It's been quite a while since we posted news about our travels because we weren't traveling much and when we were, we weren't doing much sight-seeing. In early August, we were staying with our daughter and son-in-law, parked in the driveway of their new home just south of Pittsburgh. We visited with them, with family, and with former coworkers. We also visited doctors and the dentist. We both got good reports on all fronts. Margery also got new glasses and Paul got new contacts. We're all set.
Paul had a long "daddy-do" list. He enjoyed being able to use his table saw again while working on some of these projects. The high priority project was installing French doors on the living room which was made into an office. The doors made a handsome addition. Paul was happy to get his hands dirty again, and it was nice of the kids to have a list of varied projects and allow us to be a part of this new step in their lives. Paul plumbed repairing the outdoor faucet, installed an ice maker in their refrigerator, carpeted the steps to the finished basement, repaired a couple of pieces of furniture, and fixed several closet doors so they worked better. Margery pitched in on kitchen and laundry duty so we wouldn't be too much of a burden on our hosts. It was great being together but also having everyone able to retire to their own space...the best of both worlds.
At the end of the visit, we had reservations at Scenic Hills RV Park in one of our favorite locations - Berlin, OH. On Friday, we all took off for Ohio - us in the motor home and Lora and J. Michael with their trailer. Berlin, OH is located in Holmes County, which has the world's largest Amish population. We love the hard-working nature of Amish and the beauty of their farms. In Ohio, the Amish seem less hassled by the tourists than they are in Lancaster, PA, and therefore are more open and friendly.
Scenic Hills RV Park is a nice campground with fairly large sites for a private campground. Although there are a few shorter sites, big rigs are no problem for the majority of the sites. There are three main areas - on the hill overlooking the rest of the campground, at the entrance level where the office is located, and the lower area. The entrance level sites are all gravel while all the others are grass with gravel pads. The campground is well kept and the owners are constantly adding sites and making improvements. There is a new area of premium sites just added this year. These are extra large and will soon have concrete pads. All sites have full hookups and there is free Wi-Fi and free firewood. There are no bath houses, laundry, or restrooms. Scenic Hills is for self-contained RVs only.
Berlin seems to be the center of the tourist area, but there are several other towns worth investigating - Sugarcreek (the "Little Switzerland of Ohio"), Winesburg, Charm, Kidron, and Walnut Creek. The entire area is loaded with bed and breakfasts, restaurants that serve "Amish home cooking," antique shops, craft shops, quilt shops, and furniture stores. The photo below shows some of the picturesque shops along main street in Berlin.
Most of the furniture and crafts are locally made. In addition to the commercial shops, many Amish farms have a sign at the end of the driveway advertising crafts or furniture. If you're interested, don't hesitate to go up the driveway. They will be glad to have you come in to look around. Several years ago we consigned to have Lora's hope chest made and this trip Paul got a beautiful embossed leather belt. Of course everything is hand crafted and the prices are very reasonable. Just don't expect to visit an Amish shop on a Sunday since they do not sell on Sunday. In fact, all the shops and restaurants in the area will be closed on Sunday.
Nearby, Walnut Creek has the original Der Dutchman Resturant, so we always make time to eat there at least once. They have a wonderful breakfast buffet Monday - Saturday and a terrific salad bar for lunch and dinner in addition to a menu that includes all the Amish specialities. There are several cheese factories in the area. We think Heini's Cheese has the best samples, but we also like Walnut Creek Cheese because they have a nice grocery with Amish-style foods, bulk foods (including Paul's favorite ju-ju fish), and a gift shop. There are a couple of great butcher shops in the area - Winesburg Meats and Sugar Valley Meats. Sugar Valley has the best smoked beef jerky, and Winesburg has superb beef snack sticks. There are also candy shops, bakeries, produce stands, and an orchard. Wow, we have to be careful not to put on weight when we visit here!
After the Saturday breakfast buffet at Der Dutchman, we usually stop at the Amish Flea Market. The majority of the flea market is indoors and is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They have a nice selection of mostly new items. Again, as full-timers, we don't buy much....except books; but it's fun to look.
Another interesting stop is Lehman's Hardware in Kidron, OH. Lehman's stocks many non-electric appliances such as gasoline-powered wringer washers for the Amish as well as hard-to-find tools, farm items, home canning equipment, wood stoves, etc. It's really fun to look around. Did you know they still make washboards?
Margery's favorite quilt shop is Miller's Dry Goods located in Charm. With over 5,000 bolts of fabric (including a great selection of Thimbleberries fabric), an extensive selection of sale fabric in the basement, many quilting aids, and a separate building for finished quilted items and many, many quilt books, quilters will have the time of their lives. Suggestion to spouses....bring something to read and enjoy the seats on the front porch.
The kids left on Sunday, and we planned to leave on Monday. However, because of the unrelenting rain both in Ohio and in our next planned destination, Shenango Corps of Engineers Campground near Sharon, PA, we opted to extend our stay through Tuesday and skip Shenango. Moving from parking on gravel to rain-soaked grass just didn't seem to make good sense, and what a joy to have the freedom to make spur-of-the-moment plan changes. So, we decided to take in the breakfast buffet at Der Dutchman again. :)
On Wednesday, the rain let up, and we left for our next stop in Onoville, NY so Margery could meet up with some old high school friends. On the way, we stopped at Ryers Shoes in Sharon, PA. Ryers Shoes claims to be the "world's largest shoe store" and was the reason for the originally-planned stop at the Shenango Corps of Engineers Campground that we skipped because of the rain. Paul has a difficult time finding shoes because of his unusually wide feet and Ryers has a really good selection of shoes including extra wide. We were able to find plenty of room to park the motor home in their lot, find a pair of suitable shoes in short order, and continue on to New York.
In Onoville, we stayed at Onoville Marina. Onoville is located in western New York on the northern part of Allegheny Reservoir. The marina has a nice campground with both shaded and grassy, open sites. Thankfully, the grass was surprisingly firm in spite of the recent rain they had. The campground was quiet when we were there in the middle of the week, but judging from the number of boats docked at the marina, it probably fills up on the weekend.
We had a good time visiting with Margery's friends. We had re-connected through Classmates.com. Margery connected with an old boyfriend, and a mutual friend connected with Margery. Imagine the surprise of Margery's two friends to learn they lived in the same area! After being the conduit for them to re-connect, they invited us to visit. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome and to show us around the area. It was fun reminiscing and catching up on 40 years of life. We were reminded what a small world it really is. We had common denominators through Margery's brother; churches; Jumonville, a Methodist camp in Uniontown, PA,; a Christian school, and former co-workers. Sometimes we were aware of those connections. Other times, our paths came close to crossing without our being aware.
We ran some errands in the Amish area just northwest of Onoville. We were struck again how hard the Amish work and how different Amish communities can be. This one in New York is not as prosperous as Lancaster, PA, or Holmes County, OH. At one of our stops, we ran across this little Amish boy playing.
We were also surprised to learn that we were staying on the Seneca Indian Reservation. This reservation was not as obvious as the ones out west...the signs were more subtle. We did see an Indian school whose name Margery originally thought was Swedish. :) They are also in the process of building a residence for a few of their senior adults. Whenever you see a purple sign while driving across the southern border of New York, you'll know you're in Seneca country.
After Onoville, we headed west to Geneva State Park near Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH, located on Lake Erie about half way between Cleveland and the PA state line.
Geneva State Park was always one of our favorite campgrounds before we went full-time. It has spacious sites (although a few pads are a little short), and it is usually nice and quiet, even on the weekends. The non-pet sites are mostly heavily wooded and the pet loop has nice grass and some shade.
The state park also has a beach a short distance down the road where Molly likes to swim. Pets are permitted outside the guarded swimming area. The walk across the large, sandy swimming beach has become more difficult for Margery, but we found a secluded beach with a little more gravel where Margery could walk more easily and where Molly could swim to her heart's content.
Nearby in Madison, OH is Sands RV Parts. In addition to selling RV supplies and accessories, Sands buys out inventory from RV dealers that are cleaning out their parts departments or that are going out of business. They have a huge selection (which changes over time as things sell out or as new stock comes in) of parts for older RVs as well as some for newer RVs. We love to look around just to see what they have...which seems to be EVERYTHING.
From Geneva, we headed south again to Caesar Creek State Park (a Passport America campground) to meet up with Lora and J. Michael for Labor Day. Because we were camping with them, we opted for a reserved site this time since the kids wouldn't be arriving until Friday. The extra cost for making the reservations would guarantee we would be on adjacent sites. Below are shots of our campsite when we first arrived before Labor Day weekend...
Lora's college roommate and family were also joining us from Lexington, KY. This friend provided Lora with "wedding coordinator" services as a wedding gift, and we felt like it was a gift to us as well. We were able to relax and enjoy all the nuances of the day that we surely would have missed if we had had to be involved in the details.
On Monday morning, Lora's friend and her family left for home and most of the rest of the campground emptied out. Margery felt a little melancholy that everyone was going back to their fall routines and reconnecting with friends after the summer break, but it only lasted a few hours. :)
Lora and J. Michael stayed until Tuesday to avoid the crowds at the dump station and the traffic on the roads, and we enjoyed having a quiet campground again. On Tuesday they left and once again there were no other RVs in sight on our loop in the campground...only the sound of ciadas, blue sky, loads of sunshine, and a few nice sunsets. :)
We enjoyed our visits with family and friends; camping with family; and stops at favorite, familiar haunts. Now it's time to move on again. Our plans for the near future include stopping by the big RV show in Hershey, PA on our way to the Amish country around Lancaster, PA. From there, we will be heading south; but our path and schedule are still undetermined.
Recently. while having my hair cut, the stylist wanted to know why we decided to full-time in an RV. This morning we received this link to My Beautiful America that pretty much sums it up. We have not yet seen it all. :) And we are once again reminded how precious our freedom is and remember with gratitude those who have sacrificed so much so that we can continue to enjoy it.