Chippokes Plantation Campground, April 5 & 6

One last thing I forgot to mention as a big “pro” on the plus side of our Bike Florida Tour: Oranges.

All the rest stops had them in abundance, and they were cherry red, sweet, and O! so refreshing. So good, in fact, that we stopped at a roadside stand before leaving FL and bought a sack full. Yum.

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So we said goodbye to FL and headed to SC. Travel was unremarkable, thank goodness. But I did capture this pic of Angela and their Alto2114 traveling along ahead of us at one point.

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So Lynches River Campground was our overnight spot on Thursday, April 4, and that’s the campground that is mostly for tenters, with only 2 serviced RV sites. Mark and Angela got #2 (a pull-through) and we got #1 both with electric and water. The bathhouse was rustic to say the least, but it had exactly two private rooms, each with its own toilet, sink, and shower. For a one-night stayover, it was just perfect. Next stop: Chippokes Plantation Campground near Williamsburg, VA, April 5 and 6.

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Chippokes is actually in Surry, VA, and is a re-purposed grand farm and mansion, once an actual plantation. Today, it is quite a fine and spiffy Virginia State Park, with hiking trails, the mansion itself, equestrian trails, electric and water, and nice renovated bathhouses. Loop B has the most modernized and level campsites, where Loop A has older, less flat/improved sites.

We linked up with John and Mary at Chippokes, so we had three side-by-side sites with Mark and Angela. Roomba was in the middle, on site #2.

Mark and Angela’s son, Brent, linked up with them (and us), coming down from New York to see his parents while they were relatively close. He spent some of our arrival/set up day in Williamsburg and he and Mary and John all arrived around 5PM.

We all went out to dinner, hoping to catch the pub in Smithfield, but there was a minimum of an hour’s wait there, so off we went to Smithfield Landing where we had a delightful dinner, and all got to know one another a bit better. The walk through Smithfield from the pub to the Landing and then back to our cars after dinner was fun times together also.

The next day, Mark, Angela, and Brent headed to Jamestown, while Mary, John, Jack, and I headed across the ferry into Williamsburg. But first, we went to the Edwards Ham store and picked up some good old fashioned Virginia Ham products. Yum.

We rode the Pocahontas ferry and saw a smaller ferry passing across the river. It was overcast the day we headed into Billsburg, but it never rained despite the look of the sky.

We had a bit of a drive around the campus, telling J&M tales of our college days, and had a quite nice sandwich from Colonial Williamsburg’s famous Cheese Shop.

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That night, we all fixed our own dinners but joined up to eat at our site. We had shared appetizers and a fire to cozy up to as our final night together after our fun travels with Mark and Angela. Brent also was headed back north the next day, while John, Mary, Jack, and I were headed to Janes Island, MD for our next, longest stop of our Spring Trip.

Before everyone broke apart, I set up the timer on my camera to get a group shot. And Riley also had to have some fun before we bundled off to Maryland.

 

Cycling And Rain

July 21-22

Rains came overnight while we were at The Pinery, but it was spit-and-stop for a while, so we took down the bikes anyway and headed to the “long ride” that we’d driven last night to get to the sunset beach. Much of the trail was bike-only, through the pine savannah and appropriately named the Savanna Trail. 

It was both on- and off-road, with at least 12 km along a little-used (badly paved) one-way loop road. The non-paved lengths were mostly packed sand for a really lovely multi-use path. We started getting thoroughly wet as we found the Visitors Center, and took some shelter in there, looking at the kid-friendly displays (it was a great center to initiate “citizen scientist” interest in the younger set). 

I found that most of the “leaflets three leave them be” plants around the sites (and through which we had to high-step to get to the shared pedestal for power) are NOT in fact, poison oak. There is, however, lots of bona-fide poison oak and ivy interspersed amongst these taller, woody-stemmed bushes.

Which turned out to be “fragrant sumac” (rhus aromatica) described as a harmless cousin to poison ivy. The info at the Center said that the bush grows where sand dunes have stabilized, has aromatic foliage and bright red berries, and is the most common shrub in the oak savanna. Fragrant sumac grows up to 5 ft. tall and is food and shelter for countless birds, mammals, and insects. I took a couple of photos of the two plants, both found around our campsite:

The rain became more insistent as we waited, so we retired with our bikes to a nice little gazebo next to the VC, and played on their wifi for a while, checking emails etc.

Then we just had to go on. The rain let up a little, but as we rode, it got heavier and just as I was about to ask Jack to carry my camera, it abated a bit. 

Still, you’re going to be as wet as you’ll ever get within the first half-hour of riding in the rain, so we carried on, and scooped the long paved loop to and along the beach parking areas (but we could not see any water from our vantage, as the dunes are substantial between the road and Lake Huron). 

Just where the one-way road ended (near the end of the beach access points) the Savana trail headed off-road into the woodsy area, and what a great ride that was. We were nearly the only ones out in the drizzle, so we really pushed the speed along the trail, and hit some rollers that were truly fun and exciting to alternately fly down and push up, keeping our speed pretty steady, but still getting a great workout. It was like bicycling along a roller-coaster track.

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The rain finally stopped and we got back to the campsite hoping that by hanging our wet gear (including gloves and shoes) in the screen house, at least some of it would get dry.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time = 54 minutes
  • Stopped time = 1:10
  • Distance = 10.5
  • Average speed = 11.6MPH

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Then Jack put a “potlatch” dry rub on the salmon steaks we’d bought in town on Friday, the 20th, and we grilled it up, with asparagus and mushies, and heated up half of the remaining frozen mac-n-cheese from our HALS party. Yum! And Jack dug out the Solo Stove from the truck and we had a lovely fire during and after our meal. 

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The rain chased us under the awning a few times, but let up enough for us to thoroughly enjoy the beautiful fire.

Unfortunately, the rain kicked into high gear after we cleaned up from dinner, and kept up through the night and into the 22nd, and really swamped the area. Where a gentle, intermittent rain was able to soak into the sand pretty readily, the steady downpour we experienced created vast lakes of puddles, especially in front of the bathhouse (which, by the way, had too few toilets, showers, and sinks — at least in the women’s side — to accommodate all the adults and kids swarming the place). That also made the campground quite loud, overall, with many screeching and wailing children. Of course, it was a weekend, so I guess we should have expected that.

So we tucked in during Sunday the 22nd. I took some time to ready the backlog of blog uploads, and we went up to the Visitor Center again to take advantage of their robust wifi, and hung out there for a long while.

Returned to Roomba to crank up our next movie: Dunkirk. It was really good, although somewhat confusing in terms of the time frame because the 3 stories that come together in the end are not told chronologically. But once we caught onto the actors playing each major role in each of the three separate stories, it became more clear. But among the focal points near where all the stories intersected was a British mine sweeper that gets bombed by a German bomber, so we had to watch that happen several times, which was not pleasant, but was a bit of a triumph when the stories merged. I’d definitely recommend it, and I might even see it again, knowing now what I was unsure of then.

Our “goodbye Canada” meal was another grill meal. On the same shopping trip on Friday, we’d found turkey thighs—unfrozen, farm-raised, and fresh—and Jack put a bit of Bicentennial Rub (Penzies) on them, and they were delicious!

Every November, we think we need to eat more turkey, but in the states (at least in VA), if it’s not October or November, you cannot find un-frozen turkey—much less turkey pieces. 

So this was a real treat and super easy and yummy. I actually think I liked the turkey more than the salmon (but don’t tell Jack I said so).

We had another campfire in our super Solo Stove, and headed to bed as the embers glowed red.

One final note: Before we left The Pinery, some locals said we HAD TO VISIT a place called Tobermory, north of The Pinery, on the Bruce Peninsula. I place that here with the hope that a reader or two, heading that way might schedule it; and also so we won’t forget, because we will be back in that area again in the future.

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Upcoming International Trip

I’m sort of jumping the gun here, because we’re not gone yet. 

Still, I worry that our international access to the internet might be spotty at best, and since I’m doing my own research for background in prep for departure, I figured I’d check into one of our stops along the way. 

I share this now because, as we tell friends about our trip, we note that we’re going to a World Heritage Site called Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Everyone asks what and where that is, but I haven’t been able to answer, because I have failed to do my normal background work to date. 

So here it is, from the Ckrumlov.info city info site, and Wikipedia.

Cesky Krumlov

Český Krumlov is a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic where Český Krumlov Castle is located. Old Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was given this status along with the historic Prague castle district.

The city name begins with Český (Czech) to differentiate it from Moravský Krumlov in South Moravia.

Construction of the town and castle began around 1240 by the Vítkovci at a ford in the Vltava River, an important trade route in Bohemia. According to local legend, the name derives from the German “Krumme Aue” which can be translated as “crooked meadow.”
In 1302 the town and castle were acquired by the House of Rosenberg. The majority of inhabitants were German at that time. By 1336, Czechs formed a small minority. In late 15th century, when gold was found next to the town, German miners came to settle, which shifted the ethnic balance even more.
Emperors Rudolf II (1602) and Ferdinand II (later) bought Krumlov, and he gave it to the House of Eggenberg which established the town as the set of the Duchy of Krumlov. From 1719 until 1945 the castle belonged to the House of Schwarzenberg. 
Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries; the town’s structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The core of the old town is within a horseshoe bend of the river, with the old Latrán neighborhood and castle on the other side of the Vltava.
There were 8,662 inhabitants in Krummau an der Moldau (as called by the Germans) in 1910, including 7,367 Germans and 1,295 Czechs.
After the First World War, the city was part of the Bohemian Forest Region, which was initially declared to be part of German-Austria. By the end of 1918 the Czechoslovak army had occupied the region, which became part of Czechoslovakia. In 1938 it was annexed by Nazi Germany, as part of the Reichsgau Oberdonau unit of Sudetenland under the Munich agreement. After World War II the town’s longstanding German-speaking population was expelled and it was returned to Czechoslovakia.
During the Communist era of Czechoslovakia, historic Krumlov fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 much of the town’s former beauty has been restored, and it is now a major holiday destination, with high numbers of tourists from Europe and Asian. In August 2002, the town suffered from damage in a great flood of the Vltava River.
Český Krumlov Castle is unusually large for a town of its size; within the Czech Republic it is second in extent only to the Hradčany castle complex of Prague. Inside its grounds are a large rococo garden, an extensive bridge over a deep gap in the rock upon which the castle is built, and the castle itself, which in turn consists of many defined parts dating from different periods. After the garden had been inadequately maintained in the second half of the 20th century, the site was included in the 1996 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. With financial support from American Express the garden’s central fountain was documented and reconstructed, and remains functional today.

Tourist Map of the town and surrounds.
 

The Church of St. Vitus (Kostel Sv. Víta) is a Gothic church inside the Castle, dating architecturally to the 15th century, with frescoes from the same period.
Český Krumlov Castle preserves its Baroque theatre, built in 1680–82 under Prince Johann Christian I von Eggenberg and renovated with up-to-date stage equipment under Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberg (1765–66). It is one of few such court theaters to retain its original stage machinery, scenery and props.
Due to its age, the theater is only used three times a year (only twice open to the public), when a Baroque opera is performed in simulated candlelight. Visitors can take a guided tour beneath the stage to catch a glimpse of the wood-and-rope apparatus that allowed stage settings to be moved in and out at the same time as the audience was diverted with fireworks and smoke. 
The castle’s last private owner was Adolph Schwarzenberg. It was here that he received President Edvard Beneš and gave him a large contribution for the defense of Czechoslovakia against the growing threat of Nazi Germany. His property was seized by the Gestapo in 1940 and then confiscated by the Czechoslovak government in 1945.
Krumlov has a museum dedicated to the painter Egon Schiele, who lived in the town.

Panorama of the town from the gardens of the castle.
 

About 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Krumlov is one of Bohemia’s oldest monasteries, Zlatá Koruna (“The Golden Crown”). About 30 km (19 mi) from Krumlov is the Hluboka Castle, established in the twelfth century and later remodelled in imitation of Windsor Castle.
Krumlov is close to the Šumava National Park, the Czech Republic’s largest national park. The Šumava mountains lie along the border with Austria and Germany and offer a range of natural habitats – peat bogs, Alpine meadows, old-growth forest, lakes, and rivers. The area is popular with walkers, cyclists, and Vltava canoeists. Cesky Krumlov is a short distance from the man-made Lake Lipno, on which many people take boat trips to various small towns and to the dam, with its Hydro power plant.

Český Krumlov is home to the Pivovar Eggenberg brewery. It has been used for locations in movies such as The Illusionist (2006) and Hostel (2005), as well as the 1973 German movie Traumstadt (Dream City).

So. That’s what we have to look forward to on Days 3 and 4 of our cycling tour. I hope Eggenberg brewery beer will figure in our sampling of the area’s treasures. Oddly and fun in addition, we’re staying at a hotel called the Peregrin on a quiet street off the main square. AND we’re signed up for a guided tour of the central town, on our first evening there. Definitely looking forward to it.

Cycling Lake Vesuvius, Wayne National Forest, OH

Thursday, August 3

Today was all about cycle training as much as possible given what the campground offers. But we also found some “culture” to inform us.

We were definitely going to ride to the beach again. But our friendly hostess recommended a “stone house” that she said was at the boat launch area of Lake Vesuvius (opposite direction from the beach) along a paved walk. This entire area has been all about iron ore mining and smelting for many many decades, until better ore and better shipping lanes were found in Pittsburgh. The limestone-cum-iron ore geology makes for these steep cuts in the ground from waterways and runoff, and at one point, the “miners” didn’t have to even dig a mine, but just chip the ore off exposed deposits.

Through the steady wearing-away by water through eons grew this rock house—or really, a tall cave—which is evidently a common structure in iron-rich regions. Our informative sign indicated that there were probably employees of the Vesuvius Iron Furnace (down at the bottom of the Rec Area drive, off that route 29 we did not want to pedal) who would come to this rock house to extract coal from the seam at the back of this open cave, so they could heat their homes.

The way down to the boat launch and rock house was steeper and possibly longer than the downhill side toward the beach. We rode down and parked the bikes while I walked along the “boardwalk” at one side of this finger of the Lake, and grabbed a few photos. Then we rode back to see the rock house, and then climbed back up the hill.

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After catching our breath, we rode down to the beach again. This time, there were peeps there, readying to picnic and watch the kiddies swim. Back at the tops, we did a few more loops trying to get our mileage up to 10 miles. It was a great workout.

Private showers are simply the bees knees. It felt very good to shower (I took my time and luxuriated a bit), and we had a lunch of chicken salad and crackers, then grapes and carrots to fill out the belly. As we were continuing to relax after lunch, a good little thunderstorm came through just to keep us honest. We had to haul everything back under the awning again, and we had quite some rocking and rolling from the storm gods fighting with each other, but luckily, no wind.

Later we tried to begin to get ready for departure on the morrow with a bit of packing, but the storm kept rolling in and out and over and yon, so we mostly kept inside. Dinner: spinach pie redux. Next stop will be back in Virginia, to Grindstone campground, one of our fave spots, near the Creeper Trail between Damascus and Abingdon. We’ll definitely be un-hitching there to ride the Creeper if the weather will cooperate.

We got to bed early with a plan to arise early, and after tea/coffee, eat somewhere on the way (and grab some wifi to catch up on emails etc). It was mapped to be a very long day of driving to Grindstone.

To Kalamazoo: Travel Days

July 23, 2017

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.

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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.

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Site #125

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.

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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.

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.

 

Bicycle Training Ride #1

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

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


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

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

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

Lakawanna State Park, Pennsylvania 

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.

Site 28

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.