Thursday, September 23, 2010

Watkins Glen with a Scotty rally as a bonus!

Once again this year we made a late season weekend trip to camp at Watkin's Glen State Park. This is the third year in a row that we've done this, last year however we went in early October and it was a bit colder than we'd like. This year by coincidence there was an added bonus of a small trailer rally taking place at the campground. The National Serro Scotty Organization (NSSO) hosted several small campouts as part of their "Road Trip of 2010" with stops in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. Watkin's Glen was the last stop and about 8 Scotties made it to the event. Our sire was on a different loop but we joined them for their open-house time and were really impressed with the quality of the trailers including a '59 Rear Door model and a 13' that had the skin redone with stock-looking stainless steel instead of aluminum. Several of the members also checked out our Shasta which seemed huge after spending time with the smaller trailers. Mostly though... this trip was just about getting away for a weekend. We hiked a portion of the gorge and visited several finger lakes wineries. If you want to read more about the gorge you can check out this cool Internet Archive digitized book written in 1884, Descriptive Guide Book of the Watkins Glen. On the way home we also stopped in Corning to check out our old stomping grounds and get some decent pizza. Now back home again, I'd like to fit in one more quick weekend trip but we will have to see how the weather and our schedules fare. Good chance though that the trailer finds itself getting tucked back into the garage soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Getting Home!

After some trouble with the tongue jack deciding not to go up or down via it's crank, we got on the road with a focus of getting home more than sight-seeing. While there's some interesting stuff to see between Illinois and New York it's an area that we can explore during a shorter trip sometime in the future. The first day is one we had looked forward to the least, traveling past the the Chicago and South Bend area on I-80. At the beginning of this trip we found this area to be the most stressful high-speed highway driving that we had ever been in with the trailer. Now heading the other direction it proved to be super slow congestion and construction zones that made this area difficult. We had considered several alternate routes, but in the end made decisions that still in the thickest traffic of the trip. One high point while in crawling traffic was the interest that the Shasta would get from truckers and others asking about it from adjacent lanes. Mostly the typical questions like "what year is that?" and "did you restore it yourselves?" We also found that folks did pay attention to us and would make room if we needed to change lanes, etc... something that would not be happening if we looked just like any other vehicle on the road. Our goal was to stay at Pokagon again near the Indiana/Ohio border where we spent the first night, but when we go there we found it to be full. Oh yeah, Friday night.. We had been traveling for so long without reservations that this caught us a bit by surprise. A few phone calls later we ended up one town over in Angola, IN at Circle-B Campground. Over the course of the trip we stayed in a huge variety of campgrounds but Circle-B was different. Most of the guests in the park used it as a summer place at the lake and while they had a site for us, it was unusual for a one-night stay, especially in a small vintage camper. As I was setting the jack stands a golf cart drove up asking if we were in the Tin Can Tourists. Turns out the couple had the resident odd-ball camper in the park, a 70's Airstream and they had been to the the big TCT rally at Camp Dearborn in Michigan a couple of times. The next morning we pulled out early and made an uneventful dash for home in time to have Sunday to recover before getting back to our routine lives. So that's it for our trip... 3 weeks, 4,200 miles, 11 campgrounds, and 12 states. Time to start planning next years trip!

Driftless Wisconsin

The next morning we travelled down the Mississippi River a bit then headed east on small roads in the valleys across southwest Wisconsin. Heading in we didn't know what to expect for a landscape and were pleasantly surprised by how spectacular it was, doing some research later we lerned that the region is called the "Driftless Area" due to the lack of glacial remodeling. We stopped in Mt. Sterling and it being Wisconsin and all we bought some cheese. Not any cheese though... goat cheese but in familiar varieties like Cheddar and Jack. Continuing on, we made a quick stop in the town of Gays Mills, the apple capital of the state fro a photo opp. Eventually we ended up in Spring Green home to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliessin where we did not take a tour, and House on the Rock which is impossible to describe but an amazing place that is worth spending several hours at if you are in the area. That night we camped at Rock Cut State Park about an hour south of Madison where we were visited by several turkeys early the next morning.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Giants, Tornados, Vintage Trailers, and more!

Eventually we were back on the Interstate heading across Minnesota when we saw a billboard noting something about a giant Jolly Green Giant statue in a town called Blue Earth. Everyone agreed whatever this was it sounded like something that we had to see. After some research once were were back home, we learned that the statue was built in 1978 to commemorate the linking of the east and west sections of I-90 which took place in Blue Earth, also home to a large Green Giant food company packaging plant. Apparently many travelers stopping during previous years had been asking about where they could see the giant, so they built one!

Not far down the road we experienced another tornado warning on our weather radio and saw some pretty interesting clouds and even some local tornado spotters watching the sky. We also noted that a local gas station was selling some kind of drink called a "Tornado" for a super low price whenever there was an active alert, so apparently not something uncommon. At LaCrosse we turned south and followed the Mississippi River for a bit as the storm was headed to the north. We made camped for the night in another Army Corp of Engineers campground called Blackhawk Park in DeSoto, Wisconsin. There Corp has many campground along the Mississippi and we found both that we stayed at to be really well built and perfect for an easy one-night stop. Had a great dinner at a local restaurant and spotted the cool vintage trailer in the photo above at a nearby park with permanent sites, the shape looks like a Spartan but it seemed smaller than others that I've seen.

Walnut Grove, Minnesota

Continuing on we headed east, opposite the direction Laura typically headed, and made a stop in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Walnut Grove is another Little House town and the location of the familiar Plum Creek. We un-hitched our wagon at Lake Shetek State Park where we noticed that we had travelled far enough east that there were enough trees that it started feeling a bit like someplace that we might stay back home. The staff was a little frazzled when we checked-in as the electricity in the park was out due to some construction work, but it was repaired a few hours later. In Walnut Grove we spent some time at the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum then got back on the road. All the driving over the last couple of days was pretty good as we were off the Interstate much of the time and passed through some nice small towns.

Little House - DeSmet, South Dakota

A 131 years after Laura Ingalls, we finally arrived in the small town of DeSmet, South Dakota. We made camp for the night at Lake Thompson State Rec Area in nearby Preston, SD. Lake Thompson is a fairly large man-made lake that was not there in Laura's time, we found it to be pretty windy but a good place for a stop on the way through. Laura arrived in DeSmet in 1879 via covered wagon, eventually writing the Little House on the Prairie books. Many of the places mentioned in the books are located here including Silver Lake and the Big Slough. We toured the original Surveyors' House where they stayed one winter and a later house in town that Pa built that are cared for by the local historical society. We also visited the Ingalls Homestead a hands-on living recreation that features Ma's Little House, a dugout, a schoolhouse and other buildings and experiences from the time. This is a great stop for kids as they can really get a sense of being there with lots of details right from the books.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

An oasis and a celebration of corn!

From the Badlands we headed east then just before crossing the Missouri River we stopped at Al's Oasis to re-stock with much needed supplies. One of the things we noticed on this trip is how spoiled we are by the variety of product at the grocery stores back home, Al's was a welcome stop being the best stocked store we had been in for quite a while. We then continued east and stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota at the famous Corn Palace. The Corn Palace is covered in giant mosaics made from corn that depict different imagery each year. The 2010 theme was transportation through the ages, unfortunately the stagecoach was the closest image to our vintage camper. Overall pretty interesting for a quick stop and a part of many classic road trips.