(…continued from Part II…)
Jay basically knew how to get to Virginia from Georgia and other than a minor episode first thing where we missed our junction and ended up driving 35mph through towns for an hour, he did okay. He’s driven that route a lot in the past, going to races and going home to NB for family reunions, funerals, etc. But once we got to VA it was up to me to figure out how to get us off I85 and over to 295 so we could get to Mechanicsville and drop Brad off at the motel. It was also my job to get us from Mechanicsville out into the boonies where our campground is located. Luckily I can read a map. I could always read a map but having worked in the call centre for AAA’s US roadside assistance for several months certainly hasn’t hurt anything as far as navigating around the country. But I forgot to print out directions to the campground before we left, so as soon as we crossed the state line I fired up the computer, went to the Rainbow Acres website and wrote down their directions from Richmond way. Then I figured out which exit we needed to take in order to get on 295.
Hwy 295 runs parallel with 85, so that meant we needed to cross over on another hwy. Jay doesn’t seem to get as flustered as most other men I’ve known when he’s driving in a new place because he’s moved around so much in his life, but even still he gets a little tense when he has no idea where he is or where he’s going. I found two possible ways to get over to 295, one at Petersburg and the other up closer to Richmond. I didn’t notice that the one closer to Richmond was a toll road, but it didn’t matter because I wanted to take the one in Petersburg as it was now getting into rush hour time and I figured the closer we got to Richmond the nuttier the traffic would be.
So as we started to get into Petersburg I told Jay we needed to get onto Hwy 10 heading either East or South (because even though the road clearly ran East to West from 85 to 295 on the map, didn’t mean it was necessarily labeled that way. In GA we lived right off I-20, which I originally thought ran North to South because that’s how it looks on the map but it’s an East to West interstate). It should have been a relatively painless cross-over, 85 to 10 to 295 all the way to Exit whatever Stan had told Jay and the motel was apparently right off the exit, clearly signed.
But then …
The photo actually makes visibility better than what it was, which surprised me. I was like, “Sweetie! I’ll have to look through the camera to read the signs!” 🙂 Pretty much as soon as we hit Petersburg the emergency warnings started breaking in on the radio for severe thunderstorms with heavy rain, dangerous lightning, and hail. They told us what counties were under warning, but of course we had no idea what county we were even in. It seemed clear that all of central Virginia was going to get bombed, and we did know that we were in central Virginia.
The photos really don’t do the rain justice at all, at all. Jay literally couldn’t see past the end of the hood of the truck. Of course I didn’t have time to take pics during the worst of it because I had my nose pressed up into the windshield trying to read the signs. All this happened just as we were coming up on Hwy 10 exit, crossing Hwy 10 and trying to get onto 295.
We came up on the exit to 10 really quick with visibility so poor and it didn’t say East, West, North or South … it said Chester or Hopewell. Hun was like, “Chester or Hopewell?! Chester or Hopewell, babe?!” And he was a little frantic because there was not a lot of time to make a decision. I quickly scanned the map and couldn’t find either place, but then at the last second I saw Chester. “Not Chester!” I screamed and we swerved onto the off-ramp to Hopewell. Keep in mind that we had John & Brad behind us, who also couldn’t see worth a crap and had no map and absolutely no idea where they were going anyway.
Getting onto 10 from the off-ramp proved to be quite challenging as well in the pouring rain because there wasn’t a set of lights and traffic was heavy and slow. But we managed, and then I kept my nose pressed against the windshield looking for the 295 junction. This was the heaviest rain yet. We were just crawling down this divided 4-lane hwy, where it seemed a lot of other people had already had accidents. I figured 295 would be North or South and we’d want to go North, but nooooo … just like the other exit, it gave two places. One of them was Washington. I scanned the VA map looking for some little town called Washington, and again I had a frustrated hun yelling, “Which way do I go?!” All of a sudden it dawned on me, “Washington! Like DC! Go that way!” And finally we were on 295 heading the right way toward Mechanicsville. Stan had told Jay which exit we needed to take and which hotel the boys were staying at. The rain left as suddenly as it had appeared and we found the hotel easy peasy.
After we dropped Brad off and got him settled in, we got on 360 to go find our campground. Despite the nail biting experience of trying to get on 295, I was much more worried about this leg of the trip because I couldn’t find all the roads the campground’s website had in their directions on the map. I figured they must have been too little to put on there. Still I was committed to follow their instructions because of the good experience we’d had when we went to the cabin in the mountains by following the resort’s website directions rather than Google Maps. That time we cut off a good 40 minutes on our trip time by taking the back roads.
The campground’s directions were actually quite detailed and good, and all the back roads here are very well labeled, so we were doing pretty well finding our way, even though Jay was starting to freak a little because we were getting into the middle of nowhere land and had made so many turns that he had absolutely no idea where we were anymore or how to go back to Mechanicsville.
And then disaster struck!
On this one country road where we hadn’t seen a house in miles we came upon a “Bridge out, Detour ahead” road sign. We had no idea if we needed to cross that bridge in order to get to the next road we needed to turn onto or not. We had no idea where we were. There wasn’t anyplace to turn. So we just kept going, blowing past all the signs, hoping we’d come upon our turn-off before we came upon the bridge. And hoping that if we did come upon the bridge first there would be room to turn our big trucks and trailers.
We met a pick-up on the road and the guy frantically started to wave us off. We stopped. He stopped. All the men got out to have a pow-wow in the middle of the road. Jay came and got my pen and paper to write down alternate directions because it turned out we were almost to the washed out bridge and we needed to cross it.
When Jay got back in the truck he said the local guy had decided we’d better just follow him. Luckily he had stopped us right where a dirt road intersected the one we were on, so we could get turned around with only a little backing up.
It was like driving way back Dungarvon, only narrower. There was nothing on this road, just trees. I looked at Jay and laughed, “In the movies, this part never turns out well for the lost travelers.” He nodded, “Either this guy is gonna try to rob and kill us, or else he’s just a really nice guy. Guess we’ll see.”
I tried to get the guy’s license number so I could tweet it … you know, just in case we disappeared in the backwoods of VA never to be heard from again 🙂
We took so many different roads that now even I was lost, none of them were listed on the map, but finally he stopped and said if we just went down this one road about a quarter of a mile we’d see the entrance to the campground. His name is Scott. He’s lived here all his life and knows these roads like the back of his hand. He says his family owns half of this county. We thanked him profusely and continued on the last leg of our journey.
We arrived around 7:30pm, after having driven for about 12 and a half hours. My legs felt rubbery when we got out to go into the office and check in. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to get somewhere before in my life!
The office/store is pretty cool. They have a large selection of supplies and souvenirs. They even sell cases of beer and cigarettes, albeit at a higher price than elsewhere. But some things appear to be reasonably priced and others are downright cheap. Like Jay bought two bic lighters there the other night for the price he’d pay for one at the store in GA.
A tottering old lady was working and there were about a half dozen people ahead of us buying fishing licences and paying to take their boats out from their docks for the night. A huge fat cat was laying on the floor amongst the shelves. He reminded me of Ringo, the cat I used to have in Toronto. Same colouring, but MUCH fatter. This cat is like the mother of all Garfields! 🙂 Only super cuddly.
Everything should have been so easy once it was our turn at the counter, but as I’ve come to learn, NOTHING about this whole excursion is ever easy.
(…to be continued…)