Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Right Through March to the End of April

March 18 – April 24 2021                               Most Recent Posts:
Charlottesville Virginia                    Poinsett State Park NOT Big Rig Friendly
                                                               Many Trails at Silver Springs       


I know it is May now and I’m going to Zoom right through the rest of March and most of April in this blog.  If you’d like to see how I got here, links to my previous posts are above under Most Recent Posts:


So here goes.  Hang on to your hat.  More than a month in one post.


Now that I’m back in Virginia the biggest thing to report in March is
I GOT THE COVID VACCINE!


I had registered with this local health department the first day I left Florida.  I also had been checking on line with CVS every single day looking for a slot that didn’t require I drive more than an hour.  I finally snagged one at CVS in Harrisonburg about an hour away.

And then don’t you know, the very next day, I got a call from the local health department telling me my number had come up, my ship had come in and I could come on down to the clinic they had created in an empty former Big Lots store at 3:30 on Saturday.  This was much closer so I canceled CVS.

What a way to celebrate the Spring Equinox.  Although fairly apropos for new beginnings.  It was a not very springy 29 degrees overnight but it struggled all the way up to 54 by mid afternoon.

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The whole thing took less than an hour and by the end, I was impressed with how organized everything was. 

When I first walked in it looked like a big empty room with lots of people standing around and sitting chairs.  I only had my crumby Motorola phone with me so the pictures are terrible but you get the gist.

First thing of course was to stand in line on the little floor stickers 6 feet apart.

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The line moves reasonably quickly and when I reached the front,  they sent me to a registration table where they made sure I was on the list for this time slot.







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I was then told to vacate the chair and was sent  to another numbered dot on the floor where I was next in line for the vaccine.  I walked up to the table said hello to the nurse and she informed me that she’d just given out her last shot and was now waiting for more.  Of course she was.

So we sat and chatted for a bit.  Actually at least 15 minutes.  I was glad I was sitting down.  When the vaccine came,  She put it in my arm while someone took my picture so I could prove that after all my efforts I had finally gotten it.  I’m not a big fan of shots so I didn’t watch and didn’t feel a thing.  Obviously this nurse has quite a bit of experience giving shots.   Very well done!





IMG_20210320_162121446_HDRMy nurse posed for a picture with my vaccine card.

And thus I now have my official vaccine card with instructions to come back for second dose of Pfizer in two weeks.   FINALLY!!   15 minutes waiting to make sure there were no side effects and I was out of there even with the wait in less than an hour.  Well done Blue Ridge Health District.

I had no side effects at all with the first shot and had to look closely at these pictures to make sure I had gotten it.  The second shot was the same experience although when I rolled over that night in bed, I had a sore area on my arm but it was gone by mid next day.  I learned later that older folks often don’t have any side effects because their immune systems aren’t as good any more as younger people.   Hmmm, not so great me thinks.

How did your vaccine experience go?



As usual, when I’m back in Virginia I try to see my friends, get cars and Winnona serviced, get medical appointments done and other “chores”.

I do try to get out walking or hiking every day.  I do that in a variety of places.


IMG_20210321_122957322_HDROne is the the Downtown Walking Mall in Charlottesville and sometimes that walk takes me to the Paramount Theater where they show older movies for $6.50 rather than more than twice that for new shows.  Virginia has opened up enough that theaters are allowed to have 1/3 capacity so Paramount does. 

Although I didn’t see Citizen Kane, advertised here on the marquee, one Wednesday afternoon I did see The Great Debaters with Denzel Washington.  What a terrific movie.  If you haven’t seen it, do.  Very timely actually even though it takes place in the 30’s.

It was great being back in a theater even if every other row was empty as well as 6 seats on either side of a pair of occupied seats.  Not sure how they can afford to run shows with such low capacity.  That’s probably why the first run theaters are not open yet.


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On a Sunday while walking from Mason Lane to the end of the Mall and back, I ran into a parade with music.  Accordion music I thought.  I only had my phone with me but here are poor pictures of what I saw.

The robed fellow must be the priest.  I interrupted my walk to follow them down the mall and over two blocks to the Holy Comforter Catholic Church.

In this rather wobbly video as they approach the church,  you hear the music that attracted my notice.


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They gathered in front of the church for some sort of service and at that point I could see the statue they were carrying and figured out this must be St. Joseph’s Feast Day. 






I headed back to the mall to resume my walk but didn’t get far before I had to stop and window shop.

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New Dominion Bookshop is my favorite store and the oldest independent bookstore in Virginia.  It’s now owned by a former high school classmate of Carrie’s and it is the quintessential old world bookstore.  Tiny with shelves floor to ceiling. Want to see inside?  Click the link above.  If you are ever in Charlottesville it is a must see.  And until then you can be part of their Virtual Book Club.

Their window displays always make me want to run right in and buy at least a half dozen books but of course I cannot do that since I’m in an RV and books are HEAVY. 

I can always find space for books but weight really  counts in an RV



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Other fun things on the mall that day were this canine topiary and a busy artist.


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A favorite hiking spot is Ivy Creek Natural Area which I’ve shown in many spring blogs but this time in late March – when I should not even be here – it is still winter though being among the trees and along the water on any of the 7 miles of trails here is wonderful at all times of year.  But still winter is dark and drearyish.  There’s not much green.






But there is the creek which gets bigger as it flows.














It’s the log line up.  They are pretty much the only other folks I see on this chilly morning.



I am just a terrible selfie taker.  I try to blame it on the camera but I think it’s me.  This was supposed to show me by a very large tree.  Somehow I could not get this right.  But I do look like I’m trying very hard don’t I?


Lovely place to sit high up over the water which sometimes has waterfowl but not today.


Cold looking.

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Ivy Creek Natural Area is an official site on the Virginia African American Heritage Trail in recognition of its rich social and agricultural history dating back to 1870 when former slave Hugh Carr purchased the land as a family farm. Known as River View Farm, the land was in the Carr and Greer family for a century before becoming the Ivy Creek Natural Area.  These rock walls were created on the farm long before it became a natural area.

Finally the Final 4 NCAA college basketball games were shown on CBS, a station I can get here,  so I celebrated with popcorn one night and home made corn chips with Cherry Salsa from the Cherry Republic in the UP of Michigan.  Do not miss it if you go to Michigan or the Traverse City Pie Company either. (Another pitiful selfie, crooked and only half the popcorn bowl.  No wonder I”m laughing)


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On my walks through the neighborhoods around Rugby Avenue with my friend Mary of the loose change collection, there are several really sweet looking homes with the ideal picket fence and spring flowers just beginning.

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On the end of this hike we can slip down to the edge of the Rivanna River where one day I found a Great Blue Heron.  Quite a surprise in this weather.

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Not sure you can see him on the rock slab, look closely.

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I was surprised he didn’t fly away.  They are quite common where I usually am during the winter but it seems a bit chilly for him here.

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Time and Again

I’ve mentioned my Wednesday book club in previous blogs.  No matter where I am, on Wednesday evenings I have a zoom meeting with my friend Laurie to discuss whatever book we are reading.  I thought I had a picture of the zoom screen with us both but if I do, I can’t find it.  So here’s the book we were reading in March.  If you like the Victorian Period, you like fiction and time travel, I recommend it. 




Late Migrations


We finished it in and in April moved on to Margaret Renkl’s Late Migrations which won the Southern Environment Law Center’s Reed award.  The organization’s headquarters is here in Charlottesville.  It’s a wonderful series of essays subtitled “A Natural History of Love and Loss”.  We literally savored this book. The writing is beautiful and very moving.  It’s one we think everyone should read.  The stunning illustration on the cover is by her brother as are the others in the book. We’ll start something new in May.



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My friend Pam likes to walk along the Rivanna Trail in Riverview Park so that is another place I pick up my 10,000 steps.  My selfie skills are evident here as well since I cut off half of my face.  HA!   But I did get a decent shot of the lip smacking good Holy Shitake mushroom pizza we picked up from Mellow Mushroom as our just reward.

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In April the redbuds and dogwoods started to bloom and things seemed cheerier even when driving down the highway between Charlottesville and the farm.


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Dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom at the farm too.  I just love spring but clearly I could easily have waited to come back until Mid April and not missed any of this.

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I did have some unusual visitors at the farm.  I’ve seen Turkey Vultures flying in the sky over the fields but never until now have they come down to the trees in the yard or the fence.  Wonder what they are looking for?

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Found this beautiful Luna moth in the grass late in the afternoon and was amazed he didn’t move when I took his picture.  I feared he was dead but he didn’t look damaged.  He was gone in the morning so I’m not sure if he was someone’s dinner or he flew away after dark.


I don’t always go somewhere to hike.  Often I hike right here on the farm and one of those places is to what we call the “lower field” which is actually the end of the farm road, nearly a mile from the county road where the mailbox is.  The field is becoming covered with ragwort.  No wonder my allergies are acting up.  It’s lovely though


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IMG_20210422_155451563_HDRThe good news is Carrie and Colin are coming for a visit next weekend.  The bad news is that I came home on Thursday and found that the furnace was blowing but there was no heat.  I go outside to check the propane tank and find that I’ve run out of propane.  Totally O-U-T.   That has never ever happened in all the years we’ve been on the road.  We are on an automatic fill plan so that the pipes don’t freeze in the winter.  I am not a happy camper.

After many many phone calls, one with someone in Indonesia whom I could hardly understand that took an hour,  I call back again and manage to talk to some who promises to solve my problem.   They send a driver out at 9:30 at night with a “temporary tank” which will get me through Carrie’s visit and the delivery driver tells me I’d better keep calling or no one will come to fill up the main tank.

It seems they have a new company president at Amerigas and he has decided to “consolidate”.  Thus there is now no live person actually in charge in my area and the drivers are being dispatched from North Carolina which has no idea how close the places they are asked to go to are.  This of course, as is the way with big business, is in order to save money but I don’t see how driving your big trucks with no concern for the route won’t use up way more gasoline.

In total I make 7 phone calls and send 3 emails to the “manager” who is now 90 miles from me.  She does manage to get my regular driver to come and fill my tank.  He understands that the farm lane is gated and he has to call ahead to get it unlocked and also how narrow the road is and that you must back your truck up into the barnyard or you will never get out.  Thank goodness they sent him. 

Can’t imagine what will happen this winter when I’m not here to constantly check the tank.  Another worry for me.   I’m now making more calls to negotiate the ridiculous bill they sent me much faster than they got me the oil of course.  I expect to be compensated not only for running out but also for 5 days of phone calls.  Sorry for the rant but it was terrible service and took a ridiculous amount of my time.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.


I’ll close with my newest neighbor.  I’ve seen him a couple of times in the barnyard running under the shed and wondered what to do about him.

Today as I sat in the office overlooking the back yard writing this, I saw him scurry in and try to run up this tree.  He got about this far up, gave up backed down and headed out toward the front of the house where I saw him slink under the porch.  Hope you can see him in the shadows in this picture.

We have had many G’hogs over the years.  They were terrors to the garden and had to be eliminated.  I guess I’m going to have to find the trap again if he insists on going under the house.  His diggings and holes there could invite skunks and others that I surely don’t want.  He’s very well fed obviously.


See you next time for a post on my visit with Carrie and Colin.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Poinsett State Park NOT Big Rig Friendly

March 11 – March 16, 2021                                             Most Recent Posts:
Poinsett State Park                                                     Many Trails at Silver Springs
Wedgefield, S.C.                                                          Mostly Monkeys


I pulled out of Magnolia Springs and that was as good as it got.  It was a long, exhausting and exasperating day. 

The slides came in very slowly and I had to pry the jack up AGAIN.  The road out of Magnolia Springs to I-95 was unbelievable.  Down one after another tiny wash board road and by the time I’d stopped for gas I was ready to just cancel Poinsett and my next stop at Medoc State Park in North Carolina and head back to the farm directly.

But a Dairy Queen Blizzard convinced me to forge ahead.  Never trust Blizzards.  The roads in South Carolina were equally bad and the most narrow and pot holed roads of all were inside the park.  The campground is up a seriously steep rough road not even wide enough for two cars to pass.  As I climbed up the road in Winnona with Ruby on the back I hoped no one would be coming down and there would be somewhere up there to take the car off of the RV before backing into campsite #2.

When I got up there without any car having to back up the road to let me continue, I stopped, got out and found that I would have to take the car off in the road as there was no where else.  No one could get around me while I was doing that.  And even worse, I found the entrance to the campsite was between two trees and there was a 3rd tree in the middle of the site.  Even after having driven all day long at ridiculously slow speeds due to the horrible roads, I seriously thought about leaving -  but for where at 4:30pm?


IMG_20210311_163423543_HDRIt had been an entirely horrible day until my neighbors, Dave and Lynn from Michigan,  in site #1 driving a nearly identical Winnebago Adventurer,  got out and came over to see if they could help. They said they had wondered who would try to get into this site and hoped it would not be a big rig.  The opening between the trees looks much larger in my wide angle lens than it was in person.  Plus the roots in the entrance and on the narrow road made it very hard to maneuver the RV into place to back it in.   In the end Dave volunteered to back it in for me.  I was so exhausted, I didn’t see how that couldn’t be a great thing.  He and Lynn managed to get between the two trees and beside the 3rd one.  Not sure what I would have done without them.  They saved my day from being a total disaster.   Thank you, thank you, thank you Dave and Lynn.

And I also can’t believe the only pictures I have of them are these from a hike we took on Saturday.  I have lots of their backs on that hike but these are the only ones of their faces, not great but one is ok of Lynn and the other is ok of Dave.  Duke the Wonder Dog looks great in both pictures.  More on him later.

 



When I went to bed that night I found that the rough roads, even at my 30 and 40 mph speeds had left 3 pieces of clothing hanging in my closet.  In 10 years of full timing I have never had more than 1 or 2 things on cheap hangers fall off the rod.

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Best Trail mapSO glad to have the horrible Thursday travel day behind me, I was up and out (after unsuccessfully playing the Reserve America lottery) for a hike on the Whippoorwill Trail which goes off directly from the campground.  While Poinsett is definitely NOT for big rigs, it does the partially redeeming value of  an extensive trail system. 

You can see the Whippoorwill Trail in yellow adjacent to the campground.  I followed its entire circuit getting lost once and having to backtrack.  It was good exercise though  I didn’t see anything of note but leafless trees and some tiny wintergreen plants.  I’ve gone one state North but it’s still too early.  It’s still winter. 

In spite of that,  it was good to be outside and hiking in the natural world which is beautiful in every stage.  There were some cute little long leaf pines just coming up.  The tree I could look completely through that was still alive was a bit of a wonder.  When I passed that tree with the hole in it for a second time, I knew I was going in circles.



Little Longleaf trail guards.


Isn’t it darling.  Looks like an umbrella with those great long needles.  At one time, the southeast was covered with longleaf pines.


Here’s the tree that saved me from going round and round on this fairly long loop trail.  Yes that is a window through the front tree half way up.  And someone’s home in the tree behind at ground level.  Nice front yard.


My site was #2 at the entrance to the campground so I had to walk its length to get to the trail head at the back.  When I left there were possibly 8 or so sites with RVs in them.  When I returned the campground was totally full.  It is Friday.


The rest of the world arrived in their tiny tow behinds and popups.  Some with their sleeping quarters on their car roofs.  Obviously they knew the Reserve America statement that this park is suitable for big rigs was a lie.


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I’d only seen one of these car top things before and just can’t imagine sleeping in it.  Especially this one since it looks like it is listing the the left.  No one seems to pay much attention to the sites or site limits or boundaries.

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IMG_5410I was making dinner inside when I heard someone chopping.  I thought they were splitting firewood but it seemed like it was right outside my window.  So I looked out to see if it was the person in the next site over.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture of what I saw which was someone actually using a hatchet to chop down a small sapling in my campsite.  I was furious and incredulous but in rural South Carolina I thought better of going out and confronting the woodsman whom you can see next to his “RV” in this picture.  But I watched to see what he was doing.  How could he think he could burn green wood in his campfire. Well that was not his intent.  Do you see what he did with the sapling?

It turned out that his pop top wouldn’t stay up.  It had a broken support and he was making do.  Below is a better look at the sapling.

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IMG_5414Saturday was a RED LETTER DAY in two ways.  I woke up to my regular 7:59 date with Reserve America. 

Here’s my set up.  I have two cell phones for coverage hopefully anywhere and a laptop with a mi-fi and still my signal is minimal in many of the places I camp.  SIGH………..  that’s a separate but clearly related issue since I can’t compete with the folks using DSL to get campsites.

I have each device set to a different site.  At 7:59 after assuring them I am not a robot, I start clicking “book”.  As soon as I get to 8am and am told sorry that site’s been taken, I hit the first phone and then the second.  I have the best luck with the laptop but TODAY I actually got a site for two weeks beginning February 13 2022 at Silver Springs State Park.  AND I did it with a mediocre signal no less. This marks a full month of trying every day and being shut out every day until today.   So now, what to do from January 16 to February 13?  But that’s a problem for another day.  (BTW I know Jan 16-Feb 13 isn’t a full month but I started looking for a site days before I absolutely had to have one).  Still I’m thrilled not to have to play the reservation game for at least another 10 days.

But I’ve also been playing the vaccine game, checking the CVS website daily for slots for the Covid vaccine back in Virginia.  No luck there yet so I’ll have to continue that multiple times a day.


IMG_5418Second good thing was hiking on the Laurel trail my 3 neighbors.  Lynn wanted to look  for a particular trail she’d been trying to find earlier in their week here.  Spoiler, we didn’t find it but we had a good time anyway.

We headed up the steps to the Laurel Trail.  It’s in the lower area of the park in the section that looks like the tip of Texas on the map.


Sandy rivers in South Carolina.

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We checked out the old Mill site and Mill Race on the way.



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And a CCC built shelter.  Those guys were everywhere and obviously did very good work given that it was 90 years ago and things still look perfect.  Someone does need to get the moss off of the roof.  The earlier pictures of Dave and Lynn were taken on these steps.


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The woods was mature and open of understory.  I did see some Bloodroot, named for its red sap particularly in the roots and used as a dye and for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.  I looked for other ephemeral wildflowers without success. Still spring is on its way though I won’t be here when it arrives.   As we were chatting away, I mostly forgot to take pictures.  It’s not often that I have anyone to hike with now and it was great.



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Afterwards I stopped their place by to get some other pictures of Duke who is so incredibly well trained and great to hike with.  I’m not usually a fan of large dogs but  he is amazing.  I told him if they didn’t treat him right, he was welcome to move in with me.   He wasn’t all that excited about having his picture taken and sadly not interested at all in my offer.

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Duke also has his own chariot for Dave’s long bike rides.  I had missed seeing him in it by arriving late in their stay.









Sunday is “spring forward” day.  I have done many ranting posts on this unnecessary, who benefits?, disruption of everyone’s body clock so I won’t repeat myself.  My motto is PICK ONE, stick with it and stop this twice a year idiocy.


IMG_5456This  morning all the folks who’d shown up Friday afternoon packed up and left and by mid morning the campground was turning into a ghost town.  The roof toppers, who’d been parked nose to nose, pulled out just as I headed for another hike.  Lynn and Dave had gone to see Congaree National Park which I’ve visited several times.  So I was on my own.


Compare this with Friday’s picture of the campground.

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I went back looking for the trail Lynn was hoping we’d that went along the stream. I found it but it wasn’t nearly as close to the stream as she had imagined.

There seem to be two main trail entrances at Poinsett, the one off the campground and the one we started at yesterday with the boardwalk across the water and steps up to the connector trail.  From each you can choose several trails to hike or combine them for a longer hike which is what I did.

Same starting point and I have to say, the connector was the most scenic and closest to the water of my entire hike.



By choosing a different connecting Trail, I managed to find the trail she was looking for and made a loop out of it.  Which to take first?  Hi knot or low knot?



I’m thinking Lo knot, nearer the water right?  Turns out it was the wasn’t very close to the water.  Can you even see the water?  It’s that light tan horizontal at the bottom of the hill.


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I walked down the hill through the leaves a bit to get closer to the stream and found the biggest tree that I recall of any of my hikes.  So I took our picture together, tree hugger that I am.  The first one is my too slow attempt to beat the camera flash.


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Hi Knot actually turned out to be closer to the water but higher up other than at this one point.




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Not much else to report on the hike.  No birds or flowers or mammals wanted their pictures taken.  A wintery woods on a Sunday afternoon in Mid March in rural South Carolina.

Sorry to say there are no more pictures to accompany my trip north from Florida.  Lots of things happened but I was too involved and busy for pictures.

I have one more day here but in checking the weather, I find rain is predicted for all day on Tuesday when I would be traveling.  I hate packing up and driving in the rain particularly since I have to force that jack up with a crowbar, dump the tanks and am going to have to ask the camphost to lead me with his golf cart down the horribly potted single lane road into the campground so I don’t meet someone coming up.  It’s not a big chance given that the campground doesn’t look very popular during the week.  There’s really nothing more I want to do here at Poinsett so I’ve decided to skip my last day/night and leave in the dry weather tomorrow.

I also see that rain is predicted for 3 of my 5 days at Medoc Mountain State Park in North Carolina.  That means only my first and last days would be dry.  I’m tired of fighting the jack to get it up and frankly just am not feeling from the descriptions that Medoc would be worth the hassle.  If any of you have been there, please give me your first hand report.  So I cancel Medoc to head straight to Virginia.

I had planned to stay in the Lumberton Walmart on my way from Poinsett to Medoc and then drive directly home from Medoc.   This change in plans sets me up for two Camp Walmart nights in a row.  Lumberton NC and Roanoke Rapids NC.  Two successive nights is rare in my case.

But that’s what I do.  Cancel on Sunday, and on Monday drive the horrible campground road and the wider but equally bad Park road and then 19 miles on a S.C. rural road to I-95.   125 miles or so later I’m in Lumberton where despite having at least 1/2 the parking lot to choose from a Semi pulls in next to me and runs his engine all night long.  Well it is the Ides of March. Still  nothing really terrible has happened.   Very glad for that.

On Tuesday I drive only 152 miles but it was all in the rain and at least half of it in work zones.  Concrete barriers about 1/2 foot from the white line on the right and tractor trailers whizzing by throwing water on my windshield on the left.  White knuckle time!!

No pictures of either Camp Walmart but in Roanoke Rapids it was so cold over night I had to run the generator to keep warm.  But there is a gas station there where I can fill up.   Morning can’t come too soon until I go out to set the Blue Ox brake controller to pull out and into the gas station.  It says low battery and will not set up.  Low battery?  Is that really true?  I disconnect it and try to start the car.  Won’t start.  Too many very cold nights I suspect.  Ok so I’ll jump the battery and we’ll be on our way.  Won’t jump either.  Long story short.  3 hours later I have the only battery they had for my 2002 Honda Accord which was a 1 year battery.  SIGH………..   But looking on the bright side, at least I was in a Walmart Parking lot when it happened. 

So despite the battery and the rain and everything else, on Wednesday afternoon March 17, St. Patrick’s Day (too bad I don’t drink beer), I am back at home base where it is freezing, literally.  Low of 30, 28 and 29 degrees my first three days back. But, it could have been even worse since 10 days before it had been 19 and 20 degrees.  No wonder I head south until April.  This is the earliest I’ve returned to Virginia since we bought Winnona 10 years ago.  Covid and hydraulic problems forced me into it. 

BUT – I MADE IT despite everything.


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