Not Our First Rodeo

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It feels like a long time since we visited upstate New York, but it’s been just over two weeks. That shows you how experiences can matter more than dates on a calendar!

We left beautiful Letchworth State Park and continued west. We’ve been enjoying traveling on local roads instead of the interstates. Sure, it takes longer to get to your destination, but you can relax more on the drive and see so much more along the way. We traveled on route 20 along the southern shore of Lake Erie through western New York, the Pennsylvania panhandle (I never realized that PA had a panhandle before), Ohio and Indiana. Yes, we’ve been on the move!

Our first stop was a Harvest Host called Arundel Cellars & Brewing in a town called North East, PA. (That could get confusing … “Where are you from?” “North East, PA.” “But, what town?” “North East.” Sort of like Who’s on first!) Usually, when you arrive at a Harvest Host there is a very brief sign-in procedure followed by instructions on the best place to park for the night and an invitation to go in for some refreshment. When I entered this place, there was a woman behind the bar, so I stepped forward and introduced myself: “Hi! We’re your Harvest Host guests for this evening!” She seemed a little frazzled and detached and replied, “I’m a little busy right now, so … you can just drive out past the dumpsters and there’s a field out there. Park anywhere out there.” 

Since this isn’t our first rodeo, we knew better than to blindly drive our class A motorhome with an attached car down a narrow dirt road and into an unexplored field! Besides, there was already another class A that had arrived ahead of us and they were not in the field, they were in the parking lot off to the side. We decided to park near them and take the dog for a walk down the dirt road to investigate. 

Before I go further, you should know that RVing and trains are a running joke between the two of us. Its amazing how many campgrounds and RV parks are built near railroad tracks. We’ve gotten used to hearing the occasional train rumble by at night, we’ll hear the horn and go right back to sleep. So, when we stepped out of the motorhome at Arundel and the first thing that happened was the very loud “WHAAAAAAA-wa-WHAAAAAAAAA” of an approaching train, we started laughing. We walked down the dirt road past the dumpsters and found ourselves walking toward the field and the train tracks! As we walked, another train announced itself and passed. Within the first 15 minutes of our arrival, we counted SIX trains! 

The field looked soft, unmowed, sloped down from the dirt road and there was a hidden culvert pipe that anyone could get stuck on. That field was a hard no for us! We would have been calling a tow truck to pull us out of there the next morning! Plus, instead of being 600 feet from the tracks, we would have been 100 feet. No, thank you! We stayed put in the parking lot. 

Fortunately, the train activity slowed down at night. We tasted some of Arundel’s offerings, had a bite to eat and managed to sleep fairly well that night. The next morning we moved on to another Harvest Host location.

Rainbow Farm in Madison, Ohio, is a vegetable and fruit farm with a cute little market store. It’s in an interesting location, tucked into a neighborhood, their fields go way back with a dirt road winding it’s way past pick-your-own currants, gooseberries and strawberries. We were parked between fields of newly-planted strawberries and pepper plants just starting to blossom. In front of us were squash and pumpkins, and we could see a blueberry patch a little farther up the road still maturing. A couple of other rigs arrived and were parked in a different part of the field so everyone had space. We watched the field hands lay irrigation pipe while the baby Killdeer birds chased their parents down the rows begging for food. It was pretty peaceful. I visited the farm store and bought some fresh eggs, but it was too early in the season to be able to stock up on fresh veggies. After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we hit the road.

Most of the time, our campground stops are good, but now and then there is a disappointment. Our next stop was one of those. East Harbor State Park sits on a peninsula just east of Toledo, Ohio. It juts out into Lake Erie and boasts a few hundred level asphalt campsites, a beach, a dog beach and a hiking trail along the lakeshore. Because of its location, this park is very popular and gets booked quickly, so I had spent a good amount of time searching for the right site for our class A. I often don’t have much to go on … I read all the reviews I can find, look at any campground maps and photos I can find online and use Google Earth to see what the sites look like from above. Sometimes, unfortunately, that just isn’t enough.

We arrived at the campground two hours early because I mistakenly read that check-in time was 1pm … wrong, that’s check OUT time. The gatekeeper told us that we’d have to wait until he received word that our site was ready. Understandable. While we waited, I went out for groceries while Bob took Tessa for a walk. 

When I rejoined Bob, the rain started … pouring rain! Of course, that was when we were told we could proceed to our site! We arrived at our site only to discover that it pitched down 12” making the site impossible for us to use. (We would have had to park our rear wheels on top of several leveling blocks, and we are not willing to use that many blocks.) Fortunately, the woman in the office was super helpful and we were able to move to a site that was much flatter.

Ultimately, although we had booked two nights at this campground, we left after one. There were just too many things wrong at this place. The sites were narrow, the fire rings were very close to the neighbor’s rig, our walk on the lakeside path was a mine-field of goose poop, we tried and tried but never did find the dog beach. Our neighbor on one side had parked right up next to our site and when Bob knocked on his door asking him to move it, he was told “not until it stops raining” (we had been standing out in the rain trying to figure out how to get into the site, so that didn’t fly with us). The deciding factor was when our other neighbor’s fire, on a very humid night (humidity not allowing the smoke to rise into the atmosphere) smoked us out forcing us to close our windows for the entire night … East Harbor State Park just wasn’t for us.

Our neighbor’s fire ring about 12 feet from our windows.

Fortunately, most of our campground experiences are positive, or at least neutral. We rarely find ourselves in a park that we really don’t care for. This was one of the rare instances.

We moved on, pushing west through Ohio. Fun fact: Ohio’s interstate rest areas have RV parking lots with about a dozen spaces and electric hookups! If you’re looking for a place to sleep, for $20 you can plug in, get something to eat and a good night’s sleep without even leaving the highway. It worked well for us, and the next day we arrived in Elkhart, Indiana.

Elkhart is the RV Capital of the World. Many of the major RV manufacturers have factories there, as well as all the smaller companies that supply parts. We saw flatbed trucks filled with RV doors, axles and chassis frames. The reason we came here was to replace the sofa in our motorhome, which was starting to deteriorate. We purchased two swivel recliners from Bradd & Hall furniture. The recliners are made by Lambright, which is an Amish furniture making outfit in nearby Shipshewana, Indiana, where there is a large Amish community. We love the recliners! We also had a rock chip fixed by the RV Glass business that was right next to Bradd & Hall, so Elkhart is sort of a one-stop shopping place for everything RV related.

Out with the old, in with the new!

We really enjoyed our stay at Elkhart Campground. It was clean, well-maintained, and the staff was very accommodating when I asked if they could relocate us from a site in full sun to a site with trees. Elkhart also has an RV museum, which was a lot of fun to explore.

The first “motorhome” – 1916 “Telescoping Apartment” on a 1915 Model A Ford. The kitchen and wardrobe compartments “telescoped” out from the sleeping compartment. Warm water for a shower was produced by radiator heat for the engine. The unit sold for $100.

Our last night in Elkhart, Bob returned from walking the dog to say that he had met a couple who invited us over to sit outside and strum guitars. It could have been the craft beers we were sharing, or the great music and conversation, or it could be that there are some people you just “click” with. We had a great time meeting Priscilla and Scott! We found that we have a lot in common. The funniest thing was when we discussed our various stays with Harvest Hosts, and Priscilla said that they had recently stayed at a winery where a previous guest had posted to be careful if they tell you to park in the field near the train tracks … that was Arundel Cellars and my review that she had read! LOL. We hope to meet up with Priscilla and Scott again on our travels.

Priscilla, Bob and Scott. It’s great making new friends!

We left Elkhart behind and continued west. On I-80 south of Chicago we crossed over a massive chasm that had been cut into the earth. It looked like a quarry, and a little research proved that it isn’t just any quarry, but one of the largest aggregate (i.e., sand & gravel) quarries in the world, Thornton Quarry. It was startling how large it was, and that the interstate crossed right over it. I tried to take pictures from the motorhome, but of course they didn’t do it justice, so here’s a bird’s eye view from Google Earth.

Still heading west, heading for the Hawkeye State! Stay tuned!

One thought on “Not Our First Rodeo

  1. We have just started using Harvest Host this year, and so far so good. Fun reading this post, we are from central Indiana and have sold our wares a few years back at the Shipshewana flea market. Now following you BTW. Cheers, Maj and Sher

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