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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 – Tompkins CoE Campground – Lawrenceburg, PA


We were at Tompkins CoE Campground at Lawrenceburg, PA in 2013 and were glad for an opportunity to visit this beautiful campground again. Since I reviewed the campground then, I’ll just do a brief review and post a few new photos.

It wasn’t especially by design, but we ended up in the same campsite as we were in when we were here six years ago. It is, though, a great campsite. No doubt, the spots along the lake are great sites, if you can’t get one of them, Knoll 17 is a good one. For one thing, it is one of the few sites that offers a clear shot at the Dish network eastern arc satellites. I’m guessing that the spots along the lake have a view of the sky, but aside from that, there aren’t many sites that do.

About half the sites are full hookup – the rest are water/electric only.
The campground is in a bit of a black hole for cell service. We had a 1X signal. That meant that a text message might get through and that’s about it. We found that if we walked along the lake to a spot closest to the dam that we got a usable 3G signal. Needless to say, if internet is important to you it might be better to find a different campground.

However, if you are looking for great Corps campground in a beautiful setting you’ll love this campground.


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2019 – Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails – Dover, PA (take 2)


We are just finishing up our second stay in as many months at Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails near Dover, PA. Since I have done a couple of recent reviews of this nice campground there’s no need for me to do another at this time.

The main reason we returned here was that we needed a base of operations to attend a wedding 100 miles from here. I was graciously given permission to leave the camper unoccupied for a couple of days (something not normally allowed for traveling members of Thousand Trails).

This stay is, though, part of a bit of an experiment for us this summer. During our previous years a stay of longer than 11 days was unusual for us. We “land” for the winters and travel throughout the summer. This year we returned to south-central Pennsylvania, bouncing between the various Thousand Trails for just over six weeks. Considering that we enjoyed a couple of visits from family and then attended a wedding it worked out. However, one outcome of our experiment is that we think we’d rather, in general, keep to less-than-two-week stays. There’s no right or wrong in any of this. We’ve known some folks who move nightly or close to it. For me that would be like having a job. Touring fulltimers have to find the approach that suits them best. For us, 10-11 days gives us the right mix of sightseeing and “just-living” days.

2019 – Sightseeing Lancaster-Hershey, PA


This is just a brief continuation of our Lancaster-Hershey, PA sightseeing. Our son, daughter-in-law, and teen-age grandchildren joined us for a week, staying in a campground cabin. We were out nearly every day sightseeing with them. Some of the places they visited are already favorites of ours. We went to the Bird N Hand Market and the Kitchen Kettle Village where we did an Amish themed buggy ride. We rode the steam train in Strasbourg, PA, visited Gettysburg National Park and Cemetery, and went to Hershey World. We ate local deli favorites, had ice cream at “Jiggers” in Mt Gretna, and went to the famous Shady Maple Smorgasbord. There was shopping, cookouts at the campground, and a couple of evenings around the campfire. Whew! No wonder we are tired! I’m extremely thankful for a memorable time together.


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2019 – Hershey Thousand Trails – Lebanon, PA


This is our third stay at Hershey Thousand Trails, Lebanon, PA and our second in less than a year. Since I’ve already done two reviews of the campground I’ll just link to them and add a few new photos. Really, nothing has changed. We still like this campground! This stay our family joined us, staying in one of the cabins. After sorting out a mixup as to which cabin they were given, their stay was very good and they enjoyed the campground and especially sightseeing the area. Here are links to the previous reviews of this nice Thousand Trails: 20132018.


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2019 – Circle M Thousand Trails – Lancaster, PA


The best thing about Circle M Thousand Trails is its location on the west side of Lancaster, PA. There’s a lot to see and do in the area. The campground itself has a few quirks that can be a challenge – or at least a surprise to a first time visitor.

Right off you want to know that the entrance to the campground is off a hilly curve on a rather busy road, Highway 741. Most people arrive from the north, driving in off of Highways 30 or 283 which means a drive through a busy area and then a hard left turn across that busy road in which the oncoming traffic is coming around a curve and down a hill. The turn in is really wide but you need to basically do a 180 degree turn in a rather tight area to enter the campground. If someone is exiting the campground as you are entering, you will likely need to sit back a ways while traffic backs up behind you while you let them get out. With our motorhome and car in tow I barely had enough room to make that big turn. All this is quite doable – as many people do it all the time, but if a person arrives at the turn without any prior knowledge of what is coming things could get dicey.

Circle M is one of the Thousand Trails that is assigning types of sites based on the RV. It also has many sites down along the Conestoga River which borders the property on three sides. The river sites are all water/electric only and most are “parallel parking” on the grass along the road. The sites across the road from the river aren’t especially level. Those that are back in sites there are almost all uphill. Honestly, the area is best for smaller campers and tents although I saw several larger rigs there.

The rest, and majority, of the campground is made up of a mixture of back in and parallel parking sites. Many of them aren’t very level. If you arrive when things aren’t real busy you won’t have any problem finding a nice spot. If you arrive after a busy weekend has started you may have to take what you can get.

The facilities at Circle M are top notch. There are two pools, including an indoor pool. There are activity rooms, a nifty covered min-golf course, a nice basketball and tennis court, a store, and a restaurant. There’s a “foot golf” course that looked like it would be a lot of fun but we only saw one or two groups trying it out. Our Verizon signal was poor and data was slow. We decided to try the paid WiFi. The startup was a bit of a challenge but once we figured out how to connect (and re-connect, which was the biggest challenge) it was okay if not great. My satellite TV setup was easy enough.

We had the misfortune of being at Circle M during a record setting heat wave. Our electric held up quite well in spite of the campground being full and everyone’s a/c being taxed to the limit.

Over all, we’ve been in better campgrounds so far as the sites in particular are concerned. However, we think that the great location and good facilities do make this a desirable campground.


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2019 – Sightseeing Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD


Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD – and the Star Spangled Banner
Our drive down to Fort McHenry in Baltimore MD was a fun but hot day. We started at the visitor center where we watched a short overview of our National Anthem and how it came to be written by Francis Scott Key. The visitors’ center also has interactive displays and historical artifacts to see.

There are Ranger talks scheduled throughout the day. We joined one and learned about the War of 1812 while we walked along. Our presenter described the cannons and their range and the various types of ammunition. He led us into the Fort and up a small incline to point out to us approximately where the British fleet was positioned in the harbor. Francis Scott Key’s ship was being detained by the British out in the harbor. There he watched through the night to see if the flag was still flying over the fort. It was a fascinating and wonderful learning experience.


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Sight and Sound – Lancaster, PA
We attended a production of “Jesus” at the Sight and Sound Theater. This amazing presentation is based on events of the life of our Lord. There are flashbacks of his birth and his experience at the Temple when he was 12 years old as the story takes the audience through the ministry of Jesus. The presentation uses live actors, music, song, moving scenery, and live animals to bring these events to life. The 300 foot stage wraps around the audience. There are humorous scenes and powerful drama that reminds us of how much He loves us even to the point of laying down his life for us. The resurrection and ascension scenes are breathtaking. All of this was done concluding with an opportunity for anyone to invite Jesus to be a part of their life here and now. No photography is allowed, but we took a couple of photos just to help us remember this powerful presentation.


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Tabernacle in the Wilderness – Lancaster, PA
At the Mennonite Information Center in Lancaster PA we saw a full scale replica of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Our tour guide gave us the Biblical background of the Israelites and we saw replicas of the altar of sacrifice and basin used in the outer court and then we moved into a room where we saw a replica of the inner court with actual color curtains, candlestick, and table of bread. There is a full-size wax figure dressed as the high priest so we could see the stones on the breast plate and the miter. The curtain separating the Holy of Holies is there but we were able to look through windows to see the replica Ark of the Covenant. Overall it was a very inspiring time and it helped me clarify my understanding of the tabernacle in the wildernesses.

The Lancaster, PA area is a real tourist mecca. We will see much more in the week to come, but it will be family time for us as well, so our focus will be on family rather than doing a sightseeing blog.

2019 – Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails – Dover, PA


We were at Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trail near Dover, PA less than a year ago and I wrote this review then. Obviously, not a lot has changed in just nine months so this will be a brief review with some new photos.

Last fall when were were at Gettysburg Farm the creek-side sites were closed due to flooding. This stay they were open. However, the area got quite a bit of rain right after Independence day and those sites got pretty soggy. I’ll include a few photos of the wet conditions. I don’t think I’d want to stay in that area which is basically grass camping with water/electric hookups.

The rest of the campground had some standing water, but nothing that would cause anyone any problems.

We appreciated the helpful staff who went out of the way to make us feel welcome. Also, the pool was open and much enjoyed by many, especially during the flip-side of the rainy days when it was very hot and muggy.

One thing I noticed, especially on the hotter days is that one row of campsites is right across the road from some of the animal pens, including the pigs and goats. It may be that you really want the farm experience, but if not, you might want to pick a spot a ways away from those pens.

When you reserve a campsite at Gettysburg Farm you now pick whether you want a w/e/s site or just one with w/e. Of course, the FHU spots fill up first. Don’t get me wrong, some folks really enjoy the creek-side spots and, with the free pump out service, it really isn’t that big of a deal (although, the potential standing water problem would concern most anyone). Anyway, if you want to get a FHU site on a summer weekend you will want to reserve early if possible.

Another change we noticed is that new arrivals aren’t allowed to check in before noon. One morning I saw four or five rigs lined up waiting to move to a spot even though there were a number of vacant sites. In this case the early bird just gets to wait till noon.

Again, we like this campground and would have no problem returning for another visit.


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2019 – Sightseeing the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing – York Springs, PA


Looking at the map of the area around York, PA Scott saw that the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing was near our campground so we decided to check it out. Honestly, neither of us are race fans but Scott said he was about burned out on Revolutionary and Civil War history and ready for a change of pace. We assumed that this museum, being a bit off the beaten track and open at only limited times, would be a smaller one. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived to find it to be packed full of interesting cars and other racing memorabilia. In spite of the large collection, the Museum entrance fee is by donation only. This facility is a nonprofit staffed with volunteers taking care of everything. We enjoyed seeing the wide variety of racing cars, plus motorcycles and other racing gear. There is an amazing amount of information about the cars and drivers plus jackets, helmets and other clothing along with biographies, photos, trophies and other items. Even those like us who aren’t racing fans will find this to be a great museum visit.


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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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See individual photos with captions here.