SHENANDOAH VALLEY



THURSDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #46



Today's travel day had us moving just over 100 miles southeast over the Appalachian Mountains and into Virginia. We saw a sign indicating that we were crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, who knew there was such a thing. What I do know is we spent a lot of time driving up and down long steep sections of highway to get where we were going.

We ended up right smack in the center of the Shenandoah Valley on the bank of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. We are less than 10 miles from the north entrance of Shenandoah National Park in Front Royal, VA.

You can bet we'll be revisiting that park and Skyline Drive before we pack up to move further down the road. I just hope we haven't missed the peak of the fall colors along the drive.


• • • DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN TO YOU? • • •


Tricia and I were all finished breaking camp this morning and were getting on the road when I turned on the radio in the truck to listen to some SIRIUS/XM music.

The very first song we heard being played was the Doobie Brothers very first #1 hit, Blackwater (released in 1974). Here we were leaving Blackwater Falls State Park driving over the Blackwater River and they're singing "Old black water, keep on rollin'..." and "I ain't got no worries, 'Cause I ain't in no hurry, at all."

Now I understand the black water they were singing about wasn't the Blackwater River in West Virginia, it was actually the Mississippi River in Louisiana, but it set me in a relaxed state of mind for the drive ahead.

Our mountain view from Campsite #9 at Shenandoah River State Park

South Fork of the Shenandoah River as viewed from Cullers Overlook.



SUNDAY - I awoke early this morning, took a look outside and immediately had a brief moment of panic.

My first thought was I forgot to turn off our brand new BBQ grill after cooking dinner on it last night. My second thought was I didn't cook dinner on the grill last night. My third thought was "What the hell?"

Like I said, all that thinking only took a brief moment, then I realized what was going on!

It was just the early morning sun burning off the overnight frost that had acculmulated on the top of the grill cover. The temperatures were in the lower 30°F last night and growing up in Florida, plus living there all my adult life, I haven't had to deal with this situation very often.



WEDNESDAY - Our day started early today at 6:30AM. We got up and went to the bathhouse to shower and then got on the road headed to an 8:00AM appointment at the Ford Dealership in Front Royal. Before even exiting the campground we saw more than a dozen rabbits and at least three deer, we never see them here after sunrise occurs.

We were running ahead of schedule and took the time to grab breakfast at the McDonalds near the dealership. We arrived 30 minutes early at 7:30AM and found the service department already open. After describing my problem with the Service Advisor, who happened to be a retired Ford mechanic, he was confident he knew what needed to be replaced.

He also said that the parts needed were presently on backorder, that he had two others with the same problem ahead of me, and that it would be 3-7 days before the part would arrive. He also mentioned it was at least two full days of labor to make the repair. All this is covered 100% by my extended warranty, the problem is we'll be leaving this area in 5 days.

The problem only occurs immediately after we start the engine. It makes a rattling noise for about two seconds while the engine starts running. There is an electronic module that kicks in to adjust the timing of the engine which seems to be a little behind in its duties, causing the engine to run ruff and the valves to chatter. Like I said it only lasts for a few seconds and then the engine runs just fine.

Our next extended stay at a single location isn't until mid-December, so we'll have to wait until then to get this latest problem resolved.


Also we planned ahead by loading three weeks worth of dirty laundry into ROVER before we left this morning and took care of doing that overdue chore on the way back home.

After putting away the clean laundry and grabbing a little lunch we found ourselves with some unexpected free time on our hands. I opened up Google maps and began searching for something interesting in the area to go and see. What I came up with was Woodstock Tower.


Woodstock Tower, built in 1935, is a steel observation tower built at an elevation of 2000 feet and offers 360° views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and rivers. It is a 27 mile drive from our campsite, with the last 3 miles up a very dusty gravel road that is barely 1-1/2 lanes wide, making passing oncoming traffic an adventure all on it's own!

It was still an excellant last minute find and something we would not have experienced if we spent the whole day at the Ford Dealership.


The view from the bottom...


...and the view from the top.



THURSDAY - Today we're in for a "TWOFER", otherwise known as a two for one special. It involves two of our very favorite things to do, visiting a cave tour and a National Park.

First up is our 31st cave tour. Not just an ordinary cave tour, voted as one of the Top Ten Show Cave Tours in the nation, Shenandoah Caverns is our primary reason for selecting to visit this area again.

By now you may all be tired of seeing cave pictures, I know sometimes I have trouble selecting which ones to share. Let me just say one more time, the photos don't do the cave experience justice. You have to be there, in person, to understand the size, complexity and shear volume of formations that we are seeing. Throw in the fact that you are following a sometimes narrow path where you are ducking and weaving between rocks, climbing and descending stairs and ramps, then feeling the temperature changes. If you ever have the chance, visit a cave, any cave and you'll see what I'm talking about.



SHENANDOAH CAVERNS



Descending the 79 stairs from the gift shop to the cave floor.
Time to go deeper into the cave.
Still going down!


With the cave tour completed in was time for lunch. The nearby small town of New Market had four choices for fast food restaurants, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds and Burger King.

Our first choice of Subway was eliminated because they didn't offer a drive-thru option, we are still trying to social distance at every opportunity. Second choice? McDonalds, because we prefer their french fries and Dunkin Donuts didn't sound like lunch to us. We ate in the truck and then got back on the road and headed for the Thorton Gap Entrance of Shenandoah National Park.

After a 20 minute wait in line to gain entrance to the park we headed north on Skyline Drive. It's 31 miles from the Thorton Gap Entrance to the Front Royal (North) Entrance so we got to travel roughly 1/3 of the 105 mile long drive. It just so happens to also be the most popular section of the drive.

Here are a several photos we took from a few of the numerous roadside overlooks, which offer the only place to pull off the road and take photos.


This is the same dead tree we photographed two years ago.


Time to head down off Skyline Drive and return to camp down in the valley.




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FALL COLOR AT BLACKWATER FALLS



WEDNESDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #45



The travel day today was fairly short and thankfully uneventful, considering ROVER's check engine light was still on for the entire move. We did end up increasing our elevation by about 1500 feet and are starting to see more and more fall colors in the trees and mountain sides.

The big story for today occurred when we arrived at our new campsite. Over the last 28 months we have set up in 162 different campsites (yes we keep track of that kind of information) and today's is by far the most unlevel site we have ever tried to set up in! Our Anderson Leveler Ramps are our standard way of leveling THE POD from left to right and are designed to adjust for up to a maximum 4" difference.


It sure looks unlevel, but I promise you it isn't!


This campsite however is an unbelievable 8" out of level from left to right. In order to get THE POD even close to being level we had to use every single leveling tool we carry with us. Even so we are still a half inch to low on the patio side of the trailer. It will just have to do!


Looks more like a circus balancing act than anything else.


I guess it could have been worse. The only other Airsteam (a 1969 model) in the park has a campsite that is three feet out of level from the front to the back of their trailer.


So the lesson to be learned here is:
If you ever find yourself planning a camping trip to
Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia,
avoid campsites #17 (ours) and #26 (theirs).



THURSDAY - We are forecast to have a couple days of wind and rain, courtesy of Tropical Depression Delta, as it passes through West Virginia this weekend. So we decided to do some sightseeing before that happens.

The main attraction in the park is of course Blackwater Falls. During this time of year however the Fall Colors also compete for that distinction.

The first five slideshow photos were taken on Tricia's early morning walk, while the rest were taken mid afternoon around the rest of the park.



BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK



These first two photos were taken early morning from very near our campsite.
These next three are photos of Blackwater River Canyon from three different overlooks found within the park.
The first of many stairs leading from the parking lot down to the Blackwater Falls viewing platforms.
The view from the first platform down to the second one and the falls.
The view from the second platform, or as I like to call it, Rest Area #2!
More stairs, over 200 in all, down until you reach the final platform.
The view from platform #3, below the top of the falls. This is as close as you can get.
Look! There is another viewing platform on the other side of the river. Let's Go!
This is the view from the other side of the river. See the people on the third and lowest platform over on the other side?
This was a roadside overlook on our way to hike the Lindy Point Trail.
Some spectacular fall color along the .5 mile Lindy Point Trail.
The view from the end of the trail at Lindy Point Overlook.


WARNING!

TURN DOWN YOUR VOLUME
BEFORE STARTING THIS VIDEO.



WEDNESDAY - This is our final day in West Virginia so we decided to get as high as we could while still in this state.

We did that by driving some 55 miles south of the campground to Spruce Knob (elevation 4863 feet) and climbing to the top of the observation tower. This is as high as you can get in West Virginia.

The observation tower at the top of Spruce Knob.

The view from the top of West Virginia.


On the drive back home our route took us through the small town of Seneca Rocks. It is named after the rock formation that towers over the entire town. It also appears to be a destination for avid rock climbers, you won't find any rookie climbers on that rock face.

The view of Seneca Rocks from our lunch spot on the patio of Yokum's General Store and Deli.

Yokum's General Store and Deli just so happens to be where we stopped for lunch, after touring nearby Seneca Caverns, back in April of 2019. We didn't stop here again because the food is so great, it's just the only place within 20 miles to get a bite to eat.

Last year I tried their special of the day, a Ramp Burger. If you remember, a ramp is a wild onion. This time of year the ramps aren't in season, so I ordered a simple cheeseburger instead and Tricia had a BLT.


A final look at Blackwater Falls before we leave...
and one final comment too!

While our visit to Blackwater Falls State Park got off to a rather rocky and unlevel start, we would definitely recommend you visit here. Other than a few bad campsites the campground is above average and the scenery is outstanding if you get out and hike some of their trails.

And oh yeah, The Falls, simply amazing!




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FALLINGWATER



THURSDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #44



With just an average length travel day, and an early start, we had time to take care of a chore we've haven't done since mid-February.

ROVER and THE POD got a bath at the Blue Beacon Truck Wash in Breezewood, PA.

For a little over $48 both of them got a thourough exterior high power wash and for $1 more we self-vacuumed out the cab of the truck. We were in and out of there for under $50 and felt it was well worth the price.

We did have to wait our turn in line however, behind four other semi-trucks, but after a short hour or so wait it was finally our turn to get a bath.

This is our third time using Blue Beacon Truck Wash and they always do a great job.

Waiting at the vacuum station. We are finally next to go!

All set up at our new site.



FRIDAY - Be honest. How many of you know what Fallingwater is? If you know what it is, then your are probably aware of who designed and built the place.

For those of you who are clueless to what I'm talking about, like we were until last year, when we passed by this area, it is a home built back in the late 1930's by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufman Family. The Kaufman's owned a chain of department stores in the northeast United States.

In July of 2019 the "20th century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright" was inscribed as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. A total of eight Frank Lloyd Wright's designs were included in this designation and Fallingwater is probably his most recognized home build in addition to his design of the highly acclaimed Guggenheim Museum in New York.

If I'm remembering correctly last year we elected not to take the guided interior/exterior tour of Fallingwater because of the pricing (I believe it was $150 each). This year, with COVID restrictions factored in, the interior is closed to the public. So this year they are offering a more affordable self-guided, exterior only, tour for $20 each.

There are many docents available all around the property to answer any and all questions you may have. We later learned that for an extra $10 each we could have received our very own docent to walk with us and explain what we were seeing and point out important features we may have missed. In hindsight we would have spent the extra money.



FALLINGWATER



The engraved stone signage out on the main driveway entrance.
Proudly displaying their newly acquired UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
The outdoor covered reception area, complete with a cafe, art museum and gift shop. This is where you used to wait for your guided tour to begin.
There is a 1/4 mile walkway, complete with flower gardens and a picnic area, between the reception area and the Fallingwater homesite.
Our first glimpse of Fallingwater.
We have arrived.
This stairway makes it possible to go from the living room straight down into the water that flows under the home.
A footbath outside of the front door to clean your feet and shoes.
A rear pathway between the home and the cliff face.
Their outdoor bathtub.
A peek inside of the 1st floor living space.
The view from the second floor balcony.
Another peek inside the living space.
The guest quarters are higher up on the cliff from the main house.
They also have a four car garage under the guest house.
The guests have their own outside patio area...
... and their own outside pool deck.
A peek inside one of the quest bedrooms.
This is the pathway takes leads between the quest house and the main house.
This is the iconic photograph you always see of Fallingwater from the surrounding forest. The location is simply called "The View".



SUNDAY - Today I decided to drive 16 miles south from Confluence, PA into Friendsville, MD to save 35 cents a gallon on gasoline. Pennsylvania is the only state east of the Rocky Mountains (other than Washington D.C.) that currently averages over $2.33 a gallon. Today they are averaging a whopping $2.48 a gallon, due mostly to their high taxes on gas.

While I was out I also took the time to pick up a few grocery items at a Walmart and had a new battery installed ($58) into my 2-1/2 year old iPhone SE. I hope this at least fixes all my issues with my iPhone!


Wouldn't you know it, on my way home from getting my phone repaired a check engine light lit up on the dash of ROVER. Guess I know what I'll be doing sometime in the very near future, scheduling an early morning appointment at a local Ford Dealership.

Lately it feels like I'm playing Whack-A-Mole.
I knock down one problem and another pops up in it's place.



MONDAY - When we first arrived here at this Army Corp of Engineers campground last Thurday we took a very short walk down to the shore of the Youghiogheny River located just behind our campsite.

Here are a few photos we took of the river after it flows through the hydroelectic Youghiogheny Dam that was completed in 1944.


There is even the beginnings of some fall color showing up in the trees here.


But today we drove over to the dam site and found that unlike other dams, this one you are permitted to drive across the top to the other side. This gives access to a huge picnic area and parking lot, plus the longest boat launch ramp I've ever seen.


This dam can be driven across, most are not since 9/11 back in 2001.


The amount of water being held back by the dam is enormous.


From the top of the dam our campsite is hidden in the trees near the center of this photo.


Now that's a very long boat ramp.




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