Category Archives: Virginia

Ozark the Travelin’ Cat

After my last post, a blog follower named Daniel asked, “What’s up with the cat? Do you still have her?” The answer is yes, we still have and adore her and she’s become quite the traveler. At first she she was over-stimulated by travel – all of the new sounds and seeing the world flash by had her edgy. It was difficult for all of us. She would dash around the coach and be very vocal. We worried about her hurting herself and also I had concerns when she would jump up on the dash and distract me or block my vision of the side view mirrors.

Before we left Hollister, Missouri I rode the scooter to Branson and bought a cat carrier/crate which we knew we would need to take her to get spayed. After a day of travel, we decided it was best for all of us if Ozark the cat traveled in her crate. I’m happy to report that after a couple of months of travel, Ozark has accepted her crate and travels quietly in it. She doesn’t fight Donna when she’s put into her crate and usually grooms herself once inside before napping for hours. Ozark seems to have adjusted very well and seems to enjoy finding herself in new surroundings on a regular basis.

Ozark attacking a catnip toy mouse

Ozark attacking a catnip toy mouse

We changed our surroundings again on Saturday, but not until after Donna took a hike on the Seven Sisters Trail. She found a variety of mushrooms on her hike – we’re not mushroom experts so she didn’t pick any. We don’t know if they’re poisonous or possibly hallucinogenic. Wouldn’t that make a memorable meal! Here are a few photos from her hike. Unfortunately the spectacular views mentioned on websites weren’t evident due to heavy foliage.

Trailhead

At the summit

Something took a bite of one

Something took a bite of one

Looks harmless

Looks harmless

Hmmm... is it edible

Hmmm… is it edible?

I wouldn't try these

I wouldn’t try these.

We left Stony Fork Campground in Jefferson National Forest around 10:30am. Our route took us southwest through Bristol. We saw many road signs warning of heavy traffic and stoppages. These were due to the NASCAR race at the Bristol short track scheduled for Saturday night. We came through by noon and didn’t have any traffic hassles.

The drive through the Smokey Mountains was pleasant. On a tip from the Escapees Days End Directory, Donna had already contacted the management of a restaurant in Crossville and secured permission for overnight parking in their RV/truck lot. I looked at my trucker app and found a Pilot/Flying J station only a few miles away that had diesel fuel for $2.29/gallon. With my Pilot/Flying J Rewards card I would get a seven cent discount making our cost just $2.22/gallon – the least expensive fuel we’ve bought since we hit the road over two years ago!

Before we reached Crossville, I saw a sign for truck/RV wash ahead. Our coach is so dirty, I haven’t been able to wash it properly since we were in Michigan. The road grime was bad enough, but then the rain while we were in gravel/dirt sites in New York splashed more dirt up the sides of the coach. I couldn’t stand it. We stopped at a Blue Beacon truck wash. A crew of about eight guys went at it with pressure washers. I opted for the full treatment – wash, under carriage, Rain X treatment and citrus alloy wheel cleaner. I was amazed at how they were choreographed as a team and got it done in no time at all. The full treatment cost $77 and I think it was money well spent. The coach looks good, the alloy wheels gleam and I’m happy. This is the least expensive (other than doing it myself) RV wash I’ve had.

Waiting to enter the Blue Beacon wash bay

Waiting to enter the Blue Beacon wash bay

We found the Shoney’s restaurant and their gravel RV/truck lot. After circling the lot a few times like a dog looking to lay down, we decided on a fairly level spot. Donna felt a need to pay back for the free parking and went out to pick up litter. She ended up filling six bags! One of the guys taking care of the lawn expressed his appreciation of her effort.

Clean and shiny in Shoney's lot

Clean and shiny in Shoney’s lot

We went inside and had dinner in Shoney’s. Not my favorite food and not a choice Donna would usually make, but when they offer free overnight RV parking, we feel like we should patronize their establishment.

Breakfast will be another Shoney’s meal, then we’ll head onward another 110 miles to Nashville where we’ll relax, find live music and good beer for a few days. Of course rain drops are falling on our clean and shiny rig this morning.

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.