Reflecting on our 2019 Adventure

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Our 2019 Adventure was our first year in our 2005 Safari Cheetah diesel pusher motorhome. Traveling in the motorhome as opposed to the 5th wheel presented a bit of a learning curve for us. We got the Cheetah in January and put a lot of effort getting comfortable on the “camper side” of the rig. However, when we started traveling in April (and in spite of our having taken a few shake down cruises in it) we began finding mechanical issues that needed attention. Not only that, but we had a few mishaps that added to the list of needed fixes. We worked our way through them as we traveled and finally felt we had resolved most of problems.

Over all we drove the motorhome just over 4200 miles, visiting 31 campgrounds in 17 states. Our longest move day was 305 miles but our average move was just 136 miles.

Our winter stay was a bit longer than usual. Our year started and ended at Green Caye RV Park in Dickinson, Texas – 150 days total for the year. This isn’t anything close to being our favorite park, but it is near friends and family (and doctors) so it is a reasonable winter landing spot for us.

Our Thousand Trails membership continues to be a good investment for us. This year we spent 154 nights at Thousand Trails campgrounds in six states.

Our favorite campgrounds, though, remain Corps of Engineers campgrounds. Our America the Beautiful pass makes these great campgrounds a real bargain for us.

One of the highlights of the year for us was having our family join us at Hershey, PA Thousand Trails. We had a great time visiting all the sights of the Hershey-Lancaster-Gettysburg area. It was especially fun sharing with them some of our favorite attractions in the area – places like Jiggers in Mt Gretna and the Bird In Hand Farmer’s Market.

The other highlight of our year was celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary at Niagara Falls.  We celebrated all week, exploring the area everywhere from the beautiful Gorge to taking a boat ride through locks on the Erie Canal.  We saved our day at the Falls for the actual date of our anniversary and then went out for an excellent meal after a busy day at the Falls.

In a couple of weeks I’ll finish the year with an expense report – admittedly, it has been a pretty expensive year. Still, as you can see, we got a lot of bang for our buck!

2019 – Daisy Barn Campground, Wilson, NY


Daisy Barn Campground is located near Wilson, NY, right on Lake Ontario and not far from Niagara Falls. This campground is out of the primary tourism area but just barely, making it a quiet alternative if you are willing to drive 30 minutes or so to the Falls. Old Fort Niagara is just 10 miles away. Just down the road to the east is a nice state park and then the Wilson Marina.

Daisy Barn is a smaller campground with mostly long timers, many paying an annual fee and leaving their camper on their site even as they head south for the winter. The folks we met were friendly and used to travelers like us passing through their neighborhood.

We enjoyed the campground WiFi and had no problem getting satellite TV. My Verizon signal was about 2 bars and usable but not great. Daisy Barn Campground is the turn around point in our 2019 Adventure. Up to this point our moves have been in the east-north direction. From this point on they are in the west-south direction.

Most evenings people gather at the pavilion that overlooks the Lake to enjoy the spectacular sunsets. Honestly, that view is our favorite thing about Daisy Barn.

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2019 – Sightseeing Niagara Falls and vicinity


Niagara Gorge and Falls
We wanted to spend the week of our 50th Anniversary in a beautiful area with lots to see and do. We picked Niagara Falls and vicinity. Some of the attractions added a romantic flavor to the week while others were just interesting and fun.

Early in the week we focused on the Niagara Gorge – a stunning area below the Falls and out to Lake Ontario. The Robert Moses Niagara Power Project Visitors Center is an impressive place with great views of the Gorge and an interesting overview of the area. As we entered we were handed “swipe badges” that allow visitors to play a wide variety of interactive exhibits. Kids enjoy collecting stickers while learning about hydroelectric power and energy efficiency. I enjoyed the movie telling about the plant, how it works and interacts with surrounding power grids. I particularly enjoyed seeing Mr. Tesla come to life in a picture frame to explain AC vs DC electricity. One hall is dedicated to the Native American people of the era and their civilization. The best part of the visit was standing on the observation deck overlooking the Niagara Gorge, watching the water flow and the tour boats speed through the Niagara Gorge.

Nearby is Whirlpool State Park with a stunning view of the whirlpool in the Niagara River. It is mesmerizing to watch the water flow and spin. Up above people were riding the Gondola that takes people high above the giant whirlpool.

We enjoyed stopping off for an ice cream treat in Lewiston at the Silo Caboose. The soft serve chocolate ice cream was amazing! The only problem was it was a hot day and I had to eat it faster than I wanted.

Although we were here 7 years ago Niagara Falls was the highlight of this week and we saved visiting it for our 50th Wedding Anniversary! We drove in found a good parking spot and bought our tickets to visit the Observation Tower and then ride the Maid of the Mist! I enjoyed every minute of the ride with the spectacular falls above and then around us I was reminded what an Amazing God we serve who made things like this for our pleasure.

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Historic Erie Canal locks
We really enjoyed our ride on the Erie Canal. Construction of the canal was started in 1817 and it opened in 1825. It carried commerce from New York Harbor to Lake Erie and transformed the region. Our ride on the Canal took us through Locks 34 and 35, the “Upside Down Bridge” and under a lift bridge used for normal street traffic. We could see traces of the old foot path that was used by the animals towing the barges as well as many historic buildings as we rode along. As we passed through the locks our Captain explained how the locks worked, allowing the water to raise and lower our boat as we moved along the canal. It was a fun ride that let me experience a little of the history I learned so long ago.

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Old Fort Niagara
Just a short drive from us is Old Fort Niagara. This Fort has a history of over 300 years. It has been controlled by the French, English and the finally the Americans. It was critical in the French and Indian War, The American Revolution and the War of 1812. The visitor’s center provides historic information and artifacts including the original American flag of the War of 1812 (the twin of the Star Spangled Banner) which is kept in a climate controlled room. I enjoyed going into the buildings and talking with several re-enactors as well as seeing demonstrations of musket fire and military field demonstrations.

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2019 – Sightseeing Watkins Glen, NY State Park


When we last visited Watkins Glen, NY State Park we were blown away by its beauty. As we planned our trip through this area again a return visit was on our “must-do” list. We had a great day for this visit and it is just as beautiful as I remember. We opted to purchase tickets to take the park shuttle to the top of the trail, making the mile and a half hike through the gorge almost all downhill. We saw many people hiking up and were glad we were taking the route of least resistance! The trail is made up of stairs and winding pathways along the river with many waterfalls along the way. The bridges and safety walls are well kept but the pathway is narrow in some places. There are beautiful stone arch bridges and in a couple of places the trail takes you under waterfalls. We were able to find a wider spot where we could sit on the wall and enjoy a picnic lunch in as beautiful a setting as you’ve ever seen. The high rock walls and overhanging trees add to the beauty of it. We think this NY York State Park is a world class attraction and apparently many agree as we heard a wide variety of languages being spoken by our fellow hikers.

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2018 – Rondout Valley Thousand Trails – Accord, NY

We didn’t come close to seeing all the attractions within a reasonable driving distance of Rondout Valley Thousand Trails, located near Accord, New York. The campground was a nice base of operations for our exploring and I think the best thing about Rondout Valley is its location. While most attractions aren’t exactly close, they are nearby. The campground, itself, has a big pool that stays quite busy. There’s an Activity building with a café, a rather worn Adult Lodge, a camp store, and a few sports venues. We saw many children having a wonderful time biking the roads and enjoying all the campground has to offer.

Rondout Valley has many seasonal and permanent campers. That does limit the number of sites available for others, but, from what I could tell there were a few vacant spots available most of our stay. The big rigs prefer the spots along the main road in. These are 50 amp/FHU sites. Those on the north side of the road have a chance at getting satellite TV. The sites are plenty deep, but are pretty close side to side. There are also 30 amp/FHU sites that would work for bigger rigs. Really, things are spread out to the point that I’m not sure I got a handle on what sites are where.

The main roads in and around the campground are nicely paved. Other roads are gravel with potholes. The restrooms are older and often in need of attention, especially over the weekend when the place was packed out. If anything, I’d say this campground is being loved to death and that leaves an overall feeling of it being too well used.

Overall we liked it at Rondout Valley. I often say that, like real estate, how I feel about a campground is all about location, location, location. In this case, we got a nice back-in site with our preferred hookups. I was able to get satellite TV without any problem and my Verizon data was solid.

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See individual photos with captions here.

2018 – Sightseeing the Hudson River Valley of New York

This is such a beautiful and interesting area with many things to see with the scenic backdrop of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. There are waterfalls, dramatic landscapes, and also many farms and historic homes in the area.

We took a day trip to visit two Historic Homes in the famous Hyde Park area of New York. We started with Springwood, the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd President and the only one elected to office four times. We started our tour at the gardens and saw where he and Eleanor are buried. We went in the front door and into the large entryway. I was impressed by the huge grandfather clock and beautiful wooden furniture. FDR was especially fascinated with birds and sailing ships. The entry way had some of the many birds he collected as well as some of the navel paintings that he acquired across the years. We walked down the hallway to the library-living room on a clear glass floor that allowed us to see the ramp used by FDR with his chair on wheels. The room is filled with books, beautiful carpets, and items collected around the world. There were also board games for family and friends. We were unable to see the 2nd floor because the air conditioning was not working and there is no ventilation. We exited through the kitchen area where we were reminded of how much manual labor was need to serve this household. The servants did everything from grinding the coffee beans to washing up after the meals. The nearby stable has the stalls with names of the horses and a display of the various ribbons won by his prize horses across the years.

We also visited the FDR Presidential Museum. The USA was in the Great Depression when he was first elected President. The museum shows some of his childhood but focuses on his election, his work to bring the US through the depression, efforts to improve the lives of the American people, and leadership through World War 2. As you might guess, considerable attention is given to World War 2. There is also information about Eleanor’s work as a reformer and her appointment to the United Nations after FDR’s death.

A short distance from FDR’s house and museum is the Vanderbilt home which was completed in 1899. It is considered a prime example of the “Gilded Age.” We entered through huge doors and stepped into a grand entry hall filled with marble statues and heavy furnishings. Amazing tapestries adorn the hall walls. On one end of the main level is a huge dining room where the family could entertain a large number of guests. On the opposite end of the main floor is a large library and living room. The master bedrooms are on the second floor. The lady of the house had an impressive, French inspired bedroom with an attached setting room where she met with the housekeeper and took care of her letter writing etc. Guest rooms for married couples and single women were on the opposite end of the house and there was a door leading to a servants’ stairs that allowed them access to the rooms.

We had fun visiting the Rosendale, NY Street Festival. Some of the local shops were open and there were vendors of all kinds: commercial, crafts, face painting and henna art along with booths offering a wide variety of food. Of course I had to have a funnel cake! The main feature of the festival is music and there are multiple stages and wide variety music be heard at all times. According to the advertising there are 100 bands performing during the two day festival – truly something for everyone. We really liked the woodwind and horn orchestra we heard immediately on arriving and the smooth jazz group performing as we were leaving. We enjoyed this local event.

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Watkins Glenn State Park, Corning Glass, PA Grand Canyon

Another highlight from the area is the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.  This is a beautiful place for a day trip from where we were staying.  It was a scenic drive and we enjoyed looking at the historic houses and buildings  in the towns.  We did the mile and a half rim tour which was rather steep.  The view of the river below was beautiful. The bike trail down through the canyon was tempting.  It’s part of the “rails to trails” projects that are happening across the country where old rail lines are being removed and transformed into wonderful bike trails.  We would have loved to ride the bike trail but we knew it would be too much for us.  We enjoyed walking in the woods and hearing the sounds of nature. This area was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and there is a statue in honor of these men.

Scott and I have enjoyed this beautiful New York/Pennsylvania stay and recommend it to all who love the beauty of nature.

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Campground Review: Cowanesque Lake, Tompkins Campground, ACoE, Lawrenceville, PA

Tompkins Campground is on the PA side of the NY/PA state line just south of Corning.  Arriving at the campground from Corning is rather interesting.  There is road construction, county roads, and more county roads.  Once you follow the sign to the campground you wonder if you’ve accidentally turned onto the wrong road as you are on a narrow patched bit of barely-over-one-lane blacktop.  After a short distance you cross into PA and the road improves considerably as you pass under Hwy 15.  Then it deteriorates a bit as you travel the final miles to the campground.

Here’s a later, 2019 review of this campground.

There are playgrounds, horseshoe pits, a laundry, and, for the boaters a nice dock.  The Corning Museum of Glass, Watkins Glen State Park (with wonderful waterfalls), and the scenic “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania” are all reasonably close by.

There’s no park WiFi and my Verizon cell hot spot barely works (and that’s with a Wilson Sleek signal booster).

If you are looking for a nice, quiet camp spot look no farther, this is it!

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Campground review: Allegany Mountain Resort at Rainbow Lake, East Otto, NY

Now, all the above doesn’t mean everything is just wonderful here.  This is an old campground and that is quite apparent.  The campsites are small, obviously planned before people traveled in the larger RVs of today.  I tried three different campsites before I managed to get into one.  In fact, I got stuck in the first one and thought for awhile that I would need a tow to get out.  Also, the roads are narrow and some are very steep.  Making one turn I nearly took out a post and then, making another turn I managed to drop the driver’s side camper wheels into a fairly deep ditch.  Damage was minor and it could have been worse.   Damage was moderate – bent an axle, found months later when a tire began to show considerable wear, around $350 for the repair.  The “overnight” campground area has no sewer sites and power is 30 amps.  The power and water hookups aren’t where you expect them to be.  I had to get out a water hose I’d never used to reach water and I had to borrow an electric extension cord from the campground to reach the electric.  Then, over the hot weekend, the voltage kept dropping below 102 volts which caused my trusty surgeguard to shut the camper’s electric down. Once the weather cooled, the electric settled down.  Word is that this section is slated for a 50 amp upgrade.  One lesson I learned from my arrival here is to never let anyone (even people with the best of intentions) talk you into trying to park in a spot that you feel isn’t suitable for your rig.  They may tell you that “people park here all the time” but when you get stuck or manage to damage your rig, it will be you who pays for the repairs.

If you have a small camper you’ll love coming to this resort.  If you have a bigger one, try to arrive on Sunday-Wednesday when there are plenty of campsites, then, in the overnight area, head for the first two roads up from the lake for the best chances of getting a site you can get in to and that will be somewhat level.  The farther up the hill you go, the harder it will be to find a spot.

Would I return?  Yes!  That is, unless I had to arrive during a busy weekend!  In that case, I’d find another place.

Meanwhile, I think a couple of issues with the F350 have been fully resolved.  The truck had an overheating problem when towing in heavy traffic in Dallas.  It had never repeated until the day we came here.  As we pulled up a long grade near this campground it overheated again.  I took the truck to a nearby Ford dealer and they found that the fan clutch wasn’t engaging.  It is supposed to spin the fan at a much higher speed when towing on a long uphill.  The repairs were covered by warranty so, while we were out $100, we didn’t have to pay the full cost which was several times that amount.  Then, as I drove, I felt a familiar shaking of the steering wheel.  While on one of our first tows we had a tire tread separate and we ended up buying two new tires.  Now one of the remaining two originals (which should have given us at least a year’s more service) had suffered the same failure.  We put the spare on and found matching tires in Buffalo.  This time, there was no warranty, so we dropped a big chunk of change on the new tires.  Hopefully, we’ve now solved the biggies and we will get a break (knock on wood) from these kinds of issues for awhile.

We’re finishing up our time here tomorrow, but the move will be just a few hours to the east.  The adventure continues.

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Niagara Falls area and Western New York

We are in a beautiful area! This park is off the beaten path but nice. Our arrival was somewhat challenging.  We had some problems with the pickup and then we had a hard time finding a campsite we would fit into.  We also had some tire problems on the pickup.

From Niagara on the Lake we drove back to Niagara and to see the Falls at night when they are illuminated by big colored lights.  I think they were as lovely at night as they were breath-taking during the day.

We’ve found western New York to be very pretty and we’ve found the people here to be very friendly.

This is a great place to be.

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