After breakfast and more conversation, Mabel and I readied Arabella for our journey South. I don’t like to mention that I don’t have to go to work, especially to those that do, before they have to. No need for rubbing in the fact that my responsibilities are non-conventional, nothing like most people have. This paradise will not last forever though. Navigating out of Silver Spring had to wait after a pet store run as Mabel didn’t like the food I last purchased. I found what she needed after some help from the staff, and apparently I can’t read, because what I needed was staring me in the face. Thirty seconds, that’s how long it took the woman helping me to find the correct dog food. I was in the store almost an hour because Sheri and I got to talking on the phone. It started out with the food I needed for Mabel and branched out into a few different directions. We were on the phone long enough to feel like we were truly together. I have said it before, technology is essential on a variety of levels for this trip. I had programmed Sterling, Virginia into the GPS because it would get us to HWY 267 and then HWY7 facilitating the advancement West. Traffic slowed our progress but I remained calm, no need to stress when the destination is reached.
We stopped at Berryville to stretch and because a sign said the town was historic. Parking near the Welcome Center provided a nice exit, no need to back up as I still find it challenging. I hope to slay this white whale by the end of the trip. We enter the town park, nice and tidy, the shaded, green grass interrupted only by a playground and a small gazebo. Picnic tables were being used and the pace of life didn’t look harried. Mainstreet was well occupied, mostly professional services with a splattering of chic, local retail, much different from the small towns I saw in Maine.
Mabel and I saw what we needed and came back through the park to reach the car. A woman, not there when we came through the first time, was sitting at a picnic table, engrossed in reading through papers. She asked what kind of dog Mabel was, and I used that as an introduction to our story. Her name was Linda and wore a polo shirt advertising the local dentistry where she is a hygienist. I complimented her on the town and she said, after I said I am interested in Civil War history, that I should go to Winchester. “The back way is best,” she advised, “just go through town and you will see the signs. Lots of farms that way.” As we spoke I could see a man using a zero-turn mower to cut the grass was watching us rather intently. Was it local looking out for local? As we spoke he moved to the top of the hill, shut off his mower and continued the vigil. I thanked Linda for the info and walked up to lawn mower man giving a greeting as we came close. “What kind of dog is that? It looks like a fox,” he said. Turns out he was interested in Mabel and not me conversing with a local woman. Is chivalry dead? I provide her story, asked a little about him, and we went on our way. Linda had started back to work, our paths crossing on the road; she liked the camper.
The back roads to Winchester were truly expansive, you could feel the space. Large tracts of land ringed by sturdy fences dotted the country side. Stately homes defended by large regions of green grass looked out on their kingdoms. Winchester itself is a small city or a big town, the description is yours for the taking, with a vibrant social scene. It was Wednesday, but I wanted to stay the night to experience the after-dark liveliness. There is a lot of history as the town changed occupiers seven times during the Civil War. A young George Washington held an office while overseeing the building of Fort Loudon and Stone Wall Jackson had his headquarters here for a bit. The Old Town district boasts many restaurants, all preparing for the night’s crowd as well as Civil War history in the hotel that was used as a hospital for both sides. We walked a lot, Mabel getting loads of attention, but it was hot so we didn’t stay long. I saw my first Confederate flag license plate around Winchester. I guess that and the Civil War soldier monument means I am finally in “The South.”
HWY 11 took us South and the residents were preparing for the weekend road sale. Miles and miles of stuff looking for a transfer of ownership; the whole “one man’s treasure” principle. Some homes had their wares displayed and were waiting patiently for someone to stop. Others were preparing, tables waiting to be filled, or covered from the weather. Signs advertised rental spaces while many of the churches promised to feed the anxious shoppers. I slightly wished I would be around to see the weekend spectacle but was also glad I didn’t have to navigate the camper through the crowded street.
Staunton was home to a KOA, our stopping point for tonight. I was tired and drove through town, no stopping except for the giant watering can and flower pot. It reminded me of Sheri and how seeing something like this isn’t as much fun when alone. Mabel has a rather shallow appreciation for art and I have stopped calling her attention to roadside attractions. The KOA was quiet, our spot across from a family and next to an R-POD with fishing waders drying on a line, but no car. We were greeted by ducks that Mabel immediately chased after but had no luck in catching. That would have been a hard one to explain to camp management. The dog run was close and a safer area for Mabel to burn off steam. Behind us lay a large pond, with a number of RV’s on its banks. The neighbors turned out to be from Milwaukee, retired and on their own schedule which revolved around fishing. I think they are doing the RV thing right, no hurry just a leisurely stroll around the parts of the country they want to see. They will go home when the time is right. It was nice to have neighbors from up North. We have a familiarity, an understanding even if our license plates are different. We spoke for a bit and then I fixed dinner, Mabel sampling her new food. Bedtime came early tonight.