Travels with Harvey: When Adventure Means Ordering the Extra-Spicy Wings

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By STEPHANIE IAQUINTO

No matter how many amenities the campground offers, the spectacular sunset offered by Mother Nature is its finest.

No matter how many amenities the campground offers, the spectacular sunset offered by Mother Nature is its finest.

We’ve come across an unusual number of shows about RVs lately.  Just this week, we’ve seen Bret Michaels fit a 40-year-old vehicle with a rooftop tent on Rock My RV, admired a collapsible two-story motor-home on Epic RVs, and, on Buying RVs, watched a couple waver between a half-million-dollar Class A and a quarter-million-dollar fifth wheel.

So when one show referred to its featured couple as “adventure-seekers” – a couple lamenting that their bed was a queen, not a king – we had to laugh.  It’s not that we can’t relate.  It’s just that we know RVing doesn’t have a whole lot to do with adventure.  At least, not the way we do it.

You see, we’ve visited dozens of campgrounds during the last couple of years, and we’ve learned that they fall into one of two kinds.

Tents and RVs packed side-by-side prove that Cherrystone is one of eastern Virginia’s most popular campgrounds.

Tents and RVs packed side-by-side prove that Cherrystone is one of eastern Virginia’s most popular campgrounds.

First are the campgrounds featured in the RV brochures, the ones in which a family tends a blazing fire on the banks of a stream, the setting sun casting a glow over still-glistening kayaks.  Aside from the raccoon peeking from behind a tree, they are alone in the wilderness. That is serious camping. You need a generator, a fire ring, and a strong commitment to self-sufficiency.

Then there are campgrounds for people like us.  They contain well-stocked stores that sell pints of Haagen-Dazs and bottles of Merlot, and rent DVDs and golf carts.  Kayaks, jet skis, bicycles – they can be rented, too, because nobody uses them for more than an hour. Some offer mini-golf, arcades, and water parks, as well as activity directors who fill in any downtime. These parks merge the seemingly incompatible words campground and resort, and Cherrystone, near the southern tip of Eastern Shore, is one of Virginia’s most popular.

We visited Cherrystone for the first time in July.  It had a definite party vibe, with patriotic streamers still clinging to golf carts, and more young people than we’d seen at all other campgrounds combined. Its pools were packed in the 90-degree temperatures, but the heat didn’t keep enthusiastic staffers from cheering kids on in the watermelon-eating and hula-hooping contests.

If you’re looking for laid-back seclusion, Cherrystone isn’t for you. But if you don’t have much practice in roughing it – and by roughing it, I mean doing anything that doesn’t require 30 amps of electricity and/or a wireless connection – it may be your best bet.

On this busy holiday weekend, we were lucky to get such a prime spot by the pond to park Harvey.

On this busy holiday weekend, we were lucky to get such a prime spot by the pond to park Harvey.

Don’t think that just because you can build a fire and grill a couple of burgers that you’re ready to be a contestant on Survivor, either. Grilling burgers is indeed an elementary camping skill, one we thought we’d long ago mastered.  But that weekend, armed with an automatic lighter and a bag of charcoal (whose brand name I won’t mention, but did seem to suggest that it would light with a match) we couldn’t produce more than a whiff of smoke. We added newspaper. Nothing.  We added a starter log.  Still nothing. For 45 minutes, the sun beat down on our sweat-drenched heads while the kids played video games inside air-conditioned Harvey.

We soon abandoned any illusion of roughing it.  Cherrystone’s restaurant and ice-cream parlor, with its pizza-and-wing combo, was starting to sound really appealing.  We poured a bucket of water over the charcoal – not that it needed it – and gathered the kids.  Roughing it is highly overrated.

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