2018 – Ft Chiswell, VA RV Park


Most people who come to Ft. Chiswell RV Park at Ft. Chiswell, VA only stop for the night as they travel I81/I77 across southwestern Virginia and it is a great spot for that kind of stay. The campground is just minutes from the interstate, but far enough from it that there is no sound of traffic. In fact, the campground is surrounded by pastures with several cattle and sheep. Most all of the campsites are pull through and long enough for even bigger RVs. The sites are all 50 amp/FHU and most are nicely level. There’s a small pool, a laundry, and large well-kept restrooms.

During the day there are few RVs – mostly the long term residents who are parked around the perimeter of the property. However, in the early afternoon a steady stream of rigs start arriving and by night the place is full. The next morning things are reversed and by 10:00 or so, it is empty again.

Our stay was for four nights. This gave us time to look around the area a bit; and there are a few attractions worth seeing. However, for most everyone, including us when we pass this way again, this is a good spot for the night with easy and convenient access along the way.

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2018 – Sightseeing Wytheville, VA and area

Our stay in the Wytheville, VA area was a brief one but we enjoyed looking around the area. We took a short drive to nearby Austinville, VA. This community has a strong Texas connection because it is the birthplace of Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.” There’s a small park there: the Stephen F. Austin Memorial Park. Austin led the group of families to Texas forming what is known as the “First 300” and he had a major role in Texas becoming a Republic.

Also near Austinville along I77 is Shot Tower Historical State Park. The park itself is small and tours are made by appointment only. According to records it was the first factory to mass produce shot on American soil. The tower is 75 feet tall with a shaft beneath it adding another 75 feet to the structure. Melted lead was pulled to the top of the tower using block and tackle. It was then poured through giant sieves. As it fell it cooled, forming musket “shot.” A tunnel at the bottom of the shaft connected to the nearby river and water from the river cushioned the newly formed lead balls as they fell into a large pot. The musket balls were retrieved by workmen from the bottom, dried and polished either on site or at a nearby town. It operated from 1807-1839.

This area is lush and green from all the rain this summer. We drove one of the many scenic byways, enjoying the forest and winding roads all the way up to the top of Big Walker Mountain, just north of Wytheville. There we looked around a long time tourist attraction, the BW Country Store. It is full of handcrafted items, tourist stuff, and tasty looking food items like jams, salsas, fudge, ice cream and more. On the weekends, the store hosts music performances. There’s a lookout tower but we chose to not go up this one. Really, tower or not, the views were spectacular: we could see for miles down the valleys on either side of the peak of the mountain. It was a great afternoon drive.

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2018 – Shenandoah Valley Campground – Verona, VA


We only intended on spending three nights at Shenandoah Valley Campground, Verona, VA. It turned out that our stay was shortened by a day. The campground is reasonably near I81, nestled in the Middle River valley. The campground is all about that river, which is a gentle stream, perfect for tubing most of the time. Then, near the popular tenting area is the real gem of the campground: a beautiful waterfall dropping in from the higher ground opposite the campground. Again, our stay was brief and in the week following heavy rains from what was Hurricane Florence. With the river running high (and it was flooding the campground in the days prior to our arrival), the waterfall was stunning.

There is a camping area on the plateau above the large camping area on the river; that’s where we stayed. Really, we were glad to be a bit higher, knowing that the river was pretty full and that more rain was forecast. My thinking was that even if the river overflowed its banks again we would be high enough to be clear of any danger. After the Hurricane Florence related flooding the campground staff worked many hours putting fresh gravel down throughout the large water-front area of the campground which is all gravel – roads and campsites.

This is a destination campground with a large, heated pool and several hot tubs located indoors. There’s also a nice fishing lake and a couple of playgrounds. The kids have a blast bike riding, fishing, tubing, swimming, and feeding the many mostly-tame rabbits.

WiFi is slow and only available in the campground store.  My Verizon signal was poor to zero.  I got a satellite signal but not many people would.  Having a homestyle dish on a tripod let me set up in the only sweet spot, just peeking over the trees to the south of us.  The sites themselves are pretty tight with neighbors very close in on both sides.

As I said, our stay was supposed to be three nights but after a night of rain on Saturday night a staff member knocked on our door telling us that the entire campground was being evicted by the sheriff’s office. The issue wasn’t flooding in the campground. Rather, it was the county road leading to the campground that was in danger of going underwater. We were told that we needed to be out within the hour.

So, we skipped breakfast and gave up on attending church and began preparing to move. It usually takes us a bit less than an hour to be ready to pull out. In this case, we were ready to go in around 40 minutes. The road out was fine, but there is one section that dips down right beside the river for a 100 yards or so. Water was lapping against the pavement as we came through.

For us, it was more of an inconvenience than anything else and we just moved down the highway to our next scheduled stop. I do feel sorry for the campground especially in light of all the work they did to get open again following the flooding.

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2018 – Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails – Dover, PA


Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails is actually located around 18 miles northeast of the historic town of Gettysburg, but it is, indeed, a farm. There are fields, barns, and lots of farm animals. There are posted petting zoo times for those who want to get up close and personal with many of the animals. The baby goats are a big attraction. In keeping with the farm theme there are wagon rides through the corn field and around the campground and lots of antique pieces of farm equipment on display.

A 2019 Update Review is here.

We arrived right at the end of the campground’s second flooding event of the season. Conewago Creek skirts the campground and with all the rain Pennsylvania has had this summer, the creek has gotten out of hand at times. Most of the campsites aren’t impacted by the creek, but one section is right along the creek. It was closed because of the wet conditions all the time we were at Gettysburg Farm. I think those campsites and a few others are the only water/electric only spots in the park. The campground does, though, offer free “honey wagon” service to those without sewer. It was my impression that bigger rigs would fit better in the “city” portion of the campground, wet conditions or no.

The majority of the campground is about equally divided between 30 and 50 amp full hookup back in spots, except for one row of back-to-back sites. In those, the first person to arrive gets what amounts to a pull-through site. The next one has to back in.

Aside from the site differences I just described, I felt that the spots in the campground were pretty much equal with an adequate amount of space and level sites.

As usual, many spots have been leased out to long term residents. That, along with having many creekside sites out of service, caused the remaining sites to be mostly all occupied over the weekends. During the week, though, there were a few vacant spots for travelers.

We arrived the week after Labor Day and the pool was already drained for the winter. There’s a cute mini-golf course and nice basketball/pickleball area. There’s a small store that also serves food.

My Verizon signal was weak but usable most of the time. One afternoon and evening it dropped to the point that it was unusable, but later that night it came back even stronger than before. My guess is that some work was being done on the tower and my phone was trying to pick up a more distant one. I had no problem getting satellite TV.

This being a nice campground that is near some interesting attractions makes, I think, Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails a real winner.

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2018 – Sightseeing York-Gettysburg-RV Show

We enjoyed going to the county fair in York, PA. This fair is called America’s First Fair, originating in 1765! We drove in paid our parking and walked toward the entrance wondering where we paid our entry fee and realized later that it was Senior Day and we got in free! We went through many of the buildings. It was fun watching the pig and “Hot Dog” (Dachshunds) races. We saw large and small farm animals ranging from big bulls and beautiful horses down to rabbits and guinea pigs and various birds. In one hall they had pregnant pigs, sheep, and cattle as well as mothers with babies born this week. This was a very popular spot for all ages. One building had an impressive model trains display while another had a wide variety of hand crafted items and art work. It was a fun and tiring day.

The next day, after spending the day at the fair, we headed for the “largest RV show in the country” at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. The arena floor was filled with vendors of all kinds selling mostly RV/camping related items. The food vendors were doing a brisk business. Outside there were many acres of RVs of all makes and models. We enjoyed both the vendors and the RVs. After a day at the fair followed by the RV show we came home ready for some down-time.

I didn’t know how much food industry takes place here in this area. Many of our well known companies produce products here. We toured two of them. The first was nearby Martin’s Potato Chips at Thomasville, PA. This is mainly an east coast company. Their snacks, we were told, have been stocked on Air Force One through the last several presidencies. Our tour guide started us outside where the potatoes are brought in by huge trucks and started on their way through the factory. We then walked along the production line where the potato chips were being fried, salted, dried, inspected, and packed. The guide brought us some chips, still hot, right off the line. They were delicious, the best we’ve ever eaten. There’s a well stocked factory outlet store and, of course, we took advantage of their low prices!

From the Chip factory we drove to the Snyders of Hanover factory where our guide took us to a windowed corridor above the area where the pretzels and other items are made. It was fascinating seeing all the people keeping up with the automated line and how the items were labeled so they could be sorted by both people with scanners and automated equipment. Of course I had to buy some cookies and taste the pumpkin spice pretzels. It was a very interesting, fun, and tasty afternoon.

Our last major sightseeing trip in this area was to Gettysburg, PA. I was surprised to learn that this famous Battle was only three days long (July 1–3, 1863) yet resulted in a huge loss of life in those few days. We did the driving tour of the Battle of Gettysburg locations. We saw many monuments to the men from both the North and South who fought for what they thought was right. Our last stop was the National Cemetery. We walked to the site where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and saw where many men and women from not only the battle of Gettysburg, but also later Wars and conflicts, are buried. Walking that hallowed ground was a humbling and sobering experience for us. It was also amazing to us to actually be at the site of such historical significance.

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2018 – Hershey Thousand Trails – Lebanon, PA

We were looking forward to this two week stop at Hershey, PA Thousand Trails and it didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed this campground when we were here a few years ago and knew this would be a good longer stop this year after several weeks of one week or less stays.

Also, here’s a 2019 review (mostly a few new photos.)

When we were at Hershey before we picked a site on the hill of Loop H. The 50 amp sites in that area don’t have the $3 a day surcharge that is charged for all the other 50 amp sites in the campground. However, I must confess we got a bit tired of the big hill. For this stay we decided to check out Loop B. We found a great spot and felt we made an excellent choice. About all but the sites in Loop A (which has some very nice spots) are full hookup. Honestly, it isn’t hard to find a nice campsite in this Thousand Trails.

Every interaction we had with the staff was positive and we appreciated their helpfulness.

My only complaint is the lack of internet connectivity. My Verizon signal was poor leaving me with only a fair data connect. Campground WiFi is only available at the Activity Center and it is even slower – think old time dial-up speeds. It isn’t that the campground hasn’t tried to supply WiFi. The area providers simply aren’t willing to come out to the campground.

My satellite TV signal was easy to dial in. There are many interesting things to see and do in the area as well as a nice pool and other facilities right on the property. Lots of shopping and restaurants are within 30 minutes.

It is easy to see why Hershey Thousand Trails is one of the most popular campgrounds in the system. We are already thinking about our next visit.

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2018 – Sightseeing Hershey and Lancaster, PA and area


We did a lot of sightseeing when we were here a few years go. This time, with near record setting heat, we made a few return visits but mostly enjoyed the campground and some downtime.

We did, though, want to revisit Bird-in-Hand, a town well known for its Amish food and shops. One of the favorite places there is the Farmers Market. On the main level we found all kinds of foods ranging from fresh baked goods, meats, cheese, candies, prepackaged mixes, and food to buy and eat on the spot. We bought fresh, hot pretzels, butter cheese, and Lebanon bologna. The market also has a variety of crafts and tourist items for sale.

Near Bird-in-Hand is Good and Plenty Restaurant. We very much enjoyed a meal there. The fried chicken and apple pie was terrific. Also, near our campground at Mt Gretna is a well known ice cream and burger restaurant called the Jigger Shop. We tried their trademark concoction – a million calorie sundae called “a jigger.”

Of course, I wanted to return to Hershey Chocolate World. The oversized candy bars made great photo opportunities and the shopping in the store was fun. I enjoyed the free ride through a chocolate factory, singing candy bars and singing cows and all. The highlight of our entire say was that on our way toward the door a lady asked Scott if he would take a picture of her and her husband. He recognized them as friends we hadn’t seen in years! They now make their home in Missouri and have been in the area for just a week. Seeing Pat and Donna after nearly 20 years was one of those “small world” experiences and an unexpected blessing.

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