Posted from Washington, District of Columbia, United States.
(Accompanying photos can be found here.)
We left Tennessee Wednesday morning at 8:00 to begin three days of camping in our roof top tent (Maggi) in the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unfortunately, en route to Asheville, NC, we encountered some abysmal traffic that forced us to only go 15 miles in that first hour. We arrived in very charming Asheville a little later than expected, but that was fine. We met a friend of Joe’s from high school (whom he hasn’t seen in 21 years – the third friend so far on this trip whom he hasn’t seen in over two decades and another one is coming up next week) for lunch. Asheville is a wonderful little city with a progressive mindset and an enchanting pedestrian shopping area. But again, since we are not shopping for anything, we weren’t too tempted.
After lunch we made our way to our campsite at the Julian Price Memorial Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) near Blowing Rock, NC. The drive was beautiful but to call it hilly and curvy are laughable understatements. The way is peppered with many overlooks where drivers can pull over and admire the scenery (and regain a little equilibrium). Picture tree-covered mountains, maybe some wildflowers, a random house or two, and you get the idea. Many similar elements to most views but nonetheless inspiring.
We arrived at our campsite and decided to hike around the lake. The path was pretty muddied after some recent rains, but it was nice to get out and move around after so much time in the truck. After an authentic NC barbeque dinner, we presented Maggi for her debut. Within 10 seconds of Maggi’s going up (which in itself takes about 10 seconds) – this is not a joke – we had spectators and questions. Everyone thought it was an amazing piece of equipment. That night we taught ourselves Rummy and enjoyed our first night in the roof top tent. All was well. (Miles traveled: 224)
The next morning we had the first of what will be our standard breakfast while camping: whole oats in cold milk made from powdered milk. It’s not as bad as one might think (and we both love oatmeal) but maybe not as good as one would hope. Erik had a nice moment on the way back from the “comfort station” (the lofty name given to the bathrooms): he met a deer on the path and got within 20 yards of it.
We squished Maggi back down into her streamlined travel configuration and headed out to our next campground. Although we left the BRP after only a few miles, it didn’t help the hilliness or curviness. In fact, the highway – yes, highway – we took was the most nauseating drive ever. The speed limit signs were obviously mocking Joe that morning, daring him to go 55 when in fact he averaged probably 30. Enormous hills and sharp curves for two hours… whew.
An interlude that afternoon consisted of Joe getting a haircut at a Cost Cutters in a small town in Virginia. Since he had been seeing the same stylist for more than six years, this was a big leap of faith. Luckily his cutter was very nice and the cut was actually quite good.
Around 3:30 we arrived at Peaks of Otter Campground, which is north of Roanoke, VA. Unlike the previous campground which was packed with people, this one was virtually empty. We let Apollo relax from his strenuous day of mountains and curves, and the humans followed some hiking trails, looping around a nearby lake and an old farm from the 19th century. The sights were very cool but it was a lot of walking and we had to contend with approximately one bajillion gnats. Then it was back to camp, a dinner of peanut butter sandwiches, more Rummy, and then bed. The weather was perfect all day. (Miles traveled: 215)
Day 3: the weather was NOT perfect all day. But more on that later.
Breakfast was almost the same (rolled oats in cold milk), but this time we added half a sliced banana to each of ours. Oooh! On the way to the comfort station this morning, Joe had a similar experience to Erik from the previous morning: he looked up and discovered he was about 5 yards from a deer. The deer paid no attention to him and continued eating her breakfast, consisting of leaves and more leaves. Joe was fairly certain that she would not be interested in cold oats, so he didn’t offer.
We left Peaks of Otter Campground and headed up the BRP. All day we only traveled 155 miles, but considering virtually all of our driving was on the BRP and that our average speed was about 30 mph (the limit was generally 45), it was a fair amount of driving. The scenes and views were similar to the previous days, but it was overcast so the colors were all faded. But interestingly, at this elevation, overcast weather means that occasionally you are IN the clouds. That was a neat thing.
We arrived at our campsite in Big Meadows Campground in Shenandoah National Park, which is due east from Harrisonburg, VA. And as soon as we pulled into our site, it began to pour. Big time. We sat inside Apollo for at least an hour-and-a-half before venturing out. We felt lucky to not be camping in a tent on the ground, because this is exactly the kind of situation that makes that unbearable. And considering the runoff from the road was making a not-too-modest stream of water through our campsite, we were happy to have Maggi onboard.
That evening, while living inside a cloud, four deer carried on their lives around our campsite. It was very cool for us to experience. They were extremely close, and although we didn’t give them any reason, they seemed completely unafraid and at home. They stuck around for more than half-an-hour.
Saturday morning we packed up Maggi – after overhearing many comments about her from passers-by and even fulfilling a request for a photo op (just her, not us) – and headed 20 more miles on mountain roads until finally hitting the highways that took us into Washington, D.C. Tonight we celebrate our friend’s birthday as he conducts the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap. But we’re not sure if we are more excited about the concert or just having a shower and a change of clothes after three days of camping. Both are wonderful events to be celebrated. (Miles traveled: 105)
We’ll be in D.C. a couple more days before heading up to Pennsylvania and then east to Connecticut. Good times!