Saturday, September 24, 2022

All About Ashtabula and the Area

Jefferson, Ohio.  Thousand Trails Kenisee Lake. Site: B-9

Highs: 50's to low 60's.  Lows: 40's to 50's. Fall is here!  ATT hot spot--download speed is 4.88, upload speed is 0.6. that's terrible! Forget about streaming anything on using your phone hotspot! T-Mobile Mifi download speed is 9.37, upload speed is 1.38--not very good but we can still use the internet! Water is about 56 psi's, so that is good water pressure. Sparky is reporting these speeds now on the blog because it's important to know which how the connections are is going to work for researching, posting photos, a blog, water and sewer hookups and communicating with family. More and more people are working on the road and need to know these things.

We are in Jefferson, Ohio, just outside of Ashtabula, in the northeast corner of Ohio, very close to Lake Erie at Thousand Trails Kenisee Lake RV park, free with our camping membership. We are here for four nights on our way to Indiana next. The road leading into the park turn off is narrow and winding. Be careful and watch out for deer as well. Note: DO NOT FOLLOW GPS directions or Mapquest directions to get to the park. Both will lead you straight to a low clearance (10ft. 8") bridge. 

Kenisee Lake is a very small park with two small lakes, 119 sites, only a few are available for pull through (10?) and the rest are back in. Many sites are taken up with seasonal rigs. This seems to be the trend at many Thousand Trails parks. The park has BIG, wide open green spaces and huge resident flocks of geese. They could put a ton more sites in if they wanted to. 

All sites for campers moving on through are out in the open, with no trees and are gravel and grass sites, level. There is a pool (now closed for the season) and a very small laundry room if you need it. The cons are: the gravel sites flood when it rains, and a variety of cell phone services all struggle with speed and good connections. The park is located in a small town with limited shopping options, but if you don't mind driving a bit, there is plenty to see and do in the area. The pros are: it's clean, it's quiet, and in the county you can take a covered bridge tour on your own, or check out the barn quilt tour on your own as well. The town of Geneva-on-the-Lake, a summer resort town right on Lake Erie is nearby, but pretty much shuts down after Labor Day. There are LOTS of wineries (30) in the area. And of course, lots of recreational opportunities at Lake Erie and a very nice bike trail just a couple of miles from the RV park, called the Western Reserve Greenway Bike Trail, with the trailhead closest being Eagleville trailhead. 

In addition, here are some other ideas if you are in the Ashtabula area:

Pick apples at Brant Apple Orchard, (Aug-November) and try a cider slushy or cider donuts. We got some cider and it was delicious! 

Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge
Do the covered bridge tour on your own...get a map and off you go! There are 19 covered bridges in the area. It's a fun drive and the map places you logically and most efficiently as to how to visit them. Check out the beautiful Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge--the longest covered bridge in the US, but definitely not the oldest. It is 613 feet long. There is a beautiful park there, too. Here is a shot of the bridge side walkway, (to the left), there is a walkway on both sides. 

Root Road Bridge

If you are an architecture buff, know that there are 5 truss patterns found within the 19 covered bridges. They are: the Burr Arch, the Town Lattice Truss, the Howe Truss, the Inverted Harp Truss, and the Pratt Truss (which is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge). The insides of these bridges are AMAZING! 

Middle Bridge-Howe Truss

Eldy is waving hi thru the Root Bridge!

The map tells you the year, the type of structure, the clearance, and the dimensions. The shortest clearance is at 9 ft., 4 in. The truck cleared it-barely! One of Sparky's favorites this time was the State Road Bridge seen below.

State Road Bridge

There are two driving tours for the bridges, if you wanted to cover them all. The north and eastern tour covers 13 bridges and spans 69 miles, the south and western tour covers 6 bridges and spans 68 miles.

Mechanicsville Bridge + Quilt Pattern

If you are a history buff, check out the Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum in Ashtabula, take a tour through the 19th century Jefferson Depot, the Ashtabula Maritime and Surface Transportation Museum, or the Victorian Perambulator Museum, a truly a one-of-a-kind in the world. That would be a history of baby carriages in case you are not familiar with the "p" word! Lucille Ball's baby carriage is in there, apparently and there's enough historic perambulators to fill 15 rooms!

You could go looking for beach glass at Conneaut (pronounced "Connie-ought") Township Park or Walnut Beach.

Italian pizza oven at Nights and Weekends

Eat pizza at the Nights and Weekends Pizzeria in downtown Ashtabula Harbor. Fantastic pizza, and the wood fired oven is from Italy!  Some great locally brewed beer there, too. (Yep, smiles a satisfied Eldo).

In early August, the largest D-Day re-enactment in the WORLD takes place in Conneaut. It's a free event and over 3,000 reenactors help make it happen.

At Brant's Apple Orchard
If you are a crafter or sewer, you might want to take in the Barn Quilts Tour by doing a beautiful drive. Barn quilt motifs are painted on the sides of barns, shops, sign boards, or historical places of significance all over the county. The concept began with a lady in Ohio who wanted to honor her mother and her Appalachian heritage. You can learn the story of each pattern at:

The covered bridge tour and the barn quilt tour is all in the same piece of literature available at the RV park office.
Church in Jefferson with quilt pattern

Sparky's Place
And of course, we just HAD to try Sparky's Place....on Broad Street in Conneaut for a huge fish sandwich and some terrific cheese curds. Just about everything made from scratch. Sparky says, if it has her name on it, it's got to be good--well, we hope, anyway...And it was! It has a cool atmosphere. The owner has it decorated with kitschy stuff all over the place and TWO leg lamps (seen in the movie "A Christmas Story", a classic--"It's 'FRAGEE-LAY'".)

In the short four days we were there, we did a lot of these things and topped it off with the Grape Festival on the weekend, the day before we were to leave for Indiana. This was the first time the grape festival had been held in two years and so the turnout was great. All things grape here--grape ice cream, grape pie, and purple cows. Concord grapes off the vine are amazing!

Sparky ALMOST signed up for the adult grape stomping contest, but watched the little ones do it instead. They came before the grownups. A lady celebrating her 40th birthday had the guts to stomp in a mini dress! The grapes are in a small barrel, held by a guy in a white hazmat suit with a face mask. (He put one on later after getting juice on his face) and it was not at all like we pictured it would be, but still fun to watch. They played funky music with a beat to get the contestants to stomp faster.

We had a great stay in Ohio, and are looking forward to a return visit for some more great spots in Ashtabula County to visit and check out next time. We head out tomorrow for Howe and Elkhart, Indiana, for an extended stay.

Both Eldy and Sparky will be having cataract surgery and doing all the catching up with dentist and doctor visits, to get those out of the way, AND visiting with Eldy's son's family. We are also looking forward to seeing the fall and leaf color changes in Indiana.  See you down the road!


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Finishing Up in PA

We finished up our stay in Pennsylvania with some fun things. We loved our stay here. Lebanon, (where the RV park is located) is a nearby town to Hershey and the surrounding farming area is truly beautiful. There are so many big, beautiful farms and rolling hills. It appears to be a very prosperous area.

We went to the Hershey RV show just for fun, and saw some fabulous floor plans for fifth wheels and motorhomes. Sparky's favorite was the New Horizons fifth wheel floor plan, light and airy. It's a very expensive fifth wheel RV. If you just happen to have $109,000.00 for the sale price, it could have been yours at the show! 

Since a new fifth wheel is not in the cards, Sparky really wants to try to lighten up our interior somehow. It's so dark! It would be a major undertaking to paint the cabinets, and we think it wouldn't turn out nicely, so Sparky will try to lighten up the valences and we eventually plan to get rid of the black queen sofa bed and put in two light colored rockers and a little table instead. It's interesting how RV designers have trends just like the housing market. Everything was dark wood for awhile, and now it's farmhouse white and light. This is our current living area.
For one improvement, since we couldn't swap out our fifth wheel for another one, we decided to replace the mattress that came with our used rig for a different one. It was a king, very thin, poorly supported 6" thick Beautyrest. Both of us had been having a lot of back issues and sciatic problems, so we thought maybe if we got a new mattress, that would help! Now the problem is, you can't get a traditional mattress thru the narrow front door of the RV without bending the heck out of it, especially if you need a KING. So what are our options if Sparky wouldn't go any smaller? A mattress in a box! It's the latest "thing" in mattresses....saves lugging the big thing home in a truck, or having to have it delivered if you don't have a truck, and for RVers, a piece of cake to get it inside and set it up. We went from an RV king mattress which is 72" X 80" to a regular king mattress which is 76" X 80". As soon as we started to take off the outer layer of plastic, the mattress started to make noise....."PSHSHSHSHSHSHHHHHH...." We thought it might explode right out of the bag, haha, but it didn't. Once all the plastic is off, you can see it expanding slowly in front of your eyes. You wait about 24-48 hours for the internal coils and foam to fully expand before sleeping on it. It has really made a difference in the amount of support and we are both sleeping much better with the new mattress!

Sparky went riding back out on the Lebanon Valley Trail a few more times. The trail is being majorly resurfaced in the worst areas with a crushed cinder/sand combination plus asphalt paving in some sections--woo hoo! Wonder what the story is behind this umbrella? Did the wind catch it and toss it to the trees? Did someone purposely throw it up there?
You never know what you might see on a trail! Sparky thinks "deer" but sometimes it's something else. Yep--several chickens and roosters! 
Or a rat snake....This one seemed like a big one!

We checked out the Hershey Museum, about all things chocolate and Milton Hershey, an amazing businessman for his time. Did we mention that many of the streets in downtown Hershey have names like Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues? And that 55 of their street lamps are shaped like wrapped Hershey kisses and 52 are shaped like unwrapped ones? Hershey's kisses used to be individually wrapped of course, from 1907 to 1921 until someone invented a machine to wrap them. From 1942 to 1949, the production of Hershey's kisses totally stopped because there was no aluminum foil available due to the war effort.

Remember Hershey-Ets?
The museum was really great. Milton Hershey was a businessman ahead of his time. Armed with only a fourth grade education, at the age of 18, he began his own business of making caramels, then switched to chocolate, because chocolate was a burgeoning, booming market back in the early 1920's. Hershey was a visionary, he believed that happy workers were productive workers and he designed the town around his factory to be a place where people could own their own homes at affordable prices, enjoy their time away from work through recreational activities, and that they should have a say in how the company was run. If he took care of workers' needs, they would be happy to work for his company and they were. Hershey's company workers came up with many productive and innovative ideas that made Hershey chocolate company world famous. He felt education was so important that he donated all of his entire fortune three years after his wife died, to found the Milton Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys in 1909. The school has become well known now for its providing an enriched environment for children who come from struggling families.

And last but not least, we found an excellent Mexican restaurant in the nearby town of Palmyra, called Rey Azteca. We highly recommend it if you are in the area. A big menu to choose from, really good street tacos (Sparky's favorite) and a ton of choices of burritos. 

And with that, we say goodbye to a fabulous stay in Pennsylvania. Sparky will miss that beautiful Lebanon Valley Trail, but there are more trails to come. If you stay at the Thousand Trails Hershey Park in Lebanon, PA, the trailhead closest to the park is called the Colebrook Trailhead.

It's on to Ohio, to Kenisee Lake Thousand Trails park for four days. We are going to an apple orchard, going to see a few covered bridges, and attend a grape/wine festival. There are over 30 wineries in the Lake Erie area where we will be staying!


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

A Bit of Time in Pennsylania

Timothy Lakes South, site #4, back in. High's: 70's to mid eighties, lows: high 50's to low 60's. ATT terrible, T-Mobile terrible, can't even run a speed test.

If you are an RVer, starting to make your way from the northern states where you have spent your summer to the southern states for a warmer winter climate, you have two main choices that many take. One, you start heading south towards Florida or the states along the Gulf coast, or two, you head towards the southwest or California. Florida is so popular for winter RVers and snowbirds, that it is extremely difficult to reserve campground spaces for the winter, and you have to start MONTHS in advance, trying to reserve a spot.

Having lived in Florida for seven years, hating the heat and humidity and the traffic congestion, we prefer Texas and Arizona. So, after a lovely summer in Maine, we are heading towards the midwest first, to Indiana where Eldy's family is, then to Texas and Arizona. First stop after leaving Maine, is usually somewhere in Pennsylvania. Our destination was the eastern corner of PA, where we have a Thousand Trails membership park called Timothy Lake South. It was a driving distance of about 345 miles, a long driving day for Eldy. We usually try for an average of 300 miles per day or less. We usually try to get in a park on a Tuesday or a Wednesday for the best choice of sites. The weekenders usually leave by Sunday or Monday so the full timers are waiting to come in mid week to be able to choose a decent site. There are several Thousand Trails parks in PA. We like staying at Timothy Lakes South, in Bushkill, PA. This is the park that the deer wander through early morning and late afternoon and the park is near a private nature park called Bushkills Falls, which has seven waterfalls and great hiking trails. We scored a really nice shady back in site. NOTE: This campground has very HIGH water pressure, like 80-100 psi at the spigot. If you have an older rig, you could blow out your pipe fittings or do even more damage if you don't have some kind of water regulator at the spigot. The campground even sells cheap water regulators at the camp store just in case. The office told Sparky someone blew out their kitchen sink fittings because of the high pressure. We think the high pressure is from upgrades in the park to old water spigots at the sites. It never used to be that high on previous visits, but that is just a guess. High pressure is a welcome change from such low pressure at many campgrounds that you can barely flush your toilets sometimes or have a decent shower without feeling like it's a "dribble" shower. When we first turned it on, it blasted the water out of the toilet bowl, haha, as we cleared the lines of air when we first hooked up. Newer rigs can supposedly handle pressure up to 100 psi's easily, but check your owner's manual to be sure.

Unfortunately, cell service in the middle of the Pocono Mountains is TERRIBLE. It doesn't matter whether you have Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T. We have tried our AT&T hotspots, and our T-Mobile mifi, and nothing is working very well. People complain all over the place about how bad the internet is here. Isn't it something how much we depend on that these days for entertainment? No streaming here, and tons of buffering. Might as well read a book or two instead. You can sign up for something called FastWave at the campground, but it's not fast, and the "wave" is a little puny rolling one, haha. We are lucky if we can even send texts or make calls that don't drop. If you drive out of the campground and into the next town, you can get a better signal, but that's not very practical if you want to watch a football game on the weekend! So Eldo has to suck it up and just do without. And trooper that he is, he is ok with that for one week, but no more than that, haha.

That's what we don't like about this campground. Here's what we do like...Shady sites that are not hard to get into, a choice of being out in the open or back in the woods, a nice pool, a nice playground for the kids, and very nice staff. The pool closes Labor Day weekend and that's it! No matter how hot it still may get, the pools in this part of PA close Labor Day.

Sparky has actually swum in the pool several times late in the day. Because it's unheated, it's not frequented by any but the very hardy. Temps at night have been in the low fifties so that is keeping the pool nice and chilly!

Sparky rode the McDade Trail, a "recreational" bike/hike trail that is very nearby and goes for quite a few miles. There are several trailheads along route 209, Sparky gets on the one that is closest to the campground, right by Marluca's Italian restaurant and deli and heads out north on the trail, which runs parallel to 209. They've recently paved the road to the trailhead and made the bridge road wider so bikes can safely ride at the side of the road to get to the trail entrance. A lot of the trail is shaded, which is great! And you do pass through some beautiful sections of forest as you ride. Kinda makes up for the bad rocky gravel parts.

The trail itself is not very good. It's very large rock gravel which makes for a bone jarring ride, even on a Trek comfort bike. It's very uneven and hilly, with steep quick inclines and descents and hasn't been leveled in some time. Sections of the trail along farmland were severely domed from run off rains. Sparky did a total of sixteen miles out and back, which was enough for a bad trail, and was disappointed to see that it had deteriorated from the last time she rode it. There are also overhead branches that will smack you in the face if you don't watch out. 

You ride along farmlands on one side, and the Delaware River on the other. You can see the river through the trees occasionally. There are some beautiful sections through forest and the trail is probably 75% shaded in the portion that she did ride. There were few riders on the trail the day Sparky went, but she almost got run off the trail on a very narrow single tracked corner turn, when an avid cycler came careening around the corner, never announcing himself. Scared the bejeezus out of her!

Ebeneezer Scrooge
Labor Day was a very busy weekend at the campground. The campground had almost completely filled up by Friday. Lots and lots of families with kids. They are having a ball!  So we took it easy! Sparky crafted, making another Scrooge and Eldo enjoyed the breeze outside the rig. Very few bugs, we are surprised we aren't getting attacked in the woodsy part!

Two days after Labor Day, we left for Hershey, PA, more specifically, Lebanon, PA, where we are staying at one of our
membership parks, Thousand Trails Hershey. There are several Thousand Trails parks in Pennsylvania and are circled on the map.
Thousand Trails Hershey is actually 14 miles from the town of Hershey. It's one of the nicer Thousand Trails parks. It's big....320 roomy sites, a nice little putt putt course, a big, beautiful pool and spa and laundry facilities. The pool closed Labor Day, darn it! It also has a country store with hand dipped ice cream and other tasty treats. It's a really beautiful park with lots of open spaces in and around the sites, beautiful trees, and decent interior roads. It's easy to navigate round in with a big rig, unlike some parks we stay in.

In a Thousand Trails park, you almost always drive around to choose a site that has been generally assigned to you based on your size when you made your reservation. It's a site reserved generally and not specifically as far as where it's going to be in the park, if that makes any sense. So we came in around 12:30 AFTER check in time which is 12 noon. Don't show up a minute sooner or they will make you turn around and go back out of the park till it's noon or later. We drove in and around in our big rig and found a great spot! (B-2) It's a corner lot with lots of room on all sides of us. We love it! Nice big shade tree at the side and plenty of room for the truck. We will be here for two weeks. we hope to do the Hershey plant tour along with the Hershey RV show. Should be a fun week!

We are happy to be here, it's such a nice park...they have a fair amount of activities for families, too, and some live entertainment on the weekends. Also, every Saturday night, they have the "Hershey Howl". go outside at 8:45 PM and let your inner wolf out with a big howl! Just one will do, haha. We are getting closer to family, too...Sparky is happy because there is a rails-to-trails just a few miles from the park. It's called the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails and is about 18 miles long.

Next week we will take in the BIG Hershey RV show--The show covers 33 football fields (!) for the size of its presentation of anything and everything RV related--the 2023 models, things you can buy for your RV, and hopefully, some seminars to learn some new things. Looking forward to sharing the latest and greatest RVs with you! It's fun to look and see what the manufacturers think people will like and want to buy. 

Like us...We never thought we would end up with a towable fifth wheel, but here we are. We were hoping to find a class A motorhome (the big rectangular box style RV with fancy painted sides that tows a car behind it) back in 2018, but during Covid, those types of RVs were rare and flying out the door faster than we could make an offer. After looking long and hard, and not being able to find a class A motorhome, we got a great deal by looking at a package deal--a used 2018 Dodge truck and 2019 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel, (when you have a fifth wheel, the truck tows the RV) and we are very happy with it! (Except Sparky doesn't like trying to park the big dually, explains E.) Bigger is not always better, especially when trying to get into state parks and national park campgrounds. There are size restrictions with those types of places--many say 38 ft. or smaller. Initially, we were hoping to find something shorter but it just wasn't available at that time. So when you do have a rig over 40 feet, you need to have a BIG powerful truck to tow it, so that's what we have. And when you are living in an RV full time, most people really want and need more space. (So Sparky has more room for her craft stash, laughs Eldo). Ummm, yeah, well...that, too.

More about the Hershey show next week...See you down the road!