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YEAR #3 - STOP #46

Today's travel day had us moving just over 100 miles southeast over the Appalachian Mountains and into Virginia. We saw a sign indicating that we were crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, who knew there was such a thing. What I do know is we spent a lot of time driving up and down long steep sections of highway to get where we were going.

We ended up right smack in the center of the Shenandoah Valley on the bank of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. We are less than 10 miles from the north entrance of Shenandoah National Park in Front Royal, VA.

You can bet we'll be revisiting that park and Skyline Drive before we pack up to move further down the road. I just hope we haven't missed the peak of the fall colors along the drive.


Tricia and I were all finished breaking camp this morning and were getting on the road when I turned on the radio in the truck to listen to some SIRIUS/XM music.

The very first song we heard being played was the Doobie Brothers very first #1 hit, Blackwater (released in 1974). Here we were leaving Blackwater Falls State Park driving over the Blackwater River and they're singing "Old black water, keep on rollin'..." and "I ain't got no worries, 'Cause I ain't in no hurry, at all."

Now I understand the black water they were singing about wasn't the Blackwater River in West Virginia, it was actually the Mississippi River in Louisiana, but it set me in a relaxed state of mind for the drive ahead.

Our mountain view from Campsite #9 at Shenandoah River State Park

South Fork of the Shenandoah River as viewed from Cullers Overlook.

SUNDAY - I awoke early this morning, took a look outside and immediately had a brief moment of panic.

My first thought was I forgot to turn off our brand new BBQ grill after cooking dinner on it last night. My second thought was I didn't cook dinner on the grill last night. My third thought was "What the hell?"

Like I said, all that thinking only took a brief moment, then I realized what was going on!

It was just the early morning sun burning off the overnight frost that had acculmulated on the top of the grill cover. The temperatures were in the lower 30°F last night and growing up in Florida, plus living there all my adult life, I haven't had to deal with this situation very often.

WEDNESDAY - Our day started early today at 6:30AM. We got up and went to the bathhouse to shower and then got on the road headed to an 8:00AM appointment at the Ford Dealership in Front Royal. Before even exiting the campground we saw more than a dozen rabbits and at least three deer, we never see them here after sunrise occurs.

We were running ahead of schedule and took the time to grab breakfast at the McDonalds near the dealership. We arrived 30 minutes early at 7:30AM and found the service department already open. After describing my problem with the Service Advisor, who happened to be a retired Ford mechanic, he was confident he knew what needed to be replaced.

He also said that the parts needed were presently on backorder, that he had two others with the same problem ahead of me, and that it would be 3-7 days before the part would arrive. He also mentioned it was at least two full days of labor to make the repair. All this is covered 100% by my extended warranty, the problem is we'll be leaving this area in 5 days.

The problem only occurs immediately after we start the engine. It makes a rattling noise for about two seconds while the engine starts running. There is an electronic module that kicks in to adjust the timing of the engine which seems to be a little behind in its duties, causing the engine to run ruff and the valves to chatter. Like I said it only lasts for a few seconds and then the engine runs just fine.

Our next extended stay at a single location isn't until mid-December, so we'll have to wait until then to get this latest problem resolved.

Also we planned ahead by loading three weeks worth of dirty laundry into ROVER before we left this morning and took care of doing that overdue chore on the way back home.

After putting away the clean laundry and grabbing a little lunch we found ourselves with some unexpected free time on our hands. I opened up Google maps and began searching for something interesting in the area to go and see. What I came up with was Woodstock Tower.

Woodstock Tower, built in 1935, is a steel observation tower built at an elevation of 2000 feet and offers 360° views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and rivers. It is a 27 mile drive from our campsite, with the last 3 miles up a very dusty gravel road that is barely 1-1/2 lanes wide, making passing oncoming traffic an adventure all on it's own!

It was still an excellant last minute find and something we would not have experienced if we spent the whole day at the Ford Dealership.

The view from the bottom...

...and the view from the top.

THURSDAY - Today we're in for a "TWOFER", otherwise known as a two for one special. It involves two of our very favorite things to do, visiting a cave tour and a National Park.

First up is our 31st cave tour. Not just an ordinary cave tour, voted as one of the Top Ten Show Cave Tours in the nation, Shenandoah Caverns is our primary reason for selecting to visit this area again.

By now you may all be tired of seeing cave pictures, I know sometimes I have trouble selecting which ones to share. Let me just say one more time, the photos don't do the cave experience justice. You have to be there, in person, to understand the size, complexity and shear volume of formations that we are seeing. Throw in the fact that you are following a sometimes narrow path where you are ducking and weaving between rocks, climbing and descending stairs and ramps, then feeling the temperature changes. If you ever have the chance, visit a cave, any cave and you'll see what I'm talking about.


Descending the 79 stairs from the gift shop to the cave floor.
Time to go deeper into the cave.
Still going down!

With the cave tour completed in was time for lunch. The nearby small town of New Market had four choices for fast food restaurants, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds and Burger King.

Our first choice of Subway was eliminated because they didn't offer a drive-thru option, we are still trying to social distance at every opportunity. Second choice? McDonalds, because we prefer their french fries and Dunkin Donuts didn't sound like lunch to us. We ate in the truck and then got back on the road and headed for the Thorton Gap Entrance of Shenandoah National Park.

After a 20 minute wait in line to gain entrance to the park we headed north on Skyline Drive. It's 31 miles from the Thorton Gap Entrance to the Front Royal (North) Entrance so we got to travel roughly 1/3 of the 105 mile long drive. It just so happens to also be the most popular section of the drive.

Here are a several photos we took from a few of the numerous roadside overlooks, which offer the only place to pull off the road and take photos.

This is the same dead tree we photographed two years ago.

Time to head down off Skyline Drive and return to camp down in the valley.

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