Category Archives: Ohio

No Overnight Parking

Monday was our last full day at Addison Oaks County Park in Oakland Township, Michigan (map). We still had Bill Frahm’s Nissan SUV and took advantage of that by running out to Costco. We wanted to buy bottled water and coffee and also replenish our supply of Traeger hardwood pellets for the wood pellet smoker/grill.

At the Costco on Brown Road, we found Traeger smoker/grills for sale but no pellets. When I asked an employee, I was told they don’t have them – they only had them when the Traeger Road Show Team was demo’ing the product. Huh? You have the grill for sale but don’t carry the pellets necessary to use the grill?

After we left Costco, Donna used her phone to look for other possibilities to pick up pellets. It showed Home Depot carrying them. We made a roundabout trip following directions on Donna’s phone which circled us around to within a quarter mile of Costco – after four miles of driving.

We went to the grill section of the store and the guy told us wood pellets were seasonal and they didn’t have them now. What? It’s grilling season, right? He was talking about heating pellets, not cooking pellets. Next, Donna found hardwood pellets on her phone at Target. She phoned the nearest Target and asked if they had them – they said yes. Target was right across the street. Once there, we couldn’t find them. Donna asked a woman – who happened to be the one she talked to on the phone and the woman showed us hickory chunks for smoking. No pellets. It appears to be a regional thing. Wood pellet cooking isn’t big in the upper midwest. It’s common in the south and also in the northwest and northeast from what I can gather on the forums.

After we came back, Donna went to Rochester to wash Bill’s SUV and fill the tank with gas. I spent the rest of the afternoon packing the trailer and making us ready for travel. When Donna returned, her friend Jo from our old neighborhood in Rochester Hills came over. Jo had her arm in a sling due to a fall. Donna and Jo went out for an hour-long walk.

Donna and Jo

Donna and Jo

Tuesday morning, Ozark the cat had me up at 6am. She was playing with her toys and running the length of the coach. I wanted to be up early anyway, but Donna was sleeping soundly. I read until Donna woke up at 7am.  It was 9am before we were ready to roll though – I was hoping for an earlier start.

I skipped the dump station on the way out – Donna was following in Bill’s Nissan SUV. I wanted to get down to Troy and return Bill’s car as early as possible. By the time we returned his car and said our thanks and until next time, it was 10am. My plan was to use the dump station at Cabela’s in Dundee.

The route to Cabela’s took us west to US23 before heading south toward Ohio. This was a loop since we wanted to head east through Ohio. But I wanted to buy a couple of things at Cabela’s and they have a free dump station. Also, the last time I went down I-75 from Detroit to Toledo, the rough road surface nearly shook my fillings out. US23 is a much nicer road. When we used the dump station, I saw a sign stating it won’t be free much longer. New card readers are being installed to charge a $5 dump fee.

We had lunch at the restaurant in Cabela’s, then I found a pair of Teva flip-flops I wanted and we also found – wait for it – hardwood pellets. They’re packaged as Cabela’s brand but I’ll wager that Traeger is the source. They had several different hardwood blends. I bought 20 pounds of hickory and 20 pounds of their competition blend.

Back on the road, I programmed Nally (our Rand McNally RVND7720 GPS) to avoid toll roads and take us to Canandaigua, NY. There was no way we would reach Canandaigua in one day, but that was our next destination. Our route kept us off the Ohio turnpike and on fairly nice highways through farmland and woods once we were past Toledo.

US20 took us to a non-toll section of I-90 through Cleveland. I motored on and we decided to hit a Walmart parking lot in Erie, Pennsylvania. Before we left Ohio, I stopped at a Pilot/Flying J travel center and filled our tank. I knew fuel is much more expensive in Pennsylvania and New York. I paid $2.72/gallon in Ohio. In Pennsylvania, we saw diesel fuel priced at $3.39/gallon. We covered 340 miles by the time we parked at Walmart. It was a longer day than I usually drive. Ozark was quite the traveling kitty. She took to her crate without too much fuss and didn’t protest much on the drive.

Tuesday morning we pulled out of Walmart around 8:30am after I ate a breakfast sandwich from the Subway shop in the Walmart. Our plan was to head to Canandaigua on the north end of Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes Region of New York (map). Donna had planned to meet up with her old college roommate, Kathy. Kathy thought we could fit our rig alongside her house in the village of Canandaigua. Along the way on I-86, the traffic was very light. A murder of crows were on the road ahead. One of them made a rare miscalculation – crows are usually very sharp. He flew up in front of us but didn’t account for our height correctly and I’m afraid our front cap meant his demise as he bounced forcefully off of it. Birds are fragile with hollow bones – I don’t think the collision was survivable.

Once we got to Kathy’s street, I could see it wouldn’t work. She may have enough room by her house, but the street was too narrow for me to maneuver and back the trailer in. I programmed the Walmart in town in the GPS and we continued on. The GPS took us northwest then told me to make a U-turn.

I saw a turn lane ahead marked for U-turns and the road on the other side was two lanes wide. I over-estimated the width of the median – the turn lane angled and once I initiated the turn, I realized I made an error. It wasn’t a wide enough highway for me to complete the U-turn. I stopped short of the grassy shoulder on the opposite side of the road and backed-up a few feet. The trailer would jackknife if I went back any further. I worked it back and forth a couple of times, blocking both lanes of the road.

There was a steel reflector post on the edge of the grass on my left and a tree to the right. I shot the gap and pulled our rig onto the grassy shoulder without hitting anything and cleared the roadway. I was praying the earth beneath the grass was stable enough to support the weight of our coach. After taking a few seconds to compose myself, I waited for a break in the traffic and merged back onto the highway.

Fifteen minutes later, we found the Walmart. As I pulled in, I saw signs prohibiting overnight parking. Walmart’s corporate policy is to allow RVers to park overnight. Local ordinances trump this policy. In touristy areas, local councils often enact these ordinances presumably at the urging of local RV parks and resorts. The fallacy in this is most RVs in a Walmart lot are only passing through. They aren’t going to spend big bucks at a resort. They will spend some money in the Walmart store though.

After a frustrating search for an overnight spot, we resigned ourselves to the fact we had no choice for dry camping if we were to stay in the area. I found a site at the Bristol Woodlands Campground. It really irks me to pay for a full hook-up 50 amp site when I’m only wishing for a place to spend one night and don’t need to hook up.

Having said that, I should add that this is a nice park with roomy sites. Getting here was an adventure though. We left Canandaigua and drove about 20 minutes through rural countryside. It was very hilly and steep in places. The road to the campground is unpaved for the last mile and signed for no vehicles over 10 tons.

This had me worried. It was a narrow dirt road with no easy way to turn around. We are 17 tons. I was hoping we would find the park before we had to cross a bridge or culvert that wasn’t rated for our weight. We found the campground and at check-in, the manager told me not to worry. He doesn’t understand the sign. There’s no bridge and he said no one pays attention to the sign.

We were assigned a long back-in site, long enough to accommodate our 56′ length without dropping the trailer. There were two issues though. The water and power are located at the rear of the site. I had to back way in, putting the trailer on the grass below the grade of the site. The second issue is the slope. The site slopes downhill from front to back. I had to jack the rear to full extension and we’re still not level. It’s close enough and it’ll do for one night. I had my 50′ power cord fully extended and it just barely reached the pedestal.

Roomy site with a long run to the pedestal

Roomy site with a long run to the pedestal

Beautiful park with lots of room, but not level

Beautiful park with lots of room, but not level

Donna’s friend Kathy and her daughter Kierra came over and picked Donna up around 4:30pm. I hung back in the coach to write most of this post and tend to all of the insect bites I have from Sunday night at Addison Oaks. The mosquitos really skewered me and I’m suffering from it.

Wednesday was the first day since I-don’t know-when that we drove without the roof air conditioners running. We’re now at an altitude if 1,500 feet and can sleep with windows open.

Today we’ll head toward Albany and maybe find a dry camping spot around Skaneateles (map).

A Day in the Life

Tuesday, August 6th was our first “working day.” Donna had things to do. She needed to complete a couple of projects. I stayed out of her way in the morning by hauling our laundry to the park’s laundromat. Donna says there’s nothing sexier than a man doing the dishes. I wonder if doing the laundry trumps that. I passed the time by reading a book while enjoying the view of the pond. I’m reading Covert by Bob Delaney – a book Donna’s brother-in-law, Tom lent me.

One of Donna’s projects was to complete her application to be a presenter at the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). The application required a short video segment. We set up in the motorhome and shot the video. I’ll link to it later in YouTube.

Donna had a visitor in the afternoon and they took a short hike around the campground. It seems like wherever we are, she knows someone. She is the queen of networking. This paid off in a big way when she was contacted yesterday via Facebook by our mail carrier back in Michigan to let us know that there’s a problem with forwarding our mail. I don’t understand how this happened. Donna submitted the online form and received confirmation via email and mail. And the letter carriers confirmed forwarding information in person. But somehow the post office has no record of our forwarding address. Our regular letter carrier, Betty, has been holding our mail and reached out to Donna yesterday. Donna went online and re-submitted the forwarding information (and paid the fees again).

I wish I could report something exciting about our stay at the Green Acres Lake RV park. It was just a day in the life. Yesterday we packed up. I filled our fresh water tank, stopped at the dump station and hit the road. Fresh water full and holding tanks empty – the only way to fly.

Donna studied the maps and navigated our route. I felt good and put in about 350 easy miles. This brought us to Walmart in Valparaiso, Indiana. 350 miles might not seem like much in your car, but in a rig like ours, it’s a long day. We crossed I-75 about 45 miles south of Toledo – which is 2 hours south of where we started two weeks ago! Getting to Walmart required faith in our GPS – we call her “Nally.” She directed us off US30 into a narrow tree lined street. No Walmart or houses – just trees. The she had us turn on another narrow street that looked like a road to nowhere. We rounded a curve and there it was. We entered the Walmart parking lot from the backside. This turned out to be the simplest way in, otherwise we would have had to exit US30 and do a series of U-turns to access the entrance.

Once we parked we went inside to seek permission for overnight parking. The customer service girls were a little confused by my request – they though I was a trucker parking an 18-wheeler and said it wasn’t allowed. Once they understood I was parking an RV, they told me where to park it. Donna and I took a stroll through the store. I wasn’t sure about the liquor laws in Indiana. I remembered going to a liquor store in Indianapolis before before but didn’t know if Walmart carried beer, wine or liquor.

There it was – a liquor aisle. Walmart sells liquor in Indiana and the price for bourbon is a fair bargain. They had a bourbon I’ve been wanting to sample, Bulleit Bourbon, for less than $30 for 750ml. Makers Mark was only $23. I bought both!

While we were in the store a thunder storm poured rain. It subsided quickly but the heat and humidity remained. It’s in the mid 80s and the humidity is unbearable. We went to a restaurant across the parking lot for an early dinner – made early by the fact we are now in the Central Time Zone. I left windows open and the fantastic fan running in our coach. After we ate, another thunder storm arrived and it rained hard. I was anxious to get back to our coach, I was wondering how much water was coming in through the open windows. The fantastic fan pulls air through a roof vent and it has a rain sensor to automatically shut the vent when it rains. After ten minutes or so the rain stopped, we returned to coach and found a little wetness but no  big deal.

I sampled the bourbons (both are excellent) and we hit the sack early. Today we’ll drive through Illinois and into Wisconsin.


Westward Ho!

It’s 7am Tuesday morning as I write this. I’m sitting in a campground near Akron, Ohio. Here’s how we got here.

Sunday morning dawned clear and beautiful. We had a goal of leaving by 11am. Donna went for a hike on a trail in the Thompson’s Lake State Park where we were camped. I got started on packing the exterior and getting the coach ready for travel. When Donna returned from her hike she wanted to shower before packing the interior items that she usually handles. We were a little out of sync on the packing duties and I was impatient, wanting to hit the road.

We left the campground shortly after 11am and drove through Schoharie to I-88. The drive was very scenic but also on hilly, narrow roads. I made a wrong turn at one point but we managed to get our rig turned around by remaining calm and waiting for the right opportunity. In this case a school parking lot provided the room needed to get turned around.

I-88 is a nice section of Interstate – very scenic with a smooth road surface and very little traffic. Thunderstorms cropped up, we drove through squalls, sometimes with heavy rainfall and wind. The rain was variable but the wind was relentless.

We stopped a little past noon in Oneonta. Our plan was to go to Brooks BBQ, a local favorite. Donna’s dad had advised us to park in the Price Chopper parking lot down the street from Brooks. When we arrived it started raining again. From the Price Chopper it was a bit of a hike to Brooks so I passed by not wanting to walk that far in the rain. I pulled into the Brooks BBQ parking lot; it was jam packed with cars. I threaded the needle to get turned around and out of there.

Donna spotted a medical clinic next door which appeared to have a parking lot that wrapped around the building. I took a chance and pulled in there. If it didn’t actually wrap around I would be in a real tight spot trying to get out. It turned out to be fine although the lane wrapping around the back of the building was tight.

My choice of smoked pork short ribs was a little disappointing. I tried a taste of Donna’s chicken and realized I’d ordered the wrong dish. The chicken was very good and I recommend it if you ever get to Brooks BBQ in Oneonta, New York.

We were back on the road a little after 1pm. As we drove past the Price Chopper to get back on I-88 Donna spotted a wine and spirit shop. She said, “Why don’t you stop? There’s a big parking lot and you need to stock up.” I didn’t take her advice thinking we’d have opportunities later.

When we left that morning, we didn’t have a real destination – just more of a general direction. We knew we wanted to head down towards Williamsport, Pennsylavania. Then we could hit I-80 west. Donna studied the map (yes, a real paper map). I had her program way points in the GPS so we would have guidance with speed information. Our GPS is RV specific and also considers things like low clearance, weight limits and other restrictions when calculating a route.

Donna used the POI function on the GPS to locate RV friendly overnight parking. We decided to stop at a Walmart Supercenter in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. Donna could see the route on her map; we simply had to continue south on Rt 220 then west on Rt 6. The GPS had us deviate on PA 4014. We had a short debate over which way to go. I decided to follow the GPS. One thing bothered me though. The GPS was no longer talking to me. It was only displaying the directions without any sound.

As soon as I turned on PA 4014, I knew it was a mistake. The road was narrow and just 100 feet down the road was a sign that said “Rough Road – Construction Next 6 Miles.” There wasn’t any way to turn around so I pressed on. Again it was a very scenic route but also very demanding to drive. I didn’t take in much of the scenery. The road was a series of sharp curves punctuated by short, steep climbs and descents. Many of the little bridges on the route had 10-ton limits. We were over the limit and I couldn’t understand why the GPS routed us this way.

By the time we made it to Mansfield, I was worn out. We found an open area to park and went inside to seek permission for overnight parking. It wasn’t a problem. The next item on my list was finding cold beer. I searched the Walmart aisles and didn’t find any. I finally asked a store clerk and was told they can’t sell beer in Pennsylvania. She suggested that I try the little store across the street.

We walked across the street and again didn’t find any beer. I asked at the counter and a young man standing behind me told I had to go back into the town center to the beer distributor. I had a vague memory of strange alcohol laws in Pennsylvania when we came through a couple of years ago touring on our BMW motorcycles.

I was told it was a long walk – maybe 30 to 45 minutes each way. I was thinking about getting the scooter out of the trailer when the guy offered me a ride into town. I accepted and Donna went back to the motorhome.

It turned out to be a fairly long way. If I had opted to walk it would be over 3 miles each way. It was Sunday and the beer distributor was closed. Like me, the guy that offered me the ride was now on a mission. He was determined to find me a six-pack. He took me to a small Mexican restaurant/bar and said I should ask for take-out beer there. Sure enough, they sold me a six-pack of Yuengling to go. This might be the norm in Pennsylvania, but it’s just plain weird anywhere else.

Back at Walmart, Donna fixed us a salad for dinner. Another RV from Quebec parked right behind us. I checked our GPS settings and found the problem. Somehow the settings I had programmed were lost and the default factory settings were on. It listed a rig smaller than ours weighing 20,000 lbs. No wonder the GPS sent us down that road! I re-programmed our actual information and turned the sound back on.

After dinner we discussed our plans for the next day and decided we should stop somewhere with hook-ups. We needed to replenish our fresh water and also do some laundry. I searched on the internet and found a couple of options off of I-76 in Ohio. That would mean a nearly 300-mile day but it looked like a fairly easy route.

RVs overnight at Walmart

RVs overnight at Walmart

We planned to leave by 8am and actually hit the road at 8:05am. The route took us through the Allegheny Mountains. It was an easy drive although the road was almost never flat. It was constant climbs and descents. This is beautiful country and we enjoyed the ride. We stopped for gas and found a station with easy entry and exit. We crossed the highest point on I-80 east of the Mississippi in western Pennsylvania. It was only 2250′ above sea level. We’ll cross much higher summits out west.

We stopped to stretch and walk in a couple of rest areas. One of the RV parks I found on the internet was a Passport America affiliate (we have a membership). The other was a Good Sam affiliate (we have a membership with them also). To get the Passport America 50% discount, this park required a two-night minimum. We decided two nights would be okay. This would allow Donna to get some work done that she needed to do while I could take care of domestic chores.

Donna called ahead and booked a pullthrough site with 50 amp hook-up. When we arrived we found there was electricity and water on the site but no sewer. That means I’ll use the laundromat today and we’ll hit the dump station on the way out.

Our pullthrough site is long but close to the neighbor

Our pullthrough site is long but close to the neighbor

After we were settled in, Donna and I walked down to the swimming pond. Donna swam and I headed back to the coach to shower. On the way I talked to a neighbor. He lives nearby and camps here to get some quiet time. I asked if there was a liquor store nearby. I wanted to re-stock the liquor cabinet with bourbon.

He told me of a couple of possibilities. I showered and then unloaded the scooter. I went to the first place he mentioned and found beer and wine only. I asked a guy in the parking lot and he said “You mean hard stuff like Johnny Walker?” He was skeptical but said I might find it a few miles down the road. I went into the store he told me about and found beer and wine again. I asked the clerk and he said, “Liquor? Around here?” Apparently it was an unusual request. He told me of a possibility that involved riding another 20 to 30 minutes. I gave up and came back to the park.

Next time Donna tells me there’s a wine and spirit shop with ample parking, I’m not passing it up.


Road Trip

I wonder how long this will feel like a road trip. I’ve always enjoyed road trips and get really excited about them. In fact I usually get impatient for the trip to begin and can hardly sleep. That’s how Tuesday (yesterday) began. I woke up at 4:15am and couldn’t sleep so I got up and wrote the day’s post. Donna got up at a more sensible 6:00am.

We made our final departure from the driveway at 8:00am. It was an emotional moment for Donna while I was feeling excitement and wanderlust. We pounded down I75 and I mean that literally – that road surface is awful. Weeks ago I had mapped out our route with the trip to Lake Placid broken up onto three roughly equal legs. Remember what I said about plans changing? We quickly learned that when we’re on the road, flexibility is the key word.

We made it to Cleveland around 2:00pm and decided it was too early to stop. A couple of hours later Donna was learning how to use some of the functions on the Rand-McNally RVND 7720 GPS.  This device is designed for RV use and she used it to direct us to RV friendly overnight parking. We ended up at a Walmart Super Center in Dunkirk, New York around 4:30. I think we drove about an hour longer than we should have. I was feeling road weary and Donna was a bit antsy from co-piloting all day. Driving a big rig isn’t the same as cruising in a modern car. it’s a bit more challenging and mentally taxing. Although I know a Walmart parking lot doesn’t sound like a good place to spend the night, we felt pretty good about it. We were at the end of the lot looking into a grassy area with a wooded creek. It was also quiet where we were.

There was another RV in the parking lot – a 40′ Newmar Dutch Star. It belonged to an older couple, Mason and Floretta from Oklahoma. They’re en route to Nova Scotia via Niagara Falls. Mason is a retired pilot. He flew business and charter aircraft all over the world. He gave us the tour of his coach and Floretta told tales of RVing to Alaska.

Donna whipped up a salad for dinner with roasted chicken from the Walmart Supercenter. I wanted to take a picture of the salad as I thought it was quite nice but Donna wouldn’t let me. Apparently the presentation wasn’t up to her standards. Next time I’ll have to make the photo request before she serves.

Tomorrow we’ll head up to Watertown before we call it a day. Then it’s on to Lake Placid. I’ll add pictures to the posts once we’re settled in at Lake Placid.