October 4 thru 5, 2018 Yea, the sun!! It was warming up fast as I loaded up and hugged Charlene goodbye about noon. I hope to see her and Todd soon!

Got on 84 within minutes, then 91S through Hartford and down to New Haven, where I took a mini drive-around the impressive campus of Yale, the Peabody Museum and New Haven Harbor. Given the spectacular 2018 donation of $160M for renovations to the Peabody, by billionaire philanthropist and ’67 Yale graduate, Edward Bass, I definitely want to plan a visit after completion in 2-3 years.

In Southbury, I parked in the Southbury Plaza parking lot and popped in McD’s for a couple sausage burritos. Up 34 along the Housatonic River to 84W, I swung in to Alltown for fill up ($2.89/gal), before crossing NY state line. Stretched legs at the Stormville Rest Area (pretty spot), then back on 84 across the Hudson River, then the Delaware River, into Pennsylvania (at uppermost point of NJ). WHEW! I knew at this point I was ready to get to mom’s.

Jumped on I-81 S around Dunmore, where it started raining again, then carried on with a stop at one more rest area to stretch and take a break from the highway. Best spot was with the trees.

Swung in to a super clean Pilot in Pine Grove to top-off gas ($3.12/gal) and pick up smokes ($6.26/pack). Although I’d driven less than 5 hours from CT, I was exhausted and road-weary. My next stop was at the Days Inn in Jonestown and I made sure breakfast was included.

Not in the mood to stop for food, or order, crawled into bed with bag of food from ice chest. Dinner was a mix of pickled garlic, Kilwin’s fudge and a beer. Managed to stay up long enough to shower and watch a little TV, all the while thinking how badly I was ready to be at home base, before I crashed for the night.

img_20181005_073935Up, packed and ready by 6:30 am, I went for breakfast and several of their tiny cups of coffee before heading out. I was only 12 hours away from mom’s in GA, but decided to split it up.

Back to I-81 S and made my last stop in PA at Weis in Enola for ice. Although still overcast, views from the highway were breathtaking. Stopped and stretched at the West Virginia Welcome Center, where I hung out a while admiring the landscape, walking winding pathways, and chatting with the friendly staff; had to get my communication fix for the day.

img_20181005_120053Just a few minutes later, I was in VA, craving something tasty when the Flying J came into view. Stopped at Store #752, in their Subway for a veggie wrap. Yea!

With a hop from I-81 S to I-66 E, I arrived at the Front Royal (North) Entrance Station of the Shenandoah National Park. John Denver’s music played an integral role in my childhood; “Almost Heaven” popped clearly to mind. Thanks to mom, I had his voice on my travel USB.

img_20181005_125337

 

 

Until this trip, my previous experience in VA was with Mom, touring a cavern as a young teen, where I met a very cute boy, as we drove from NYC to TX. I got a souvenir T-shirt with, “Virginia is for lovers” and literally loved it to pieces. Thank you, mom, for creating so many incredible memories.

Avoided another $30 entry fee with my NP pass. This was the last park visited during my 2018 trek and term of my $80 pass. I saved $75 with visits to six national parks.

Enjoyed time in the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, with its interactive park map of the Shenandoah Valley and mountain ranges, information (ecological, geographical and historical), knowledgable staff and Rangers, and cool gift shop, where I bought several souvenir, reusable shopping bags. The surrounding area has pretty views, with several trailheads; many hikers with packs were in the grassy and picnic areas. I considered one of the hikes recommended by a Ranger, by the waterfalls, but wasn’t in the mood to tackle muddy trails.

The fog repeatedly teased with a brief lift now and then as I drove the winding, incredible Skyline Drive. Every now and then I could see images of the insanely gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains through the fog, but it didn’t last long.

img_20181005_135304During the drive, I pulled over, sat on the tailgate and enjoyed my veggie wrap.

In some areas, the fog was so dense, most drivers, including me, had hazards on and drove slower than the posted 35 mph. After being in the park for only a few hours, I opted to not continue the drive along Skyline; definitely plan to revisit in the future.img_20181005_150340

img_20181005_163641Made my way across to I-81 S, stopped in Staunton, VA for gas ($2.59/gal) at Circle K and seriously wished I’d stayed in the mountains, which I already missed. Spent hours stuck on the highway, due to construction and wrecks. It was great when traffic cleared, but still felt stress from earlier.

Stopped at a rest area, not sure where,  but it was what I needed at the time, with wooded pathways and a beautiful butterfly and bee garden.

img_20181005_170700This sign on the inside of the bathroom door made me laugh; purse hook was gone.

It was raining, again, and I didn’t feel any thrill for my tent, so I landed at the most affordable hotel I could find online, the Days Inn in Lexington, about 7:30 pm.

The office for check-in was interestingly located next to the Mexican restaurant, Muchacho Alegre, down the hill from the 3-floor hotel. Dropped my go-bag in the room, then walked down to the restaurant for a beer, salsa and chips. Not sure what was in the ‘cheese’ dip, but far too sweet for me. The salsa was tasty and helped mask the staleness of several chips. Ha! Enjoyed the atmosphere, then back up the hill I went for the night. I was soo ready to be done with the road; missed everyone terribly.img_20181005_203112

 

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