We were on a steep hill of a single lane road in a residential neighborhood. The woman at the Tygart Lake Clubhouse was on the phone giving us directions and assuring us that forty-foot motorhomes made this trek all of the time. We resorted to calling her when Google maps, the Waze app, and the motorhomes GPS had all given us a bum steer. I’d better back up a bit so you will have the whole story.
Anyone who has been keeping up with our road trip knows it’s had its ups and downs. My broken ankle and the repercussions from it caused many headaches. I went to see a physical therapist on our final day in Grand Island and he put my mind at ease about the slow rate that I am recovering from surgery. In fact, he said that even if I hadn’t gotten two infections in my sutures, I might still be experiencing the pain and stiffness. Because of the position of the bones and how they are used when we walk, an ankle break is simply one of the hardest ones to recover from.
I left the physical therapist office feeling optimistic and hopeful. We took our Uber driver to breakfast because he had been so great about picking us up for scheduled appointments and returning us to the RV. He was very personable and we enjoyed his company. I’m sure we will keep in contact. At breakfast, we talked about the fact that we were going to skip going to Virginia. With hurricanes headed that way and lots of flooding in the area, going there seemed like a really bad idea. The main reason we were headed to Virginia was to see the house that my grandmother grew up in, which my younger brother now owns. I will see it another time.
We told our new friend Michael that we were going to head to Kentucky. When discussing routes he suggested heading back towards Cleveland. We did not want to go back to the same direction that we had come, because we wanted to see something different. We really wanted to skip the crazy highways with tollbooths if at all possible. Mike kept telling us that no matter which way we went, we didn’t want to go through Morgantown, Pennsylvania.
I am on a mission to get as many states as possible marked on our map on the side of our motorhome. In my online research, I saw that we could take HWY 219 South. We would go through Maryland without heading towards the areas that were experiencing flooding and preparing for the oncoming hurricane. Our poor friend Angie Roland was stuck in an RV park there because of flooding. She had no electricity and her husband was working in Williamsburg, Virginia where the hurricane was expected to cause plenty of problems. He didn’t know what he should do to help his wife because he couldn’t get into the RV Park, even if he left his job. Tommy and I felt so bad for them. Sometimes we think if it weren’t for bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all. They are the folks that we were originally supposed to be traveling with, but repairs to their RV, followed by $20,000.00 in repairs to their truck, changed all of their plans.
As soon as we returned to RV from the physical therapist office and breakfast I set out to plan our route for the following day. I made sure to avoid going too far east, as well as going through Morgantown Pennsylvania. I thought I’d come up with the perfect itinerary. However, there are many things that you can’t see on a map that will cause you grief when driving a forty-foot motorhome.
First I found a campground in Rural Valley Pennsylvania that was 287 miles from our Grand Island location. 287 miles sounded doable but it was a little curvy. I hadn’t called the park for a reservation because it was off-season and I figured there would be no problem getting a spot. We headed out using Google Maps and although the scenery was fabulous, there was a lot of road construction. The twists and turns made for a much longer day than we had planned. The campground was further off of the freeway than I had anticipated and we were exhausted by the time we rolled up to it. There were lots of RV’s lined up and parked in the mud and I was afraid that I’d made a really bad choice. Then we looked down towards the lake and saw an RV and figured we were looking at the storage area when we drove in.
When I entered the office I told the nice man at the desk that I was concerned that we had picked a bad park until I saw the lake area below. He then informed me that the RV’s had been towed out of the park because of flooding. “Say it isn’t true,” was all I could think. “Tommy is going to choke me.”
I asked where the closest park was and informed the friendly man that I wasn’t looking forward to sharing the bad news with my husband. I’d already taken Tommy way off of the beaten path on twisty, winding roads and he’d been driving for almost eight hours. Sadly, the park that we passed about eight miles back was the closest one to us. As we drove past it about twenty-five minutes earlier I said, “We could have just pulled in there. Stop anywhere you see a campground.” Unfortunately, the sign was very small and there was no warning of an upcoming campground. And, there was no place to turn around. Now we had to backtrack over eight more winding miles. Thankfully the Silver Canoe Campground had an opening. I would have been in big trouble otherwise. It was a nice park and we were relieved to be off of the road. It was already dinnertime so I heated up some leftovers. I was thrilled that this park had good Internet reception. After we’d eaten supper I settled in to plan the next leg of our trip. I made the decision to shorten it up if we were going to stay off of the major highways and take the scenic routes.
I found a campground situated right off of US-50, I thought, which was off of US-219. According to Google Maps, the entire trip was only 190 miles and very straightforward. We would get to experience Maryland before going on to West Virginia. Yahoo, the perfect plan!! We went east for a little over an hour on US-422 before taking US-219 South. Once again there was a lot of road construction. We stopped in Bridgeport, West Virginia, which was shortly before the US-50 turnoff. There was a grocery store with a parking lot big enough for us to pull into and we were short on provisions. It was a little strip mall and we were sure there would be someplace to get a meal there. Sadly, Subway was all that was available. Tommy Googled a restaurant and found that I-Hop was only minutes away. Bonus, there was a place to get fuel right next to it.
I told Tommy to ask a trucker what US-50 was like. The trip had already taken longer than I thought it would because of construction and the very winding roads. I didn’t want Tommy to have another long day. He gets cranky whenever he drives for more than six hours. After the previous day’s fiasco, I didn’t want to make things worse for him again. He told me that the trucker said that US-50 was very curvy and I decided to use Google Maps to find the most direct route. It listed three options and I chose the fastest one. It directed us to the George Washington highway and did not mention the number of it. With the fastest route programmed into my phone, groceries in the frig, full bellies, and a full tank of fuel, off we went.
We’d gone about ten miles when I realized that we were taking US-50. I was tickled pink with myself because the route I had chosen was the fasted route after all. And, it was very scenic. However, it didn’t take long to realize just how curvy it was. It had many switchbacks and hairpin turns, as well as inclines and declines. The forty-eight-mile journey Google promised seemed more like a hundred and forty-eight. Two times the voice in my phone giving us directions told us to take a left turn up a mountainous dirt road with a sixty-five-degree incline. Each time we said, “I don’t think so,” and drove on. Google maps directions were not making any sense. We tried using the GPS system in the RV. It too was giving us directions that made no sense. Tommy tried the Waze app with the same results. It had already taken seven and half-hours to make a two hundred mile trip. We had stopped to eat and shop but this was really getting out of hand. Tommy was wound up like a three-dollar watch and I was expecting him to explode at any moment.
I called the campground for directions and got the clubhouse. The lady there gave us instructions but they were very confusing and we got all turned around. I called her back and she stayed on the phone directing us, taking us down one lane residential streets. “You do know we are in a forty foot motorhome?” Tommy hollered from the driver’s seat. She said that yes, motorhomes that size came to the park all of the time. We found it harder to believe as we drove on. We finally saw a sign that pointed up a mountainous hill that said Tygart Lake Clubhouse, Marina and Campgrounds. I told the lady at the clubhouse that the campgrounds should be easy enough to find from there so I’d hang up and let her get back to work. She then suggested that we stop in at the clubhouse so she could give us further directions into the campground. That should have been my cue that we were in for more difficulties ahead. There were two more twisty, turning miles of hills after the sign. The trees were so low and the turns so tight that we were sure she had to be mistaken about forty foot motorhomes making the trek. The whack, whack, whack of trees hitting the motorhome made me cringe every time. I prayed that we would get to the campground without destroying the RV.
We came around a corner and to our right, we finally spotted the clubhouse. The circular driveway was pitched at a forty-degree angle. There wasn’t a snowballs chance in the Mohave Desert that we were going into it. Tommy pulled over so the car behind us could pass. He does that often. He is a very courteous driver. As often happens the person he pulls over for just sits there behind us and he has to open his screen and wave them on. People just don’t seem to appreciate the fact that he pulled over so that they can go around us. It’s very irritating and the last thing my husband needed was more irritation. The ding-dong behind us finally went around and we started creeping up the mountain again. According to the sign at the clubhouse, the campgrounds was another miserable two miles away. I kept thinking, “He’s going to clobber me, he’s going to be so mad at me.”
At a less curvy stretch a car drove up alongside us and a man yelled, “Are you looking for the campgrounds?” When we both yelled, “Yes!” He informed us that he was the ranger and would lead us in. “Thank you, Jesus,” I shouted. It was great to have him in front of us to show us where the six-inch deep potholes were before we drove into them. Between loads of them, the huge speed bumps, and the winding road, it took what seemed like forever to make the last two miles of the trip. When we finally rolled up in front of the ranger’s office and parked Tommy and I sighed a long breath of relief. The relief did not last long.
Ranger Dave pointed to the short, narrow and steep drive that led to the RV area and the only thing I could say was, “Seriously? You have forty-foot motorhomes make it up that puny drive? “Yep, all the time,” Ranger Dave chirped. I hope the picture gives you an idea of what my husband had to deal with because I don’t think I can do it justice with words.
The back of the motorhome dragged up the incline despite Tommy being at an angle. The left-back tire spun relentlessly on that side of the driveway incline while the motorhome stood still. “Help us, Jesus,” I said. I could feel Tommy’s tension despite being outside of the motorhome. He backed up, turned the RV as wide as was humanly possible and hit the gas. He got to the top of the RV platform area and I had already scoped it out. The spot that the ranger had given us, number fourteen, was all the way at the back of the platform and it sloped way downhill at the furthest end. Before Tommy could back into it I told him to come and check it out. I turned to Ranger Dave and told him that if my husband had to get out stacks of blocks to make us level after everything he had already been through, it was not going to be pretty.
Tommy got out of the RV and he and Dave walked back to where we were supposed to park. The decision was made that we would need to park a little in front of space number thirteen also, in order to be a little more level. I was thrilled that Dave made that decision because it was precisely what I thought we should do. I hobbled back to guide Tommy, my ankle hurting more than I can say, and Dave stepped in to take my place. Once we were parked the motorhome looked pretty level front to back but the left side was on quite a slant. I said something about maybe wanting to put a couple blocks on the left side before we leveled the coach. When Tommy obviously didn’t hear me I chose not to repeat myself. I’d gotten into hot water for instructing him on the manly part of RV setup before.
Tommy had me flip the switch to lower the coach and he decided to manually level it since the auto levelers often leave us off center. He lowered and lowered the left side jacks but we didn’t get level. He got out of the coach and looked at the jacks and got back in and announced that he was going to have to put blocks on the left-hand side. I didn’t say a word. The old Cat would have had to tell him that I suggested that in the first place. I’m grateful that God has done a work on my mouth. Anyway, he pushed the retract button for the jacks and went back outside. Then I heard, “S**T!” Tommy very seldom curses so I knew he was irritated beyond belief. He got back into the coach and said that the jacks didn’t retract and he hit the button again and went back outside. I sheepishly told him that I wished I could help. He put the blocks down and instructed me to hit the auto level switch. Thankfully we got the darn thing level. There was nothing automatic about it, but it was done.
I asked if I should put the pop-outs out and got the go ahead. Tommy didn’t have much set up outside because the park only had electricity. No water and no sewer made for quick work once we were level. I thought when I called the park and the ranger told me that he had a couple of sites that we would fit into but they only had electricity it was because all of the other sites were taken. I had no idea it was because all the park offered was power. This was a state park and what I was picturing in my mind was not what we were seeing. We were, in fact, the only RV in the park.
I’ll confess that we are Glampers in every sense of the word. To have power only is boon-docking in our book. The way my husband relaxes after a long day of driving is putting his feet up and watching his TV. There was, of course, no cable TV offered. Neither the antennae nor Direct TV Satellite dish was going to get any signal where we were parked way back in the trees. I saw a long evening in my future. I went right to fixing dinner while Tommy went for a stroll to blow off some steam.
When he returned to the coach he seemed a bit calmer. Then he made the dreaded comment. He told me that the only thing that kept him from having a drink was his fear of disappointing me. In my husband’s recovery, he never asked me to give up my alcoholic beverages. In fact, he insisted that I didn’t change what I did because of him. I had some beer and some wine in the RV and believe me, I wanted a drink myself. I decided to refrain from having one in light of my husband’s poor mood. I felt awful about choosing the park and the route. His comment about wanting to drink cut deep. In my heart, I knew he didn’t say it to hurt me. He was being honest about how the stressful day made him feel. The old me wanted to take it personally. The old me felt terrible for causing the days challenges with my choices but wanted to lash out in self-defense. I once again did not react in a retaliatory fashion, as the old redhead would have done. The work in progress me, did, however, tell him that I wanted a drink too. I told him that my ankle was killing me but I was fixing our dinner and I wasn’t having a drink. Tommy almost laughed as he said, “That’s supposed to make me feel better?”
God is good and he had kept me calm and relatively peaceful through the entire escapade. In fact, as we were driving along the winding roads there were many times that I was extremely relaxed while taking in the magnificent scenery. Then a heavy sigh or a grunt would come from the driver’s side of the coach and I’d realize again how my choice of routes was taking a toll on my husband. US-219 is one of the most scenic highways that I have ever been on. It is however not a good one for the driver of a forty-foot motorhome. And as for US-50, a motorcycle or sports car may make for an enjoyable ride, a motorhome over thirty-nine feet, not so much.
God always has a plan and I reminded myself of that as I settled into my chair to write this while looking at a spectacular view of an RV park we had entirely to ourselves. The only sounds we heard at night were from crickets and the sound of leaves dropping. You could literally hear the leaves hitting the ground. The air was fresh and cool and since reading and writing are two of my favorite things I found the lack of Direct TV a blessing. I can honestly say that after Tommy calmed down from the stressful drive and took in God’s amazing landscape he was not mad at me anymore. He won’t have me choose our routes again without much scrutiny. And there is a list of questions I must ask the park attendants when I make our next reservation. Mainly, how far off the highway are you and how curvy is the road?
If you look at the map you can easily see that it did not look to be the stressful drive that it turned out to be. I’m a girl and I don’t have to drive so I get a pass. I really wish my ankle didn’t keep me from driving. If I could help out on the straight highway driving I would love to. I could never drive on the roads that I have subjected my husband to. His driving capabilities never cease to amaze me.
This adventure has been amazing, stressful, frustrating, beautiful, and life-changing. Tommy and I have grown through all of our experiences and we are only halfway through our adventure. I am so grateful for this opportunity to see so much of our beautiful United States. We’ve experienced fifteen of them so far and all of them have something special to offer. God is good and we are so blessed. I hope you continue on the journey with us on Facebook and my website blog. God bless, Cat