April 13th until April 24th 2018, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
After a great afternoon in the sun it cools down at 5 pm. Yet we can sit outside with Rae and Lavida from Virginia and socialize, before we have some dinner. Saturday April 14thpromises to be a hot day because when we leave the state park, the sun shines and the wind is considerably less, there are only a few clouds. Over narrow roads we drive to Fredericksburg, VA, where during the civil war, a bloody battle took place and many soldiers died. We look around at the Battlefield and see an impressive movie before we drive to the North East.
We follow the Potomac River to the birthplace of George Washington, the first U.S. president, not far from Montross, VA and arrive just in time for the Ranger talk. The birth house no longer exists because long ago a fire destroyed it but close by is a Victorian house with some similarities. We hear a lot about the youth and the life of George Washington and of course admire the obelisk, 1/10th of the size of the Washington DC obelisk. This place is a little disappointing although the Potomac River flowing along the estate is quite impressive. The river looks more like a sea. The border with the State of Maryland does not run through the middle of the River (as is often the case) but on the high water mark. When Virginia was drained and alcohol was strictly forbidden, jetties were built in the river so people could still drink and gambling. After the entire river was not Virginia territory.
Westmoreland State Park is nearby. Although we are late and it’s Saturday, we find a spot at half past 3. Without water and electricity but we don’t need that. The place is spacious and has an unobstructed view. Once we parked the RV and paid, we walk through the park. One of the trails leads to Fossil Beach and it’s tempting. We are not the only ones, it seems everyone walks this trail. After a lot of climbing and descending, we arrive at a beach. Whole families search for fossils at the water’s edge. Or they find some? We do not know, because after taken some pictures and looking at the steep cliffs that plunge into the river, we walk back to the campground. It’s more climbing than hiking because from the beach along the Potomac we need to climb the cliffs, about 175 feet up. But the walk is fun and varied and we can stretch our legs. The temperature is also good because despite the fact that its 6 pm when we are back, the thermometer indicates still 77 degrees so we enjoy sitting outside in the sunshine and watch the sunset. At night bright stars light the sky and it is warm, the temperature is not below the 68 degrees.
Sunday morning it’s still nice weather but the Sun is not shining and there are significantly more clouds. Our camping spot is great and the weather is still good so we decide to stay another day. There is place because the holidays are over and the campground slowly empties. As the weather forecasts aren’t good we start hiking immediately after breakfast. Over high cliffs, we want to descent to another beach along the Potomac. Obviously we miss the trail because we come to a dead end between many bushes on the edge of the cliff. We don’t like walking back and search for a way down. Not really easy because the cliffs are steep and there are many bushes. Fortunately, there was no rain so the ground is dry and we don’t have to slide through the mud. Finally, with some scratches, we are down and enjoy the view on a pier over the Potomac River.
It’s really quiet, only a sound of a screeching young Osprey in a nest nearby. In the summer it will be busy here but now, on Sunday morning, when everyone is on its way home, we have the banks of the River to ourselves. In Cliff Cussler’s books the Potomac River is often named and I could not imagine how it looked but now, when we see this huge sea of water flowing by, those books come to life. We slowly climb the cliff back partly on a trail, partly direct up the slope because a cache is hidden. We search everywhere, but don’t find it. When we are back at 1 pm and I sit outside with my laptop to Skype auntie Ank, it starts to rain. It was forecasted that the weather would change but we didn’t expected the temperature suddenly drops from 78 degrees till 58 degrees. Dick discovers a washer and dryer on the campground so after skyping I spent the rest of the afternoon there.
It’s less pleasant outside with wind and rain. We are happy we walked most of the trails yesterday and this morning. Late in the evening it’s very bad outside. Lightning flashes and thunderclaps follow each other at a rapid pace and make so much noise that we don’t hear the warning for tornados on our phone. Early morning the intensity of the storm slows down and when we have breakfast on Monday morning April 16th the sun is shining. After paying for our second night we drive away, yesterday we couldn’t pay because there was no wifi and therefore no computer system from parks America. Soon the blue sky and the sun disappear and clouds cover the sky. The rivers we cross are running wild and dark brown in color.
We drive to the West over narrow country lanes with old trees and stone walls and see in the distance the Appalachian Mountains. In Winchester, Virginia we stop at Camping World because we want to buy covers for our wheels and a step. It is one of the Camping Worlds where you may stay overnight and dump but the place is not really attractive and its freezing cold so we prefer staying at Walmart and drive there. There is a Five Guys close by and we have a delicious burger and after that I can shop at Walmart. Fortunately, the rain stops and the sun shine even amidst the many clouds but the temperature stays around 49 degrees. An icy wind blows on Tuesday, it’s not warmer than 41 degrees, but it’s dry.
Soon we drive into West Virginia and at 10 am we arrive at Harpers Ferry National Park, more to say a parking lot with few cars.
I have no idea what we can expect here but considering the huge car park there must be something special to see. The Ranger in the Visitor Center agrees with this conclusion and directs us to a shuttlebus which brings you to town. The bus leaves almost immediately after we get in and together with another passenger, we go on the road. The tour is only 1.5 mile and then we arrive in Harpers Ferry. A small town between the Shenandoah and Potomac River which search a way through the Blue Mountains. George Washington quickly saw the strategic value of this place and built a weapons factory early 1800. The presence of weapons made that John Brown selected this place to fight against slavery. Although he was quickly overpowered and executed, the attention was drawn again to the point of slavery and lead to the American civil war.
Unfortunately Harpers Ferry was situated between two raging rivers that flooded regular so after again a huge flooding with a lot of damage, the town eventually was abandoned. Now the houses are restored and we can walk around and enjoy the old times.
It is fun and educational to walk around. Though it’s extremely cold, there is even snow. Standing on the railway bridge across the Potomac River, we freeze. After 5 hours, with a break for coffee in one of the many café’s in town, we go back to our RV. This is a place worth seeing. Frederick in Maryland is nearby so we drive there and stay at Walmart. Wednesday April 18th, it’s even colder, only 38 degrees, but when the sun beats the clouds the temperature rises and its 47 degrees. We walk through the old town of Frederick and look for “Dirty Girl Gaiters”, tight sleeves that goes over your leg and shoes to prevent dirt coming in.
The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry sent us here but unfortunately, this shop doesn’t have them but a running shop nearby sells gaiters, although not the original. They are a lot cheaper (not as nicely made) but it gives me the possibility to try them. Maybe I can purchase them online later. Once again we find a narrow and steep mountain road to the North. The Cache Across America of Maryland is hidden somewhere. Unfortunately in a state park and we need to pay a $5 entrance fee. We don’t want to pay that for a cache so we leave. Once we have time to stay overnight we’ll search for this cache.
Further north we arrive in mountainous terrain and the road looks like a roller coaster; the RV climbs up and is speeding down again. Our brakes have a hard time and we smell them. We are in the Catoctin Mountains. At some places the road through the park is steep and after a year driving around and a lot of wear and tear, we don’t want to drive that road. This mountain park was shaped during the great depression when the Government bought 10,000 acres of land and the CCC reshaped the originally farmland into recreation parks. Also Camp David is located here. Camp David, a presidential retreat where the peace negotiations took place between Israel and Egypt. Unfortunately Camp Davis is not accessible to public. Therefore we drive to Hanover in Pennsylvania to another Camping World.
In Winchester we couldn’t find the step, Dick needs to clean the windows. Fortunately, we find a new one here. Our old step has also some wear and tear. At this Camping World you are not allowed to stay overnight but its fine at Walmart nearby. The current temperatures are suitable for a stay in a parking lot, it is 50 degrees and too cold to sit outside. After a quiet night, this Walmart parking lot was extinct; we leave in time so at half past 10 we arrive at Greenbelt Park. At the campground we see a sign that Greenbelt became a cash free park. You can only stay here when you reserve. We stop at the Ranger station and ask if we can get a reservation.
The Ranger looks doubtful because it is very busy and almost everyplace is taken. There are walk-in sites, not taken, but we cannot stay there because the park cannot accept money and the reservation line cannot book these spots because they are “walk in” places. A stalemate. The camp host drives around and finds one empty spot so we call reservations in the ranger station. Unfortunately, according to reservations, this place is blocked for construction (it isn’t but…) so reservation cannot book this spot and finally the conclusion is: there is no possibility (despite the free walk inns to stay for 5 nights. Plan B is that we make reservations for Sunday and Monday (possible because it is after the weekend) and leave Greenbelt. First we dump our grey- and black water and fill with clean water. In Germantown, Maryland, Northwest of Washington DC is a Walmart where we can stay.
It’s a quiet place and nearby is an Applebee so at 6 pm, it is only 40 degrees, and we walk to the restaurant and enjoy our food. On Friday morning all the clouds are disappeared and the sun shines in a steel blue sky. Nevertheless, the temperature remains low and we cannot walk without a hoodie and down jacket.
At half past eight we leave Germantown and drive to Fort Washington just south of Washington DC. I think it’s fun to take the winding road but this is not wise because of the traffic. Like a snail we drive through Down Town Washington DC. Through the heavy traffic, over the Mall and along the Capitol and arrive at the fort at 11 am. It’s one of the earlier lines of defense around Washington DC. Not really very successful because the English passed the fort and burned Washington DC. There are no people around and we are the only two wandering around the grounds inside the fort. Although I think I have seen some spots here, Dick recognizes nothing. When we stamp our National Passport we see that we visited this place March 2011, to buy a park pas. With that goal we maybe didn’t have much attention for the fort.
After some pictures of the Potomac and looking at three presidential helicopters, flying overhead, we drive to Waldorf in Maryland, where again we stay at Walmart. The sky is steel blue and the Sun is shining so we have power and I can work on my laptop. Outside it is still not warm although the temperature is now 59 degrees. I have to figure out what to take home with us and what to leave inside the RV. Saturday, April 21st, the wind is less and it warms up so we can walk around without our down jacket. We drive to Alexandria in Virginia, just south of Washington DC. We may spend the night at one of the Walmart’s but when we finish laundry the parking lot is so crowded that we leave.
Further South, only 24 mile, is Prince William Forest park. Like Catoctin Mountain, through the efforts of President Roosevelt, this park was built during the great depression by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and bad farmland was changed into forest. In this camp city children became acquainted with nature. Of course with a separation of races because the entrance to the camp for the black inhabitants was in a different place than that of the whites. There are many free spots on the campground and we find a nice one even on Saturday 2 pm. The weather is good and not cold, 63 degrees. While I sit outside and work at the laptop, Dick is cleaning the RV with a bucket of water. He also sprays my two Yucca canes with white varnish while otherwise we cannot take them with us. In Alexandria, we looked for a carwash but we didn’t fit in and the RV must be clean when we deliver it in the harbor. At 5 pm we call it a day and enjoy a glass of wine in the Sun. It’s good that there was no parking at Walmart in Alexandria because staying in a National park is much more pleasant.
Of course we make a wood fire. The weather is good and at least till 8 pm we sit outside around the campfire. Unfortunately the wood spatters so my warm blue hoodie get some burning holes. Sunday morning April 22ndwe leave this beautiful park. It’s nicer than Greenbelt but it is farther away from the harbor in Baltimore. After filling some fuel, necessary because the tank is on reserve, we drive in heavy traffic towards Washington DC. This time we take the Interstate so we arrive in Greenbelt Park at 11.30 am. The reservation sign is already at our spot. Dick parks the RV and directly we start unpacking and repacking. We bought some cardboard boxes at Walmart and fill them up with the contents of our cupboards. The entire afternoon we are working on it. Dick also cleans the bikes and the bike rack because we have to put them inside the RV. Not a luxury because with the recent weather our bikes are nasty. At 6 pm most of our stuff is packed. The cupboards are almost empty and Tuesday morning after showering we only have to place the cardboard boxes in the shower and the bikes on our bed and we are ready. Time again to make a wood fire and enjoy a glass of wine and the last rays of sunshine. We had good weather today, 63 degrees, the sun was shining and we could leave all the boxes outside. We are (almost) ready to deliver the RV in the harbor of Baltimore.
After a relaxing night’s sleep, we wake up at 7 am and at half past eight we walk through the forest to College Park Metro station. We cannot use the cheap rate because rush hours end at 9.30 am and start again at 3 am. After studying how to buy a metro ticket, first you have to purchase a card, we board the Metro and get out at the Smithsonian. Really in Downtown Washington DC on the National Mall. We soon see that the cherry blossoms are gone. Only when we were here 6 years ago, end of March, we could see them in full bloom. We walk along Washington Monument, the impressive Obelisk, to Lincoln Memorial at the end of the Reflecting Pool. Despite the fact that there are many people around, it is not too crowded and we can enjoy everything. Hiking makes thirsty and the coffee near the Korean War Memorial tastes good. In the afternoon we slowly walk towards the White House, there are more clouds and its cooler. The French president visits President Trump but apart from the French and American flag and many security people we don’t spot them. Unfortunately because they plant a tree in the garden of the white House. We have some street food on a bench in the park, walk back to the National Mall and of course, visit one of the many Smithsonian museums.
This time the museum of American History. We walk around; see the inventors, the main traders and many old and rare coins in a safe that is closed with a special Vault door. Dick discovers some counterfeit money. Unfortunately, we are both tired we’ve already walked 9 miles and strolling in a museum breaks you so after 1,5 hours it’s enough. Of course than we’ve seen the flag waving over Fort Mc Henry and surviving the English attack. At 4 pm we take the metro back to Greenbelt. Its cooler, only 60 degrees, so after a beer outside we quickly go inside and stay there. It was a great day and our last night in the RV. Tomorrow we go to our hotel and prepare the RV for departure. We get up at 7.30 am and immediately Dick pokes the heating while our windows and doors are wide open. We need to get rid of our propane! After breakfast we pack the last stuff and I skype with Hannah and auntie Ank.
After a lot of talking I make our bed and Dick put our bikes and front wheels on the bed and fixes everything with straps. The bikes won’t move, not even in the heaviest seas. We fill the side with down covers, pillows and jackets and a plaid covers all. Dick put the boxes in the shower area and we are ready!
Well, we still have to wait for an hour until finally our last propane cylinder is empty. We dump all our water (clean, grey and black) and drive to Candlewood Suites in Linthicum, our favorite hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. There is a huge parking lot where we can park our RV and the rooms are spacious and have cooking facilities. There is also a laundry so we can clean our clothes. At 5 pm, the hotel Van brings us to the car rental and minutes later we have a Hyundai Tucson. On our way to the hotel we stop at a Chinese restaurant and pick up some food. It tastes good. Unfortunately it starts to rain although it’s not really cold, 62 degrees. Still I prefer the cold and blue skies and sun.