Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bouncing Around Across New York

When I last wrote, we were leaving Evergreen Lake Park in Conneault, OH, to drive up I-90 to I-86 (NY's Southern Tier Expressway) and head east across New York State. There are parts of that trip that are amazingly beautiful, particularly the stretch that goes south of the Finger Lakes region in west central NY. There is some excellent road. There is one of the most beautiful rest areas we have ever seen on an Interstate Highway. And there is LOTS of construction on the route with the concrete safety barriers providing minimum width for the lanes through which you drive.

If you've never driven a larger vehicle, you may not be able to appreciate just how much stress there is in driving a 8.5' wide (that 102" if you're wondering) vehicle down a lane that feels like it is 10 feet wide. I don't know what width interstate highway lanes really are in construction areas. It's probably more like 12 feet wide (which is the standard width) but it sure seems narrower than that, probably because of the concrete safety barriers on either side). It requires full attention to the road all the time. I've gotten used to driving in construction zones, but there is still a lot going on and you don't want to make a mistake. That can get expensive! So concentrate, concentrate, concentrate.

Some of the interstate roads we drove in NY were rough, being bouncy and rocky at the same time. When the roads are particularly rough, you really have to be careful when opening cabinet doors. Things might have shifted during the bouncy ride and you may just have a coffee cup or a bottle of soap or ... well there are all sorts of things packed in these cabinets ... and one of them may just come falling toward your heard if you're not careful in opening the overhead compartment doors. It kind of reminds me of an airplanes overhead storage after an extraordinarily turbulent flight. You don't know what's going to come out of there when the door is opened!

So we bounced our way across the southern tier of counties in NY. Wouldn't the NY Thruway have been closer and faster? Maybe, but it would also have been a whole lot more expensive. The Thruway is a toll road and they make you pay for the privilege of beating yourself to death on its bumps and jars. It's an expensive toll way. And the gas at the toll road oases is sky high. So we elected to travel on NON-toll roads.

Tuesday night when we got to Binghamton, NY, we were supposed to head NE up I-88 to Albany. However, we needed to stop for the night and so we found a site that was listed in the Passport America member's guidebook. Passport America is a membership club for campers and RV owners that makes it possible to camp for up to 50% off of standard rates. That's usually restricted to Sun - Thurs. nights since weekends can fill up at many RV parks and they can charge full rate fees. You pay about $50 per year to belong and usually the savings pay for that in just a stop or two. I recommend them highly. It is one of the memberships we will keep for year after year.

Anyway, we were looking for Forest Lake Park in Windsor, NY, so we had to stay on I-86 toward New York City.  We found the exit for the park easily but the park itself was up (and down) in the hills. We threaded our way up and down narrow country roads for several miles, each road getting narrower than the last. Oh, did I fail to mention that by this time it was raining buckets?!

Finally we found our way to the campgrounds and everything was totally dark! There were several campers (trailers mostly) in the park but no lights. It looked like nobody was home. The office was locked. The main house looked empty. Now what do we do? Did I mention that it was pouring buckets? Thankfully a gentleman drove up at that moment. I thought he was going to be the owner or manager or caretaker. Nope. He was just a resident. However he did know the telephone number of the owner. The NEW owner. So I got the number, called the owner, got the wife in the family on the phone and she said they were over 10 minutes away from the park ... at their home. BUT her husband was driving home from his job (his job? The camp isn't his job?) and would be coming by there shortly and she'd give him a call.

Finally, a man in a truck pulls up. It's the owner. He takes me in the empty house which is going to be the office. It seems that he has owned the camp for every bit of two weeks. I may have been his first overnight customer. I'm not sure. He certainly did not know how to register me or give me a receipt or how to assign me to a campsite. Instead, he took me for a ride through the campground in his truck to look at potential sites. Did I mention that it was pouring buckets? The poorly maintained roads were potholed and covered with running water. The sites he showed me were saturated with water and it was standing in some places. I finally selected a campsite that looked like we were camped in the middle of a pond with water all around us (that's a slight exaggeration but only slight). Fortunately there was a good gravel base beneath the coat of water all over the ground.

To top it all off, the new owner had dropped the Passport America affiliation and they no longer gave the 50% discount. ARGGGH! After all that, we were paying full rate in a dump, in a FLOODED dump.

It rained most of the night. But the following day dawned clear and sunny and, as Mary said, the camp was really a pretty little place with lots of potential and ought to be a good campground someday IF the new owner worked at it. I sure hope he does. I wonder if he will. He seems to be a nice guy but he doesn't know the first thing about running a campground (and admits it) but thought that the land and the lake would be an excellent investment. And the camp came with it. That's not necessarily the best rational for becoming a campground owner.

The next morning, we managed to make our way out of the mud and the muck and the mire and get back on the road, traveling back roads to get to I-88 so we could head north. Our goal was King Phillips Campground in Lake George, NY, just a few miles north of Glens Falls, the home of the Adirondack Balloon Festival and Mary's sister Barb and her family. We were actually arriving at King Phillips CG a day earlier than we had planned but we didn't want to stay where we were at Forest Lake so I called ahead and asked if we could come in a day early. We could.

We got to Lake George on Wednesday afternoon, September 19, and got ourselves set up. King Phillips Campground was a wonderful contrast to our home of the previous evening. It is a neat, clean, well organized business that takes good care of their facilities and their customers. We'll probably be back there to camp sometime.

That evening, we ran down to visit Barb and family for a while, got the low-down on the Balloon Festival schedule and activities, and headed back "home" to King Phillips where we would be living for the next few days.

The trip continues in the next installment. By the way, there will be more pictures as the rest of this stage of our journey is described.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home is headed for WI for a few more weeks

It used to be that as a trip was coming to an end I'd think about "heading for home." But since "home" (in the phraseology of the RVers) is "where you park it," I have to say where "home" is heading. And right now, we are headed back to Wisconsin for about three more weeks of this fall.

We have kids with birthdays and anniversaries and we want to see the.m and we want to see the grandkids. We also have some Red Cross training to take. And a doctor's appointment and ... Well, you get the idea. There is unfinished business. Isn't that always true in life? As long as we are living, there is some kind of "unfinished business" to be taken care of. So we're going to take care of some of it and, I'm sure, will leave some of it unfinished for the next time we're in WI.

Let me bring you up to date on the peregrinations of Forrest and Mary. When I last left you, we were at the Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, IN. And a delightful place it was and we'll stop there again (probably in a couple of days). However, we left Elkhart on the morning of Sept. 16 with plans for a short day's drive. We were stopping at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.


Some of are old enough to remember when the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland would catch on fire and burn. Yes, the river would burn! There was so much flammable pollution in the river (or on the surface of it) that the river would catch on fire and burn for days. Today, the Cuyahoga River and the Valley along it is a beautiful national park! The valley and river have been cleaned up and the river is clear and clean.

We weren't planning an extended visit to the park. It is long and narrow and could easily take several days to explore. It would be fun to take a LONG walk along the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail which follows along the route of the Ohio and Erie Canal, a vital transportation link in the pre-Civil War days in Ohio, enabling canal boats to take cargo and passengers to Lake Erie from towns along the length of the canal all the way down to the Ohio River.

We stopped at the Boston Store Visitor's Center near Peninsula, OH. There we had an interesting discussion with a volunteer about the role of bats in the Cuyahoga Valley, saw some static displays on the history of canal boat building, and walked a 1/2-mile or so along the Towpath Trail. A Monday in September was definitely NOT the best time to be visiting this park. They were already cutting back on services and activities in preparation for fall and winter when the number of visitors greatly declines. However, we agreed that this park will be on our "list" for a revisit during some summer trip through northern OH.

The "list" grows longer daily. There is always so much more to see than we allow time to see it. But as we slow down and stay places longer we know that we'll take some items off of that list as we take the time to thoroughly explore an area. Like many newbie full-timers, we are busy going instead of taking time to sit. By the way, we KNOW that it costs a lot less to sit and explore than it does to drive from place to place and just get a glancing look at an area, but we are trying to be certain places on certain days this fall and that means we have to keep moving.

After our visit to CVNP, we stopped for the night in Brunswick, OH, at Willow Lake Park. It was an okay place to stop for the night, but I'm not sure it will be very high on the list of campgrounds we revisit. However, that may not be very fair to the park since a quick overnight spot is definitely not the best way to judge a campground. It was pleasant enough but, I admit, failed to make enough of an impression on me that I even remembered its name. I had to go back and look it up to write this post.

On September 17, we drove from Willow Park to Evergreen Lake Park in Conneault, OH, stopped overnight and then headed on across the little part of Pennsylvania that was on our route before we pointed our RV across the Southern Tier Expressway in New York state. There were several things in the vicinity of Evergreen Lake Park that we could have taken the time to see, but we had decided that we wanted to move on into New York and maybe get to Glens Falls a day earlier than we had planned so we could do some more things in that area. Northern Ohio definitely has some interesting places that we want to see in the future so we'll just keep on adding to the ever growing "list" of places we'll return to investigate in more depth.

I'll leave you there for the moment and continue the journey later as we travel across southern New York.