May 1 - May 29 - Lexington NC & Gloucester VA
It's been an interesting month - lots of unexpected things, including some challenging weather.
Gasoline Costs Lots of people (including us) wonder how we can afford to drive our gas-guzzling motorhome with fuel prices what they are. So we did some figuring, and found out that it's actually costing us less these days to drive the motorhome than it used to, if you look at the numbers properly. Essentially, it costs us less because we don't drive it as far and we don't drive it as often. So while the cost per gallon and cost per mile driven has gone up, the cost per day driven has gone down. Shorter days, longer stays. You might find these numbers from the last 2+ years interesting. We did.
We expect the 2008 numbers to change dramatically over the next couple of months, as we'll be bouncing around New England staying fewer days in each place, and after that we'll be making a rather quick (for us) return to the West Coast, again driving more days compared to days not driven. We'll see how the numbers play out.
Lexington NC The Thousand Trails Forest Lakes preserve is about 8 miles east of Lexington, and we arrived May 1 and parked in the same spot we'd been in back in November. Spring was in full bloom when we arrived. Our plan was to stay two weeks before moving on, but we shortened our stay to 8 days to better accommodate a fast trip (sans motorhome) to Michigan for a memorial service for our niece Chandra. More on that later.
Lexington is most famous as the BBQ center of the universe, at least according to them. There are 20 BBQ restaurants in a town of about 20,000 people. Their annual BBQ Festival in October draws close to half a million people. Lexington BBQ is kind of unique, using a vinegar-based sauce (called "dip," pronounced "dee' -ip") rather than a sweet tomato based sauce. They also serve "red slaw", a cole slaw made with that dip. Frankly, we don't really care for the traditional Lexington BBQ, but fortunately some of the BBQ restaurants offer a sweet sauce and white slaw. So we managed to enjoy our Q anyway.
While we were here, Lexington staged a one-day Multi-Cultural Festival, designed to celebrate the ethnic diversity of the area. It was kind of interesting - five cultures were represented - European, African, Native American, Asian, and Latino. Interesting displays and activities, kind of like a neighborhood festival. We took some pictures and ate some funnel cake.
Winston-Salem, about 20 miles north of Lexington, is where R J Reynolds started his tobacco company, and we toured his home, Renolda. Actually, it was his wife's home - she'd been his secretary, and after they got married, she wanted a proper estate. So he let her build one. Today it's owned by Wake Forest University and maintained as a museum with a marvelous art collection. Much of the estate is now the Wake Forest campus, but the house and gardens remain much as they were. Neat way to spend a day.
Our last night in NC was a stormy one - the remains of a major storm system that had devastated places as far west as Oklahoma blew through, fortunately passing both north and south of us. Tornados destroyed buildings just 12 miles from us that night, and a trucker was killed when his tractor-trailer was blown off the interstate. The weather alert radio was going off continuously as storm cells formed and tornados were spotted. We finally turned the radio off around 2AM so we could get some sleep. By then it was apparent that the worst of the storm would miss us.
Gloucester VA We returned to the 1000 Trails Chesapeake Bay preserve on Friday May 9 for nearly 3 weeks, arriving just behind the storm that we'd escaped in North Carolina the night before. The preserve is just about at sea level, so the drainage isn't great, and our chosen RV site (same space we'd parked in last fall) was largely under water. It was pretty blustery for a few days, but the weather (and the water) finally cleared
While in North Carolina, we received word that our niece Chandra had passed away in Michigan. Chandra was the daughter of Al's brother John and wife Marcia, and had been battling diabetes since childhood. She was 37. Once plans were made for a memorial service, we left the motorhome and drove the PT Cruiser to Muskegon, 800+ miles. We were there two nights, had a siblings dinner, went to the service, and next morning drove the 800+ miles back to Virginia. We're almost never close enough to Michigan to make it to family gatherings of any kind, so it was good we could get there for this one, sad occasion as it was.
Back in Virginia, Al's cold returned, and we spent most of a week lying pretty low. Fortunately, the cold and the weather cleared up about the same time - and we were able to visit Williamsburg one more time, touring a couple of buildings we'd missed last fall, enjoying a marvelous harpsichord and organ recital at the old Bruton Parish Church, and spending a delightful couple of hours with an enthusiastic young lady named Maggie, a Sgt in the US Army, making her first visit to Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg apparently makes free passes available Memorial Day weekend to any active duty or former military and their families. We saw lots of "Honored Service" badges that day. Good show, Williamsburg!
The RV park was absolutely crammed full on Memorial Day weekend, with huge family gatherings. Across the aisle from us one group operated out of at least 3 RVs and at least 5 tents. There was much joy (some of it loud) in the park the whole weekend.
As we've wandered, we've visited many Presbyterian churches either just before or just after a "kirkin'" service, but we'd never been to one. At First Presbyterian in Gloucester, Memorial Day Sunday was observed as "Presbyterian Heritage Sunday", celebrating the Scottish heritage of the denomination. So as we arrived, there was bagpipe music emanating from a parking lot across the street. The ushers who welcomed us were wearing kilts. People were wearing their tartans. The service was largely from the old Scottish form of worship, and all the music was from the old Psalter. The bagpipe band did both the processional and recessional, and in the Calling of the Clans, there must have been about 20 named. Judy was too bashful to call out "McFadden." After the service, the pipers performed a few songs out on the lawn. Most enjoyable.
And then it was time to go - heading north again on May 29. Next stop - Hershey, PA - one of our favorite places.
There are almost 100 pictures in our slideshow for these four weeks. You'll find them here.