Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A bridge–tunnel adventure and settling in for a longer stay

Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

For our final travel day, we needed to cross the Chesapeake Bay.  Years ago, a ferry was the only way to get across, but that was before the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Now for $39.00, we could take our 5-axle vehicle (MH + Jeep) 17 miles across the Bay, through a series of bridge and tunnel sections.  It was definitely an adventure!

Nicolas warned us that our propane needed to be off in the tunnel sections and that they may stop us for an inspection at the entrance to the 1st bridge section.  Tom almost forgot . . . but remembered as we were pulling out of the RV Resort and was able to stop and turn it off.

The gate attendant asked if it was off as we passed through the toll gate, but they did not inspect it at all.  Better safe than sorry, though.

The bridge sections are two lanes in each direction, and separated into two bridges.  It’s not a very tall bridge . . . but it’s very long!

It's not a very tall bridge, but it's LONG!

17 miles of bridge and tunnel!

This part wasn’t too bad!

As we approached the first tunnel, the two side-by-side bridges each went down to a single lane and fed into a single tunnel.

Entering the first tunnel section -- narrow!

Now this was narrow!  Each tunnel section is only 1 mile long, though, so before you know it you are going back up above the surface!

The light at the end of the tunnel

It sure didn’t feel like we were far enough below the surface for an aircraft carrier to pass over the top of the tunnel, but this is the way they get out to the ocean, so the tunnel must be deep enough . . . I guess they only go out at high tide!

Whew – it was good to be back above the surface of the ocean!

Back above the water

2nd tunnel section

One more tunnel, another bridge, and then we were in Virginia Beach.  Nicolas recommended that we take the inner loop (I-64) through Chesapeake, rather than going straight through Norfolk, and that was definitely a good suggestion.  Traffic was fairly light, and we had no trouble finding our way to Suffolk.

We pulled into Davis Lakes Campground right at noon.

Davis Lakes

We weren’t sure what site they were going to put us on – whether it would be in the monthly section where Nicolas is,

Monthly loop

Monthly loop

or in the daily sites.  We ended up in the daily sites, but backed up to the monthly area, so we’re still pretty close to Nick.  We had a quick lunch, and were just finishing getting set up when Nicolas drove up – he was home early from work!

Our site in the daily area

It’s a nice little campground he found for his home!

One of the lakes

The beach

In addition to the monthly sites and the daily sites, there are seasonal sites around the perimeter of each of the lakes.

Seasonal sites around the lake


View from the walking path

After our walk around the campground, we stopped by Nicolas’ camper to check it out --  we’d only seen pictures so far.

Nicolas' site in the monthly area

It’s a great little camper for him – in great condition, and just the right size!

He’s got some projects he want to work on with Tom, and they need to get it ready for winter . . . so that will keep Tom busy for the next several weeks!

The campground was having their Halloween weekend, so as the afternoon went on, the campground filled up.  Decorations started popping up all around us!

The graveyard

Halloween decorations

Saturday was Nicolas’ 24-hour duty day, so he wasn’t there to join in the festivities, but Tom and I joined in and met many of the long-term residents.

On Saturday morning, the witches stew went into the big cauldron – everybody contributed meat and vegetables,

Conjuring the witches stew

Dishing up the leftover stew

and then gathered in the pavilion at 1 pm to enjoy the final product.  It was pretty good!  There was a ton of it, too . . . everybody had their fill, and took home containers of stew to enjoy later!

Trick – or – Treating was not until 7pm, so we had time to run a few errands and go to church.  We were home by 6pm and had a quick dinner before the kids started coming around.

There were quite a few kids, but the campground had them all gather at the pavilion first and then sent them around in groups, so the whole process went really smoothly and quickly – it was over by 7:45.  It was a fun evening, and the weather was beautiful, so everyone had a great time!  We love seeing all the little kids in their costumes!


On Sunday when Nicolas got home from work, he and Tom got started on their first project – washing and polishing Nick’s camper.  They made pretty good progress on it, and Tom finished it up on Monday while Nick was back at work.

I took some measurements in his camper for new valences and a couple other things I am making for him, did his laundry and made grill pizza for dinner.

It turned out really good this time!

Grill pizza

We’ll be here through Thanksgiving weekend, so that should give us plenty of time to complete our many projects, as well as explore the area a little on Nick’s days off.  We’re looking forward to it!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Checking out Cape Charles, VA and future volunteer options

Cape Charles, VA

After our weekend in Ocean City, MD, we continued south on the Delmarva Peninsula into Virginia.

VirginiaIf you’re looking for an alternative way to get to Virginia or North Carolina from the Delaware/New Jersey area, this route is a great option!

Driving south on US-113

The road is primarily divided highway, traffic is light, and best of all – you completely bypass Baltimore and Washington DC!

We stopped at the very tip of the peninsula, just before reaching the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. 

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the distance

We could have made it all the way to Suffolk, where we’ll be spending the rest of October and most of November, but we wanted to check out the area around Cape Charles first.  We’ve been researching a couple of options for volunteering next spring/summer so we wanted to take a look around and meet the staff and current volunteers.

Sunset Beach RV Resort is on the Chesapeake Bay side of the peninsula, and a great option for checking out the area.  It was very quiet during the week in October, but we hear it gets quite busy in the summer.

Site 152 at Sunset Beach

I can certainly understand why – the RV park is in a great location on the bay, with a beautiful beach, and a restaurant that overlooks the Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake Bay


At the beach

Restaurant on the beach

This pool looks amazing!

Nice pool!

We also understand how the resort got its name – we had some great sunsets while we were here!

Sunset_October 18th

Sunset_October 18th

The beach at sunset

Sunset_October 18th

Our first stop was the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, directly across the highway from the RV Resort.  The refuge has 6 RV sites for volunteers, and primary duties of volunteers are manning the Visitor Center, maintaining gardens, outreach to the public, and occasional work with the biologists.

We met a few staff members and several of the current volunteers.  Everyone was very friendly, and it looked like a very good option for volunteering in the area.  We drove past the RV sites, which were about a mile into the refuge, next to the maintenance garage and shop.  The sites were very nice – several on concrete and the others on gravel with concrete patios.

Our next stop was Kiptopeke State Park – about 2 miles north of our location, also on the Chesapeake Bay.  The campground has 2 loops of full hookup sites, and several small loops of tent sites.  They have both Camp Host volunteers and Maintenance volunteers, both of which are located on sites within the full hookup sites.

Host sites

The sites are large and back up to the woods, which is nice.  We spent quite a bit of time talking to the current Maintenance Hosts.  This also sounds like a very nice place to volunteer.

There are picnic areas and cabins, also. and a large beach and public fishing pier.

Kiptopeke State Park

The beach looks very nice.

The beach at Kiptopeke State Park

Looking out into the bay from the fishing pier, we saw two lines of large old ships creating barriers out in front of the state park. 

WW2 Concrete Ships

They are old WW2 ships that we brought into the bay, and filled with concrete to sink them into place.  They provide protection for the State Park beach and pier, as well as a habitat for fish and birds.

Kiptopeke is a very nice state park, and looks like an excellent volunteer opportunity.  We’re leaning toward this one for next summer, but still have to finalize a few things.

With our research complete, we went to check out the little town of Cape Charles.

Art display

It’s a cute little town on the Chesapeake Bay, with a nice downtown area and public beach and fishing pier.  We parked downtown and walked toward the water.

Cute old houses

Houses in Cape Charles

At the beach

Beach at low tide

It was low tide while we were there, an we watched this Great Blue Heron doing some fishing.

Blue Heron at low tide

Blue Heron

Until he flew off, anyway . . .

Blue Heron

We learned something new at the fishing pier . . . in Virginia, you can fish at a public pier without a saltwater license, as long as you register for a free Fisherman Identification Number.  That was pretty interesting . . .

There were a few people fishing and crabbing . . . but nobody catching anything!


Cape Charles looks like a nice quiet area, with the only downside being that each time we would want to visit Nicolas, we would need to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel – we would rack up a few tolls, I’m sure!

We’re still investigating some options on the Norfolk/Virginia Beach side of the Bay, too, but it looks like we should be able to line something up.

Monarch butterfly

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Assateague Island National Seashore


I forgot to mention in my last post that, with the additional of Maryland to our map, we’ve completed the New England area of the country and we have just 5 states remaining to visit in the contiguous US.  We’ll have to make sure our travel plans take us through those last few states in the next year or so!

New Map_2

So, back to the weekend . . . Finally, as promised, Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day!  Nicolas had to go home in the afternoon, so we went to mass early so we would have more of the day to work with.

The Assateague Island National Seashore is home to a herd of wild horses, and just a few miles down the road from us, so that was our destination for the day.  We stopped in at the Visitor Center


to get an idea of where to go, and Nicolas picked up his military annual national parks pass.

Assateague Island is partially state park, with a campground and beach, and partially national seashore, with several walking trails, campsites on the ocean side and the bay side, beach and an area for over sand driving.  Nicolas would have loved to go out on the sand with his truck, but this area requires an annual pass at a cost of $70 – too much for a one time visit!


We were just driving through the state park on our way to the national park when we spotted our first wild horse.  He was walking along on the bike path, and park staff were following in a golf cart to keep him away from cars.

We continued on to the first of several trails, the Marsh Trail, and spotted a couple more horses along the road,



and several more out in the marsh.

Wild horses in the marsh

We walked along the Marsh Trail, where Tom and Nick were tormented by a huge seagull,



until Tom scared him away!


There was a small Nature Center,

Nature Center

and the bay seemed to be a favorite location for windsurfers and parasurfers.

Windsurfer on the Bay



The next trail we came across was the Forest Trail,

Life of the Forest Trail

which took us through a pine forest into the marsh.  We didn’t see anymore horses, but plenty of evidence that they had been there!

There were plenty of birds, though --





and even a bald eagle at the top of one of the trees in the marsh.

Nicolas spotted an eagle in a tree

Bald Eagle

I zoomed in as much as I could with my camera, and then cropped the picture down as much as possible without making the picture too blurry.

It’s not really clear, but you can definitely tell it’s an eagle.

I took a few pictures of the marsh before we moved on to the ocean side of the island, and the dunes.

Assateague Bay


The last trail was the Dunes Trail,


which took us out on the dunes in a loop that passed by an old attempt at creating another boardwalk like Ocean City. 


There are remnants of an asphalt road, and a few old pieces of building foundations, although most of it has been covered back up by sand.


We continued along the trail, and at one point I was taking a picture of Nicolas while he was taking a picture of us!

Dunes trail

Dunes Trail

After the trail, we walked down to check out the beach.  It was low tide, so the beach was huge!

At the beach


Beautiful Beach


I actually end up in some of the pictures when we have Nicolas with us!

At the beach

There’s my junior photographer!

Tom & Nicolas

It was a beautiful day, and we really enjoyed exploring Assateague Island – in addition to the hiking trails, there’s also a bike trail along the entire length of the road through the state park and national park.  It would be a great place to bring bikes.

We were all getting a little hungry, so we headed into Ocean City for some dinner and then it was time for Nicolas to head home.

Sad smile

We were sad to see him go, but we’ll see him again in a few days when we arrive at his campground . . .  and we’ll be there for over a month!


Tom and I hung around for another day – rainy day Monday – and were rewarded with an amazing sunset . . . even if it was a little blustery and chilly again!

Sunset at our site


Sunset over the Bay