Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Kerplonken Lake

This morning I peeked out of our curtained alcove over the truck cab to see Ron and Benny reading books. The RV was nice and warm, since Ron had turned on the furnace (without reading the renter's guide!).

Ron suggested we skip showers today, or use the bathhouse, but I sniffed at such cowardice. I would take a shower and if water backed up and flooded the RV, then the tank was full. Ron fled with Benny at the very idea, and I put my experiment in motion.

The tank was full, of course, and I spent a very gloomy 20 minutes mopping out the bathroom after my shower. Ron used the bathhouse like a sensible person and we loaded up the RV and drove it to the dumping station.

The station was blessedly clean and private, no frightening drain or scores of catcalling bystanders. Benny sensed something was up and sat chillingly silent in the RV as I read instructions from my trusty guide. Ron's face was set as he pulled off the sewer cap and attached the hose, then ran the hose down the drain. When he opened the gray tank valve and the hose wiggled like a snake, we cheered. The toilet holding tank, known as the “black tank,” didn't need emptying, thank God.

The task completed, Ron went off to wash his hands 20 times. “I'd like to amputate them,” he said.

Triumphant, we drove down the mountain to a pretty visitor's center at Sandstone, West Virginia. Sandstone is adjacent to New River Gorge National River, one of the oldest rivers in North America. That river was around before the Appalachian Mountains formed. We visited the waterfalls, then returned to the visitor center for a picnic lunch.

Since the rest of the day was a straight shot along Interstate 64 to Staunton, Virginia, I drove the motor home for the first time. It drives much like a U-Haul truck, so I had little trouble. I just set the cruise control for 55 mph and sat in the right lane to watch retirees in giant Winnebagos zoom past us.

I pulled off the highway for gas just beyond the state line into Virginia. They're very friendly in Virginia. I met a guy at the pump in front of us whose wife's cousin's landlady sews Civil War uniforms in Gettysburg. Then I went inside the station and learned all about the cashier's 2-year-old named Simon. He can read and write his name and count to 5 in French.

Ron, meanwhile, had to listen to some loud guy stare at the RV and yell loudly, “Now that there is funny!” three times to his girlfriend. We tried to pull forward out of the gas station, but a new car had parked in front of us and there was no way to back out.

So we waited. The elderly driver finished pumping gas and slowly walked to the station. He emerged an epoch later and got into the car and spoke to his wife. He'd forgotten something. He got out of the car and re-entered the station. We waited. He re-entered the car and checked the map. Ron was beside himself at his point. Finally the car backed away and left and we followed it to the highway.

At 6 p.m. we pulled into Walnut Hills Campground and RV Park just south of the Shenandoah Valley. Our Frommer's Guide lauded the campground's inviting sites on Kerplonken Lake. A quick inspection revealed that the Kerplonken was a small, mucky death trap for toddlers, surrounded by a crowded RV ghetto. So we opted for a site on a woody hill. It's nice up here, with hookups for electricity and running water.

Giddy with success, I made pancakes for dinner, only setting off the smoke detector twice. Tomorrow we'll travel up Shenandoah Valley National Park.


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