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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Camping/Reunion/Virginia counties

Over Mother's Day weekend, Steve and I packed up the bikes in the trailer and the dogs in the truck and took off for Luray, Va. This weekend had two overall purposes. One was to join up with distant relatives at a family reunion on Steve's side. The other was to complete our Virginia county collection. We had six more to go when we started out on this trip.

Luray is famous for the caverns there and its close proximity to the Shenandoah river, valley and mountains. I look forward to coming back some time just to enjoy those things specifically.

We stayed at a Jellystone Camp resort. It's the kind of place you could take the kids and never even leave the campground. There are two swimming pools, big water slides, a pond for fishing and paddle boating, and a huge playground. It's a little expensive if all you're going to do is camp, which is what we were doing. I wish I had looked for another place just for a cheaper price. We were there "off-season" and the water/electric hook up sites were $37 a night. Having said that, it was very well-maintained, clean place and perfect if you're camping with children. We weren't camping with kids, so we could have gone for a less commercialized campground.  The other good thing about it being such a family-oriented campground is that there was no late-night camping parties going on.

Belle and I sitting by the campfire.
When we camp with our dogs, we have to take into consideration the time of year. Our current trailer doesn't have an air conditioner, so we could not do this in the middle of the summer. We go on day rides on the bikes and put the dogs in the trailer. We keep the windows open and turn on a fan for them. We take their beds from the house and leave a big dish of water. Before we head out on our bikes, we take them for a long walk around the campground. This is pretty much the only time we have to put them on a leash. Belle and Tanner are the best camping dogs ever. Even in an area where just about every RV/trailer there had the family dog along on their trip, our dogs seemed to care very little about anything other than hanging out with us. At the campsite, we can let the dogs off the leash and they stay right there. Almost everyone that walks by with their dogs is shocked at how well behaved our dogs are and no one complains about them being off the leash.

I've not been sure how the dogs behave when we are out on the bikes. This was our third camping trip with the dogs in the last year. In the previous two, we were in fairly secluded campsites during times of the year that are not frequented by other campers. This time, with it being projected to be a beautiful weekend, the campground was pretty full, and the trailers are pretty much stacked up one right after the other. On the first day, I asked the guy that was camped next to us if he could just let us know if the dogs do a lot of barking while we are gone. He was there with his kids, so they didn't plan on leaving the campground. When we got back, he said he didn't hear a peep. I think the dogs think of the trailer as a safe haven. We sleep in there at night with them, so it's a real treat for them, since I don't let them sleep in my bedroom at home. Tanner doesn't really like being near the campfire at night and actually prefers to hang out in the trailer, even if he had been in there all day. Belle on the other hand wants to be as close to the campfire as possible. The neighboring camper was amazed that our dogs don't tear up the trailer while we are gone. They are 12 and 8 years old, so I'm guessing age helps there. His dog was only 5 months old.

So, we headed out for our first day of riding. The goal was to be back by about 5 p.m. for reunion festivities. On this day, we were riding through the top of Virginia, catching Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke and Loudon counties. I plugged in a 140-mile round trip on smaller roads, no interstates.

We saw this Dinorsaurland on our route. Had to stop for the photo op.
We stopped for lunch in Winchester, Va. Steve never really gets involved in planning the route and just follows along and site sees. At lunch, I was showing him on the map what the route looked like, and he mentioned that we weren't far from the farm land that his parents owned when he was a kid, about 40 acres near Aldie, Va. He and his Dad had built a pole barn on the property. So, we decided to alter our trip and try to find this land. His parents sold it in 1981 to a neighboring farmer and they had built a big Black Angus auction house on it. We found it and the little pole barn was still there.



Steve was so excited to see it was still there. One of the current owners saw us on our bikes (outside the fence) and said we could go in once we told him Steve and his dad had built it. They use it for fencing material now, but other than it being painted black on the outside and a new tin roof, it was pretty much exactly the same.

Steve had mentioned how he and friend had planted the tree next to the shed when it was just a baby tree. It had actually grown from a small acorn in their front yard in Maryland, and they dug it up when it was a couple years old and brought to the Aldie farm and planted. He provided this picture from back then, probably 1976 or 1977 or so. The following picture shows the difference.



Steve also remembered carving his name in a tree along with a childhood friend. We found the carving still there in a beech tree. It's a little difficult to read as it was carved in 1976, but it was still there.

Steve actually climbed the tree to get to it. He took a picture with his phone once he was there.
His name, Stephen, is circled at the top, then 1976, then it says, "from here I can see our shed." His friends initials "TK" are circled to the right. Pretty cool.
From the tree you can still see the shed.

We made our way back to Luray and enjoyed a nice dinner with the Ruffner family. It was a great opportunity to learn some of the history about the Ruffners. Steve's mom's maiden name was Ruffner, and the story that seemed to be the favorite and this was from the direct ancestors of Steve's, was the story about Viola Ruffner hiring Booker T. Washington as a house boy after he was emancipated, when he was about 9 years old and teaching him how to read and write. Booker T. Washington mentions her in his book "Up From Slavery" as instrumental in giving him a start in education. There have been times when Ruffners have attended the Washington family reunions and vice versa.

The Ruffner generations enjoying dinner at the VFW in Luray, Va.

We still had two more counties to get to complete Virginia, but they were about 150 miles away from Luray, which would have made a 300-mile round trip. That's a little far for leaving the dogs. So, we decided to pack up and head to Charlottesville and find some shade to park in for the dogs while we go out and get these two counties. We found a nice park with shade and perfect area for parking. We took up about 8 spots, but it was not a full parking lot anyway. We unloaded and I plugged in a route that was about 119 miles total to get Buckingham and Cumberland counties.

I discovered a feature on my GPS which I really like and will use a lot more when we do day trips, the shortest distance feature. The GPS is defaulted to the shortest time, so there are generally larger roads. When I changed my route to shortest distance it dropped about 8 miles but added about an hour of time. Hmmm, interesting. The only problem is that you do have to really pay attention to the GPS because there are a lot of turns when you select the shortest distance. This route took us on some really small roads with no lines and even a few dirt roads.


Virginia Complete
We have now traveled through every county in Virginia. As we complete states, I'm going to change the color on my map for each state. So, this is what it looks like now.