Hidden Gems and Rage – Horizons Unlimited Virginia 2015


While Sue was driving I looked for campgrounds we could stay at. Wisconsin was playing to make the March Madness finals, and Sue was excited to watch. That meant we needed somewhere with WiFi to stream the game, and we stayed at our first full-on RV park. It was cold and rainy for most of the time, but there was a playground, other kids, and the staff set us up in a spot close to one of the working WiFi antennas. We ate, drank, and I’m pretty sure Wisconsin lost – coming apart in the second half. All I really remember anymore is that it was very, very late when Sue powered off the computer.

In the morning we all showered before getting back onto the road. Limitless hot water is something I still consider a high-end luxury, and I lingered. One thing I do like about RV travel is the ease of setting up and packing. When everyone was back, it was just a matter of turning off the propane, folding in the step, and a quick once over to make sure everything was fastened. Then we were rolling.

Cliff the RV isn’t new. A 1984 Winnebago Chieftain 23, he has most of the upgrades that were available when he was new. But he is still, now, 30 years old and with some version of 88,000 miles (there are only 5 digits on the odometer). When Sue was driving him around New York last fall, she had commented that, especially going up mountains, he would sputter. It was diagnosed as a carb issue and we decided to wait on repairing it, since it hadn’t seemed worth the grand the shop wanted. I was pretty sure I could do it for the cost of parts, and since it was only an occasional issue we just put it off.

Once we got into the mountains, though, the sputtering started. It was only an occasional thing, and it started late in the day, so we didn’t do much other than say “well, that’s back,” and look for somewhere to camp. Sue found a state park that looked promising, though I will admit to some mixed feelings. It was way off our route, but I do like state parks and I didn’t protest much. Sue was driving when we turned off the highway through a small town, trying to follow the park signs and GPS.

Oh. My. God.

I’ve traveled in that part countless times, but never in an RV. The road, a narrow two-lane affair with no shoulder and posts inches from the pavement, wouldn’t have even attracted much attention, apart from the fun way it wandered along a ridgeline, houses packed close on each side. There was an occasional, amazing, view, but in the passenger seat I was constantly sure either the wheels were going to fall off the edge of the pavement – about a 4 or 5 inch drop – or we were going to clip a pole. Or just hit a pole. Or both. Sue, in the driver’s seat, was apparently unaware of my distress, and felt pretty comfortable over near the middle of the road. In fact, Cliff was hanging over the edge of the road, we checked later. The wheels were set far enough in to allow them to stay on the pavement, which is good I guess.

There was one stop sign on a hill where Clif sputtered, and then died. The sputter had been getting worse as the day wore on, and this time he wouldn’t restart. There was traffic, the road was still tight, and we were still on that hill with a car right behind us. The girls started to complain a little, and Sue, frustrated at Cliff’s poor power in the mountains, was cranky. I was stress and irritable, snapped at the girls to calm down, then managed to get Cliff running again. I admit it, I just wanted to be parked.

We found the State Park, quiet and empty, campsites next to a small creek. A few of them had electrical hookups, and we decided to take one of those. The road was in poor shape, and we had to back in. Sue hadn’t had much backing practice, but I told her she could do it and got out to plot a route and keep the girls clear. The backing required her to drive up a short hill, and then come straight back. Seemed easy to me, but before she was quite straight, Cliff stalled again. While trying to get it started, the RV rolled back down the hill, jack-knifing the trailer and damaging Cliff’s bodywork. Sue was understandle upset and I took over the backing, using a more level but much more complicated route. The awning was set up, and we ate outside. Sue and I had a chat, it was probably only the second time we’d been upset with each other, so we don’t have a lot of experiance. We talked it through, though, before going to sleep.

The morning was clear and cool. I went outside to try and sketch the scene, which was a failure, while everyone else played in the creek.

ANd, finally, some pictures.

That morning, with the sun out and having talked things out, that camping spot was perfect. Sue commented she could have sat there for a week, reading. I agreed, and that was more the sort of low-pace trips we’d had in mind when we’d gotten Cliff and the trailer. It, however, was not to be our fate on this trip, and around noon we packed up to continue east.

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