This past month has been an amazing time filled with adventures of all flavors. A whole other post is definitely in order about the Wild at Heart Boot Camp out in Colorado. So many lessons learned about my heart and our Savior from that trip, I could write a book (I have 27 pages of notes from that 3.5 days!). But onto the Blue Ridge adventures!
My three year old daughter, Jane and I were invited by the great team at Blue Ridge Overland Gear (BROG) in Bedford, VA to bring the Outback out to have some new gear developed for the Subaru, do a video shoot about the development process for that, and get sent home with a carload of organization gear. They definitely did not disappoint in that!!! Check them out at https://www.blueridgeoverlandgear.com/ for some awesome gear to organize your car for adventures!
We started our journey after work on Tuesday (because clearly I haven’t learned yet to take the appropriate amount of vacation time for this sort of thing…), and stopped by REI in Indianapolis for some backpacking type food for our trip. Pro tip – kids love the tents in REI and it distracts them (mostly) from all the shiny things that would drain your wallet faster than I’m draining my coffee cup this morning. That way, I wouldn’t have to fiddle with a cooler, prepping ingredients, or any of that nonsense. Boil water, pour into the package, eat. Huzzah! The food was quite yummy and was only about $6 per meal for the two of us, so it was even more economical than a trip to McDonald’s and much more nutritious. The drive was mostly uneventful, and Jane fell asleep around 7:30 or 8 that night while we drove through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and finally to our destination: a cow pasture in the middle of nowhere near Bedford (the owner of BROG‘s property). I felt a bit like a call-in radio host, with a few friends and Tracy calling along the way to keep me awake. Tracy and I ended up having a wonderful conversation about the Wild at Heart Boot Camp, and it felt like old times when we were dating and would talk for hours about matters of the heart. We arrived at 3:30 AM to our campsite, found a spot that wasn’t guarded by a gate and decided that was good enough. I dumped the gear we didn’t need in the car for the night unceremoniously on the ground, set up our air mattress in the back, and we settled down for the night. We were awoken around 8:30 by the sound of “mooooooo”. The cows were thankfully penned into a field next to us, but they did wake us in a friendly way that cows do.
That day we went into Bedford for our video shoot and gear building session with BROG. We were welcomed with hugs, and they even had a kid corner in the shop for Jane to hang out in. They really appreciated us there, and Jane made herself at home enchanting the whole staff with her antics. They ended up designing and building a gear attic for storing soft goods (jackets, pillows, sleeping bags, etc.) above the trunk of the Outback, which works wonderfully. I never knew I needed such a thing, but wow… the floor of the car is much clearer! During the build process, Jane found some scraps of netting and made many a piece of artwork with those and a white crayon. There was also a stuffed unicorn in the shop for some reason, which became her new best friend. The rest of the day was spent videoing the install of the gear attic, a shopping spree to outfit the rest of the car (squee!), and some segments about our family and our adventures. I’ll be sure to send a YouTube link when it’s out! The whole team at BROG was amazing, welcoming, and so gracious. I’m looking forward to bringing the whole clan out to meet them again someday!
After the “work” day, we went to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. Bedford is the home of the 116th Army Regiment, and lost the most men of any county in the United States on that fateful day (read about it here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/06/06/bedford-va-lost-men-d-day-seventy-five-years-later-toll-still-echoes/
). Tracy and I actually met a veteran from the 116th on Omaha Beach back in June, and his story was so moving I’ll never forget it. Jane appreciated the open space at the memorial, and we talked a little bit about its significance. We bought a kid-appropriate book to read as a family about the War.
Once we had our fill of history, we made our way back to the cow pasture (to a better campsite this time). I wanted to explore a little bit, so drove through a couple of fields along a dirt road, past the family tractor, lots of cows, and onto a rough section of road that led to a “house.” It was in rough shape, and two men were working on a car out front. I introduced myself (nervously) as a friend of Matt (the owner of BROG), and was warmly welcomed in what I can only describe as “Deliverance level Southern accent” by Danny and his son Toby. Wow, they were a couple of characters. They cracked a few jokes, made some puns that our family would appreciate, and told us to enjoy our evening on the farm. No banjos were heard, so my heart was put at ease. We made camp, and I started in on making some backpacking stew. Matt and his family arrived a little while later, along with a couple of friends that drove up from Jacksonville, FL in their lifted Sprinter vans that their company builds (they were in town for the Overland Expo East). We spend the evening talking with these great new friends about life, adventures, kids, cars, spiritual matters, and shooting (Matt’s eldest daughter was practicing for a shooting competition as part of her 4H projects for the year. So cool! She was plinking targets at 350 yards with a .22 rifle. Very impressive. Jane said she wants to do that someday. 😀 😀 ). We ended the day snuggled up in the Outback again, with the sound of “moos,” night birds, and insects. A cool night was spent in the car, and all were comfy until morning.
The next day, we made breakfast at camp, talked a bit more with the guys from Florida, and then went our separate ways. I had a call to take that morning for work, so Jane and I set up in the local library’s children’s section for that. It worked out great! She put on a puppet show (among other things) while I was on the video call, and we had a great time. On our way out of town, we stopped by the Overland Expo East site (the guys from Florida waved us in with them so we could get into the exhibitor section without paying, since we were only there for an hour). It was a massive place filled with off road vehicles of every size, shape and description. You’ll notice a picture of an off-road modified Porsche. Yes. Those exist. We didn’t end up getting to meet up with the friend we had hoped to, but Jane enjoyed seeing all the cool trucks. We then bid adieu to our new friends, and headed homeward. On the way back, I took the scenic route (literally) through part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’ve never driven it, get out to Virginia immediately. It’s miles and miles of “wowwwwww” and “ooooooo” around every bend. Some of the most amazing mountain scenery I’ve ever seen, and we didn’t even catch it at peak fall foliage (the summer was too warm for the good colors). We stopped for dinner at the kind of place my folks would appreciate: Maw and Paw’s Diner (home of the biggest, best hamburger this side of the Mississippi). I didn’t tell them that there was a much bigger burger available at Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub in Pennsylvania, but it was quite tasty. The rest of the drive was spent listening to the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on audiobook, and talking with a new friend from the Wild at Heart Boot Camp on the phone while Jane snoozed. We arrived home, safe and sound at…. 3:40ish in the morning. Then it was time to get another cup of coffee before my morning meetings!