We crossed the state line into Virginia and headed southeast stopping in Fredericksburg, the site of some Civil war Battles. A lot of history here and we toured one battlefield where we saw a house that still stands today, the rebuilt and original stone wall the confederates built to stand behind and a very well done film about this battle. Next was, Williamsburg. As we have had some quite cold nights we are pretty much “dry” camping with no water in our tanks. We have put RV antifreeze in the black tank so we can use the toilet but otherwise are using gallon jugs of fresh water for drinking/cooking/cleaning and a lot of wet ones! As it was time for showers we decided to splurge and use a hotel tonight. We found a Comfort Inn with a hot tub for $48. We checked in and went for a walk first to check the place out. It’s a colonial town that is kind of like a theme park and they want $44 a person to get in; no thanks. We wandered into the town itself and visited the College of William and Mary grounds; this school was established in 1693! It began as a grammar school and morphed into a university that is still running. It has the oldest school building in the country.
Thursday saw us driving south east into North Carolina to check out Kitty Hawk and the Outer Banks; we stopped at the Wright Brothers Memorial National Historic Site which was very interesting and then headed to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore with a visit to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse; the tallest brick lighthouse in the world and the tallest lighthouse in the US. It was partly cloudy but a comfortable temperature with the sun peeking out quite frequently. It was rather windy that day, so the lighthouse was closed for climbing to the stop but the former lighthouse keepers’ residences were open for viewing.
We then headed back to Kitty Hawk with the intent of walking along the lovely sandy beach but it was raining by the time we got back there. Luckily, after the lighthouse, we pulled into one of the parking lots along the main road to check out the beach – it was totally empty with beautiful sand, surf and some sun. We did find a bar before dark to have a drink and an appie to watch the surf before it got dark.
Next morning it was still raining. We decided to hit the road and skip Virginia Beach as the forecast was not good there either. We headed inland and took the scenic non-freeway route back towards Williamsburg as we wanted to visit Jamestown (the first permanent settlement in the US and where John Smith met Pocahontas). This route included a free ferry across the James River. The weather had improved sun-wise as the day progressed but there was a cold, cold wind that was wicked. Jamestown was very interesting with lots to see and learn. It was a hard life the settlers had and many of them died in those first few years. Yorktown was next a little further up the road; this was where one the deciding battles of the American Revolution took place. Not as much to see here but still interesting. We went into Williamsburg and after getting Wi-Fi for a bit at Mickey Dee’s, went to Chili’s for margarita’s, beer and tortilla chips. We slept in the rig in the restaurant parking lot – didn’t want to drink and drive!
Next morning we headed towards the capital, Richmond, VA where we met up with a friend of Fran’s from her days at Boart Longyear in Salt Lake City, Lydia, her husband, Nick, and their son, Daniel, had recently moved here. Lydia took us downtown to Carytown and we had a nice lunch in a typical Virginia diner called Galaxy Diner, walked around this hip area and then picked up her son from his grandmother’s before spending the night indoors in their guest room. Thanks Lydia for helping to keep us out of the cold!
Sunday we headed northwest (yeah we know, why not south?) towards the north end of Shenandoah National Park stopping enroute in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s property. Here we took a four mile stroll before ending up in Front Royal, VA for the night.
We awoke to rain and fog and dropping temps on Monday morning as we headed to Shenandoah National Park. Our plan was to drive the entire 105 mile long Skyline Drive and do a few hikes as well. This was US national park number 50! The road winds along to and follows the crest of the mountains and has a speed limit of 35mph. It has lots and lots of pullouts and overlooks. The leaves were pretty much all off of the trees along the road, but you could see in the valleys that there was lots of remaining colour.
There are four campgrounds in this park but all were closed. One of the lodges, Skyland, was open and we did have a bite to eat for lunch there. We did only one hike today in the fog and rain to see the hexagonal basalt columns. Part of the trail is along the Appalachian Trail (which follows alongside the Skyline Drive). It was not that pleasant and Fran was a little sick with a cold so she had enough hiking after that. We did not want to do the whole road in one day, so as the campgrounds were closed and we don’t like paying for campgrounds anyway, we took a bit of a risk and parked in a “picnic site” near the South River Overlook which as luck would have it, was a little ways from the main road. At this time of year in the park, the road closes at 5pm for hunting so you are supposed to be at the lodge or out of the park. Doug did another hike to a waterfall while Fran rested. We did not hear any gunfire overnight (fog and wind probably dissuaded any hunters).
Today we saw a black bear on the side of the road (!) which quickly ran across the road when it heard us and went off into the bush and we also spotted some red tailed hawks.
Before we got to the picnic site, we had driven to one of the campgrounds and luckily for us, the Sani dump site was outside the gate and we were able to dump our black water tank. Due to the cold, we have not filled our fresh water tank nor are we using the sinks inside. We are, however, using the toilet by putting in RV antifreeze to keep the contents from freezing. So we dumped our tanks and they had fresh potable water (not always available at dump sites) and we refilled our one gallon jugs (four) that we are using for water. We are using paper plates/bowls for meals that we are making ourselves and so far so good. It has limited some things we are doing, but we are more than managing.
It was very cold Monday night – temperature was about -11C /12 F. We used the furnace that evening before tucking in and then turned it on early in the morning to make it bearable to get up. There was ice on the front windows and the wind was something wicked but it had blown all the clouds away and it was gorgeous looking outside. That darn polar vortex from Alaska is really trying to cramp out style!
We did attempt one short hike to Black Rock Summit but one was enough in that wind; we just do not have the proper clothes for cold weather. After leaving the park midday, we stopped in Waynesboro to find a geocache site for Doug’s cousin, Marnie, and then drove westward to Staunton to stay in a hotel for the night.
Wednesday, we ventured up to Mount Solon where we visited Natural Chimney Regional Park. A cute little park with a campground (closed), playgrounds and these cool rock chimneys. We then headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway (Skyline Drive in Shenandoah is part of this 469 mile road) and the weather was sunny but still cold although not quite so biting. We hiked up to Humpback Rocks which gave us a spectacular view of the valley below. The campgrounds here were closed as well so we drove into the town of Lexington for internet and spent the night parked on a street in town. The elevation was much lower here which meant it was not quite so cold.
Thursday we continued along and did a hike out to some balanced rocks which were not as amazing as we’d been lead to believe but it was a more bearable temperature for hiking and the sun was still out. We had to get off the parkway at about mile 90 as the road was being worked on for about 30 miles so we took the freeway to Roanoke where we checked into a Quality Inn as Doug needed to do some work. Next day he flew to Newark for a meeting and Fran stayed a second night in Roanoke. Doug returned on Saturday midday and we moseyed on down to Charlotte, North Carolina.