Call it a maiden voyage, or a shake-down trip, depending on who you ask. This is the story of the first adventure with my travel trailer, Rosie.
- Date: September 20 – September 22, 2020
- Location: Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia
- Distance: 126 Miles
- Total Miles: Approximately 300
- MPG: 18.3
- Weather: Sunny, highs in the upper 60s, nighttime lows in the upper 30s/low 40s
In August 2019, I made the craziest decision. I was going to pack up my home, rent it out, and become a nomad.
In October, I bought a 2015 A-Liner Classic to tow behind my 2012 Tiguan (affectionately named Baby, an homage to Supernatural). I named my new trailer Rosie, after the Riveter, because we can do it.
By February, I made the (what I thought was going to be) temporary move to my mom’s house in West Virginia to rent out my house and hit the road.
Then Covid-19 hit.
My house wasn’t ready to be rented, and no one knew what was going on. The days of quarantine turned into months. I settled into the “new normal” (aren’t we just sick of that phrase now?) and waited.
As people found their way, I made the final push to get the house ready to rent. By the end of August, I finally had a tenant, so it was time to dust off everything I learned when I bought my travel trailer and take her for a spin.
But where would I go? The trip needed to be relatively short (both in distance and time), just in case it went horribly wrong. Or I panicked towing. Or, well, anything.
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“a fortunate stroke of serendipity”– Oxford Languages
The universe likes to tell me where to go. I took a trip to Colorado based on the biggest round of robins outside my house. I bought my house because of the bunnies in the back yard.
But, when mom first mentioned Blackwater Falls State Park, I added it to my list but didn’t think much more about it. I wanted to go to Harpers Ferry, only a scant 20 miles from where I am. Then, mention of the state park started popping up in different camping groups.
Fine! I said, I get it! That’s where I’m going then.
Onward to Adventure!
Planning started in earnest. Mom was coming with me to make sure … oh let’s be honest, we both needed to get out of the house for a couple of days.
A week before our departure the lists started.
Mom spent the week leading up to our departure date preparing grill packets full of goodies like cheesy potatoes, shrimp, and squash. And we’d try out the microwave in the trailer with creamed chip beef or mac & gnocchi.
I spent the week working. The day before our trip I crammed all my tasks into the waning evening hours.
- Clean Car
- Add Oil
- Check Tires
- Put camping gear in totes
- Put trailer gear in totes
Let’s Go! Whooo!
The sky was clear and sharply blue as we packed all our gear into the car. The first stop was the gas station, then to pick Rosie (the trailer) up from the storage lot.
I turned the car on. I put the phone on the charger. I did a couple other things…
And then… the car started shaking and sputtering.
Mom says “Mine does that. Turn it off, give it a minute, turn it back on.” She has a 2001 Eurovan. We’re a Volkswagen family.
I turn it back on. It shakes, sputters, and dies.
I open up the Fixd app, connected to the car, and get all these scary engine cylinder misfire errors.
A Quick Aside…
Fixd is an OBD2 sensor, like the one mechanics use, that syncs up to your phone through Bluetooth and shares all the different error codes your car might send out. It was a gift from mom and has been a great addition to the travel arsenal.
Back to the story…
And then it sinks in… I didn’t check the oil before I filled it. I am suddenly filled with anger, despair, and all other negative emotions. A year in the making, I’m finally ready to hit the road, and the car dies on me, because of something so simple.
[What happens next is redacted for the sanity of all parties involved]
After some serious calming down, mom can finally get through to me. “Check to see if you actually overfilled the oil.”
I pop the hood. And sitting on the engine is the oil cap. All I’d actually done was forget to put the oil cap back on. That’s it.
So I put the cap back on, give it a few minutes, start the car up, and she purrs like a kitten. I rechecked Fixd, no new errors. And, I can clear the check engine light using the app.
Okay, now for real, lets go!
We head to the gas station, I fill up and raid the junk food. Then to the storage place to hook up and head out.
Hooking Rosie up was easier than I expected. Mom guided me back to the tow hitch, and I got everything connected. This included the power cable, breakaway cable, and chains. I tested the electric braking system, and we were off!
The drive to Blackwater Falls State Park was wonderfully uneventful. We took US 11 south to Winchester, then made our way over to Corridor H (also known as US 48). I was definitely “white-knuckling” (gripping the steering wheel too tight) most of the way there because the whole towing thing is pretty new to me (so is the driving thing if you’ve been following.)
Arriving at Blackwater Falls Campground
I pull up to our back-in space. Yep, first trip and I’ve got to back in.
First try… nope. Cars lining up behind me. I take a loop and try again.
Second try… nope. Cars lined up again. Take the loop again.
When I come around the second time, mom is standing with an older gentleman who apologizes profusely (I guess his wife mentioned that I told her I didn’t need help) and asks if he can show me how to back in. A couple of loops around the campground had removed any sense of pride I had, and I gratefully took the help.
Within less than two minutes, he had me perfectly backed into my campsite. I called him “my angel” the rest of the time they were at the campsite next to us. He told me he used to drive big rigs and was a perfect guide.
With Rosie in place, I unhitched and set up camp. Part of the reason I picked an A-Liner is it only takes one person to set up the whole thing.
Since we couldn’t get the NFL game on the weather radio, we decided to check out the lake. Pendleton Lake Beach is just a minute’s drive from the campground.
Then, it was time to
burn things! Start the fire for dinner and heat. It was a chilly low 60s and getting colder as the sun went down. Meanwhile, we had a visitor. Maybe they were there to warn me of trouble to come.
The packets mom made for our first night’s meal were perfection! All I had to do was throw the aluminum foil-wrapped potatoes, shrimp, and squash on the grill over the fire, and dinner was served shortly thereafter.
Day Two – Blackwater Falls, Thomas, WV and Cathedral State Park
It took some fussing, but we figured out how the “guest bed” in Rosie was supposed to work. We broke down the dinette and tried to position the cushions comfortably for mom to sleep. They’re awkward, but it worked for the most part. Some additional padding helps immensely.
My side is a sofa bed that slides out to slightly smaller than a queen-size bed, but I kept it in the sofa position. Every once and a while I get the craving to sleep in a nested tiny space, and this was one of those times.
We had a space heater plugged in to keep us nice and cozy.
I slept like the dead.
Blackwater Falls State Park‘s centerpiece is the 57-foot cascades as the Blackwater River tumbles down out of the Canaan Valley and enters the Blackwater Canyon.
We drove to the first lookout, high above the falls. With no one around, we could take in the beauty at our own pace.
We then drove aimlessly around the State Park. Blackwater Canyon has some really glorious views.
There are a lot of cabins all over the park that can be rented, including some really secluded ones that look like they’re set up for winter. These cozy cabins had large sheds for storing a winter’s worth of wood just outside.
I didn’t get any pictures of the cabins, but I did come to a screeching halt (as much of a screech as one can do driving 20 mph) when I saw these beautifully balanced rocks in front of a trail aptly named Balanced Rock.
After Blackwater Falls, we headed out to Thomas. Thomas is special because I have a one-of-a-kind art piece from an artist who has a studio there, thanks to my mom. That’s where this quote came from:
she hoped she wasn’t really headed anywhere in particular,
but just in case she was,
she had taken precautions to ensure it would take
her an exceptionally long time
to get there…
She drove all the way there to pick it up as a gift, after she commissioned a slight change from the original quote from “he hoped…” to “she hoped…” just for me. The artist is Seth Pitt, and his shop is called Creature.
Thomas is an adorable town full of artists and free spirits. I’d love to go back and spend more time there.
Cathedral State Park
At only 133 acres, Cathedral State Park is the largest old-growth forest in West Virginia and full of virgin Hemlocks. The park was only 20 miles north-west of our location, up the windy and scenic US 219, 24, and then US 50 for half a mile.
Along the way, we stopped at the “Smallest Church in 48 States.“
The church contains seating for 12, and the exterior measures 24 ft. x 12 ft. Behind it is also the “World’s Smallest Mailing Office.”
We continued along our way, and just as I turned onto US 50, a groundhog jumped out into the road. I managed to swerve around it. Then, just as I was catching my breath, a deer took the same path across the road.
I swerved again and thought I’d cleared the deer when the deer decided it wasn’t done with me and ran back out into the road, right into the passenger side of my car.
Mom gasped, I cursed, and the deer bounded off.
Just about a minute later, we were at Cathedral State Park. I pulled into the first spot I could find to assess the damage. There were some tufts of fur in the plastic casing on my day running lights and a nice dent in my quarter panel. Mom opened the passenger side door, and it scraped just enough against the quarter panel to make me cringe.
It could have been worse. It could have been much worse.
I drove down to the visitor parking lot when I realized the spot I was in was only for park rangers. Mom hung out on a picnic table while I took a walk through the woods and rested my hand on a large hemlock tree. A friend told me once that we need to be in touch with nature to center ourselves. I needed some centering for sure. Hemlocks also smell wonderful.
The “adventure” with the deer took any extra adventuring right out of me. We made our way back south to Blackwater Falls. We stopped to fill the gas tank and dipped into the liquor store at the gas station. I picked up a bottle of Tennessee honey (Whiskey) and a couple of soda bottles to mix with it. Mom got a bottle of vodka.
Back at the campground, I mixed my drink and started the fire (with mom’s help – I gotta work on my fire-starting skills.) I had a steak that I picked up from Rocky Point Creamery after my last trip to the MD house to get it rented. I slapped that bad boy in the cast iron over the fire.
We did it!
The next morning, we enjoyed the microwave’s simple comfort in my trailer to have creamed chip beef for breakfast. Then packed up, broke down camp, and hit the road back home.
Within hours of being home, I was already plotting my next adventure. A few days later I booked a week-long trip to Virginia Beach so I can test out working from Rosie while on the road. How did I pick Virginia Beach? One, it promised more wifi options than other places. Two, most importantly, I happened to log into Facebook while I was contemplating Virginia Beach, and Facebook Memories let me know exactly 10 years prior I was camping there with mom. Serendipity!
Stay tuned for the next adventure!