We have been on the road for 26 days now. After leaving Nebraska we had quick visits with family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We were fortunate to have my parents watch the girls and Chico, while Bryon and I had a date day riding the Cuyuna Trails in Crosby. We left my car in Minnesota.
We took the bus for an oil change and lube in Madison and Bryon’s sister and her two daughters, watched the girls. Bryon and I biked around Madison, and met his mom and her husband for lunch, while the bus was with the mechanic. Bryon showed me State Street, in Madison during our ride. We had not personally seen any of the aftermath of recent protests, until our ride. We were in awe at the businesses at street level. Windows were boarded up and the plywood was covered with a mix of art and grafitti, calling for change.
We went to Bristol, IN and stayed at the RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame, our first night out of Wisconsin. The RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame is a great option if you are looking for free camping in northern Indiana. There are not a lot of forest camping options or free camping options in the area. I would much rather stay in the RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame parking lot than a Walmart or truck stop parking area.
We headed for Ohio next, in hopes of finding a place to stay for several nights. Unfortunately, our free camping option I had found for Ohio did not work out due to COVID limitations. We were able to camp at Lake Snowden in Athens, OH for a fee. Lake Snowden, usually has a beach and other activities, that were not open due to COVID. The campground had several long term residents. I would not stay here again unless we needed to as the bathrooms were dirty and showers were cold, yet the price was $33. We personally prefer more open campgrounds.
After our struggle to find camping in Ohio, we headed to West Virginia. Google sent us on a crazy route through small towns to get back to the interstate, before we reached Charleston, WV. We stopped in Charleston at Cummins. We have been losing some oil and were curious if we could get anything to address the issue. The Cummins mechanics were surprised to see some of the parts in our bus were not made for the motor in that bus and the blow-by catch set up was also unlike anything they had seen. They offered us suggestions of how to possibly address the issue.
We left Charleston and continued across West Virginia. Meadow Creek Campground is a free camping area off the I-64 in West Virginia. I had read that Meadow Creek was an USFS campground. This was what we were looking for, as the NPS campgrounds in the area were closed still, due to COVID in West Virginia, but USFS land was open for camping. Unfortunately, the information on Campendium was incorrect and Meadow Creek was managed by the NPS. We spoke with a ranger passing by and he told us that our best bet would be to get back on the I-64 and head toward White Sulphur Springs.
We continued along the way and made it to Lewisburg where we exited and traveled through country roads, that were rolling and winding with the Appalachians rising above the streams and rivers. We arrived at Blue Bend Recreation Area before dinner and found a campsite. For $20 the campground offered electric, showers, disposal of trash, and access to hiking trails and a river beach.
The recreation area had been constructed by the CCC in the 1930’s there were two large shelters, with massive fireplaces. There were 21 campsites and a playground. There was a swinging bridge to cross Anthony Creek and a rock patio dropping down to the river to fish from or swim from on each side. Each morning April, Daphney, Chico, and I went walking on the trails in the area and down by the creek. April and I examined leaves on trees we were not familiar with. We identified trees. We make art from rocks and leaves. We observed millipedes and bumblebees. The temperate rainforest habitat was full of life. Insects and frogs hummed. Woodpeckers elusively flew through camp a few times a day. Vines and trees sheltered the bus, keeping sunlight out of camp most of the day.
Bryon worked on bags, while we explored and made millipede mansions and leaf art outside the bus, on the picnic table. Each afternoon we took bike rides along the roads. We found the roads in and out of camp were not ideal for biking. Cars rarely slowed down or moved over, as we pedaled on the edge of the narrow road toward the nearest towns and highways. There was a forest road out of camp as well and we went up that for a while. The forest road had no traffic, and if we had spent more time in the area, we would have likely explored this road and the roads that were off it more.
As a teenager, I saw the movie October Sky and read Homer Hickam’s books about life in Coalwood, WV. The story of the young man, who grew up in a coal mining town and went on to work for NASA, was where my perception of West Virginia was formed. The Monongahela National Forest along Anthony Creek, in Big Bend Recreation Area, greatly changed my view of the area. Our drive through the state to our camp spot, and the several days I have spent exploring the area surrounding the camp, proved West Virginia to be a different place than I imagined.
After leaving West Virginia, we travelled about 200 miles through the Appalachian’s. We stopped to do laundry and grocery shop in Covington, Virginia. The locals at the laundromat were impressed by our bus. They asked if we took people on trips in it or if it was our home. We had one guy who could see the bus from his backyard as we pulled into the laundromat, walk over and ask to take pictures.
We arrived in Ivanhoe, VA where you can stay at the Horse Show Grounds, this past Monday. A donation is suggested for your stay. The grounds are in a great location. We were in a wide-open area along the New River. Even though we were on the horse ground, was little horse manure on the property. There was water access and a bath house. We carried our water in 5-gallon cubes to the bus and then using a funnel to get it into our water tank. The bathrooms were not exactly clean, but there are hot showers available.
The New River Trail is at the edge of the campground. This rail trail is 57 miles long. It runs from Pulaski to Galax Ivanhoe is around mile 32-33. We went to mail bags in Austinville Wednesday, after riding from our camp to Foster Falls. We saw numerous deer in the magical forest. Including small, spotted, fawns. Bryon also saw a large bird in a crevous of the cliff walls that tower above the trail in sections.
We have been talking about our plan for life in the bus. We were on a schedule before heading east, to visit family and drop our vehicle off. We have spent time with our families and no longer have anywhere we need to be, until events are back on schedule. We are figuring out how to find camping that is free or has minimal costs, most of the time. Some of our best stops have been those that we found last minute. Travelling slowly instead of for several days in a row is easier on Lucky 13, too. We are most productive when we stay put for several days, as well. We will continue to meander north for a while. We hope to be in Maine sometime before fall.
We are learning how to work together to make things work, with our new lifestyle. Our bus is over 20 years old. We are learning what we need to do to keep it in running order for our adventure. We are amazed at the enthusiasm and interest all kinds of people have in our bus. The artwork of Cy Whitling, has drawn many to our bus. All ages and ethnicities we cross have something to say about our bus. We have been referred to as hippies in Nebraska. In West Virginia, a man told Bryon he thought the gypsies had moved into the forest, when he saw us. People honk, wave, and ask to take pictures of the bus daily, some ask others don’t.
We spent last night in the Uwharrie National Forest in North Carolina. The campground was booked full after last tonight. I found an eastern RV club that offered us a few free nights at the Sycamore Resort in Jackson Springs, NC for the weekend, 40 miles southeast of Badin where we stayed last night. We are there now.
We hope to reach the beach, after the weekend. We are excited for what lies ahead of us on this great adventure. As a woman at a Walmart outside of Winston-Salem, NC told us yesterday “Good things are happening.”