The day is finally here. Actually here! Embarking date is here!! And I’m crying. Truthfully I am surprised at how emotional this day is for me. Joe and I could not sleep last night. We were up until about midnight whispering under covers about our fears, and about how crazy this all was. It’s unbelievable that our dreams of this trip, our hard work, creativity (and bank account) have actually come together, culminating in this defining moment, and that we are on the precipice of something extraordinary. For the next few months, the only home we have is our Element.
The main reason I’m crying is because I don’t want to leave our puggle Guinness behind. Unfortunately, traveling with a dog is not exactly the easiest thing to do, specifically when he doesn’t even have room to have a seat of his own! He is staying with my mother and brother in his comfy puppyhood home while Joe and I have our little adventure.
We woke up at 4:15AM and took our time getting ready to leave. We probably hit the road somewhere around 6:30. We went over the bridges and as we are travelling across the outer bridge crossing, our back interior light turned on. Apparently, our tail gate was not as closed as we had hoped. Thankfully, we made it without the tailgate spilling our new home all over the bridge. We got mildly lost in New Jersey, but thanks to Waze, managed to get ourselves straightened out. Fortuitously, it allowed us to get our first stop’s post card at a rest area. After New Jersey, we went on to Pennsylvania. We pulled off in to the city of Philadelphia, looked for post cards, were disappointed 4 different times, hemmed and hawed about our schedule, and got back on the road. Our next stop was in Delaware at a rest area, and again the hunt for a post card continued. We may have seemed a little crazy to the poor woman who had to help us, but we couldn’t help but laugh at the fabulous oddity of their advertising of post cards and the only post cards they actually sold were for Maryland. We got back in the car and then went on to Maryland. It was when we managed to make it to the Great State of Maryland that it started to rain. Really rain. Determined, we kept persevering and told ourselves that it would get better in Virginia. Incorrect. Instead, as we climbed the mountains to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, the fog began to engulf us and everything else around. Truly, the furthest we could see past the nose of our vehicle was 20 ft.
It. Was. Creepy.
Stephen King’s, “The Mist” Creepy.
“Should we call our mom’s now and tell them we love them?” Creepy.
Instead we kept traveling in the fog to Mathews’ Arm Campground which was 22 miles in to SkyLine Drive. Joe and I both sat on the edge of our seats, straining to follow the winding curves of the road. As we passed overlook after overlook, we became dismayed that we would not see the iconic views that made Shenandoah famous. With bleary eyes, we opted to take a rest at the Visitor station, pulled over and stared out over the valley of fog. And then went inside to see if there were any pictures of what we were actually missing. We were the only ones there, so the nice park employee played a video for us of what the park normally looks like.IT was amusing to be the only ones around. Once we felt a touch more refreshed, we headed back out in to the dense fog in search of mile marker #22 and the Mathew’s Arm Campground.
Our Element then began to climb. 2400 feet, 2500 feet, all the way to above 3000 feet in some places - and it was at those incredible heights that we saw what the world could be from above the clouds. Breathtaking views of the valley below, luscious greenery painted with fog like an ocean. Wisps of clouds drifting up the mountainside like tendrils of slowly moving thick smoke, with echoes from birds singing in the distance. Utter perfection. In just one moment, you can go from being utterly encased, take one step up, and see the world laid at your feet. It was humbling to feel so incredibly small and unimportant, but still quite literally know what feels like being on top of the world. We looked down at the sea of fog knowing all too well just how thick it was, reveling in these quiet moments.
Reinvigorated, we continued to the campsite, and tentatively began to construct our SUV tent. Now, for those of you who don’t know what an SUV tent is, it’s a tent that attaches to the back of your car (hatch or tailgate style) and allows you covered access to your vehicle without having to leave the cover of the tent. It’s not a water tight seal mind you, but if it’s raining, it’s a hell of a lot better than having to get out of the car to get whatever you need. But, if you have never set up a tent like this before, it can get confusing VERY fast. This particular model also has a screen separator for the tent so that you can keep the bugs out from your tail gate. It allows you to close your car and keep it safely locked while you sleep adding a bonus of a surprising amount of much needed air flow for the rest of the tent. The other feature about this tent (which we did not trial run) is the water proof cover the tent needs in order to keep you dry if it’s raining. It’s a separate attachment and again, if you have never seen or done this before, it’s very confusing. However, with some patience (And swear words) Joe and I managed to get the cover on our new home. (Have a I mentioned that red clay mud is difficult to get off of sneakers?) It took us about an hour to get everything set up for the tent (a time which will get better as we get more comfortable with the process) and by the time we finished we were starving.
Perfect time for us to try out our new Coleman camping grill (the electric burner didn't work with our power-inverter) and our portable kitchen set utensils. Truthfully, they surpassed our expectations. It may have just been because we were exhausted and starving that our expectations may have been set a bit lower than we originally intended, but in all actuality, everything worked the way he hoped and needed it too. Quite honestly our little Coleman was cranking!
After dinner we relaxed and watched the videos of the day, looked back in to the photos, and got acquainted to the size of the tent. It wasn’t until we went to lay down for the night (with bellies full of wine) that we realized we had chosen a space that was on a mild decline, meaning that all night as we slept, we were sliding toward the bottom of a hill. At one-point Joe actually woke me up and dragged me back up the mattress, as I had wandered all the way down to the bottom 1/3 of the bed. Truthfully I think he came to grab me because he was cold, and I offer a considerable amount of lifesaving body heat. But I like to pretend it’s because he didn’t want me to fall off the bed. All in all, not a bad day 1.