Illinois Part I: Effingham

Effingham. Doesn’t that sound like a cuss word? I think it does. I had lots of fun with that joke for the two weeks we stayed at the Lakewood Campground. When we got up in the morning, I demanded Mike make me some Effingham coffee. Then the Effingham water pressure was bad. We cleaned the Effingham kitchen after dinner. That joke never got old for me.

Actually, that joke was pretty much the highlight of our stay in Effingham… aside from Thanksgiving. Effingham is an agricultural community in the middle of southern Illinois where I-57 and I-70 intersect. The population is only about 12,000. There wasn’t a lot to see in the area (most farm fields look the same after awhile). The weather was cold and gloomy during most of the two weeks we were there, so we didn’t get out too much. After arriving to our new campground, we realized we completed the Eastern Time Zone back in Indiana, and had made it back to Central Time with this stop in the Land of Lincoln. I was excited about the change until I realized I had to make another adjustment for the time change just like I did a few weeks earlier when Daylight Saving Time came into effect. Sunsets at 4:30 PM are not invigorating. The early darkness just makes me want to be a lazy sloth.

We just did normal and boring things while we were at this stop. We ran some errands; got haircuts; Mike got a blood test to make sure his thyroid works properly after his surgery. We did grocery shopping and had a nice Thanksgiving. During the times when the weather did clear, we tried to take the dogs for nice walks. One of the hike & bike trails in town was closed for deer hunting season, so that option was eliminated. Another day we went to a Nature Center on the outskirts of town. The trails were so wet and muddy, we both had to throw away our tennis shoes when we got back home!

We took only one road trip to the small town of Vandalia, which was the state capital for a brief time in history. We planned on spending the afternoon walking around town and exploring all the small town businesses. When we arrived we found a downtown that was one block long, and had about three businesses open. Needless to stay, our “afternoon” outing turned out to be a 15 minute pit stop. I was so discouraged after that daytrip, I didn’t suggest we go see any other sights for the rest of our Effingham stay.

 

The weather was cold and miserable while we were in Effingham, so we only got to have two campfires outside. Repeat after me: "cabin fever".

The weather was cold and miserable while we were in Effingham, so we only got to have two campfires outside. Repeat after me: “cabin fever”.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Even though we were alone in a strange location, I was not inclined to skimp on our turkey day dinner. Thank goodness Mike is willing to eat leftovers for days on end.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Even though we were alone in a strange location, I was not inclined to skimp on our turkey day dinner. Thank goodness Mike is willing to eat leftovers for days on end.

Our neighborhood geese enjoying an icy Thanksgiving morning.

Our neighborhood geese enjoying an icy Thanksgiving morning.

Thanksgiving morning at our campground.

Thanksgiving morning at our campground.

It snowed most of the night before thanksgiving.

It snowed most of the night before thanksgiving.

Our campground was on a little lake on the outskirts of Effingham. The sunrises and sunsets were very peaceful.

Our campground was on a little lake on the outskirts of Effingham. The sunrises and sunsets were very peaceful.

Most of the people who stayed at Camp Lakewood drove in at dusk and stayed one night while en route to another destination. The place was basically empty by 9:00 in the mornings until new folks began to arrive around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoons. Since we were there for the long duration of two weeks, the campground manager gave us the 'best' spot. Not much to look at, but the building beside us ended up blocking lots of wind. Actually, the campground had 80% of its water hook-ups turned off for winter... so with what was available, this spot did turn out to be a good one.

Most of the people who stayed at Camp Lakewood drove in at dusk and stayed one night while en route to another destination. The place was basically empty by 9:00 in the mornings until new folks began to arrive around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoons. Since we were there for the long duration of two weeks, the campground manager gave us the ‘best’ spot. Not much to look at, but the building beside us ended up blocking lots of wind. Actually, the campground had 80% of its water hook-ups turned off for winter… so with what was available, this spot did turn out to be a good one.

After we FINALLY finished eating our Thanksgiving leftovers, Mike made fried chicken for dinner. He makes the best fried chicken - which is unfortunate for my thighs.

After we FINALLY finished eating our Thanksgiving leftovers, Mike made fried chicken for dinner. He makes the best fried chicken – which is unfortunate for my thighs.

Since we were cooped up in our warm and dry house during most of our stay, Cessna watched lots of Cesar the Dog Whisper on television.

Since we were cooped up in our warm and dry house during most of our stay, Cessna watched lots of Cesar the Dog Whisperer on television.

 

 

Indiana Part II: Columbus

Even though we spent a full month in Bluffton, we decided to make a another stop in the southern part of the Hoosier State, and spent a week in Columbus. We stayed at a quiet campground on I-65 which was south of Indianapolis, north of Louisville, and west of Cincinnati (in The Midwest Triangle).

A polar plunge was in the forecast and we were about to find ourselves in the middle of ‘snow-vember’. Since there was a good chance we would be hibernating at the end of our week, we braved the extra-cold-but-at-least-dry weather on the front end of our visit and got to as many attractions in the area before the roads  became too much of a nightmare.

Since we were staying in Columbus, the downtown of that interesting community was first on our list. Although Columbus is a small town within America’s heartland, it has a few advantages that set it apart from most all other agricultural communities – anywhere. First of all, it is the global headquarters for Cummins, Inc. The same engine that powers our Monaco. When a world-wide company is based in a small town of 45,000, it is a good bet that the local economy is strong and thriving. Secondly, because the late J. Irwin Miller, former Cummins chairman and philanthropist, was part of the city’s leadership in the 1960’s – big dreams and goals were lined out in a vision that would help Columbus become ‘the very best community of its size in the country’.

Fifty years later, Columbus is ranked sixth in the nation for Innovative Architecture. It has been recognized as one of the 100 Best Small Art Towns in America, one of America’s Safest Cities, one of the Best Places to Live and Launch a Business, AND one of the top Historical Places in the World. Everywhere you look you see municipal buildings, private properties, gardens, sculptures and other attractions designed by world-class creators like I.M. Pei, Dale Chihuly, Robert Venturi, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and many more.The most interesting thing to me about the collection of world-class architecture is that the predominately modern designs are all set seamlessly within the backdrop of historical Empire and Victorian styles.

There were snow flurries dancing through the air the entire time we walked around the streets of downtown, but nothing was sticking to the ground and we were grateful. After the dogs were satisfied with their outing, we put them in the warm car parked in a public garage, and went to get a cup of hot chocolate at the famous Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor – which opened its doors for business in the same building in 1900. We also stopped into a local historic brewery and pub to grab an early dinner before heading back to our campsite.

The next day we visited Nashville and Bloomington. Nashville is a tiny little artist colony located in the Blue Hills of Brown County. It was about a 30 minute drive west from our campground. The little town was full of art galleries and American craft boutiques. We stopped there for a late breakfast, and then walked through some shops on the way back to our car. After our bellies were too full, we continued driving west for another half-hour until we got to Bloomington. Since we like to visit university campuses, we found a parking garage in the middle of Indiana University and walked the dogs throughout the beautiful grounds filled with elegant limestone buildings. We also wandered around the downtown square before returning to the car.

Our last outing from this stop was to Indianapolis. Mike found a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurant in the ‘little Mexico’ section of town called The Tamale Place. We drove there first and had a yummy lunch of nachos, tamales, chips, salsa, rice, and black beans. After we were stuffed (again), we drove into downtown Indy and parked near the White River State Park. It was game day for the Colts on this Sunday afternoon, and our parking lot was starting to fill up with tailgate parties. Once again, we walked the dogs through the streets of downtown to see the important spots like the iconic War Memorial, the State Capitol Building, and Lucas Oil Stadium. As our walk was coming to an end, it started to snow. We took that as our cue to get back home before the roads became icy and treacherous.

The snow kept coming down for about 12 hours, and we woke up the next morning to a winter wonderland. The only problem with the pretty snow covering is that Mike acquires even more chores to tackle as the white stuff piles up. He spent most of the morning up on the roof shoveling snow and ice before all the  extra wet weight found some obscure crevice and started melting to the inside of our rig. He is an ace at preventative maintenance. He also wrestled with our water hose connection where we hooked into the campground’s utilities. It is a bit of a challenge to keep water running in an outdoor hose when the temperature stays in the 20’s for days on end! Our water connection was completely frozen one morning, so we just disconnected from that source and switched to our fresh water holding tank. It was still flowing, and we were grateful for our ‘back-up system’.

The first snow ever for The Monaco was last year in South Carolina. Here is a shot of the coach's first snow of the SEASON. I have a feeling we are going to see more of the white stuff this winter than we did last year.

The first snow ever for The Monaco was last year in South Carolina. Here is a shot of the coach’s first snow of the SEASON. I have a feeling we are going to see more of the white stuff this winter than we did last year.

The snow-kissed nature trail at our campground.

The snow-kissed nature trail at our campground.

cold

cold

Walking through the state park that is adjacent to downtown Indianapolis.

Walking through the state park that is adjacent to downtown Indianapolis.

Lucas Oil Stadium is where the Colts play. Snow was forecast during the game, but they have a roof that closes.

Lucas Oil Stadium is where the Colts play. Snow was forecast during the game, but they have a roof that closes.

Indiana State Capitol Building

Indiana State Capitol Building

The iconic round-a-bout of Indianapolis.

The iconic round-a-bout of Indianapolis.

Can you spot Mike in our campfire area?

Can you spot Mike in our campfire area?

The courthouse square in Bloomington.

The courthouse square in Bloomington.

The main entrance to Indiana University.

The main entrance to Indiana University.

The buildings on the IU campus are all built with beautiful limestone from quarries in the area.

The buildings on the IU campus are all built with beautiful limestone from quarries in the area.

I didn't expect the campus buildings at IU to be so ornate and 'formal'.

I didn’t expect the campus buildings at IU to be so ornate and ‘formal’.

Nashville, Indiana. Artist mecca. I dragged Mike into a few shops on the way to our car after breakfast. Let's see... I found some beautiful hand- carved and hand- painted Christmas ornaments for $45 each, which I did not purchase. I also found a fantastic iron and reclaimed wood dining room table with matching chairs - although I have no dining room. I could have wandered through every shop and gallery for the rest of the day, but my hubby was not so keen on that idea. Mike was very excited to hear me say "ok, let's go".

Nashville, Indiana. Artist mecca. I dragged Mike into a few shops on the way to our car after breakfast. Let’s see… I found some beautiful hand- carved and hand- painted Christmas ornaments for $45 each, which I did not purchase. I also found a fantastic iron and reclaimed wood dining room table with matching chairs – although I have no dining room. I could have wandered through every shop and gallery for the rest of the day, but my hubby was not so keen on that idea. Mike was very excited to hear me say “ok, let’s go”.

Breakfast selfie.

Breakfast selfie.

We originally drove to Nashville to eat at the renowned Nashville House Restaurant because my friend, Debbie, told me we needed to have some of their famous fried biscuits. Unfortunately for us, we got to town too early and they weren't open yet. We settled for a place next door instead. It was a shrine to Bobby Knight disguised as a sandwich shop. Although I do not care for Bobby Knight, the food was quite good and filling. And no one scowled or yelled at us while we were there.

We originally drove to Nashville to eat at the renowned Nashville House Restaurant because my friend, Debbie, told me we needed to have some of their famous fried biscuits. Unfortunately for us, we got to town too early and they weren’t open yet. We settled for a place next door instead. It was a shrine to Bobby Knight disguised as a sandwich shop. Although I do not care for Bobby Knight, the food was quite good and filling. And no one scowled or yelled at us while we were there.

The elderly lady that took this picture of me at the historic 1900's Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlour used to hang out there as a teenager.

The elderly lady that took this picture of me at the historic 1900’s Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlour used to hang out there as a teenager.

Columbus is a very interesting city with a large collection of public art - in the form of sculptures AND buildings.

Columbus is a very interesting city with a large collection of public art – in the form of sculptures AND buildings.

The traditional 1874 courthouse square in Columbus is across the street from a huge building designed by the famous architect I.M. Pei. The contrast doesn't seem like it would work, but it does.

The traditional 1874 courthouse square in Columbus is across the street from a huge building designed by the famous architect I.M. Pei. The contrast doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does.

 

Cummins Global Headquarters

Cummins Global Headquarters

 

Ohio Part II: Oregonia

Our second and last stop in The Buckeye State was for two weeks in Oregonia. The next biggest town was Lebanon. We were just off of I-71, about 40 miles northeast of Cincinnati, 40 miles south of Dayton, and 60 miles southwest of Columbus. It was a nice and quiet park called the Olive Branch Campground. It was a convenient location from which to take daytrips to some of the more prominent cities in the state.

We went to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton to visit the USAF National Museum. We spent a big part of the day wandering through three giant hangers that showcased every sort of Air Force related aircraft and other relevant memorabilia. It was a very impressive and comprehensive museum.

Another day we drove into the belly of Cincinnati. After I took us to skid row (see comments from one of the photos below), we got back in the car and drove toward the river where the Bengals Stadium and the Reds Ballpark are located within about one block of each other. It had started raining by then, so we left the dogs bundled in the warm dry car in a parking garage, and had an early dinner at a great brewpub. Unbeknown to us, the Bengals were playing a home game on Thursday Night Football, so we exited downtown and drove back home before thousands of fans descended upon the city center.

Our last big daytrip was to Columbus. We got to the State Capitol at the exact time that the Veteran’s Day Parade had shut down most of the principal thoroughfares of downtown. That means we saw the central business district from the inside of the car while in a traffic jam of diverted traffic. When we finally found our way out of the parade traffic maze, we parked in a garage near Ohio State University, and got out to walk around the campus. After seeing another pretty American college campus, we explored an adjoining historic district and ended up in a section of town called Short North. After a chilly drink at a place with a patio (to accommodate Piper and Cessna), we walked back to the car and drove to the Germantown Neighborhood. Dinner was at The Thurman Café.

The rest of our time at this stop was visiting smaller towns like Lebanon, walking the dogs at Little Miami Trail, visiting the Caesar Lake State Park, and doing little home improvement projects. I also spent a few hours at Kohl’s one afternoon – buying some warm sweaters and furry boots to get me through the winter!

The road into our campground was a good place to walk the dogs every morning.

The road into our campground was a good place to walk the dogs every morning.

We stayed next to the Little Miami River. I wish we would have been there during a warmer month. It would have been fun to rent a canoe from this outfitter down the road from our campground.

We stayed next to the Little Miami River. I wish we would have been there during a warmer month. It would have been fun to rent a canoe from this outfitter down the road from our campground.

The Little Miami River.

The Little Miami River.

When we visited Columbus, we stopped for dinner at The Thurman Café in Germantown. The place was featured on the Food Network's Man vs. Food. They are famous for their 2lb burger called the Thurmanator. The kids next to us at the bar ordered one and split it. I ordered giant chicken wings, and Mike had a measly 3/4 pound burger. We had leftovers.

When we visited Columbus, we stopped for dinner at The Thurman Café in Germantown. The place was featured on the Food Network’s Man vs. Food. They are famous for their 2lb burger called the Thurmanator. The kids next to us at the bar ordered one and split it. I ordered giant chicken wings, and Mike had a measly 3/4 pound burger. We had leftovers.

I am aware that it is unlawful to deface American currency, but that hasn't stopped us from taping a few $1 bills to the walls of various establishments. This time we left one at The Thurman Café. I remember we left other ones at bars in Rhode Island and Pensacola. Oh yeah, and I left my bra taped to the wall at the Floribama!

I am aware that it is unlawful to deface American currency, but that hasn’t stopped us from taping a few $1 bills to the walls of various establishments. This time we left one at The Thurman Café. I remember we left other ones at bars in Rhode Island and Pensacola. Oh yeah, and I left my bra taped to the wall at the Floribama!

Selfie from Moerlein Lager House in downtown Cincy.

Selfie from Moerlein Lager House in downtown Cincy.

We had a wonderful view of this iconic Cincinnati bridge during our happy hour at the brewpub.

We had a wonderful view of this iconic Cincinnati bridge during our happy hour at the brewpub.

One neat thing (next to the fabulous architecture) about our tour of Over-the-Rhine was spotting the giant murals on the sides of buildings.

One neat thing (next to the fabulous architecture) about our tour of Over-the-Rhine was spotting the giant murals on the sides of buildings.

When I researched things to do in Cincinnati, I learned about the neighborhood called Over-the-Rhine, sometimes shortened to OTR. It is believed to be the largest, most intact urban historic district in the United States. Aside from that distinction, it also It contains the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the United States, I planned to spend the whole day walking around and gawking at most of the 943 contributing buildings. Mike and the dogs were willing to come with me on my long urban jaunt. After we found the district and parked our car, we discovered the area was still 'up and coming'... Let's just say I didn't necessarily fear for my life because Piper and Cessna were with us. The heroin addicts that lined the sidewalk would surely stay clear of targets with two 70+ pound dogs in tow.

When I researched things to do in Cincinnati, I learned about the neighborhood called Over-the-Rhine, sometimes shortened to OTR. It is believed to be the largest, most intact urban historic district in the United States. Aside from that distinction, it also contains the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the United States. I planned to spend the whole day walking around and gawking at most of the 943 contributing buildings. Mike and the dogs were willing to come with me on my long urban jaunt. After we found the district and parked our car, we discovered the area was still ‘up and coming’… Let’s just say I didn’t necessarily fear for my life because Piper and Cessna were with us. The heroin addicts that lined the sidewalk would surely stay clear of targets with two 70+ pound dogs in tow.

The Music Hall in Cincinnati is a spectacular building.

The Music Hall in Cincinnati is a spectacular building.

It got a little cold and rainy during our time near Lebanon, so I spent a few hours tweaking the organization of my closet. I'm easily entertained.

It got a little cold and rainy during our time near Lebanon, so I spent a few hours tweaking the organization of my closet. I’m easily entertained.

The Little Miami Scenic River Trail is the fourth longest paved rail trail in the U.S., running 68.5 miles though five southwestern counties in the state of Ohio. We saw about 10 miles of it on dog walks. We parked at different points along the trail on each walk, so we got to see different portions every time.

The Little Miami Scenic River Trail is the fourth longest paved rail trail in the U.S., running 68.5 miles though five southwestern counties in the state of Ohio. We saw about 10 miles of it on dog walks. We parked at different points along the trail on each walk, so we got to see different portions every time.

This carrier took off over us as we were leaving Wright-Patterson Air Force Base after visiting the museum there.

This carrier took off over us as we were leaving Wright-Patterson Air Force Base after visiting the museum there.

One of the wonderful displays at the National Museum of the Air Force.

One of the wonderful displays at the National Museum of the Air Force.

Sputnik, the first satellite.

Sputnik, the first satellite.

Blackbird.

Blackbird. Fast and Invisible.

Iron Mike. I found this story funny. The suit of armor lived on a certain base (I can't remember which one), and it would get kidnapped frequently. Iron Mike would randomly show up at various bases across the GLOBE, and the folks from his home base always had to figure out how to retrieve him.

Iron Mike. I found this story funny. The suit of armor lived on a certain base (I can’t remember which one), and it would get kidnapped frequently. Iron Mike would randomly show up at various bases across the GLOBE, and the folks from his home base always had to figure out how to retrieve him.

Checking out the cockpit of an F-16.

Checking out the cockpit of an F-16.

This pilot named his plane after his wife and three daughters.

This pilot named his plane after his wife and three daughters.

Someone learning how to paraglide on the side of the dam at Caesar Lake State Park.

Someone learning how to paraglide on the side of the dam at Caesar Lake State Park.

Mike's selfie from a Sunday afternoon walk.

Mike’s selfie from a Sunday afternoon walk.

We watched this plane and this glider 'play' around during that same Sunday walk.

We watched this plane and this glider ‘play’ around during that same Sunday walk.

A beautiful heartland farm along the Little Miami River Trail.

A beautiful heartland farm along the Little Miami River Trail.

 

Indiana Part I: Bluffton

Mike does most of the research and selections for our campground locations. I do most of the research for our daytrips and outings once we get to our new locations. We have learned to divide up the ‘chores’, so neither of us gets too bogged down with the time it takes to line up travel plans. We don’t have a long and detailed itinerary planned for The Lower 48 in 48 Tour, which is a little counter-intuitive for the organizer in my brain… but I’ve learned to go with it.

With regard to where we move along our route from stop to stop, the process is not too complicated. We usually have a brief discussion about the general direction and distance we would like to shoot for on our next leg of the journey. Mike takes that basic information and typically starts by looking at a map of campgrounds on a website called www.allstays.com.  He starts whittling down the options after looking at things like price (our goal is between $30 and $40 per night), hook-ups, online reviews, and satellite photos. We learned that all parks are not open year -around, so the search gets a little more tough in the winter months when some places are closed for the season. Once he finds a workable option, he calls for the reservation and then gives me the details. I don’t often ask too many questions until the decision is complete.

When I left Michigan to fly to Oregon for my uncle’s funeral, the plans for our next stop had not yet been finalized… I knew we were planning to go to Indiana, but I was still waiting to find out where that would actually be.  Mike picked me up at the airport in Grand Rapids upon my return, and we decided to go have dinner to catch up on the last five days. When I asked if he had made our next reservation in The Hoosier State, I was slightly surprised that his first selection criteria for this location had been the proximity to a reputable hospital and medical community. As he was explaining to me how the hospital was about 45 minutes from the campground, I remember wondering why there had been no discussion of any hospital services at any other time we had discussed Indiana.

It turns out that a growth had been discovered on Mike’s left thyroid back in 2011 before The Martins American Adventure had ever commenced. He had a biopsy done at that time and, when the results came back negative for cancer, he chose to ignore the issue. Fast forward to three year later, and the growth was becoming too large to ignore. While I was away on my trip, he decided that he was going to see a doctor at our next stop in Fort Wayne and (if necessary) schedule surgery. I had been suggesting he go see a doctor about his neck for several months, but Mike does not listen to my advice. He waited until I went out of town and then had the brilliant idea all by himself to go see a doctor. Typical. I call it Reverse-Idea-Origination-Syndrome. This is how it works: I have an idea. I tell it to Mike.  He puts it in the back of his brain for a week or two (or a few years). One day it miraculously pops to the forefront of his thoughts and he magically thinks he thought of it all by himself. Then he suggests his brilliant idea to me. I praise him for being so smart, creative, blah, blah. We proceed with the plan.

Oh well, I don’t care how we got there, I was just happy to learn that the Bluffton/ South Fort Wayne KOA would be open until October 31st. Mike said he thought that would be enough time to get taken care of and healed back up before we moved again.

We arrived on a Wednesday at the beginning of October. Mike had his first appointment with Dr. Herr at Ft. Wayne ENT on Friday morning. Friday afternoon he had an ultra sound, and the following Thursday we were back at the doctor’s office for results. Dr. Herr confirmed the thing was BIG and needed to come out. The next step was a biopsy on the following morning. We waited about a week for those results to come back. Thank goodness they were negative – just like the 2011 report. Now Dr. Herr knew he would be doing a routine thyroid operation and not cancer surgery. We were all relieved for that. Mike went in a few days after that for the surgery, and then had one -week recovery time before it was time to travel again.

In between doctor visits we mainly just watched the fall colors transform the landscape. We walked the dogs on several hike and bike trails throughout the region, cooked, read books, and enjoyed as many campfires as possible. It was a low key stop that turned out to be somewhat unexpected but very successful.

After I got Mike home and situated on the day of his surgery, my work was done. The dogs took over from there, and made sure he took his pills and consumed lots of water. They also regularly inspected his bandages to make sure he was healing properly.

After I got Mike home and situated on the day of his surgery, my work was done. The dogs took over from there, and made sure he took his pills and consumed lots of water. They also regularly inspected his bandages to make sure he was healing properly.

Geese - Mike's highlight of our walk in downtown Fort Wayne.

Geese – Mike’s highlight of our walk in downtown Fort Wayne.

Our campground was surrounded by soy bean fields on three sides.

Our campground was surrounded by soy bean fields on three sides.

Corn or soybeans, take your pick. That was the vista from wherever we were standing in Northeastern Indiana.

Corn or soybeans, take your pick. That was the vista from wherever we were standing in Northeastern Indiana.

There was a patch of woods behind our campground, before the soybean fields started. I found a little path that ran from one end to the other.

There was a patch of woods behind our campground, before the soybean fields started. I found a little path that ran from one end to the other.

Yellow

Yellow

After the leaves finished turning, the mornings became a little frosty.

After the leaves finished turning, the mornings became a little frosty.

One good thing about the dogs is that they are ready to start their day at sunrise. I can't say I'm ever elated to get out of my cozy bed at dawn, but then I get to see things like this ... and the day is off to a good start.

One good thing about the dogs is that they are ready to start their day at sunrise. I can’t say I’m ever elated to get out of my cozy bed at dawn, but then I get to see things like this … and the day is off to a good start.

Red

Red

Orange

Orange

Fort Wayne is situated at the confluence of three rivers - the St. Joseph River, St. Marys River, and Maumee River. This was a pretty municipal park along the St. Mary's River Hike & Bike Trail.

Fort Wayne is situated at the confluence of three rivers – the St. Joseph River, St. Marys River, and Maumee River. This was a pretty municipal park along the St. Mary’s River Hike & Bike Trail.

There was a nice trail system along the rivers throughout Fort Wayne.

There was a nice trail system along the rivers throughout Fort Wayne.

This KOA had a dog park where Piper and Cessna got lots of play time.

This KOA had a dog park where Piper and Cessna got lots of play time.

Mike thought about getting a license for some dove hunting on public lands, but then his surgery got in the way. We spent one Saturday driving throughout the county looking at sunflower fields and doing recon. It was from this ridge looking out over a lake that the fall colors were so invigorating for the first time during our stay. After that day, it seemed like every tree simultaneously changed to a shade of orange, red, or yellow.

Mike thought about getting a license for some dove hunting on public lands, but then his surgery got in the way. We spent one Saturday driving throughout the county looking at sunflower fields and doing recon. It was from this ridge looking out over a lake that the fall colors were so invigorating for the first time during our stay. After that day, it seemed like every tree simultaneously changed to a shade of orange, red, or yellow.

The Wabash River ran through the little town of Bluffton, so we had a nice trail on which to walk the dogs.

The Wabash River ran through the little town of Bluffton, so we had a nice trail on which to walk the dogs.

Mike wanted to get the oil changed in the Monaco before winter. He picked a day when the weather forecast was good and scheduled an appointment at a Cummins shop in Fort Wayne. When the time came, he drove the coach into town while I waited back at our camp with Piper, Cessna and my Kindle.

Mike wanted to get the oil changed in the Monaco before winter. He picked a day when the weather forecast was good and scheduled an appointment at a Cummins shop in Fort Wayne. When the time came, he drove the coach into town while I waited back at our camp with Piper, Cessna and my Kindle.

By the time we were ready to go, the leaves on the trees had completed their metamorphosis, and were mostly gone from the trees.

By the time we were ready to go, the leaves on the trees had completed their metamorphosis, and were mostly gone from the trees.

Sunset through the trees

Sunset through the trees

You can see the patch of woods at the far end of the campground.

You can see the patch of woods at the far end of the campground.

We had the place to ourselves the whole time we were in Bluffton. The campground got a little busier on the weekends, but was never crowded.

We had the place to ourselves the whole time we were in Bluffton. The campground got a little busier on the weekends, but was never crowded.

When we arrived, everything was still green.

When we arrived, everything was still green.

 

Michigan Part II: South Haven

Our second stop in Michigan was South Haven, a charming historic resort community on Lake Michigan at the southwestern edge of the state. We were about an hour south of Grand Rapids, about 30 minutes west of Kalamazoo, and about an hour north of South Bend, Indiana. The RV Park where we stayed was tiny, but in a perfect location. We were at the edge of Kal-Haven State Park, which is a 33 mile linear hiking and biking trail between South Haven and Kalamazoo. We were also within a short walking distance of the downtown area.

I think this was one of my favorite stops from our entire trip. There was so much to do and see, without ever getting in the car. The weather was nearly perfect every day with crisp temperatures and clear skies. The campground was safe and quiet. We were surrounded by beaches and boats. There were plenty of places for long dog walks. What more could you ask for?

We drove to South Bend one afternoon and explored the Notre Dame campus (which was beautiful). We also visited Warren Dunes State Park to the south of us. But mostly, we just enjoyed the quaint community of South Haven. We were here for two weeks, and I’m sad to say my Uncle Wayne lost his 15-year battle with cancer while at this location. I flew from Grand Rapids to Portland, Oregon for 5-days to attend the funeral and visit with family while Mike remained with the dogs and the Monaco.

Kal-Haven State Park Trail is a 33 mile trail between South Haven and Kalamazoo. With a trail like that outside of our back door, you can correctly assume the dogs got good exercise on this stop.

Kal-Haven State Park Trail is a 33 mile trail between South Haven and Kalamazoo. With a trail like that outside of our back door, you can correctly assume the dogs got good exercise on this stop.

The local boating community heads out to Lake Michigan to enjoy a wonderful sunset.

The local boating community heads out to Lake Michigan to enjoy a wonderful sunset.

This is a full view of our entire park. It was tiny, but in a terrific location.

This is a full view of our entire park. It was tiny, but in a terrific location.

Mike tried to fish in the Black River. This is the only thing he caught.

Mike tried to fish in the Black River. This is the only thing he caught.

I honestly did not expect to be taking long walks on the beach when we booked our reservation in South Haven.

I honestly did not expect to be taking long walks on the beach when we booked our reservation in South Haven.

When we weren't walking along the Kal-Haven Trail, our daily treks were to the Michigan Shore.

When we weren’t walking along the Kal-Haven Trail, our daily treks were to the Lake Michigan shore.

My cousin, Kevin, suggested we visit Warren Dunes State Park. Giant sand dunes at the lake shore is another thing I did not expect to see during our time in Michigan.

My cousin, Kevin, suggested we visit Warren Dunes State Park. Giant sand dunes at the lake shore is another thing I did not expect to see during our time in Michigan.

Those who know me well understand that I will never miss an opportunity to light a candle in a church setting. When we walked up to the Grotto on the Notre Dame campus, I asked Mike to hand over his entire wallet. (For the benefit of non-catholics... a small donation is usually recommended for each candle that is lit).

Those who know me well understand that I will never miss an opportunity to light a candle in a church setting. When we walked up to the Grotto on the Notre Dame campus, I asked Mike to hand over his entire wallet. (For the benefit of non-Catholics… a small donation is usually recommended for each candle that is lit).

 

A full view of the Grotto.

A full view of the Grotto.

Inside the Basilica at Notre Dame. One of the most beautiful churches I have been in... anywhere, ever.

Inside the Basilica at Notre Dame. One of the most beautiful churches I have been in… anywhere, ever.

Outside the Basilica. The sign by the door states that mass is scheduled 30 minutes after the end of each home game.

Outside the Basilica. The sign by the door states that mass is scheduled 30 minutes after the end of each home game. I thought that was sort of humorous.

The famous golden dome.

The famous golden dome.

I wish I would have had the chance to attend Mass inside this spectacular structure.

I wish I would have had the chance to attend Mass inside this spectacular structure.

An altar to Mother Mary inside the same church.

An altar to Mother Mary inside the same church.

This is the tunnel that the athletes run through before every Notre Dame home game. (I enjoyed my time in the Basilica, and Mike really liked seeing the stadium).

This is the tunnel that the athletes run through before every Notre Dame home game. (I enjoyed my time in the Basilica, and Mike really liked seeing the stadium).

The Michigan Theater is a working theater in downtown South Haven. I went to see a movie there one Saturday while Mike was on a college football overload. Can you believe I only paid $7 for popcorn, a coke, AND a ticket to a first-run movie!

The Michigan Theater is a working theater in downtown South Haven. I went to see a movie there one Saturday while Mike was on a college football overload. Can you believe I only paid $7 for popcorn, a coke, AND a ticket to a first-run movie!

It is always a good day when we get to have a fire during happy hour.

It is always a good day when we get to have a fire during happy hour.

We found a little dive bar on the water for drinks and lunch one warm and sunny Friday afternoon. The draw bridge was very active with boats passing through every few minutes.

We found a little dive bar on the water for drinks and lunch one warm and sunny Friday afternoon. The draw bridge was very active with boats passing through every few minutes.

Downtown South Haven was so cute. The area was full of busy restaurants, shops, salons, and other businesses.

Downtown South Haven was so cute. The area was full of busy restaurants, shops, salons, and other businesses.

Waterfront selfie.

Waterfront selfie.

The lighthouse where the Black River dumps into Lake Michigan.

The lighthouse where the Black River empties into Lake Michigan.

I mentioned our campground was literally at the edge of the Kal-Haven Trail. This was the first view we got to see each day when we took the dogs on their morning walk. This is also the spot where Mike went fishing.

I mentioned our campground was literally at the edge of the Kal-Haven Trail. This was the first view we got to see each day when we took the dogs on their morning walk. This is also the spot where Mike went fishing.

Michigan Part I: Durand

Our first stop here was near Flint, and about an hour east of Lansing, right on I-69. If we had all the time in the world, we would have done a different tour of Michigan. Many locals recommended, and I would concur, we should have done a trip along the outer boundaries of the entire hand. There was not enough time. Instead, our first introduction to the Great Lake State was a stint just under the thumb.

Our camp was awesome. We stayed in the RV section of a little weekend resort where people owned their tiny spot. The pad was concrete. The surrounding grass was lush and manicured. The water, sewer and electricity worked with no problems. There was no mud. Mike could play golf on the adjoining 9-hole golf course for $7. Little lakes dotted the interior of the park, providing a peaceful vista for long walks along the bordering asphalt paths.

The city of Flint was a bit depressed, and we never made it to Lansing. However, we did take an overnight daytrip up to the top of the hand to visit Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island. The four-hour trip was well worth the time and effort. I am putting Mackinac Island on the list of places to which we will return for a full-fledged extended vacation in the future.

The little 9-hole golf course surrounding our camp spot was right on an interstate Highway, but we didn't mind when looking at the peaceful view.

The little 9-hole golf course surrounding our camp spot was right on an interstate Highway, but we didn’t mind when looking at the peaceful view.

The dogs wanted to know more about this game of 'golf'. Mike played 18 holes one day, and sent me a text during his second loop around the nine holes... asked if the dogs and I wanted to join him. We followed him back to the clubhouse - all the while waiting for some sort of official-looking person to jump out and kick us off. The opposite occurred, everyone we encountered laughed and waved. Piper and Cessna think golf is great!

The dogs wanted to know more about this game of golf. Mike played 18 holes one day, and sent me a text during his second loop around the nine holes… asked if the dogs and I wanted to join him. We followed him back to the clubhouse – all the while waiting for some sort of official-looking person to jump out and kick us off. The opposite occurred, everyone we encountered laughed and waved. Piper and Cessna think golf is great!

I've previously mentioned Mike's fascination with geese.

I’ve previously mentioned Mike’s fascination with geese.

A view from a section of the walking path within our park.

A view from a section of the walking path within our park.

Private ponds within our park meant Mike didn't even need to get a Michigan fishing license on this stop.

Private ponds within our park meant Mike didn’t even need to get a Michigan fishing license on this stop.

The dogs were really ready to get out of the car after the four hours it took to drive to the top of the mitten, but they didn't complain.

The dogs were really ready to get out of the car after the four hours it took to drive to the top of the mitten, but they didn’t complain.

Good morning Lake Huron.

Good morning Lake Huron.

Our little hotel of beach cottages had a community fire pit on the beach... of which you can be sure we took full advantage!

Our little hotel of beach cottages had a community fire pit on the beach… of which you can be sure we took full advantage!

The Mackinac Bridge is currently the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world.

The Mackinac Bridge is currently the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world.

Our little cottage in Mackinaw City. The interior was quite dated. However, it was clean, they allowed 2 big dogs, and we were located ON the lake shore. Perfect for an overnight stay.

Our little cottage in Mackinaw City. The interior was quite dated. However, it was clean, they allowed 2 big dogs, and we were located ON the lake shore. Perfect for an overnight stay.

I continue to try and convince Mike we could do some sort of American adventure on a boat after we finish the Lower 48 in 48 Tour. This is the sort of dwelling I have in mind... hahahahahahahah.

I continue to try and convince Mike we could do some sort of American adventure on a boat after we finish the Lower 48 in 48 Tour. This is the sort of dwelling I have in mind… a girl can dream.

 

No cars on Mackinac Island. Only horses and bikes. So charming.

No cars on Mackinac Island. Only horses and bikes. So charming.

The historic for on Mackinac Island. The cannons were fired regularly, which Cessna didn't like so much.

The historic fort on Mackinac Island. The cannons were fired regularly, which Cessna didn’t like so much.

The local taxi on Mackinac Island. I was wishing the ferry would suddenly go on strike and we might just be stuck there - indefinitely.

The local taxi on Mackinac Island. I was wishing the ferry would suddenly go on strike and we might just be stuck there – indefinitely.

Sainte Anne Church, 1670. The Parish is the nation's oldest dedicated to St. Anne, and maintains baptismal records dating from April 1695. Spectacular.

Sainte Anne Church, 1670. The Parish is the nation’s oldest dedicated to St. Anne, and maintains baptismal records dating from April 1695. Spectacular.

We had a cocktail here on the patio of the Hotel Iroquois while we waited for the ferry that would return us to the mainland.

We had a cocktail here on the patio of the Hotel Iroquois while we waited for the ferry that would return us to the mainland.

The view of Mackinac Island as we approached from the ferry.

The view of Mackinac Island as we approached from the ferry.

The famous bridge, Big Mac.

The famous bridge, Big Mac.

Ferry selfie.

Ferry selfie.

Our spot at Holiday Shores Resort Campground. We were so excited for a concrete pad and thick grass. No mud!

Our spot at Holiday Shores Resort Campground. We were so excited for a concrete pad and thick grass. No mud!

A typical view from one of our daily walks within the campground.

A typical view from one of our daily walks within the campground.

Ohio Part I: Streetsboro

Our first stop in Ohio was between Cleveland and Akron in a small town called Streetsboro. We stayed at a KOA this time, and it turned out to be a nice campground. We visited Cleveland and Akron during a couple of daytrips. I enjoyed Cleveland very much during the two times we explored the city. It had a small town feel with all the big city amenities. It seemed to be clean, safe, and friendly. We also tried to look around downtown Akron, but we were there on a rainy Saturday, and really only got a glimpse from inside the moving car. From this location we drove in one direction to see to see Kent State, and in the opposite direction to see Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was a good stop and a good introduction into The Buckeye State.

The large tent beside the food court at the Cleveland Octoberfest (in August) featured a large oompah band that played non-stop. I think they could have used a slightly larger stage.

The large tent beside the food court at the Cleveland Octoberfest (in August) featured a large oompah band that played non-stop. I think they could have used a slightly larger stage.

What was the primary attraction of the Octoberfest event? Why, Dachshund races of course! No losers, only wieners.

What was the primary attraction of the Octoberfest event? Why, Dachshund races of course! No losers, only wieners.

The Cayahoga Valley National Park features a scenic hike and bike path that runs along the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail, between Cleveland and Akron. It was one of the nation's first 'urban' national parks. We took the dogs for a scenic walk one Friday afternoon. This spot was only about 15 minutes from our KOA location.

The Cayahoga Valley National Park features a scenic hike and bike path that runs along the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail, between Cleveland and Akron. It was one of the nation’s first ‘urban’ national parks. We took the dogs for a scenic walk one Friday afternoon. This spot was only about 15 minutes from our KOA location.

While we were at the West Side Market, we bought some authentic Cleveland Brats from one of the meat vendors. (The flavoring and spices were different than a traditional brat). I also bought some peppers and onions from one of the produce vendors. It all tasted delicious when dinner was served!

While we were at the West Side Market, we bought some authentic Cleveland Brats from one of the meat vendors. (The flavoring and spices were different than a traditional brat). I also bought some peppers and onions from one of the produce vendors. It all tasted delicious when dinner was served!

Here is a view from the back of our spot. The sites were fairly large and spacious at this KOA. They had a nice pool and a general store that sold ice cream! I think it was certainly one of the cleanest and well maintained KOA's that we have stayed in thus far.

Here is a view from the back of our spot. The sites were fairly large and spacious at this KOA. They had a nice pool and a general store that sold ice cream! I think it was certainly one of the cleanest and well maintained KOA’s that we have stayed in thus far.

I saw a show about the West Side Market in Cleveland on Food Network just before we arrived at the Streetsboro KOA. It  opened to the public in 1912, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places back in 1973. In 2008, the American Planning Association designated it as one of the "10 Greatest Public Spaces in America". The vendors were fabulous. There was an open-air produce section on one side. On the opposite side was a climate controlled section with vendors specializing in baked goods, spices, meats, dairy products, pasta, olives, tamales, and every other thing you could imagine.

I saw a show about the West Side Market in Cleveland on Food Network just before we arrived at the Streetsboro KOA. It opened to the public in 1912, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places back in 1973. In 2008, the American Planning Association designated it as one of the “10 Greatest Public Spaces in America”. The vendors were fabulous. There was an open-air produce section on one side. On the opposite side was a climate controlled section with vendors specializing in baked goods, spices, meats, dairy products, pasta, olives, tamales, and every other thing you could imagine.

I honestly wandered through the market in a slow daze - probably drooling a bit.

I honestly wandered through the market in a slow daze – probably drooling a bit.

Mike got to go dove hunting when we were in Ohio. He got a three-day license and hunted on public fields that were located about 45 minutes from our camp. He had sold all of his camo gear in our estate sale, so we had to go to Walmart and get some new duds.

Mike got to go dove hunting when we were in Ohio. He got a three-day license and hunted on public fields that were located about 45 minutes from our camp. He had sold all of his camo gear in our estate sale, so we had to go to Walmart and get some new duds.

Downtown Cleveland sits directly on Lake Erie. We had planned to wander around the waterfront for a little bit after we visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but rain was coming. Instead we got back in our car and drove to a great restaurant called Melt Bar & Grilled. The menu featured gargantuan grilled cheese sandwiches of all varieties. I got meatloaf, Mike got pulled pork. We shared a bowl of buffalo chicken soup while it poured down rain outside. Life was good on that lunch date.

Downtown Cleveland sits directly on Lake Erie. We had planned to wander around the waterfront for a little bit after we visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but rain was coming. Instead we got back in our car and drove to a great restaurant called Melt Bar & Grilled. The menu featured gargantuan grilled cheese sandwiches of all varieties. I got meatloaf, Mike got pulled pork. We shared a bowl of buffalo chicken soup while it poured down rain outside. Life was good on that lunch date.

The current rotating exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was about the outdoor music festival. They played a continuous -feed, 18-minute video with various performances of about 25 singers and bands from festivals all over the country.

The current rotating exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was about the outdoor music festival. They played a continuous -feed, 18-minute video with various performances of about 25 singers and bands from festivals all over the country.

It was fun to see an exhibit of Jerry Lee Lewis and remember how lucky we are that we recently got to see him perform live at the Memphis Blues Festival.

It was fun to see an exhibit of Jerry Lee Lewis and remember how lucky we were that we recently got to see him perform live at the Memphis Blues Festival.

It would be extremely easy to spend a full 8 or 10 hours inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - because of all the videos and concert recordings playing on dozens of screens and in several theaters within the building.

It would be extremely easy to spend a full 8 or 10 hours inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – because of all the videos and concert recordings playing on dozens of screens and in several theaters within the building.

The actual Hall of Fame section is a spiraling ramp with signatures of all the inductees flanking the wall. I thought Robert Plant and Phil Spector's signatures were two of the most bizarre. I was also surprised at the neatness and legibility of Stevie Wonder's signature.

The actual Hall of Fame section is a spiraling ramp with signatures of all the inductees flanking the wall. I thought Robert Plant and Phil Spector’s signatures were two of the most bizarre. I was also surprised at the neatness and legibility of Stevie Wonder’s signature.

A row of kiosks within a hallway of the museum had this touch screen with thousands of songs available with one tap. The speakers were in the ceiling of the circular shaped cubbies. I wanted to stand there indefinitely and tap the screen until I had played every song. Mike was not interested in waiting for me to get to the end.

A row of kiosks within a hallway of the museum had this touch screen with thousands of songs available with one tap. The speakers were in the ceiling of the circular shaped cubbies. I wanted to stand there indefinitely and tap the screen until I had played every song. Mike was not interested in waiting for me to get to the end.

Pennsylvania Part III: Titusville

When we left New York, we went back down I-90 South to make one last stop in Pennsylvania. This location was just outside of Titusville, about 1.5 hours south of Erie. We were at the Oil Creek Family Campground adjacent to Oil Creek State Park, at the edge of the Allegheny National Forest. This part of Pennsylvania is known as the Oil Region. We were surprised to learn that it is from this location that the American Oil Industry began.

Since we were near a state park, we spent lots of our time from this location walking the dogs or riding our bikes. We took a tourist train ride from an historic depot in Titusville, and learned lots of good stuff from our docent, Rod. (He was a retired math teacher with a passion for railroad history. He had a great sense of humor and many fun stories to share).

The highlight of MY time near Titusville was when the dogs and I came face to face with a LARGE black bear on an early morning walk. That was exciting. I was wide awake before the sun one morning and decided to take Piper and Cessna on a super long walk to start the day. There was a thin morning fog hanging over the campground, and the sunrise was casting a peach colored glow on everything. The atmosphere was exceptionally still and quiet. The park was full of trailers and tents, but since everyone was still asleep, it seemed like we had the place to ourselves. That’s what the big black bear thought too.

The three us were coming down a wooded lane of seasonal campsites when the dogs alerted to something ‘in the air’. They started sniffing and snorting, pulling at me with their leashes as the adrenaline of wild animals infused their senses. This is normal. I was thinking they smelled a rabbit, a woodchuck, or squirrel. Maybe a deer. Happens all the time when we are in the woods. As I was looking around to see what they had noticed, my eyes focused on a giant animal beside a maintenance shed, about 20 yards in front of us. It was casually staring at us and wasn’t surprised to see us at all. The beast had heard us coming and was curious to see what was around the corner. Not exactly what my foggy brain was expecting to come across in the pre-dawn hours. My first thought was “why would someone put a giant carved statue of a bear here in this maintenance area”?  My next thought was “But, it looks so soft… do they make stuffed animals that big”? I began to snap to  and told myself “No. No, they don’t”. Holy crap, there was a big- ass bear directly in front of us! We were looking at a real life bear, and their was no fencing or plexi-glass window in front of us like at the zoo.

I remembered seeing something about how one should act loud and obnoxious when encountering a black bear. They are supposed to spook and shoo away from all the commotion. Acting loud and obnoxious should not be too hard of a task for me in the least! I yelled and clapped my hands. It just stared at us with a bored expression on its cute face. I was having trouble being scared, even though my instinct told me I should be slightly alarmed. I pleaded with Piper and Cessna to bark at it and scare him off, but they had never seen anything like that… and they weren’t sure they could take it down if necessary. It was BIG. They sat like silent statues.

It was about that time that a nice lady in one of the campground cabins opened her front door. I asked if we could please come onto her porch, as there was a bear right near the back of her cabin. Luckily, she obliged. We moved to the tiny covered porch and the bear edged back around the side of the shed, as if to hide from us. It had been rummaging through the campground trash bin, and was waiting for us to go away so it could get back to business.

She knew all about the bear. She said it had been hanging around the campground for a few days. She even had a picture of it on her phone. (I did not get a photo, because I did not have a camera with me that morning). We talked about who else had seen it and where it had been spotted. The consensus was that it was between 350 and 400 pounds. After a few minutes of wait-and-see, it wandered off in the opposite direction carrying a white bag of trash in its mouth. Piper, Cessna and I decided it would be safe to depart the porch, so we wished the lady a good day and went back the way we came. Away from the trash monger’s route.

I took the dogs to the fenced in dog park area so they could do their morning business. When they were done, I took them back to the Monaco. Our long morning walk had been cancelled. Mike was still asleep, so I got my car keys and drove toward the front of the campground. Damned if that bear wasn’t back at the trash bin again! (And I still didn’t have my phone to take a picture)! I followed it around the corner in my car and it tried to evade the Honda by slinking back behind the maintenance shed again. I pursued it a bit more, and it finally trotted off into the woods. The poor lady in the rental cabin was on her porch again when it ran right past her.  She said she was glad to be checking out that morning! I kept my phone with me at all times for the rest of our stay at Oil Creek, hoping to get another glimpse (and hopefully a photo). I guess I should be glad when I say we didn’t see it again before we left.

I’ve attached a few more photos and tidbits below with extra details about our last stop in Pennsylvania. The rest of the trip was much more low key.

One day I drove south to the historic town of Emlenton. At one time in its past, it had more millionaires per capita than any other place in the country.  On my way back I drove through Foxburg and accidentally stumbled upon the Foxburg Country Club, featuring the oldest golf course in contiguous use within the U.S. It was established in 1887.

One day I drove south to the historic town of Emlenton. At one time in its past, it had more millionaires per capita than any other place in the country. On my way back I drove through Foxburg and accidentally stumbled upon the Foxburg Country Club, featuring the oldest golf course in continuous use within the U.S. It was established in 1887.

On my drive through Emlenton and Foxburg, I stopped for a snack at the Allegheny Grill on the banks of the Allegheny River. The day was just too gorgeous not to stop and enjoy the view from the patio for a bit.

On my drive through Emlenton and Foxburg, I stopped for a snack at the Allegheny Grill on the banks of the Allegheny River. The day was just too gorgeous not to pause and enjoy the view from the patio for a bit.

Mike was able to fish a couple of times in Oil Creek. That always makes him a happy camper.

Mike was able to fish a couple of times in Oil Creek. That always makes him a happy camper.

The views along the bike trail in Oil Creek State Park were magnificent.

The views along the bike trail in Oil Creek State Park were magnificent.

The first day we went to see about the bike trail at Oil Creek State Park, we had the dogs and intended to take them on an extra long walk. Unfortunately, the gnats were so annoying, we turned around after only one mile. The next time we returned, it was on our bikes.  We went for a 10-mile ride, and they didn't bother us as much. I guess since we were moving faster, they couldn't circle us as easily.

The first day we went to see about the bike trail at Oil Creek State Park, we had the dogs and intended to take them on an extra long walk. Unfortunately, the gnats were so annoying, we turned around after only one mile. The next time we returned, it was on our bikes. We went for a 10-mile ride, and they didn’t bother us as much. I guess since we were moving faster, they couldn’t circle us as easily.

A one lane dirt road connected our campground to Oil Creek State Park, The short drive between the two places was always spellbinding.

A one lane dirt road connected our campground to Oil Creek State Park, The short drive between the two places was always spellbinding.

We drove over to Erie one afternoon. We wandered around the bayfront for a little while before getting back in the car and driving around the bay to Presque Isle State Park.  It was at the far end of the Peninsula that we found this happy kite beach.

We drove over to Erie one afternoon. We wandered around the bayfront for a little while before getting back in the car and driving around the bay to Presque Isle State Park. It was at the far end of the Peninsula that we found this happy kite beach.

The marina in Erie - just off of downtown.

The marina in Erie – just off of downtown.

We visited Erie on a gloomy day, but there were still plenty of boats in the bay.

We visited Erie on a gloomy day, but there were still plenty of boats in the bay.

There was a 2.5 mile hiking path that circled the Oil Creek Family Campground. The four of us walked in on our first full day. After I learned that we were sharing the campground with a 300+ pound bear, we did not take advantage of the rustic trail again.

There was a 2.5 mile hiking path that circled the Oil Creek Family Campground. The four of us walked in on our first full day. After I learned that we were sharing the campground with a 300+ pound bear, we did not take advantage of the rustic trail again.

If anyone would have asked these two proud Texans where the modern-day oil industry originated, our answer would have been the Lone Star State. Not true. In America, it actually happened in the Oil Creek Valley of Pennsylvania.

If anyone would have asked these two proud Texans where the modern-day oil industry originated, our answer would have been the Lone Star State. Not true. In America, it actually happened in the Oil Creek Valley of Pennsylvania.

Next to the historic Depot in downtown Titusville is The Caboose Motel. The place has about 20 rooms. Each room is a refurbished train caboose, complete with bathrooms, televisions, phones, and all the other usual comforts of home. I wish I could have seen the inside of one.

Next to the historic Depot in downtown Titusville is The Caboose Motel. The place has about 20 rooms. Each room is a refurbished train caboose, complete with bathrooms, televisions, phones, and all the other usual comforts of home. I wish I could have seen the inside of one.

We went for a train ride on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad. It was a three-hour round trip ride along 13 miles of tracks within the Oil Creek State Park. Back in the day, the area would have been littered with oil derricks and all the other equipment that accompanies a full-fledged boom. Now the landscape has grown over all the abandoned wells and pipes.

We went for a train ride on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad. It was a three-hour round trip ride along 13 miles of tracks within the Oil Creek State Park. Back in the day, the area would have been littered with oil derricks and all the other equipment that accompanies a full-fledged boom. Now the landscape has grown over all the abandoned wells and pipes.

All of the trees and green of this region were destroyed when oil drilling began in earnest. It was kind of like taking a train ride through a ghost town...slightly eerie.

All of the trees and green of this region were destroyed when oil drilling began in earnest. It was kind of like taking a train ride through a ghost town…slightly eerie.

When we first arrived to the depot, we bought two regular tickets at a discounted price. As soon as other families with large numbers of children began to arrive, Mike approached me with an idea. How about we upgrade our tickets to first-class. It would be better in that car, because all the kids would be back in the coach section. I laughed because my frugal husband was more than happy to shell out the bucks if it meant escaping the throngs of kiddos. They moved the engine car to the other end of the train on our return trip, and we got this great view of the tracks behind us!

When we first arrived to the depot, we bought two regular tickets at a discounted price. As soon as other families with large numbers of children began to arrive, Mike approached me with an idea. How about we upgrade our tickets to first-class? The cost was almost double, but we could ride in the front VIP car. He said it would be better in that car, because all the kids would be back in the coach section. I laughed because my frugal husband was more than happy to shell out extra bucks if it meant escaping throngs of scary kiddos on an educational outing with their parents and grandparents. We went with his idea and almost had the front car all to ourselves. We shared it with three other adults and one small child. The train crew moved the engine car to the other end of the train on our return trip, and we got this great view of the tracks behind us for the second half of the excursion! Another perk of our upgraded tickets.

An old bridge we crossed above Oil Creek.

An old bridge we crossed above Oil Creek.

 

New York Part III: Holley

Our final stop in The Empire State was in western New York about 45 miles east of Buffalo, 30 miles west of Rochester, and (15 or less) miles from the shore of Lake Ontario. It was a land of farms and orchards. Apples, peaches, apricots, berries, CORN, squash, and all sorts of other fresh vegetables comprised the contents of the crops that blanketed the land around us. The locals were very friendly. We stayed in a very nice RV Resort – one of the nicest we have seen since we have been on our trip.

I did not know anything about the Erie Canal before our last stop in Blossvale, and this juncture helped me learn even more about the historic commercial waterway upon which so many small communities were created.  Our campground was literally across the street from it. A biking/walking trail also bordered the canal, and we took full advantage of the path.

We got to see Niagra Falls from this stop. We also went to Buffalo and had wings at the bar where they were first created. We went to Rochester a couple of times, one of which was to see an airshow. My laptop crashed from this location, so that was sort of stressful. We packed it up on our way to Buffalo one morning and I shipped it to our dear friend, Brad, in The Woodlands. Whom, by the way, miraculously rebuilt it and reloaded the back-up files before sending my laptop back to me… working (better than ever). I am ever grateful to technology geniuses and Carbonite. Mike and I had to share the iPad in the interim. I think we earned an A-  in teamwork.

We enjoyed our time in New York. The state is so gigantic, we did not make it to so many places we wanted to see. For instance, we would have loved to have visited Lake George, The Adirondacks, The Finger Lakes Region, Long Island, and Montauk. I would of course love to go back to New York City for a whole month, but that would make Mike completely miserable. Too many people, too little space.

I think my favorite stop for this state would be the Hudson Valley location. My second favorite stop for NY is this one, Holley. Our last stop near Lake Oneida was pretty. I’m just glad we were able to be here during warm weather months.

Red Rock Ponds RV Resort really was one of the nicest RV Parks we have stayed in since our trip began. It was well maintained and quiet. Even the seasonal campers kept their sites nice and tidy. The utilities all worked well and each spot was roomy. After some of the parks we have stayed in recently, it was nice to land somewhere with such an inviting atmosphere.

Red Rock Ponds RV Resort really was one of the nicest RV Parks we have stayed in since our trip began. It was well maintained and quiet. Even the seasonal campers kept their sites nice and tidy. The utilities all worked well and each spot was roomy. After some of the parks we have stayed in recently, it was nice to land somewhere with such an inviting atmosphere.

The Erie Canal extends 524 miles across the state of New York. Our RV Park was directly across the street from the waterway, and their was a bike/walking path that bordered the water. We spent a lot of time riding our bikes and walking the dogs along the trail.

The Erie Canal extends 524 miles across the state of New York. Our RV Park was directly across the street from the waterway, and their was a bike/walking path that bordered the water. We spent a lot of time riding our bikes and walking the dogs along the trail.

I took this last photo of the canal from the co-pilot's chair as we were leaving the western part of New York.

I took this last photo of the canal from the co-pilot’s chair as we were leaving the western part of New York.

We took the dogs for a walk at Lakeside Beach State Park. It sits directly on Lake Ontario.

We took the dogs for a walk at Lakeside Beach State Park. It sits directly on Lake Ontario.

Our campground had a little beach on a pond near the office and recreation hall.

Our campground had a little beach on a pond near the office and recreation hall.

While running errands I discovered a very cute little town named Brockport. It was also on the Erie Canal about 9 miles east of our campground. When I was there on my first visit, I saw sign advertising an annual art festival scheduled to take place on the upcoming weekend. Mike and I road our bikes back on Saturday afternoon. We had fun looking at the booths and enjoying a few drinks at a local brewery.

While running errands I discovered a very cute little town named Brockport. It was also on the Erie Canal about 9 miles east of our campground. When I was there on my first visit, I saw signs advertising an annual art festival scheduled to take place on the upcoming weekend. Mike and I road our bikes back on Saturday afternoon. We had fun looking at the booths and enjoying a few drinks at a local brewery.

Niagra Falls was a little over an hour's drive from our campground. We drove over one evening to see the falls at dusk, then we waited around for a fireworks show that started at 9:00. The falls were more spectacular than the fireworks.

Niagra Falls was a little over an hour’s drive from our campground. We drove over one evening to see the falls at dusk, then we waited around for a fireworks show that started at 9:00. The falls were more spectacular than the fireworks.

The top of the falls don't look quite as ominous as the drop down does.

The top of the falls don’t look quite as ominous as the drop down does.

The Canadian side of the falls looked to be much cleaner and classier than the U.S. Niagra Falls, but we did not bring our passports. There was a lot of traffic crossing the border bridges, so we probably saved a lot of time by avoiding the trip. It would be fun to go back and stay in one of the high rise hotels on the other side.

The Canadian side of the falls looked to be much cleaner and classier than the U.S. Niagra Falls, but we did not bring our passports. There was a lot of traffic crossing the border bridges, so we probably saved a lot of time by avoiding the trip. It would be fun to go back and stay in one of the high rise hotels on the other side.

This was a pretty little pond on the street that led to Red Rock Ponds.

This was a pretty little pond on the street that led to Red Rock Ponds.

I do not know what kind of tree this is, but I think it is beautiful.

I do not know what kind of tree this is, but I think it is beautiful.

Local farm stands dotted the roadside on every road trip we took in Western New York. I couldn't resist the fresh peaches, berries, flowers, and CORN.

Local farm stands dotted the roadside on every road trip we took in Western New York. I couldn’t resist the fresh peaches, berries, flowers, and CORN.

The Rochester Airshow was in town during our visit. Tickets were $30 per person, so we opted for a less expensive way to watch... we parked across the street from the runway - outside the gates. We still had great seats, it wasn't quite as loud from our location, and the dogs could watch too!

The Rochester Airshow was in town during our visit. Tickets were $30 per person, so we opted for a less expensive way to watch… we parked across the street from the runway – outside the gates. We still had great seats, it wasn’t quite as loud from our location, and the dogs could watch too!

The Thunderbirds put on a great show!

The Thunderbirds put on a great show!

LOUD and FAST.

LOUD and FAST.

New York Part II: Blossvale

Although we planned one more stop in Pennsylvania before we scratched that state off our list, we left the Keystone State temporarily to finish our time in New York. Our first stop in The Empire State was back in June of 2013. We stopped in the Hudson Valley on our way to New England last summer, after driving north from Florida for four days. Like I have said before, the rules are loose on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour… so we pick up ‘Part II’ almost 14 months later.

This time we aimed for the central part of the state and landed at a small campground about three miles east of Lake Oneida, near Syracuse. We took a couple of daytrips to Syracuse and Utica, but were not impressed with either community. The best times we had from that location were relaxing at the campground or near the lake. Mike got to fish a bit, so he was happy about that.

Our site at Mayfair Campground was all grass and soft ground. We worried slightly when it rained during the week of our stay, because we did not want to sink down into the ground before it was time to pull away on travel day. The park was very nice, and all the seasonal folks were a group of friends from the VFW in Syracuse. It was a small campground, but it was bordered by water and the owners kept it very well maintained. It was quiet, and there was no road noise.  All in all, it was a good place to stop for a week.

Our site at Mayfair Campground was all grass and soft ground. We worried slightly when it rained during the week of our stay, because we did not want to sink down into the ground before it was time to pull away on travel day. The park was very nice, and all the seasonal folks were a group of friends from the VFW in Syracuse. It was a small campground, but it was bordered by water and the owners kept it very well maintained. It was quiet, and there was no road noise. All in all, it was a good place to stop for a week.

This was a branch of the historic Erie Canal, and a navigable waterway to Lake Oneida about 3 miles away. It was the southern boundary of our campground.

This was a branch of the historic Erie Canal, and a navigable waterway to Lake Oneida about 3 miles away. It was the southern boundary of our campground.

He dove under the water just as I snapped this picture, so you can't see the beaver that left that water ring.  The dogs and I watched him swim from a short distance for a while . As we approached the edge of the water, he felt we were a little too close for comfort and ditched us.

He dove under the water just as I snapped this picture, so you can’t see the beaver that left that water ring. The dogs and I watched him swim for a short distance for a while . As we approached the edge of the water, he felt we were a little too close for comfort and ditched us.

This was the swimming beach at one of the State Parks on Lake Oneida. We spent the afternoon hanging out on the east side of the lake during a sunny Friday afternoon.

This was the swimming beach at one of the State Parks on Lake Oneida. We spent the afternoon hanging out on the east side of the lake during a sunny Friday afternoon.

TGIF selfie.

TGIF selfie.

After our day at the beach, we had dinner on an outside patio in the small town of Sylvan Beach. Lots of boats lined up along the boardwalk beside the Erie Canal. it was fun to watch all the comings and goings.

After our day at the beach, we had dinner on an outside patio in the small town of Sylvan Beach. Lots of boats lined up along the boardwalk beside the Erie Canal. it was fun to watch all the comings and goings.

We watched this HUGE military carrier practice touch-and-goes at a local airport as we drove to Utica one afternoon.

We watched this HUGE military carrier (C-5 or C147)?  practice touch-and-goes at a local airport as we drove to Utica one afternoon.

Before this photo I had never seen an entire field of sunflowers (I have since). Such a happy sight! Incidentally, they all faced east.

Before this photo I had never seen an entire field of sunflowers (I have since). Such a happy sight! Incidentally, they all faced east.

We discovered the sunflower field on our way to a local farm that sold  sweet juicy fresh corn... 3 for $1.

We discovered the sunflower field on our way to a local farm that sold sweet juicy fresh corn… 3 for $1.

Seagulls on the windy beach before sunset.

Seagulls on the windy beach before sunset.

On the last night we were at Mayfair Campground we drove into Sylvan Beach to have dinner at a waterfront restaurant. It was too windy to eat outside, and it had been cloudy all day... but we got lucky. A table was waiting for us by the window, and the sunset did not disappoint.

On the last night we were at Mayfair Campground, we drove into Sylvan Beach to have dinner at a waterfront restaurant. It was too windy to eat outside, and it had been cloudy all day… but we got lucky. An open table was waiting for us by the window, and the sunset did not disappoint.

The sunset over Lake Oneida on the last night of our stay turned out to be very intense!

The sunset over Lake Oneida on the last night of our stay turned out to be very intense!