April Airstreaming in D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina

We celebrated our one-year Nomadiversary last week in Yellowstone National Park. It’s amazing how quickly this first year flew by. One year ago we were rushing around trying to finish packing and selling our house, while simultaneously getting the Airstream packed and on the road. It’s also amazing how for behind I continue to remain this blog?!?! Or, maybe it’s not really that amazing…

While I had made progress on the blog in late-May and early-June, it continues to lag our real-time travels by a few months. Since we left Anna’s folks’ home in Colorado, we’ve been off the grid and I haven’t been as aggressive in the blog-updating as I should. So, take this as an excuse for the delayed one-year post. I have more thoughts on our First Nomadiversary, but will save that because I want to keep this silly blog in some type of chronological order.

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Hanging out at Greenbelt National Park Campground with my niece Jen.

After leaving Raleigh, NC on the 30th of March, we made our way to Washington, D.C. Last November, we concocted a plan to meet my niece and her family in D.C. over their kids’ Spring Break. They drove down from Michigan with their RV in tow and we camped together in the National Park campground at Greenbelt Park in Maryland. The Greenbelt Campground was a dump less than stellar (you can read our review here), but we enjoyed taking the Metro into D.C. and exploring the city with them. Since we lived in D.C. for almost two years—and we planned to return in late April for another long week—we let the Michiganders drive the tourist schedule. Although the peak of the Cherry Blossoms had already passed, we still had a fun exploring city and sharing it with Owen and his cousins. On Friday morning, April 7th, we parted ways heading south towards Hampton Roads.

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Fun in Washington, D.C. with cousins

Owen channeling his inner Grizzly Bear at the Museum of Natural History big big trip

Owen channeling his inner Grizzly Bear at the Museum of Natural History

We planned to spend April flittering about the mid-Atlantic. After D.C., our route included stops in Hampton Roads; the Outer Banks of North Carolina; Charlottesville, Virginia; Shenandoah National Park; and finally a return to Washington, D.C. at the end of the month. First, we planned to spend the 7th and 8th on the south shore of Virginia’s Middle Neck. We camped at Belle Isle State Park with some old Navy friends who happen to own a very sexy, late 80’s Airstream Excella. After a very nice weekend at a beautiful Virginia State Park, we continued south to Hampton Roads.

One of the volunteers at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Colonial Beach, Virginia.

One of the volunteers at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Colonial Beach, Virginia.  This is a great little NPS site that is a little out of the way but worth the stop.  Owen earned their Junior Ranger Badge–it took less than an hour to complete.  Also, it’s located just down the street from Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home (Lee married Martha Washington’s Great Grand Daughter, who would inherit the family estate in Arlington, VA–the current Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery).  We stopped here on our way south from Washington, D.C. to Belle Isle State Park.

Airstream Meet-up with old Navy friends at Belle Isle State Park in Virginia

Airstream Meet-up with old Navy friends at Belle Isle State Park in Virginia

We had lived in Norfolk for almost eight years and therefore had a pretty full schedule planned for our stay in the area. With activities planned on both the Peninsula and the south side, we decided to break our Hampton Roads stop in half and spread it out over two weeks. If you’ve lived in the Virginia Tidewater area, you clearly understand the logic of this decision. If you’ve never lived around (or even visited) Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Chesapeake, or Virginia Beach then I can quickly explain our decision with one word: TRAFFIC. With dozens of bridges and tunnels that bottleneck the already congested civilian and military commuters, Hampton Roads has fucking awful terrible traffic problems. Regardless of the reasons for our bifurcated Hampton Roads visit decision, our plan was to spend one week on the peninsula in Williamsburg and our second week in Virginia Beach. In between we would make a quick trip south to the Outer Banks of North Carolina…just because!

Colonial Williamsburg in the springtime

Exploring Colonial Williamsburg

Our first Hampton Roads week was dedicated to the historic Williamsburg area. Visiting Historic Jamestown(e), Colonial Williamsburg, and the Yorktown National Battlefield easily filled our time.

Owen was not excited with Colonial Williamsburg

Owen was not excited with Colonial Williamsburg

We love Williamsburg. When we lived in the area, we always enjoyed wandering around the colonial village and capping our visit off with lunch or dinner at The Trellis restaurant (pre-Owen). Also, as an alumnus of the College of William and Mary (I earned my MBA there in 2003), Williamsburg holds a special place in my heart. Thankfully, Owen put up with our meandering about Duke of Gloucester Street and our reminiscent lunch at The Trellis. But he also made it abundantly clear that Colonial Williamsburg wasn’t his cup of tea! To be 100-percent honest, given that we picked the busiest week of the Spring Break season to visit, we didn’t enjoy our Colonial Williamsburg visit that much either. After visiting so many historic National Park sites, we found Colonial Williamsburg to be too commercialized and too corporate. It’s funny to realize that we never noticed that aspect when we visited in the early 2000s?!?! Luckily, the Yorktown National Battlefield and Jamestowne National Historic Site (not the commercialized Historic Jamestown(e) next door, but the NPS site located at the actual Jamestowne settlement) were much quieter and less crowded. We enjoyed them more than the too crowded and too commercialized Colonial Williamsburg. At the end of the week, we finally packed up after getting our early American history on, and headed south to the Outer Banks on Friday the 14th of April.

Yorktown Battlefield National Historic Site

Yorktown Battlefield National Historic Site

When we were in Raleigh, we had wanted to try to get to work in a quick trip to the Outer Banks, but couldn’t make it work with our schedule. On the day we drove from Raleigh to D.C., we realized that if we split up our Hampton Roads visit, we could slip down to the Outer Banks for a quick weekend visit. Easter weekend at Oregon Inlet fit the bill nicely.

During the drive down to the Outer Banks, we stopped at the Wright Brothers National Monument in Kitty Hawk, NC.

During the drive down to the Outer Banks, we stopped at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, NC.

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We managed to snag a great campsite at Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks

Oregon Inlet is a great little campground. While you can’t actually see the beach from the campground, you can walk there by traversing a few small dunes. Many of the campsites are located in amongst the dunes, but the length of our rig relegated us to the grassy loop area which, given that the campground was less than half full, was just fine. Not to mention that Anna still has PTSD from all the sand we found at Padre Island National Seashore. With no trees and a constant fresh breeze off the ocean, our batteries stayed full and we were completely comfortable. In between lounging around the campsite and hanging out on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and at the lighthouses, we managed to work-in a trip to Manteo, NC to visit the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Fort Raleigh officially closed the loop on the whole English settlement lesson we started at Jamestown(e). This quick trip to North Carolina resulted in Owen rocking three more Junior Ranger badges…SCORE!

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Feeling refreshed and satisfied, on Monday morning we left the Outer Banks and ventured north to Virginia Beach. We spent the next five days camping on the beach at First Landing State Park, visiting old friends, and frequenting old haunts.

Hanging out in front of the USS Wisconsin in downtown Norfolk, Virginia

Hanging out in front of the USS Wisconsin in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. Anna and I lived about four blocks from here in 2006 and 07.

First Landing was a completely adequate state park, but we felt let down by it. Given our experiences with Belle Island State Park earlier in the month (the was perhaps the best state park we’ve visited), we were disappointed by the quality and cleanliness of the park. Not only were the sites dirty and poorly maintained, most are located right next to a busy Virginia Beach roadway. Overall, while it was nice to see some old friends (and Anna got to visit her old—and favorite—http://www.amicistyle.com), we left Virginia Beach feeling a little let down by our stay. Perhaps we had built it up too much in our heads, or maybe it was the congestion and hectic pace of life around us that left us feeling less than satisfied? Also, I suspect that we were starting to get a little road-weary after 4+ months of traveling with only one real break in Key West. Regardless, on Friday the 21st of April, we headed inland towards the mountains and the land of Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Over the next several cold and rainy days, we explored Charlottesville and had an amazing children’s tour of Jefferson’s Monticello. Our plan was to continue our route back to D.C. via Skyline Drive and three days in Shenandoah National Park, but with continued cold weather and HEAVY rain in the forecast, we decided that boondocking in the mountains didn’t sound like a lot of fun. So, we pulled chocks and beat feet back to Washington, D.C on Monday morning.

On Saturday morning we took the Monticello Family Friendly tour and it was AWESOME. Our tour guide was obviously a local school teacher and she did a wonderful job of keepingthe kids excited and engaged throughout the tour.

On Saturday morning we took the Monticello Family Friendly tour and it was AWESOME. Our tour guide was obviously a local school teacher and she did a wonderful job of keeping the kids excited and engaged throughout the tour.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

During our return trip to D.C., we visited a TON of NPS sites throughout the D.C. area. This was taken in front of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which we had never visited before and thoroughly enjoyed. It’s really well done and definitely worth the walk.

We visited Arlington National Cemetery during our first stop earlier in April. While we were there, we picked up the Arlington House Robert E. Lee Memorial Junior Ranger booklet and worked on it during the rest of the month. When we returned at the end of the month, we force-marched (it was a really hot and humid day) Owen through the cemetery, up to the house so that he could get his badge.

Returning to northern Virginia early meant that we now had 10-days to continue our D.C. explorations. But, given the last-minute change of plans, our camping accommodations were divided up into three separate reservations at two campgrounds—two different sites at Pohick Bay Regional Campground, followed by a few full hook-up days at the Army’s Fort Belvoir Campground.

Anna and Owen working on the National Mall and Memorial Parks Junior Ranger Booklet during our Metro commute from Pohick Bay Campground.

We had a pretty full dance card for our second D.C. visit and over the course of our stay we managed to exhaust ourselves with almost daily Metro trips into the city and six separate social engagements with old friends and old co-workers, as well as an InstaMeet with the famous (or infamous?) @upintheairstream crew. Also, Anna was a roadschooling machine during our stay, keeping Owen busy with National Park Junior Ranger’ing and general History’ing in the multiple sites throughout the city. By the time we left on 5th of May, we were all literally sick and tired of D.C. We had all managed to contract varying degrees of cold/flu during our 10-days and Anna ended up with the worst of all, including having a 102-degree fever on our May 5th departure. With Anna feeling like shit under the weather, we steered our rig through the legendary D.C. traffic and headed northwest on I-70 and departed the Mid-Atlantic.

Washington Monument Junior Ranger Badge

Owen showing off the rewards from his hard work while in D.C.

This entry was posted in 2017, Arlington House Memorial, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Jamestowne National Historic Site, Mid-Atlantic, National Mall and Memorial Parks, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Wright Brothers National Memorial, Yorktown National Battlefield and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.