08-31-2022 Endless Caverns, NJ to Lums Pond, DE

I am actually writing this on September 7.  It is drippy and humid here in Jersey City, and it is a perfect day to make some attempts to catch up on the stories from the last week.  We have been enjoying New York City, and those readers who joined my little private Facebook group might have an idea of what we have been doing.  If not, with all that is going on every single day, you might have to wait a bit before getting the rest of the story. Another little heads up.  Our park costs more than $150 per night (paid for by Adventure Caravans)  and supposedly has WiFi.  Doesn’t work.  My Verizon signal shows 5G 5 bars and yet it is so slow that I can’t do much without sitting here and spinning. Not very conducive to creative writing.  Eventually, it will happen but I have no idea when.  I am keeping notes, or at least trying to.

Even though I say we are in New Jersey, we are basically just spitting distance across the Hudson River from the City.  Adventure Caravans has been keeping every moment filled with a bunch of stuff.  But at this moment, Mo just said to me, “I might be feeling a little bit bored”.  Ha!  That is what happens when full speed ahead comes to a sudden stop.  Don’t get me wrong, we are truly grateful for this long, quiet morning and afternoon to at least make an attempt to regroup and remember what day it is.

After heavy rains yesterday, the skies are still cloudy and the humidity is hovering between 85 and 95 percent.  At 72F, that isn’t unbearable, except when trying to sleep.  Last night we felt like we were sleeping under a heavy, wet cloud.  The lightweight down comfortor we use in all kinds of weather was heavy with moisture.  We weren’t exactly sweating, it wasn’t that hot, we were just damp.  Everywhere.  High humidity isn’t something we are used to, and while expected, living with it can be a bit of a surprise.  Somehow heat and humidity I understand, but moderate temperatures and dampness is just weird.  I live in Oregon.  It rains in the winter, and gets foggy, but never feels like this.  My bedding never needs to go in the dryer just because it is so heavy and damp that I can’t sleep under it.

I woke at 5 this morning, ready to tackle the laundry, the damp bedding, the musty rugs, and my musty body.  The showers are great, the laundry is perfectly fine, and after 30 people laughed about doing laundry today when we were on the bus last night, I knew I wanted to beat the rush.

The other little detail to attend to was dumping the tanks.  A company was contracted to come yesterday and clean out all the RV tanks while we were all hanging out in NYC.  We declined and decided to take care of our own this morning.  The last time we had this done, the company messed with our tank shutoff valves and we had to have them repaired.  We are not only pretty efficient at dumping our tanks, but our rig is small enough to easily get into the somewhat tight dump area.

With laundry completed, folded and put away, rugs done and floors swept, and tanks dumped, I find that I still have 3 hours before time to dress for the theater.  Yup.  Broadway.  But that is a story for a later time.  In the meantime, let me return in time to August 31, a week ago today.

When we left Endless Caverns, we only had a short distance to travel on I-81.  The highway was uncrowded and easy to drive, much less crazy than yesterday afternoon.  Within a few miles, we turned west and north to travel toward Maryland. It is hard for me to keep track of directions in this part of the country, and I was especially confused when we crossed from Virginia NORTH into West Virginia.  Whut??  I was driving so couldn’t pull out an atlas to get my bearings. 

Some readers might remember Mo and me meeting with soil scientist cohort Ben Marshall a couple of years ago.  Ben lives in Maryland now but was visiting relatives along the Oregon Coast and drove south from Coos Bay to see us and introduce his youngest son Calvin, who was traveling with him.  

We didn’t want to miss a chance to visit as we traveled through Maryland.  Ben was a new soil scientist when he began working for me in Sonora, California. When I taught Basic Soil Survey in Lincoln, Nebraska that year, Ben was part of that group of young soil scientists.  Meghan was also in my training group, at the time working in Montana.  Ben and Meghan fell in love and began a long-distance relationship.  

Ben running our backhoe in Sonora for a formal sampling pit

When there was a job advertised for my survey crew, Meghan applied.  My boss, Dave, insisted that having people in a relationship on the same crew was a no-no.  I told him if we didn’t hire Meghan, we would lose Ben.  

Meghan with me on a training day in the Sierra Nevada Foothills

Dave relented and we hired Meghan just a few months before I retired.  Ben and Meghan then married, and later moved to Maryland when Ben was promoted.  Ben is now a Major Land Resource Area Leader, the job I had when I retired from the NRCS in California in 2010.  He is in charge of 5 states, and 7 million acres and he couldn’t even remember how many counties.  Ben and Meghan have been married ten years now and have two adorable boys.  This story always makes me smile.

Ben sent information about a sweet little park in Frederick, not far from where each of them worked, and we arranged to meet them at lunchtime.  Mo and I loved the park and found a perfect spot on the street in the shade for the MoHo.  Mattie loved her walk and even more loved getting lots of pets and belly rubs from their son Calvin, who happened to break a finger just in time to get out of school and join us for our visit. 

After we walked around the park and visited, saying our goodbyes with hugs and smiles, Mo and I headed north and east toward Lums Pond, our destination for the next two days. 

Once again, Google Girl was insistent that we take the “shorter route” but I was wise to her.  I had learned by this time to quickly tap “No Thanks” when she kept trying to reroute us.  One time I didn’t manage to do it in time and had to just keep telling her to shut up as I drove the way I wanted to go. 

Crossing the Shenandoah River was dramatic, with water levels as low as some we have seen out west.  I am still not quite sure that should be the case, with all the rain that has been happening on the east side of the country.

Continuing toward Delaware, we meandered through amazing neighborhoods and beautiful hardwood forests to arrive at the park in the late afternoon.  Lums Pond is much bigger than many lakes we have kayaked and led me down a rabbit hole trying to determine the difference between a “pond” and a “lake”.  The easiest definition had to do with size and depth, and the idea that ponds usually have sunlight reaching the bottom.  This search led to a Facebook discussion with many folks chiming in and the final consensus is that the definition is more regional than scientific.

Our campsite was beautiful, right next to a short path leading to the water.  The hardwood forest at the edge of the campground sites was thick and tall, offering welcome shade most of the day.  It was hot, but we had full hookups and plenty of time to walk around and explore the park a bit before supper.

At last we had two days to relax and catch up a bit before continuing toward New York City.  There was a bit of confusion over where the boat launch might be, and when I asked the camp host he mumbled something about it wasn’t open, or it wasn’t useable, or it was down the road somewhere, but he didn’t know where.  We were a bit ruffled, thinking that maybe we had to return around the pond to the far side where the park concessions were located.  Looking on google maps, however, I could see that the boat rental concession was a considerable distance from the water, and carrying our boats to the launch site would be daunting.

A bit more searching led me to the official boat launch site, just a mile east on the highway from the park.  No clue about the clueless park host, because the site was gorgeous and the launch was perfect.

The next morning we launched early and spent a couple of hours on the lovely pond.  The park has a lot to do in the main park area, across the pond from the campground.  One big thing to do is the Zip Line Adventure through the trees and across the pond.  We saw the lines across the water.  There are 17 miles of trails around the pond, a Nature Center (which we didn’t have time to visit) and bike, boat, and horse rentals.  It is quite the park, and after our two days there we decided it might be one of our favorite parks we have encountered in our travels.

We found an interpretive sign that identified 6 types of fresh water turtles that frequent Lums Pond this time of year.  I couldn’t identify this one because of his mossy back.  Do you suppose he was a Moss Back Turtle?

After we returned to the campsite, I had time to drive to nearby Elkton to deal with a phone issue that had been plaguing me for days.  My new Galaxy S22 Ultra was seriously overheating.  I need to exchange it within the 30 days alloted, but I wasn’t going to be back in Grants Pass before that time expired.  My sales person in the TCC Verizon store in GP said, no problem, just go to any TCC store in the east and they will exchange it for you.  Ummm….everyone knows how long it takes to deal with this kind of stuff in a Verizon store.  I called, managed to get an appointment at a store in “north east”.  Yes, that is the name of a city. 

Once there, I found out that it is not possile to exchange a phone with the ORIGINAL BOX!  Who travels with the original box your phone came in?!!  We finally got that settled with a LOT of phone calls between Oregon and Maryland, and when the transaction was nearly completed, another kerfuffle rose its ugly head.  I had paid no tax.  The store manager couldn’t find a way to not charge me Maryland tax.  Long story short, I donated $72 to the state of Maryland and now have a phone that works great and does not overheat.  Sheesh!

Our stay at Lums Pond was the perfect way to settle in after traveling so many days in a row on our trip toward New York.  The next day was a big one.  We planned to travel the New Jersey Turnpike toward New York City and Jersey City in New Jersey where the MoHo would sit for the next 11 days.  Turnpikes?  bridges?  tunnels?  Sometimes a wrong turn can be a lifesaver.  But I will explain that one next time.