And the road goes on forever...

Friday, April 30, 2021

What About Virginia?


Most days and evenings as we sit by the bay, there is a solitary male loon who keeps himself busy with diving and fishing. This must be his home for he rarely strays from in front of us and he doesn’t often call either. 

This place is a bird watchers Mecca, especially the raptors. We daily see numerous osprey dipping, coming up with small bait fish gripped in wicked talons, flapping over our heads and off to the pine treetops. There are other types of hawks and one bald eagle, diver ducks, gulls, terns, and inland, songbirds. They twitter and sing all day long. In between watching all the bird life, we watch the plethora of boats and ships. Container ships, ferries, fishing boats, go-fast pleasure boats, sailboats and very occasionally, a brave kayaker. We are on the open bay side of Gwynn’s Island and with the windy conditions, it often gets rough. We have become used to it booming right beside us at night, lulling us to sleep. 

Every morning at 6 a.m. as we enjoy beautiful sunrises, a couple of fishermen work a gill net line, which is strung parallel to shore for about a half mile length. Twice, we have watched pods of dolphins also swimming along the line to harvest any leftovers. This bay is alive with life but is still in recuperation mode from being highly polluted decades ago. It is well used and well loved by those who live, work, and play here. Me too; I am in love with it and hate to leave. We highly enjoy the seafood we have splurged on: fresh oysters we barbecue accompanied with cold beer, and another meal of delicious grouper. 

It was a long way to get here; many boring freeway miles and ad hoc camping every night. The first two nights were OK at an Illinois state park and the next at an Indiana state park but the third night in West Virginia was nearly a disaster. 

Nothing was yet open in that state despite it being around 70 degrees and we finally found a small camping sign which we followed down a narrow road. Committed, we saw a tunnel up ahead gored out of solid rock with height restrictions of 10 feet along the sides and 14 feet in the middle. The problem was, the tunnel was dark and unlit and it wasn’t apparent until we were in it that along with the roadway, there was also power lines and a creek running through the tunnel! There was a narrow path of paving with a footing wall so people didn’t drive off into the creek which Marc had to crowd within inches. We heard noise at the end and thought for sure we had lost our a/c unit so stopped to check. It turned out to be our jack stand levers which had scraped the knee wall. 

 After two miles of skinny, winding road we came to the dreaded metal arm in down position at the “campground closed” sign. Marc parked and started walking up the continuing road, hopeful for any kind of wide spot. Thankfully, he met some locals who indicated it was national forest land and there was a small parking lot by a creek just up the way. It became camp for the night and we weren’t bothered and were too tired by then to go any farther even if we were. Marc said there was no way he was attempting that tunnel again in the dark! 

This all came on the heels of a miserable day traversing West Virginia. Hoping to avoid the toll freeway, Marc decided on the old Hwy. 60 which for a time paralleled the freeway. The map indicated it was a state route but it looked very curvy to me. Yes indeed. It took hours of twists and turns as we climbed hair-raising cliffsides with thousand-foot drop-offs. It ended up delaying us mightily so my suggestion is to never take an RV over Hwy. 60 in WV! Actually, we have never been impressed with WV and have decided to try and avoid it in the future as much as possible. Camping is impossible there, the roads are miserable, and much of the countryside scenery filled with abject signs of poverty and desolation. Home yards were filled with the detritus of an entire lifetime worth of junk, dead vehicles, trash and peeling paint. It made us so thankful to be living in a clean, relatively prosperous state like WI. Returning home, we do have to route through WV but have done so to avoid having to spend the night there.

Here on Gwynn’s Island our weather has mostly been favorable. Like any marine climate, which we love, it will often be still, sunny, and calm during morning hours, then showery and windy in the afternoon. We enjoyed our new screen tent, which can seal out much of the wind; and especially had a wonderful time visiting with Marc’s sister there as we listened to the waves. It was the first time they have seen each other in ten years and it was her birthday and she loved the cutting board Marc had made for her.

We’ve gotten to know this area fairly well in a short period of time. It’s rural on one hand, yet strangely busy on the other—lots of traffic as compared to WI and the roads are insanely narrow. They believe in saving asphalt here I guess, as there are no shoulders whatsoever on back roads, plus both sides are lined with deep culverts to accommodate the runoff and tidal waters of this low-lying country. There is no where to turn off, no where to pull over in an emergency and with each oncoming car you just hope to hell the driver isn’t texting on his phone. For the amount of traffic, the roads are a total incongruity.

We looked at some interesting property and some losers. My favorite was an acre+ piece near to Gloucester and close to the York River. It had all utilities at the road, including high speed cable (internet access here is very spotty), a must have for us, was level and usable with great soil.

We looked at a four acre wooded piece with huge trees.

We also looked at a couple of two-acre parcels on the island (I could really dig living on the island!) but found the alternative septic system required would be extremely costly at around $30,000, making the low-cost lot not so attractive. We figure out that anything directly waterfront is too expensive for us. The climate and countryside are attractive to me and I could live here, but truth be told, nothing here save having the ocean close, is as good as what we have in Wisconsin. Which presents a conundrum doesn’t it?

 It’s a huge decision and one which may have to wait for a time to percolate. Meantime, when we arrive home, we’re going to be able to pay off our mortgage entirely—a major step we worked hard towards for the past six years since it was built. The relief that comes with having a free and clear new home may just have us remain. 

With each passing day, the pundits seem to express more doom and gloom about the forthcoming economy and the real possibility of runaway inflation, which of course hits retired people very hard. Lumber and building pricing are at an all time high, making building affordably an impossibility; best not even contemplated right now. Times are just too uncertain—take the bird in the hand, the patch of green grass that is already ours and be thankful we have it as a safe haven. Marc will be returning to work out of state on another large assisted living facility; more on that next time. 

Here’s some further pictures of our explorations, including some old-time sea captain homes in the small town of Reedville, where the road ends and the ocean beckons. Gracious volunteers welcomed us at a closed boat museum which wasn’t opening until May 1. They had built a replica of the boat used by John Smith in the Jamestown founding of America, which had later been used in movies, so they were quite proud! (The last pic).

Unknown birds loudly chirped and sang; the water was tranquil and the overall feeling was one of total peace if one lived here.  Virginia sports some magnificent old mansions and housing stock (it’s quite common for homes to date from the early to mid-1800’s, some even the 1700’s), but mixed in are old and abandoned vine covered dilapidated shacks and very rusted out single wide trailers. People are friendly and many speak with a southern accent. Flying the confederate flag here is more than a little popular. 

Finally, our stay at the RV park on Gwynn’s Island was a treat. It is filled with mostly seasonal RVs and park models, whose owners come only on weekends for the most part. During the week it remained quiet, but we had very poor WIFI and cell service, despite the fact there is high speed on the island. Our spot was particularly delightful as it’s on the end and our slide picture windows looked right out at ocean 30 feet away over the rock jetty. We couldn’t have asked for a better site for ocean-lovers. It’s expensive, as all commercial RV parks are now, but for a blowout vacation, well worth it for the location.

(The swing bridge to the island)

We decided upon a different return route, which took us through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in VA, a portion of Maryland (who knew Maryland was mountainous?), just a smidgen of WV (Wheeling), Pennsylvania and Ohio and then back on our original route through Indiana and Illinois. We were totally exhausted by the time we got home (I hate back-to-back long travel days) but it was reassuring to get home and note how happy the cats were to be home; I swear they were all wearing grins.