazardous.
As Mary and Jack chatted with Rosemary, Nancy and Lisa (?), Kathryn realized we were still 8 miles from our destination, 4-mile Creek Park. The clock was ticking, so she took off, Tom followed, and I was not too far behind. We kept a pretty steady pace, and shortly, Jack overtook us. Later Kathryn said that Jack “saved her,” because she was wearing out, leading Tom to the park at that pace (she’s had some health issues, otherwise she’d have been easily able to go the distance).
We got there (MP 40) and I recognized the coolers Alan had had in the back of the van (noticed when we stopped to get Michael and Kathryn) arranged on a picnic table. Leave it to me to find food on a bike ride.
Alan rode through with the van, hopped out, and asked us to help ourselves to lunch while he took Tom to the airport. Before they left, there might have been a small amount of Canadian spirits in the glasses they toasted to their friendship.
After a delicious lunch Alan had gathered from The Carrot Tree (including enormous carrot cake muffins), we set off again toward Richmond. It was in the 12:30 range when we began the last 11 miles into the city.
Somewhere around MP 48 or 49, the trail paralleled a very busy road. There was some climbing to be done, and trail use increased along this stretch, so close to the city. We topped a hill and got a nice vista of the Richmond—the city of my ancestors (and living relatives), the Capitol of Virginia.
From there, it was just a few miles to the final point, although I understand that there is some urban trail-riding designated to get visitors by bike into the heart of the city. We arrived at the part of the trail running along the canal, which is bordered by some very upscale (reclaimed) housing and warehouse areas. Folks living in the “River Lofts” building had individual garden plots along the trail and it was quite lovely.
But we stopped not at the final trail head, which was busy with cars and visitors and bikes and every manner of user and equipment (Great Shiplock Park). We went on, to the actual Trail Terminus, which is a bit farther along the canal, and you ride under the elevated train tracks for a while, past the Holocost Museum, among other destinations.
The terminus itself is under both rail and interstate overpasses, and offers sculptures, a map, seating, the area where canal boats are staged for tours, and a nice place for ducks and geese (there were a lot of droppings all over everything).
Here are some of the scenes down by the canal:
At this point, we decided we felt good enough to ride back to Chickahominy Riverfront Park. Mary and Michael decided to explore further into the city.
Both of us needed water, so Jack and I rode no more than about 2 miles climbing up out of town to a 7-11 store where we shared a Gatorade on site and bought a couple big bottles of water, one to refresh our bike bottles, and one to carry. Heck, it was only another 9 miles to our earlier lunch stop at Four Mile Creek Picnic area, our next goal, and headed on.
By this hour—maybe 2-2:30PM—it was terrifically hot. We were drinking frequently, and there is not a tremendous amount of cover/shade between the city and 4-Mile Creek. When we arrived at the picnic area, there was a Eagle Scout structure with benches and a roof (shade) available and we took it with great thanks to the Scout who built it. Our computers said we were on about mile 60 for the day. We rested a long time at the park, and took advantage of the single port-a-pot within a 20-mile radius. Only about 33 to go, to get to Roomba.
Still, we were feeling pretty fit. Our big leg muscles were only beginning to notice how difficult it was to start up again after stopping.
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe we were delirious. But we calculated our position (60 miles for the day) and added the estimated miles back to camp (33-ish) and realized we’d be at 93 miles on the day! Surely we could not stop a mere 7 miles short of 100 on the day, could we?
Jack and I have never ridden “A Century” before. Where Jack has come close on several occasions, I have never tried, nor have I had any ghost of a desire to ride 100 miles in a day.
But heck. Once you’re miserable, sore, tired, and (I have to admit) delirious, there’s a point beyond which you’re not going to get any more miserable, sore, tired or delirious. So we pressed on, imagining we wouldn’t feel too awful as we pedaled past our campsite for another 3.5 miles toward Jamestown, to turn around and go back for the 7 miles that would total 100.
Okay, we were wrong on that imagining. But I digress.
By the time we arrived at our next goal—breaking up a long ride into manageable pieces helps a rider not get overwhelmed—a place where we knew we could fill our water bottles (Charles City Courthouse—about mile 80 on the day) and empty our bladders (a good sign that we were drinking enough water), it was in the 4-5 o’clock range. You might note that we were pedaling much more slowly by this point in our trek, having taken about 2 hours to go ~20 miles (10 miles/hr).
The trail’s shade improved quite a lot between 4-Mile Creek park and the Courthouse. There were some climbs, but another plus was that it was quite level for the majority of the ride along there. And when you enter Charles City County, while there are some significant climbs near the county line, again, there is a lot of shade and a lot of level trail.
We spent quite a long time sitting in the shade there. We both ate a granola bar, and drank a full bicycle bottle of water each while we sat, topping them up again before we left. About 13 miles to the Chicka. Riverfront; about 20 miles required for the 100.
Nothing to do but put one rotation of the pedals after another.
It was terribly hard to cycle past “home.” It was 6:30 by this time, and both of us were rather wobbly on the tires—not so much that we were reckless or in danger. I simply found that I lost concentration pretty easily. We were both talking less and noticing our surroundings less, concentrating on the only things we could still concentrate on: one pedal; another; repeat.
One thing we did notice, however, was a small red vehicle sitting on the grassy verge between the road and the Trail. His direction was opposite the lane closest to the trail, and we could not figure how he got in that position. As we passed, the silly driver appeared to want to get himself out of there, but he had to cross into a deep ditch that the mowers avoided—and with this small car with next to zero clearance!
He got his right front tire into the ditch when a police car that was driving past noticed his odd position and flipped on his lights and pulled over to the opposite side of the road. By then we were out of sight of the situation. We saw another police car headed toward the first as we pedaled on toward Jamestown.
I mention this only to give you the idea of my mental state. Once we got to our turn-around point (we went all the way to MP 3 so we didn’t have to guesstimate half-miles), wanting to see what the outcome of all this fuss and bother along the Trail was one of the primary things that kept me going with only 4 miles to go.
As we were headed back to camp, I was disappointed to note that everything seemed to be resolved when I made it to the spot where I THOUGHT the vehicle had been. But ahead, I saw the flashing red-and-blue lights, and I knew I had misjudged the spot. Yay! Voyeur that I am, I felt it was all worth it to see what had been going on there. As we neared the red car, I could not for the life of me understand how the vehicle got there. If it had run off the road, it had done so very gently, as there were no skid or slide marks anywhere.
I suspect the idiot turned onto the trail instead of the road for whatever reason, and got far enough from one of the “No Motorized Vehicles” signs where side roads and driveways intersect the Trail, that he decided he couldn’t back up all the way to his entry point (without risk of running over a cyclist) and was trying to cross the verge to the road.
By the time we arrived back at that point, the guy and two policemen were on the Trail, and as we slowed to cycle past, I heard one of the officers say, “Okay I’m going to give the instruction again: I want you to take nine steps forward and then . . . ”
At that point, we moved out of earshot, but it was obvious they were giving an inebriation test to the driver. That might explain a lot. Awful glad no one was hurt.
We got back to Roomba around 7:30PM. Lordy what a long day.
It was all we could do to get a shower and eat something before falling into bed. Jack came back from the showers at about 9PM and asked if I had gotten thousands of sunset photos as the sun turned the sky all sorts of shades of red and purple. But no. I had noticed, but just couldn’t possibly be bothered to take even one photo. I know now why folks call it A Century: because it will only happen in my time on this spinning globe once in 100 years.
Cycle Stats June 18, 2016
Ride time: 7:25:43
Stopped time: 3:26:48
Distance 100.94 miles (Jack got 101 and change)
Average speed: 13.59 mph
Fastest speed: 27.14 (Jack got ~29 — inertial is a terrible thing)
Today, Sunday, we slept in, continued drinking a lot of water, ate a late brunch, and lounged around in the screened in porch with fans blowing on us all day. It’s hotter today than yesterday, reaching 88 degrees today. The campground is emptying out of RVs and loud people.
Still feel drained and tired. But hey—we did A Century. One more thing off the bucket list! Right? Am I right?