2014  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous       2014 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

   LIKE A ROLLING STONE:  FULL-TIME RVers AT LAST!
(camping at Andrews AFB & beginning to explore the Washington, DC area)

THURSDAY, JULY 10

 
"If it doesn't stop raining, I'm going home!"  
~ Jim's "dry" comment to me after several hours of pouring rain at our campground
 
 

That comment just cracked me up! We were both getting a little cranky in the camper after all the rain we had today, and he just blurted it out to make me laugh.

We'll have fun with variations of that, but it'll be amusing only to those who know that our camper is our only home now. After years of wanting to sell our house so we could live and travel full-time in our RV, the housing market finally improved enough in our area of rural southwestern Virginia to allow us to sell our house this spring.

We've been house-free for two whole weeks now.


Bye, bye! Jim pulls the Cameo out our neighborhood road after leaving our house
on the morning of the closing. The Blue Ridge Mountains are on the horizon.   (6-26-14)

In this entry I'll write about our mostly-pleasant stay at Andrews Air Force Base, our new way of traveling from Point A to Point B, and tentative summer plans.

WHY D.C.?

Jim and I aren't fond of cities. So why have we been in congested metro Washington, D.C. for the past two weeks???

It was a convenient place to land for a couple weeks. This past winter and spring we were so busy with the whole process of selling our house that we didn't have the time or energy to do much planning about our travel itinerary for the rest of this year.

For one thing, we weren't sure when we'd be closing on the house and free to go wherever we wanted, for as long as we wanted. Even when we had a tentative date near the end of June we weren't absolutely, positively certain everything would be finalized . . . until it was final about noon on June 26.

With that uncertainty we didn't want to waste too much time planning details and making campground reservations that might have to be changed or cancelled.


This "art" on the flight line at Andrews AFB was probably more amusing before 9-11.
As close to the Pentagon as we are, I'm surprised it's still there.

All we had decided was to stay in the eastern part of the continent the rest of the summer and fall. We haven't been up in New England since we did the Appalachian Trail Adventure in 2005. We love northern New England and thought it would be nice to re-visit the area. We also considered exploring some or all the Canadian Maritime provinces since we haven't been there before.

Fortunately we did close on the house when expected, allowing us to begin our new journey as full-time RVers with total freedom of choice re: when and where to go.

Despite our dislike of large cities, Washington, D.C. has been a reasonable stepping stone on our way north.


Bike ride on a road that bisects part of the large golf course on base

We like the FamCamp at Andrews Air Force Base. We've gone back to some monuments and Smithsonian museums we've previously enjoyed, explored some places like Mt. Vernon that are new to us, visited relatives in the Philadelphia area, and had time to relax and tentatively plan the rest of our destinations this summer and fall.

We still don't have very many campground reservations but that's the way we usually prefer to travel. It gives us the flexibility to determine our length of stay in any one location depending on variables like the weather, the campground(s), and how much there is to do in each area.

CAMPING AT THE ANDREWS AFB FAM CAMP

That said, we did make reservations for two weeks at Andrews AFB and added another day at the beginning once we were relatively certain of the date of the closing on the house.

It's a good thing we didn't just show up or we wouldn't have gotten this nice full hook-up site:


What's wrong with this picture?  (see farther below for answer and explanation)

The campground has only 30 FHU sites and they were mostly occupied the whole time we were here. The $20 daily cost for military retirees is very reasonable for a site with 30-amp service, water, and sewer this close to the city.

There are also about ten skinny, short sites with just electricity and a couple overflow spots if the place gets totally packed.

GOLFERS (AND POTUS) REIGN @ ANDREWS

The campground at Andrews AFB is surrounded on three sides by woods and parts of the 27-hole golf course that takes up about one-fifth of the acreage on this base. One road through the course is off-limits to pedestrians and cyclists because of "errant balls," and golfers always have the right of way when crossing roadways.

Golfers rule on this base.

The golf course provides nice scenery and some entertainment when I'm walking the dogs or we're riding our bikes on roads places where we are allowed to go:

It also makes for some interesting -- or inconvenient, depending on your plans and political persuasion -- scenarios when POTUS (President of the United States) wants to play golf.

And he plays golf here pretty regularly.

One day we were taking a nap when Secret Service agents visited a retired military couple sitting outside in a nearby campsite that backs onto one of the greens. The agents wanted to be sure no one intended harm to Obama and his entourage when they played the hole a couple hundred feet from their RV.

Although the woman later told Jim they aren't Democrats, she and her husband were still a little bit in awe that the President came over to shake their hands. I hope he thanked them for their service.


Part of the golf course very close to several of the campsites

The President also flies in and out of Andrews AFB on Air Force One fairly often (we've read that there is more than one plane designated as "Air Force One"). When we hear lots of helicopters flying overhead we believe he's probably going somewhere or coming back.

Only one road through the golf course is closed to walking and cycling. Jim and I both had plenty of other roads on base (no trails) where we could walk the dogs and ride our bikes.

I especially liked the lake at Freedom Park, which was about a mile from our campsite. Unfortunately, we couldn't let the dogs swim there. Fishing is catch and release because of contamination, probably from chemicals used to keep the grass green on the adjacent golf course.

 

Apparently the yummy ripe raspberries and blackberries we ate on the near side of the lake were OK; none of us got sick. Casey and Cody can sniff out ripe berries and strip a branch in no time at all.

One day Casey spotted this large turtle near one of the covered picnic tables at the park:

 

We had lots of smaller turtles at our house so she's seen them before. This is the largest one she's encountered.

Usually turtles quickly tuck their heads and legs inside when approached by a human or dog but this confident fella remained exposed. He was watching us while we were watching him. Or maybe it was a "her."

A NEW WRINKLE IN OUR TRAVELING M.O.

If you're wondering about the Honda Odyssey sitting in front of our 5th-wheel coach in two of the pictures on this page . . .  no, we can't use it to tow the camper!

Nor can we hook it to the back of the Cameo and tow both vehicles with our Ram 2500 truck.

What to do with a 2002 minivan with about 115,000 miles on it was one of many decisions we had to make regarding our personal property when we sold the house to live full time in our 5th-wheel coach.

We decided for several good reasons to keep the van with us during some of our travels. It runs very well, yet isn't worth much if we sold it. It's more comfortable, roomy, and easier to park than the truck when the camper is parked somewhere and we need a vehicle for errands and day trips. The van also gets better gas mileage than our diesel truck and using it reduces wear and tear on the tuck. 

That's all well and good.

The downside is moving the camper from place to place with each of us driving separately. Jim's used to having me navigate when he's driving, and vice versa. Now we have to rely on our not-totally-reliable GPS and the routing notes we write down before taking off to the next campground. If I'm driving, too, I can't consult a map without pulling over and it's dangerous to call each other when we're both driving to discuss options.

Because it's more difficult to maintain a constant speed towing the trailer than driving the van, I followed Jim in the van to D.C. from Roanoke two weeks ago. That was pretty weird.

You probably know the saying, "If you aren't the lead dog, the view never changes!"

That's what it felt like when I stayed as close behind the Cameo as Jim wanted me to. He didn't want other people wedging in between us and he didn't want to lose me at red lights when we got off the freeway. 


Heading north on I-81 in Virginia

I quickly learned that I had to keep more distance between us to see far enough ahead of me to be safe, especially driving 60-65 MPH on freeways. I didn't care if someone got between us. Unless it was a semi and trailer, I could see him just fine.

We had no problems with the drive until we got to D.C. and "Maggie" (our name for our Garmin GPS -- long story) couldn't distinguish from the local and through traffic lanes on one freeway. Jim picked one and, thankfully, either choice would have worked. A couple times previously we've had to find a place to turn the camper around when we've either followed Maggie or guessed incorrectly about an exit. That's a lot of stress.

It's been nice to have the Odyssey to tool around this area but we've decided to leave it in the long-term parking area at Andrews while we explore the Northeast the rest of the summer. We'll pick it up on our way back south in the fall.

RIDING THE METRO 

The two-mile-long National Mall in Washington, D.C. is the center of tourist activity in the city. That's where you can find the U.S. Capitol Building, the Lincoln and Washington Monuments, the World War II Memorial and Viet Nam Wall, most of the Smithsonian Institute museums, and lots more.

I have some advice for visitors who want to drive their own vehicle to the National Mall: get there well before rush hour on a weekday or before the museums open on the weekend. Otherwise, it's difficult to get a parking spot anywhere near the popular buildings and sights.

We learned this lesson on previous trips to the city. Last Saturday we found a great parking spot in the shade across from the Air & Space Museum when we arrived at 9 AM and just walked around the Botanical Garden until it and the museums opened at 10.

On a weekday, however, we wisely decided to venture out on the area-wide rapid rail system called the Metro so we could avoid traffic.


Interior of the L'Enfant Station, one of the stations near the National Mall

There is a definite learning curve for visitors who are not familiar with large metropolitan high-speed rail and bus systems. That's why we did some research online and sought advice from the campground office manager and other campers before we tried to use the train to get downtown.

We even drove to the nearest station one day to check out the parking situation. We wanted as few hassles as possible on the day we actually took the train downtown.

Above and below:  vendors and musicians outside the L'Enfant station downtown

That homework paid off. We had only a minor hiccup on our first train trip (loading our SmarTrip card electronically with the proper amount of money for the distance we were going) and actually looked forward to subsequent trips to The Mall.

If you don't have to use the system during "rush hour" twice a weekday to get to and from work, it can be an interesting ride. For us newbies it was a novelty. We even saved some money by going downtown after the morning rush hour was over (about 9:30 AM) and leaving before the afternoon rush hour began (by 2:30 or 3 PM). We didn't use the buses; that would have been less fun, I'm sure.

It was inconvenient for us to go to the limited locations where senior citizens can get a discount on their train fares. We used the system so little this visit that the discount wasn't worth it to us.

Next entrylots of photos from D.C. area sights including the National Mall, Smithsonian museums and Folklife Festival, Washington and Lincoln monuments, WWII memorial, and Vietnam Wall

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

Previous       Next

2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-