Before we left Caesar Creek, Molly had one final appointment with the canine internist. We are grateful to the director of Ohio State University's veterinarian alumni office for her follow-through that connected us with Dr. Schrader. Molly's test results were good, and we were gratified to see an improvement in her condition. It was a great two weeks at Caesar Creek State Park. Camping with our kids, visiting some of our favorite haunts, and enjoying the quietness of the campground made it hard to leave. We will look forward to a return visit or two next year. The rural area between Cincinnati and Dayton with favorite stores, flea markets, annual festivals, and many sightseeing opportunities makes this one of our favorites....if only they didn't have WINTER!
We drove east again toward our next destination at the big RV show in Hershey, PA. On the way, we made a one-night stopover near Charleroi, PA at Pine Cove Beach Resort. This campground has about 45 sites up on a hill behind a large public swimming pool with water slides, etc. The campground has fairly wide sites with gravel pads, full hookups, and nice grass between sites. There is a fishing lake behind the row of sites on the eastern side. Other than some traffic noise from nearby I-70, the campground was fairly quiet. They participate in Passport America, but we only knew that through the Passport America website rather than it being made known at the campground.
The next morning we headed out for Hershey where we dry camped on a section of an old golf course adjacent to the Hershey Giant Center where the RV show was held. The Giant Center took over the golf course after they lured the RV show away from Harrisburg several years ago. They paved part of the golf course for additional event parking and converted the rest to a dry camping area.
This was our first visit to the PA RV show since its move to the Hershey site. The on-site dry camping was on grass instead of a parking lot and was just across the road from the show making it very convenient. Although the show was within walking distance, shuttle bus service was available. An escort showed us where to park which helped ensure that parking was orderly and made it easy to enter and leave. At the show, all the recreational vehicles are now on display outdoors. It seemed that the layout was more spread out, but also more easily accessible. If the weather is beautiful like it was this year, this venue is great. Makes you want to buy one and "get out there!" Certainly the traffic patterns to negotiate both the camping area and the show itself were more efficient.
We aren't anywhere near ready to buy a new motor home (and may never be); but not having been to an RV show in over 2 years, we were curious about what was new. There was an article about a new Tiffin Phaeton floor plan in a recent RV magazine so we wanted to check that out. Workhorse Custom Chassis (the manufacturer of our motor home chassis) has a new chassis design, and they were offering free test drives. Unfortunately, the test motor home was down for repairs when we got there for our drive; and we couldn't reschedule because we were leaving that afternoon. But we did have a good time walking around and looking. One thing Tiffin has made standard in the 2008 models is installing carpet only in the bedroom of their motor homes. There is full floor tile (no carpet) in the entire living area. This makes it much easier to keep things clean, and you can add an area rug if you like that cushy feel on your bare feet.
We met up with the salesman from Clem's Trailer Sales in Elwood City, PA, who sold us our motor home and also with the regional sales representative for Tiffin whom we had met at several other shows. We are huge fans of Tiffin, and the sales people are always glad to see us. We even put in a plug for Tiffin with several potential customers while we were looking around one of the Tiffin motor homes. One salesman said he would "put our check in the mail" after we were invited to join the conversation he was having with a potential customer. The best salesmen for a product are satisfied owners. Here is Paul pretending to put on a sales pitch.
We left the RV show in the early afternoon and drove about an hour to Beacon Hill Campground in the heart of Amish country near Lancaster, PA. We had never stayed at Beacon Hill before, but we decided to try it. Unfortunately, our favorite area campground where we had stayed several times before (Country Haven) had another price increase and was now pretty much out of our range. Although in rare cases we might stretch our budget for something very special, the attitude of the new owners last year negated the "very special" factor of the campground (its beautiful scenery overlooking a valley full of farms). We were a little uncertain about trying the new location because it is right smack in the middle of the tourist area, but our desire to visit another one of our favorite locations overcame that concern. Being in the middle of the tourist area is both a plus because of the convenience, but also a minus because of the traffic. However, we know our way around the area well enough to avoid most of the traffic, so we didn't have much problem.
Beacon Hill is located on a hillside with some sites overlooking a farm and some sites overlooking the road. There is a fair amount of traffic noise, but it diminishes at night. On the plus side, being close to the road you can hear the Amish clip-clop up and down the road in their buggies, and this was a busy road. Here is a view of our campsite...
Sunday, particularly, we were treated to clip-clops all day and well into the night. Paul even heard someone passing by at 2:30 in the morning! Coming home late? Or going to work very early at someplace like a bakery? A midwife perhaps? We'll never know.
We didn't have any trouble getting into our site, but there could be a little difficulty maneuvering into some sites because the road is narrow and because of the hillside location. There is also a dairy barn directly opposite the campground with plenty of animal smells for a truly authentic country experience. Fortunately, the winds were favorable for the most part, and we were upwind of the barn most of our stay. Here are some of our neighbors who were responsible for the "country" atmosphere.
There are even more shops, crafts, antiques, restaurants, and markets in the Lancaster area than there are in our other favorite Amish area of Holmes County, OH. Of course, there are similar views of farms like this one...
As with Holmes County, we have our favorite places to find good food. We try to be in the Lancaster area on a Friday because that's the only day the Green Dragon Flea Market is open. Again, as full-timers we don't buy much; but it's fun to look. There are a number of meat markets where we usually buy a nice ham slice for dinner, dried beef and sweet bologna, a Lebanon bologna unique to the Lancaster area. There are also a number of lunch counters that sell a variety of sausage and other sandwiches if you're hungry while you are there.
After visiting the flea market, we stopped at Wilbur Chocolate in Lititz, PA. Wilbur makes all their own chocolate right there adjacent to the store, and it is absolutely the best! We love their dark chocolate. They make what they call "buds," which are similar in size and shape to Hershey Kisses except they are not wrapped. You can just pop them into your mouth. You can also buy dipped candy (which you can see being dipped), various molded shapes, chocolate covered nuts, chocolate chunks, chocolate wafers, chocolate chips, and large chocolate slabs all in both milk and dark. There is also a very interesting museum between the factory and the store. Since we can't very well mail order the buds like we did when we were in a stick house, we were going to buy 3 lbs. However, the 5 lb. box was priced at such a discount, well...it just made sense to save money. :)
While in Lititz, you can also tour the Julius Stergis Pretzel Bakery where they will teach you how to twist a pretzel. Julius Sturgis was the grandfather of Tom Sturgis who started Tom Sturgis Pretzels after moving from the family home in Lititz to Reading.
They are a wholesale supplier of pretzels (Rita's Italian Ice in Cranberry Township north of Pittsburgh carries them...at least they used to), but they sell retail out of the factory with the sales counter right next to the conveyor from the oven. If the conveyor is running, they will usually reach over and take your pretzels right off the conveyor. You can't get get much fresher than that. This year they have added a new flavor, a whole wheat/rye blend, and boy, oh boy are they good! We stop for pretzels almost every day we are there, except Sunday. Like Holmes County, almost everything in the area is closed on Sunday.
Another "must" stop is Dutch Haven, a little gift shop on Route 30 that claims to have the world's best shoo-fly pie. We think theirs is excellent, but THE best (in our opinion) was from a lady who used to sell baked goods at the Caesar Creek Flea Market. The family used have someone drive them in a van over an hour to the flea market every Saturday, but it eventually got to be too much and they opened their own bakery closer to home. Her shoo-fly pie had a stronger molasses flavor, which we like. The Dutch Haven Store is built in the shape of a windmill and offers a free sample of shoo-fly pie to anyone who enters the store..
As you may have seen in our posts about Amish areas, the word "Dutch" is frequently used - Dutch Haven, Pennsylvania Dutch, Der Dutchman Restaurant, etc. That is because the Amish came from Switzerland and spoke Deutsch, which is the German word for "German." The locals thought they were saying "Dutch" and the name stuck. Menno Simons was a Catholic priest who united many Anabaptist Christians in the early 1500s. His followers became known as the Mennonites. The Amish, who are followers of Jacob Amman, broke away from the Mennonites. The Anabaptists were severely persecuted in Europe because of their beliefs about adult baptism. They fled to Switzerland where they spoke German. The Amish later came to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s at the invitation of William Penn. As a Quaker who knew religious persecution himself, he invited them to take part in his experiment of religious tolerance in what later became known as Pennsylvania.
The Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market is also one of our usual stops. There is a little shop there that sells delicious dark chocolate fudge, another one of Paul's favorites. (Are we noticing a theme here?) There are also several meat markets; a couple of produce stands; two vendors selling canned vegetables, pickles and jams/jellies; two bakeries, one with outstanding raisin bread and pecan rolls; a bulk food vendor; a couple of lunch counters; and some craft and other miscellaneous shops.
To the east of Lancaster on US Route 30 are several outlet malls. Again, as full-timers, we usually don't buy much; but if we find we need socks, a new polo shirt, tennis shoes, or some kitchen gadget we'll sometimes stop by. Although there are several outlet malls, the one we go to most often is Rockvale Outlets because it has most of the stores we are looking for and because it is right on the corner of PA 896 and US 30 making for easy access.
Shady Maple Smorgasbord to the northeast of Lancaster near Blue Ball has a very good breakfast buffet. The buffet is $7.79 Monday through Thursday ($1.00 more on Friday and Saturday) with 10% off for seniors over 60. The price includes tip, so it's not that high considering all they have. They have made-to-order pancakes and omelets as well as biscuits, cookies, 5 different filled donuts, shoo-fly pie, whoopie pies, fresh fruit, turkey bacon, regular bacon, ham, several kinds of sausages, specialty coffees, several types of potatoes, corned beef hash, and creamed chipped beef in addition to all the usual and quite a few unusual breakfast items for the most complete breakfast buffet we've ever seen.
Shady Maple Grocery is adjacent to the restaurant. They sell a huge variety of Amish and country-style groceries and produce as well as more common items. We were watching our grocery budget, so we skipped the Shady Maple Market this trip so we wouldn't be tempted by all their goodies.
We also like to stop at Kitchen Kettle Village, which was just 1/2 mile down the road from our campsite in Intercourse, PA. Yes, that's the real name of the town, and it means to talk. The Kitchen Kettle Village marketing department has been working hard. On a Tuesday in September we counted 11 tour buses and the village was very busy enjoying a festive atmosphere. When we first went to Kitchen Kettle Village years ago, there was the canning kitchen itself (where you can watch jams and jellies being made) and several smaller shops. Now, there are well over 20 shops, including several that they have bought out along the main street of town. They have expanded their parking lot as well. There is one thing that hasn't changed, at least not much. For years, Kitchen Kettle had a trio of fellows known as Banjo Jimmy and His Sidemen who played and sang old-time songs in the courtyard during the summer months. This time, Jimmy (seated) had only one sideman, but they were still playing the same music and bantering with the crowd.
The winds shifted the afternoon before we were scheduled to leave Beacon Hill Campground so that we were downwind of the barn across the street. To make matters worse, the farmer who owned the barn had harvested his fields during the week and was now pumping out the waste tank in the barn and beginning to spread the tankage on his fields. It was very unpleasant. We had to close up the motor home and turn on the air conditioner.
The next morning we drove south through Delaware. We were heading for Williamsburg and we decided to avoid the heavy I-95 traffic around Baltimore and Washington and travel down the Delmarva Peninsula, which is the large peninsula on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We stayed at the Assateague Island National Seashore. Assateague Island is a barrier island just off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Assateague and Chincoteague to the south are known for the wild horses that roam the islands. There are two herds that are kept separate by a fence at the Maryland/Virginia border on Assateague Island. The Maryland herd is managed by the National Park Service and the Virginia herd, which is allowed to graze at the southern end of Assateague Island by the National Park Service, belongs to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. Each year, the fire department rounds up its herd and sells off some of the foals to help support the fire company. Today the horses are wild, but they descended from domesticated stock that grazed on the island as early as the 1600s and belonged to eastern shore planters. The horses wander about island, including the camping areas.
The camping areas at the national seashore have no hookups; but water is available for filling your tank, and there is a dump station. The campground was very quiet on this off-season weekday, even with generators running from time to time; but summer weekends are probably a different story.
As we left Assateague, we pulled the motor home into the beach parking lot and walked over the dunes to see the ocean. In spite of the gray morning, a few brave souls were walking and even sitting on the beach.
Unfortunately, you can't see the ocean from the seaside camping areas because of the dunes, but you can see the bay from several of the bayside campsites, including ours. This was the view out our door.
We left Assateague and continued down the Delmarva Peninsula crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. From the early 1930s until 1954, a private company ran a ferry service across the Chesapeake Bay. With the number of boats, passengers, and vehicles steadily increasing, the Virginia legislature created a commission that bought out the ferry company and worked toward improving the service. In 1956, they began exploring the construction of a fixed bridge crossing. Construction was begun in 1960 and the bridge and tunnel opened on April 15, 1964. At a length from shore to shore of 17.6 miles, it is the world's longest bridge/tunnel complex. There are almost 12 miles of low-level trestle roadway, two 1-mile tunnels under the main shipping lanes, 2 bridges, 2 miles of causeway, 4 man-made islands, and 5 1/2 miles of approach roads.
The original bridge/tunnel system was only one lane in each direction. In 1995, construction of a second bridge/roadway system was begun and was completed in April, 1999, expanding the toll areas and increasing the bridges and roadways to 4 lanes. The project did not include expansion of the islands and tunnels. The tunnels remain 2 lanes and will be expanded at a later date.
We arrived in Williamsburg mid-afternoon. We pulled into the Williamsburg Pottery Campground (also known as Fair Oaks Campground) and decided to turn down one of the campground roads to check out some alternate campsites on our way to the office. As Paul made the left turn, suddenly the steering locked, and we ran off the road onto the grass. Fortunately, there was plenty of room in that area of the campground, and we were traveling at low speed so there was no damage. After briefly reviewing the situation, Paul remembered a recall for the Blue Ox TruCenter steering control we had as an option on our motor home. The TruCenter is is an add-on device that is supposed to stabilize the steering on uneven pavement and against things like crosswinds. There was a problem with foreign material getting into the device and causing it to lock up. Paul checked the serial number of our unit back in 2006 when he heard about the recall and found our unit was not included.
We unhooked the Vue so Margery could drive to the office to register while Paul climbed under the motor home to remove the TruCenter. After much grunting and banging and with only one skinned finger, he was able to remove the large, now somewhat rusty nuts holding the TruCenter in place and we were to steer normally.
After driving to our campsite and setting up, Paul called Blue Ox. He found out the problem with the TruCenter was apparently bigger than first thought, and it had been completely removed from the market. It has undergone redesign and extensive testing over the past year or so and it is just now going back onto the market. They will be able to replace our unit in late October with the new and improved model. We may wait until we are stationary for a little longer period of time in December before we have Blue Ox ship us the new TruCenter. We were just thankful that when the TruCenter locked up we weren't in traffic (like the interstate we had just exited), on the interstate exit ramp, changing lanes at 60 mph, or at a crowded gas station like were earlier in the day.
Williamsburg Pottery Campground is an older campground that seems to be a little past its prime. The thing we like is the fairly convenient location and the fact they have numerous sites with good satellite access. Although the sites are fairly close together, the campground usually isn't too crowded after Labor Day and we can get a site off by ourselves.
As we settled in after our little mishap, we looked forward to the next week and a half in the Williamsburg area.