Fries, VA

It’s pronounced ‘freeze’. Might as well get that bit of disappointment out of the way early.

Fries, VA functioned as our soft place to land when the world felt as if it was locking door after door on us. The closures that prohibited us from moving about the U.S. did eventually taper off in late April, and then began to reverse themselves in mid-May. We initially booked a month in Fries, but in late April, extended out through the end of May. The looking glass into the future of campground availability was too foggy for us to trust its predictions.

For two months we hunkered down at Fries New River Trail RV Park in the very small town of Fries, VA.

For two months Fries provided us a quiet, COVID-19 free environment.

For two months we ran along the New River Trail.

For two months we rarely left the Coronavirus free safety of Dyna, nestled into campsite one.

We filled the gas tank on the Jeep once during our two month stay. Our bi-weekly trips to the local Super Walmart, though infrequent, were 10 hilly miles each way – and we did venture out to new trailheads along the New River Trail a few times.

The local Super Walmart happens to service all locals within about a 50 mile radius of Galax, VA – including the residents of Fries. Of which we counted ourselves for two months.

The Super Walmart was a situation.

The Super Walmart couldn’t keep toilet paper in stock. We did finally get our hands on some shit-tickets, but the poop paper wasn’t of a brand that Dyna prefers. Jake and I found ourselves needing to battle poop pyramids in our black tank, fortified by Charmin Extra Soft, at least once a week. I will never take the concerningly thin structure of Scott TP for granted again.

The Galax Super Walmart was, however, able to keep a steady supply of camo clad patrons who did not wish to abide by the suggestions of one-way aisles, six feet of distance or masking procedures in stock. We both grew to dread our Walmart trips.

I just spent three paragraphs talking about shopping at Walmart. Did I mention we participated in very few other activities of communal life?

It took until early May for weekenders to resume occupying campsites at our host RV park. They showed up against state mandate at first. By mid-May, they were ‘legal’ to show up and hang out at the park. We realized around this time how spoiled we had been by having the park pretty much to ourselves. Especially in terms of the Wi-Fi situation.

Fries, VA has no cellular data service. We rely on cellular data as our source of internet. We were very grateful that Fries New River Trail RV Park offered usable Wi-Fi. The problem with most public Wi-Fi hotspots, however, is that they aren’t fortified for use by large numbers of people gobbling up bandwidth. It can makes things… frustrating. Especially when you’re relying on the overburdened bandwidth to get work done. So you can make money. To live. Your fudge life.

Luckily most of our mid-May campground cohorts left on Mondays.

Everything in Fries was closed. Except for the essentials. Which apparently included the local craft shop. We didn’t visit. We did pop into the post office, which was within walking distance, to send cards and letters. It gave me a chance to show off my sweet cat themed mask. Plus, the post office maintained a supply of hand sanitizer; a rarity throughout the months of March, April and May.

While we didn’t get to partake in her offerings, Fries appeared to have a few things that might be entertaining to some extent during a non-COVID time. There is an ice cream caboose. And a riverside diner. The aforementioned craft shop. A salon. A bank. River banks for catching some fish. Multiple churches. For praying.

We spent most of our time in Fries catching up on work and backlogged life tasks. Jake installed a new stereo system and back-up camera in the Jeep. He did a bit of Dyna maintenance. He even read a few books – which is not an overly Jake thing to do.

I gave Dyna a bath. Tracked closures and openings for Campendium. Worked. Spent extra time reading. Watched extra Netflix. Followed the news. Attempted to learn how to sew on a sewing machine Jake has been carting around with us for years.

Lucy ate grass. And then puked it back up. She prowled about the campground, unrestrained. She sat inside. Sat outside. She solidified her affection for a particular shoebox. It is the chosen box.

My favorite part of our two months in Fries – and I’m certain it was Jake’s too – was the New River Trail. New River Trail is a 57-mile linear state park that follows an abandoned railroad route. We spent time on it nearly every day.

We spent Easter in Fries. We celebrated with Peeps and freezer pizza.

We also spent my birthday in Fries. It was a day filled with doting from Jake, presents mailed in from friends (#getpresents), a long leisurely run from Fries to Galax, a fountain diet cola in lush grass, and hours of reading in the sunshine. Also, Jake baked me a funfetti cake and it was awesome.

Like much of the rest of the U.S., we spent extra time on video and voice calls with friends and family. Ok, mostly voice calls because Fries, VA has terrible cellular service and therefore we had to utilize Wi-Fi calling. And since, as I mentioned before, the Wi-Fi sometimes, sucked… well. Some calls ended earlier than intended. There were a few nights that we were able to participate in very laggy semblance of a family Roblox session.

We spent extra time just ‘being’.

I tried out a few new recipes – most of which were terrible. We ate at least one freezer pizza a week, and didn’t skimp when it came to incorporating vegan buffalo chik’n patties into our diets. We didn’t forget to incorporate a healthy number of cereal for dinner nights into our routine.

We immersed ourselves in the changing seasons of a single place – something we have been trading for the glory of endless movement over the past nearly 5 years. We ran through barren trees. And a few weeks later were treated to the bouquet of smells gifted to use by those same trees as they flowered. We spent afternoons with two space heaters turned up high. A month later, we had stored those space heaters and opted for the occasional few hours air conditioner session. The river ran low. And after a few days of rain, it gushed off into the distance – once even overtaking the vehicle bridge that provided us access to Super Walmart. We weren’t overly sad. And a day or so later, the bridge had cleared, and everyone that wanted to go to Walmart could travel back to Walmart and have their camo fashion shows.

We ran past a herd of cows almost daily, observing as the tiny cows grew alongside their grass munching mommas. They were soon leaving their mother’s sides to congregate in baby cow gangs. Gradually, they wandered further off in their juvenile cow group. We never saw them out of visual range from the old bessies, however. And then, one day, they were gone. Likely off to be eaten by meat eating humans – who I won’t talk about right in this moment because I am overwhelmed by the sadness of my baby cow friends being eaten. A few days later a new herd replaced my cow friends. I never did bond with the second crew.

We were reminded of the joys of stagnation. And also of the occasional overwhelming feeling that we need to move. Like restless leg syndrome of the soul. I caught myself doing double takes more than once when spotting the white of our tire covers. We haven’t needed those except to protect from salt water spray.

By the end of May, it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to extend much longer at Fries New River Trail RV Park. While Tom had kindly hosted us for two full months, the weekenders were laying stake to the dates in his hand-written reservation book.

We are grateful for our two months at Tom’s darling little RV park. They weren’t our cheapest two months, but they certainly provided what we needed while the world figured out what this Coronavirus thing entailed. Also, Tom let us borrow his cruiser bikes, which was pretty awesome because I’ve ever ridden a cruiser bike and those things are cushy.

We’re headed to West Virginia. For no real reason other than it gives us a new place to land for an extended period (as much as your crazy uncle – or mom’s husband – may insist it is, Coronavirus isn’t gone my dudes), with new trails, and a campsite that hasn’t been claimed.