Awoke to another lovely blue sky. We worked on the website, and sent email 6.
Just along the road we found a place that would do an oil change. We now drove into the historic centre of Dover. This was really attractive, with lots of nice buildings.
Old Courthouse Dover, Delaware
William Penn had set out this town, and the green is still the centre, with lovely buildings around it. We walked around in the pleasant sunshine, stopping at the Johnson Victrola museum. We hadn’t expected to spend much time here, but the guide, a lady called Jackie Lee, wanted to show us everything. It was very interesting. We couldn’t quite sort out the connection between Victrola, RCA and HMV, but ‘Nipper’ the dog featured in all the advertising.
The museum had dozens of old phonographs, and much other memorabilia, but upstairs was the collection of one man, who had an obsession with these early record players. It was a glory hole of stuff, and all very lovely. We spent much longer than we had intended in there.
Back at the Bam, we set off, but soon saw a Safeway – for the first time this trip. We found the shop to be excellent, as usual, and apart from the miserable woman on the till (called Dabney, so perhaps that was her problem) it was a really good shop.
Our next stop was at Bowers Beach – well, we had to go there! – it was apparently established in 1764, by a man called John Bowers. It was a quiet little fishing village, with a lovely sandy beach. It even felt really hot there for a while.
We now drove on to Lewes, which we found very busy. The ferry goes from here to Cape May. We walked on the nice sandy beach, and then drove into Henlopen State Park, which we thought too expensive to stay in. We drove around, and had some lovely views, especially of the sky, with the sun peeping through the clouds.
We saw at least a dozen deer as we drove out, heading for Walmart at nearby Rehoboth. When we reached there, we saw the ‘No overnighting’ signs, so there was nothing for it but to return to HenlopenState Park. We reached there at 6 o’clock, just as the sun was going down. Adrian immediately lit the fire, and we had a wonderful campfire on a beautiful, still evening.
Friday 28th October 169 miles
Two things were really difficult today – logging in, and finding somewhere to pull off. We gave up on the first, having wasted a lot of time, and then wasted much time on the second, later in the day, resorting in the end to a church carpark.
We had our breakfast down at the beach car park at Lewes. The sky became mostly overcast, and the wind cool, but later we had blue sky and warm sunshine.
We drove around Lewes, enjoying some of the older houses. We actually walked around a little complex of historic houses, which are open in summer. We passed the museum to the illfated Dutch expedition of 1600s, who were massacred by Indians.
We now headed south, on what looked like a lovely route – a long sandspit between the ocean and the inlet. The reality was different – we drove either through posey developments and unattractive seaside resorts, or through State Parks, which didn’t seem to have any places to pull off easily.
We eventually had coffee at an unmarked sandy fishing parking area on the inlet side, in what was called Fenwick State Park. We watched a seagull which had caught a large crab and was devouring it. It was cool as we walked outside, and there were strange rolling grey clouds. Just afterwards we managed to pull onto the ocean side, and make our way over the sand dunes on a very humpy path. The wind was even cooler here!
We were soon into Maryland, at the unattractive resort of Ocean City, making me think of Benidorm. Luckily we soon turned westwards, and by the time we pulled off the road for lunch, the sky was blue.
We continued down to Bivalve Harbour on the Nanticoke River, part of Chesapeake Bay. We had a nice little walk around in the sunshine, looking across to wildlife reserves in the distance – so much nicer than seeing houses everywhere.
Another delight was crossing the Wicomico River on the tiny free Whitehaven ferry, with ours the only vehicle (not room for many more!).
The Whitehaven ferry
It was really rural here, but soon we came to the ‘busy’ areas, where there was just nowhere to stop. We drove through the strangely named town of Princess Anne, and then through Pocomoke City and into Virginia, but things didn’t get any better. No matter what type of road we drove down, we couldn’t pull off anywhere. On a small road we got bombarded by bright purple bird droppings from the starlings on the wires above, and later we had to pull over when a vast combine harvester filled the road.
We had just decided that we would have to dash the 50 miles to the next state park, when we spied a church car park as our road reached the main road south. It was 5 o’clock, so we pulled in.
Saturday 29th October 100 miles
The night was cold, but the sky was blue when we awoke. For the first time (except for Calgary) there was a hard frost. We decided to move on for breakfast, as we were in the shade. We turned off on to a road to the sea, but as so often happens, it just ended in a field, with scattered houses nearby and no beach access. We pulled into the field, and after breakfast walked down to a wooden jetty, where hundreds of birds flew off. It was quite beautiful in the early morning sun.
We were glad that we hadn’t driven any further last night, as we spent a delightful morning driving south on this Virginia Eastern Shore peninsula, on small, rural roads. The housing was mostly quite modest and long established as we passed through various villages. The first was called Accomac, and it looked really pleasant.
It was difficult to find roads to the sea, but at Willis Wharf we were able to have our coffee looking out across the marshy, muddy area. We saw a lot of birds including a kingfisher.
We passed fields of cotton for the first time this trip, and we also discovered that the fields of dark brown stalks which we have seen everywhere are actually a type of bean – perhaps lima beans.
We drove down to another low-key fishing village with the apt name of Oyster – the beach was piled high with oyster shells.
We had wondered where we would be able to have lunch, as we were coming to the Chesapeake Bridge, but just before it we spied a wildlife reserve, which made a good lunch stop. Afterwards we walked for half a mile along a path sheltered by bushes to a lookout on top of an old wartime bunker.
We walked back, and looked into the visitor centre, where displays described the life of the various habitats of Chesapeake Bay – the sand islands, the marshes, the hummocks and the bay itself. This is a huge bird migratory area. Hundreds of tree swallows were circling overhead before their flight south.
Now it was time to drive across the bridge, which is 18 miles long and includes two tunnels (to allow shipping to pass) and cost $17 (£10). I enjoyed seeing gulls hovering above the water. There was nowhere to stop, once you were on the bridge, and the speed limit was 45 – 55 MPH. There was a badly accessed fishing pier near the far end, but there were no views from here. We continued to the southern side of the bay, at unattractive Virginia Beach. We drove through here to First Landing State Park for the night, arriving at 3.45. It was apparently near here that the first English settled in 1607.
The northerly wind was cool, but after a brisk walk along the shore, Adrian got the fire going. Luckily the wind dropped, and we had a lovely fire. There were lots of dads camping with kids, who enjoyed going on a night time walk.
Sunday 30th October 109 miles
We were up at 7 o’clock – which must really be 6.00, as the clocks changed last night, as in England. We decided to keep to old time, to lessen the difference when we get home.
We headed for Fort Story – an army camp, where the memorial to the First Landing is. Entry to the camp is free, but you have to have photo identity. We hadn’t expected it to be open so early, but it was. Also, we hadn’t expected the inspection and interrogation which we got! A total of about 6 chaps inspected the vehicle, but finally we were let through. The youngest chap said ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to look inside one of these (the Bam). This is what I want when I’m older’.
We proceeded through the camp to the cross which marks the first settlers landing (1607). Nearby there were 2 attractive lighthouses.
‘First Landing’ memorial
Also nearby there was a memorial to the battle fought here, in which the French aided the Americans, causing the British to retreat. This heralded the end of the Revolutionary War, and ensured America’s independence. How different things might have been!
It was still pretty chill at this hour, but we still braved a walk to look at the beach.
We decided to head out of the camp, and hope to find somewhere for breakfast by the ocean side of Virginia Beach. We had to drive right through to the end of the ‘conurbation’, past all the tall hotels, before we could park. We were by Rudee Inlet. The fishermen were already busy, and walkers and joggers were going along the boardwalk by the beach. We joined them for a short walk after breakfast. There was a surfing contest going on from the beach. The sun was now pleasantly warm.
Now it was time to leave the coast, and head inland to the ‘historic triangle’ – Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg. We travelled on fast roads, over numerous bridges – one had been recently revamped, and confused both us and the GPS! – and through one unexpected tunnel.
We stopped at a wildlife reserve just before the long bridge over the James River. The area was called Ragged Island, and we had a pleasant walk through trees and then on a boardwalk over the marshes to the edge of the wide James River.
It was a bit further up this river that the first colonists settled. Also, we remembered visiting James River when on the Blue Ridge Parkway, near the start of this trip.
Now we made our way to Yorktown. This is where the last significant Battle of the Revolutionary War was fought, and where the British (under Cornwallis) surrendered.
Victory monument Yorktown
There was a drive around the battle site, which we made, but first we visited the Visitors Centre (of course). We watched the always good information film, but walking out from it, we felt as we had done in 1970, when Germany beat England in the World Cup, and we were the only English watching the match amongst a group of Germans, on a TV screen in a bar in Spain!
The loveliest part for us was walking into the pretty town of Yorktown. This town was already established as a tobacco port at the time of the Revolutionary War. It is now just a village of a few restored houses, beside the York River. Vehicles are banned from one part of the village, which was really lovely! We walked back along the ‘Tobacco Trace’ – the old road used at the time of the tobacco industry. The sun was so beautifully warm (I even got a bit sunburnt) that we stopped and walked as much as possible on our drive around the battle sites afterwards.
Reluctantly we left, and drove on the Colonial Parkway – a road like the Blue Ridge Parkway, with no development on either side, and often with lovely views.
We arrived at Walmart at Williamsburg at 6 o’clock (our time).
Monday 31st October 29 miles
After a noisy night, with trucks running their engines, we awoke to a clear blue sky, and the day became really hot – mid 70s.
We made our way to the parking at Williamsburg Visitors Centre – we were the only vehicle there, a bit different from when we returned at midday!
The whole town of Williamsburg is restored, or rebuilt, to look like a town in 1760s. It is a vast area, and once again, everything looked so right! You could buy tickets, at great expense, to visit many of the buildings, but you could wander around the streets for free, which is what we did. As we had arrived so early (we are still keeping to our time, one hour earlier), the visitors centre wasn’t open, so we had to walk along the road, and not on the pedestrian bridge to reach the historic area. The only people around at this time were the local walkers and joggers. The ‘guides’, all in period costume, were getting into their positions. On such a beautiful day, it was just wonderful wandering around the quiet streets – much of the town was traffic free, which was a joy. The only ‘downer’ was the chap noisily sweeping leaves with a mechanical blower. Otherwise it was just perfect. The sky was deep blue, and the trees wonderful, so many more photos!
It was beautifully warm, and really quiet as we wandered around. There were even some pale autumn crocuses in the grass. As we made our way back to the car park, everyone else was arriving. It was really hot as we left Williamsburg on the Colonial Parkway, heading for Jamestown.
We stopped once or twice along here – one time we walked along the fine sandy beach beside the James River – I even had a short paddle and a sit on the sand. A bit further on there was a lovely spot where we should have stopped for lunch, but a chap was noisily strimming.
We regretted our decision when we reached Jamestown to find that they were rebuilding the Visitors Centre, and the car park was all dug up and messy, with very little room to stop. After some time, we did find somewhere, and enjoyed our lunch sitting on our seats behind the Bam, under the tall trees of the swampy forest.
We were annoyed to find that motorhomes were not allowed on the 7 mile driving trail, but in actual fact, we found plenty to see at the actual Jamestown site. This is where those first colonists settled in 1607, so is very important to Americans, as they see it as the beginning of their country’s history.
They are doing a lot of archaeological research, and were digging at the time we were there. They have made exciting finds, and have located the actual first fort, buried under a fort built during the civil war. Also they have found hundreds of artefacts, and located the whereabouts of many of the early houses. All great stuff, and so easy to enjoy on this beautiful day. We hadn’t known about Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, the Indian chief at the time. She had married John Rolfe, one of the early settlers, and had sailed to England. She died there, and is actually buried at Gravesend. They had been married at the church here in Jamestown. The tower of the 17th century church still stands, with the later nave.
Adrian with Pocahontas
Now it was time to leave, and find our campsite. There was a (free) ferry from here to Scotland (!) on the other side of the river. Having made the crossing, we found our way to Chippokes State Park, where we were almost the only campers. The camp hosts were still here, and were a really nice couple. Having got settled in, Adrian lit the fire, and we set to to enjoy Halloween. What a lovely place to be!
We supped mulled wine and ate sausages, squash, potatoes and mushrooms followed by pumpkin pie. It was silent, except for the hoot of an owl, and really warm. Adrian had bought a luminous necklace, which I wore, and we sat out under the stars, singing campfire songs.
Tuesday 1st November 71 miles
It was a beautiful morning as we spent our time organising.
The campsite is in a large plantation, so we drove up to the ‘mansion’, and set off on a walk. As usual we had trouble linking the actual footpaths with the inadequate sketch map, but we had a pleasant walk, eventually coming down to the James River, and back partly through woods.
Golden Autumn Crocus
It was now past our lunch time, so we made our way to the picnic area by the river. It was lovely and peaceful until a group of women with young children came to have a picnic at the next table, and then some bikers arrived!
We now left Chippoke Park, which we had really enjoyed, and drove on delightful rural roads, through colourful forests and farmland with occasional houses, to Emporia. At one point a turkey ran across the road, and later a fox dashed by.
Emporia appeared to be a predominantly black town, and fairly poor.
We made our way to Walmart and took in our last lot of photos to be printed. We noticed how noisy and colourful the black shoppers were.
When Adrian collected the photos, the assistant (a different one from before) greeted him with ‘hello, Mr Bower’. When he asked how she knew his name, she said ‘I recognised you from your photos. They are such lovely photos’. What a nice compliment!
Wednesday 2nd November 52 miles
The night was mild, and the day became really beautiful. There had been several other RVs in the car park, mostly large ones with a ‘toad’, plus a couple of 5th wheelers. We imagined that they were the first of the snowbirds going south.
We drove south through the smarter side of the town and continued on pretty roads with very little traffic, and full of autumn colour. We were soon into North Carolina. We drove past fields of cotton looking pretty with the blue sky, and one or two ‘historic’ towns, notably Halifax, dating from 1700s.
We found our way to Medoc Mountain State Park, preferring the idea of staying here to in an RV park. The difficulty was that there was no laundry here, and we need to do washing before we leave tomorrow. As the situation of the park was so lovely, we decided to stop, and to hope to be able to find a laundrette in the morning.
We went on a short walk through the forest, beside a stream. The only other people at the campsite were the camp hosts, and we spent quite a while chatting to him – he looked just like the last chap!
We had more difficulties, as the sites with electricity didn’t have easy access to a water tap, and we need both for our last night. Having overcome these problems, we got settled in to this beautiful, peaceful situation, and got ourselves organised for our flight home tomorrow.
Medoc Mountain State Park
It was a very cool, but beautiful evening. Adrian found enough wood to have a fire, and we cooked our last meal under the starfilled sky. When the young ranger came along to collect the fee, (reduced because we are over 62) he said to Adrian ‘I hope that I’ll be enjoying life as much as you are when I’m your age’.
Thursday 3rd November 98 miles
The night was really cold, but it was another beautiful morning, with a clear blue sky all day. The trees looked really lovely. We left at 11 o’clock our time, and headed towards Raleigh, stopping at Rocky Mount so that we could do the washing. We spent a lot of time looking for a laundrette, but when we eventually found one, the elderly lady assistant chatted to me and followed me around constantly. She had a strong southern drawl, which was difficult to understand. When I said that I was flying home to England, a black lady said ‘’it’s the first time I’ve met someone from there’.
With the washing all dry, we set off for Raleigh. After several wild goose chases trying to find Jeffrey’s RV storage again (we had come to suss it out at the beginning of our trip), we arrived there at 3.45 our time, to find no-one about except a sleepy dog.
Remembering that ‘Jeffrey’s’ mother lived nearby, as we’d spoken to her last time, we made our way there. When she finally came to the door, she chatted away, with an equally strong drawl. She was an amazingly sprightly 82 year old, who usually still walked a mile each day. She told us that they hadn’t had any rain here for months. She telephoned her daughter-in-law, Jan Jeffrey, who was on her way home, and arrived soon afterwards.
As their place is a long way down a very bumpy track, and difficult for taxis (and us) to find, Jan agreed to take us to the airport. She was a very pleasant lady and we chatted quite a bit.
Everything went well and we were glad to see that the plane was small, with seats arranged 2-3-2, so no climbing over someone to get out for the loo. We weren’t pleased to see that there were no personal monitors, and therefore no flight map, which we always like to see.
We taxied slowly to the runway, and finally began our take off, but having speeded up, the plane suddenly slowed down again. It was pretty unnerving, but the captain did speak to us fairly soon, and say that there was something wrong, and we would be heading back to the stand.
This we did, and it was found that they could repair the fuel valve which was faulty. After that, we had to refuel, so the whole episode took about an hour and a half.
We both slept/dozed quite a bit during the flight. The plane flew back up the eastern US coast, but as it was dark, we couldn’t make out very much, which was a shame, as it was where we had just been travelling.
It got light, and the sky was clear as we flew over Britain on our way to Gatwick. Unfortunately we had to circle over Gatwick for some time, meaning that we landed too late for our booked coach to Reading. The next coach was about to leave, but the driver wouldn’t let us board, as we hadn’t had our tickets changed. By the time we had, the bus had left, and the next one wasn’t until 10.30, another hour and a half. All rather annoying, but nothing we could do about it.
We arrived at Calcot at 12.15, having phoned for a taxi, which soon arrived, and got us home just in time to have lunch.
It had been another lovely trip, and we look forward to the next one!