Friday, August 14, 2009

Pennsylvania, GW, and the National Highway

After months of planning and preparation, Nancy and I left the driveway of our home at 4:00pm on Friday July 31. We were able to get out of the city before the traffic hit, and headed up I-4 to I-95. We hit Jacksonville soon after, and decided to stop in Darien GA, at the Inland Harbor RV Park.

Inland Harbor was our first experience at a late checking. We pulled in after the main office was closed, followed the instructions for late checking, and found a nice level spot. I like not having to do the whole leveling thing. Our original intention was to stay overnight at a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Poole Georgia. Neither of us were comfortable with doing the overnight RV parking thing, just yet. The campground was clean, nice, easy to access, and easy to use. The entire time we were there, we saw no one. No workers, and no other RV'rs. That was a bit strange.

Back on the road, we drove up I95 till we got to Emporia Virgina. We stayed at our first Jellystone Campground. The owner/operaters were there to greet us. They were nice folks. The campground was clean, and the pool was heated. After a long drive, it REALLY helped to even have a twenty minute swim. Nancy's leg and hip were bothering her, so I convinced her to swim in the morning. It made us leave a little later than we wanted, but it was time well spent. An evening or morning swim while traveling makes a huge difference.

Nancy's insert:
The dogs really enjoyed their walk through the wooded campground with all the un-Florida smells and I enjoyed my first sighting of lightning bugs in fifteen years! The dogs did not enjoy the horseflies the next morning, however. This made me recall that when I lived in SC in summer (where we had lightning bugs and horse flies) I used a spray on product designed for horses called Flys Off on the dogs.

We drove through Virgina, Maryland, then into Pennsylvania. Driving through Washington DC was an experience. The scenery through Maryland and Pennyslvania was breathtaking, especially for this Florida boy. I live in a flat state, so any amount of hills are wonderful to see.

Nancy's insert: hills are wonderful when you've spent too many years as a flatlander!

It was raining a wee bit as we came into Bedford Pennsylvania. I was tired from driving, grumpy, and ready to stop. The Shawnee Sleepy Hollow campground wasn't difficult to find, and we had the area pretty much to ourselves.

It was nice to not need to use the air conditioner, but waking up to 60 degrees, both inside and out, was a surprise.

Nancy's note:This area was spectacular with its mountain views and morning mist. Lots and lots of rabbits and more lightning bugs. Clear pure air and no allergies. The owner's house was a half log half field stone house from the mid seventeen hundreds. And yes, it was haunted until the owner had the ghost exorcised when it got nasty over a musical choice of his teen age son!

The next morning, we interred Nancy's mother, Nordena Miller Wayman.

Nancy's note: At the historic Chestnut Ridge Union Cemetery just outside of Schellsburg. Schellsburg, by the way, is a picture postcard town full of old houses dating from just after the Revolutionary War and the mid 1800s. It is where my mother's people came from.

It was the primary reason for coming to Pennsylvania. Nancy read from the Holy Bible, and a poem from her book about her mother. She also read one to her father.

Later that day, we went to Fort Bedford Village, and Jean Bonnet Tavern.

Fort Bedford was a rebuilt village from colonial times, using the actual restored buildings from all over the area. Some people lived there part time, practicing things like weaving, tin smithing, candle making, etc. as though they were in that time.

The Jean Bonnet Tavern was nice. It was older than our country, and haunted. When we asked if it was haunted, they brought a notebook showing us the evidence from a recent Ghost Hunters evaluation. Seems that Jean Bonnet Tavern is one of the most haunted places in the US.

Needless to say, we had an entertainingly tense meal. We kept looking for the ghosts. When we asked, the waitress said, "There's NO WAY I'd live here."

Nancy's note: I was not tense. I would have liked to see a ghost! And the peanut butter pie was great. By the way, we were all sweaty from trekking thru Bedford Village so we just parked the Winnie in the restaurant parking lot, showered and changed right there and went in to eat. Very convenient not having to return to campground first! Lovely shop there, too. And out back, chickens, a goat pen, an old gas pump at least 60 years old and great piles of coal.

We got back to the campground that night, walked the dogs, and got to sleep pretty quick. The next morning, we headed for Fort Ligonier.

Fort Ligonier was instrumental in the French and Indian War. We learned that war didn't actually start here, and is considered by many to be the true, First World War.

From Ligonier, we drove to and through Pittsburgh. But not on purpose. We were originally going to drive straight to Nancy's childhood home in Upper St. Clair, but, luckily, I got on the wrong road, and we wound up driving through the city. Even though I was very irritated and grumpy about it, I would have never seen the city.

We eventually drove through the city, through Mt. Lebanon, and to Nancy's old house.

From reading Nancy's stories, her house was nothing like I'd imagined. It really helped to see it, and I can see why she enjoyed growing up there. Good job, Mr. and Mrs. Wayman.

Nancy's note: The pine and spruce trees in the yard were our Christmas trees, planted afterwards by my dad. The stones in the chimney were from the foundations of his great uncle's farmhouse, once upon a time adjacent to Route 19. The woods I once roamed are gone now though, as is the farm down in the valley behind the house. Forty years of progress? I loved seeing Pennsylvania critters again: red squirrels, chipmunks, deer, rabbits, wild turkeys, beaver, gophers and groundhogs.

We looked for a parking lot to stay in that night, but even Nancy's former church couldn't let us. Seems the Upper St. Clair police are picky about that. If you live in Upper St. Clair, that's probably a good thing. We found a KOA in Washington Pennsylvania, only about 40 minutes from Upper St. Clair. On the way, we passed the school where Nancy's father went, Washington and Jefferson University. Beautiful school, and beautiful town. The people at the KOA were very nice and helpful. We decided to join KOA.

The next morning, we toured two historical homes in the city, then headed toward Fort Necessity and Falling Water in Mill Run Pennsylvania. By the time we got to Fort Necessity, the visitor center was closed. We looked around a bit, then went to find a campground. Luckily, Jellystone Campground of Mill Run was very close. That campground rivaled Fort Wilderness in Disney World. The place was huge, and very fun. I wish we had more time to stay there.

The next morning, we tried to get an appointment to tour Falling Water. I'll let Nancy fill you in on that attempt.

Nancy's note: I called three times on my cell phone since WiFi didn't work in the mountains much at all and finally got a human female on the line. When I said I wanted to reserve a tour (like the brochure said you had to) she said there were no tours at all available that day. I said, "Oh no we really wanted to see it. We're up from Florida and stayed over an extra day just for that!" She basically said, "tough luck, lady" (But not in those words). I could hear the shrug over the line. I got PO-ed after I hung up. Danny suggested we drive over there anyway. We did, paid at the entrance, waited a few minutes in the cafe until our number was called and got an escorted tour. Advice: don't bother to call. Just show up. The place is amazing. A don't miss it. Make sure you have several hours free, at least.

Falling Water was beautiful, and one of those "must see" place. According to the Smithsonian and it's one of 28 must see places, two of them are in the USA. One is the Grand Canyon, the other is Falling Water. I'd have to agree. I still need to see the Grand Canyon, though. Going to be tough to beat Yosemite.

After the tour, we went back to Fort Necessity, where we learned the road we'd been on, US 40, was America's first highway. The fort itself is much smaller than the visitor center. After that tour, we went to see The Mt. Washington Tavern that George Washington himself built.

Nancy's note: up in Pa people refer to "GW" all the time. I got a real kick out of it being George Washington, not George Bush. Nobody referred to George Bush, or Barak Obama, at all.

After the Tavern, we headed out of Pennsylvania, through Maryland, into West Virgina. I thought Pennsylvania mountain were cool, but West Virgina's mountains almost floored me. As we drove into the mountains, I started feeling light headed and dizzy. We found the KOA campground, part of a large hotel/convention/amphitheater/campground complex in Flatwoods. The next morning we walked up the large hill to the hotel to get breakfast. We told the waitress about how hard the hill was to climb. Her reply, "What hill?" made us realize our Florida flatland perspective.

Nancy's note: I don't know why they named the town Flatwoods. Nothing was flat. We saw herds of whitetail deer everywhere along the highways, feeding at dusk.

After breakfast, we headed farther south. As we climbed higher, about 1000 feet higher than Penn, I got really bad vertigo. More times than I'd like to remember, I thought the motor home was tipping over. Nancy convinced me it wasn't. We stopped and got me some Dramamine, I took a short nap and felt much better. I didn't feel sick, just not very stable. We drove to another KOA just south of Charlotte. Got up fairly early, for us at least, and headed home. By 8:30pm that night, we were home in Winter Park, Florida. THAT was a long drive.

Nancy's note: Danny stopped in Beckley to rest. High on a hill over the truck stop and convenience store was Tamarack, the largest craft center in Southwest West Virginia. I climbed the hill. I shopped. It is a craft fan's Heaven. Glass, pottery, furniture, books, clothes woodworked items, art, gourmet foods, etc. And all made in West Virginia. Food court is by the Homestead resort folks. Wonderful!

Things We Learned
  • Every place we went, I had no problems finding a spot to park. The Winnebago View fit in most parking spots. I tried to be courteous, and find spots that wouldn't hinder other cars parking.
  • I got very practiced at hooking up to shoreline. I can get it done in less than ten minutes. Luckily, I didn't have to do it in the rain. I'd probably only hook up electricity if that were the case.
  • We don't need to bring as many shoes as we though, and a shoe rack in the closet just didn't work.
  • Staying in campgrounds is fun. RV'r people are nice, friendly, and very helpful.
  • The upper bunk sleeps one person very well, but is too cramped for both of us.
  • The couch bed is a bit too soft. Eventually, we're going to retrofit the couch with firmer padding.
  • The dinnette bed was more comfortable than the couch bed.
  • I used Gas Cubby on my iPhone to determine MPG: Average was 16.2 for this trip.
  • The iPhone, or similar device, is an indispensible tool for RV travel. Google Maps made making a route very easy.
  • I need to get a bumper sticker that says, "I'm NOT in YOUR hurry!"
  • Nancy's note: Never never toss a bag of bagels to anyone when a full coffee mug and a laptop and two iPhones are on the RV table.
  • Winnebago is a little short of places to store clothes and shoes for longer trips.
  • Plenty of pantry and fridge space and cooking was easy on the propane cooktop and microwave.
  • We found we ate most breakfasts and suppers on board but bought most lunches.

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