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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #1015319
A semi-hellish vacation loaded with historical Civil War information.
If you haven't read "Vacation Duds, please do so. There will be some references to it in this story. Here is a list of family members I will be mentioning throughout my tale of woe.
It will help you to understand who belongs to whom:

Ginger(me) and Jim------------my husband
Mary and Ken,-----------------Jim's brother
BIG BOB and Bonnie------------Jim's sister
Danny and Roseann-------------Jim's sister
dottie -----------------Danny's mother

AH! Vacation, what a lovely word. No getting up early or coming home late from work. To most people it is something to look forward to. A time to travel, see the sights, or participate in a favorite adventure, excitement or much needed R&R, or even indulge in your favorite pastime. To others, it is stay at home and catch up on all the chores that have been put off all year long. In my case, it was none of the above. Although I look forward to my vacations, I also dread them. I always wonder what misfortune will occur to make my vacation miserable.

This year we camped at Millerson's Camp Grounds just south of Springfield, West Virginia. I figured I would be safe since we were not in the state of Virginia, which has cursed me every time I have ever visited it. Besides, West Virginia had never done anything bad to me before, so I felt confident enough that all would go well. WRONG! If anything could have gone wrong it did, not only to me but also to the other family members we met up with on our vacation.

To start things off, just a few days before we were to leave Hillsboro, Ohio to head off to West Virginia, hurricane Katrina paid a not so polite visit to our southern states. The devastation she left in her wake is unimaginable. I know our vacation mishaps cannot compare to the destruction of homes, businesses and to the thousand of people who lost their lives because of Katrina's visit, but she did play a roll in how we spent our vacation. As Katrina traveled northward she weakened enormously but she still had enough punch to shed her gloomy tears over Ohio for many days, dampening our spirits and preparations for our trip.

I am including this bit of information, only because it is of great importance and interest. Although, I don't know if this event had in any way affected the terrible destructive weather the Earth has been experiencing, but it could be a possibility.

During the month of August, the Earth was getting closer and closer to Mars. By August 27th, Mars was the closest it had ever been to the Earth in 5,000 years, 34,649,589 miles to be exact as possible and it may never get this close again for another 60,000 years. It was the brightest object in the night sky, other than the moon, and it was positioned next to the moon. We all know the effect the moon has on our tides, and I wondered if the proximity of mars next to the moon was helping to cause some the enormous surges that affected New Orleans during Katrina. I tried for weeks to view the Red Planet but there was always clouds of some kind or another hindering my view. Now in late September I am finally able to see Mars. It is still very bright in the sky, but because of Katrina I missed my once in a lifetime chance to see Mars in all its spectacular glory. Soon it will appear as just another one of the billions of star in the grand vista of space.

Now that my history lesson is finished, back to my wonderful vacation. Even though we traveled in the opposite direction from Katrina, she still left a huge impact across the nation. Gas prices sky-rocketed, and in just a few days the price of gas went up seventy cents per gallon. If we had traveled by car it would not have been much of an inconvenience, my car gets well over thirty five m.p.g. Instead, we took our home with us. We traveled in a 30 ft. 2005 Winnebago Sightseer with two slide outs. Our home on wheels only gets between nine and ten m.p.g. depending on whether we are traveling up hill or down hill. Needless to say, when traveling well over four hundred miles, the gas expense total was quite a lot more then anticipated. By the time we needed to stop for gas the price had jumped up another twenty cents. It cost us one hundred and sixty nine dollars to top off our tank. It was a good thing we only had another fifty miles to go to reach our destination. Considering the fact we only brought four hundred dollars with us. Alas! We would have to be very stingy with our spending. We did have perfect traveling weather though and the weather remained beautiful for the duration of our vacation, and the last fifty miles of traveling was uneventful.

The brochure with the directions to our camping facility said to turn right at the Millerson's Camp Ground sign, onto a well maintained 3 1/2 mile gravel road. Well, it was well maintained and paved with gravel, that part was not a lie. What the brochure failed to mention, was that it was also very hilly, with lots of twist and turns, and very narrow. At one sharp turn there was actually a large convex mirror suspended from a tree, so you could see if anyone was coming around the turn from the other direction. The main thing that frightened me about this road, was that although it was very narrow, it was also a two-way road. When you are traveling in a house, towing a trailer full of fire wood, there is little room for maneuvering and you can only squeeze over so far when meeting oncoming traffic. Luckily we did not encounter another RV coming from the other direction, or one of us would have had to back up. With us pulling a trailer, you can bet your last dollar it wouldn't have been us backing up.

When we arrived at our site, we were greeted by other family members (listed above) that had arrived earlier, and they helped us settle in. My husband Jim had booked four sites, each site was to have water, sewer and electric hook-ups. The problem we had, was that the hook-ups were on the wrong side of our RV. We had to borrow an extra hose from my brother-in-law Ken to reach the water spigot. Thankfully my husband did happen to bring an extra extension chord to reach the electric box. We still could not reach the sewer hook-up, it was much to far away from the RV, and because of this we were not able to use our own showers, and had to use the public facilities. I was grateful they were within walking distance and the shower water was nice and hot. This old arthritic body is much too used to modern day comforts. In my younger days, sleeping on the ground and washing with cold water from a stream was not out of the question, but now in my golden years I'll take all the creature comforts I can, I earned them.

On this vacation I was able to become better acquainted with dottie Roseann's mother-in-law, a fellow WDC member. We had lots to discuss about WdC. It made me miss my computer a lot less then I would have. It was also fun introducing her to the world of camping in the great outdoors. On every camping trip it is my job to make the Hobo Pies. This was Dottie's first time sampling pies cooked in the hot coals of a fire. She had a lot of firsts this trip, and she also got to play the Corn Hole toss game. Please visit her site and read about her first time camping experience. In the years since I first wrote this, Dotty has passed away. She was a very sweet lady and is greatly missed.

The first evening we all chipped in something to contribute to the evening meal. We all shared the cooking and cleaning. For the whole nine days our food was cooked over an open fire.
We ate like kings. If you have never camped and cooked over an open fire you are missing something wonderful. The next day it was our turn to cook. My husband Jim grilled eight 1 inch thick T-Bone stakes that were so tender they melted in your mouth. The next night Roseann and Danny cooked pork chops. The following night Bonnie and BIG BOB made chicken. Pork ribs and boneless beef country ribs with barbecue sauce were Ken and Mary's specialty. Of course there were also the typical hot dogs, brats, hamburgers and polish sausage. On the last evening we were there we made tacos out of all the leftovers. Of course these delicious meals were accompanied by a variety of salads and corn-on-the-cob.

The first evening of our camping trip my sister-in-law Mary prepared the corn for roasting. The corn, still in its husk, had been soaked in water for several days then wrapped in aluminum foil. It was then placed on the metal grate and roasted over the fire. Each ear was turned several times to ensure even cooking until it was tender and juicy. When the corn was ready, all we had to do was pull back the husk and use it as a handle to hold the ear of corn. The application of butter and salt was optional.

Our first daily excursion, was to Smoke Hole Cavern's in Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. In these caverns we saw Stalactites (grow upward), stalagmites (grow downward), hellectites (these grow sideways), flow stones (they look like frozen waterfalls), ribbon stalagmites and when they grow larger they are called bacon stalagmites, (because they look like sizzling bacon). There were also these little straw like stalagmites. This was my first time visiting a cavern and it was quite an interesting experience.

The next day, began the first of several mishaps. Mary decided to introduce us to fried corn. While she was cutting the kernels off of the left over ears-of-corn she accidentally cut off part of the tip of her left fore-finger. It was a diagonal cut, cutting completely through her cuticle, finger and fingernail. It bled profusely. She cleaned and wrapped her finger in gauze and held her hand high over her head for several hours trying to stem the flow of blood. I chuckled at the sight of her trying to get comfortable with her arm stretched over her head, and the image of the Statue of Liberty holding up a bandaged finger instead of a torch, flashed vividly through my mind. Although it was extremely painful for her, she was a trooper and refused to go to the hospital. After all, what could they possibly do for her that wasn't already being done, the finger-tip was completely gone and there was nothing to sew back on.

The next several days my other sister-in-law Roseann surprised us all. She became Mary's personal assistant. While Mary cleaned and changed the dressings on her own finger Roseann kept her company. What surprised us is Roseann is extremely squeamish when it comes to blood, or injuries of any nature. We all had a good laugh at her expense about the possibility of her fainting at the sight of Mary's blood.

Our RV happened to be parked next to four permanent sites, that campers rented for the summer season. The people that stayed in the trailer next to ours, only camped every weekend from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. We arrived on Friday and stayed until the following Sunday, nine glorious days of rest and relaxation, or so we thought.

When our neighbors arrived, they arrived like a noisy herd of cattle all mooing at the same time. There were six adults and three kids, those that could not fit in the trailer pitched a tent next to our RV. Well let me tell you, the kids were the quiet ones. The adults drank beer all day and night, and played horse shoes, yelled and gabbed until way after two in the morning each night. They were friendly enough, but very inconsiderate with the noise. They also had lights stretched around the area of the horse shoes so they could play in the dark. The horse shoe pit was only about fifteen feet from out RV. The clanging of the horse shoes in the middle of the night, and the yelling and laughter as each shoe was tossed, was enough to wake the dead. Thank God there wasn't a cemetery near-by, we didn't want any other unexpected visitors. We absolutely looked forward to Sunday night when our neighbors would leave. The peace and quiet that followed...was wonderful. We were hoping they wouldn't come back the following weekend, but they did, and they brought along even more noisy friends to help celebrate the end of the camping season.

Later on during the week, on another sight-seeing excursion, we visited a Civil War Museum in Romney, West Virginia. Afterward we went to Fort Mulligan near Petersburg, Grant County, West Virginia. It was constructed from August to December in 1863 by troops under the command of Colonel James A Mulligan. Fort Mulligan was not what I had pictured in my mind. I thought there would be walls made out of logs, battlements etc. Well, there wasn't. Everything was built underground.

Small shelters were built from logs, then covered with mounds of dirt at least two to three feet thick, these were called bomb-proofs. In these bomb-proofs they stored supplies, and munitions. The main bombproof, was 55 ft by 200 ft. There were about four in all, the other three were much smaller in size. It takes at least two feet of dirt to stop a cannon ball, and only a few inches to stop a rifle bullet. At least it did back then. This fort would definitely not hold up against modern day artillery. We were not able to see what was stored inside, because the bomb-proofs had all been destroyed. Whenever there was a threat of being over run by the enemy, the bomb-proofs were blown-up to prevent the enemy from obtaining their supplies and using their own ammunition against them. All we could see was a large dimple at the top of the mound where the earth had caved in. The command post was in the center of the fort, and I assumed that it was housed in the largest bomb-proof.

One huge continuous mound of dirt was erected all the way around the perimeter, with a main egress for fast evacuation, or deployment of troops. This opening in the wall was called a 'sally port'. The entire fort covered an area of four hundred feet by seven hundred feet. There were six cannons in all that protected the fort and were mounted along the outer perimeter at strategic intervals.

Fort Mulligan was manned by sixty-five officers, and about fifteen hundred enlisted men. One thousand small tents could be pitched inside the mounded wall to house the troops. A small group of winter huts was built into the hillside and were made out of logs. The roofs were of canvas shelter cloths, covered with dirt and the floor and chimneys were made from bricks removed from churches burned during the war. This small hut encampment was outside the walled perimeter isolated away from the main infantry camp.

As we walked around the fort it was easy to imagine the awful conditions the soldiers had to endure. The cold weather and mud was an enemy they had to battle constantly. The only protection they had from the elements, was a thin walled tent and they had only the heat of the campfires for warmth and cooking. In the summer they had to endure the oppressive heat, humidity and bugs.

Part of the soldiers basic diet consisted of hardtack, (a thin, tasteless, hard as a rock wafer), which needed to be soaked in a liquid to become edible. Hardtack was lightweight, easy to carry, easy to store, and most important of all, it didn't spoil. Too bad it didn't taste very good. Although it lacked in flavor, it kept many a soldier from starving to death. I found this fort extremely interesting and plan on researching it further. There just might be a future story here.

Why anyone in their right mind would want to sleep outdoors under the stars and brave the elements is beyond me. Yet that is what people do all the time. Well, I used to, but now I prefer air conditioning, indoor plumbing, my own refrigerator, a microwave and heat in the winter.
My nice thick mattress is better then the cold hard, bug infested ground any day. I may love to go camping but I like to go in style. I now camp full time in Florida in a 36 ft, RV. Enjoying the warm winters, and extremely hot summers. Eat your heart out northerners.

It was shortly after this outing, that I did a NO NO, I wore shorts in the evening. I should have known better. Once again I was ambushed by the local flying and crawling insect population, which had a marvelous time feasting on my legs. Although I did get a bad reaction from the bites again, at least this time it did not require a trip to the local hospital. I brought my own benadryll with me, and it helped immensely with the terrible burning and itching. Since becoming a diabetic I react poorly to bites, and the burning, itching, and welts take a long time to go away. It is now two weeks since I was bitten. I am still itching, but the itching is not as bad as it was on my disastrous trip to Virginia two years ago.

The following day we decided to visit a winery, and do some wine tasting. YUM! YUM! The winery was located about a mile off the main road. We had to travel down another extremely narrow, not well maintained dirt road, with a steep drop off on one side, and a wall of dirt, rocks and trees on the other side. At least we were in cars and trucks instead of our RV's. When we finally reached the winery, we discovered that it was a small winery run by volunteers. All proceeds from the sale of the wine made at their winery, went to support a home housing the mentally challenged. This institution is not supported by any governmental agency. It it run and maintained mostly by volunteers, and is funded solely by the sale of the wine they make at the winery. We were told that because of the hot dry weather this year, the vines did not produce as well as in previous years.

We were escorted into the basement of the winery, where the wine was made. There we met three elderly gentlemen we nick-named Moe, Larry and Curly. Larry had his left arm in a sling because he recently had an operation on his shoulder. Well you would never guess that these three men knew anything about wine making. If anything at all could go wrong in that basement with all of us standing around watching, you can bet your life it did. The basement was quite small, and was crowded with all kinds of equipment that I could never name in a million years.

Well, Moe was attempting to show us how they filter the wine. The wine is filtered several times before it is processed and bottled. The wine is stored in big barrels, a plastic tube is inserted into the barrel, and the wine pumped into a machine that has three filters which the wine must flow through, then it is pumped into another barrel. Well, that's what was supposed to happen. Unfortunately, Curly put the filters in backward, and wine started shooting out everywhere. After several attempts at trying to fix the problem, things finally began to run smoother. We learned that there are three enemies of wine, light, heat and oxygen (air to those of you who don't know what oxygen is).

We soon said our good-byes and headed back upstairs to sample some wine. The wine was delicious. My favorite was the blackberry wine. This small winery used to be able to ship wine overseas, but for some reason our government suddenly insisted, that they can only sell their wine in their own state. I don't think that it is fair.

We each purchased several bottles of wine. The wines we purchased, were put into these beautiful bags decorated with grapes and vines. Did you know that it is against the law to sell wine and put it into anything other then a brown paper bag? I am not mentioning the name of the winery because I don't want to get them into trouble, just in case any members of the law happens to read this.

As we left the winery, going back down this narrow road, BIG BOB was in the lead driving a green Dodge Ram 3500 diesel engine pick-up truck. We were following behind in Mary's minivan. A white pick-up truck happened to be coming in the opposite direction. He pulled over as far as he could, up against a tree, and got out to direct BIG BOB so they could pass each other. Well, BIG BOB went to the right as far as he could, he had to pull in his side mirrors, to avoid them getting ripped off. Unfortunately there was a large bump in the road along the base of the cliff. BIG BOB had to ride over it, as he did, it tipped his truck to the left and the two trucks bumped each other several times. BIG BOB's truck sustained three dimples and a one foot long streak of white paint from the other truck. We backed up. We were not going to try and pass that truck. I can tell you BIG BOB was furious. He said he wasn't going to let us plan any more outings.

On Thursday three days before we were scheduled to leave, my brother-in-law Ken's back went out. His wife is Mary, the one with the missing finger tip that we never found. Well, Ken who is six-foot-four, has had a bad back for years and has these electrodes implanted into his back. These electrodes stimulate the nerves in his back and legs, without this he would be wheelchair bound permanently. Unfortunately, he left the portable machine he wears on his belt at home. He was bent over in pain and had difficulty standing or walking.

Thank heavens for BIG BOB! We call Bob, BIG BOB because he is 7 foot 4 inches tall, and weighs 350 lbs. I personally think he is more like 7 foot 7 inches, but he will only admit to being 7 foot 4 inches. Well, BIG BOB reached around Ken from behind in a big bear hug like grip, lifted Ken of the ground gave him a slight up and down bounce and popped all those bones back into place. The pain soon became a distant memory and after several hours of rest Ken was good as new. Chiropractors and doctors, eat your hearts out there is a new medic in town. Ha Ha.

That afternoon, the near-by farmer decided it was time to wean the calves from their mothers. For the next two days the noise was deafening. Between the cows calling for their babies, and the babies calling for their mothers, there was no peace to be had. The sounds from these miserable bovines echoed throughout the valley. The cows and calves bellowed all day and night. I don't know who was noisier, the cows, or my neighbors who were back for another howling good time.

The Saturday morning before we were to leave, my husband went to take his daily shower. While bending over the sink to brush his teeth, my husband threw his back out. Unfortunately, it wasn't anything that BIG BOB could fix, it was more of a muscular problem than a disc problem.

The next morning, after alternating hot and cold packs last night, my husband's back felt a little better, he was still in pain but he is also a trooper.. Since it was Sunday we had to pull-up stakes and head home. The family was great, everyone chipped in and helped us detach and close up our camper for the trip home. I cleaned up and put everything away so nothing would be flying around inside the RV while my husband drove home.

Since our RV was disconnected from its life support system, I decided to use the public facilities before we headed back to Ohio. It would be a long drive, approximately seven hours. When I returned I was curious as to why everyone was standing around Ken and Mary's RV. That was when I noticed Big Bob laying on the ground under their RV. Apparently, their exhaust pipe split ,and fumes were leaking into my in-law's RV. Talk about bad luck. Their RV is only three years old. Well there was nothing anyone could do about it, it would have to wait to get fixed until they got back home. They drove with windows open so as not to be overcome by the fumes. We all said our good-byes and got into out respective vehicles.

Mary lead the way in her minivan. She warned other vehicles that might be entering the camp grounds that a 37 foot RV, a 30 foot RV and a truck towing a 30 foot fifth-wheel trailer was exiting the park. We weren't taking any chances that another camper would be coming in the other direction. That three and a half mile road was way too narrow for more then one RV at a time.

Since BIG BOB was bringing up the rear, we didn't find out until later that he forgot to crank down his TV antenna. It got caught on one of the overhead wires and it was ripped off the roof of his camper. Bonnie and BIG BOB weren't having much luck on this trip either.

Mary and Ken, my husband and myself had an uneventful trip back to Ohio. I wonder how BIG BOB and Bonnie's trip back to Long Island, New York went. I think that this year BIG BOB had a less enjoyable vacation then we had.

When we arrived in Hillsboro we stopped at a gas station just down the road from our house. We decided to fill up the RV before the prices went any higher. The next morning when we drove into town, we were amazed to see that the gas prices had dropped 50 cents per gallon overnight. Just our luck, or should I say bad luck. I wish we could get a refund on the difference in gas prices. Oh well, I guess not. That's just the way our luck goes or is it lack of luck?. I hope your vacations go a lot smoother then ours did. Take care and happy camping.

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