We had to be at the hot tub at 10 am all packed and ready and since you had to look for everything ten times and not doing the dishes is not an option, it creates some tension. I guess it takes time to get used to a new lifestyle. In the end the kids had their smorphs (graham cracker, chocolate and roasted marshmallow sandwich) and they did have their oatmeal in the morning and the parents had their wine in the evening and coffee in the morning. Life is good.
The town of Hot Springs was a backpacker paradise. The local grocery store has the widest selection of backpacking food I have ever seen. Powdered mixes in plastic bags. Look almost the same but with different labels: cream of broccoli soup, hot chili stew, camomille tea… I wonder how they made camomille tea into white powder?
It was raining as we went to the tubs. It was in the mid 40s F and I was hoping that the hot springs were indeed hot. The tubs were on stilts again on a walled off platform on the river bank with no wall casing the river. So you could see forest, the river and nothing else. I thought that our children would refuse to take off their clothes but I was wrong. Timofei was the fist in the tub followed by Yelisei. Go figure. The cruel thing is that when they come back to tell you that your time is up they also pull the plug!!!!! And the water starts to drain very very fast! Not only do we have to dress ourselves, but we have to dress our children as well. That was the fastest we dressed in history…
Now we had to change our plans because of the heavy rain in South Carolina. So we are going to Georgia and the kids are starting to ask every ten minutes are we there yet?
Waking up in Shenandoah valley was refreshing. Though it was cold, it was energizing also. We drove for an hour to a Virginia ski resort where we planned to go to a water park. Our kids were asking to go to one since last summer when we went to one in Russia in St Petersburg. They loved going down the water slides and we enjoyed the saunas. At first I was surprised how similar those waterparks were. It was a very similar construction, the structures and the slides were all the same in Russia and Virginia. The price was different – $20 in Russia and $140 in Virginia. There was no saunas and the hottest tub was only 98F so it was not warm enough even for the kids to get warm. On every corner there was a life guard who told everyone not to do anything fun! You could not even go together with your 3 year old on a somewhat tall slide, but were supposed to go first and catch them at the bottom. After only one hour our kids were freezing but there was one tub that had water over 100F – except you had to be over 18 to be allowed in there. So we had to leave, because we were also hungry. You can not eat your own food in there, but their cafe only had french fries and other deep fried goods that we usually don’t eat. Both kids were screaming and shivering and starving. We all had a blast though! We had lunch in the parking lot instead. And then we were off to the North Carolina town of Hot Springs.
We started the drive at 2:30 pm and arrived by 7:30pm. It was mostly uneventful. We switched drivers once and the last 20 minutes Yelisei was screaming “I can not wait any longer” for no reason in particular. I guess it was a long drive for them.
We made a reservation for a cabin and a hot tub at 10 am the next morning. Our cabin was on the river bank on stilts and it was very small. Surprisingly you could sleep 8 people there easily. The stilts and the shape of this cabin were the perfect “bad witch house” (izbushka na kurih nozhkah), so Timofei was jumping on a broomstick and playing the bad witch (baba jaga). Though it was late when we arrived and we were practically in the middle of town, we or I should say I, decided to test our new equipment. We have a new gas lantern and a new double burner stove and a 12 gallon water canister with a spout. I thought since Renzo did not have to put up a tent it would be perfect conditions to do a test run of the new stuff. It was the most frustrating experience! I am used to everything being in the kitchen, easily available and here imagine you dumped all your utensils and plates and pots together with paper towels and rags in one box and all your food in the other. The gasoline stove has very little flame control and the lantern can not be hung and the children are banging their spoons on the table and are demanding marshmallows! All I did was boil water and pour it into instant noodle miso soup and made some tea and hot coco. I felt like I ran a race.
The same experience was for breakfast but with the added benefit of rain and having to set up our kitchen on the bench of our porch so I can cook hunched over. I made oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and by the time I was doing the dishes we were fighting with Renzo, and the children were crying. But that happened on day 3…
When I said it was last day of camping I guess I meant last in Georgia. Seven hours on 95 and a crappy hotel was too depressing, so since the weather was warm, we found a nice camping site in Kiptopeke State Park in Virginia. It was a bit crowded with prepubescent, boys but the noise was reasonable and not too late. In fact, we were the ones who stayed up the latest. Unfortunately, we arrived late and had to leave early so we could not enjoy everything that this park has to offer: beach, fishing and trails. This was a very nice spot – I hope to come back.
Yesterday we did not find anything but beautiful paved hiking trails in Alligator River NWR. It was time to have lunch for us, so we moved on to the beach town of Nags Head, NC. We picked a place with a Mexican name that promised tacos from Yelp. It was the most popular place around. It was an imposter though. It was a little spiced up American kitch bar with tacos on the menu. We had a beer and our food was not as greasy as it could have been on 95. Then we went to the beach and the boys must have run two miles in circles. To the water and back to the dry sand. There were little birds that were doing the same thing right behind them. When the waves go back, the birds run forward and poke in to the wet sand as fast as they can until the next wave comes and they run away from water really fast.
After that we decided to camp, so we needed to get some supplies from supermarket. I made rice with fish and asparagus. Yelisei ate all the tops of my asparagus. I think we’ve never had so many meals together with the children at the same time. This morning Yelisei was even waiting for oatmeal without screaming. Before I had to give him cheerios just to put something in his mouth to prevent him from screaming. I am not sure this trend will continue at home though.
We just watched something fly out of our roof box. Renzo went back to pick it up. Luckily, it was not on 95 with heavy traffic. Thank god! We did drive all day with the box not locked yesterday.
Because we did so well on the drive yesterday (7 hrs), we decided to take a detour and possibly camp in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
We had our BBQ finally yesterday in GA. It was a very small fish market with a separate outside shack for meat barbecuing – we had the best shrimp I ever had, best ribs, and not so good pulled pork. The Jamaican man from the Bronx who made it was not very happy about his job here, nor was the toothless woman who made the shrimp. She asked me if I could make her robes for her church after I had mentioned that I used to make costumes for Broadway. I struggled to find excuses why I can not do it, but she was hard to shake off. She finally grabbed Timofei, because he was trying to kill himself by running under a UPS truck. Timofei got scared of her grabbing him and started wailing. That finally got this woman off my back with the robes. She did make the very best shrimp though.
Last night we discovered that by 11 pm on 95 all the hotels are booked. So we went a little off the main drag and found plenty of room in a borderline gross Super 8 motel in Wilson, NC. Every one who worked there was a shining example of what happens to people if they drink and smoke too much. It was bad. The beds were clean, but the towels had stains and the plastic bathtub had cigarette burns in our non smoking room. The boys were still having fun jumping on the bed and playing in the warm bath though. It is always amazing to me how little kids need.
We briefly considered going to Norfolk NC but chose more nature, so now we are on our way to the coast.
Someone was asking if we should make reservations at the campgrounds and I said NOOO!! Why would we?? Who goes camping in the sticks where we are going? We found out today that everybody goes! Especially on Easter weekend. Luckily, sometimes people don’t show up… Tonight we are going to South Carolina to a campground with only nine spots, hoping for an Easter miracle.
Last night was not too bad. Hot shower, and drinking water out of a faucet right next to our site in the Uwharrie National Forest, North Carolina. The unfortunate thing was that there seemed to be a monster truck convention nearby. As our site was by the entrance, we watched every model of off-road vehicle parade. Otherwise, it was better than yesterday, but still cold at night. We are just realizing that our expectations were way too optimistic. It did not click in my brain that if at night it is near 40 F, then winter sleeping bags are necessary. I guess it was wishful thinking. And I expected full on summer right outside of NJ.
But for now every 4hr drive south seems to gain us only 1C degree at night. The boys are troopers though! On Friday morning they spend 45 mins in the car warming up and Yelisei kept saying ‘Mama, aw!’ and showing me his red fingers. So I would warm them up with my breath. Only then we figured to turn on the car and blast the heat. Soon we realized that we also forgot to put gas into the tank, so we only have 1/4 left. But that was on Friday. Today everything was much better. Full tank of gas, only 10 mins car warm up. And for tomorrow we got oatmeal and milk, so we will have something warm for breakfast instead of cereal that we have ben having. At night we will put on our long johns and zip our bags together with Renzo. It has been only twice that we put up the tent but we are already talking how nice it would be to have an RV. No packing – just take off the breaks and go.
Also, we took our double stroller, which was unnecessary. The boys nap in the car and we just keep unpacking it and packing it back in. Generally the process of waking up, having breakfast, and packing is three to four hours. The same goes for unpacking. So the way we are set up now, we don’t have much time for anything else. But I was obsessed with the idea of camping along the way and with going south. But so far it has not been warm enough and almost all of our time is consumed by packing and unpacking and driving in between. Timofei has been asking to go to a zoo and I said that if we pass one then we will go. We passed five already and did not stop, because if we did, we would not make it to our next unpacking destination.
That said, it is now 75F and it is totally green and the sky is blue, the air is fresh and my family and I are happy!