2019 – Sightseeing Western Indiana – Eastern Illinois


I was really looking forward to visiting with my brother Jim and sis-in-law Phyllis during our stay in western Indiana, but we also got in a couple of fun sightseeing adventures – one in Illinois and the other in Indiana.

We went the Vermilion River Fall Festival in Danville, IL. There were many fall oriented handcrafted items along with a variety of food booths. I think this is the third time this year that we stumbled on to a great car show with many nice older cars and trucks. My favorite was a 1912 Ford car that looks like one in a picture I have of my Dad as a small child in 1914.

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Our most enjoyable sightseeing excursion was a visit to Turkey Run State Park near Marshall, Indiana. We have both enjoyed hiking across the years and decided to visit this popular state park. We took a short hike down steps, across a suspension bridge over Sugar Creek and down to Rocky Hollow to see a small waterfall. The water has carved the rocks and it is fun to walk along the bottom of the gorge by the stream. We took a break there in that pretty spot and had a picnic lunch. From there we turned around and came back, because I couldn’t scramble up the first set of rock “steps” without help; and that was the easy part! We walked back to the suspension bridge and followed a different trail that took us through the woods on what I expected to be an easier trail to a covered bridge built in the early 1900’s and across the creek heading back to the nature center. We encountered many steps and scrambles going up hill and down. Some were man made and had rails but several were natural and more difficult for me. However we made it and I am glad we took day to enjoy the beauty of nature.

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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 – Shortstop: Holly Point Campground – Wake Forest, NC


Our one night stop at Holly Point Campground in Wake Forest, NC was an unplanned one and it came just in front of one of the hardest weekends of the year to find a campsite: Memorial Day weekend.

Our motorhome was scheduled for a front windshield replacement in Winston-Salem (following my run-in with a tree in South Carolina). The replacement took longer than I had anticipated and by the time we were ready to travel it was too late to make the longer drive we had planned.

While we were waiting on the windshield repair I was searching the internet for a suitable spot for one night. This campground gets good reviews and, even though it is booked up starting Friday, we were able to pick from several vacant spots for a Thursday one night stay.

Honestly, I wanted to find an “interstate campground” that caters to people just wanting to stop for a night, but came up empty on my search. Holly Point is farther from I85 than I wanted for just a one nighter, but (1) not finding a RV Park along the interstate and (2) it being the lead in to a holiday weekend I decided to go for it.

My biggest mistake, though, was the route I took from Durham. I left I85 onto Highway 70 and then traveled Highway 98 out to the Falls Lake Recreation area which is where Holly Point is located. Bad choice. There was construction and congestion the whole way, making for a tiring and slow conclusion to a long day. I’m not sure what route would be better, but this isn’t a good one.

Now, the campground is quite good. The sites are generally long with good spacing and reasonably level. They are 30 amp/water sites. The roads are paved and the sites are gravel. There’s a big lake. One of the highest compliments I can pay a campground is this: it reminds me of a Corps of Engineers campground.

My Verizon signal was good. Didn’t try to put the satellite up but I’m pretty sure I would have struck out at least from the site we picked.

Tell you what, it would, indeed, be a nice place to spend Memorial Day weekend.

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2019 – Shortstop: Roosevelt State Park, Morton, MS

We spent a few extra days in Jackson, MS waiting to get into a shop that does front end alignment service on bigger motorhomes. I wanted to use this particular shop because the owner has a motorhome very similar to ours and also he gets great reviews. I think we made the right choice and recommend Shipp’s Truck Specialist in Florence. However, the 3-4 hour job turned into a 2 day job. We spent one night in the shop parking lot. They finished on Wednesday at about 5:00 and we wanted to find a spot with hookups for the night before getting back on the road again the next morning.

Roosevelt State Park in Moran, MS is just a few miles east of Jackson so we decided to go there. The entrance to the park is very close to I20. The “new” campgrounds, though, are a couple of miles in. The road is about a lane and a half wide, with lots of twists and turns. We didn’t meet anyone coming in – won’t be able to report on our exit till tomorrow. If we meet another motorhome it will be a tight squeeze.

The state park features a pretty lake with a big water slide that must delight the kids. There are cabins, a motel, and other nice facilities. The park hosts various community events throughout the year.

The roads in the campground are just one lane with no shoulders. Many of the sites are too short for us at 39′. I was also concerned about being able to make the turns in and out of the sites while keeping the front and back tires on pavement. There are some premium sites right on the lake that look inviting. I eased through the campground looking for the right combination of level + long enough + reasonable back in/pull out. It took a few minutes but I found a nice spot across from the bathhouse parking lot and backed in. Site 73 is just right for us and, in spite of the many sites that slope, this spot is nicely level. There is no room for the car but the parking lot across the road is fine.

I can see that locals who get to know this campground really like it. However, for an overnight stay the long narrow drive in and the even narrower campground roads with ditches making it a challenge to make some of the turns make this State Park a less than desirable short stop of us. For a longer stay it might be worth it though.

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2018 – Clinton Lake Recreation Area – DeWitt, IL


We spent some time at this nice campground last year as we traveled east to west. This year, we are back for another stay as we travel west to east. There’s no need for me to write another full review, but I’ll give you a few more photos.

My previous review is here.

Our stay this time was over Memorial Day weekend and the campground was filled to capacity. The weather was hot and all the air conditioners put a strain on an already needy electric system. Our electric was on and off all Sunday afternoon. By early evening it had cooled down enough that the system could keep up and we were fine the rest of our stay.

Last year, we were in a 30 amp FHU site. This time we were in a 50 amp electric only site. Honestly, these sites are great and I think I liked this spot best.

Again, as it was last year, we actually spent most of our time visiting family. We had a blast seeing Jim and Phyllis, plus a quick hello to their son and family. On Monday evening, in a mostly empty campground we hosted a cookout with Jim and Phyllis plus friends Todd and Connie who live nearby. It was a terrific evening, a real blessing to us.

My Verizon data was usable only with the cell booster.  The satellite TV signal was fairly easy to get.

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2017 – Eisenhower State Park, Denison, TX

 We have had a nice stay at Eisenhower State Park, Denison, TX.  We came to Denison so I could fill in for a pastor friend while he took Sabbatical leave.  The park is located on Lake Texoma and features a large marina and multiple camping areas.  However, only the Bois D’Arc Ridge loop has full hookups.

We enjoyed the beautiful wooded campground with its herd of deer and other assorted wildlife.  The neighborhood roadrunners are comical birds that are especially fun to watch.  The campsites in this area are all pull-throughs, with each site a small loop off the road.  That means everyone’s back is to the road, creating a sense of privacy even when the campground is full.

The biggest negative is that many of the sites are rather unlevel both side to side and front to back.  Some are so bad that only a small camper has any reasonable hope of getting level.  Also, in addition to bringing along plenty of leveling blocks be sure to bring extra sewer hose as the connection is seldom in a spot that will let you get level and be close to the sewer connection at the same time.  And, even though the lake is very close by, there are no lake views to speak of.  Toward the end of our stay the trees had dropped enough leaves that the lake could be seen through the forest from a few spots but there was nothing like a real lake view from this camping loop.

I really should mention the hedge apples.  Some of the sites have trees with this softball sized fruit on them.  You certainly don’t want to park your RV under one of those trees in the fall!

I really don’t mean for this to be a negative sounding review.  We like this park a lot.  The staff is friendly and easy to work with.  Unless you arrive on a busy weekend, they will let you drive around and pick a site rather than stay in the one assigned.  Also, if they know you are in a bigger rig they will try to assign you one of the longer, somewhat more level spots.

The campground is just a few minutes from Denison with its restaurants, Walmart, and about any other business you might need.

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2017 – Wilson State Park, KS

We spent four nights at Wilson State Park located in central Kansas, not far from I70. I had to smile as I realized we were in the “Hell Creek” area, but camped near Tatanka Lodge, a large shelter where church services are conducted through the summer months. This portion of the state park has a cluster of campgrounds scattered in the hills surrounding a pretty lake. The steep hills don’t match the traditional view of flat land Kansas! In our case, though, the wind very much did fit the Kansas stereotype. We had lots of hot, dry wind with gusts rocking the camper and blowing one lawn chair clear across the road. Obviously, this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but we dealt with the wind (at times over 40 mph!) our entire stay.

There are only a few full hookup sites in this part of the state park and we were happily settled into one of them. Like most places, there were very few campers present during the week, but things got busier over the weekend when every spot, including camping cabins were booked. One thing you might want to know is that above the camping fee there’s a $5 a day entry fee. There’s a nearby Corps of Engineers campground with, I think, electric only that might be a better short stay.

I had no problem getting a satellite signal – keeping it was a different thing, as the strong winds tended to move the dish just enough to disrupt the signal. During one especially strong blast associated with a passing thunderstorm one of the guy wires I had put on it snapped. My Verizon had a weak but usable signal.

We enjoyed the star-lit nights and beautiful sunsets over the lake. The near record temperatures and constant winds rocking the camper, though, kept us inside through much of the day. Had the weather been more enjoyable I think we would have been quite satisfied with this stop. The weather, though, caused us to look forward to calmer, cooler days elsewhere.

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2017 – Black Hills, SD Scenic Drives


There are some terrific drives in the Black Hills. We saw many on motorcycles which Scott thinks would be the perfect way to see the area. We, though, did it all in our Ford F350. We had some tight fits, but thousands of people enjoy these drives in all kinds of vehicles each year.

Iron Mountain Road runs between Mt. Rushmore National Memorial and Custer State Park. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable drive with winding roads with glimpses of Mount Rushmore which is framed by the tunnels. This drive has the famous pigtail bridges and wonderful Black Hills scenery. I really enjoyed stopping at a pull off and getting my first real glimpse of Mount Rushmore if only at a distance.

The state park’s Wildlife Loop road is another fun drive. It takes you through open grasslands and hills where much of the park wildlife live. There were cute prairie dogs popping in and out their holes as traffic continues by. We saw pronghorn antelope out in the field and a herd of burros (descended from the burros of years gone by which were used to transport visitors to the top of Black Elk Peak). When the rides were discontinued years ago the burros were released into park. The burros have become expert beggars. We watched as two of them went to a small car and stuck their heads in wanting food. The colts were cute but when people didn’t feed them they wandered down the road and back into the meadow area. Of course, the main wildlife attraction at Custer is the buffalo herds. We were amazed at the size of the animals. We saw several groups including some with calves coming down for water. A very pleasant drive.

Custer State Park has a long history and many buildings. We drove past the current State Game lodge, a beautiful building opened in 1922. We saw buildings that the CCC built in the 1930’s. My favorite stop was the home of Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet Laureate. He cut the trees, hauled the rocks and built the home himself and it is just as he left it in 1957 when he died. His poetry and books are the story of a man living an independent life. An interpreter is on site giving tours daily June through Labor Day.

Another fun drive was Needles Highway with its narrow tunnels. Most are single lane so must be approached with caution. We went through one called “keyhole” that was so narrow that Scott pulled the side mirrors in. We enjoyed seeing formations that look like needles made of granite. There are many picturesque vistas to be enjoyed.

These drives are so scenic that I know they can be driven again and again as they showcase the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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2017 – Farm Island State Recreation Area, Pierre, SD

Our final day at Farm Island was “eclipse day.” We woke to a severe thunderstorm that was pretty scary – wind, hail, and a downpour. Really, we should have bugged out to one of the shower houses. However, the storm was on us before we knew it. After 10 or 15 minutes of (thankfully) small hail, things let up. We feared the heavy clouds would block our view of the eclipse which was at nearly 90% for the area. However, at just the right time the skies cleared and we had a good view of the impressive display of God’s handiwork.

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2017 – Beeds Lake State Park, Hampton, IA

We were at Beeds Lake State Park in Hampton, Iowa a couple of years ago and I did a review on it then. Things are the same as they were then, so this will be another short review. We had a back in site on our previous visit, but this time we ended up in a “parallel parking” site. We were here before over Independence Day and the place was packed. This time we arrived during the county fair which takes place close by and the place was full once again. Our parallel parking site worked out just fine, although I chose it because it was on the end of the row and with a bit more elbow room than most. The 50 amp electric was solid and restrooms and showers were okay. I had a decent 4G signal until each evening. At that point the signal was strong enough but I think all the fair goers were overloading the system. Because of trees I was unable to get the Dish western arc satellites so I swapped out LNB’s and aimed for the eastern arc which I got with no problems.

Our feeling about Beeds Lake is about the same as it was before: it’s a nice spot if you are okay with electric only, an odd parking setup, and being 10 miles or so off of I35.

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