Cape Charles and the Really, Really, Very Bridge Day

So after the enlightening adventures of Colonial Williamsburg Miss Mercy and the Mad Farmer built in a travel day before heading to Monticello. Because we live in Kansas, which geographically is as far from an Ocean as you can get, it seemed like a no-brainer to go to the beach. It was decided that we would go to Cape Charles, VA. Cape Charles is not too far away from Williamsburg, VA and not too far from Charlottesville, where Monticello is located, so it was going to be a relatively short drive to the beach and a reasonable drive to Charlottesville. Driving to the Cape would also allow us to drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

In case you are not familiar with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel it spans the Chesapeake Bay connecting Virginia Beach and the Fisherman Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, replacing a Ferry service that made the crossing until 1964. The Mad Farmer had once driven over the Astoria-Megler Bridge between Astoria, OR and Washington state. The Astoria-Megler bridge spans about four miles over the mouth of the Columbia River and it is definitely an experience traveling over it. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is 17 miles across, including two under-the-ocean tunnels that span a mile each so ships can traverse the bay. The Farmer can safely say that traveling across the bridge is a unique experience, traveling at 55 mph along a two lane highway under the ocean is very different. Miss Mercy seemed to enjoy it, so that part of the trip was a success.

One side note, the CBBT website at the time we looked it up was a few years out-of-date. It said that if you were making a day trip that the one-way toll across the bridge was $14.00 and the return trip would only be $6.00. Turns out several years ago they changed that so that you only get a discount if you sign up for the Virginia EZ-Pass toll payment system. You have to do that in the state, they won’t let you sign up online if you are out-of-state so just be aware of the tolls.

So the cool part about crossing the bridge is that you eventually end up at Cape Charles, VA, which is located on the Chesapeake Bay.

Cape Charles

Cape Charles is an excellent place to spend some time. The bay shelters Cape Charles from direct exposure to the Atlantic and in June the weather was perfect. There is something about the ocean, especially a warm, breezy, ocean day that warms a Parrothead’s heart and the rest of him as well. In case you missed it somehow, between shark fins on the Farmers’s fence posts and the backyard bar named “Key Midwest”, the Mad Farmer is a Parrothead of long-standing. How is it that a ocean-loving Parrothead wanna-be beach bum lives in Kansas you ask? That is a mystery for the ages yet to be explored. Take it on faith, a good day at the beach is always welcome.

Cape Charles Beach

So after a wonderful afternoon at the beach we brushed the sand off our feet (it was super hot sand, if you care to know – Note to Mad Farmer Self: buy new flip-flops before going to the beach again). Miss Mercy piloted us back across the Bay Bridge and we headed to Charlottesville and our Airbnb reservation for the night prior to our tour of Monticello the next day.

Next up: Monticello

I’ll Take “What’s Airbnb” for $100, Alex”

So before we left Topeka we added a couple of days travel time and when we looked at our trip there were going to be four main areas of expenses: Gasoline, Food, Accommodations and location expenses (admission costs, event costs and tour costs). As far as gasoline costs that is not something you can really control if you are driving. You can budget for approximate cost, add about 20% and that will be probably be pretty close. If you know your average mileage (about 18 mpg in the Family Truckster) and the approximate round-trip mileage (about 1,500) and the average cost of gas (estimate the high side, so $2.50 per gallon) so that works out to about $210.00 in gas. Add 20% about $40.00 and we figure $250.00 for gas (I know, you can see where this is going). I’m pretty sure given side-trips, add-ons, and the occasional “did I miss a turn? I missed that turn. Okay, find a place to turn around”, Miss Mercy and the Mad Farmer probably will add 500 to 1000 extra miles on this trip.

Admission costs we knew about from looking up ticket prices on the inter-webs prior to the trip. For example, the Monticello Evening Tour tickets were $65.00 per adult (well worth it and will be the subject of a future post). The least expensive tour price, was $20.00 per adult at Polyface Farms (the destination that started it all). Ax throwing added $20.00 at Williamsburg (also worth it). Anyway, admission and tour tickets prices were pretty steady. Food we planned as a mix of self-created meals (sandwiches, snacks, trail mix, buying drinking water in 1 gallon jugs for $1 for use with our water bottles instead of $3 for a bottle of water other places) and purchased meals. We knew going in that eating at destinations and restaurants on the road would be pricey so we planned in a few instances of that (more on the dining experience also in a future post). So that was pretty fixed. Which brings us to lodging.

Usually when we travel we tend to say in clean, reasonable hotels along the way. The last time we did a major trip (to the Pacific Northwest) we mostly stayed with friends and the family that Miss Mercy has in that area. Our lodging costs were very minimal. Given that the Mad Farmers relatives did not come to America until the 1860’s (Miss Mercy’s family history is hers to tell, if she likes), there were not too many relatives back East that the Mad Farmer is close enough with to spend an evening. According to documented family genealogy the Mad Farmers Grandfather on his Mother’s side was related to Mary Todd, Abraham Lincoln’s wife, as an eighth-great cousin or something (if you are really interested let me know and I’ll dig out the exact connection for you). As swell as that is historically, I don’t feel that it entitles the Mad Farmer to show up at basically a random strangers house, yell “Cousins”, hug them and ask to crash the night. So we were looking a pretty hefty budget item in the form of hotel fees.

So, this is where the Airbnb part comes in (everyone heaves a sigh of relief “he finally is getting to the point”). Miss Mercy’s boss at one of her part-time occupations had recently returned from a vacation trip with his wife to attend a Grateful Dead concert in a far off land (remember the reference from the very first post – I was sure it would come around sometime). Masterful Mike (he is a very good vegetable and mushroom farmer) was extolling the virtues of an Airbnb location they had rented while on their trip. Remote location, view over a lake, meals cooked by a chef (okay, I probably added that last part – he was going on a bit about how great it was). Sounded wonderful, Miss Mercy and the Farmer said we might give it a try. So fast forward to the first day of the trip. We’re off schedule and stay at a chain hotel the first night. Because we’ve built some cushion into the schedule the Farmer suggests to Miss Mercy that we try out the Airbnb thing and try and find a place to stay in Staunton, VA, the second night of the trip, so we’re not killing ourselves trying to drive all night and it seemed like a less expensive option than another night in a hotel.

So Miss Mercy is driving the second part of that day. The Mad Farmer signs up for Airbnb on his phone (it can be done, but it’s a bit challenging when the signal drops and you lose internet and have to start over). The Mad Farmer searches the area, as a complete newbie and comes across a listing for a room at a house close to where they will be. New remodel, access to the backyard, kitchen and laundry, not too expensive – great! We’ll reserve it! Get 4/5 ths of the way through reserving the room and the app crashes. Go to re-reserve and the site is no longer available – what! Did we reserve it? Did someone else get it while we were trying to get back online? What is going on? Good news, after 10 minutes of trying to figure out what is going on we get a confirmation from Airbnb. The reservation is ours, instructions for how to get in the house are sent and the address as well – we are on our way. We message the host and tell her approximately when we will be arriving. Everything is going swimmingly.

Then, disaster! We forgot about the time zone change from CST to EST and for some reason all our devices were not set to auto-change time zones. We’re getting in an hour plus later than we thought. Frantically we text the host of the issue – the response “no problem, it’s all good”. Wow, huge sigh. Turns out most hosts have some form of self-check in. Apparently a lot of times people get in late, crash, leave early the next morning and the host never even sees them. We learn this later, but at the time, it was nerve-wracking not knowing if we were going to be able to actually check-in.

We finally arrive at the destination. Self check-in goes smooth. The house is newly remodeled, everything is lovely, the room is nice (although only one outlet – reminder to self, pack an extension cord) and the bathroom is clean, stocked with towels and essentials and has a tub with jets! We’re pretty tired, so we crash and when we wake – we find out we mis-read the communication from the host – she works nights, so we have the place all to ourselves. It’s peaceful, we make coffee in our french press. Have a look at her garden, look at her cookbooks (some of which Mercy owns or wants to own) and then pack up and head out on our journey. Never met the lady, but super experience. Can’t recommend that site enough, a great first experience.

Next Up: Colonial Williamsburg Day 1