Monday, August 22, 2016

The Joy of Simple Entertainment and Bad Timing in Cleveland, Ohio

Friday, August 19 - Sunday, August 20, 2016
Amherst, Ohio

Friday we continue along Interstate 90, through still more corn and soy beans. Ohio seems to have figured out toll booths, which makes the drive much more relaxing. Pull a ticket when you get on the highway, pay for the ticket wherever you get off the highway. How you pay is clearly marked large enough to see from a distance - and all pay methods are taken. It's the little things......

Timber Ridge Campground is a sweet little park with a private lake, indoor pool, breakfast and dinner on weekends for a small additional fee, and friendly people. There are several seasonal units here, and everyone seems to have a golf cart, although the park is not large.

Our very long site on the lake has a large concrete pad with a picnic table, and a fire pit in the lawn by the water. Spacing is good, the site is very level, and the few trees provide shade while not blocking our satellite. No in-park WiFi, but our AT&T gets 5 bars of LTE.

The humidity is lower, and with no bugs here we hang out by the lake for a couple hours being entertained by the campers.

Breezy retrieves the orange ball, drops it on the very edge of the water, and returns to wait for it to be thrown
Mom explains that he needs to bring the ball up on the grass so it's easier for her to pick up, then she throws the ball
Breezy gets the ball and returns
to drop the ball in the same spot.
He looks back at the ball, and Mom, who tells him she's not throwing it again!
It takes five minutes of "stern" commands to come out of the water, with helpful laughter from the neighbors
for Breezy to return to his house.
This young man fishes here every weekend and uses three different poles with different lures. He fished the whole lake over about 45 minutes, and caught and released a few Bass.
It was a fun Friday evening in our pretty back yard.

I stopped here so we could visit nearby Cleveland. Bill has a collection of music - rock and roll - of over 6000 albums on file. Classic rock is his favorite and I want him to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Cleveland Browns stadium is next door so we can add another one to our list as well.

We can't avoid every place on the weekends, so it's Saturday when we head to our destination. It's not Chicago, but Cleveland's skyline is pretty from the highway. There's no traffic and finding a parking place in the large lot is no problem. 

The location is lovely, right on Lake Erie, sharing the grounds with a large science museum. 

Hall of Fame
On the harbor.
We enter from the back and notice a lot of people standing in lines on the floor above. Must be a special showing of something. When we take the elevator up to the main floor we look for "where to start". A staff person points to all the people and says "In that line." He tells us that in his twenty years here he has never seen it this busy - great!

The cost is $26 per person and the wait is expected to be three hours. Just to get a wrist band to see the museum. There are four floors, it looks amazing.

We pass. 

I'm so disappointed, but there's just no way we're going to stand in line that long, and then have to wade through that crowd. It will be here next time we come through.

So close
It's a cool building
Before returning to the parking lot, we walk around the Dawg Pound, Cleveland's NFL stadium.

While the museum is nice and cool, the outdoor temps and humidity are up again, and we cut our self-tour short. 

We check out some of downtown Cleveland from the comfort of the air conditioned Jeep, before heading home.

The odd angle on this Hilton really grabs my eye
New towers over the old

Sailors and Soldiers Memorial in the downtown square
Sunday is another travel day. We get fuel at one of the great travel plazas, and I'm even more sold on what a perfect idea these are for travelers. As we leave the Ohio Turnpike and pay our toll ticket I have made peace with the toll booths.

Pennsylvania is our 16th state, and we seem to have left the corn behind at last! Interstate 76 even has some hills - and very pretty forests. It looks like a different state.

And the toll booth is the worst! The lane is so narrow that I inch along to assure I'm not leaving paint on the four-foot-high-concrete curbs. A human and no gate.

There are two options - the EZ pass or cash. What if you don't have either one? I figure we can just pay online as we did in Illinois. "No, I'm sorry I can't let you do that." Seriously? "We're going to be taking debit cards pretty soon." Great. In the next few minutes?, or should we just put down our jacks?

Bill finds some cash and we're on our way. With no gate to stop us, I'm curious what would have happened if he hadn't.....

Mountain Top Campground in Tarentum, Pennsylvania is actually on a mountain(ish) top. The website gives specific directions which we're able to follow most of the way except where there's a detour sign (turns out there is no detour). Still, we make our way along the narrow, rough, steep road to the park without incident. I actually have a really good time navigating the route - I know, still weird.

We have stayed in some beautiful parks since entering "this side" of the country, and this may be the best yet. Our level grass site has spectacular views over the green forests below us. The park itself is a large grass meadow with sites around the perimeter. Water and electric only with a gray tank dump at the site, and a dump station near the entrance.

It's under 80 degrees for the first time in at least 10 years (feels like it), and the humidity is lower, BUT the biting bugs come out as the sun goes down. So although it's very pretty here, I'm back inside for the evening. Still lovely out the windows :-)

Sweet site
Expansive views
Wide open space

Monday we take a day trip to Pittsburgh to visit the home of my Steelers!!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

American Heartland - Big City, Rural Farmland, Mighty Industry and More Corn

Monday, August 15 - Thursday, August 18, 2016
Michigan City, Indiana and Harrison Lake SP, Ohio

When I was planning this route I asked Bill "Am I nuts to want to drive through Chicago in the rig?" Naturally he said something brilliant and supportive like "Of course not! You should do what you feel like doing." 

So I (naturally) did just that!

Following I-90 is easy and there's lots to see <corn>, but not real exciting. Driving through Chicago changes that. The aforementioned brilliant and supportive navigator makes sure I'm in the correct lane so I don't have to rely on the last minute benevolence of commuters, who undoubtedly think we're on the wrong highway, to let me change lanes. Surprisingly there isn't another RV in sight :-)

Throw in the required construction, and the fact that we're in Chicago! and want to look at it while driving, and it's very exciting. 

Perhaps most interesting is the plane engulfed in flames at the end of the tarmac at Chicago O'Hare! It is completely black, and the flames are being extinguished by two fire companies. Holy! Oh, it looks like a training exercise :-/  Whew.

We're really here
That was fun! We're coming back to the city on Tuesday, but now we can say we had our home in Chicago too. 

What is much less fun is figuring out Toll Booths. It's the same highway, the booths should all be the same! Nooooo, every single one is different. 

The first one has an open lane that you can use if you have the EZPass, or pay later online. They should ALL have that lane. 

NONE of the rest have that lane. So far anyway, we have miles of toll roads to go.

The rest are a confusing combination of staffed booths accepting cash or credit card or EZPass or combinations of these - you have to read fast - and the un-staffed nightmares that don't tell you what you will be paying until you're committed and the lane is blocked with the bar thingy. 

The worst by far is the credit only lane with the machine that won't take my card, or the second or third card, until the umteenth attempt and some colorful verbalizing that I'm sure is the difference in its finally taking the @$!&* card......

So - Chicago driving, fun. Toll booths, not fun.

In spite all this, we make good time, and are set up in our site at Michigan City Campground before the anticipated storm starts. A blessing because it rains for hours. With recent flooding in Northern Illinois I'm particularly glad we're on a small hill, away from any rivers.

Bill braves the deluge to take Tessa outside. She fails to appreciate his sacrifice.

Not impressed with the weather
Tuesday morning the sun is out and we're on the road to Chicago. We take the back roads to see more of the area (totally unrelated to the toll booths on the Interstate...) After all the agriculture, the amount of industry here is mind boggling. We pass huge ship yards, railway yards, manufacturing plants - it's like a different world. 

We don't plan to tour Soldier Field, but we do want to see it, take some pics, say we've been there.

We don't however want to pay $22 to park! Sooo, we drive around it a couple times and get no pics because there is not a single place to stop nearby. 

The oldest of the NFL stadiums, Soldier Field is beautiful. And weird. The all-glass oval inside the 1920's concrete columns is quite the mish-mash of styles. It does look cool, just very different.

Chicago is a stunning city. It looks like I thought it would, and yet I'm completely surprised by its beauty - and its size. Los Angeles' skyline is a burg by comparison. 

And then there's the whole giant lake next

Big city, lots of people. Lots of cars. I didn't plan well for seeing anything of significance, and we definitely need several days to see everything we'd want to. At least we can have some deep dish pizza!

Two perfect pies
Jalapeno and black olive for Bill
Anchovy for me
Perquods Pizza is a local favorite and feels like I imagine Chicago should 
Is 2 inches a lot? It doesn't sound like a lot....
Fortunately the traffic wasn't like this yesterday.
On the way home we stop at Calument Fisheries for smoked shrimp and salmon. Unfortunately the website didn't say it was cash only so I pick up a small piece of smoked salmon. Which is delicious with cheese and crackers for dinner.

Wednesday we're back on the road. The Toll Gods have taken pity on me and instead of five booths, we pick up a ticket from the first one, and pay for it when we get off the highway 100 miles later. Much better!

One thing I really like on this route are the Travel Centers. Instead of rest areas with restrooms and a couple picnic tables, these stops on the freeway have a gas station, huge parking area, market, fast food stop, and usually a Starbucks. No hassle with finding each one, they're all right there together, with very easy access. They should be mandatory on all Interstates! Unlike toll booths.....

Mid-day we change time zones again, and enter our 15th state - Ohio! Where corn is still king.

Our GPS, Randy, leads us to one of the corn fields (thanks, we've seen it!) instead of the state park. Bill asks Gabby (Google maps on the phone) to take us the rest of the way. Which she does. Eventually Randy attempts to redeem herself by "re-calculating" onto the same route. Too late! We're following Gabby!!

Harrison Lake State Park is the most popular park in Ohio. It is beautifully maintained with the small man-made lake, 50 amp electric at each site, water spigots and dump station at the entrance, beach volleyball court, basketball court, soccer goals, swimming beach, disc golf course, kayak and canoe rentals, and a small dog beach. With all this available, it is still very quiet while we're here. 

Not unlike our previous stop, the rain comes soon after we park. In buckets! Looking out the windshield is like standing behind a waterfall. Fortunately it lasts about 30 minutes and the night passes without further precipitation. Tessa is much happier with this schedule.

Our view upon arrival
and then the heavens open up!
The same view in just minutes.
Small lakes form around us.
I chose a state park to put us back in nature again for a couple nights, and while the park is green and beautiful, it is an island of trees and water in the middle of corn fields. It sort of feels like we're in a terrarium. 

Thursday we take a short drive to see rural America. The humidity has been joined by increased bugs, and being outside is not enjoyable. We get gas in Fayette where a funeral home, insurance office, and auto parts store are the only other things open in the tiny town. The farmhouses and barns are lovely, and we enjoy the peacefulness of a life style that is completely foreign to us. 

And there's corn.

I fall in love with this old brick beauty

This design is over every window
Wonderful character
I don't go near the door. I've seen the movie.
Still holds equipment. Reminds me too much of Twister.
White clapboard farmhouses are all surrounded by large green lawns - everybody owns a riding mower. Or three.
Well maintained local cemetery
Unique headstone
We're told the corn is grown for fuel

I don't know how we could be dependent on foreign oil - this field times 400 million in five states!
Thursday afternoon the park is filling up with antique cars and tractors for the weekend show. We'll miss this one as we move further east to Amherst, Ohio, in the morning. But I believe there is one scheduled along with a steak fry at the park where we're going. 

Here's hoping we leave the muggy and buggy behind!