Wednesday, September 7, 2011

American Heritage Campground, Williamsburg, VA

I am going to continue telling you about our vacation trip this August by writing about the campground that we stayed in - American Heritage Campground located in Williamsburg, Virginia. I first should say that while the address is Williamsburg - and it is in Williamsburg - this campground is about 10 to 13 miles from Colonial Williamsburg and just a bit further from Busch Gardens. This was not a problem - the campground is very close to Route 64 (no we could not hear any road noise in the campground) and the trip between the campground and Colonial Williamsburg on Route 64 took less than fifteen minutes. A surprise to us was that the speed limit on Route 64 is 70 mph. It was an easy on 64 and an easy off with just a few minutes from 64 to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center and parking lot. Taking Route 60 is also possible, but it is longer due to traffic lights and a slower speed limit.

Just like everything else that I do, I do a lot of research and checking before I decide on something. I did this extensively with campgrounds for Colonial Williamsburg. There are several to choose from and I examined the review comments on each and also paid attention on the forums to what others recommended. Overwhelming, American Heritage is the campground that is recommended for this area. I had started out looking closely at another campground - Anvil Campground. In distance, it is actually closer to Colonial Williamsburg - actually not too far further than a hotel that we have stayed in way back when. There is one consistent comment that comes up in reviews of Anvil Campground - beware of the noise of the train. Train tracks cross Williamsburg and freight and passenger trains (looong freight trains) travel on these tracks day and night - all night. Some like to blow their horns. Anvil Campground is located directly next to the tracks. We went to look - it is a few feet away from the train tracks on the entire one side of the campground. The trains and the noise that they make will be ever present while you are staying there. I have nothing against this campground. We did, during the trip, go to look at it. We noticed a few things other than the train tracks. It is a small campground. It is right on a main road on the side without the tracks. Driving down that road one can clearly see into the entire campground and see every camper there. There was little feeling of privacy there and this struck Meryl as the most significant reason for her not to want to stay there. I am not saying that if we had no place else to stay we would never stay there - but it would not be our preference once we saw it. As to its being closer to Colonial Williamsburg, because it is necessary to drive on Route 60 with its traffic lights and slower speed limit to get to the Visitor's Center, the trip from American Heritage by way of Route 64 was much quicker.

While I am on the subject of trains, yes, the train tracks are within a mile or less from American Heritage and yes, we did hear trains going by at night (even late, late night) in the distance. They were not a problem for us. We were not disturbed by them. There is really no escaping hearing a train in Williamsburg. Even at the hotels that we have stayed at, trains could be heard.

So, let's get back to talking about American Heritage Campground. The rate per night was $49.25 and there is a free night if you stay seven nights (stay 6 get the 7th free). There is also AARP, AAA, or Good Sam discounts but these do not apply if you are getting the free night. They will figure it out so that you pay the least for your stay.

As this was our first time at this campground, I wanted to arrive while the office was still open so that I could make sure we were able to get our space and be settled in person - and not arrive after hours to find our space on a chart on the door. Coming off of Route 64 it is less than a quarter mile to the street that the campground is located off of. A left turn on that street from the main road takes you down a narrow, residential street lined on both sides with houses. The campground entrance is partially hidden by a very large hedge. The house just before the entrance had an RV parked on its lawn so it was easy to tell where to turn (especailly in the dark). Once you pass that hedge, the entrance was well lit and there was a large sign for the campground, but don't go fast down that road because if you miss the entrance, especially in a big rig, you are going to have a real hard time turning around on this narrow road. We never drove past the campground entrance on the road so I don't not know what is there, though it does not appear that anything is there based on Google maps.

I had called about a month before to make a reservation for our campsite. This may not have been necessary but we are not traveling yet without reservations. We arrived about 4 pm with plenty of time to spare. There were two very nice ladies at the front desk in the office building - which is also a gift shop. The lady helping us had someone check to make sure the site that she had in mind for us was vacant - it was not. She assigned us a different site. We paid and were given a green tag to hang on our rear-view mirror while we were parked at our site in the campground. She showed us where our site was on the map - Row 8 - and gave us the map. She also told us what the wifi password is. At the door, there are racks of local tourist magazines. The office will also sell you tickets to Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens - and they have the weekly schedule for Colonial Williamsburg available. Check in was nice and easy and we were on our way to find our site.

There were eleven rows all together with primitive tent camping at the back. Each row has a post that tells you the row number. These are somewhat lit at night, but we found it easier just to count each night when we returned to the campground. Together, we drove and counted - 1, 2, 3 passing each row until we came to 8. By the end of the trip it got easier because a large double-decker Class A was parked in the end space of Row 7. One night there were two police cars in the middle of the entrance road around row 5, so we went down row 4 to the other side and made out way to the end and then back down to row 8. I have no idea why the police were there. There was no one else around but the two police cars and they were talking to each other through the car windows.

We got to our space for the first time and backed the Roadtrek in. The spaces are large. They are sized for RVs all the way up to Class A's. We had no trouble backing up into the space and had a lot of room to move around to get close to the electric post, water faucet, and sewer hole. Each site is paved cement, with a cement patio on the side, a gravel entrance approach, and grass at the back and on the side opposite from the patio. The site was perfectly level - everywhere that we stopped on it. Every site has 50, 30 and 20 amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable. There is a fire ring for campfires and a picnic table on the patio. Very tall pine trees are interspersed around the campsites. There are premium sites with added garden ambiance - we had a regular site - we did not need flowers or a garden. The premium sites do not add any other tangible services. Sites are close to each other but not so close that it is a problem. It was no different from the other two campgrounds that we have been in to date. I would not expect there not to be another site on each side of us and behind us. You are not going to be alone out in the woods here - so if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere toward one of the regional or state parks.

The first thing that we do when we get into a campground is check the electricity for polarity and voltage. The polarity meter showed all was well. The voltage meter showed a reading in the middle of the afternoon of 119 and a fraction. This surprised me a little as to this point each site we had been in has had voltage between 120 and 125, but what little I know about voltage I figured that 119 and a fraction was close enough. We turned on the water at the hose connection to make sure it worked and also looked for the cable connection which was there and was shared with the campsite to the side behind us. If it was working for them it would be working for us.

At this point on the first day, we put the testing equipment away, and happily left to go to Colonial Williamsburg and purchase our annual passes. We returned late at night, counted the rows to ours and pulled down and easily found our space. We hooked up the electric line and the cable. We were traveling with our water tanks full and had not planned on hooking up to campground water until the tanks needed refilling. We have a filter on our faucet and a filter that goes on the hose and have no problem drinking campground water. We do leave each morning and return late each night - and we do not want to have to hook up to water at night and unhook up each morning. The Roadtrek 190 has two fresh water tanks and there is more than enough on-board to go for days. It is enough to hook and unhook the electric and cable - which got faster as we went along.

We were very happy at American Heritage Campground. There were a couple of things that happened along the stay - some funny and one not so funny (at least to us at the time). For example - those tall pine trees that are around the sites. The one next to us would drop developing pine cones onto the pavement when the wind would blow. These are about four inches long, green, thin, and sticky. It was necessary when walking around in the dark not to step on them. We have a really bright Coleman rechargeable lantern that we use to provide us with more than enough light when we are hooking up in the dark at night. It was very useful in finding where to step and where not to step to avoid these. Now, those trees and pine cones also attract squirrels and one day Meryl is standing next to the Roadtrek getting ready to unhook when she says that something is falling on her head from above. I looked at her like, "what are you talking about" and then something came down and hit her on the head and fell on the cement. It was a wedge of a pine cone. A squirrel up on a branch above her was pulling the wedges off a pine cone to get to the nuts inside - and tossing those wedges down onto Meryl's head. He was a persistent little fellow with very good aim.

One night we got back to the campsite and Meryl got ready to hook up the wiring. I was following behind and she said that she stepped in something and slid on it. We could not see what, but her sneaker was covered in dog poop. Dogs are allowed at this campground and there were some pretty big dogs around. Those that we saw were not leashed and people were allowing their dogs to do their business wherever the dog stopped. Some carried bags or scoops, but not all did. I have nothing against dogs, but if you have a dog, no matter where you are - home or camping if the dog goes, pick it up. This campground also has a fenced dog run and I suspect that those with dogs are informed that they must have their dogs use that. And on the campground map, next to a picture of a dog it says, "If we poop, you've got to scoop!" The dogs we saw were loose (with their owners) around the campground roads. Evidently, a dog had come through our site on the grass (as we saw nothing on the cement), no one scooped, and left a present for Meryl to find. She and I were livid. There was nothing to do but go to the campground rest room and clean off her shoe - before anything was brought inside of the Roadtrek. We got the lantern and flashlights and started walking to the single restroom/shower building that this campground has. We walked several rows down to the front and then down the row to the middle to a long building. There was a ladies' room on one side and a men's room next to it. This gave us an opportunity to check them out - though we would have preferred to do that under more pleasant circumstances. Perhaps it was because it was late at night - by this time it was after 1 am - but I was not pleased by what I saw in the men's room. First there were few toilet or shower stalls. There was a short row of sinks in front of them. The sink counters were all wet. The floor was wet with black water. The toilet stalls and the shower stalls were not much better. As I say, this was after a full days use and we did not go back during the day to see what they were like. Meryl said that the ladies' room was much better and not at all as I saw the men's to be. This was the only restroom/shower building marked on the map. This is a large campground - and while most use their own facilities inside their RV, I know that there are many who use the campground's showers and toilets. Again, this may have been a one day condition due to inconsiderate users or over use. Perhaps, had I not been so annoyed at the time about the dog poop, I would have seen this with different eyes. Meryl cleaned off her shoes. We walked back to the Roadtrek and for a precaution, she changed sneakers outside to a spare pair, we sprayed her just cleaned sneakers with Lysol and as we did discovered that she had not gotten it all off one of them. Back we went to the restroom to finish the job. Those sneakers got tied into a plastic bag for the rest of the trip.

Another night, I stepped into something that I thought was the same, but it turned out to be one of those developing pine cones. Not that I make a point of sticking my nose into what I step in but I took off my shoe to examine what was on it and it had the distinct odor of pine - and not poo. I cleaned the shoe off there at the site - and also retired them for the rest of the trip, sealing them into a plastic bag.

We did not come to the campground to use the facilities that it has to offer but if you are one to spend time at the campground during the day, American Heritage has a large swimming pool, a laundry room at the swimming pool building, and the "Hippo Slide" a huge blow up water slide. You pay by the day or for your trip to use the "Hippo Slide" and we did not see anyone on it during the short times that we were in the campground during the day. We did see people using the pool. There is a volley ball court, a softball field, mini-golf, a playground, a library, a basketball court, horseshoe pits, and a game room. There is also a nature trial that led into the woods. You can rent golf carts and pedal cars. The campground also has an RV repair shop on site. You can purchase propane on site. There is a camp store. There is also a wired network connection for those who do not have wifi at the swimming pool building which is open 24 hours a day. There is a strong wifi signal through out the campground and we easily connected with our laptop.

There is good cable TV here - it is actually Dish TV - and it gets 48 strong channels. Many of these are movie channels including Turner Classic and all of the Encore and Stars channels with commercial-free, unedited movies. There are also local network channels, sports, news, etc. Cable here was very good.

Garbage was picked up every morning at 11 am. All that was necessary was for you to put your bag out at the side of your site near the road.

We eventually had to dump our tanks - actually our monitor was saying the black tank was full at less than four of the ten gallons of capacity and we were dumping far more often than we needed to - but we had no idea going by the monitor panel - which we will have dealer service look at. It took a little coaxing to get the lid off the sewer hole the first time but after that it was easy. The sewer hole is just at the side of the hose connection and electric post. Because of the short hose that the Roadtrek macerator has we had to make sure we were close enough to the hole before we dumped. This was not really a problem as there was plenty of room on the pad to move around. A larger RV would line right up and those around us were all connected right there.

We also refilled our fresh water tanks while we were there and the water hose pressure was steady. We use a pressure regulator on the connection. There were no pressure issues here at all. The water also tasted fine.

I liked this campground. We are going back. I would recommend it to anyone coming to Williamsburg, Virginia.

My next articles will talk about the things that we did and the many things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Some campers really settled in and decorated here.

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