Monday, May 9, 2016

Great Allegheny Passage Rails to Trails Sojourn

This weekend I went on a Rails-to-Trails Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail in Pennsylvania.  It was an amazing weekend and an awesome experience!  85 of us rode 109 miles between Meyersdale and Pittsburgh!  I met some great people and even slept in a tent!  Anyone who enjoys biking on rail trails should plan to attend a sojourn! This was the first time I’d ever done a multi-day, big mileage bike trip and I have to say I loved almost every minute and can’t wait to do another! 

One of the great things about this trip was meeting people who enjoyed the same things as I do! As I watched everyone arrive and noticed how many Subarus there were I figured these were “my people” and I was right! Most everyone was fun to talk to and had stories of adventures similar to mine!  There were folks section hiking the AT, people who had lived in Colorado, even someone who’d biked the rail trail in Bermuda! And, oddly, I was the only teacher in the crowd!  Usually these types of events draw teachers! Some I got to know better than others and spent more time with, these people were key to my enjoyment of the weekend!  I didn’t get anyone’s permission to write about them in my blog so I have assigned them all “trail names”, these names are based in things that happened over the weekend, but we never called each other these things!  I hope this is enough of a disguise that no one will mind me writing about them!

The Drive

The trip was departing from the Homestead Waterfront near Pittsburgh, PA on Friday morning at 7am.  According to Google Maps it was a 4 hour drive from my school in Chantilly, so I decided I could drive the RV, leave immediately after school on Thursday and sleep in the parking lot where we were meeting and be ready to go Friday morning.  This would save me money on getting a hotel room for the night!

I stopped for dinner at the West Virginia Welcome Center Rest Stop on 81N and while I was eating my soup, reading Facebook and listening to the generator run, I saw someone outside checking out my van.  He was an older man, with a friendly looking dog and didn’t appear to be a threat, so when he knocked on the door I answered (hard to hide the fact that I’m in there when the generator is running!).  Turns out he’s a Pleasure-Way Ambassador and I “knew” him from one of the Facebook groups I’m in!  We had a nice chat and before I left I drove up to meet his wife who was in their Pleasure-Way making them dinner! 

This was my first experience driving the PA Turnpike in the RV.  I’d driven the turnpike a few times in college and it wasn’t my favorite road to drive, however, this time I really enjoyed it.  There was no traffic, plenty of places to stop if you needed to, and it was scenic! It had been raining for days so I thought it was a good sign that the sun started to peek out just before sunset! 

The drive ended up taking 6 hours and I arrived at the Homestead Waterfront at 9:30! The shopping center was very high end and looked perfectly safe to stay overnight.  We’d be leaving our cars here for the two nights of the Sojourn so I figured overnight parking was legal.  I found a good spot where I could back in and only take up one spot, closed the curtains and crawled into bed!   The only problem was the active train tracks just across the street from where I was parked.  Train tracks in an urban area means lots of horn blowing.

Day 1 – Meyersdale to Turkeyfoot Valley School

It was 6:30 am when the 1st sojourners began to arrive at the parking area!  I was so excited to get started I quickly finished up getting ready and headed out!  I quickly got my bike tagged and on the truck and my luggage stowed on the bus we were going to take from Homestead to Meyersdale.   While everyone else was arriving I started chatting with Mr. Pickle.  We chatted for a long time waiting for everyone to arrive and begin boarding the buses.   Once on the bus I met many more people and had a hard time not talking through the speech the trip director gave to tell us all the details we needed to know.  

We arrived in Meyersdale at about 10 am.  It was cloudy and cold with a 90% chance of rain!  Ugh.  After a brief speech by the mayor of Meyersdale welcoming us to the town and the trail, we were off!  I ended up being one of the first riders to leave and kept a pretty fast pace and ended up at the head of the pack!  We were the first ones to arrive in Rockwood, which was the best place to stop for lunch. 
Trailhead in Meyerdale

Ready to go!

Blue Sky!

I’m glad I was on the early side, there was only one place to eat in town, Rockwood Mill Shoppes and Opera House! I had a great pizza and finally got to talk to the guy who’d been riding in front of me all morning!  Didn’t recognize him from the front!  LOL!  We chatted all through lunch and headed back to the trail together.

We were riding along and chatting and it was great to have a buddy to ride with, but he was riding a faster pace than I was comfortable with so I was having a hard time keeping up.  Eventually we reached the Pinkerton Tunnel, which slowed me down, but not him and as much as I enjoyed our chatting I was a kinda glad to be on my own again. 

The tunnel was pretty cool!  I’d put my headlamp in my day pack for the tunnel, but didn’t stop before I went in to put it on.   The tunnel looked short, but it wasn’t and it was very dark in the middle!  I was really glad I’d had lots of experience with tunnels on the Route of the Hiawatha

Just when I got to the other side of the tunnel it started raining!  It was a light sprinkle, so not bad at all and I was pretty close to the campground.  I did stop to put on my pack cover though, just in case it started falling harder. Luckily the rain didn't last long! 

It wasn’t long before I caught up with a guy from Ohio who was riding more my pace and we stuck together the rest of the way to the campground.   Thanks to a short mileage day (26 miles) and riding so fast, it was a little after 2:00.

Our campground for the night was a K-12 school and we weren’t really supposed to be there until school dismissed at 3:40.  The people who had brought tents couldn’t set up until then, and while the Comfy Campers people had started setting up, my tent wouldn’t be ready for several hours.  So now what?

I decided to ride 2 miles into the town of Confluence to check it out.  Once I got back on the trail however I decided that I didn’t really want to ride anymore, especially since I was going to ride this section of the trail again tomorrow.  I’d gone a bit over a mile before I stopped, got off my bike, and sat down by the side of the trail and had a snack.   I walked my bike part of the way back to the school just for a break from riding. 

Back at the school I still couldn’t get into my tent, but I found the “charging station” and luckily I’d put my charger in my day pack so I sat down next to one of the 20 or so plugs set up on the porch of a field house to charge my phone and check email and stuff.  There were a few others phones plugged in and 3 other people hanging out.  While I was hanging out charging my phone, the rain started.  It was a nice gentle rain and it was pleasant sitting under the roof watching the rain, making new friends and waiting for my phone to charge.  

Also while I was charging my phone the first train came through.  I’d observed the train tracks mere feet from where we were setting up camp, but I’d hoped maybe it wasn’t an active track.  Wrong.   The train came roaring in, luckily the nearest road crossing was after the school so we heard the train first then the whistle. (lucky because the train would wake you up 1st, then the whistle, rather than the harsh whistle jolting you awake) The trains were long – 200+ cars – and usually had a 2nd or even 3rd diesel engine at the end pushing it, and they were louder than the engines at the front!  It could be a long night! 

Tent City at the school (train tracks are behind the trees, and the grass was soaked from the rain...wet shoes galore!)

Around 4 I went to find my tent!  It was all ready for me with an air mattress  and towel inside and a chair set up outside!  I laid my bike next to it and got my bag from the truck and settled in.  It was raining pretty hard by now and my tent was dry so I just stayed inside and read my book until dinner time. 

At dinner I saw Mr. Pickles again, first time I’d seen him since getting on the bus with him this morning! I sat with him and soon we were joined by Pearl Jam, Blue M&M, and Papa Bear.  They were a family traveling together and I hadn’t met them yet so it was fun to get to know some new people!  After dinner a group of us (Pearl Jam, Blue M&M, T1 and T2) played Uno until we were kicked out of the school cafeteria so the custodians could clean! I’m so glad T1 & T2 had thought to bring cards! 

It was barely 8:00 and everyone had retreated to their tents!  I knew this was my kind of crowd!  I crawled into my tent and went right to sleep, until 10:30 when the 1st train came through.  I only heard one other train, at 2:30 am.  Other people told me there were more trains, but somehow I managed to sleep through them.  

Day 2 – Ohiopyle

Day 2 was very different from Day 1, starting with the sun was out! J

By 6 am our tent city was coming alive!  I got a shower and packed up my things.  Since I’d used Comfy Campers I didn’t have to take down my tent so I headed over to enjoy my coffee with a few other comfy camper people while we waited for breakfast.  At breakfast I met Flat Rock and enjoyed chatting with her!

After breakfast I finished up packing and was ready to head out.   We had 32 miles to ride and all day to do it, so I was planning to take my sweet time and enjoy!  I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday when I got into camp super early! 

I started out riding a nice easy pace and enjoying the sunshine!  I was both passing people and being passed!  About 5 miles into the ride we entered Ohiopyle State Park!  This was the prettiest section of the whole trail!  We were right on the Youghiogheny River and there were wildflowers, waterfalls, rocks and rhododendron.  I stopped several times for pictures.  It was at one of those picture stops that I fell in with Mr. Pickles and Flat Rock.  We quickly settled into a pace that worked for all three of us!  

We arrived in the town of Ohiopyle at 10:30 and set off to explore!  All three of us wanted to take a walk as a break from the bike so we found some short trails that we thought would give us views of the rapids and the rafters.  We had a great 2-ish mile walk, but other than some awesome views of Ohiopyle Falls we didn’t see any of the rapids.  When we got back to Ohiopyle we rode our bikes over to Wilderness Voyagers – the company that put together our trip – and had lunch right next door.  

After lunch it was time to keep moving down the trail.  The weather had turned perfect and it wasn’t hard to get excited about an afternoon of bike riding!  The trail stayed right next to the river and the scenery was great most of the afternoon!  There were a few moments where my butt and thighs hurt so bad I didn’t think I’d make it, but a quick break to stretch a little solved it and I was good to go again.  The GAP trail is very flat, it’s generally heading down hill, but it’s pretty flat.  You’d think this was a good thing for riding a bike, the problem is that you had to pedal the whole time.  On hills you get to coast down and you get a break! The great thing about riding with Mr. Pickles and Flat Rock was that we would take frequent short breaks and we were riding a pace that was comfortable! 

The funny thing was that we didn’t see many other folks from our group.  We passed a few and few people passed us.  I think we’d all gotten spread out and were on different schedules!  We did stop at the support stop in Connellsville (where I had my 1st experience with a prison toilet!  It was cold!) and caught up with several other Sojourners, after that it was only a few miles to the KOA campground in Adelaide, our home for the night. 

The KOA was nice, lots of amenities, as expected from KOA!  Our sites were along the riverfront, it was a great setting, even though we were all crammed in with little distance between tents.  It was very nice sitting in our chairs watching the river go by while we waited for dinner time! 

Here comes the train!

After dinner the KOA had a DJ for evening entertainment, but we retreated to the river to hang out.  We did get chased into the charging station tent by a quick passing shower (thunderstorms were predicted but they never materialized!).  When T1 and T2 finished their showers they broke out their other game, Cosmic Wimpout!  It's a dice game with some rather random rules, but it was a ton of fun, and was the source of many of the trail names I’ve bestowed upon people! 

Once again, we were all retreating to our tents before 9:00!  The only problem here was that the DJ dance party went until 10 and my tent was right in front of the pavilion.   Once again, we had trains coming through to disturb out sleep.  This time there were on the other side of the river and there weren’t any road crossing so no whistles, but the trains were still noisy.

Day 3 – 49 miles!!!!

Last day of riding and it was going to be a personal best mileage day!  I’d never ridden more than 45 miles in one day.  Luckily it was another sunny day!  Cooler temperatures, and a stiff headwind for about 13 miles, but not raining!

Once again by 6 am our camp was waking up!   I was ready to go pretty quickly and enjoyed chatting with some folks drinking coffee before breakfast!  Once I was ready to go I grabbed my bike and found Mr. Pickles and Flat Rock  and we headed out with a plan of stopping every 10 miles for a break.  We figured we’d break the day down into 10 mile chunks since 10 miles seemed easier to think about than 50. 

My butt and my thighs protested riding the bike again at first, but as soon as I got into a rhythm they stopped complaining!  We stopped at the 1st bathroom opportunity (a very stinky pit toilet) and a few other sojourners passed us, then we passed them a little while later.   Then we stopped at the support stop (with a flushable porta potty! This is now the "toilet tour!") and saw a bunch of other folks.  It was fun seeing everyone while we were riding!  We’d been together for 3 days now and pretty much all knew each other – at least knew each other’s faces, even if names got mixed up.  As part of the Sojourn we all had license plates on the back of our bikes with our names (some people had "vanity plates" but most of us had our real names) making it easy to get names right when you came up on someone on the trail!  We were all yelling encouragement at each other to help keep us all going! 50 miles was a personal best for many people in the group.  The rest of the day continued this way – stopping at support stops, passing and being passed by other people in our group. 

At one point we caught up with Pearl Jam, Blue M&M, and Papa Bear.  We hadn’t ridden with them yet this weekend, but we quickly found that we rode the same pace so joined up for the last 20 or so miles.  The trail was very wide and in places we were able to ride 3 abreast so we could talk! 
At the last support stop there was an ice cream place! First time in 3 days we splurged on ice cream!  I had peanut butter chocolate and it was really good!  It was sunny and cool and the ice cream hit the spot.  

The last 13 miles we were back in urban Pittsburgh and the scenery and trail were very different!  The trail was paved, but it was also rough in places and had lots of twists and turns, we were riding on roads in places, up steep hills – often without warning making it hard to get into the right gear!  On the flat I stay in a pretty high gear, so it’s hard to get down to a hill friendly gear quickly.  This is also where the wind became and issue! No more trees to shelter us! The trail passed a few abandoned steel mills and went over many train tracks.  It was very industrial and not all that nice. We did pass Kennywood Amusement park!  We came around a corner and there was a roller coaster!  That was kinda crazy!  The different terrain was nice and kept things interesting at the end!  

Right at the very end we were riding right along the edge of the Waterfront shopping area and we could see the smokestacks we parked under!  Almost there!  We had once more bridge to cross and it had a tight ramp up it.  Flat Rock was in front and she didn’t realize how tight it was and managed to wipeout and skin her knee/leg!  Only injury of the trip and it happened with less than ½ a mile to go!
We wound through the shopping center and soon I could see my van!  We were back!  We made it!!!!!   Mr. Pickles and Blue M&M took off to ride one more mile around the parking lot so they could hit 50 miles, I was good with 49!  

After I collected my bag, secured the bike and conducted a few tours of the RV it was time to head home.  I was considering stopping and camping, but I didn’t want to get a campground, I knew Walmart would be loud, and I didn’t have any food or clean clothes! If I could get home, I could sleep without a train waking me up!

I stopped in Somerset for dinner at Eat-n-Park and fuel.   I told the waitress that I’d just finished a 3 day bike tour and the lady sitting behind me started asking me questions – turns out she’s a member of the Meyersdale Garden Club and had planned on being there to see the group off but wasn’t able to get there in time!  She was very interested in hearing about the rest of the trip, where we parked, how many people, etc!  So after a delightful chat with her, I headed back to the van to get on the road! 
It's not every day you get to park next to an elephant!

Once again it took a lot longer than google maps promised, it was after 10 before I got home, but I made it!  I took the bike off, grabbed my phone and my iPad, left everything else in the van and went to bed!  I’m very glad I took today off too!!! 

It was a great weekend and I’d LOVE to do another Rails to Trails Sojourn if the dates work for me!  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Slow Meander Home

It was another chilly morning so I fired up the furnace! Got it all toasty warm with no alarms! YAY! It was too chilly to read much and the sun was slow to come up and warm the picnic table so I headed out a bit earlier than I'd expected to.

It was 3 hours home, but I made several stops along the way.

The first stop was at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. I was expecting a battlefield like Manassass, but there was a whole little village with restored houses and exhibits! I was the 1st visitor of the day so the Rangers were very attentive, I felt bad that all I really wanted to do was walk around a bit & get my passport stamped! The Civil War is interesting, but I'm not that into it!

My next stop was Deadalus Books in Charlottesville. Deadalus is a used book store that other used book store dream to be! It's in a old house and is three floors of cobbled together bookshelves cramed with books! It's well organized, although it doesn't appear that way when you walk in and it's a great way to spend a happy hour browsing! Parking in downtown Charlottesville was going to be a challenge, but I found a spot not even a block from Deadalus! I took up two curbside spots, but I found parking! I had a lovely time browsing and when I went to pay, the owner of the store noticed that I had a pile of novels - he went in the back and got me a free book from the ones that they pull off the shelves because they aren't selling! The gift book is called Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett - I'd never heard of it, but it won the National Book Award! I'll give it a try!


Since my parking spot was only good for 2 hours and it wasn't a very appealing place to hang out, I decided to go find a park for lunch. I drove out to Pen Park and found a picnic table! It also seems that there's a network of bike paths that you can access from Pen Park, too bad I have a flat! It was a nice place for lunch and soon I was on my way north.

At the intersection of US29 and VA28 there's an ice cream stand called The Moo-Thru. Supposedly it has fabulous ice cream made from farm fresh milk. Every time I'd been by that area it had been closed. But today I was coming through at 2:00 in the afternoon on a hot sunny day! Perfect for ice cream! I had the cookie dough and it was very good! Even better, the "small" was actually small! Perfect size!

My final stop before home was A-1Cyling in Manassas. This is where I bought my bike and they do a great job fixing stuff! Ben quickly fixed my flat, and let me watch so I could learn what to do. They also had a kit available with everything you need to fix a flat on your own! Next time I can attempt to fix it myself!

Finally, by late afternoon I was home! Unloaded, dumped the black tank, and traded the vehicles!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

High Bridge Trail & Holliday Lake State Parks

I had a nice quiet night! No crazy alarms! It was chilly this morning so I started the furnace to take the chill off and it didn't set off the alarm!

After breakfast and stocking up on water I headed out to Farmville to ride my bike on High Bridge Trail. The trail is a Rail Trail and it is also a VA State Park. The whole trail is 30 miles long and the centerpiece of the trail is The High Bridge - a long trestle that spans the Appomattox River.

It was only about 30 minutes to Farmville and I quickly found the Muncipal Parking lot with free parking! And the trail, which was clearly marked by huge state park signs, crossed right next to it! The lot was huge and had plenty of space for Roxy. I walked up to where the trail crossed to look at the map and figure out a plan. I'd hoped to ride about 30 miles. Farmville is right in the middle of the trail. The High Bridge was 4.4 miles from where I was so I decided I'd go out there first and the come back & head the other direction.

The trail is finely crushed rocks - very smooth! The trail is also very straight - not many curves. I thought maybe it was going uphill but it was gentle and I'm not really sure. The scenery is rural and wooded. It almost reminds me of the Abingdon-Damascus stretch of the Virginia Creeper Trail, but the Creeper Trail is nicer!

The High Bridge was pretty neat. You could look at the tops of the trees! It was about a 1/2 mile long! Even the long high trestle on the Creeper Trail isn't that long! The bridge had several benches where you could sit & rest and take in the view. The thing that surprised me was that the river was very narrow! Almost could have passed for a creek! I guess the bridge had to be long & high so the train tracks could keep a steady grade across the valley.



After the bridge I kept going to almost the end of the trail - I was three miles from the end when I turned around. I'd ridden 12 miles so would have 24 by the time I rode back. The trail was about the same after the bridge as it was before - straight and tree lined. It was a nice ride but not that exciting.

As I got closer to Farmville my thighs and butt were ready for a break. My expensive padded biker shorts don't seem to help much! I was going to take a long lunch break and walk around Farmville a bit before going out for a 2nd, shorter ride.

It was nice to pull my shoes off and sit down on my bed in the RV to eat! While I ate I caught up on emails and Facebook since I figured I probably wouldn't have coverage at Holliday Lake. After lunch I set out to explore Farmville. I wasn't that impressed. It was mostly furniture stores and Longwood University. One small outdoor/bike store, no used book stores or yarn stores or antique stores! I did find a cafe that had ice cream! It was about 1:00 when I went back to the van to get ready for biking round two. I was going to ride to Tuggle - a 10 mile round trip.

As soon as I took the bike off the van I knew something was wrong. I looked down and sure enough, the front tire was flat! Ugh. I took it up to the bike shop, only to discover that they have a student who fixes bikes but he has classes on Wed so doesn't come in. Since I don't know how to change tires (yet!) my bike ride plans were over. I'm also seeing some business opportunities in Farmville, clearly they could use some more biker services! I think about Damascus that has I believe 4 bike shops/shuttle services!

So, with no more biking until I could fix my tire, I decided to head out to Holliday Lake and see what there was to do there. Like Bear Creek Lake, Holliday Lake was about 30 minutes from Farmville. Holliday Lake however is a lot more remote. As I suspected there is minimal cell signal. And, there was no one here! The park office was closed and I couldn't figure out how to register - I found another ranger who called the manager - she was at home having lunch! I'm one of 3 sites occupied in the campground tonight! (Last night I was one of 6! Wonder why no one is out? Spring Break, nice weather...).

After I got settled into my site I went out for a hike. The main trail around the lake is 6 miles long and I decided I didn't have time or energy for that. I did an out and back on one section of the lake trail, then took a trail to the other campground. It was only about 2 miles but it got me to 10k steps! (24 miles on my bike only registered 1500 steps! I gotten a few thousand walking in Farmville)


Back at the campground I sat in the shady corner of my campsite - the sun was hot! - and read until dinner. After dinner I took a walk to the spot where I'd had a fleeting internet signal earlier and did a quick check, then did a lap around the campground.

While I was eating dinner the other folks camped here returned and it looked like they had a FCPS parking permit in their car so I was kinda spying on them walking over there to see if there other clues about where they were from. As soon as they saw me they came out of their trailer and we started chatting. They are from Fairfax - she teaches 10th grade English! We stood around and chatted for almost 2 hours! I never got their names but they were really nice!


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bear Creek Lake State Park

When I made my service appointment I decided I could get in a camping trip either before or after depending on when the weather would be best. Having Spring Break in March means the weather is always iffy. And, it's hard to find campgrounds open.

I'd been wanting to ride The High Bridge Trail in Farmville and it looked to be the perfect "if the weather cooperates" option to go with my trip to Richmond. I also discovered that Virginia State Park campgrounds are open year round (not sure if it's all of them, but many are!) and there were two State Parks close to Farmville.

I picked the closest one to Richmond, Bear Creek Lake, for the first night since I was expecting to be at Rusty's till late in the day. Since I got done so early, I was here for lunch! It's only an hour from Richmond straight out US60.

Despite the perfect weather, there aren't many sites occupied in the campground and I got my pick. I'd reserved a large RV site since the small RV site's limit was 20ft. The Ranger who checked me in saw my van and pointed me in the direction of some smaller sites and I'm glad she did because I hit one of the best sites in the campground, #17. It's one of a few with a lake view! And a picnic table that was in the full sun! It was in the 60s today so perfect for sitting in the sun for lunch! The site it just barely big enough for me and the road in is steep and twisty, so anything bigger than me wouldn't make it!


After lunch at my sunny picnic table I headed out to explore. The lake isn't very big and there are a bunch of trails. I managed to put together a figure-8 ish loop hike that was about 6 miles long. It was a nice hike, fairly easy, no big hills. I think I saw a bald eagle! It was a huge bird with a white tail, it flew off before I could get a good look.


After my hike I pulled my chair out and sat in the sun reading for awhile. Eventually I forced myself inside to put my bed back together - it wasn't as hard as it sometimes is! Now it's almost time for dinner and the sun is sinking low, the wind is picking up and it's getting chilly.


Richmond Fun

My overnight in Richmond wasn't all about getting the RV fixed, I did find some time for fun too!

I'd planned to meet up with my aunt & uncle for dinner and when I got finished with my pre-service visit to Rusty it was only 2:30, so, since it was the nicest day we'd had in a while I decided to check out part of the Virginia Capitol Bike Trail. This bike trail is fairly new and runs right next to Route 5 from downtown Richmond to Jamestown. It's 53 miles total, but was only going to ride a few miles.

I parked at Great Shiplock Park right in Downtown Richmond, which happens to be the end of the trail - mile 53. I rode east - I was hoping to make it to where the trail crosses 295 but it turned out that was further than I had time to ride. While not being especially scenic, the trail was very nice - paved, wide, hilly. The first 2 miles or so were more urban but after than it was farmland/suburbs - a very different type of area than I was expecting.

I crossed the Pocahantas Parkway and I took out my phone to see how much further to a park I was aiming for and realized I needed to turn around and get moving toward my aunt & uncle's house. I'm glad I did...turns out I had a strong tailwind which became a headwind when I turned west! Glad I didn't try to press on the extra 3 (6 round trip!) miles!

After a quick snack and changing my clothes I headed over to Kim & Jason's. We ate at one of our favorite nearby Mexican resteraunts - Plaza Azteca - they had great veggie enchiladas! Jason, who lived most of his life in Alaska, and I were both coming off of two weeks of watching the Iditarod in Alaska so we had a lot to discuss including the fact that he knows my favorite musher, Aliy Zirkle!

After dinner we went back to Kim and Jason's. I'd been planning to sleep at the Bass Pro Shop right around the corner from Rusty but as the sun sank low and we kept talking I realized I was just gonna stay right there in their yard...continue the proud tradition of sleeping in people's yards and driveways!

I was paranoid about the LP/CO alarm going off in the night so I ended up disconnecting the battery again. I'd thought the neighborhood would be quieter than the store parking lot, but I might have been wrong - dogs barking all night and motorcycles going by on the main road a few blocks over.

This morning it was in the 30s and very chilly in the RV. I haven't used the propane furnace because it seems like evert time I use it the LP/CO alarm goes off, this morning I decided I didn't care and fired up the furnace! Wow! It got so toasty warm in the RV really fast! And, no alarm today!


RV Service of Virginia

This is not a paid advertisement! I had great service at RV Service of VA and wanted to pass along to recommendation to anyone who might be in need of service!

As you all have heard, many times, on this blog, my fridge and my LP/CO dectector have been two thorns in my side in my RV. The LP/CO dectector started the 1st time I took the RV camping and the fridge hasn't been working right on propane for almost 2 years. It was time to fully address both problems. For years now my Dad has taken his RV to Rusty at RV Service of VA in Richmond and Rusty has helped him work through many frustrating, hard to solve issues with his RV so I decided this was the place to go. I'd called about a month ago and gotten an appointment for Tues of Spring Break. I'd planned to come down Monday night so I could be first on Tuesday. I'd blocked out the whole day, thinking it would be late afternoon before they were done.

I'd gotten some advice from a Facebook group I'm a part of that I should bring the proper LP/CO dectector with me to the service place so I'd be sure it was correct, and they would install it (it's hard wired so it works off the 12volt house battery). When I'd made my appointment, Rusty told me they had the dectectors there and I could buy one from him. I'd searched Amazon to find one but I had no idea what model number it was and the owner's manual covered multiple models. I'd been meaning to go over to the RV, crawl under the bed and get a picture of the dectector to get its model number but never did. I was hoping Rusty the one I needed.

Accessing the LP/CO dectector involves pulling the bed apart. Since it's such a pain to put it back together, I wanted to be sure Rusty had the model I needed ahead of time. When I arrived in Richmond Monday afternoon I went over to RV Service of VA to check. The model number isn't on the front of the dectector. You have to unscrew it, flip it over, and locate the number. I crawled under the bed with a screwdriver and my headlamp to take it apart. My screwdriver was too big. The lady who was helping me was really nice, I wish I'd remembered her name, she went in the shop and got me a smaller screwdriver and I tried again. Still didn't work. This time I got a good look at the screw. It wasn't a Phillips head, it was a tiny hex wrench. Ugh. At this point I gave up, decided I'd take the bed apart and hope for the best!

Lucky for me, they had a dectector in stock that worked for me! It's white and the old one was brown, but it's under the bed, no one sees it and as long as it doesn't false alarm at 2am, it's all good!

They also discovered that the burner tube in the fridge was all corroded, they replaced it and cleaned out all the lines. It was working perfectly in the shop! I have it plugged in in my campsite so haven't really had a chance to test it running on LP, but I'll be out biking all day tomorrow and that will be great test!

Both niggling little problems addressed, and it only took them 2 hours! By 10:30 I was on my way to fun! I'll definitely be going back there next time the RV needs service!


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Snowshoeing & Camping in Canaan Valley, WV

Back in January, after the big east coast blizzard I went out to Whitegrass in Canaan Valley to snowshoe. It was so fun I knew I wanted to go back this winter. I'd been hoping for a weekend when I could take the RV and camp. We have Tuesday off from school because of the Presidential Primary so I figured that was *almost* a 3-day weekend and I could devote both Saturday and Sunday to playing! And, the weather looked good - Sat was supposed to be in the 40s and Sunday in the 50s with a low in the 20s.

I got the RV Friday evening, got it all loaded up and was ready to head out at 7 on Saturday morning. Thanks to the new and improved US48 I was able to get to Davis, WV before 10am!

The first thing I noticed was that there was fresh snow! All the roads were covered with packed snow and ice! I didn't look like they'd been plowed! The other thing I noticed was the temperature - it was about 24*-28*. I was a little nervous about driving on the snow. I'd only driven the RV on snow one other time and twice it got stuck on a little bit of ice! Today however, the RV had no issues! Up hill, down hill, through a few inches of slush, through a few inches of snow, over ice - she handled it all with no issues!

My first item of business was to secure a campsite at Canaan Valley State Park. I was really impressed with the new lodge that had been built since my last visit in 2008/09 (I was there over New Year's). The lodge now has a large lounge area where you can sit with a book and not be holed up in your room and an improved quick service cafe! Both things I wish they'd had the last time!

I was assigned to site 26 so I went back to the campground to check it out. It was a nice pull through, it had been plowed, however there was a lot of snow I ended up parking in! Now I had to decide what I was going to do next.

I really wanted to snowshoe at Whitegrass but I was worried about parking the van, especially since it was already mid-Morning and likely crowded. I went over there to see what th situation was. I pulled in and there was a nice young man directed traffic and he pointed me to an area that looked more like a ditch with plenty of opportunity to get stuck in either mud or snow than a place to park my RV. I decided to trust the young man and pulled in. It was pretty uneven but I turned off the fridge and got ready to go!

It was 11 and I was ready for lunch, but the cafe doesn't start serving until 11:30 so I went out to stretch my legs! I snowshoed out to a little "snowshoe trail" just inside the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge. It was the perfect little teaser for the rest of the day! There was just barely enough snow for the snowshoes. The trails at Whitegrass are groomed for cross country skiing and snowshoers have to stay to the side so we don't tear up the tracks, when there's not much snow this is hard!

After a lunch of yummy vegetarian Whitegrass Chili, I headed out for a longer snowshoe. This is the 3rd time I'd been to Whitegrass and both other times I'd climbed to the top of the mountain, this time I wanted to do something different. I went up 3 Mile, a long steady uphill. This is one one of the more popular ways to the top and there were a lot of skiers! There was also a wide area to the side of the groomed trail with plenty of snow so it was easy to snowshoe. I then went out Blackbird's Wing, which isn't groomed, or very popular, so it was easier to snowshoe. Then I headed down a Forest Service Road to the Timberline Trail. The snow on the Forest Service road was really thin in places and the gravel under was hard to snowshoe on! The Timberline Trail had plenty of muddy spots, but bare ground isn't too hard to navigate on snowshoes. The whole loop was about 4.5 miles! That's going to be one of my favorite routes because it's more remote than some of the other trails.

When I got back to the van it was only 3:00 but I was done snowshoeing. I decided to go explore the towns of Thomas & Davis. Luckily the roads had totally cleared! No evidence at all of the earlier snow! It was still about 28*, though. Thomas has a nice looking Main Street, but there wasn't a whole lot to check out - an art gallery, a general store, a coffee shop. I walked the length of the street and went in a few stores then headed back to Davis. My first stop there was Highland Market. They had prepared foods from Whitegrass Cafe! I picked up some Spanakopita, which was perfect for dinner tonight when I got home! And they sold The Whitegrass Cafe cookbook! Now I can make my own chili and Spanakopita, and more! I was able to leave the van in the market parking lot and walk up to Hellbender's Burritos for dinner!

I'd discovered Hellebender's back in January and couldn't wait yo go back! Their Lost Hiker burrito is seriously good! It's sautéed mushrooms, guacamole, cheddar jack, lettuce and homemade bleu cheese dressing. Odd combo that I never would have put together, but it works! And it's an excellent calorie replacement after a day of snowshoeing. Because Hellbender's is one of the best, and only places, to eat in Davis, I decided that earlier was better and it ended up being 4:15 when I got there! They were almost full and I was one of the oldest people there! Usually it's the old folks eating that early! I suppose there's a chance that the "kids" were eating a late lunch rather than dinner!

After dinner I headed back to the campground so I could get hooked up before dark. I had about 30 minutes of daylight left so I walked the campground, I was surprised by how many sites were occupied, most with tent campers! It was still in the 20s, had been all day! What happened to the highs in the 40s?

I spent the evening curled up with my book and my ceramic heater. The ceramic heater took the edge off the cold, but my hands were still freezing, which made reading hard! I was tired from being up early and snowshoeing all day, so a little before 9, I turned off the ceramic heater and crawled into my nest of sleeping bags and quickly fell asleep.

That sleep didn't last long. A little before 10 I found myself sitting up in bed, wide awake, with the lights on and the CO/LP alarm blaring. Ugh. The alarm shut itself off before I could even get the door open. I was pretty sure it was a false alarm, I hadn't used any propane appliances at all. I tried to go back to sleep. I was almost asleep when it went off again. Seriously!?!? This time I left the window on the sliding door open. 26* and I'm sleeping with the window open. I'd just dozed off again when the sounded a 3rd time. REALLY?!?? Seriously!??! Ugh. This time it took longer for it to shut itself off. I was debating what to do, and was considering driving home. It's a 3 hour drive - so it would be 2am or later before I got home, with the potential for ice on the roads, the RV has a headlight out. This wasn't a good plan. Then it occurred to me that the alarm won't go off if I disconnect the battery! So I went out unhooked the electric, turned off the propane, then disconnected the battery. I did open the window by my head, just in case it wasn't entirely a false alarm, and went to sleep.

(Just a note to other RVers - this was not the safest move and normally I wouldn't recommend it. My LP/CO detector has false alarmed 8 times prior to this over the course of the 4 years I've had it. Propane has a foul odor and if it was leaking in the van I would have smelled it. CO only forms when gas isn't fully combusted. I hadn't used any propane appliances my whole trip. No propane being used, no chance of CO forming. Therefore the logical conclusion in this case was false alarm.)

After the alarm stopped going off I slept great! Didn't wake up until 7! Which is crazy late for me! My feet got really cold, but otherwise I stayed pretty warm! Of course the first thing I had to do was go out and reconnect the electric and turn the propane on so I could make coffee!

I decided that this morning I'd check out the trails in the state park. I'd hoped to snowshoe but I decided that there wasn't enough snow so just walked. I was impressed by the trail network in the park! When I was here in 2008/09 I walked a few of the trails, but it was snowing heavily with a 50 mph wind, hard to really appreciate the trail in those conditions! I'm not sure how far I walked, but I was out about 3 hours, so it was probably close to 6 miles. It was really sunny and warm and a lovely day for a hike. It was a great call to leave the snowshoes, the snow was thin and as the temperature went up it was melting fast!

Next, I headed over to Big John's Family Fixins, for pizza before I left! I ordered a bigger pizza than I would eat so I'd have leftovers to take for lunch tomorrow! After lunch it was time to head home! It was sunny and warm and I had the window down the whole way! I stopped in Frony Royal for fuel - Diesel was $1.77! I filled up the RV for $33! What!?!? Hopefully fuel stays cheap! I got home by 4 and took care of the bare minimum unloaded and made a quick Giant run. Regular school day tomorrow and then I'll catch up on Tuesday! It was great weekend and totally worth not exactly being ready for tomorrow!