All the teams back so peace is well and truly shattered, or so you’d think but in reality everyone disappeared to bed quite early and they weren’t seen or heard early that’s for sure.
Time for the first part of the surprise, the options were tubbing down the Shenandoah River or a high ropes course. I chose high ropes, the first two were quite simple but the black course was really difficult and VERY high up!! Managed to get round it though but it was quite scary in places.
Lunch was burgers and hot dogs provided River Riders, the company we used for the tubbing and high ropes.
Then it was back to the KOA to pack everything up and move to big hall for the night, the manager allowed us to do this so we didn’t have to pack up our kit and disturb people in the morning as we are leaving very early.
The second surprise of the evening is a big congratulations meal at the Vista Tavern for everyone with some music provided by Raff as usual.
The final surprise of the day was an awards event with the lovely Joan Rafferty in which every team was awarded for something they had done over the last ten days on the Explorer Belt.
Back to camp for a couple of hours sleep, we are up and away for 5.30am!!
An early start for the two driver/navigator combos going to pick up the farthest away teams while the rest of the leaders sorted out stuff for tomorrows surprises and lunch for today.
Lunch was set up in the main hall as a buffet for all the groups when they arrive back. The teams started to arrive about noon and were checked in and welcomed back with a survey form and passport check then sent for lunch.
After lunch tents were put up and bags collected from storage.
Once the busses had returned it was my turn to go and pick up the last team who were finishing away from Harpers Ferry and time for a quick look round a mall before bringing them back. We also met one of the highest awarded BSA members who had all his proficiency badges and the Eagle Scout Award.
After all the teams were back we gathered them all together to have a De-Brief session and a discussion on how they think their explorer belt went and what the next stage is for them all.
Dinner was laid on by the KOA who outsourced it to the local pizza delivery company and came up trumps with about ½ a pizza each, good call for a bunch of hungry hikers.
After dinner the option of a swim or a last trip to Wal-Mart before bed. A long day ahead tomorrow, full of surprises.
Another, and final, late start for the leadership team.
Quick breakfast and a washing put on.
About lunch time the first team arrives back at the KOA. Another two teams turned up shortly after that. They have another days project work to do yet but have covered the distance.
I took one of the minibuses and drove to Harpers Ferry village; it looked very nice so I followed the signs for parking which took me all the way round to a car park 200 yards from the campsite gate.
Harpers Ferry looks very much like a heritage village and from what other teams have said that exactly what it is, at least the river side part, with some houses on the outskirts.
After getting almost back to the camp I decided not to bother going back down and went back to camp.
For the $5 a head the leaders organised a BBQ Dinner for the teams who had returned, so yet more steak, ribs and burgers were consumed along with potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad etc.
Paul was due to return tonight but there was a small issue with his flight being cancelled between Philadelphia and Washington where Kevin was picking him up. Prof O’Gorman travel agent extraordinaire got on the case and worked out that Paul could get the train from Philadelphia airport to Carlisle and stay in a hotel there and be picked up in the morning with one of the teams.
Early bed for some, it’s going to be a long day of pickups tomorrow.
Late start for the leaders today and guess what, it’s raining, properly raining. Slow start but we finally decided we might as well stick with the days plans and head to Skyline drive to see the views in daylight rather than the dark and fog Kevin and I experienced last time.
Packed lunches were made and the bus packed up we headed off into the horrible weather. Weather doesn’t improve on the way down so we turn onto Skyline Drive at the first entrance where we were originally planning on leaving to see what the views are like, answer is rubbish!! This is the best photo.
Stopped off at the park information point which has a small shop, the weather forecast was the same all day. After a few photos in the rain we headed a bit further up and ate our lunch before driving back.
To make up for the poor day we headed to Charles Town for a Chinese for dinner, it was very good. Unfortunately Raff and Kevin had to go and visit a team who were having slight issues but nothing which wasn’t easily fixed once there.
After Chinese we sat up and played cards as it was our last night before all the participants came back and we didn’t have peace and quiet.
Today was a leaders’ day off, no more groups to visit so what do we do? Three of us go off to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Air and Space Museum hanger, at Dulles International Airport. This is where they keep all the items which are too big to keep in the main museum on the Mall in Washington City Centre.
We got there early before all the school groups arrived and although the museum itself it free you have to pay $15 for parking.
They have an amazing collection of historic aircraft.
The first thing you see when you come into the museum, which is just a huge hanger full of aircraft, is an SR71 Blackbird, the fastest plane ever built.
Directly behind the SR71 is the Space Shuttle Discovery, standing under a huge US Flag, exactly as it returned from its last space flight. It is amazing how it looks just like any other aircraft and it’s also a lot larger than I expected it to be, not sure why I was expecting it to be small but it certainly isn’t.
The other one of a kind exhibit they have is the Enola Gay B29 Superfortress which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. I found it a very strange experience looking at this aircraft which had caused so much destruction to a city half a world away nearly 70 years ago. It was slightly sobering, it was not something I’ve ever felt before and I can’t really describe what it was like or why I felt it but it was a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.
They also have a Concorde, Wright Military Flyer from 1909, various space capsules from various launches and lots of other smaller aircraft.
After the museum we had a trip to a local mall on a run for Paul to find an Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie for his sister. Kevin used his usual charm and just walked to the nearest shop assistant and asked for a grey hoodie sweatshirt in large, was promptly handed one and paid. In and out the shop in under 2 minutes.
Always thinking of our stomachs, on the way back to the car we stopped off at the Cheesecake Factory and stuffed ourselves with cheesecake. While sitting there, Raff looks at our “large” hoddie and notices it’s only a medium, Kevin storms back to the shop and apparently the poor assistant looked terrified.
Problems now solved we headed back to the KOA and baked potatoes for dinner.
Today was a slightly quieter day. We had 2 leaders away gallivanting or PhD viva-ing , 3 leaders at 6 flags which left me and Kevin to tour round the teams.
Just a short 3 teams, no reference to their height obviously, of course that means 3 lots of lunch today. First one was found walking down the road so we took them for a rather dodgy McDonalds. I’m slowly remembering why I don’t eat them at home and I’m sure I’ve had four of five since I got here now.
The second team of the day were checking into their luxury 4* ski resort, the same one another team another night but this team managed to secure a room and breakfast for $15, the other team only got to camp in the grounds and use the facilities. Luck would have it that there was a convention of oligarchs (their words not mine, I had to google it) who invited them to dinner so all in all a win of a day for them. This stop included a nice lunch in the hotel café bar.
Final team of the day got themselves a rather nice back packers hostel to stay in and the third lunch of the day was in a small town café.
By this point we’d both had far too much lunch and decided to skip dinner. I was feeling rather fat myself.
When we got back to camp I put a washing on, being the domesticated person that I am. Definitely over packed for this trip, I’ve worn 2 red polo-shirts and 2 pairs of shorts most of the time I’ve been here. I would have worn 3 red polo-shirts but one has gone missing, I’m convinced Louise has stolen it but she’s adamant she’s not and it’s in my bag. Will find out when it comes to packing.
Maybe skipping dinner was a mistake and feeling slightly hungry we tucked into the left over cheesecake from the night before.
Another day of visiting teams and it was my turn to drive. It’s not as bad as you expect, remembering to stay on the right side of the road is easy when you are sharing it, gets a little more complicated when there is nothing else on the road but I managed just fine. The van is quite wide though and telling where it is on the road is quite difficult, it’s also very bouncy and has no acceleration, give me a transit minibus any day!!
Lots of visiting done today, 6 teams in total, almost half of them in one day, it’s a new record.
First stop was Gettysburg where we were expecting to find three teams but somehow four teams turned up for drinks at a local café so we invaded the majority of the outside area in the town centre.
Poor waitress didn’t know what to make of us all and neither did the rest of the locals! As Paul had left for his PhD viva we decided he might need a bit of luck so we got everyone together and with the help of the local hotel and Abraham Lincoln made him a “Good Luck Paul” group photo.
Just before leaving the Ghost Busters arrived, didn’t see any ghosts personally but I’m guessing there are a few around civil war battle fields and one must have been getting a bit lively.
Next stop Fayetteville to meet a team just off the trail, literally, just off the tail and onto the road where we picked them up and went for lunch in a small village. Not sure how we got in, the group stank, apparently 2 days in 30C heat and walking make you sweat and smell.
Now when you look at the menu and the options are 14” or 16” pizza and the waitress warns you how big they are when you start ordering the large ones you should probably listen to her. We ended up with a pizza and a half left at the end which will fed the next group later in the day.
One pizza with an iPad for comparison.
The next team had checked in at Bears Den Hostel, a very nice place with laundry and beds. We donated the left over pizza to them and bought ice-cream for them.
Dive back to Harpers Ferry feeling incredibly full and we all skipped dinner and settled for dessert about 9!!
Today was an early rise to do a long round trip to visit teams in Washington and Baltimore as well as dropping Paul off at Dulles Airport and Louise in Baltimore to go visit friends.
First stop, Dulles Airport, should have been simple enough with TomTom but for some unknown reason it tried to send up to another airport 140 miles away. Thankfully we know that Dulles is only 40 miles from Harpers Ferry, a bit of map reading and re-setting of TomTom for somewhere near Dulles and follow the signs to the airport. Very simple and drove almost right to the door, bit of a strange experience for us!
Next off to meet the team in a Washington suburb park and take over some poor guys café for a while. Having spent a few days being stuck in the city is was time to get them out of there and into more friendly countryside. Easy enough as their route has them in countryside, just a quick nip up the road to the campsite.
Further up the road and over a bit we met the team who started in Baltimore at a McDonalds. It seems to be fast becoming a favourite meeting place, food, drink and free WiFi, all you need really. At this point we said goodbye to Louise and the group and headed home.
Kevin has an interesting taste in music, it matched his eclectic personality perfectly, everything from gospel, hymns, pop, classical, but by far the most interesting were Fascinating Aida and he songs by Tom Lehrer. Look them up if you satirical comedy songs, they are excellent.
Dinner tonight was courtesy of Robbie “BBQ King” Hay with ribs more steak and more sausages with the associated salad stuff as usual, excellent food again and totally stuffed yet again.
Tonight’s antic was a short trip to the casino. This turned out to be very short as we were there quite late and the minimum bet on a table was $15 and as I was only willing to lose $20 it didn’t last long. One hand of blackjack was enough to clean me out and I retired gracefully much to the amusement of the other guys at the table who were betting $50 plus in each hand.
To console out losses we stopped off at Wal-Mart for cake and came back to the campsite with apple pie and ice-cream. A good way to end the day I’d say.
Another day started as all the rest have, by waking up without an alarm at some silly time when I should still be asleep, especially as the leaders were having a relaxing day today before visiting teams for the evening 4th of July celebrations. Breakfast was bacon rolls.
We then thought it was about time we made use of the facilities provided that the KOA site so off we went for a short swim in the outdoor pool. It was a very short swim as the pool wasn’t that warm and full of kids playing but none the less a few lengths made us feel better about eating lunch. Not that no exercise would have stopped of course.
The afternoon was taken up with crazy golf and the looser had to buy the ice cream, thankfully it wasn’t me. Was very warm and we took a break after 9 holes to move the washing into the drier, maybe a bit redundant given the heat but it was probably quicker.
One of our teams managed to secure a place in the flag party for the opening of Hagerstown 4th July celebrations through the local BSA group there so we drove up to see them. They all looked very smart in full uniform and white gloves. Unfortunately we had to leave half way through the opening, it was very long, but we were there for the national anthem, pledge of allegiance and something else I can’t remember.
Next part of the plan was to drive to Williamsport to see Kenny played bagpipes on stage but we were a bit late for that. We did however meet the guy who had been looking after them and who would be looking after the next group too. He was a member of the local volunteer fire department who had a display at the celebration. They take in young fire-fighters between the ages of 9 and 18 and allow them to go to real emergencies once they are 16. I think those ages are right but I wouldn’t rely on them.
On the way home we decided dinner was a good idea, Raff wanted pizza, the girls wanted Chinese so we pulled up to what we thought was Chinese, went in and got a table and sat down to look at the menu. It wasn’t Chinese… it was Japanese so we stood up and made a hasty exit only to be caught by the waiter who asked what was wrong, to which we replied “it’s not Chinese, sorry” as we ran out the door. Luckily across the road there was Mexican where I had the biggest burrito I have ever seen and somehow managed to eat it all.
Back to Harpers Ferry for a few celebratory Independence Day drinks before heading to bed.
Up early and a drive up to see the Amish and meet the explorer team at Intercourse, it wasn’t just for the name, honest, we’re not that childish *looks innocent*. Though seen as we were there we needed a picture with the town sign. On the way up we stopped off at a traditional outlet mall for Raff to find some shoes for his boats.
Lunch was courtesy of a traditional 50’s diner, except for the free Wi-Fi, catering to the usual stereotype American food of burgers and fries. The food was excellent and we, again, were all totally stuffed after.
Now for the real reason of the visit, too see a team. This team landed on their feet and were staying with a Pastor and his family in a very lovely house in the next town along from Intercourse. More like home hospitality than an Explorer Belt but what are we to say.
A short drive back down the road into Intercourse and the innuendos all started long before we got anywhere near it. A walk through what is traditionally and Amish town we can’t quite understand where the name comes from but the town was known as the Cross Keys until its name changed in 1814. The main street was mostly touristy shops selling traditional Amish furniture, fabric etc. The less traditional shop selling the Intercourse merchandise did a roaring trade as each leader bought at least something from them; funnily enough it wasn’t run by the Amish, or even an American!
Being now about an hour since we last ate it must be that time again so an Ice cream shop was quickly sought out and two scoops ordered and quickly reduced to one after seeing the size of the first scoop.
Now to walk off the ice cream (and lunch, breakfast, last night’s dinner and anything else we happen to have snacked on) we headed to the outskirts of town to get a photo with the sign where we met some other people with exactly the same idea, glad we aren’t the only ones!
Dive home then the left over BBQ we didn’t manage to eat, or even cook, last night so it was chicken and salad tonight.
After dinner we took a short trip to see our lost team who turned the wrong way and check on how they were getting along. They had had an amazing day meeting the local sheriff and learning about his role in the community. They had also secured accommodation in a church hall and had free run of the place to come and go as they pleased. Such a turnaround from the day before.
Another tiring day over, home to bed again. Getting used to this up, drive, eat, drive, eat, eat, bed routines we’re getting into.