With the van repacked we immediately headed south to try and find warmer weather (spoiler – we haven’t found it yet). We made a quick stop in Scranton to get an oil change at the Dodge dealership’s Heavy Duty Truck Center (that’s us now) which was surprisingly cheaper than a typical oil change in DC. We grabbed sandwiches from Hank’s Hoagies, a tiny sub shop with a life-sized cardboard cut out of Joe Biden inside that we both mistook for an actual person. Sandwiches in hand we ate our first official meal in the van, which we quickly realized is another perk of having your car also be your home. Even though we’re technically doing takeout, we can eat at our dining room table and BYOB mere steps away. That’s a win.
One thing that hasn’t changed with driving a van is that we usually figure out where we’re sleeping sometime in the late afternoon. What has changed this time around is that unfortunately it gets dark earlier than it did in September. We found a free campground on the Virginia/West Virginia border and made it most of the way there before it got dark. As we drove up the dirt road to get there we realized we would have to be a little more selective about backwoods camping with a van compared to the RAV, but Wilda did fine.
The next day we drove to Waynesboro, Virginia with plans to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, which technically starts one town over in Afton, Virginia. We made a stop at one of our favorite wineries, Veritas, before starting the drive. They had a very Covid-friendly setup (could be a new category on Google reviews) with individual roped-off areas each with their own outdoor fire pit and picnic table. The parkway itself had some amazing views with plenty of places to pull off and take pictures, possibly even better in winter. The parkway follows the ridge line for the most part and is an easy drive, until you need to get off the parkway, which in our experience involved a very narrow windy road to get down off the mountains.
That night we spent our first night parked at a brewery near Lynchburg, Virginia as part of Harvest Host, a membership we joined that allows you to park for free at hundreds of breweries, wineries, farms, etc. across the country. This seemed like the perfect combination for us since we love checking out new wineries/breweries, and getting a free place to park for the night is just a bonus. In all honesty the beer at this place was average at best, and we were pretty close to train tracks with trains running by every few hours, but… free!
The next morning we walked around downtown Lynchburg in search of coffee, did some Christmas shopping, and picked up groceries. We took a detour off the parkway to spend Thanksgiving with friends Kendall and Brantlee in Greensboro, North Carolina, which was a completely last minute plan that worked out great. We had no real plans for Thanksgiving and our friends had an empty house, so we spent the next two nights eating and drinking, sleeping in a real bed, and enjoying having a hot shower at our disposal.
From Greensboro we headed back towards the parkway and spent a day in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, a really cute little mountain town that we never would have found on our own. We spent the afternoon sitting outside at a brewery and walking around town doing some Christmas shopping. We finished out the night in what looks to be our new nightly tradition: eating leftovers, listening to Christmas music, drinking wine, and watching Christmas movies in the van. We had found free parking near a public park earlier in the day and after thoroughly checking for any “no parking overnight” or “no camping” signs, decided to wing it and spend the night there. No one bothered us. Another perk of living in an unmarked white van.
Up next, Asheville.