Author Archives: mbnorthrup

Campground Review: Anderson/Muncie KOA, Anderson, IN

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_5972.jpgSummary

  • Name: Anderson/Muncie KOA
  • Dates of stay: September 30 – October 14, 2020
  • Location: 3230 E 75 N, Anderson, IN 46017
  • Type of campground: Private / KOA
  • Cost: $50/night (with discounts)
  • Additional fees: $10 to wash bus
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: did not ask
  • Cell reception: ATT adequate
  • Website: koa.com/campgrounds/muncie
  • Pros: Inexpensive, close to family
  • Cons: aging bath house, militantly enforces 5 mph speed limit

Full Review

This is our second stay here at the Anderson/Muncie KOA. Our first was about 18 months ago, you can read that review here. We requested same site as the last time, which the campground was able to accommodate.

Anderson Indiana isn’t exactly known as a tourist mecca, so campgrounds are few in the vicinity. There is a nice State Park in town (Mounds Park) which surprisingly can accommodate our size, but only offers electricity hookup. That works for a week or so, but not for an extended stay. Fortunately, we found this KOA park on the northeast side of town that fit the bill.

I was pleasantly surprised by the big rig friendliness of this older park. Our site was a back-in concrete site with concrete patio, picnic table and fire ring. The electrical box and water spigot is at the rear of the site, far enough away to require virtually all of our electrical cord to reach! The water pressure can be high (up to 100 psi at times), making a water pressure gauge essential. Our Direct TV satellite was unable to lock onto a signal due to an ill-placed tree, but we were able to pick up a fair number of over the air TV channels. We didn’t try the campground wifi, as our ATT hotspot worked adequately. This trip, I was even able to stream Amazon Prime video using our mobile hotspot – wow! That’s better bandwidth than typical.

The campground is pretty, quiet and tidy with expanses of mowed lawn, mature trees and a large pond that served for both fishing and swimming. The leaves were changing during our stay, and the wooded area was really beautiful. The campground provides daily trash pickup from your site, which is always a nice convenience. There is also a club house, small camp store, and playgrounds. Even during this fall shoulder season time, the campground was fairly busy on the weekends. The weekdays had much less occupancy. There appear to be some long-term (year around) residents here, but their sites are well maintained. 

I mentioned last time that the campground workers are quite militant about enforcing the 5 mph speed limit. No one flagged us down to tell us to slow down this time, but we were very careful to creep along slowly during this stay! Ironically, the workers in their golf carts and trucks zip along quite a bit faster that 5 mph but, you know how that goes …..

There are couple of idiosyncrasies here. The shower in the bath house are the “push button” style which stays on for what seemed only seconds at a time. You also can’t adjust the water temperature and the bath house is unheated. I just used my own shower. Also, during our previous stay as a “monthly” renter, we were required to mow our own site’s lawn. We’ve had extended stays at quite a few campgrounds now, and no other place has had that rule! I guess that way they can’t possibly cause any damage to our rig? At least they provided the lawn mower.

Our last stay was 3.5 weeks and we were able to snag a very reasonable monthly rate, which brought our daily rate down to around $33/night. This time, we paid around $50/night for our 15 night stay, which included my ValueKard discount plus I redeemed $50 in points. The rules called for a $5 guest fee, but we had family members popping in and out briefly and were never hassled. We always did our socializing at our family’s homes. Other than mask requirements while in the office, we didn’t notice any impact of COVID to the campground operations or amenities.

Overall, as before, it was a quiet and pleasant stay. It’s not a fancy place, but it does the job. We will likely go back because of the proximity to our families. From a budget perspective, a longer stay is worthwhile if schedules permit.

Bottom Line: A site that works,  near our families.

Pandemic Perspective — 2020 as a Full-timer

What a weird year this has been.

2020 started off so auspiciously too. We had a wonderful winter at Recreation Plantation, full of activities and meeting new friends. We even experienced a wonderful cruise in the Caribbean with my sister, never dreaming that cruising would be entirely shut down a month later. We had fully booked an exciting Northeast RV loop. Then just a couple of weeks before we were set to go — COVID.

Like everyone these days, we’ve had to be flexible. We typically do our trip planning a year or more in advance, primarily so we can be assured of getting our campground and site preference. But this year, we’ve had to make adjustments on the fly.

Some campground closed completely, for a time. Others opened up in a limited fashion, or for limited populations. Some States imposed quarantine requirements. We’ve had to recheck reservations as we traveled, to see whether we would be able to go there — or not.

So far, no campground actually cancelled on us, although we ended up cancelling several stops early in the nationwide COVID closure period, in order to hunker down at our Gatlinburg cabin. Once we started traveling again, we encountered a variety of situations. Some campgrounds didn’t allow anyone in the office at all, everything was done over the phone. Some campgrounds closed all amenities, including bath houses. Others opened limited amenities, such as outdoor facilities. We just never knew, one place to the next, what we would get. We were never in a situation that required us to quarantine, as much of the year we were traveling from and/or through areas with low COVID case rates.

So, for the most part, we were able to keep to our travel plan. But of course, the areas we visited were shut down to varying degrees. In the early days, almost nothing was open. We spent a lot of time walking around looking at the outside of closed buildings and shops! Eventually, gradually, States started to reopen and we rediscovered the joy of actually being served at a restaurant and shopping INSIDE real stores! It’s amazing how one’s perspective shifts when the things you used to do without a thought, are forbidden for a time.

Now, seven months into this pandemic, most areas have reopened to a significant degree. I no longer worry about campground cancellations or quarantine requirements. Many tourist attractions are open, albeit at a reduced capacity and with COVID precautions. Now, it’s a matter of assessing and managing our own personal risk as we travel about. Do we go to that stage show? Are we comfortable eating inside that restaurant? We look at the COVID prevalence in the area, the precautions they are taking, and decide accordingly.

So, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from this year so far.

The Bad: About half of the things that we USUALLY do on our travels were simply unavailable. Historical sites and museums closed, no theater, no concerts or festivals. No campground social mixers or planned activities. No night life. Limited shopping and dining. Limited social contact of any kind. That sucked.

The Good: At least we had a regular change of scenery! Most folks stuck at home didn’t have that luxury. And COVID didn’t close the outdoors, so we had hiking, biking, motorcycling options available. We were still able to see a new area of the country, and we can always go back and do the things we missed on another trip.

The Ugly: Politics and the upcoming presidential election … but I’m not going there!

We are eagerly awaiting the time when life will return to normal as we once knew it. When I don’t have to get a negative COVID test in order to feel comfortable visiting my aging parents. When we can go to a show, or a concert, or a wedding without worry.

In the meantime ….. we’ll need to be flexible.

Hangin’ in the Hometown, Take 2

And so, dear reader, you are caught up to date! After completing our Entegra Factory Service, we headed due south toward Anderson Indiana, my home town, for a two week visit. We were last in town with the bus about 18 months ago. We’ve experienced some briskly cool weather, and the leaves are turning bright hues of crimson, yellow and orange. It’s been years since I experienced an Indiana Fall. It evokes memories of Back-to-School elementary days, jumping in leaf piles, and changing classes at the Anderson University Campus. The bright clear blue skies of Indian Summer in Indiana are just beautiful.

Our main reason for being here is to spend quality time with family — and we certainly are doing that! We’ve been doing what we can in these COVID-tainted times — walking the lovely Mounds State Park, hitting balls at TopGolf, dining together, playing games, working puzzles, and just generally spending time together.

Considering our travels (and our recent visit to Cedar Point amusement park), I opted for a COVID test when I arrived here. It was a relatively painless experience, really. I booked an appointment online with a local CVS, provided the sample at the pharmacy drive-up window, and had my online results back within 48 hours. It was negative, as I expected, but it was reassuring nonetheless to have that status confirmed. I feel much more comfortable visiting my 89 year old parents knowing that I won’t risk carrying the disease to them. I am so very blessed to be able to visit my parents, living independently and well in their own home. I never forget for a minute how special that is.

Especially this year. So many have lost loved ones in the past months. My brother-in-law lost his (younger) brother very unexpectedly in late December. And Jeff’s Dad died in August. Long time readers of this blog may recall that we had to scramble to make arrangements for his Dad right before we left on this RV adventure, three years ago. He did well in his assisted living situation, but recurrent infections coupled with late stage dementia finally wore him down. He spent his last days at his daughter’s home and passed peacefully. A tough year, indeed.

So, we enjoy every moment we can manage to spend with our loved ones. And, on a lighter note, I am temporarily cat-sitting for my sister who is away at a wedding this weekend. We have gregarious Sophie, who cheerfully purr-rowss when I arrive and loves neck scritches. And then we have retiring Curie who wants to be around people, but only tolerates touching by Her Person (which is not me). Guess, if you will, who is who from the photos below.

We have a few more days here to enjoy family time, and then we’ll be heading on south and west, to Branson!

Entegra Factory Service, Take Two

Just as with the Spartan chassis service, we have learned (the hard way) that it is far, far better to have our rig serviced by those who built it. We had our original fabulous Entegra Factory service experience last May, and booked an appointment to come back far out we could (6 months in advance). The service is understandably popular and slots fill up quickly.

Our list wasn’t all that long really. The biggest issue (for me) was that the hot water in the shower wasn’t working right. Jeff had ordered and replaced the shower valve, but we still weren’t getting adequate hot water flow. It was likely that the hot water line was either blocked or crimped. And there were several other minor things, like, the driver seat footrest was inoperable. The trash drawer slide hardware was shedding ball bearings. The entry door tends to stick in cold weather. We asked them to tighten the bolts on one of the slide out motors that we couldn’t get to, and check/adjust the slides. Things like that. Just a week before our appointment, our super slide topper ripped away from the side of the coach. A timely failure, we added that to the list. The service shop was also going to do their usual comprehensive Annual Inspection Report (AIR) and let us know of anything they found. We were allotted three days in the shop to address all issues identified.

In these COVID days everything is a done bit differently, and our Entegra service experience was no exception. In the past, we stayed in our rig each night. Now, that wasn’t allowed. We arrived the night before our appointment and retrieved our name tag from the mailbox outside the service entrance. We checked into a nearby pet-friendly hotel (Hampton Inn) and moved in for a several day stay – Pumpkin and all. Going back to the rig, I disinfected every surface they were likely to contact (per their request) and left for the night. The next morning, we drove back and turned over the keys to the technician at 6:30 am. He pulled the bus into the shop, where it would stay until they were completed with all service items. We waited in our truck, and about 20 minutes later, Jeff was called into the service office to go over our list. By 7 am, we were free to go back to a leisurely (free) breakfast at the hotel while Entegra did their thing. The Entegra customer lounge was open and available during daytime hours, but we didn’t need to go there.

Our hotel experience was also a bit different than usual. During our stay, there was no housekeeping service, unless we specifically requested it. We elected not to have anyone enter our room, and simply waylaid the housekeeper for additional towels and consumable items. Masks were required except in our room and while eating at a table in the breakfast area. In a way, it was easier to stay in a hotel — we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn every day to vacate the bus for service. Pumpkin wasn’t very happy at the change in venue, but he wasn’t happy to be trapped in a pet pen in the customer lounge either. Pumpkin just wasn’t going to be happy.

During our free time, we toured the Recreational Vehicle/Manufactured Home Hall of Fame in nearby Elkhart. It was fascinating to climb into some of the earliest recreational vehicles from the 1930’s and to see how the RV design esthetic reflected the tastes of the various eras. Interestingly to me, the layout of various recreational vehicles (tent campers, trailers, motor homes) really haven’t changed all that much. I mean, there’s only so many logical ways to lay out kitchen, bathroom, seating and beds. The museum also celebrated the manufactured home, and provided a modern example of one to tour. The place is an interesting visit, but only takes about an hour to go through everything. They could enhance the exhibits by providing more videos of old RV’s either in commercials or documentaries. I was also surprised that the “vendor hall” didn’t have more displays and the “new RV” hall had only a couple of new rigs to view.

We also wandered about the shops of quaint Shipshewana and dined at the famous Dutch Essenhaus. I do enjoy being in Amish country!

Back at Entegra, the tech completed their exhaustive AIR and found a few minor items that we weren’t even aware of. A deflector plate under the dash was misaligned, causing low heat flow to the drivers side of the cockpit. The passenger security light sensor was broken. Some rubber seals needed replacing, and aquahot lines needed to be sealed/insulated in one spot. The front door deadbolt was bent. Those items were added to the repair list.

We had figured on 3 days for repairs, but late on the 2nd day, we were told that our bus was nearly finished and just needed final cleaning. So, we thought we would get it back quickly (that day, even) and could get an early start the next morning. It turned out that our bus wasn’t actually returned until noon the next day, because our final touches got delayed. Our service writer could have managed our expectations a bit better, but that is a very minor quibble in what was otherwise a stellar service experience. Not only were all of our requested items completed, they also efficiently fixed the items they found within the time allotted. The interior was returned sparkling clean, nicer than when we gave it to them. And the best part was the bill — less than $200! Even though we are technically out of warranty, they simply fixed a lot of these minor issues for free. Entegra really treats their owners right. We love our bus.

In a couple of years …. we’ll be back!

Campground Review: Markin Glen Campground, Kalamazoo, MI

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_5960.jpgCampground Review Summary

  • Name: Markin Glen Campground
  • Dates of stay: 9/25-6/2020
  • Location: 5300 North Westnedge Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49004
  • Type of campground: County park campground
  • Cost: $32.50/night
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: unknown
  • Accepts mail / packages: did not ask (unlikely)
  • Cell reception: ATT fair to poor
  • Website: www.kalcounty.com/parks/markinglen
  • Pros: Inexpensive full hook ups
  • Cons: a bit tight to maneuver in spots

Full Review

We had a couple of days to kill between our chassis service at Spartan in Charlotte and Entegra service in Middlebury, IN. Originally, we picked this spot in order to connect with friends in the area. But …. COVID.

The campground itself worked out quite nicely. It’s a fairly small campground of 38 sites, with modern full hookups — complete with 50 amp electric, water AND sewer! That’s unusual for a county park. The electric/water pedestal was wobbly, which was a bit concerning, but it all worked fine. The sewer connection is the non-threaded type so you need a donut adapter or equivalent. We booked the farthest ahead possible (6 months in advance) to get our pick of sites, a pull through paved site at the end of a row. On the aerial photo, it looked to be one of the easiest to get in and out. The site was narrow, so required precision when pulling in. The entrance gate into the park was also quite narrow, but could be navigated with care.

The site was long enough to park our bus and truck, and included a picnic table and beautiful fire ring. It was a bit sloped — why oh why do campgrounds pour unlevel concrete slabs?!  We had to manually adjust our jacks to get approximately level. There was no campground wifi, and our ATT signal wasn’t that hot, so internet was slow and spotty. No cable, but there were a few local over the air channels available and our satellite TV worked fine here. The cost was a quite reasonable $30/night plus tax. Not bad for full hookups!

The campground bath house was clean and decently maintained, but there was only one shower on each side (men and women), so it could get busy. There was also a playground. The county park facilities included a sandy beach and bicycle trails. Jeff rode the mountain bike trails three times and loved them! He said they were not terribly long, but they were “sweet”.

We were there such a short time, we didn’t really explore the area. Since you are directly in Kalamazoo, there are undoubtedly shops and grocery stores nearby.

Bottom Line: Modestly priced FHU county campground with big rig capability.

Spartan Service, Take 2

We’ve learned (the hard way) that it’s best to have our rig serviced by the folks who made it. As a result, we’ve been arranging our travels so as to pass by Spartan and Entegra at least every couple of years for maintenance.

From Kalamazoo, we made the short jaunt to the Spartan factory service facility in Charlotte. This was our second time here, the first was about 18 months ago. We were so pleased with the process, we made an appointment on the spot for this date! Their service is so popular, booking a year out or more isn’t unusual.

Spartan builds the chassis for motorhome makers such as Entegra and Newmar. As we pulled into their facility, we joined a row of high end coaches. They have quite a nice area for overnight parking, including 50 amp electrical, a dump station, covered pavilion with gas grill and picnic tables, and a grassy area for dog walking. My only minor quibble is that many of the parking spaces are quite unlevel. Since the lot wasn’t full, we were able to pick a decently level place to park.

Bright and early the next morning (7 am!), the service tech came out to pull our baby into the shop. In these COVID days, the offices and customer lounge were completely closed to us. All conversations with our service writer were done entirely over the phone. We were given the option of waiting in our coach (inside the service bay), but we opted to take off to tour nearby Lansing.

To kill time, we grabbed breakfast and drove around the city. We stumbled across a park that accessed a beautiful river trail. We saw a couple of deer! I had a noon work conference call, so we found a local mall to explore. Jeff “malled” while I took the call in the truck. We wandered back toward Charlotte, and hung out back in the bus while our service tech finished up. By around 3 pm, everything was done!

Servicing our giant chassis ain’t cheap. They did a complete inspection (everything looked good), lubed the chassis, and changed all fluids and filters for a price tag of around $1800. It’s worth it, though, to have it all done properly. We’ve had hit or miss service in the past, and typical truck service shops don’t cover the same scope of preventative maintenance. Our tech even said that he could tell by looking that a coach had been serviced elsewhere! I have no doubt.

We stayed in the lot one more night before heading on. Before we left, we had already booked our next service appointment here. It pays to come back to the service experts.

Campground Review: East Harbor State Park, Lakeside Marblehead, OH

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Campground Review Summary

Full Review

We don’t often stay at State Parks, but this is the rare exception that offers a few campsites with full hook ups AND that are big rig friendly. It’s quite a large campground with 340 electric sites, 160 non electric sites and only 51 full hook up sites. There are only a few sites that something our size can actually maneuver into, so we booked as far out as possible (6 months ahead). We carefully selected a site at the end of a row which gave us just barely enough room to pull in, although we couldn’t help but run over the grass. The main campground roads are wide enough for big rig access.

Our paved pull through site was narrow but long enough to park our vehicles. The full hook ups include 50 amp electric and are located conveniently in the middle of the site. The site also includes a fire ring and picnic table. The sewer hookup is the unthreaded type, though, so you need a donut or equivalent. There is no cable TV hookup and the over the air channels are few, so it was good that our site was satellite friendly! Our AT&T signal worked fine, and the free/open campground wifi was usable when the facility wasn’t busy.

We were in Section A, and the bath house there was clean and functional. My only quibble was the showers were a bit cramped and the flimsy shower curtains allowed water spray to wet down everything in the dressing area. But, the water was hot and plentiful and I didn’t have to keep pushing a button to keep the water on!

The State park is on Lake Erie and has a beach area, camp store, and disc golf course. During our Fall visit, the campground got quite busy on the weekend, but was fairly quiet mid-week. It provides a good location for visiting Cedar Point and Sandusky, and the Put-in-Bay ferry is close by.

Bottom Line: Great little state park with full hook ups, big rig capable if you’re careful with site selection.

Sandusky / Cedar Point

One of Sandusky’s great claims to fame is the Cedar Point Amusement Park. Widely touted at the best collection of roller coaster rides in the country, we put this place on our bucket list. Of course, all of this planning and research was done pre-COVID.

Arriving nearby, we planned our Cedar Point assault. Normally, we hit amusement parks early and hard, skipping quickly from ride to ride to get as much done as possible before the crowds trickle in around noon. THIS year, all of our normal tactics simply couldn’t work. First, the park is only open on weekends at this time of year, so going mid-week to avoid crowds isn’t possible. Second, the Fast Lane (line skipping) pass wasn’t available this year. We would have paid extra for that if we could. Thirdly, the park was only open from noon to 8 pm. No early bird getting the worm this time. We would just have to suck it up.

After reading bad reviews, we adjusted our expectations downward. Unfortunately, Cedar Point didn’t even meet our lowered expectations. We spent the entire day waiting in lines.

It wasn’t that the park was SO crowded, although it was weekend-busy. Part of the problem is that not all rides, attractions and food venues are open at all. Of the coasters that ARE open, the ride throughput is extremely slow, at maybe 30% of normal capacity, to facilitate social distancing. The ride cars are loaded half full (at most) and then shut down every 15 minutes or so for cleaning. That is all well and good to prevent contagion, but the darn lines just ….. don’t …… move ……

Here’s how our day went. We arrived a half hour early, skipped through the entrance easily and went to the far end of the park (at least a mile from the entrance!) to wait in the access pass line for the ride “Maverick”, Jeff’s #1 pick. For the top 4 rides, you had to wait in line to get an access pass, which would give you a 1 hour time window to enter the ride line — to wait again for the actual ride. After waiting for about 40 minutes, we acquired access passes for 1-2 pm. We scooted a half mile away to his #2 coaster, to pick up an access pass for THAT one, also 1-2 pm. Darn. That’s going to be tight.

Back to Maverick to wait for our 1 pm window. About 20 minutes before our time, the ride went down for a mechanical problem. No worries, I thought. Let’s run back to ride #2, use THAT pass, then hopefully get back here by 2 pm. Back to ride #2 and it’s down for a mechanical problem. OK, let’s ride another coaster while we’re waiting — the coaster across the way showed a 15 minute wait. Easy peasy. Except while in line, THAT ride went down for a mechanical problem and the 15 minute wait turned into 40+ minutes. After our 60 second ride, we checked on ride #2, still down. Half mile back to Maverick and it is working now, it is before 2 pm, so we got in line. Yay! Only to have Maverick go down with a mechanical problem again! 4.5 hours after arriving at the park, we finally rode Maverick. Ride #2 never even reopened that day. We gave up on coasters.

We had opted for a special bundle package which included entrance ticket, parking, and 3 “tastings” from their special Fall event menu. Essentially, the food part was free. So we turned our attention to getting our free tastings. Now, I’m used to Epcot Food and Wine festival which offers special tastings at food booths, separate from the normal food venues. Here, the “specials” were provided at the normal restaurants, which were already fewer than usual. So, you guessed it — long lines. Everywhere. For our 6 tastings, we went 5 different places which are flung out all over the park. Every time, we waited. And the food was hit or miss: the soups in a bread bowl was great and the special fries were decent, but the hot chocolate was watered down, the special burger was cold, and the funnel cake was overfried/crunchy. By the time we got the last food item, the park was closing.

In 8.5 hours, we rode exactly 2 coasters and got our 6 free tastings. We didn’t even have time to see any of the shows. Our entire day was spent walking and standing in line. I wouldn’t exactly call it a fail, but it was close. I’m sure in non-COVID times it’s a great time, but right now, it’s pretty much a disaster. The fall and Halloween decorations were nice, though.

Disney has spoiled me for anything less.

That was only one day of our stay here. We also took the ferry to Put-in-Bay on nearby South Bass Island. We rented a golf cart and drove it all over the cute little island. There are some neat little parks and trails, and a small but vibrant town section. On one of our nature hikes I saw my first giant puffball mushroom. They are unmistakable once you’ve seen then, and I understand they are edible. I thought about harvesting one, but that goes against my “leave no trace” principles! It was a fun day.

Next destination: Spartan factory service for our routine chassis maintenance.

Campground Review: Lake Milton / Berlin KOA, Lake Milton, OH

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Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Lake Milton / Berlin KOA
  • Dates of stay: 9/8 -15, 2021
  • Location: 15487 Creed Rd, Lake Milton, OH 44429
  • Type of campground: Private / KOA
  • Cost: $65.86 / night (with ValueKard discount)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none (seasonal)
  • Accepts mail / packages: did not ask
  • Cell reception: ATT good
  • Website: koa.com/campgrounds/lake-milton
  • Pros: Great kids play amenities, nice staff
  • Cons: pricey for the area

Full Review

We booked this at the very last minute due to our Lake Raystown Resort fail. On the campground booking website I selected a 30 amp back in site, because that’s all that showed as available. The next morning, the nice lady at the office called and offered up a 50 amp patio site that would be more suitable for our rig. It cost a bit more, but I was happy to accept. I was impressed at their pro-activity — such a change from the site we just abandoned! As is typical of KOA’s, we were escorted to our site and assisted with backing in.

Our site was extra wide, with plenty of room to park our vehicles beside the bus. The site included a wooden patio platform with patio set, and a fire ring. The gravel site was level, but soft. Our tires and jacks sunk in several inches. The utilities were oddly placed, with the sewer far behind us, and electric/water far to the right, behind the next-door site. Our 50 amp cord barely reached the plug and partially encroached on our neighbor site. The sewer opening was the non-threaded type. No cable TV, but our site was satellite friendly.

Garbage was picked up daily, in the mornings, which is a nice convenience. The bath house is basic, but clean and functional. The only annoyance is that it’s a “push button” type. The water temperature was nice and hot, you just had to push the doggone button every 10 seconds to keep it flowing!

It is apparent that there are a high percentage of seasonal sites here, but they are generally well kept up. It’s a kids mecca – there is an extensive playground and lake with floaties and jumpy things and all manner of kid playthings.  There is also a game room, and a larger lake to play on. The campground offers a number of rentals: carts, bicycles, paddle boats, golf carts, kayaks and canoes. It’s a perfect summer play place for families with children. We were there in September, when school was in session, so it only got relatively busy on the weekends. This campground is closed in the winter, shutting down around Oct 15.

For us, it was a good spot to set for a week. Considering we found it at the last possible moment, we counted ourselves lucky to have it.

Bottom Line: A bit pricey, but serves the purpose. Very nice people.

Akron / Cleveland Serendipity

After our campground FAIL at Lake Rayston Pennsylvania, we found ourselves, unexpectedly, near Akron Ohio. Why Akron? Mostly because it was about halfway to our next scheduled stop in Sandusky, and neither of us had been there. We found last minute campground availability at a KOA, so that decided it.

Serendipity is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. This area wasn’t on our radar — we had never planned to stay here — but it all worked out beautifully.

Did you know there is a National Park near Cleveland? Yeah, neither did I. It’s the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Cuyahoga River was once one of the the most polluted in the US, it actually caught fire several times. The last time, in 1969, prompted the passage of environmental protection laws and the formation of the EPA in1970. Cleaned up now, the river is the centerpiece of the sprawling National Park. Many of the buildings in the park are COVID-closed, but we saw a pretty waterfall and hiked around mossy green sandstone ledges. There’s nothing super-spectacular here, but it offers a pleasant outing.

Akron was once known as the “rubber capital” of the US, and still hosts the global headquarters of the Goodyear company, founded by Frank Sieberling. The former home of the Sieberling family is the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens (from the olde English for stone quarry). It was built in 1912-15 in the style of stately homes of the era, like the Biltmore. It isn’t as large as the Biltmore, but it has many of the same “modern” elements and features. It was built to be a family home and was used exclusively by the Goodyear family until the 1950’s. The heirs turned over the house, furnishings, decor and all, to the State to be a museum. As a result, it really does feel more like a home, like someone really lived there. The Biltmore is more impressive, but I would have liked to stay at the Stan Hywet. Another historical tidbit — the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was held in the estate’s Gate Lodge in 1935.

Cleveland hosts a number of museums, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Expecting to be in and out there in a couple of hours, the extensive video clip displays held us transfixed for over four hours. It was an interesting counterpoint to the Country Music Hall of Fame that we toured in Nashville. It’s always fascinating to me to see how musical genres evolve from and influence each other — gospel, country, blues, jazz, and rock. When they get into grunge and rap though, they lose me. I like non-screamy music that has a melody and lyrics I understand. Call me old fashioned.

Nearby Canton is the home to the Football Hall of Fame. I’m not an uber football fan, but I’m always open to learning new stuff. Why Canton, you ask? I learned that was where the National Football League was founded. So there you go. I also found displays on the early days of football to be interesting — so much has changed with regard to uniform, protective devices, even the rules. Everything evolves, even football! The Super Bowl rings now, I think they’ve gotten out of hand. The first ones were reasonable and nicely done, I thought, but over time they have gotten progressively larger and more gaudy. 9 plus carats of diamonds on each ring? Is that really necessary? C’mon people, you can’t even wear it as a ring! It seems excessive to me, but what do I know.

All in all though, for an unplanned stop, Canton worked out quite well!

One sad thing happened during our stay here, though. Our second evening at the KOA, an ambulance showed up at the campsite next to us, the EMTs running into the 5th wheel. Then a police car. Then another fire department car, all with lights flashing. Curiously eavesdropping, I heard the dreaded letters: DOA. Seeing us watching, one of the KOA staffers dropped over and shared that, sadly, the lady next door had passed away, presumably from sudden heart failure. The couple had been staying at the campground while her husband was employed in the area. She was younger than I.

Just another reminder that we should live life to the fullest while we can, as it is sometimes cut all too short.