On Saturday we left the lovely Waynsboro North 340 campground (not a name that trips off the tongue..) where they were busy preparing for the ACTUAL Halloween celebrations
We drove for about 100 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. It was a gorgeous route, with autumn colour and fabulous views over the mountains.
we were mightily impressed with this cyclist, as he looked as if he was working his socks off
We were amused to see the lengths people would go for a photo
or just to commune with nature
The tight turns and steep gradients seemed to perplex a lot of the American drivers, but Tim pointed out that they were driving automatics and so they could not easily use engine braking.
We decided that 100 miles was enough, because, magnificent as the views were, they started to look a bit samey. What the heck, we thought, we have the time… let’s go and explore inland. So we turned right and just drove through
for a bit, thinking how pretty it was.
We stopped for a coffee at the MacDonalds at a small town called Sissonville and had our fantasies put straight. The staff there were lovely; Tim met a woman who had been stationed in the UK as part of the US airforce and as I was chatting to her about her experiences and our travels (and complimenting her on the tea (weirdly, MacDonalds do the best tea on the road) another young server said how jealous she was of what we had all done, as she had never been anywhere. I said, ‘well just get out there and do it and she said that there was no chance she could ever do such a thing. I was a bit shocked and said that of course she could do anything she wanted, being American, after all. This really nice young woman sniggered and said that the people in her area had no hope at all. Most took drugs and the children in the local estates ran around hoping someone would feed them. She was just pleased to be living in a community where anybody taking drugs was thrown out. Tim had noted that West Virginia looked less prosperous than further east, and once you started looking, you could see trailer park following trailer park, which we never saw up in Maine.
It was too late to find a campsite that evening, so we ground to a halt just south of Princetown in West Virginia. We managed to find another Texas Steakhouse next to the motel; I loved the food and the the waitress was a delight;
When she found out that we were actually tourists and that we had chosen to come to West Virginia (she also viewed the area as a dump) she was so excited that she went around all of her colleagues to find out what we could do in the region. After our very pleasant meal Tim decided he wanted to try a local whiskey (he also kindly ordered a decent single malt Scotch for me) and the picture says it all.
I did offer to share mine, but Tim was determined to go for the full American experience. (He never went for the full Iceland experience when we were there, with pickled puffin…)
The next morning, we were up reasonably early, ate the complimentary breakfast and, having showered, we were ready to go. One of my holiday nightmares finally came true as we were checking the room. Where the hell was my handbag…. Aaaaarghhhhh!!!! Our passports, complete with our ten-year American visas were not in the room. I hared down to the Steak restaurant, which was just a couple of hundred of metres away. I hammered on the door, the windows and the tradesmen’s entrance, and finally wandered, in a dejected fashion, around the back of the restaurant, where I (luckily) found some members of staff having a quick fag (cigarette, not…….) and one of them went to find the manager, who had my handbag YEH!!!!!!!! Nasty fantasies of having to find a British Embassy and getting all our paperwork and passports sorted faded away delightfully. It was very hard not to rip everything out of my bag in front of the lovely guys who had helped me. I waited until I was just out of sight to check everything was there… PHEW.
We drove on to one of the few campsites in
that were still open, near a small town called Pomeroy. We were allowed to chose where we pitched the tent and made the stupid decision, in light of the unseasonably warm weather, that we didn’t need a campfire. Our first job was to do a little repair work on the tent
The Tentipi has been fantastically robust over the last two years or so, but we have probably slept in it for over 55 weeks and the elastics on the top vent had started giving up and breaking. We were only back in the UK for two weeks in October so it was hard to arrange for some spares to be sent to us, but the wonderful Tentipi rep, Tony Stephenson, came to our rescue and had taken all the elastics and guys off his own demo tent and mailed them special delivery (at no cost) to help us out. The tent now looks much better and has just coped with some shockingly heavy rain.
Of course, as the evening went on, the temperature plummeted and we ended up putting more and more clothes on. I was just about wrapped up like a mummy when one of our neighbours came over and asked us to join his campfire. We had only thought that we would go over and say ‘hi’, but we were very glad that we did. Their campfire was roaring, but the welcome we were given was even warmer.
There were two couples there; Jim (an ex sailor, who started off on destroyers and ended up on an aircraft carrier) and his wife Nancy and Carroll and his wife Leura (Laura?). We sat and chatted for ages, and enjoyed explaining what the word ‘bloke’ meant. I haven’t laughed so much in ages. On a more sober note, Carroll was conscripted at age 20 to fight in Vietnam and he told us of some of the horrendous situations he had to face, including how he was nearly blown up by a small child with a grenade. He has since made a good life for himself, but the experience still haunts him. He was so kind and generous, such as when he found out we didn’t have a fire, he went off to get us a spare fire ring and brought a huge load of firewood over for us and then he gave us a bottle of wine to take with us. Nancy very kindly showed me their mega rig, which had every luxury available,it provided her and Jim with a wonderful weekend retreat, with a beautiful veranda and, cunningly, Jim had arranged for a pretty chunky cover, which meant they could enjoy themselves outside in all weathers.
I was sad that they were heading out the following day, as I really wanted to spend more time with them, but our side of the campground was about to be mothballed for the winter, and the water had to be turned off because it wasn’t buried deep enough to avoid freezing. I was very pleased when they swung by on their golf cart to say goodbye
The following morning, we thought it was raining because there was a huge great drip drip drip going on. It turned out we were in the midst of a the local fog
and it gave a clue about how cloud forests survive; the tent was wetter than after a heavy shower. In between doing exciting things (like the washing, woo hoo!) we went for a stroll around the campsite
and we met the new owner, who seems to be very popular with the long stay clients. He has a lot of work to do to bring the facilities up to scratch, but the site is beautiful and I would love to see how good it will be in a year or so.
People on this trip often ask us what we have enjoyed the most on our travels over here and we could say Niagara or Acadia or Martha’s Vineyard, but it has got to be the people we have met, from the cute receptionist in Gettysburg who called me ‘Miss Janet’ to the waitress in the West Virginian Texas Steak house or the people who helped us when we broke down or nearly everyone else we have talked to both in Canada and the States. The guys at the Ohio campsite were just the icing on the cake. (As was this sunset)
We left in good time on our final morning there, but I made Tim stop so I could get some shots of these black and turkey vultures (the turkey vultures have tiny bright red heads).
We stopped to take a look at the Ohio River (another song reference driving me mad at the same time)
I was feeling optimistic that we could find a campsite in Indiana, but there was nothing doing. We ended up staying in a cheapish motel (which only cost a little more than some of the more expensive campgrounds over here. I had a theory that these roadside hotels are always set next to a halfway decent steakhouse, but nope. I couldn’t stand the thought of eating at the Waffle house, so we cobbled some sandwiches together from the contents of the fridge. We have certainly eaten worse…
The next day we drove into
passing this strange claim to fame
(I mean, how would you even start to eat a foot high pie?) and on to St Louis (pronounced Lewis not Looee, what ever Judy Garland had to say), which involved driving through
It was quite pretty in places, but an awful lot of it was very very flat. One thing that struck me was the sheer number of trucks on the road;
I started counting at one stage, there were at least three monstrous great lorries for each car. I had been bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t seen the world’s biggest anything, like we had on our trip down the west coast (frying pan, pencil, chopsticks) when we saw a sign for the ‘world’s largest wind chimes’. It was too good to miss so we turned off into Casey and it was a feast after the famine; we saw, not only the world’s biggest wind chimes……
(drum roll) but the world’s biggest rocking chair
and golf tee as well.
Sheer tacky heaven, but they were strangely beautiful objects, all masterfully made and well maintained.
We managed to get to a campsite in East St Louis in time to get the tent up and not having time to shop, we ended up eating in the Sawmill BBQ restaurant, where we ate the best pulled pork I have ever tasted.
The staff were exceptionally friendly and welcoming and it was no hardship to go back there the following evening, especially as it was absolutely hammering down.