Category Archives: Maryland

Keep Out of Lowes

We were packed up early and ready to hit the road by 9:30am Friday morning. This was good timing – late enough to miss the Washington, DC rush hour traffic from Cherry Hill Park, but early enough to get a head start on the day’s travel.

We followed the I-495 Beltway west and south until we crossed into Virginia and came to I-66. The traffic wasn’t bad, but drivers made idiotic moves like changing lanes at the last instant for an exit or trying to weave their way through traffic at ridiculous speeds. We stayed out of trouble and eventually, westbound I-66 led us to a more rural setting with fewer cars.

Our next junction put us on a southwesterly course on I-81. This is a nice road with good pavement and beautiful scenery as you traverse the Shenandoah Valley. We had the Blue Ridge Mountains to our east and the Appalachians to the west. I thoroughly enjoyed driving this stretch of road.

Our original plan was to stop for the day in Buena Vista, Virginia at a Passport America RV park. After fueling up at the Pilot/Flying J in Raphine at exit 205, we decided to push on. The fuel cost was a very reasonable $2.43/gallon. We drove through Roanoke and thought we would stop at the Walmart in Dublin for the night. But the Walmart in Dublin is posted “No Overnight Parking.” Local ordinance strikes again.

Our Rand-McNally GPS shows RV parking along the route. Usually it won’t show Walmarts that aren’t okay to park in. Of course, local ordinances are always subject to change. We pushed on to Wytheville where there’s another Walmart. Donna phoned ahead and she was told the Walmart store doesn’t own the parking lot – the town owns it and they may issue a ticket for overnight parking. Having said that, she added that we would probably be okay if we parked by their lawn and garden center.

We stopped at the Walmart in Wytheville and it didn’t look good. It was posted and the lot wasn’t all that big. There was a large lot at Lowes next to Walmart but they were obviously not RV friendly. Every entrance to their lot had a steel bar on posts 12 feet high to prevent any vehicle over 12 feet (RVs and trucks) from entering. Their lot was less than half full, but they didn’t want us in there. I made a decision today that I won’t be shopping at Lowes any more.

Keep out

Keep out of Lowes

We parked in an empty lot by Walmart and went in to buy a few things. After looking at our options, we decided to try a U.S. National Forest campground that Donna that found in the Escapees Day’s End Directory.

We drove about 9 miles to Stony Fork Campground (map). This campground has 53 paved sites arranged around a paved loop. The paved loop is narrow. Getting our trailer backed into a site was going to be tricky. We drove around the loop and all of the easily accessible sites were either taken or reserved. We finally decided to give it a shot at site 43. Donna got out to direct me on our Cobra 38 WX ST handheld CB  and I saw a neighbor come out to watch the show. I’m sure we disappointed him when we backed into the site in one shot!

Our spot for the night

Our spot for the night

We covered about 350 miles today and I was tired. The site we’re in isn’t level – it’s low in the rear. Too low to really get the coach level. I got it as close as I dared and called it good. Raising the rear too high risks having the rear tires off the ground. The parking brake works on the rear wheels – if the rear tires aren’t in contact with the ground, there isn’t a parking brake. Once we settled in (I didn’t hook up – we’re dry camping), we walked back to the entrance to fill out a pay envelope and pay the fee for the night. There was an interesting sign at the pay station.

Bear activity

Bear activity

Campsite map

Campsite map

We had dinner for lunch yesterday (leftover asiago chicken sausage with roasted pepper, black rice with mango and black-eyed peas, and green beans with sliced almonds), so we decided to have lunch for dinner last night. Donna made a salad with the last of the baby field greens she got at the farmers’ market in Bolton Landing, NY and topped it with cherry tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, feta cheese, black-eyed peas, deli turkey meat, kalamata olives and dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice).

Our dinner salad

Our dinner salad

We’re at an elevation of about 2,600 feet above sea level. The temperature is cooler than we’ve had in a while. We slept with the windows open and it’s a cool, but comfortable 66 degrees in the coach as I type this at 7am. Meanwhile, Donna is out hiking the Seven Sisters Trail. When she returns in a couple of hours, we’ll pack up and hit the road.

Today we plan to drive to Crossville, Tennessee. Donna found a Shoney’s restaurant there that offers free overnight RV parking in a gravel lot adjacent to the restaurant. This will set us up close to Nashville where we want to spend a few days.

Washington DC

We had the jacks up and I lit the fires on the Cummins ISL by 10:30am on Wednesday. Our route was only 80 miles to Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Maryland (map). We drove down US15 from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to I-270. It was an easy drive until we hit the I-495 Beltway at North Bethesda. Then the traffic picked up considerably and drivers were were making crazy maneuvers trying to gain a minute or two on their way.

I maintained a decent gap between our coach and other vehicles as best I could. I always say driving a 34,000 pound rig is high-performance driving regardless of speed. You need to be aware of your situation at all times. I check my mirrors frequently and think about emergency maneuvers. I also try to keep an eye on the big picture ahead so I can spot trouble before I’m on top of it.

We checked in at the Cherry Hill Park around 1pm. This was good timing as we wanted a pull-through site. They don’t take reservations for pull-throughs – it’s first come, first served. We were assigned to site 1711 all the way at the back of the park. It’s about a half-mile from the office and store to our site. The bus stop is also in front of the office – half a mile from our site.

Our main reason for coming to the Washington, DC area was to visit my youngest daughter, Shauna. She’s living in DC now that she’s graduated law school and  has taken a job with a law firm here.

Shauna took the metro and bus to the park and joined us for dinner. I had chicken leg quarters on the Traeger wood fired pellet grill and we dined al fresco at the picnic table outside our coach.

Dinner outside our coach

Dinner outside our coach

Treager grilled chicken keg quarter, black rice with mango and black eyed peas.

Treager grilled chicken leg quarter, black rice with mango and black-eyed peas

After dinner and conversation, Shauna and Donna made the trek to the bus stop at the park entrance. Shauna was carrying her Tacoma acoustic guitar that we’ve had on board since she left San Diego. She needed to catch the bus before 9pm or it might be dicey for her to make it home.

On Thursday morning, Donna and I were up early and ready for a day on the town. We walked to the bus stop. I had two, large, framed antique photos under my arm. These were keepsakes from a trip Shauna and I made to Europe. The photos were taken at the Cinqua Terra region of Italy – Monterosso and Vernazza (link). Shauna will display these in her apartment here.

The bus took us to the College Park metro rail. We took the rail into DC and exited at U Street. We had a choice of walking one direction to 10th Street or the other way to 13th Street. We started walking to 10th Street. Then we got a text that Shauna was waiting at 13th Street since her place was on 14th Street. We managed to hook up after a few blocks of walking.

After a tour of her apartment and depositing the artwork, we went up on the roof of her building. It has a spectacular view of DC. Her apartment is very small – I would say the square footage isn’t much more than we have in the coach. Her bathroom is larger, the bedroom and living room not so much. There are amenities – a workout room, rooftop barbeque grill and tables, etc – that come with the apartment. This is what $2,000/month gets you in DC.

We decided to walk to the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. It was about two miles away. It was nearly noon and we were hungry so we decided to make a stop about half-way in the Chinatown district. We had Chinese food for lunch – not the finest, but it was okay.

We finally made it to the Newseum. The Newseum is an interactive museum of journalism and TV shows depicting newsworthy events and the journalists that covered them. It’s a seven-level building – one down from street level and six up – with 250,000 square feet of exhibits. We walked for three hours and couldn’t see it all. My highlights were the Vietnam War coverage – I can remember so vividly seeing the war coverage as an 11 or 12-year-old. I would come home from school on my lunch break and watch the latest coverage on TV. The other item I really liked was the Berlin Wall. The wall coming down in the 1989 was a big deal. Then there’s the 9-11 display, including pieces of the Twin Towers. I didn’t take many photos inside thinking I’m in a museum, then I realized others were taking pictures.

National Gallery viewed from the top of Newseum

National Gallery viewed from the top of Newseum

Looking up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Newseum

Looking up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Newseum

Federal Trade Comission library

Federal Trade Commission library

The wall separating West Germany from East Germany shows the stark reality of the difference between democracy and communism. Although it was illegal to deface the west side of the wall – it was on East German property – many people tagged the wall in protest. On the east side, this was unthinkable.

West side of wall tagged

West side of wall tagged

Barren east side

Barren east side

After we left the Newseum, we had a beer stop, then made our way to the National Mall. Much of the area east of the Washington Monument is being refurbished. They are shoring up the soil and replanting the turf. This won’t be complete until the end of 2016. The dome on the United States Capitol Building is also being refurbished with a timeline that should have it done by the time our next president is inaugurated.

Mall under renovation in front of the Washington Monument

Mall under renovation in front of the Washington Monument

Scaffolding on the capitol dome

Scaffolding on the capitol dome – that must be the Canadian Embassy next to us

I was getting foot-weary by this time and we headed to the Metro station. At the U Street stop, we said our goodbyes. It’s always tough – I don’t know when I’ll have to opportunity to see and spend time with my daughter again. We took a selfie in the hot, humid station.

Metro station selfie

Metro station selfie

We did some walking

We did some walking – my S-Health record of the day

We’ll be back to winging it tomorrow. We have a general direction in mind – we’ll probably head down I-81 through Virginia, maybe meander into North Carolina and then head west into Tennessee.