It's a bit more than two weeks since I rolled out of New Brunswick toward South Florida, and I had planned a series of both scenic and utilitarian stops along the way. Thankfully, the travel time and traffic eased as I moved south, but it's been interesting to weigh the expectations I had for each location against reality. From St. Andrews, I thought a 7-hour push to the middle of Massachusetts would be okay until that turned into a 9.5 hour drag. New England, you have serious traffic issues! I arrived, I slept, I moved on.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was a three-night stop to meet a few deadlines, and catch up on the life list before returning to the serenity of the woods. I did work a 6-hour day, but wasn't I surprised to find that Harrisburg has a 22-mile greenbelt that takes you along the riverfront, by the state house, and through a beautiful preserve. Delightful, but more of a surprise was my Airbnb stay with an interesting singer/songwriter/artist who I definitely knew in another life. We spent two mornings over coffee in three hours of conversation, and the last night, shared dinner with a friend and other guests. When I left, I felt like I had been at home for a couple of weeks.
In just three hours, I arrived at the Meadows Campground in Shenandoah National Park for 5 nights. It was my first visit, so I chose to stay at a popular campground to be able to walk to the Visitor's Center, Ranger Programs, and numerous trail heads. Suffice to say that "popular" is an understatement, and this Park is in dire trouble. In addition to every type of lodging, there are 5 gifts shops, 5 restaurants, 2 "taprooms with live entertainment", a gas station, and a strong encouragement to enjoy the views by automobile. Yes, the epitome of what America's National Park's are becoming can all be found here.
On the mornings I biked, I would return with a sore throat from breathing the polluted air. According to their literature ("What's up with the air?" published in 2003), 90% of the problem is air pollution blowing in from nearby metros, but leaving your auto running idle and cigarette smoking appear to be the cultural norm here, too. I know that "Virginia is for Lovers" but breeding with first cousins is beginning to show. I left after 4 nights, so suffice to say, Shenandoah National Park is #2 on my list of places I won't need time to revisit.
Onward for 5-nights of Airbnb camping! I fell upon this little spot in Albemarle, North Carolina and they let me come early! While I was setting up my tent, two guys from Switzerland were leaving, so I ended up the sole camper in a large, quiet space near the renovated barn that was kitchen, bath and seating area. The lovely host family live on the acres next door, and came by daily to check in, The cycling between small towns here was lovely, but I was also just a few miles from Morrow Mountain State Park with more than 15 miles of hiking trails. I'd never heard of the Uwharrie Mountains, and they're little more than high hills that average less than 1,000 feet in elevation. In fact, Morrow Mountain is the high point at 936 feet, but nevertheless, an enjoyable spot to hike with a lovely lake. So, one never knows!
On August 23rd, I rolled into St. Augustine, but that's a story for tomorrow.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover