Civil War Trails stop

IMG_3426_resizedThe signs on I-295 near Richmond, Virginia listed EXIT 34 as the way to Cold Harbor Battlefield. I decided to hop off the road and see how far this was. The first road east of the interstate had signs showing the direction of the Battle of Gaines Mill.

As I have been a Civil War buff for years I figured that a stop was in order. Sher and I headed down the road and followed the signs to the Battlefield. What greeted us was a sign announcing the entrance and a long narrow tree lined road winding up through the ravines to the ridge top.

I was greeted at the ridge top with an incredile vista. There was a simple two story house and large “outbuilding”, several hundred yards of spilt rail fences and a few artillery pieces. Some informational signs were scattered around. An unoccupied NPS Park Ranger squad car was the only indication that this was the year 2015, not 1862.

This plantation home was the Union Headquarters and was shot to pieces during the battle

This plantation home was the Union Headquarters and was shot to pieces during the battle

Fences are the Union lines, the Confederates attacked from the tree line.

Fences are the Union lines, the Confederates attacked from the tree line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grounds were totally empty. There was only one other car when we pulled in, and it left in short order. I couldn’t believe that we had the entire site to ourselves.  As I walked along the line where Union artillery pounded the advancing Confederate infantry as they came up the ravine and through the trees I could not help but imagine the horror of the conflict. This is hallowed ground that is filled with the energy that remains from the turbulant times of the American Civil War.

Artillery cannon with the plantation buildings in the background

Artillery cannon with the plantation buildings in the background

Our rig parked on the site with cannons off to the left.

Our rig parked on the site with cannons off to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle of Gaines Mill was one of the Seven Days Battle that took place in late June/early July 1862. This day’s fighting resulted in combined casualties of 15,000 killed, wounded or captured. If you are interested in details, you can find them at this NPS website.

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A safe secure free place to stay overnight on I-64 in WV

The red 'pointed' building is the convention center

The red ‘pointed’ building is the convention center

Just before the toll booth of the I-64 West Virginia Turnpike (when traveling towards Charleston) you come to the Tamarack Center, located at the Beckley Travel Plaza at EXIT 45. This popular and large rest stop has a big fueling station for autos and another one for trucks. The travel center has tourist information, good restuarants and lots of neat shops selling area hand-made crafts, art and other items.

We were heading west from a trip to Virginia and pulled into the parking lot for cars. We had not decided if we were going to stop for the night or just a couple of hours to rest and eat. Then a really nice fellow in an official truck drove up and asked me if we wanted to spend the night. He said there was a designated spot for RV’s next to the convention center. He led us up the road to the convention center and to the place where parking spaces are marked for RV’s and buses.

Our level, comfortable and quiet overnight parking spot

Our level, comfortable and quiet overnight parking spot

The Tamarack Center

The Tamarack Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These spots are well lit with street lights and there is a security officer that patrols the area all night long. The fellow that led us to the parking told us about the security patrol so we wouldn’t worry! He also gave us the phone number of the travel plaza if we needed anything! After being told we weren’t wanted at Lewes, Delaware (see that story here) it was refreshing to actually be invited to a free, safe and secure place to park overnight! The Convention Center is on a small hill south of the truck parking and fuel islands. Look for the building with the red pointed windows showing. That is the convention center. The RV parking is on the east side. Follow the signs.

When you travel on I-64 in West Virginia, look for the Tamarack Travel Plaza near Beckley. This is one stop that is worth planning for as you map your routes. Be sure to grab a bite to eat and spend some time browsing the arts and crafts stores. Then enjoy a quiet restful night to get you ready for the next day’s travel. Here is the official website of the Beckley Travel Plaza.

Tom’s Cove Park on Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Fishing piers at the park

Fishing piers at the park

Tom’s Cove Park is one of two large RV parks on Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s Atlantic shore. The RV park was our stopping point for a couple of days during our jaunt up and down the Delmarva Penninsula.

The park is easy to get to, just turn left on the main street when you cross the bridge at the end of the causeway leading to the island. There will be a nice drive along the inner waterway and you will see the signs to the park.

The park has over 900 sites with about half being seasonal rigs. There are sites for tents as well as the big rigs and everything inbetween. They offer free WiFi which actually provided a strong connection. The cable TV was available at our site, but it was poor quality.

Sher getting a little computer work done

Sher getting a little computer work done

Restrooms and dump stations are scattered around the park, although there are plenty of full hook up sites as well. The store/registration office is very large and stocks a bit of everything from food to power cords to bait.

The water is close and several private fishing and crabbing docks will make this a delightful place to wet a line or set the crabbing pots if you are so inclined. There is also a boat ramp and marina on the property.

Working lighthouse you can see after dark from the park

Working lighthouse you can see after dark from the park

Camp store/registration

Camp store/registration

Take a drive through the park and check out which site you want. This is a suggestion I would make. Had we done that before we registered we probably would have picked a different site. There is quite the selection of sites in the park. Staff are friendly, fellow campers are friendly and there is also a nice pool with a lifeguard on duty.

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This camper is ready to fish!

The large swimming pool

The large swimming pool

Rates are moderate to high, so pick and choose what you want in your site: full or partial hook-ups, 30 or 50 amp, cable TV or not, etc. All in all it is a nice, clean, safe park albeit on the high price side. Click here for the park Website.

Beautiful waterfall and Nature Preserve

20150522_134618 (2)Traveling in the Columbus and Dublin, Ohio area? There is a little gem of a nature park that you really should see. Nestled in a ravine running into the Scioto River in Dublin, Ohio you will find a stunning waterfall in a peaceful setting in the middle of the city. The Griggs Nature Preserve is part of the Columbus Parks system.

The small parking lot is located on the west side of the river on the south side of  Hayden Run Road east of Dublin Road. There is a trail head that immediately turns into a new, well constructed boardwalk trail. The steep steps lead down the ravine bank to a wide boardwalk with railings on both sides. The boardwalk follows the stream which may give you the chance to see some ducks and their families. Songbirds add to the vista of the pretty trees, wildflowers and other foliage.

The waterfall itself is at the end of the 1/4 mile long boardwalk. What a beautiful waterfall and pool! The rock outcroppings are stunnning to see and you wonder how did this falls come to be. It is hard to believe that this serene natural setting is surrounded by the bustling cities of Dublin and Columbus!

Words of caution: The steps leading down to the stream trail are very steep and long. It is easy going down, but the climb back up can be difficult. Plan accordingly. In addition, the parking lot is small and will require the use of your towed vehicle. Only a Class B will fit into the small parking lot.

Lewes Delaware is NOT friendly to RV’s

Those of you with an RV need to stay away from Lewes, Delaware.

Lewes, Delaware is a little historic burg on the Delmarva Penninsula. We spent a bit of time there this past week. We drove around the area, followed their “greenway” road signs through a new housing addition and also drove through the center of the shops/restaurant area in the old downtown. We even stopped at the Chamber of Commerce welcome center and visited a museum.

As we were preparing to leave I wanted to snap a few photos at an old church with graves dating back to the late 1600’s. This church was touted as one of the best historic sites. At this time there were plenty of street parking spots open. I stopped in a  couple of spots across the street from the church, hopped out and crossed the street to get some good photos for what was going to be this article.

Gone about four minutes, as I went back I saw Sher talking to someone with her side door of the coach open. I hurried across the street and saw a rather rotund fellow with a slouch hat and a name badge with a ticket book. Turns out he was the parking meter “officer”. He was rude to Sher as he spoke to her. Sher had both explained that I was snapping some pictures and she offered to pay for the two spots that our 24′ motorhome occupied. He walked away. Sher gave me a dollar and I went after him.

He was rather rude to me when as he stated that “RV’s and campers are not allowed in Lewes. There are signs that state this on the roads leading into town.”  I told him the road we came in on did not have such a sign. He then stated “Well, if you had come in on the south road you would have seen the sign.”  Excuse me??

RV folks, stay away from Lewes, Delaware. You are not welcome there. This is official from an officer of Lewes.

I have no desire to put any of the pictures I captured in Lewes on any post. If we are not wanted there, neither are pictures of Lewes wanted here.

Chincoteague Island

Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s eastern shore is a unique dab of land that features a large National Wildlife Refuge, some pretty beaches, and is known for the herd of wild ponies that roams the open spaces.

There are lots of “touristy” type things to do, including a lot of tour boats that will take you out and around the island. Most of these are pontoon boats with a capacity of six passengers. We decided to not take one of these tours but to just drive to the beaches and drive around the Wildlife Refuge.

We parked on the beach lot accessible through the Wildlife Refuge. The beach is really worth the drive: the parking is close to the beach, the sands are clean and it is a great place to grab a bite of lunch.

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Our National Parks Service Senior Pass saved us the $8 entrance fee to the National Wildlife Refuge. (Seniors 62 and older can get this pass here: NPS lifetime Senior Pass website)

IMG_3345 (2)Our drive around the “Wildlife Loop” did allow us to see two of the wild ponies. They were about 400 yards away from the road, so the picture is not the best quality. We did see them, though, which is alleged to be usually pretty iffy. Other than the two ponies and some white egrets we did not see any other wildlife during our drive.

Our home base on Chincoteague Island was an RV park named Tom’s Cove Park. The park was large, with over 900 spaces. It was a decent park albeit a bit pricy. (We were at a $51 a night spot that included cable and free WiFi)

We visited Ocean City Maryland

IMG_3378Ocean City, Maryland claims to be the best resort city in the country, at least according to the welcome sign along Rt 50 as you enter the city. It is on the Atlantic coast. Sher and I were surprised at how built up this area was. Hotels, high rise condos, a boardwalk with blocks and blocks of stores, restaurants, mini golf courses and nightclubs.

Parking on the streets was impossible when we were there because of the volume of people! We drove to what is called the South Inlet and found a very pretty large beach and ocean view. The public lot had plenty of room so we parked there.

Boats were everywhere going from the marinas out to the ocean. The beach was not really that full. A cool breeze was coming off the water so it was comfortable to eat lunch in our motorhome with the windows open. This parking lot was not suitable for long coaches or trailers, however. Don’t try it with your fiver or diesel pusher!

Fishing from the sidewalk at the South Inlet parking lot

Fishing from the sidewalk at the South Inlet parking lot

 

A neat Coast Guard vessel heading out

A neat Coast Guard vessel heading out

 

We found our new favorite pizza in Berlin

IMG_3348_resizedBefore you think Sher and I have headed to Germany, the pizza is in Berlin, Maryland. We had just pulled into a Walmart to pick up some groceries including tonight’s supper when Sher saw a pizza place in a building in front of the Walmart.

Off we went to Piaza. Neither of us had heard of it, but the price seemed reasonable, the place was clean and decorated very nicely. The pizzas we had were outstanding! Sher had a veggie topped Mediterranean and I had BBQ chicken with added bacon. They are thin crust brick oven baked and you may pick your own combination of toppings.

The owner of the restaurant is David Crocetti. David is a personable and friendly man who took the time to talk with us.  This establishment has been open for a mere two months and has already been nominated for “Best Pizza”. He explained to us that he uses only the finest ingredients that are prepared daily. He has another restaurant in Baltimore with several more planned for that area.

The Piaza is across the parking lot from Walmart in Berlin, Maryland

The Piaza is across the parking lot from Walmart in Berlin, Maryland

The Italian made brick oven in action.

The Italian made brick oven in action.

The brick oven is from Italy and can prepare a pizza in three minutes. From the time we ordered and watched our pizzas prepared to pick up ready to eat a mere 5 minutes had passed! No 15 to 20 minute wait for your pizzas at Piaza. The menu also includes salads and grilled piadas.

David has a real love of the business. His determination to satisfy his customers with a great dining value is obvious when you talk to him. He shared that he has already aquired sufficient amounts of material to open several more stores with the same decor.

Fresh ingredients await your order!

Fresh ingredients await your order!

Sher and I agree that the pizzas at Piaza are the best that we have ever had. This is an up and coming chain of restaurants that will be sure to be successful. The menu is varied enough for anyone’s taste. The quality of the ingredients is obvious when you taste your order. That brick oven really puts out a great pizza! Check out the Piaza website for more information, menus and the location of the facility now open in Baltimore.

If your travels take you to the Ocean City and Berlin, Maryland area be sure to stop at Piaza. Their motto of “Fresh, Fast & Fiery” is a spot-on description. The store is across the Walmart parking lot off Highway 50 near Berlin.

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A close encounter of the buzzard kind

On our way to Chincoteague Island the other day we had an interesting wildlife viewing. We were on Highway 13 heading north out of Cape Charles, Virginia on the Delmarva Penninsula.

I noticed a buzzard (actually the correct name is turkey vulture) soaring over the road. He was big like the one in the picture below that I took some time ago. As he started down over the road I could tell he was heading to the ditch on the right side.

These guys have a 5 to 6 foot wingspan

These guys have a 5 to 6 foot wingspan

The next thing I know his buddy buzzard took off from the ditch right in front of our motorhome! Whack! The next thing I see is the tail of this huge bird getting hit by the top edge of our vehicle’s hood. Sher let out a screech as the loud sound of the impact startled her to say the least. It sure scared me as well. Mr. Buzzard flew off to the left after he tried to clean the front of our hood with his tail feathers.

After our next stop we checked and luckily there was no damage to the front of the motorhome. However I know that somewhere on Hghway 13 there is a big buzzard with a sore butt.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore aka southern Delmarva

Looking back towards Va Beach from the first tunnel island.

Looking back towards Va Beach from the first tunnel island.

Today we headed north from Virginia Beach across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnels to what is called the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The spit of land that forms the east side of Chesapeake Bay is also called Delmarva because it is made up of portions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel was amazing to cross. This is a toll bridge: it cost us $19 in toll one way for our motorhome. There are actually two tunnels and miles of bridges crossing the water where the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay meet. There are two bridges wth two lanes each direction merging into two way traffic in the tunnels. It has been called one of the engineering marvels of the world. I have to say the construction of the thousands of concrete piers supporting the road decks is a marvel to see.

The trip north up Highway 13 this morning was quite an eye opener. The rural nature of the area was immediately obvious. There were huge wheat and corn fields as well as lots of smaller fruit and vegatable plots. Both Purdue and Tyson had massive chicken processing plants and there were many farms that had chicken finishing buildings.

We checked out a few different campgrounds on our way and have ended up in Tom’s Cove Park campground on Chincoteague Island, Virginia. We’ll probably be here a day or two. It is hot this afternoon so we will take a walk down to the water later when things cool off a bit.

There are supposed to be wild ponies on this island somewhere. We’ll do some looking into them while we are here.

Lighthouse at Fort Story as seen from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Lighthouse at Fort Story as seen from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

 

 

Fishing pier at the restaurant stop on the bridge

Fishing pier at the restaurant stop on the bridge

Our coach parked at a "Scenic viewpoint" on Fishermans Island National Wildlife Preserve just at landfall from the CBBT

Our coach parked at a “Scenic viewpoint” on Fishermans Island National Wildlife Preserve just at landfall from the CBBT