Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Night Update

Mo's repairs are not finished. So just after noon, we headed out to Yeager Airport to pick up a minivan. Our drop-off of the small car we've been driving for 9 days and pick-up of the Dodge Caravan minivan went smoothly. Then after lunch, we went to the Ford dealership and talked to Tim, the Ford repair manager. He called for them to make Mo accessible to us, and we pulled up right behind Mo in the very last repair bay.

Our transfer of basically EVERYTHING inside, with the exception of some odds and ends, to the van went fairly smoothly. It took us almost two hours in 96-degree heat. With 50% humidity and the back of Mo closed up with no fresh air coming in, packing was brutal.  The van is now completely full but somehow we will need to wedge into it the stuff that is in our hotel room. However by the time we got back to the hotel, neither of us could move a muscle, we almost passed out from working like that in such hot weather (Joey says the Marines cancel all maneuvers and exercise when it gets this hot!)  Thank goodness I planned for us to spend another night in the hotel, because we would never ever ever have been able to just hit the road--we stumbled back into the room and collapsed onto our beds trying to cool down.

They still hope to complete the repairs. We added the cost of a new radiator into the job (no extra charge for labor since they have it all taken apart anyway.) We figured for another $300 we should get that done now, because although they say it is still functioning, it is apparently quite rusted. And like I said, there's no extra charge for the labor. So far, the total for such a lengthy job is still fairly reasonable, TTTT. It's just that it has been so time-consuming .

 We have no idea when it will be done or when we will get down here to retrieve Mo, but once we get home I guess there's no big rush. Tim says they will keep Mo on their lot until we can get here. He said we were patient with them and they will be patient waiting for us to get back. This is reassuring since after next weekend, we are busy every weekend until October. Of course, when we do get down, we will not really be able to "camp" on the way back home again, because we've removed all the bedding, dishes, pots and pans, and everything else that would make the vehicle "livable-in". This is a precaution, on the offchance that once they finish what they are doing, they discover some horrendous problem with something else that makes it financially stupid to continue to put any more money into this vehicle. But right now, it seems repairable.

We got take-out Chinese food for dinner and ate in our room--we were too pooped to do much else (I went and picked up the food.) Then I soaked in the hotel's hot tub for a while, while Joey just relaxed. We finished up the evening watching Michigan State on TV winning their first game of the season. Our plan now is to get up tomorrow morning as early as possible and head home. I love our van--it has very comfortable seats, all kinds of fancy extras (including a very useful back-up camera, which since we can't see anything out the back window of the van, is a great thing to have!), and it should, I hope, be a comfortable ride.

This is the second time we've come home from a vacation without Mo. It is not a great feeling but there's really no choice. So we are doing our best to deal with it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Brief Update

Thursday, August 30, 2012

So at 10am this morning, Joe called Tim at Ford, and got the welcome news that the part had come in, they were working on Mo, and they thought they'd be done by tomorrow, or even the end of today! We were thrilled with the first good news we'd had in a week. After that, we enjoyed our morning at Ed's house, and Ed and I ran some errands before Joe and I packed up the car and left Floyd at around 2pm. Our ride was uneventful through beautiful green mountains.

The bad news was that when we called Tim at 4:30, Mo was not ready to go. And he is still are not sure if everything will be done by tomorrow--I get the impression that he sounded less hopeful and/or positive about it than he did on the phone this morning.

So our plan to pick up a minivan around noon and pack up to go remains in place. We are prepared to tweak our plans should we get lucky, but we are not counting on anything. And being so uncertain about tomorrow has pretty much deflated our hopes. We are watching TV and just vegging out in our hotel room now.

And that is about all there is to say about today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

41st Anniversary News

Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012

Today was Joe's and my 41st wedding anniversary, and it bore an eerie similarity in some way to our 40th. Once again we are dealing with Mo's mechanical idiosyncrasies. But whereas last year we did finally get back on the road, this year we spent our anniversary with Ed, his friend Amelia, and Roxy. It was a really nice day, and certainly our dinner was way better than last year!

Joe called Tim, the manager at the Ford repair in Charleston, at about 10:00 this morning, only to hear that the part they needed, the new cover for the engine, had not yet been delivered. As a result, they hadn't made any progress with the repairs. So Joe and I did some brainstorming regarding where to go from here.  We are facing Labor Day weekend, and the need to be home by Tuesday morning at the latest. (Really, we need to be home Sunday night so Joe can catch up on Monday.)

I did some Internet searches, and by noon I had reserved a minivan from Avis to pick up at noon on Friday and return in New Jersey on Monday. I called Enterprise and told them we needed the car until Friday, but would definitely return it then. I also called "our" Comfort Inn and made reservations for Thursday and Friday night. We are planning to leave Floyd tomorrow.  Obviously all of these reservations are cancel-able if the RV is repaired, but at this point we are operating under the assumption that it will not be. Our plan is to pick up the minivan, return the car we have now, go to the Ford dealer and load the stuff in the RV into the minivan to take it all back home. If and when Mo is repaired, we will have to fly down to Charleston to pick it up and drive it back.

After all this planning and reserving, we decided that we should DO something! We had had a quiet day yesterday, napping, gardening, reading, etc. I helped Ed pull out his tomato plants--they had been struck down by a major tomato blight and we spent about an hour clearing them all out. Joey was reading, and I took a long afternoon nap. So the day slipped by and was relaxing. Today we thought we should get out of the house and do something memorable so that when we looked back next year on this year's anniversary, we'd have something to show for it.

So Eddie, Amelia, Roxy, Joe and I drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve. After driving up gravel and then a dirt road, one lane wide, up the side of the mountain, we parked the car and then hiked to the top of Buffalo Mountain. The website calls it "a steep, 1-mile hike." That is exactly what it was--QUITE steep in places. Our hike up was enlivened by our conversation (ranging from childhood memories to discussions of life after death) and by Joey's cell phone, which suddenly began pinging like crazy. We've had absolutely NO cell service since we arrived on Friday, but someplace on the side of the mountain, the phone picked up one bar, and all the backed up text messages started pouring in. I was so proud of him when he simply turned the entire telephone off so we didn't have to listen to electronic tones in such a lovely wooded setting.

The top was spectacular--a rocky summit with a 360-degree view of Virginia and North Carolina. We watched the turkey buzzards swooping around us as we looked out over the vistas at our feet. It was well worth the climb for all of us.

By the time we got down and back to the car, it was after 4pm. We continued driving south a little way on the Blue Ridge again until we came to Mabry's Mill, a small site which gives information about life in rural Appalachia. We sat for a bit and had a snack--we'd brought some of the leftover rice salad, baba ganouj, and a few other things with us from home. Then we wandered through the mill and chatted with the blacksmith about how iron "tires" were made and fitted onto wooden wagon wheels. And after that, we went into the small restaurant, where Amelia got a cup of coffee and I got some delicious, home-made ice cream.

We headed back to Floyd after that, but before going home, we drove into town to the natural foods store so I could buy some cereal and Ed could pick up some cheese (we've eaten a lot of cheese, at almost every meal, so it's a staple Eddie didn't want to be out of) before heading back home. Amelia went back to her own place to shower and rest a little, and the other 4 of us (including Roxy) pretty much crashed out from our exertions. But it really was a gorgeous day, and we all enjoyed the excursion.

That was about it for the day. Dinner was home-made burritos, a repeat from last night because we had all the makings left over. I did the dishes, and we chatted for an hour or so. Now it's after 11; Ed has already gone to sleep, and I am ready also. Tomorrow I guess we will be hitting the road... it is hard to believe we've been here for so long. Except judging by how our belongings seem to be scattered over the entire house, perhaps we've been here TOO long. It was wonderful spending time with Ed, but I'm sure he will be glad to get his life back.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Floyd: Kale, Tomatoes, and Music

Monday, August 27, 2012

It looks like we are going to be in Floyd for the majority of our vacation. The latest news this morning was that the front cover of the engine is cracked and they won't be finished repairing it until "at least Wednesday."

 After considering all the possibilities, we decided to just stay here and wait it out. We are comfortable--Eddie has kindly given up his own bed to us (he does have a spare bed but it's a single, so he took that one) and Roxy is comfortable too. Joey and Eddie have so little time together usually, that we decided that this is a real treat, even if it wasn't exactly what we'd planned in terms of a vacation. It just seems the best option of all that we can think of.

So we went out earlier today and got a book for Joe to read, and some groceries including more dog food and the ingredients for Joe's wild rice salad. For the latter, we went to the natural food store.  There is a lot of yummy food around here (Ed and most of his friends are natural foodies) and the garden is full of tomatoes, kale, basil, and eggplant. I love the look of the chard, the contrast of those fuschia-pink stalks against the dark green leaves is stunning.  Last night's dinner was eggplant parmesan, with homegrown eggplant and tomato sauce--fabulous!  So the two of them are now happily cooking and baking, which is good therapy for Joe.

Yesterday was very lazy--at least for me. We took a walk to a nearby cluster of homes of folks (people who Ed knows, of course--he knows everyone!) who had settled here about 30 years ago, going "back to the land" as it were. We met a few, who were very nice. Their homes were rustic and lovely, and their gardens were aweseome! After we came back home, I napped for a couple of hours in the afternoon while Ed and Joe went to swim in a friend's pond. More brother time (insert a smile here.)

Tonight we will be going to a potluck music night--everyone brings food and musical instruments and sings together. Besides making his rice salad, Joe is brushing up some of his favorite songs on his ukelele.  He always feels lots better when he is cooking, and as Ed says, "You can't be bummed out when you are playing a ukelele!"
 Meanwhile I should/could be doing some preparation for teaching my Tanach class--I have my books here, and I find them fascinating. But I am busy following Ed out to the yard to watch him add the latest kitchen waste to the compost, and then taking photos of flowers and bees... time seems to drift by. It's almost 6pm as I type this and I have no idea where the day went! It's almost time to get ready to go out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Lazy Saturday in Floyd

Saturday, August 25, 2012

We had a very relaxing and lazy day today, and it was lovely. We woke up to gray skies and it's actually been kind of cold! This is a small issue, since I did not take any jeans or warm pants for either Joe or myself when I packed clothes and left the RV. However, we made do, and I did a laundry today so we have clean clothes again. We hung out during the morning, reading and not doing much. Breakfast was yummy homemade bread and melted cheese on fresh tomatoes, and Ed threw another bread dough together to rise.

In the early afternoon one of Ed's acquaintances, as musician whose music he'd played for us last night, stopped by for a voice lesson. So Joe and I gave them some space, sitting outside in the back yard and enjoying the weather, which finally had warmed up. Roxy had a wonderful time out there. She chased one of Ed's kitties (not too fast, and the cat was the clear victor in the race) and she is fascinated by the three chickens! She keeps going around the fence, and every so often gets very excited and bounces around the edge, barking at them. Then she got the idea to try to lift the bottom of the fence, at which point we had to find a piece of firewood to hold it down. She is just too smart for her own (and the chickens' own) good!

At 3 the voice lesson ended, and after tasting the newly baked bread, we drove into town again for an errand. Then Joe, Eddie and Roxy settled down on a sidewalk bench to chat, while I visited the little shops full of fascinating and unnecessary items which are tempting, but I resisted. It seemed that Ed knew half the people strolling past, or running the shops. He and Joe shmoozed and chatted and I took their photo--two old codgers on a bench, watching the world go by!

After that, we drove back to Eddie's and waited for Amelia to join us. Then we all went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant with local foods and other tasty delights. We chatted with our waitress (another of Ed's friends), who is building a new house in the round, made with 20 panels measuring 8' wide by 9' high. She showed us the photos--it was very interesting. She was another transplantee from New Jersey, as was the guitarist (and also the guy we'd met this afternoon on the errand which brought us into town.) It seems there are a lot of folks down here from the Garden State.

After a great dinner, we came back home, and the guys played their instruments (Joey brought his ukelele with him, and Ed of course had his guitar) and we had a singalong, just like old times. And now, it's time for bed! We are having a great time, and relaxing, and not thinking much about Mo--at least, I'm not. We are enjoying our visit to Floyd.

Escape to Floyd, VA

Friday, August 24, 2012

We woke up this morning and just relaxed and hung out in the hotel room, although we packed up our stuff to leave at noon. When we called the Ford dealer, Tim told us it was “safe” for us to leave town, that Mo would not be done before Monday.  So we made our departure and hit the road for Floyd and Eddie’s home in the country.

Most of our trip was on the Interstate, and it seems that the road in WV from Charleston to the border with Virginia is the West Virginia Turnpike. And it cost more than the NJ Turnpike for the distance—craziness! We stopped at a rest stop for a picnic lunch, and again at the exit for Tamarack. This is a large facility showcasing West Virginia artists—sort of like a West Virginia version of Sugarloaf, my favorite craft show.

 Of course, we still had the Dog Problem. So Joey relaxed on a lawn under a shady tree with Roxy, while I went into the building. I found a few small things to buy, of course, but nothing too major (a copy of Arcadia Press’s “Jews of West Virginia” was the most unusual—I’ll donate it to the Historical Society when I’ve read it.)  But I did see a lot of beautiful things—especially the quilts, which were most gorgeous, and some funky metal sculptures which I really liked.

After that, we got serious about the drive, stopping only for a Virginia map when we crossed the state line. We drove through a torrential downpour just at the beginning of Virginia before the sky cleared up. It was 5pm before we got off I-81 and drove through the green countryside to Floyd.  It was hot and sunny when we got to Ed’s house, and we were quite happy to get here—it was a lot longer drive than the 3hrs 15 minutes that Google Maps told us! But we had a relaxing evening sitting in the back yard, meeting Ed's friend Amelia, and eating a yummy homemade pizza for dinner.  The onions and the tomatoes are, of course, from his garden.

After dinner we went into town to take in the Friday Night Floyd scene. Every Friday night, there is a kind of open bluegrass "happening", where people congregate, form small groups, and play bluegrass music. The place draws locals and tourists, who cruise up and down the street listing to the music and stopping by at the Floyd General Store for ice cream and indoor music. 

It is such a part of what makes Floyd a tourism destination that the town has built little niches along the sidewalk to accommodate the groups of musicians and their casual audiences, who wander from one group to the next. We stopped and heard some excellent music.... well as chatting with a lot of Eddie's friends and acquaintances--it seems that this is just the place to be and he saw a lot of folks he knew. We left there around 11pm or so--they were winding things up by then--and went back home. It was a late evening, but lots of fun. Happy as we were to be there, I think Roxy was the happiest—she got to run around in the yard, bark at the chickens, and forget about cars, leashes, and motel sounds for a little while.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Scenes from a Comfort Inn

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012

We have had a very nice day, due in no small part to our stay at the Comfort Inn in Cross Lanes, WV.  As I wrote this morning, we realized we would be here all day, so we settled in for the duration. After I posted my quick update, I went to the exercise room to use the treadmill--I was feeling itchy and just wanted to move a little bit rather than sit. I was so good--I walked for 30 minutes, and then I even used a couple of the other machines to give my arms some fun [grin]. After that, I came back to the room. When Joe said, "Sit down," I thought, "Uh oh!"

Sure enough, it was disappointing news. Joe had talked to Tim at the Ford place, and they are now telling us they will not be finished working on Mo until Monday. Needless to say, my heart sank... and Joe sure looked miserable about it. I quickly ran a few scenarios by him of how we might handle this setback, and he wanted to "think" about it for a bit (he was also deep into his book by then.) So, I left him to "think" and, I hoped, relax, and I went to the pool and had a delightful swim. As you can see from the photo, the pool at this motel is nicer even than many pools at much more "upscale" places. I felt like I was on a cruise; it was glassed in on 3 sides and had that wonderful indoor-pool smell and was so pretty (it even had a waterfall, and mosaics on the walls). I ignored the parking lot--you can't have everything, right?

Even though I mostly don't like swimming that much, this was just perfect, and helped me calm down and think about what would be the best thing to do. The biggest handicap we have in this situation is having Roxy with us. We can only stay in hotels which accept dogs, which greatly limits our options (the Comfort Inn chain is wonderful for this, but there is not always one right where we might be.)  Even more limiting is the fact that we can't leave her alone in the room, and we can't take her with us to any "attractions" we might go to, and we certainly can't leave her in the car in this hot weather. So unless we find attractions with a kennel (Disney World?) or kennel her in each city we go to for a day, or leave her here in a kennel until we come back for Mo, we really can't do much. Juggling kennels and hotels was just not realistic.

So we decided we are going to spend the weekend with Ed in Floyd, VA. But the motel is so nice, we decided to stay here for tonight anyway rather than leave this afternoon. It's relaxing and comfortable and we held a wan hope that at the end of today, Tim might say he was unduly pessimistic and we can have Mo tomorrow.

I shared this conclusion with Joe, who agreed he'd be happy staying here until tomorrow. But we did agree, we did NOT want to spend the day in our room. So we packed a few things and went to Arby's for lunch (we ate in the car with the AC on, with Roxy) and Walmart for a gallon of water.  Then we found a municipal park about 3 miles or so from our hotel. We found a wonderful, deeply shady spot where we set up our  chairs, the dog's dish, and tied the leash to the tree, and then we plopped down for almost 3 hours to read. The breeze blew, the shade was lovely, there were no insects to bother us, and it was just very sweet. I should have taken a better photo of Joe than the one at the top of this blog, but you can get the idea.

At about 5:30 we packed up and headed home, after discussing dinner. We decided to eat "at home" tonight (I mentioned we took all our refrigerated food, which we transferred to the refrigerator in our room, so we are quite well stocked!) We stopped again at Walmart and picked up some baked potatoes, steamable green beans, and salt and pepper (I didn't think of packing the spices from the RV.) And then we came back to the Comfort Inn. We nuked the potatoes and beans in the microwave in our room, and Joey set up the grill on the picnic table where he grilled two filet mignons (gifts from one of his patients, which we had brought with us.) And we had ourselves a filet mignon dinner sitting at our picnic table. It was perfect and delicious.

So that was our day. It is now almost 8:30pm. We plan to check out of here at noon tomorrow, and check in at that point with Tim one last time. Assuming he still tells us Monday, we will head to Eddie's house after lunch. If he thinks there's a chance he MIGHT be finished tomorrow night, we will spend another afternoon in a park someplace and check back at the end of the afternoon. We can always leave here later if there seems to be a hope of waiting. Floyd, VA is 3 hours 15 minutes from here. We planned to stop and visit Eddie on our way home, but seeing him this weekend will be fine--it behooves us to be flexible, and luckily he is okay with us descending on him at the last minute. And then we'll come back Monday morning, hopefully to retrieve a repaired Mo, and continue on our way.

Let's just hope!

Thursday morning update

Thursday Aug. 23 (had to check online for the date--I am so confused!)

A quick update for those anxious to know the latest: we heard from Tim, the Ford service manager, this morning. They are working on Mo, but not sure if it will be done today. Everything is so old that every time they try to take off a bolt, it breaks from the rust, and has to be drilled out. I am hoping for the best, and revised our itinerary based on the optimistic notion that we will get Mo back tomorrow and be able to continue on our trip.

At the moment, we are relaxing in our hotel room. Joe is reading a largish book, and I am going to go use the treadmill in the exercise room and then take a swim. Roxy, who is driving us nuts barking at every thud and every person who walks past our door, is mercifully napping in a sunny spot on the floor and the quiet is wonderful! I guess some folks do hole up in hotels on vacation.... not our usual style, but for now it beats the heck out of a car dealer's customer waiting room, or the side of the road! So we will survive.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

Wednesday, August 22 (continued)

We woke up this morning to truck noises and a dawning hot day. Joe walked to the service entrance a few minutes after 7, and explained to the Ford service manager why there was a tan motorhome in his lot which had not been there the night before. Before long, a couple of tech guys came out to peer into the engine. To our delight, the engine (now of course quite cold) turned over with a little encouragement. The guys watched the temperature rise rapidly, added coolant, and watched while the temp continued to rise and lots of liquid ran onto the ground.

They weren't too impressed with the sound of the engine itself, but to Joe and I, it sounded normal! Which was a huge joy considering it sounded miserable and sluggish and very unhappy  the night before. The diagnosis of the Ford techs was that the water pump had broken, which was consistent with the symptoms. Before 10am, they had ordered a new pump to be delivered late today or tomorrow. They can't do any more diagnostics without that, because the engine immediately overheats.  Of course we are dearly hoping that this is the only problem and it will soon be solved; but we are trying to be cautiously optimistic and not get our hopes too high.

This left us with some decisions. We considered going to see Joe's brother and wait out the repairs at his place, but he is 3 hours away and Joe didn't feel like driving there and back again. So we decided to decamp to a hotel, and I spent some time in the service lounge (free wifi) finding a dog-friendly hotel with an indoor pool and hot tub. Then the service manager called Enterprise, and we rented a car to get around. By then it was noon, so we had lunch in Mo, and then packed bags of clothing (for 2 days), electronics, books, dog gear, and anything else we thought we might want. We also transferred the contents of our refrigerator to our cooler, and packed a bag with paper plates, flatware, plastic bags, etc. 

Since the hotel check-in wasn't until 3, we decided to find a park first, just to get out of the Ford parking lot, which was a very demoralizing place to be sitting. So in addition to the above, we threw two folding chairs, a picnic blanket, and our grill into the trunk of the rental car. Our idea was that maybe tonight or tomorrow we'd have a picnic in the park for dinner.

We left Bert Wolfe Ford at about 2, and using our Magellan, we located a largish park--Cato Park-- not far from us. So we drove there first. It was very pretty--high high up on the hill (the streets getting there were like San Francisco and I said to Joe, this would NOT be fun if we were driving Mo--narrow and steep!). At the top where we parked, we were still not at the top per se--we climbed a steep hill to a large pine tree where we could overlook the playground and the hills beyond. Then we just plunked ourselves on the ground and lay there in the grass, finally enjoying some green again, and the sound of cicadas, instead of black asphalt and truck noises.  

We just lay there feeling ourselves relaxing a little, until around 3pm. And then we programmed in the hotel address and came through Charleston--down the mountain past huge elegant old homes (obviously the expensive and historic district!), over the Kanawha River, and back up the mountain on the other side.

We are now ensconced in a very nice room at a very nice hotel with two gorgeous pools and a hot tub, an exercise room, free breakfast, and is really altogether lovely. It even has an outdoor picnic area! We decided to book it for two nights, so that if it takes all day for them to deal with Mo tomorrow, we have a place to hang out and be comfortable while we wait.  Our only problem is trying to convince Roxy to stop barking every time she hears someone leave (the exit is right near our room) or walk past us in the corridors. If she behaves, we will hopefully be very comfortable here tomorrow, while we wait for whatever news is coming.

Greetings from Bert Wolfe Ford, Charleston WV

Wednesday, August 22 (I think)

Well.... we are not where we thought we'd be. But we could be in worse places, I suppose.

Yesterday started in a lovely way--Joe, Roxy and I hiked down to Blackwater Falls. It is a beautiful waterfall in a beautiful valley. Nothing but dark trees everywhere. We all loved the trek down 214 stairs, and back up again. As  I said.... lovely.

Then we took off on our drive south. Our destination was the New River Gorge Bridge and vicinity. It is an area which draws a lot of folks to the water sports (canoeing, white-water rafting, etc) and the views of and from the bridge, which is very high and elegant looking. By this time of day, when I realized it was a 3 hour drive, I thought we'd spend the night in a nearby state park or wildlife preserve, and then this morning we'd do something on the river--most likely take a jet-boat trip.
The first segment of the 3 hours took us over a windy mountain road which was fun for Joe to drive. We went through some picturesque small towns (there are quite a few old towns in these mountains) and passed the Kingsford Charcoal factory. Then we picked up a 4-lane divided highway, and stopped at a Visitor Center to have lunch and upload Monday's blog. 

Then we joined the interstate for what was to be about 30 miles. We stopped along the way to put air in one of our tires, which delayed us another 30+ minutes. And then we realized we'd passed our exit--we were about 24 miles past it, in fact. We were both so lost in our thoughts that we just never paid any attention.

Exit 34 was coming up (our intended exit was 59) and we were prepared to adjust our route, when suddenly we heard an unusual noise, smelled something burning, and then the engine temp gauge shot up to overheated. I yelled to Joe, "Turn off the engine!" and he did--we were already on the approach to the exit when it all happened. Joe said, "the engine just died" as we coasted down the ramp off the interstate and rolled--agonizingly slowly--along the access road, just making it off the road onto a short gravel shoulder before the momentum stopped.

The engine was steaming when Joe opened the hood, and there was radiator fluid all over everything. Joe couldn't find any leaks or burst hoses, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to know that something really bad had happened. We called Good Sam, our roadside assistance plan. It was about 5pm, I think... and 4 hours passed as the Good Sam lady looked for a campground to tow us to (unsuccessfully) and Joe spoke to their tech guy (thank God for cell phones). The tech guy was pessimistic as to the damage to the engine, and he and the lady working on our case decided to have us towed not locally--she was totally unable to find a campground anywhere nearby anyway--but down to Charleston, 34 miles further south. (As it turned out, therefore, it was very lucky we had passed our exit--we were that much closer to the only large city in the state!)  

A side note here: we were really in the middle of nowhere, in terms of population. The nearest towns were 6 miles away in either direction. There is a small parking lot right next to where we stopped, and there were a half-dozen cars in it when we arrived. It seemed like the locals used it as a park-and-ride to form carpools, or just to meet friends. As people came to pick up their cars, or drove past, at least 12 people stopped to see if they could help us.  One guy saw the engine overheating and came back (without asking) to give us some radiator coolant because "it looks like you might need this." And two different highway patrol people (not cops, but people who cruise up and down to see if anyone is in trouble) stopped to see if we were okay and find out if we needed anything, and to give us their number if we needed help. This is to compare with the time we were on the side of the road in Connecticut, actually ON the Interstate shoulder, for about 6 hours, and NOT ONE PERSON, civilian or cop, stopped to see if we needed help.

So at 10pm we ended up in the parking lot of Bert Wolfe's mega-car dealership--Ford, Toyota, Audi and Porsche. The tow truck dropped us at the far edge of the lot, outside the truck service area, and that is where we spent a very sad evening. We were pretty sure, given the fact that the engine refused to turn over and by the sound of it, that it was finally going to be beyond repair. We discussed what we would do if we had to leave Mo, how we'd get home, etc. We were both pretty heartbroken at the whole idea, but trying to deal with it. At about 11:30pm, finally we had nothing left to do but go to sleep and wait for morning. The service area opened at 7am, so we set our alarm for 6 so we would be up and dressed in time. I don't think either of us slept very well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Warm Springs and Other Things

Monday, Aug. 20, 2012

We got another late start today but no worries; we drove through some windy back roads for about an hour to Berkeley Springs, WV. Berkeley Springs is of course named for the warm (not hot) springs which bubble up there. George Washington came there to soak, and the place was originally known as Bath. We found a curbside parking spot off the main street and ate lunch, before going to look at the springs and the spa buildings in the State Park which sits on the site. 

The town is cute—a little artsy, and very reminiscent of a smaller version of Hot Springs, Arkansas, which we visited in 2007.  There are two old buildings which contain public bathing facilities. One (built around 1915, if I recall correctly) includes massage facilities and separate pools for men and women. The older one, which has been in continuous use since 1815, has Roman Baths. These are fully tiled rooms with steps down into the water; the description and photo sounds precisely like a mikvah! These rooms are private, but lead to a larger pool which is available to families. Finally, there is a large outdoor pool with changing and shower facilities. The indoor pools were all open, but the pool is now closed except on weekends because schools started today. 

In between the two buildings is a waterway which channels the runoff from the springs past “George Washington’s Bathtub” (two people were soaking their feet in it) and a couple of larger pools, plus the “Gentleman’s Bath” area adjacent to the 1815 building. Upstairs above the Roman Baths is a museum giving a history of the town and the “healing waters”.

Although I had originally planned for us to “take the waters” this morning, our late start and the overcast weather made us decide to skip it, especially since the outside pool was closed. (We did taste it though, since there was a water fountain right by the pools.)  Instead we spent some time in the museum. 

Just as we went outside, it began to rain. We decided to duck into the antique store across the street. The store turned out to be one of those multi-dealer places, with loads and loads of stuff, and we waited out the rainstorm in there. We even found a few things to buy (a couple of gifts, and a Tweety Bird glass for me!)

The rain had let up by the time we finished browsing, so we went back to Mo and headed south to Blackwater Falls State Park. The drive took us through a lot of small towns, and a lot of areas with no phone service. We drove over Saddle Mountain, which turned out to be the birthplace of Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother. At 2840 feet high, it was small by last year’s standards, but it was quite a windy road and Joe enjoyed driving it. (His favorite part of today, however, was when the GPS took us onto a road so small that it wasn’t on my maps, and which twisted and turned for about 20 minutes until we emerged back onto the main road.)

We arrived at Blackwater Falls at about 7pm, and are camped in a mostly empty campground. It is very pretty and we are looking forward to visiting the falls tomorrow before continuing on our way. When I will upload this blog, however, is a question mark, since there’s no wifi here, and I have no idea when we will encounter any. (Added: we found wifi at the Visitor Center in Elkins, WV, where we stopped for lunch on Tuesday.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Harpers Ferry, WV

Sunday, August 19, 2012
We have had a nice and slow first vacation day. We got 10 hours of sleep, which was much needed, and took our time in the morning. Joe got up on the hood of Mo and put Eternabond tape onto all the front seams on the cab overhead, hoping to keep the rain out in the future. I spent the same time cleaning up the inside of the RV and we were both very happy with the results of our labors.  Then, after going to the tourist info booth right outside the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to pick up brochures, we went into the park. 

By then it was lunch time, so we decided to eat. But just as we finished lunch, it started to rain—HARD! We were so happy that we had closed up a lot of the potential leak sites earlier in the day! The nice thing was, we hadn’t left Mo yet, so we just shrugged and relaxed…. Which turned into naps. The rain stopped around 2, and we left to explore.

We took a shuttle to the top of the nearby hill called Bolivar Heights. The Union troops surrendered to Stonewall Jackson there in 1862, but the hill subsequently changed hands 8 times during the Civil War. The view was nice, although a little foggy (and surprisingly cool) because of the recent rain storm. It had a view of the Potomac down near Harpers Ferry just below the place where the Shenandoah River joined it. The trestle bridge is the same one we drove across yesterday.
(photo of bridge from Bolivar)

After a nice chat with the ranger while we waited for the shuttle, we went down to the town, right at the point of confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. There are a lot of preserved buildings in the “old town”, with some new stores farther up the hill. We wandered through the streets, then crossed the footbridge over the Potomac (and thus walking back to the state of Maryland along a very small snippet of the Appalachian Trail, which crosses this bridge.) The rivers at that point are beautiful but this time of year, not very deep—we saw tubers and swimmers, the latter standing on rocks in the middle of the Potomac just below the point of confluence of the rivers.  We didn’t really envy them, though—it was quite cool today, and not really swimming weather in our opinions.
(Confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers--the Shenandoah can be seen joining the Potomac from the center right of the photo. The Potomac continues flowing to the left of the photo.)
 (View of the Potomac. We walked across the railroad bridge on the left to Maryland. The Appalachian Trail continues around the base of the mountain along the river and north, to Maine.)

 On the Maryland side, we walked along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath for a little bit. Then we walked back to West Virginia and, after spending a little more time in the town, took the shuttle back to Mo. We decided to do some grocery shopping before returning to the campground, so we travelled about 5 miles down the road toward the next town. We found a Walmart, where we stocked up on groceries and a couple of other items. In the parking lot was a big trailer with a black smoker on the back and a big BBQ sign. Being that we were in West Virginia, at a Walmart, it seemed like the next logical thing in that sequence was BBQ from a truck! So that was what we had for dinner. Joe says it was the best BBQ he’s had in years (I must confess, all BBQ beef sandwiches taste exactly the same to me—I guess I’m not a connoisseur of the stuff!) 

We moved campsites tonight, and although the Wifi is strong, we are not connecting with the Internet for some reason. So I'll have to upload this tomorrow. This is an interesting campground--there is a Civil War trench ("earthworks") a few feet behind Mo, and signs around the campground noting several battles and the site of artillery locations. I wonder how they know so much about exactly where these cannons were placed? It's a very pretty campground, but just a little too crowded--although tonight is much less hectic than last night was, far fewer kids and dogs and lots of empty sites now that it is Sunday.

Tomorrow we will continue our leisurely travels through West Virginia. First planned stop: Berkeley Springs State Park.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We're On Our Way!

I thought we might never get out this morning—even though Joe finished all his paperwork by about 10am, I was far behind him. I have no idea why everything took so long, but we didn’t leave town until 1:15pm, after struggling to put air in our tires, and filling the gas tank. But we finally DID get out, which is all that matters.

The ride to Harpers Ferry KOA, in West Virginia, was uneventful but long. It’s only about 230 miles from home, but for some reason it took us 6 hours to get here—we arrived just after 7pm.  The Pennsylvania vistas were gorgeous, however, and Maryland was very pretty too (we left the interstate at Harrisburg and the road was lovely.)  KOA stands, in this case, for Keep On Adding more leveling blocks—our site in the woods is quite uneven and we used every one of our 30 Lynx blocks before Mo was on an even keel.

Joe and I are both exhausted, after getting less than 5 hours sleep last night (I was up until 2 doing paperwork and he was at the office until almost 3) and driving. We are happy to be away, and will probably get a slow start in the morning because we would like to do some housekeeping. Having Mo at the mechanic for so long until just before we left meant I had no time to come in here and clean. On the other hand, the engine ran so smoothly, and we think our gas mileage improved.

I am thinking maybe we will look for some place to access either the Potomac or Shenandoah River tomorrow—we crossed them both to get here, and they are just gorgeous in this spot where they converge. We saw some folks coming up from the river in bathing suits after what was obviously a day on the water, and that looked so nice! Also, the long bridge which crosses the Potomac has a sidewalk, and there is a pullout right nearby. It was so beautiful coming over, and I’d love to walk it before we leave this area.

I have just been told I have 5 minutes until dinner—steak, salad, and pasta. YUM!!   So I will post this and start relaxing!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Night Before We Leave

Aug. 17, 2012

It has been a busy day for both Joe and me. Mo came home yesterday and we are now trying to dry out the cab overhead while packing clothes into the closets in the back. The mechanic is very happy with the state of our vehicle, and I am afraid that it would keep running forever but the house will fall off from deterioration and sheer age. Nevertheless, we are looking forward to spending the next two weeks living in our little vacation home on wheels.

Our newest addition is a new "traveling laptop". Our rugged laptop which has accompanied us on so many miles has finally died, and the new one arrived just 3 days ago. So along with the usual "leaving home" stuff, I am loading software (or trying to) into the new computer, and getting used to the keyboard. This blog is going up from "Len", the new Lenovo. It is a bit disconcerting to have NO "favorites" bookmarked, NO programs installed, etc. I sure hope I can make friends with this machine quickly.  Also, Blogger has changed their dashboard and it all looks a little bit different. I hope that they are correct that it is more user friendly!

And so the evening winds down.... packing, paying bills, washing dishes, finishing paperwork, and all the other things we do before departure. Hoping to leave by 10am, and heading for Harpers Ferry, WV for the weekend. I sure hope I can get my itinerary notes into here, or we'll be flying blind. But I guess that will just be part of the adventure.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vacation is coming!

Aug. 15, 2012

Well, we are looking to leave on our next adventure this Saturday, but as usual with the Deb-Joe-Roxy-Mo Team, all is not smooth sailing. Mo has been at the mechanic for a week, getting checked over. And there have been some fix-ups which have held back progress. Supposedly we will get Mo back tomorrow (Wednesday), which gives me, what? Two days to clean and pack?  Joe was doing lots of small repairs all winter, so I am guessing that there are a lot of small pieces of plastic and wire to be picked up before I can feel comfortable in there.

Plus there's the leaking issue--Joe started sealing up Mo's seams with Eternabond tape, but he hasn't had time to finish. Nothing like doing it all at the last minute, right?

Speaking of which, it is after midnight and I ought to be asleep. But I can't help being happy that I decided to post this brief blog--because I'd totally forgotten HOW to put up a blog. Plus Blogger has changed everything around, which means it all looks new. Maybe I'll have two minutes to play with this some more before the weekend.

Meanwhile, trip plans are more or less in place--we will be heading to West Virginia and Kentucky this time. I already have reservations for Saturday and Sunday nights in Harpers Ferry, WV. So.... let's just hope we really get out of here by then!