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Claytor Lake State Park, Virginia

There are no bugs. I have many things to be grateful for today, but the thing that strikes me the most is that there are no bugs. No buzzing mosquitoes, no bewildered moths, and especially no irritating gnats. It's utterly perfect here.

This is astonishing, because I am sitting in the midst of a forest campground, somewhere off I-81 in southwestern Virginia, in July. There ought to be bugs but apparently someone forgot to tell them, so I am sitting comfortably at the picnic table typing up a blog entry for you unhampered. Moreover, the air is not too humid, the temperature is balmy, and all I can hear is the light breeze in the trees and the occasional child having fun at adjacent campsites.

Oh, I'm wrong. There goes a firefly, right past the glowing Mac symbol on my laptop. Even better.

Claytor Lake SP.jpg

What am I doing, camping without an Airstream? Call it an experiment in minimalism, or a revisiting of my earlier camping lifestyle. Just don't call it what it really is: a confluence of my cheapness and circumstances that prevented me from bringing the Airstream along. I'm in a rush to get back to New England, and taking my thrifty new car back with me. Since I'm using about 1/4 the gasoline that I would normally need to tow the trailer, I figured I'd go all the way and sleep in a tent as well. Reductio ad absurdum.

Tenting is also a way to reach campsites that RV's can't travel to. In the old days we used to carry 40 lbs of gear on our backs and hike far into the mountain ranges for camping. Now that we've had a taste of the places we can find in Arizona, I think we'll want to do some tent camping and backpacking there this winter. An Airstream with a tent in the luggage compartment gives all the flexibility we could want.

So this is fun. My tenting experience will be brief this week, so I can enjoy the experience of sleeping on the ground knowing that I won't have to do it every night. This reminds me of what other people who don't travel full-time have to look forward to. In a way, it's nicer to anticipate that fun camping weekend than it is to be "camping" every night of the week.

It's also a nice change from the rally scene I left this morning. I like rallies, but I've decided that two weeks is too much for me. At some point the rally starts to become an analog for Burning Man, a massive experiment in group living. People start to drive faster on the grounds, boredom sets in, and pretty soon it's just another big trailer park. Better to enjoy the offerings of the rally and then get out of town, I think.

And for me, it's time to get home. The weather is reportedly poor, with thunderstorms expected daily, but still I want to see my family again and get going on a plan for this fall. We are debating three possible routes: east to Newfoundland, west to Montana, and straight southwest to Arizona. The final plan won't be unveiled until August. But definitely, I plan to pack the tent and sleeping bags this time ...


Hey Rich,
Welcome to the Commonwealth of Virginia!! You are in a very beautiful part of Virginia, Our Airstream park is just up the road from you in Floyd VA.
Hope your travels bring you back this way soon!

Rich, if you have to have a tent, at least your tent is the right color (silver).
BTW, Claytor Lake is named after W. Graham Claytor, president of Appalachian Power. His two sons, W Graham Jr. and Robert B., are well known railroaders in those parts. W Graham jr. was president of Southern Railway, and Amtrak, and Robert B. was the first president of Norfolk Southern Railway.

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