Maiden Voyage (II)
When I travel for more than a few days I prepare a spreadsheet with a daily itinerary of where we will go, what we can do on a side trip, and where we will sleep. Not for this trip.
This was initially the most stressful, anxiety producing trip I’ve ever taken.
I tried to at least have a buffer of the first couple night’s parking planned by contacting some churches to see if we could stay in their parking lots. Both were very receptive to the idea but I was blown away by the hospitality when a complete stranger called from one of the churches and offered their DRIVEWAY with electricity and water connections! That set the tone for the trip of things falling into place and God providing what we needed when we needed it.
The two of us and our dog Annie set off for adventure on a Wednesday morning. We checked off the remainder of the northern NC Blue Ridge Parkway from our bucket list and then Shenandoah National Park the next day.
That night was spent in a church lot in Front Royal VA where we experienced our first ‘scare’ when a car pulled up beside us at 2AM and slammed a few doors, sat there a while, and then drove away. That caused us to discuss exit strategy for the future.
The next night was going to be cold so we looked for a campground that we could plug into power and run a space heater which would have otherwise drained our battery in a couple hours. Success and a comfortable night plus a beautiful drive through the Poconos. Our next target was Boston to see a friend. This entailed crossing our first toll bridge over the Hudson River in NY. Gulp. Six bucks to cross the bridge because of our height. I’m glad I told Jenni to look up as we crossed the river so we got our money’s worth.
The big concern going to Boston was where to park. The van is too tall for parking garages so that left us with street parking as our only option. Fifteen minutes from our destination our friend texted to say there were no spots available in front of his house but luckily we missed that text! As we turned on his street we saw not only one but TWO consecutive spots making it easy to glide our 20ft next to the curb. Whew—didn’t go anywhere in the van while we stayed there!
From Boston we truly made our path as we traveled. We saw Plymouth Rock, cranberries being harvested, checked Rhode Island off our bucket list, and spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot (another bucket list item) in Connecticut. From there it was a drive AROUND New York City to get to a friend in New Jersey. While in NJ we detoured to Princeton University where, having our lunch in a parking lot, a maintenance worker drove up beside us and gave us a grin. He pointed at the van and said “I’m going to do THAT when I retire!”. Through conversation we realized he had done more homework than we did AND HE DIDN'T OWN A VAN! We gave him a tour and then wiped down after he left.
I thought sleeping in my friend’s residential driveway would be very peaceful that night. And it was, until 5AM when it sounded like a raccoon family was on top of the van. They would quiet down for a few seconds if I turned on the roof fan but never completely. At first light I discovered that one of the young ones had fallen into a trashcan at our front bumper and was nestled in the coffee grounds and candy corn bags. One look at the cute face and I forgave him. My friend named him Steve and he is now a voting resident of New Jersey.
From NJ we checked Delaware off our list and headed to Amish country in Pennsylvania. It was at that time we discovered a headlight was out and we adjusted our itinerary to travel only in daylight so we headed towards somewhere in Maryland but changed our minds several times.
We consulted a couple apps that suggested plenty of space in a casino parking lot. Yes, a very large parking lot but as we drove the entire perimeter it was all fenced off except for about 50 spots. Jenni says it felt a little “hinky” as did the Starbucks lot down the road. We kept driving. We finally ended up at a Cracker Barrel in West Virginia. (New Pro Tip: Don’t choose sleeping spots close to the Interstate.)
The next day we worked our way down to the VA/NC border and a KOA Campground. Wow, was that a treat to have hot showers and bathrooms plus get a full charge on our battery. On the last day we stopped at IKEA for some storage ideas in the van and then made our way home.
2,393 miles later.
And now we have another list of things that MUST be fixed before another trip.