Short Trips in the Time of COVID-19

We had not considered a long trip this year due to the Covid 19 crisis and our age.  But we have used the camper briefly and enjoyed each short outing.

N.B. Some minor photo notes:
— All photos with the tiny Sony RX-100 VI (RX100 VI Premium Compact Camera | Super-Fast AF, 4K HLG Video | Sony US)
— All photos should expand to full resolution and snap back to the blog. Fun for pixel peeping!

A Visit to Maryland.

Our first trip took place in early July.   We went to Western Maryland where we stayed in the nicely shaded, and almost deserted campground of the Fort Frederick State Park. 

Fort Frederick was built during the Seven Years/French and Indian War. It is an amazing stone structure.

We wanted to try our new electric assist Gocycles on the West Maryland Rail Trail.  We rode as far as Hancock, about 13 miles distant, on the Rail Trail which was paved and flat. 

Lovely, smooth trail – except for the roots!

Knowing we would need sustenance before returning to the campground, we were interested in something cold to drink and ice-cream at the very least and possibly lunch.  We found all three at Buddy Lou’s, right beside the Rail Trail in Hancock, MD.  (Buddy Lou’s – Eats Drinks & Antiques)  The food was amazing, both the chicken sandwich and the crab cake sandwich.  And the lemonade and soft ice-cream were good too!  Next time we are anywhere near Hancock we shall return!  We rode back along the C&O Canal, which is also flat but unpaved, so a bit more challenging with loose rocks and roots. 

Beautiful views of the Potomac River.

The bikes performed well and we made it back successfully.  We then realized that the shade had reduced the amount of solar charging into our batteries.  This was a manageable problem for the short term and we have since taken steps to improve the situation!  On our way home we even stopped to visit the original Washington Monument and enjoy the view.

Believe it or not, this is the original Washington Monument.
Denise enjoying the view of Boonsboro.

Discovering West Virginia

By September, we decided that we needed another short trip for our mental health, so we planned a week away with primarily outdoor activities.  We started our trip at the Muse Winery in Woodstock, Virginia (Wine Tasting Near Me | Day Trips DC | Things To Do Shenandoah Valley | Muse Vineyards | Wineries Near DC | Vineyards Near DC | Wine Tasting Near Me) to take part in a lunch and tour hosted by the Foreign Affairs Retirees of Northern Virginia (FARNOVA), of which Fred is a member.  It is a delightful winery, owned by a former Foreign Service colleague.  It is at the end of an unpaved narrow road, with a tight, right-angled turn onto a bridge.  We had been warned about the access but we had no problem negotiating it – the joys of a really short wheelbase!  The wine was excellent, and of course, we bought some for our “wine fridge”. 

Bunch of old Foreign Circus types.

One of these things is not like the others …
The racoons know when the grapes are ready for harvest.

We then headed into West Virginia and spent a somewhat rainy night camped at the Wolf Gap Recreation Area SR 675 in Wardensville.  The campground is free but has only 10 sites.  We fortunately were able to grab the last one!  We then headed towards Cass, West Virginia where we planned to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad from Cass to Bald Knob.  (Cass Scenic Railroad State Park – West Virginia State Parks – West Virginia State Parks (wvstateparks.com)) We stopped en route at the Seneca Rocks in the Monongahela National Forest.  The cliffs are much climbed but we admired from a distance.  We also enjoyed the old cabin, which had been expanded into a house in the late 18th century, complete with historical garden.

The rocks. (Don’t think I caught any climbers, but you can zoom in and search.)

The Seneca State Forest campground was our home for the next couple of nights.  We were in the overflow camping area, which was close to the children’s playground and provided what we needed, a flat space to park.  We did take on water before leaving West Virginia but fine sunny, cool weather meant we had no power problems.

Off to Cass the next day, we boarded our open-air carriage and rode up to Bald Knob pulled by two Shay steam engines. 

These engines are specially built for steep slopes and were used in West Virginia in the logging industry. 

The magic of the Shay, the side geared drive that engages all of the wheels.
Settled in for the climb.
Ruins of the old sawmill.

The train took a few hours to grind its way up the mountain via several swtichbacks.

Logging camp. The big red thing is a log skipper, which can carry logs from thousands of feet away, across valleys and up the slope.

The views from Bald Knob were spectacular, as it was a cloudless clear day. 

We acquired leaflets which gave us the history of the logging in that area, including the description of the reconstructed logging camp, Whittaker Camp #1. The train did not stop at the camp which is not open.

We shall return to West Virginia.  This was our first foray and we enjoyed it.

And Back to Virginia

We then headed back to Virginia, heading towards Appomattox, which neither of us had visited.  Fred commented that the road would be excellent practice for driving in the UK, as it was a narrow two (and sometimes only one!) lane road that wound through the mountains and had spectacular views. 

Fortunately, traffic was light so the only challenge was the road itself!

Appomattox

Park entrance.
The 917 enjoying the sun. Coffee break!

We stayed at the Holliday Lake State Park near Appomattox, in a delightful spot, with a lot of privacy.  (General information (virginia.gov))The weather gods were still being kind and it was a brisk sunny day for our visit.  The Visitor Center at Appomattox was closed but the McLean House was open with social distancing and mask requirements and Park Service employees were stationed to answer questions. 

The McClean House – almost a complete reconstruction.
The original Appomattox court house.

We saw the sitting room in which the final Agreement was signed and wandered through the “town” to visit other open building. 

Street view, looking west. The Union troops were on the ridge in the background.
The sitting room where the surrender was actually signed.

Log cabin construction of the outdoor kitchen.

The printing shop where the parole certificates were printed was open, as was a lawyer’s office.  The paperwork never ends – some 30,000 defeated Confederate soldiers had to be issued with parole certificates so that they could go home. Somehow you never think about the administrative details of ending a war.

Presses.

After lunch we headed for the High Bridge State Park.  This is a 31mile Rail Trail, a Virginia Historic Landmark on the National Historic Register of Places.  (General information (virginia.gov))  We had an initial problem getting to the parking lot as a bridge on the road was too low for us, but, after a successful detour we made it.  So, short wheelbase, tall camper!  We cycled first to look at the High Bridge, which is simply amazing, and then backtracked into the little town of Farmville before returning to the camper and driving back to our campsite.

“There are longer bridges and there are taller bridges, but there is no longer, taller bridge.”
Denise at the bridge.
Long way down.
Civil War image.

The bridge was built before the Civil War. The Confederates attempted to burn it, but the Union troops put out the fire and used the bridge to cross the Appomattox river and attach the Confederates near the court house. Rebuilt several times after the Civil War, the high bridge was finally abandoned around 2005 and then made into a park.

Our next stop was a visit to the Hampton Roads Winery at White Oak Farm.  (Hampton Roads Winery)  We enjoyed our tasting and chatting with the owners.  We admired the goat tower (!!) and goats who used it.  

It was hard to believe we were a few miles from a short ferry ride to the bustling Williamsburg area.

Working our way towards Norfolk, we visited Fort Huger, a tiny restored Confederate battery. Normally, you can see lots of ships anchored in the river, but the day we visited there were none.

Fiberglass cannon.

We were looking forward to taking the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, but there were repairs underway and the overlook points were closed. We had to content ourselves with a look back.

The gull was unimpressed.

Chincoteague

And on to Chincoteague.  Our last visit was too many years ago to count but Denise had happy memories of lots of bike friendly paths and so we hoped to be able to visit Assateague Island by bike.  We stayed at the KOA campsite as it was centrally located.  Unfortunately, the weather gods decided we had seen enough glorious sunshine and a cloudy, cool day greeted us.  We set off anyway and did enjoy biking the island.  It was much too cool to dip our toes in the ocean.  We did spot Chincoteague ponies from afar and a Sika deer, so we considered our ride a success. 

Sitka deer. (Yes, from Japan.)
The ponies were not receiving socially.
Denise, discussing tourism with the deer.

After a rainstorm, we headed out for ice-cream, as you cannot go to the beach without having ice-cream! The following day we drove home, through some mixed could and rain. All in all, a great little trip.

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