Frontier Culture Museum – December 4, 2021

It had probably been 20 or more years since Wayne or I had visited the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia. With no definite plans on this Saturday–and with temperatures in the low 50s–we decided to get in some walking while touring this unique outdoor museum.

After paying the admission–and learning that their costumed interpreters would not be in the houses due to the museum’s winter schedule–we started towards the English farm.

Our next stop was the Irish forge:

Making some friends on the way to the Irish farm.

On to Germany….

I’d never heard of this Native American community from the 1700s.

The last section of the Frontier Culture Museum featured American farms.

And the highlight of this part of the tour? Wayne singing to a huge pig!

Due to the time of day and how far we’d already walked, we opted not to explore the rest of the houses in the American farms section, especially since this was more of a dead end than a loop. We were pretty tired by the time we got back to our car!

Next stop: dinner! Wayne had a gift card that was still good (after 2 years), so we splurged!

OMG… “Chocolate Thunder from Down Under” – decadent!

It was a most enjoyable day!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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375-Mile Day Trip – October 23, 2021

This adventure started with a trek down I-64 East. About halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg, we turned on Rt. 33 East, and this took us through the town of West Point. While a paper mill dominates the view as you enter the town, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers converge here to form the York River.

We have not yet visited the museums at the Mattaponi and Pamunkey reservations; perhaps we’ll do that on our next trip this way.

We took some “wrong” (but pretty) roads before arriving at our first destination: Gwynn’s Island. We camped here in August 2020 and we’ve missed it ever since we left!

When we arrived at the campground, we asked if there were any vacancies for one night in one of the rental cottages, cabins, or campers. Aside from a couple of tent sites, they were booked solid. Kind of figured they would be. The woman in the office said we were welcomed to walk around the campground for a while, and we took her up on the offer. This is SUCH a beautiful place, right on the Chesapeake Bay!

Leaving Gwynn’s Island RV Resort, the next place we planned to visit was Gloucester Point Beach Park near the Coleman Memorial Bridge. In November 2019 we’d discovered a little park on the York River, and we were delighted to see dolphins there:

Before reaching Gloucester Point, however, we saw a sign for Machicomoco State Park. I’d heard of this relatively new state park in a Virginia campers groups and impulsively decided to check it out. There was more there than I anticipated.

This is the first Virginia state park that “celebrates and honors the history of the Native Tribes of Virginia,” and after driving through the campground, we went to the interpretive area.

“For as long as 18,000 years, Native American people have lived along Chesapeake’s waterways…”

Back on Rt. 17 South, I missed the turn to Gloucester Point Beach Park! As we crossed the Coleman Memorial Bridge, Wayne snapped these pictures of a big sailboat going upstream on the York River.

As soon as we were across the bridge, a sign to the right said “Historic Yorktown,” “Waterfront,” and “Watermen’s Museum,” so I made the turn. To my surprise, the road curved back under the bridge and I had an opportunity to get an even better picture of the sailboat:

I’d never been to the Yorktown waterfront, but as we slowly drove past shops, restaurants, and a riverfront hotel, I remembered seeing a friend’s pictures of this area. We just did a quick drive-through this time, but it’s another place I’d like to re-visit!

From Yorktown, we took the scenic route to Williamsburg on the Colonial Parkway.

While I’m still not totally comfortable eating in restaurants, we greatly enjoyed our dinner at Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant.

Now here’s where the adventure took a bit of a turn…. Before we left home that morning I’d checked various Williamsburg motels and hotels and there were limited openings. Those that did have openings didn’t have particularly good reviews. Since it wasn’t completely dark by the time we left the restaurant, we decided to drive to Richmond. Surely we’d find a place to stay there.

Except we didn’t.

The places we checked were either too pricy, too sketchy (seriously), or there were no vacancies. Okay, fine. Let’s just call this a 375-mile day trip and go home. It was a beautiful day. 🙂

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Camping at Smith Mountain Lake State Park – August 3-8, 2021

With so many more people camping since the start of the pandemic, it’s been hard to find campsites–especially at state parks. We were delighted when a midweek cancellation opened up a site at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in early August! We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon and got set up in site # 5.

Smith Mountain Lake may only be 2 hours away from home for us, but it’s a whole different, beautiful world….

When we camped at SML last summer, we stayed in the park the whole time–which was great. This time we were interested in exploring the surrounding area. On Wednesday morning we decided we’d drive to the southeast end of Smith Mountain Lake to see the dam and visitor’s center.

It took us close to an hour to get from the state park to the dam, and once we were on the property (and not a moment before!), we saw a sign stating that the visitor’s center and observation area (above the dam) were closed! We could see the back side of the dam, but that was about it. Alrighty….

Regrouping, we chose to do a drive around the southern side of the lake instead of going back to the state park the way we’d come. After traveling on some bonafide backroads, Rt. 40 near Pen Hook, VA took us west to Rocky Mount where we got on Rt. 122 North. We made an impromptu stop at a roadside fruit stand, and the peaches and blackberries (and fruit tarts) we got were amazing!

Rt. 122 is also called “Booker T. Washington Highway,” and our next unscheduled stop was at the Booker T. Washington National Monument. At the visitor’s center we watched a short video about this man who was born as an enslaved person on the property, but who went on to become an educator, author, and adviser to several U.S. presidents.

Having successfully circumnavigated Smith Mountain Lake, we had a better feel for the general area and became more familiar with some of the major roads, backroads, and stores. Good reference for future trips. 🙂

That evening, we wanted to try a restaurant that fellow campers had recommended. “Jake’s Place” is about 10 miles from the state park, and well worth the drive. We opted to sit outside, and we enjoyed seeing all of the boats (including vintage/antique boats) that were coming and going at the marina. We also greatly enjoyed an appetizer of mussels (sautéed in wine, butter, and garlic) and our meals!

After an amazing and delicious dinner, it was very nice to come back “home” to the campground and spend the evening relaxing by a campfire.

The next morning we were ready to check out some of the park’s trails. Rated as “moderate” and 1.4 miles, the Turtle Island trail seemed like a good option. We paused, first, to bless the waters of Smith Mountain Lake.

The actual island is accessed via a small bridge.

View of the state park’s beach from Turtle Island. (Actual distance and zoomed in.)

The walk back to the parking lot was where the “moderate” rating came from. While it wasn’t particularly steep, it was a long, steady uphill trek. At least it was mainly shaded!

Originally we’d just been able to make camping reservations for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights–and felt lucky for that!–but thanks to another cancellation, we were able to extend our stay to include Friday and Saturday nights. Yes! This was the longest we’d stayed in any campground this summer, but we’re so glad we had extra time to explore and enjoy–we really weren’t ready to leave!

On Friday we finally made it to the lake for swimming! The water was just cool enough to be refreshing. During the time we were at the park, the temperatures were mainly in the mid-80s; quite pleasant, actually, for late summer.

On Saturday we drove to Bridgewater Plaza and Marina (an area we’d passed through on Wednesday), hoping to visit some of the shops there. Well, weekends are really busy at Smith Mountain Lake and when we couldn’t find a parking space, we started back towards the campground. Impulsively turning onto a side road, we found ourselves at Hickory Hill Vineyards, which proved to be an excellent decision.

The whole (extended) trip to Smith Mountain Lake was an excellent decision….

I’m so very glad we were able to have this time at Smith Mountain Lake State Park. What a beautiful way to close out the summer!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Camping in Virginia Beach – July 21-24, 2021

Some years when we’ve gone to the beach in the summer, we’ve stayed at a motel 10 miles from the oceanfront just to keep our visit reasonably affordable. In more recent years we’ve stayed at a campground near Williamsburg and we’ve done day trips to the beach. (This allowed us to avoid towing through the crazy traffic and congestion of Hampton Roads and the tunnel on I-64.) This year, however, we decided to take an alternate route to the coast and stay at the Holiday Trav-L-Park campground in Virginia Beach.

We took I-64 East to I-295. Southeast of Richmond we turned onto State Route 5 East towards Charles City. This road runs from Richmond, Virginia to Williamsburg, and it’s one of our favorite drives. It’s especially pretty in the fall when the leaves are turning.

Just before Williamsburg, we followed the signs towards Jamestown–and the Jamestown-Scotland ferry. In addition to the rural, scenic nature of this route, an extra fun aspect is crossing the James River on a ferry! I always enjoy photographing the birds that hang out near the docks.

While we’ve taken this route to the beach many times, this was the first time we’d ever had our trailer on the ferry!

Waze wasn’t quite sure what was happening as we crossed the James River.

The trip across the river took 20-25 minutes, and it took us another couple of hours to make our way to the campground. A little after 2:00 PM (about 5 hours after leaving home) we arrived at Holiday Trav-L-Park and got set up in site # 152.

This is an enormous campground, and the sites in this section are only suitable for tents or small trailers, such as ours. We had water and electric hookups, and we were pretty close to a bathhouse, the main pool, the camp store, and the entrance to the park.

This particular site was mostly shaded, morning and afternoon, and on the end of a row which gave us more space.

The campground (represented by the blue dot) wasn’t far from the ocean at all.

We planned to eat an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, but I wasn’t sure if I’d feel comfortable eating in or if I’d want to get take-out (as we did last summer). We ultimately decided to eat in, and I was pleased to see that almost everyone was opting to use disposable gloves on their “serving hand” at the buffet. (We wore our masks any time we left our table.) As usual, the food was great! This was the ceiling in the room where we were seated.

After dinner we drove to the oceanfront and walked on the boardwalk before returning to the campground. We got some rain just after we got “home,” but the worst of the storms that night passed to our east and to our west.

The next morning we drove south to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the time there are very few people on the beach (no swimming is allowed) and it offers beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and the resident wildlife.

Wayne always likes to swim in the ocean, so we went to Little Island Park in Sandbridge to change into our suits. When we walked out on the beach, I took one look at the surprisingly rough surf and decided I wasn’t getting in. Wayne decided otherwise….

After the fact, he said it felt like an “Old Man and the Sea” experience–and the sea won that round. 😉

On the pier in Sandbridge, I saw some birds that I haven’t been able to identify yet. I’m not sure if they were adults or juveniles. They were smaller than seagulls, but larger than Grackles or Red-wing Blackbirds.

Back at the campground, an almost-full moon was rising over the trees, and we could hear music coming from the pool area. I remembered reading something about a DJ that night, so we decided to check it out.

This was so much fun–music, dancing, and swimming under a moonlit sky. 🙂

On Friday morning we went to a favorite restaurant (Nick’s on Laskin Road) for breakfast before driving to 64th Street and First Landing State Park. We’ve been to this section of the park SO many times and we always enjoy walking on the Cape Henry Trail and taking pictures along the way.

We totally lucked out on the weather. The temperature was pretty awesome for a day in July!

I took a LOT of pictures of what I think was a juvenile Great Blue Heron:

Our next stop was the section of First Landing on Shore Drive where the campground and beach are. If you look closely, you can see the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel behind us.

The previous day we’d purchased tickets online for a 4:00 PM visit to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, a place we’d never had time to go before. My pictures aren’t very good–too dark inside and everything was moving!–but I’m very glad we went!

I did not know this….

Outside of the aquarium, there’s a large tank that houses two harbor seals, Hector and Rudder.

An interesting “rainbow” formed along the outer edge of the edge of the tank as the late afternoon sun came through the water.

When we got back to the campground, Wayne made delicious salads for dinner. We ate pretty lightly on this trip–with the exception of our first night seafood splurge! 😉

After dinner we went back to the main pool for another evening of swimming and music. I’d never heard of dances like the “Cupid Shuffle” and the “Wobble”–and who knew that hula hoop contests were still a thing–but there were participants of all ages. While there were more people there than the previous night, the pool wasn’t overly crowded and everyone seemed to be having a good time on a beautiful summer Friday night.

The next morning as we prepared to leave the campground, I looked at a map to plot my course back to Jamestown via the ferry. I also checked the best way to get to Rt. 460 West, in case we decided to go that way for a change of scenery. Despite my planning, I ultimately made a wrong turn and found myself heading right for the Hampton Roads tunnel on I-64!

Yes, I had to pull over at an inspection station before the tunnel to verify that the propane tank on the trailer was turned off (Virginia state law), and yes, there was a lot of traffic, and at times we just crept along as we entered the tunnel–but you know what? It was okay.

Although I’d PREFER not to take this route in the future when towing the trailer, it’s not something I’ll absolutely avoid or be fearful about. Even with the congestion and occasional slow downs due to construction, we made it home in 4 hours.

We thoroughly enjoyed our 3-night stay at Holiday Trav-L-Park. What a fun trip, and we look forward to staying there again!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Camping at Sherando Lake – July 14-16, 2021

We greatly enjoyed our recent 2-night stay at Sherando Lake in the George Washington National Forest. While we prefer even-numbered sites in the shadier section in River Bend (B) loop at Sherando, we couldn’t complain about the size of site B-13.

We’ve camped at Sherando several times, and in 2016 we were in B13 with our little Scamp travel trailer.

It was hot the afternoon we arrived–even at this campground in the mountains–and in addition to using our awning, we found it helpful to put up our colorful shade cloth.

After we’d gotten everything situated and set up, we drove to the lake to swim for a while. The water felt great! Later, as we were hanging our suits and other items on a makeshift clothesline, Wayne smiled. We were using his mother’s clothespins, and he wondered what she’d think of them traveling around with us in our camper!

Earlier in the day we’d walked from our site in B loop to the dam at the upper lake and around C loop. After dinner, we walked from B loop down to–and around–A loop and back. My Fitbit loved all this walking and said we’d covered a little over 4 miles.

Once it was dark, we sat outside watching the sky. It was the beginning of the Perseid meteor shower and we saw several “shooting stars,” along with a number of satellites. When we finally came inside, I guess that the combination of swimming, walking, fresh air, and simply relaxing under the stars accounted for the fact that we slept an amazing 9 hours that night!

The next day we visited with my cousin, Mary, and her husband, David, who are camp hosts at Sherando. It was the first time we’d seen each other in well over a year due to the pandemic, and it was nice to catch up. 🙂

After leaving their site in C loop, we walked up the road towards the group camping area, then turned left to walk up on top of the dam. I certainly wished I had my regular camera with me because there were dozens of Goldfinches (and butterflies) up there on the thistles! I didn’t get any pics of the birds with my cell phone camera, but the thistles were certainly pretty!

There’s a trail around the upper lake, but we’ve never been on it. Maybe we will on another trip.

Looking down towards the bottom of the dam, we were surprised to see a number of crows gathered on the bridge. They seemed very “serious” about something, and there was much discussion among them.

After walking back to our campsite, we were ready for a swim. The water was cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough to be enjoyable.

That evening after dinner we planned to go up to the top of the dam to watch for meteors, but we were told to avoid the area. A rattlesnake had been spotted near the base of the dam, not too far from the bridge where the crows had been. Hmmm–had they spotted the snake earlier in the day? Is that why they were so serious and concerned?

So instead of going up to the dam to watch the sky, we opted to stay at our campsite again after another walk around the various campground loops. My cousin’s site looked so pretty! She said their vintage lights are over 40 years old.

Our stay at Sherando lake was so relaxing and low-key. I really hope we’ll be able to go again one weekend this fall.

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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