Return to Virginia

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On the Friday afternoon, it was 81 degrees where we camped near Roanoke. We drove a couple of hours up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Shenandoah National Park where overnight, the windchill dipped to 7 degrees. It was a three-dog night and we only had two — and no electric hookups to power our heater. The three of us, plus both dogs huddled under piles of blankets in the bed as the wind whistled around the camper all night.

Once the sun broke across the frigid 38-degree morning, I took the dogs out and found two people who had camped that night in hammocks.

Once again, I was reminded to be thankful for what I had.

As for our other adventures in the Mid-Atlantic States, here goes:

Jellystone and Natural Bridge, Va.

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In mid October, I was scheduled as presenter for a session on corporate storytelling at a conference in Roanoke, Va. There was on odd lack of camping right around Roanoke, so we stayed about 50 minutes away at the Jellystone Campground in Natural Bridge Virginia. Braden loves these parks and with our Passport America Club 50% discount, they are affordable. Yogi, Cindy, Booboo and the ranger were hibernating but we had a great time on the jumping pillow and playing mini golf. There were also quite a few kids there including Gavin who became Braden’s buddy. Gavin made some artwork for Braden and we went over to their campsite to hang out around the fire. Gavin’s parents are retired military folks who had recently started traveling full-time in their fifth-wheel trailer with their five-year-old son and two golden labs.

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Natural Bridge gets its name from a rock formation that has recently become Virginia’s newest state park. The state had only opened it a couple of months before we were there. The land was originally surveyed by a young Virginia surveyor named George Washington. George had allegedly carved a “GW” on the rock wall about 18 feet up, which can still be seen today. The land was later owned by another Virginian named Thomas Jefferson. Once more, the Rushmore gang had played their way into our travels. Those guys are everywhere!

The Natural Bridge itself is incredible and rivals any rock formation I’ve seen this side of the Badlands and Bryce Canyon. For starters, it’s huge. Hopefully the pictures do it justice.

img_3801Braden has been asking a lot of questions about Indians and didn’t really believe there were still around until he got to meet one at an Indian village set up at the park. Braden asked a few questions of the guy, whose ancestors were in a subtribe of the Iroquois.

We almost skipped it the park and then almost couldn’t find it, and though we had never heard about it before, we’re all very glad we went. It continues to amaze us how much cool stuff there is out there.

Oh, and my presentation went well.

Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive

We had not meant to time our trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway with the leaves, but it was a spectacular accident. The colors were really popping off of the leaves as we drove. A few months ago, the thought of driving the RV on the winding, narrow, mountain roads like the Parkway and Skyline Drive would have scared me. After a few thousand miles behind the wheels I was much more comfortable with it.

The most worrisome thing along the road was how rangers and other travelers at the stops and overlooks talked about the forecast for that night. Temperatures were supposed to drop and snow was a possibility …

Shenandoah National Park

When we got to Shenandoah National Park and first got out of the RV, we saw our first snow flakes of the year on Oct. 21.

img_8536The evening went downhill from there. As I said in the intro, we went from 81 degrees at Natural Tunnel to 38 degrees with a windchill of 7 degrees that night at Shenandoah. For nights like this, our camper has a built-in ducted heater and we have an electric space heater. Both of those however need electricity to run and none of the sites in Shenandoah have electric hookups. It was frigid. The next morning the inside of the windows were all soaked from our breath condensing on the cold glass. We would see steam on any air or fluids that left our bodies. It was cold! On the first night, Jess and I add blankets and put both dogs in the bed. On the second night, we put Braden in the bed with us and the dogs. On the third night — there was no third night. We packed up and left a day early.

img_8555The cold and blasting wind kept us from wanting to do too much, but we did go to two ranger classes Astronomy and Birds of Prey. We also ventured out to some of the overlooks and one pretty decent 3-mile hike. The leaves that hadn’t been torn asunder by the howling wind were pretty. We will camp through the winter in colder places, but I think it felt so frigid because of a combination of the shock of the temperature change, lack of preparation, lack of an escape to warm up inside and the savage wind.

Williamsburg, Va.

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Our next stay was at a Thousand Trails Campground in Williamsburg, Va. This is the camping club we are a part of where we can stay at these sites for no charge. I believe it was this stop where we broke even on the club membership. It was $445 to join which meant if we took the average of $30 per night, we needed to stay 15 nights to make our img_3903money back. After several free nights in Texas and a couple in North Carolina, Night #15 happened in Williamsburg meaning we made the right choice and every future Thousand Trails stay was really free.

As a bonus, this park had an indoor pool and really nice mini-golf course. Braden continues to sink a hole-in-one almost every time we play mini-golf. They also had a videogame version of the corn hole bean bag toss game. We live in an exciting time for sure. 

Many of the campers were decked out for Halloween and we learned later there was a Full-Time Families club rally there that weekend. We had only booked through Friday and the campground was full over the weekend or else it might have been fun to see what they were all about. The main focus of the group seems to be a lot of homeschool resources for parents who are “road schooling.”

We did get to play with one family in the pool. We had the pool rocking with their four or five kids and Braden.

Jess and Braden were able to go to Colonial Williamsburg and see the sights. Braden’s favorite stop was the Tailor Shop where he got a lesson in sewing. The canons and fife corps also made a big impression.

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Quick hits:

We voted! Our absentee ballots were mailed to Jess’s parents who got them to us. We made our choices and then mailed them from the post office there in Natural Bridge.

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