There’s a huge gap in posting Our 2012 Summer Excursion series that recaps our experiences from June 3-August 3 by time and location. Thanks to a friendly nudge, I thought I might try to wrap up our 2012 events before we all turn in to toads in 2013. Or is it royalty? Who has been kissing who around here?
Don’t hesitate to be confused, or lost as to where this story started. Ask questions, or if you care to, go back and read all about it! It’s tagged.
D26: The whole while we were in Deep River, CT with my aunt and family we envisioned making an overnight stop in NYC. We thought we could catch up with my cousin in Brooklyn, make a stop into Rolling Orange, and show the children a truly enormous city. As we took stock of our days and nights, we opted for driving through, waving at the tall, tall buildings, on the most economic route (some bridge tolls were $25, we avoided those), and staying in New Jersey.
We had arranged to meet up with Megan, her husband and two boys (and now one girl, it’s been too long!!) in Ocean Grove, NJ as a part of the interviewing we were taking on for Liz Canning’s Less Car, More Go documentary about the cargo-bike revolution. If you have been following along with our involvement, you may also recall that it was formerly under the working title (R)Evolutions Per Minute.
Megan recommended Allaire State Park, so on our way through the Bronx, I called and made reservations for the night. Putting that cell phone to work. I have a whole rant about that iphone for later. Remind me to fill you in.
We felt at home with the Soul Learning (Now Days with the Grays) family and were quite smitten with the Jersey shore. It was the deepest beach I had been on, with a wide public, pristine boardwalk, and homes set back behind the front road that angled inward so every front or back porch had a view of the ocean. None of the homes were on stilts, another beach icon I was accustom to. There was a small carnival flair about the shops, not a touristy, buy here, buy now demanding atmosphere. It was hometown meets vacation destination. Ocean Grove earned its place on our “must return for a visit” list. So far, what and who hasn’t?
D27: Brent nudged me awake at 6:00AM to help decide if we should strike the camp or throw the fly over the tops of our open air tents. My intentions were to head back to the beach and pow around with Megan, but that wouldn’t be for several hours, and if the tents get wet from the incoming storm, then we would have to pack them up wet and drag them out later.
We chose to pack up and shove off. Who knew how long the rains would last? It was a 20 minute clean up, carry the sleeping children into their seats, finish tearing down the tents and drive away moment. We weren’t even to the park exit before the sky opened up and the rain came pouring down.
We finished out our route through NJ, crossed into Delaware for our first ever Waffle House experience. Brent still gets a chuckle out of the idea that I asked our server what fruits and vegetables they could serve. “This is a grits and grease place, hun.” Thanks. Feeling better now about having never taken my family to Waffle House.
The Delaware stop was intentional. I had never been to Delaware.
We picked up some groceries then kept on trucking. The skies were clear, having driven away from the storm, and we started the process of determining where to go next. I was thinking we might go to Washington DC. There were several people I emailed about visiting as we passed through. We had two nights left before we were to report in Elkins, WV for a three week appointment Brent had taken. If we spent one night in DC and one night in Virginia, or two nights in DC, or what if we spent two night in VA? And so it went. The closer we edged to DC the more we wanted to keep driving. There was a lot of traffic. It was still very early in the day, considering our early start, and staying in DC would cost a lot more money than camping in hills along the Shenandoah River.
We eventually settled on Watermelon Park, south east of Winchester, VA. This place was nestled on the river, down a dirt road. Seeing that it was 100F we found a small shady spot, striped down and climbed into what we hoped would be a cold river. It wasn’t. Brent set up camp, the children and I squinted into the noon day sun.
In setting up camp, Brent assembled the bikes to get around the grounds. We made a few camp store trips for all the necessities (and the air conditioning). We were going to do this camp thing “right.” Fire wood. To go along with the chocolate, Jiffy Pop, marshmallows and graham crackers we picked up earlier in the morning. Our other two camping nights were just for sleeping, this one was for playing. We kicked around the water, skipped a few stones, and burned things. Oh, and we used a pay shower. Cool. Nothing like depositing quarters to conserve water and time. It was better than any gift giving holiday. Childs play.
With everyone clean, fed and waiting for some drop in temperature before attempting to settle into tents, Brent checked the forecast. Could we leave the fly off again tonight? It really is great to fall asleep and feel the dewy air settle around you. That is, it is great for me. Brent can’t tolerate what he calls “noises,” fly or no fly. He never sleeps well.
There were forecasted storms at 1AM. Move the tent away from the tree? Closer to the tree line on the west side? Pack up and find a hotel? It was a subtle argument. If we stayed, which I wanted, he would be nervous, scared, miserable, which I didn’t want. If we left, I would be bitter about money and the loss of opportunity to camp, which he didn’t want. I didn’t care to camp in a storm, given that one of our tents was bound to leak buckets. I was unsure of where to put a tent during a storm, under the tree? Out in the open? It didn’t really matter. We rushed around again, without inciting panic in the children, and stuck yet another camp, for the second time in one day. All before sunset (9pm ish).
As we headed back out that dirt road I started looking for hotel vacancies. There were few. Then it began to rain, far earlier than forecasted. As we approached Winchester a wall of wind rocked the van. We pulled over immediately. Flipped on the hazards. We held hands. The wind was pushing everything over a ridge above us. A perfectly horizontal force beating rain, sticks, dust, and debris. We watched trees bow down. Minutes passed as we whispered “tornado?” “do we drive?” “get out and lay in the ditch?”
Everyone around us was stopped as well. The sky was dark, so not knowing what was happening up and out there was intimidating. There was an interstate on ramp and over pass in front of us. We saw a break in the wind and headed straight for town. I knew there was a hotel on the other side, without vacancy, but with resources. We pulled into the hotel overhang, driving over branches and fallen glass lamp covers. Wind still racing. Rain still falling. A man was in the hotel door way. Initially we couldn’t open our van doors. We took stock of how many children to carry at once and who could/would run on their own. I yelled at the man for some help (not very politely), grabbed the baby and Avery as Brent carried Elliot, who was terrified and crying.
Anyone else remember the night of June 29th? We hunkered down in that lobby for a good while, with a bunch of other great people. The desk clerk found us a hotel room the next exit down, for when the derecho had passed. We drove down an interstate littered with trees that had been broken apart by barreling through semis. We slept light, and thankful, that my stubbornness relented and we made the decision to pack up camp.
D29: With the intention of driving onto Elkins for our three week stay, we check out of the hotel and went into Winchester the next morning to do laundry and play at another children’s museum (reciprocal pass member!). It was difficult to see where there was no electricity, but there were trees uprooted everywhere. We didn’t realize the devastation of the region until later. The program dean in Elkins called to say the town’s electric and municipal water was down and we couldn’t come to town just yet.
We spent the next many hours calling for hotels, camp sites, anything along I-81. There was either no phone, no cell service (towers knocked down), no electric, or no vacancy. While I understand some of those rooms were full of people who truly needed them. With the extensive heat wave, many of them were full of people who just wanted air conditioning, and it irked me, quite a lot. We drove for nearly 400 miles trying to find a place to stay and then it occurred to us that we could and probably should just go home. We were in our drive way at midnight.
Our house sitter took air conditioned refuge with his own family, who left us a cooler of fruit, drinks and ice, and a battery lantern. We camped under our own roof the night of June 30th.