We left Gettysburg, PA about 8 AM, driving south along US 15. Based on the weather forecasts, we had adjusted our itinerary. Our original plan had been to stay in Harrisonburg, VA for 2 nights and spend the day between driving the Skyline Drive. But the weather showed that Monday was going to be pretty rainy while Sunday was going to have some sun. So we decided to travel the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday, staying in Staunton, VA Sunday night. Then, we’d drive to Bristol, VA on Monday and stay 2 nights there.
It was a bit cloudy when we left, but the clouds were high clouds that did not “rain on our parade” so to speak. We crossed the Mason-Dixon line traveling with light traffic. We arrived at entrance to the National Park in good time and good spirits.
I had known, as I wrote in the past couple of days, that going to places we loved with other people was not going to be the same. I hadn’t expected it to be quite so soon or so obvious. We drove into the park expecting to hear some sort of appreciation of the views of the Shenandoah valley from the back seat, even if they weren’t the same as our own. But Mom, who was sitting behind me, apparently had more problems with the views than pleasures. She has a fear of heights – so do I. But she wouldn’t even look out the window when we pulled into the overlook parking areas. Great! Dad was enjoying the views but she was looking mostly at the floor. The weather was pretty good and visibility was great at this point. Well, the rest of us enjoyed the vistas.
Along the way, we passed a young racoon along the roadside – alive, not road kill. We pulled up next to him and I got several wonderful photos. A short time later, we passed a couple of deer on the hillside. We stopped at the Visitor Center then at Skyland, which has lodging and dining facilities. Although we had agreed to eat our dinner mid-afternoon, I knew there wouldn’t be any other place to eat until late afternoon, so I suggested that we have lunch there. The food was excellent and so was the service. Mom and Dad thoroughly enjoyed the meal – and since I took the seats facing the windows for myself and my husband, I didn’t have to worry about Mom fretting over view. Sometimes it pays to think ahead.
By the time we left, the wind had really picked up and the temperature felt like it had dropped, although it was probably just the wind chill. But the sun had broken through the clouds and it seemed to brighten everyone’s spirits. We continued along the Skyline Drive and I recall wondering what Mom had expected – they don’t call it the Skyline Drive for nothing. Compared to the Rockies, it may not be very high, but for the East Coast it’s darn high.
The sunshine didn’t last long. We began to encounter the clouds. We drove through small patches of fogginess that would suddenly be gone, allowing us to see the road and the views clearly. We could see how fast the clouds were being pushed along. It was really interesting. The periods of fog increased and we began to encounter rain off and on as well. Now we had to focus on the road ahead. There wasn’t much to see by the last hour of the Drive. We did, luckily, see the deer that started to run out in front of us – at about the time she saw us and turned back. There was the grace of God! We passed a couple of park rangers standing alongside their cruisers – then noticed the smoking remains of a vehicle that had run off the road and burned. Burnt car is a nasty smell.
The last 10 to 15 miles we ran into the worst weather of the day. Really heavy rain with lightning and thunder. Fortunately, the Hampton Inn in Staunton has a covered portico, so we could get into the hotel dry. We checked in and settled in to our rooms. Much nicer than the Comfort Inn, if you ask me. A sofa and coffee table, a desk with a real desk chair and a king sized bed. The TV channels available included Versus, which made my husband happy because he could watch the Penguins and Flyers playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In fact, the game is on now and I’m going to go watch it with him.
I can’t wait for the rain tomorrow.