On the basis that we plan to come back to Washington DC towards the end of our travels, our time through Maryland this afternoon would be all too brief. Short to the tune of around only 12 miles on via Interstate 81. We cut south on the western tip of the state where Maryland borders West Virginia. Reality is there’s not much more to tell than it was a straight forward run through this state – too short to form any real perspective of the state and what it holds – hopefully we can see more of it in January / February.
Crossing the state line we were now in West Virginia, and being consistent with our recent pattern, our time through this portion of the state wouldn’t be long either. With the day running out on us we had to find a park for the night – Walmart at Martinsburg was our chosen destination. Martinsburg sit right about bang smack in the middle of Interstate 81’s short run through the eastern corridor of the state. The following morning we got back on the road and after a mere 30 miles we had crossed another state, again, with not too much to report on. Reality is that the state view from many eastern Interstates are pretty nondescript – trees, rolling land, sometimes farm land and then you get the billboards promoting what services are available at the next exit and for me the all-important question, how cheap will their fuel be?
Crossing yet another border we did so knowing that with this state atleast we wouldn’t be crossing it in only a day – we had some plans. Just over the border there were a really nice Visitor Info Centre at Clearbrook and the lovely volunteers set us up nicely with some state-based info and advice. Virginia markets itself as the ‘love state’ – you will love doing this and love doing that in Virginia. The state was celebrating 50 years of this marketing and so the likes of the Visitor Centre had a large ‘love’ monument out front and lots of associated ‘love’ tokens around the place. Getting back to Romin and thinking about the road again, the dilemma for us was around the fact that at some point we would have to cross some mountain (I say mountains, and yes there would be up’s and down’s, but we were probably talking less than 5-6000 feet), in order to be able to work our way west again. Cutting through the back of Virginia and West Virginia you have the likes of the Shenandoah Mountain range so we made the call the largely bypass West Virginia and make our run south in order to lessen any impact these ranges have on the lower eastern states. Our experience of the past week with Romin was that the less impact the better – flatter running was preserving her wellbeing. That said, we did decide we couldn’t not be in Virginia and not take in part of the Shenandoah Ranges so we headed south on Interstate 81 around 100 miles to the town of Staunton where we then cut east on the 250 through a dip in the ranges (a saddle maybe) to the town of Waynesboro. There we stopped at their Visitor Centre and besides getting direction of the pending run through the hills, the volunteers were able to set us up with state maps for below and west of Virginia (a lot of state Visitor Centres only hold maps pertaining to that state).
Waynesboro is the gateway to the Blue Ridge Skyline Parkway. The parkway is at the southern end of the Shenandoah ranges and is a little lower to navigate, but is still a roadway that in essence runs south right along the top ridgeline of the ranges. The Skyline Parkway actually runs right through to the bottom of Virginia and then also down through North Carolina – we would only be taking in a stretch of around 50 miles today – enough of a test for Romin we felt. From Waynesboro it’s only a comparatively short climb to be up and on the ridge line and then you travel south on a winding, sometimes up and down road. On the plus side for us and Romin – speed limit on the road is only 45 and that is only on some stretches – most of the road you travel at around 35 miles and hour so a good pace for us – yes, almost our normal cruising pace. Along the Parkway there are stops and points of interest. We stopped at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Centre where they have preserved a farm-let from the era. Was all very rustic and got you thinking about the hardships people endure for where they live. At Humpback there are some rocks you can walk to – and the pictures looked pretty impressive but we settled for our wander around the farm and amused ourselves with the squirrels dancing around. Getting back in the parkway we enjoyed the vistas that ‘riding atop a mountain range’ provide.
Our Boondocking website directed us to a Forest Camp just off the Parkway so we headed east and down the valley on the 60 and soon found a quiet little spot called the Oronoco State Forest campsite. We settled in and got the deckchairs out for a time before we started to lose the sun and had a good walk up the valley as the sun dropped down. The camp had a couple of other groups staying as well – we got to talking to one chap that was driving back through to Texas – we heard him rise and get away early the next morning, as the following morning greeted us with very heavy rain. We got on the road early and wound our way slowly down the valley to the town of Amherst, and after some breakfast we pushed on south in the heavy rain, sticking to Highway 29 through to Danville in the south of the state. We had a good run south (around 75 miles) but again it was time for us to move on through and into another state.