I’m sitting in the home of yet another photographer friend, Rainy Chastine, in Fayetteville, Georgia… here to celebrate Thanksgiving, but blogging about my time in Virginia a few weeks ago. When it comes to giving thanks I have to say that my wonderful friends rank high on the list. I’ve said it many times before, but I don’t think I could state it enough… I am blessed to have so many great friends in my life, and I’m grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with so many of you!!
As you know from my last post, my first stop in Virginia was at the home of my long-time friends, Scott and Bonnie Salem. They have a spacious property high on a hill overlooking the Virginia countryside, with plenty of room for The Beast. Jazzy and Sadie felt right at home with their three dogs, and two horses, and only wished they could make friends with the two shy barn cats too! We had a comfy room with a view (and regular size shower!!) inside the house, and wanted for nothing during our stay.
The entire countryside was really beautiful. I particularly loved the rolling hills and old barns, and pastures full of horses (and goats).
While visiting, Bonnie and Scott took me on a day trip to Shenandoah National Park where we drove the northern portion of Skyline Drive, a scenic roadway that follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The color was not peak, but we managed to find some amazing vistas just the same. It was nice to have someone else behind the wheel for a change, so I could just sit back and enjoy the view. And Scott willingly pulled off the road at nearly every single turn-out on the drive so I could savor and photograph the spectacular landscape which seemed to go on forever, even on this cloudy day. It was a Saturday in late October, and we shared the roadway and turn-outs with a lot of other people doing the same that day. Families and couples, most of whom were clearly enjoying what was likely to be the last of the color for the season, got on and off the roadway in unison with us. The pace was slow, as it should be. You wouldn’t want to do this drive in a hurry. The three of us had to laugh at a father we witnessed shooing his family back into their car while hollering “Hurry! Hurry! The more we stop, the less we’re going to see!!” I bet he never smells the roses either.
We had a wonderful day together, and spent a lot of time laughing and reminiscing, but the conversation often led back to Hurricane Sandy which was working its way toward the north east with a vengeance. Where we were in Waterford, Virginia was on the southern edge of the RED zone, with wind gusts predicted to reach as much as 120mph. The storm was due to veer inland late the following day, October 29th, which also happened to be my birthday. By the time we got back from our day trip our concerns were building.
I felt confident that the girls and I would be safe in the comfort of Scott and Bonnie’s home, but I was concerned about how my motorhome would fare in such high winds. I have ridden out some brutal storms in The Beast, and at 12.5 feet in height and only 4 points (tires and/or jacks) touching the ground, I can tell you she can seriously rock and roll. I’ve wondered several times if the wind might tear the AC unit right off the roof. And none of those winds came anywhere near 120mph!
I considered loading up and high-tailing it as far as I could down the highway, but west was not an option since the cold front coming in from the north was dumping record breaking snow to the west of me. My only option was south, but that wasn’t really taking me any farther from shore. And I wasn’t really ready to leave yet anyway. We had birthday plans!
So we watched the forecasts, and I scoured the internet for information on how much wind my motorhome could withstand without falling over. It made complete sense to park it nose (or tail) into the wind, but because of the arch of the outer edge of the storm the wind would be changing direction. I knew I didn’t want to be out there repositioning it with the change in wind direction during the storm. What I really needed was as safe place to park my RV indoors, or at least between sturdy buildings that would block the wind.
Bless my friend Bonnie for her resourcefulness and friendships forged!! She made a few phone calls the following morning, and scored me a nice big barn to park in. And many, many thanks to Doris Williams for providing a complete stranger with a safe haven for a monster size motorhome and auto! As it turned out, since the storm veered north as it came ashore, we were spared the worst of the winds, but it was sure comforting not having to worry about it!
After getting The Beast situated in Doris’ barn, there was still much to do back at the homestead. I spent the afternoon securing patio furniture and helping Bonnie cut down tree limbs that threatened to take down sections of fence if they were to fall. (All good exercise! :-))
Like me, Bonnie is a big horse lover. Her gorgeous mares, Plum and Lula, are rescues who had been abandoned and left for dead with numerous others, some of whom did not survive. Her love for these animals inspired her to volunteer her time at a rescue organization nearby. Once we felt all was secure on the home front Scott and I joined her for feeding time at Equine Rescue League. What a wonderful thing these folks are doing! The animals here are all loved and cared for… and very fortunate to have found a great home.
We were all relieved to find the property in good condition the following morning, but heartbroken for those who suffered greatly in the wake of the hurricane. It’s horrible to see such devastation. One can only imagine the anguish over homes destroyed, and even worse… loved ones lost. The only thing I could think of to do to help was to stir up a little fund raiser for the American Red Cross with my fresh shipment of calendars. If you’re interested… Raising Funds for the Red Cross.
After a few more days at the Salem Hacienda, with colder weather setting in, it was time to say my good byes and continue on down the highway. Many thanks to my very dear friends… for the hospitality, the safe haven, the dog sitting, the birthday dinner, the day trip along the Blue Ridge, the love, the laughter, and the treasure of your friendship! Oh… and the lantern Bonnie snuck into my RV before I got out of your driveway!!! 🙂 Love you two!!
As it happened, I had friends camped a few hours down the highway at John Prince National Forest. I met David and Beth while camping near Teton National Park in July. While sharing a few meals, AND some great hikes, a wonderful friendship was forged. It only made since to make that my next stop!
It was really great to see these new friends, who felt like old friends, once again. Over the course of the next few days we shared more meals and more hikes. Beth’s daughter, Avery, joined us for a seven mile hike through the forest. There was nothing particularly beautiful about the hike since the leaves had all fallen, but it was a pleasure to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air in the company of good friends!
While camped at John Prince I spent the afternoon visiting my ex sister and brother-in-law, Kristi and David, in Mason Neck, Virginia. It seems funny and awkward to introduce them in that way because they still feel like family to me. Kristi and I took Jazzy and Sadie and their two beautiful Golden’s, Scout and Jackson, for hike through the woods and out to an inlet near Belmont Bay. Then Kristi, remembering my deep seated Cornhusker roots, turned on the Nebraska football game and brought out the munchies!! The Husker win topped off a perfect day!!
My last stop in Virginia was Lynchburg. The weather continued to be uncooperative, but the girls and I enjoyed a stroll about town. My favorite spot was Monument Terrace, which commemorates Lynchburg citizens who fought and died in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and present day. There are 132 steps, 10 landings and 11 monuments along the terrace, and I understand every Friday since 2001 it has been a place where people gather to demonstrate openly their support for the men and women who serve the United States military.
Funny, I just ran in to meet some new friends who are gathering at Rainy’s to celebrate this Thanksgiving. After a brief conversation I excused myself long enough to complete this blog post. Actually, what I said was that I’d promised myself that I would not indulge in food or adult beverages until I finished this task, and that I frequently had to be mother to myself… “You absolutely may NOT go out and play until you’ve got your work done!” No point in talking back!!! 🙂
Now I’m off to celebrate! Wishing you all a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!!