Back 'home' to Northern Virginia


As some of you may know, I basically grew up in Northern Virginia. My father was in the Marine Corp and when I was 2 he was stationed in Quantico. Before long he was transferred to HQMC and we moved north a bit to Woodbridge where we stayed until my dad's retirement from the military. My parents have since divorced and my dad now lives in Georgia where we visited him back in April. My mom, however, still lives in the area so we have an excuse to come back to my old stomping grounds now and then. This was our intention for the next few weeks, so north we went, landing, after much traffic on I-95 (man I hate that road!) at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton, a mere 8 miles from my mom's place and not far at all from where I grew up. I remember going to this park as a kid.

The approach there was eventful, which is not the kind of drive we like. We missed the turnoff to Pohick Bay due to some bad advice from our GPS. We shortly spotted a 'No Outlet' sign on the road we were on, which had us concerned about our ability to turn around. Slowing down and looking for any chance to turn around I spotted an entrance to a gated neighborhood that had a circular drive before the gate that even had a sign saying 'truck turn round'. It was perfect! Except that it wasn't... There was barely enough room for us and in order to make the turn without hitting the fence or the post holding the gate code keypad, I had to run the front tires off the road a bit onto the grass. It was at this time that a resident turned into the drive, parked at the end of the circle blocking our way out and proceeded to film us with their phone. Great. We were at a bit of an impasse. We couldn't go forward or back up. They weren't moving, just filming away and giving us the stink-eye. My patience wore out and my temper got the best of me so I started inching forward and gave them a certain hand gesture. They eventually moved forward and we were able to escape. Had they not been such jerks, I had intended to get out and make sure we hadn't torn up the grass much and if we had, call someone to make amends, but after our encounter, I wanted nothing to do with these people so we just left and high-tailed it for the park. In hindsight, I should have gotten out of the truck and gone over to talk to them rather than confirming their assumption that I was some Texan jerk, but hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.

My mom and her boyfriend Tim met us at the campground as they wanted to see how we set up our home. Naturally the back-in to the site was a tricky one and I now had an audience to make me nervous, but I nailed it. However, as we were backing in, with the truck turned sharply relative to the camper, I heard a pop/bang sound. I assumed it was the hitch settling and ignored it (ominous foreshadowing...). We got set up and enjoyed an evening with Mom and Tim. I should stop here and explain that I'm a "Bad Son". I haven't seen my mother in nearly two years. She and my sister drove out to Wisconsin two years ago in July for a brief visit and since then we were so busy with foster kids and then this whole RVing adventure, that we haven't been able to come out to see her. In our defense we went to my nephew's wedding in Blacksburg, VA last summer and my mom would have been there, but she was too sick to travel. So through no fault of hers or ours, it would have only been one year, not two, had we seen her at the wedding. We intend to make up for it with a long visit and then never let that much time elapse again if we can avoid it.

The awesome sites at Pohick Bay Regional Park. So close to DC!

The awesome sites at Pohick Bay Regional Park. So close to DC!

Monday was mom's birthday. See how I timed that? So we spent the whole day with her just catching up, chatting and being together. The week was filled with me working and the evenings with visits with mom. Some evenings we visited her at her place, a continuum of care facility where she's in an Independent Living apartment, where we watched Crayton play and win the hearts of the residents in her building. Other evenings, she visited us at the camper or we'd go out to eat. We had a nice time. One night we went to a local IKEA looking for camper storage ideas, but winding up fairly disappointed. Another night we helped mom shop for a new laptop computer, finally finding a great deal on one for her that I spent the next week or so getting set up and getting her data transferred.

The birthday girl with the Ice Cream Cake it took us a week to eat

The birthday girl with the Ice Cream Cake it took us a week to eat

Also during the week, I noticed that the electrical junction box, up under the pin box, from which the cord comes to attach the camper to the truck electrical was just hanging there and the wires had been mostly pulled out of both sides of the box. This is when I remembered the sound I heard while backing up. It appears that the cord got caught in the big blue waste water tank we keep in the back of the truck, and when the truck was turning to back into the site, the cord got pulled so hard it pulled the wires out of the box and the box popped loose from the pin box. Whoops. A trip to the hardware store, some self-tapping screws and some new wire terminators and I have it fixed, but we need to find a better way to transport that tank. For now we're going to flip it upside down. This will give it a lower profile and make it much harder for the cord to get underneath it. Hopefully that's all it takes.

Saturday, though, Mom had plans! My sister Angela, brother-in-law Daniel, niece Becca and nephew Jacob and his wife Tara all converged on mom's place for the afternoon. Mom had arranged for a family photographer to come and take informal portraits of everyone since this was the first time in ages we'd all been together. As I mentioned earlier, the prior summer we flew out for Jacob and Tara's wedding, but Mom was sick and couldn't come, so we didn't get pictures of everyone together. In any event, it was great seeing everyone and the pictures turned out great! that afternoon the rest of the family celebrated an early birthday for Crayton (more on that later) and Crayton got, among other things, a new Star Wars Lego set that he enjoyed putting together with Cousin Jacob. That evening, mom had a hand-chime concert with the group she's in that we watched. Afterwards, we went out for Thai food with Jacob and Tara. it was great getting to spend some time with just them for the first time in ages. Jacob has grown up to be a great young man, graduating from VA Tech last year and working now for a civil engineering firm. His wife Tara is a real gem and works in early childhood education. We're looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks when we go through Roanoke, VA where they live.

New Lego Set with Cousin Jacob!

New Lego Set with Cousin Jacob!

Mom with her Grandkids

Mom with her Grandkids

Me and (the other) love of my life!

Me and (the other) love of my life!

Sunday we took it easy and enjoyed the water park at Pohick Bay. It was a hot crowded summer day, but Crayon had a blast. That night we visited mom again before turning in and getting ready to move the next day. Monday we moved down to the Harbor View Thousand Trails in Colonial Beach, VA. We had mistakenly thought this was pretty close to Tim's place and would be convenient for Mom to stay with him and come visit. It turns out it's just about as far from from his place as it is from hers as I'd forgotten that he moved a couple of years ago. So they decided to rent a cabin in town from which to base their visits with us. For this I feel bad. We moved here from Pohick to save money as it was kind of expensive at $47/day vs free here at the Thousand Trails. We thought we were doing everyone a favor, but mom would up spending a fortune renting a cabin to be close by. Whoops. On the plus side, Harbor View is a really nice place. We've yet to be really disappointed by a Thousand Trails park. The sites are huge and level, the pool is HUGE, the playground is nice. The staff is great, there's even a groundskeeper named Creighton which Crayton thought was pretty cool. Monday thru Thursday nights we spent with Mom and Tim. It turns out there is a NASA facility about 80 miles from here as the crow flies (on Wallops Island) that was planning a rocket launch for high-atmospheric research while they were here. On a few nights we were out on the beach watching and listening to the webcast only to have it launch scrubbed to to less than perfect weather. Other nights I worked on getting her new computer set up for her. We cooked dinner for everyone a couple of nights as eating out every night wasn't helping our wallet or our waistline.

Dinner Party in the camper with Mom and Tim!

Dinner Party in the camper with Mom and Tim!

Crayton had a great time at Harbor View. There was a nice large pool, lots of kids and the staff were super friendly. Walking back and forth to the pool, Crayton often commented on the 'Invisible camper'. It sure looked like it to us! Maybe Wonder Woman lives there?

The "Invisible Camper"

The "Invisible Camper"

Friday morning Mom and Tim headed back to Woodbridge as Mom had some commitments. Friday night I washed the truck and Saturday morning I waxed it and washed the camper. Over the course of the next week I waxed the camper as well. I also took the time to finally remove much of the tar we picked up on Hwy 90 in west Texas. Neither vehicle had seen a proper washing since Tuscon. They were filthy! Saturday morning the campground had a Fathers Day pancake breakfast for everyone and in the afternoon we hung at out the pool trying to escape the heat. Sunday morning I spent getting caught up on blog posts while Pam and Crayton made me a Fathers Day breakfast. Mom and Tim had decided the cabin wasn't all that convenient, so additional visits during the coming week would involve a 90 minute one-way drive from Woodbridge and later Sunday afternoon they came back and we enjoyed a dinner out together. Monday they came again and we made tacos and visited some more while we rode out some crazy thunderstorms.

Some quality puddle jumping after the rain storms

Some quality puddle jumping after the rain storms

On Thursday, a certain little guy we know turned 5! He woke up super-excited. He's been looking forward to this for months! In the afternoon, mom and Tim came by to help celebrate. They gave him a fishing pole and some tackle and we got him an Imaginext pirate ship that he's been talking about for months. The deal was, though, that he'd have to give up some larger toys that he doesn't play with any longer since we only have so much room for toys and this is a big one! There was cake, there was (bad) singing of Happy Birthday, there was a very excited five year old little man.

Birthday Boy!

Birthday Boy!

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