Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Roadtrek Vacation, Part I

School has started and many returning scholars have had to sit down and write an essay just like this one - "How I Spent my Summer Vacation". We'll I spent my summer vacation in a Roadtrek. We were away for 16 days and 15 nights in August. We went south again this year to Virginia with a stop on the way home in Pennsylvania.

My original plan for this vacation was almost three weeks - 20 days out. My original trip included Washington, D.C. and I had reservations to stay in Cherry Hill Campground which I am told is a very nice campground in College Park, Maryland about 25 miles outside of Washington - and, pretty much, the only private campground around if you want to visit the nation's capital. I wrote about why I cancelled my reservations there in my recent article, "A Roadtrek Can Go Anywhere - Almost..." . I won't repeat what I wrote there and you can follow the link and read about it for yourself. Again, nothing wrong with the campground - it was my problem and not theirs. Anyway, before I cancelled those reservations I had an alternate plan to be able to visit Mount Vernon in Arlington, Virginia (George Washington's home) that involved booking one or two nights at a Virginia regional park campground. About three weeks before the trip I called the park in the morning to find out if there were sites available for the days that I wanted. I was told yes they had a site for me. I should have taken "a site" literally. I wanted to be sure that I could cancel the reservations at Cherry Hill before I made a commitment that had to be paid in advance and was not refundable. So, I hung up with the park and called Cherry Hill. There was no one answering the phone and I did not want to do the cancellation by voice mail so I hung up and called back a couple of hours later. There was no problem cancelling my reservation at Cherry Hill and I got my full deposit returned. When I called the park back and asked for the site, I was told IT was gone. There had been only one. We did get to Mount Vernon and I will write about that in its own article. We went on the way back north and did not stay overnight but continued along to Pennsylvania that night.

As I was re-planning the trip after I had made all of the reservations, I decided to change another piece of the trip. We had reservations to spend two nights near Petersburg, Virginia touring the battlefield there and then moving along on the part of our trip that would be now heading west in Virginia to follow the route that General Lee took his army in an attempt to get away from General Grant. This is known as the "Lee Retreat Route" and ends in Appomattox. This involves a number of back roads and stops along the way at history markers. I re-thought that idea at the last minute and cancelled those reservations too - I will not name the campground, but from its reviews, description, and my conversation with the lady there while making the reservations, did not come across as very desirable. Things were now set. We would stop first outside of Richmond, then travel on to Charlottesville, Va. with a stop on the way to Charlottesville at Appomattox to see a new museum that opened there just a few months ago and see, if we had time, the National Park site of Lee's surrender.

For a few weeks before we left on this trip, the weather report every day was this - "Isolated Thunderstorms or Scattered Showers". I am not quite sure what the difference is and exactly what is "isolated" and what is "scattered" to a weatherman. All I know is that it was cloudy every day before we left and on some days it rained and other days stayed dry. The reports continued this way - every day - and the day we were leaving on our trip, the same report was given. I checked what the report was for NJ, PA, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia and it was exactly the same. I also looked at what the predictions were ahead and each day for the number of days that they would commit there guessing, the report was the same - "Isolated Thunderstorms or Scattered Showers". That morning it was cloudy and looked like rain. Meryl wanted to know if she should wear the shoes she has for when it rains. My answer to her was that it was anyone's guess. She could easily flip a coin, as it seems the weather men do, and be just as correct as they are. As we drove along from state to state, it rained, was dry, was cloudy, and somewhere along the way the sun peaked out momentarily.

I will not go on and on, as I have sometimes done, about the traffic. Traffic and road construction in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states is just a given now. The trip to Washington, D.C. should take six hours from where we live. We left at a bit before 10:30 am. We stopped on the NJ Turnpike for lunch and it was after 1:30. We were not going to avoid Route 95 District of Columbia rush hour so we just resigned ourselves to knowing that. We actually made it past Washington with few hold ups, but about ten miles south of D.C. we heard on the radio that there was an overturned truck between exits X and Y and those exits were ahead of us. It did not take long for the traffic to back up to us and we stopped moving along with everyone else. We followed the progress of closing both lanes, of removing the truck from the road, of opening one lane, and then opening both lanes but still the road was at a standstill. It was a half hour after the radio reported that all lanes were opened that we started moving - slowly along. When we got to where the truck was - now pulled off way off the road - cars and trucks had to slow down to a crawl to see - and then after that, started moving as they should have been. I had thought that this was a NY phenomenon but it seems that it is more important everywhere to get a good look than to get on your way after sitting for hours. The trip to the campground in Ashland, Virginia from our home took us over ten hours including a half hour stop for lunch and an hour and half stop for dinner and gas. We should have been there in just over six hours.

Our destination for the first night was a town called Asland and a campground named, Richmond North/Americamps KOA. I will be writing a report on the campground in a separate article. We were still some distance from the campground and it was well past the time that we would have liked to stop for dinner. I had a place in mind - a Ryan's Buffet Restaurant in Fredericksburg, which I find is one of the better of the remaining Ryan's chain. It is located in a very large shopping center called Central Park just off Route 95 in Fredericksburg. At the exit of that same shopping center is a gas station that consistently has the lowest price gas that I have ever paid. That gas station is always a must stop when we are heading south - and sometimes heading back north. It was almost dark when we got to the restaurant - and this was mid-August, so it was late. It was still cloudy but no rain. When we finished dinner, off in the distance, there were huge flashes of lightening. "Isolated Thunderstorm" perhaps? It was south of us and we were heading that way. We did not want to be outside in a downpour hooking up the Roadtrek in the middle of the night so we got back in the Roadtrek - not stopping in a few stores that were still open that caught our attention on the way in - and got back on I-95 to Ashland. We arrived at the campground with no rain - and no more lightening.

The next article will be about the Richmond North/Americamps KOA campground and then following that will be Part II of How I Spent My Summer Roadtrek Vacation.

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