We breathed a sigh of relief crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. There were a lot of reasons to be relieved. One was we were glad to be away from heavy traffic and deciding not to go to DC was a big part of that. Second was that we survived the 17.6 mile crossing that included an underwater tunnel half way across the bay. Lastly, the bridge toll wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it might be.
Now that we are in Virginia, we have a few more places to see before we bring our trek westward away from the Atlantic. First stop was to check out Colonial Williamsburg. We had no idea what to expect but when we got there, we saw that it is basically setup like an 18th century American theme park for adults, and it was priced like Disneyland, so we decided to head over to Jamestown instead. I still want to see Colonial Williamsburg but we can wait until the kids are older and can appreciate it more.
Jamestown is the first English settlement in the Americas. As you might imagine, not much of it is left. What’s left doesn’t nearly date back as far as the original settlement date which would have been in 1607.
The Jamestown Church was built in 1639 and is one of the oldest surviving structures of the original thirteen colonies in the country. The present structure was restored and rebuilt in 1907 but the original tower was kept intact along with the new building.
Most other buildings look like this. The bricks are not actually the original structure. They are built over the original foundation to help preserve what is left of it.
This is a 17th century deer. At least a descendent of one anyways.
This being administered by the National Park Service, the kids got to earn a Junior Ranger badge here. By now they are up to nearly 100 badges from as many NPS sites and Jamestown is still the only one where we had to pay to participate in the program.
We didn’t stick around the Virginia Beach area too long as we promised Mila that we would find a water park for her to go swimming on her birthday in a couple of days. As we looked around, it seems that every water park in the area had just closed the weekend before. It dawned on us that along with summer tourists, businesses are also starting to slow down after Labor Day.
We did our best and this was the only thing we could find. Yes, another Elks Lodge. This one is in Charlottesville. But it has an awesome shady spot with electric and water hookups for us on a couple acres of grass.
Yes they even have a swimming pool. We had this pool all to ourselves during our stay here.
This is Mila’s last pic as a 4 year old. Tomorrow she will be 5 and we have an awesome day planned for her.
As usual, Ava helped Marlene shop for decorations in the Airstream. We did it while they were sleeping so she could wake up to a party.
She wanted a candy-themed party so it was sugar-rush morning. Oh well, I have to work so it will be Marlene’s problem dealing with these 3 when they crash from their sugar high while they are running around town.
Marlene took them to see Lemurs of Madagascar in 3D. It sounded like a good idea but it was loud and the 3D kind of scared them a little. I know, our kids are wusses.
By lunch, they had forgotten about the rumbling theater with Lemurs trying to grab them from the screen.
Back at the Elks Lodge, they got to play at the swing set right next to where we are camped. You can see the Mish behind them in the photo by the pump house. We had it all to ourselves!
This is as close to a water park as we could get in Virginia after Labor Day.
I think they were ok with it.
Happy 5th birthday my little fish!
She picked Buffalo Wild Wings for her birthday dinner. What? You think I had a part in persuading her? Why would that be? Cold beers and hot wings? I am not into them at all!
Charlottesville is famously known as the home of Thomas Jefferson. We didn’t really feel like paying to go see a plantation after all of the touristy things we’ve been doing. Instead we went to Michie Tavern for some good ole fashion midday fare circa 1784.
While we were in Charlottesville, we got in contact with a Facebook and Instagram friend of ours. Lani and her husband Chris use to full time travel in their 23ft Airstream. You might have read their blog Aluminum Bliss which she hasn’t posted in almost 3 years.
That’s because they had kids and decided to settle back into a house. A house on a farm right outside of Charlottesville not far from where they use to live.
We got to hang out with them a couple of times while we were here and got to know them pretty well. Their oldest daughter got right into it with our girls and Luka did his best to keep up.
After a few days in Charlottesville, we knew it was time to head out again. This time, we are heading up to Shenandoah National Park to meet up with our friends Nathan and Renee from Wandrly.
Shenandoah National Park has a few campgrounds and the most popular one is Big Meadow. We planned to meet them here and when we got here, we were thrilled to see it less than half full. OK, if we can have this all the time then who needs water parks?
We got right to earning badges by attending one of the ranger programs at the amphitheater of the campground. Marlene got her bird-nerd on with this screech owl.
Nathan and Renee showed up in his bay-window westfalia. He has been summering in Pennsylvania at his dad’s house so he didn’t have the entire entourage. He was excited to be able to travel light on this loop.
It was great for the kids to once again have some friends camping with us.
We even did some hiking to a waterfall.
We foolishly forgot to bring our bathing suits and Ava could not commit to going for a swim in her clothes even though I can tell in her eyes that she really wanted to. A couple of year ago it would not have even been a question. She is getting a bit more self conscious as she is getting older.
Shenandoah proudly bills itself as a park in the east in the style of the west.
It definitely is one of the bigger and more scenic parks on the east coast but this is making us miss the west quite a bit.
We spent a couple more days with them on hikes, roasting marshmallows, sipping on brews and relaxing in hammocks.
After this visit, we will be making our way into West Virginia.
We will see them again in the spring as they make their way to the west coast.
After West Virginia, we will have officially visited all of the states east of the Mississippi. Even though we would have liked to see more, it will have to wait for another time. We made our way out of Shenandoah and into West Virgina. Our first stop is New River Gorge.
In the 18th century, Atlantic explorers came across a previously unmapped river right here in southern West Virginia. Since it did not yet have a name, it was marked as a ‘New’ river on their charts until they could come up with one more suitable. Well, that name stuck.
The name turned out to be a giant misnomer. This ‘New’ river is actually one of the oldest ancient rivers on the continent.
At the visitor center, we got to learn a bit more about this area. Guess what was the funniest to the kids?
This arch bridge that crosses the New River Gorge is also the highest in the western hemisphere . Before the gorge bridge was built, people had to drive down a narrow road with dozens of switchbacks to get down to a smaller bridge just above the river. Some of the turns were so sharp we could not do it without a three point turn even without the Airstream.
This still gets me every time. Humans built this. We find iron ore hidden deep in the soil. We dig them out, refine them and strengthen them into steel. All that only gets us to the part before we form them into individually-shaped puzzle pieces so we can stretch them across a giant gap in the earth in order for people to drive equally amazing machines across them.
We took the drive down the gorge to see how people use to have to traverse the river and stopped to take a short hike.
West Virginia is a really amazing place.
I am completely amazed at the scenic beauty around every turn here.
People always are envious of what we are able to do with our lives. In reality, we are not wealthy nor are we lucky. We have made lots of sacrifices to build this life and we’d do it the same all over again.
We spent just a couple of nights in West Virginia but it is another state I would love to come back to and explore some more. For now, we are crossing the border into Kentucky.
over and out,