We have broken away from Maryland and are making a beeline to warm weather. Today we are in Ashland, Virginia. We will be here only one night. Tomorrow, North Carolina, then South Carolina, and Florida.
When we hit Florida, we will turn right and travel the panhandle to Louisiana, where we will remain the rest of the winter.
Because we are staying only one or two nights at each campground, and we have been to these places before, we will not be doing any sightseeing.
In April, we will decide our next move. I want to cross Death Valley. Barbara wants to go back to Branson, Missouri. We still haven’t traveled the West Coast, up the Pacific Highway from California to Oregon.
In the past, when we have taken a vote which ended in a tie, I lost.
Bar Harbor, Maryland to Ashland, Virginia: 182.3 miles
Today is the 1,000th day of our travels in the Sphinx.
We will be returning to our house in Maryland tomorrow to celebrate our great granddaughter’s 1st birthday.
We have pulled the Sphinx: 38,242.8 miles
We have travelled another 40,000 miles sightseeing in the truck.
The daily cost of our adventure is $99.14. That includes campground fees, diesel, food, propane, restaurants, attraction fees, mobile phones and internet. It does not include all the trinkets and souvenirs Barbara buys.
This is my 561st blog post of our adventures
Technical Stuff: Llama Farm, Tennessee to New Market, Va: 307.7 miles
Dinwiddie County, Virginia, was formed May 1, 1752. The county is named for Robert Dinwiddie, born on October 2, 1692 in Glasgow, Scotland. He was a British colonial administrator who served as lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia from 1751 to 1758. Dinwiddie County has more Civil War battlefields than any other county in Virginia. We are spending the night here. No sightseeing, just getting ready to return to Maryland tomorrow.
Tidbit of Information: In 1753, Dinwiddie sent a 21 year old George Washington to remove the French from the Ohio Valley. Washington was defeated. This guy would probably not amount to much.
Rock Hill, South Carolina to Dinwiddie, Virginia: 302.2 miles
In 1292, that is 200 years before Columbus discover the Americas, Adam de Prestwich built himself a manor house in Lancashire, England. Around 1376 the manor house was named Agecroft Hall (a combination of words standing for “wild celery” & “a fenced in area”. The significance of this name has been lost for over 600 years). The house went though many families, by marriage and inheritance. By 1925 it was in such disrepair, it was scheduled to be torn down.
Thomas C. Williams, Jr., a wealthy entrepreneur, who owned property on the James River, on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, wished to build a true English manor house on his 23-acre estate. He purchased the Manson in 1925. The manor house was dismantled, piece by piece, crated, transported across the Atlantic, and reconstructed on the Williams’ family farm site. The intention was not to replicate Agecroft as it had stood in Lancashire, but rather to create a functional and comfortable mansion reminiscent of its English predecessor. The floor plan was changed, and all the modern conveniences of the day were added.
The project was completed during the spring of 1928, after 2 years of re-construction. The following year Thomas Williams died. Agecroft Hall is now a museum, which we visited.
In addition to the house, which we have now seen quite a few, they had extensive gardens.
Because of the recent rains, the James River is just under cresting.
Left Maryland, going straight down the coast to Florida to find warm weather. We would have left a week ago, but the weather in Virginia, our first stop, was colder than here in Maryland.
Another delaying factor was we had to wait for a part for the Sphinx.
Our return to Maryland was mainly to celebrate my father’s 97th birthday. He was born the same day as Jesus Christ. While we were here, we made all of our doctor appointments: dentist, eye, family doctor for our annual physical, etc. We also took the Sphinx in for it’s annual maintenance. One of our slide skids needed replacement. Of course the maintenance shop did not have the part in stock, so they had to order it from the Cedar Creek factory in Indiana. We had to wait an extra week for the part to arrive. Can you believe some people don’t work Christmas week or New Year’s? Naturally, they sent the wrong part. It will now have to chase us around the Country.
Remember in high school you learned that metal will expand and contract in extreme cold and heat. We had that fact brought home to us. We went out one morning to do some shopping. When we returned, our microwave and bedroom clock had been blown. It was a beautiful, but cold day. It took me just over two weeks to determine the cause. This, after talking to electricians and numerous people on RV forums to which I belong.
Evidently, the 50 amp electrical plug that connects to the Sphinx is supposed to be twisted slightly to the right to “lock” it in. A fact not told me 2 years ago when the dealer was suppose to show me everything I need to know about my first 5th wheel. I normally just plug it in like a regular plug.
Because it was not locked in, the cold caused the metal prongs to contract slightly causing a momentary disconnection of the ground, which cause an electrical spike which fried my appliances. We learn something new everyday.
Fallston, Maryland to Ashland, Virginia: 191.1 miles
One of the great things about riding around the Country in the Sphinx, is that you can avoid the cold weather, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires.
Unfortunately, sometimes those items catch up with you. This morning we are staying at Americamps RV Resort in Virginia, on our way back to Maryland, and it snowed. It looks great in the morning trees.
However, we are under a 50ft. pine tree, and as the sun hits the snow on the tree, it comes crashing down on us. Sounds like we are under bombardment. Fortunately it is soft snow, and no damage done.
On our way home, again. We are staying at the same RV Park in Ashland, Virginia, that we stayed at twice before. It serves waffle breakfast included each day, and dinner on Thursday night. Tonight, being Thursday, was tacos.
We will stay here, in the Richmond, Virginia, area for 6 days. Since it is expected to be sleeting and snowing for the next few days, we might just spend time relaxing in the Sphinx.
Fort Mill, South Carolina to Ashland, Virginia: 333.6 miles
James Henry Dooley, the son of wealthy Irish immigrants, was born January 17, 1841. On May 5, 1862, during the Civil War, he was wounded at the Battle of Williamsburg, captured and confined in prison for a short time. Upon his release he worked in the Confederate Ordnance Department in Richmond.
After the War, Dooley further increased his fortune by speculating in real estate and becoming involved in railroads, steel and banking.
To show off his wealth, in 1893 he and his wife Sallie built their elaborate Gilded Age estate on a site high above the James River in Richmond, Virginia, and called it Maymont. This 100-acre Victorian estate contains not only the mansion, but gardens, water falls, animals, and furniture from all over the world.
From gilded wall paperTo opulent furniture
Even their archways had stained glass
And of course, a comfortable bed
Throughout my travels, I have seen hundreds of lily pads, but no frogs on them. I am wondering if this is a myth.
So, where was Robert E. Lee’s last major battle before he surrendered at Appomattox Court House? I thought it was Richmond, Virginia (based on the phrase “like Grant took Richmond”), but I was mistaken.
Grant began his march from Washington, DC with the intention to take the Capital of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. He fought many battles on the way, in which Lee continued to outflank him (as stated in previous posts). Because of no decisive victories, and suffering some defeats, Grant decides to attack Petersburg, Virginia, as that is the hub of the Confederacy’s supply and transportation lines. The thought was cut off Lee’s supplies, and Richmond falls. It was not as easy as he thought. The siege of Petersburg took him 9 months.
Finally on April 2, 1865, Grant breaks through the confederate line at what is now called the Breakthrough Battlefield. We hiked this battlefield today, about 2 miles. Once Grant broke through, he was able to cut off all the supplies to Lee. Lee telegraphed Jefferson Davis in Richmond and told him to evacuate. Lee himself retreated, hoping to make it to North Carolina to meet up with General Joseph E. Johnson (see Day 249).
After the breakthrough, Grant pushed on after Lee, finally trapping him at Appomattox seven days later, where Lee surrendered.
When a portion of Grant’s army entered Richmond, there was no troops or government there.
Visited the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier (Pamplin Historical Park). This museum was not about any particular battle, or about the Union Soldier v. the Southern Soldier. It was about how the soldiers who fought in the ranks prepared, lived, and survived, or not. When you enter, you chose a soldier to follow through the museum. He narrates his particular life (as interpreted through diaries and letters he wrote home).
The museum also covered the black soldier’s plight, and some of the citizens in the towns used as battlefields. It was certainly a different perspective than the other museums we have been.
Fayetteville, North Carolina to Ashland, Virginia: 236.4 miles
Finally, we are back on the road. I was hoping to leave right after the first of the year. Actually, I didn’t want to come home at all, after all, we do have Skype and FaceTime. But Barbara wanted to see her family.
It was nice that a lot you came over for a tour of The Sphinx.
The delay of leaving was mostly Barbara meeting with friends and relatives. Now we are back on the road, trying to escape the cold weather. Our first stop, Ashland Virginia is about 20 degrees warmer than Fallston. We will stay here a few days until the rain stops, then further South until we get to warm weather. I am exhausted from all the holiday parties and visiting with friends and relatives, so I am taking these few days to just to lay around and do nothing.
We did map out our proposed itinerary. This is a general outline as we do not hesitate to change our plans if something cool shows up. Our general destination is New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We will be stopping to see some of Barbara’s relatives on the way. From New Orleans to Florida where we will meet our son and granddaughters at Disney World. Then to St. Augustine, as Barbara has never been there. From there we will meander toward home for a Wedding in May. Then off again toward Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we have campground reservation for the Hot Air Balloon Festival. We just made arrangements to join 20 other RVers in Montana in May 2018 where we will caravan for 3 months to Alaska and the arctic circle. Other than that, we will probably just lay around and do nothing. After all, we are retired.
Some of you did not understand my numbering system. The day listed at the top of each post is the day number we traveled from February 20, 2016, our first day on the road for our 5 year journey. It does not include the days we spend in our driveway when we come home, although we still live in The Sphinx. So our last day on the road in December was 244. Although we spend a month home, today, back on the road is day 245. It’s actually the Flux Capacitor.
This area was first settled in 1732 by John Lewis and his family. The town that ultimately grew up in 1747 was named in honor of Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife to Royal Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Gooch.
The town is most noted as being the birthplace of Tommy Wilson on December 28, 1856. He did not start using his middle name, Woodrow, until college.
We visited his home and museum.
His favorite car, a pierce-arrow, was on display in the garage.
His house was actually a parsonage, as his father was a Presbyterian minister, as was his grandfather and nephew.
Woodrow became a lawyer, but found it distasteful. He then went to John’s Hopkins University in Baltimore and received a Ph.D. in History so he could become a teacher.
His run for President was unique in that it was a 3 way race: The Republican Taft, the Democratic Wilson, and Teddy Roosevelt trying to make a comeback by forming the Progressive “Bull Moose” party. The 1912 Democratic Convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland. You remember that, don’t you?
After the World War, Wilson traveled the country garnering support for his League of Nations, which had fallen in the House, and was up for a vote in the Senate. During that trip he had a stroke from which he never fully recovered. His second wife, whom he married while President, Edith Wilson, began to screen all matters of state and decided which were important enough to bring to the bedridden president. In doing so, she de facto ran the executive branch of the government for the remainder of the president’s second term. She, therefore, was really the first female President of the United States. Supposedly, Edith was a descendant of the Indian Princess Pocahontas.
An interesting part of the museum was a recreation of a World War I trench.
And you thought someone else came up with the phrase.
Andrew Campbell discovered this cave on August 13, 1878. Showing caves to the public was becoming popular and profitable, so he set out to look for one. Unfortunately, it did not work out for him as he was trespassing on the land owned by Sam Buracker.
Traveling to within striking distance from home, we are in Staunton, Virginia. It is pouring down rain, and is expected to last most of the week, also calling for snow showers. We are 219 miles from home. We were going to stay here a few days then move one more time before arriving home on the 13th of December. But with the weather, we might stay here a week and just go home.
Our campground was a plantation in the 17 & 1800’s. It has hundreds of sites, but only 5 RV’s are here, as it is now out of season. The temperatures are in the 30’s. When the rain stops, it is predicted to go into the 20’s this week with highs in the 40’s during the day. We have been requested to disconnect our water in the evening so the exposed hose does not freeze.
Although we have the fireplace and a space heater in the Sphinx, we still must turn on our propane heat if the temperature goes below freezing so it heats our water pipes under the RV to prevent them from freezing.
No pictures, it is pouring down rain.
Wytheville, Virginia to Staunton, Virginia 141.5 miles
We decided to take 81 North to Virginia rather than 40 South to North Carolina because we did not want to go through the fire area. Although all the fires are now out, there is still damage and cleanup, plus damage from the tornadoes.
Wytheville, Virginia is located in the western part of Virginia, just over the Tennessee line. North Carolina is just below us, with West Virginia just above. The city’s motto is “There’s Only One”, as no other town in the United States has the same name.
Wytheville (pronounced WITH-ville) was founded in 1792 as Evansham on 100 acres of land. That name was to honor prominent local citizen Jesse Evans. However, the town burned down in 1839 and was renamed for the first signer of the Declaration of Independence for Virginia – George Wythe.
Wytheville has the world’s larges pencil:
We attended Wytheville’s annual Christmas Parade.
We had a Skeeter’s famous hot dog, a baby coke, and watched the parade in front of that building, where Edith Bolling Wilson was born, wife of Widrow Wilson.
After the parade, we ate dinner in a house built in 1776.
Kodax, Tennessee to Wytheville, Virginia: 171.2 miles
It is pouring down rain, and our moat is filling nicely. Pocahontas State Park, Virginia, where we are staying for 3 days, consists of 8,000 acres and dozens of hiking trails. Since we cannot hike today, we decided to go to the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum which is on the park grounds (since the CCC built the park). Then we would go to Pamplin Historic Park, which consists of various museums. If the weather should clear by then, we would go to the Blandford Church and Cemetery, which has the second oldest grave yard (I believe the oldest grave yard in the Country is in Salem, Massachusetts, which we had visited on a previous trip.)
The CCC Museum is a one room building containing the history of the Corp and facts on the building of this and other parks. We were fortunate, that because of the weather no one else was visiting. The curator was a vastly knowledgeable gentleman who captivated us for quite some time.
The Pamplin Park and Church will have to wait till another day.
Because of the tremendous thunder storms, we spent the rest of our time in the park resting in the Sphinx.
We are now meandering our way back to Maryland for our Granddaughter’s graduation from college.
We decide to spend a few days at Pocahontas State Park in Virginia. Because their season is Memorial Day to Labor Day, there were over a dozen spots for the Sphinx. We walked around looking at the various available spots. We found one perfectly level, in a treed secluded area. Perfect. No sooner had we set ourselves up, when a thunderstorm hit the area. After it was over, we looked out and found we were surrounded by a moat.
Because the spot was so level, the water did not drain. No problem, we used our leveling blocks to build a boardwalk.
Later, we walked around the park and saw we were the only ones underwater. Boy, can we pick em?
It was a beautiful day, raining and foggy, plus winds from yesterday’s tornado remaining at 20 mph gusting to 40 mph. Your perspective changes when you are retired with nothing to do but travel around the Country. Because of the high wind gusts, we decided to spend another day in Williamsburg.
We spent the day laying around, enjoying our new 5th Wheel. We did manage to spend some time organizing the things we brought with us. Making a list of items to return to Maryland and items we need to add. Like any new venture you say “Why didn’t I think to bring that” or “Why did we bring all these extra things?”
I see that the rain has stopped. Would you like a tour of the outside of our RV?
We carry two 30 pound (8 gallons) propane tanks that provide our heat, hot water, and cooking flame. We have 100 cu. ft. of basement storage space, plus a small storage area by our 5.5 KW generator:
It has hydraulic jacks and a self leveling system.Our water is either supplied by the campground, or we can draw on our 40 gallon fresh water tank.
We are powered by 50 amp campground electricity, to which we added a surge protector
When we are not hooked up to electricity, we have 4 six volt batteries. Each two sets are wired in series, to give us 12 volts, then each series is wired in parallel, which gives us the equivalent of two twelve volt batteries. Of course, we also have the above generator.
We have a 20 cu. ft. refrigerator. When we are using battery power, we have a 1000 watt inverter that converts 12 volts to 110 to run the fridge.
What’s new in Newport News? It’s the Mariner’s Museum.
One of there main exhibits is the USS Monitor Center (of the Battle of the Merrimack and Monitor fame). At the battle of Hampton Roads, where the battle of the ironclads took place, neither ship won. However, the Monitor, a captured Northern ship renamed Virginia at the time of the battle, sank a couple of months later in a storm. I learn something new every day. (But I remember in my Northern elementary school class being told the Merrimack won, but here in the South they say it was a draw.)
The museum encompass an impressive array of items from early navigation of the Greeks and Italians (but nothing on the Vikings) to the present.
While we were there, the tornado came through that killed 3 people about 4 miles from us. During the storm, we were locked into the museum. What a bunch of wimps.
Right now, at 2 AM, the wind is blowing at 22 MPH. The RV is a rocking. We intend to leave for North Carolina in the morning. Are you in suspense? Tune in tomorrow to see what happens.
The Yorktown Victory Center is being built by the same Foundation that did Jamestown Settlement we visited yesterday. While it is only partially completed, what they have done so far is unbelievable.
Obviously when Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington to end the Revolutionary War there was no photography. However, when photography was developed, a project was done to photograph those few still surviving that took part in the War. Along with their picture was a short narrative by those people of what part they played. One person was at Lexington when the first shot of the War was fired, while another was a soldier that was at the surrender at Yorktown. As we progressed through the museum and battleground it gave you a different perspective of the War.
Another part of the Center were two military gentlemen (retired, and volunteers at the Center) who described the reason, from a military standpoint, the start of the Revolution, the strategies of the major battles, why somethings worked and others didn’t. They explained why Washington was losing battles at the beginning of the War and how he, and his advisers, adapted and obviously won the War. They then answered all our questions. Fortunately for us, we were the only two to attend (it is off season). It was fascinating, even for me, a student of the Revolution (after all, that is when American law began, and I used it often in teaching my Criminal Justice courses).
Another part of the exhibit were two women, dressed in the manner of the time, displaying the various uniforms and clothing worn not only by the soldiers, but also slaves, servants, farmers, moderate people, and wealthy people. You could touch and try on the clothing. A very educational and enjoyable experience.
Then, as in Jamestown, there was the live exhibit, in this case the encampment which depicted not only the soldiers life, but those that followed the Army, as well as those living in Yorktown at the time of the battle.
Barbara loves men in uniform
We then drove through the battleground. A nice place to put up condos.
It is only appropriate that our first stop on our journey is the place where the English first settled in North America, the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. There are two areas of Historic Jamestown: Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestown. The first is the result of cooperation between the State of Virginia and a private foundation. The result is an impressive museum and walking tours of the area, including archaeological digs. The second area is part of the Colonial National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service. Since the history of Jamestown is the same, they overlap. However, the National Park was not as impressive because of the overwhelming information and knowledge presented by the Jamestown Settlement in their magnificent museum, live demonstrations, and presentations.
The American Heritage RV Park in Virginia, where we stayed for our first night on our 5 year journey, is rated 10/10/10 by Good Sam Club, an organization devoted to RVers. It stands for a perfect score in their three rated areas: facilities, restrooms and showers, and visual appearance.
Although the campground is neat and clean and has numerous facilities, mostly geared for children, the campsites are small and packed together. Our site, # 39, is a pull through site, which means we can access the site by not having to back our rig into the site but going forward to enter the site and continue forward to exit the site. It has “full hookups”, meaning it has electricity, water, and sewer.
Being the first time, it wasn’t pull through for me, as I had to jockey this mammoth around to get all six landing legs on the cement surface and the hook up inlets to my rig parallel to the facilities outlets. It took about 6 tries, including starting over by going around the block to get a fresh start. Being the first time, we realized our signals to each other for movement directions, Barbara on the outside guiding me with a walkie-talkie, needs vast improvement. Fortunately for us, it was getting dark when we arrived, and the other, more experienced RVers, did not pull up their lawn chairs to be entertained by the newbies attempting to park their 40′ RV for the first time. To warn people on the highway of our status, I had a bumper sticker made saying “Rookie Driver”
Although our first night was cool, it beat the snow and freezing temperatures we just came from, plus we had the comfort of our own fireplace.
236 miles from our driveway to American Heritage RV Park
6 hours and 10 minutes drive time because of 2 hour delays on the Washington Beltway (try driving a 21 foot Dodge RAM pulling a 40 foot RV on 495, that’s an experience).
11.2 miles per gallon (without the trailer, I was getting 16 miles per gallon).