Saturday, July 30, 2016

Chapter 34 - Harrisburg to Luray, VA

July 29th, Day 56: This morning we headed out around 7:45 am. The drive south down to Luray, Virginia was almost entirely on Interstate highways and that was good except that it seemed like every 18-wheeler in the country was today on Interstate 81 in front of us, along side us, and behind us, and all were traveling 10 mph faster than we were. The scenery was great, especially as we got closer  to the Appalachian Mountains of Western Virginia and our next planned stop. Our campsite was located just north of Luray and about ten miles west of one of the entrances into the Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive. This campground was definitely one of the prettiest that we have ever stayed and were it not for the lack of TV coverage and a very weak WiFi system, it would definitely rank in the top 5%. Kathy and I over the years have stayed in at least 200 different campgrounds so let us just say we are experts.

It was our plan over the next several days to spend time up on the Skyline Drive which runs in total a distance of around 100 miles along the top of the mountains in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range of Virginia. The winding mountain road was originally constructed during the Great Depression and the work which was largely handled by the Civilian Conservation Corps began in 1931. It is impossible to imagine that such a construction feat, the cost of which was paid for by the Federal Government, could be accomplished today.

Frankly, I had forgotten that to drive on the Skyline Drive was not free. When we approached the entrance to the park and saw that we had to pay $20 just to enter, we turned around and said to each other that we would spend only one day driving through the Park so that the most we would have to pay would be the single day fee. But after we turned around Kathy said to me: "Don't we have a Senior Pass that let's us enter all Federal Parks at no cost?"  She was right; we had purchased the pass last year at the Grand Teton National Park, so we turned around and entered the Park at no cost and for the next 2-1/2 hours we drove north up the Skyline Drive.

The views from the Skyline Drive are magnificent.  Without comment I will include several photos during our drive on the first day of our visit.

We returned to our campsite around 3:30 after a long day of driving: our 4-hour drive down to Luray plus the time that we spent on the Skyline Drive.  Later that evening after a few cold drinks and a nice meal I found myself asleep before eight o'clock.  Kathy on the other hand, stayed up a little later (perhaps not having the "cold drinks" helped) and she walked around our campsite and took a few photographs of the sunset in this incredible beautiful setting.  Tomorrow we are expecting rain so perhaps she was just trying to record the last time we will see the sun for a few days. Let us hope that that is not the case.

July 30th, Day 57: Surprise, we actually woke up to a rising sun although there were dark clouds off to the east so we were not sure what to expect weather wise.  One thing for sure, we both agreed that we should get on the road fairly early so we left for the mountains around 8:00 am. Our campsite is out in the country so it was not surprising that we found cows nearby. But we have to tell you that finding the cows standing in the muddy water jammed up against a fence right alongside the road leading out of our campground, was an astonishing sight.  We stopped and tried to tell them to spread-out, but to no avail.

Fortunately the rain held off for our entire morning drive along the Skyline Drive although when we returned heading north back towards our campsite, the clouds were getting heavy and the beautiful views that we had experienced only a few hours earlier were gone.

We ended our drive today with a short trip into the Town of Luray both to see what the town looked like but also to pickup a few of those always needed supplies. Unlike many travelers we do not stop for any meals at restaurants. This is mostly due to our traveling with Cabo but we also prefer to eat at "home".

Luray was a nice old town with many old buildings and like some other places that we have visited they love to paint murals on the walls of their buildings. This photo shows one of the better murals but there were at least a dozen that we drove by, some of them better than others. Frankly, Kathy if she had the time and patience could paint better murals than any we saw in Luray. As some of you know, Kathy has painted a number of murals as backdrops in theaters both in Naples as well as in Blue Ridge, and all of them in my opinion were better than all of the murals that we passed in Luray.  Oh well.

We returned back to our campsite by 1:00 pm very pleased that we had missed the rain. It was in the high 80s when we finally arrived back at our camper.  When we decided to come down from the top of the mountains, it was around 70 degrees.  We immediately turned on our air conditioner.  It was obviously hard to immediately adjust to such a rapid change in the outside temperatures and it definitely reminded us that we are finally headed south.  Tomorrow we are headed south once again this time to a small city in Southern Virginia by the name of Fort Chiswell.  Hopefully another wonderful place to visit.

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