On Friday morning we hit the road headed back to West Virginia. The trip up was beautiful heading northeast on US-19 to Tazewell, Virginia, then north on WV-16. Our only stops along the way were for lunch at Perkins Restaurant and Bakery and fuel. The rain and curvy mountain roads made for a slow drive, so we were ready to relax as soon as we set up at Twin Falls.
Twin Falls State Resort Park is REALLY nice. Amenities include an 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, and 25 miles of hiking and biking trails. It’s 3,776 acres of land includes Foley Falls and Black Fork Falls and a functional pioneer homestead. There are plenty of ways to stay with a lodge, cabins, and the campground, which has 50 sites, 25 of them are electric. The long, winding road up the mountain takes you to what is truly one of the most beautiful parks we’ve stayed in. This was the first place we’ve been in quite a while on a weekend that wasn’t absolutely packed, although it had plenty of people there. The campsites are very well spaced. Most are up in the woods, but there are also a few at the front in more of a field. We think this is really a great park for anyone…individuals, couples, families. There is also a lot to do in the area.
On Saturday it rained sporadically, at times very hard. We took a walk around the campground in the morning, then later, MW walked down to the pioneer homestead. Mid-day we headed into Pikeville, West Virginia to pick up a few things at Walgreens, then back to the park to check out the restaurant at the lodge. They had a good, but limited menu. The spinach salad was awesome, and MW said the ham and beans was pretty darned good, too. A few cool things we saw: 1) The lodge had a neat memorial to coal miners out front and a cool West Virginia plaque made out of coal. 2) There was an amazing moth on the way out that was huge, beautiful, and green! Called a Luna Moth, this giant silk moth’s wing span can reach 7″! This one was probably about 3″. 3) There is a tree along the route in that has the largest burl I’ve ever seen. Back at Petunia, I worked a bit on this blog. The humidity was amazingly low, and the rain all day kept the temperature down. For the first time in months, we were able to sleep with the windows open. (Nothing helps me sleep better than the sounds of bugs, frogs, wind, and/or rain. Throw in some thunder and lightning, and I’m in hog heaven! Except for the heat of summer or when it is terribly noisy, we sleep with the windows open almost every night. In winter we do close them when it gets into the low 20s. LOL)
After a glorious night in the 50s and GREAT sleep, we were up early on Sunday and headed out. Since the trip on Friday through the mountain roads was so slow, we opted for the shortest route, heading over to Beckley and getting on…gasp…the interstate. Northwest on I-64, we passed through Charleston, West Virginia, stopping at Target for a few things while there. What good memories we have from that place, the home of the West Virginia Power minor league baseball team. The Grasshoppers played them during the Golden Summer, and we traveled there many times to see Alex Jones, Corey Bird, Dylan Lee, Brandon Berry, Jarret Rindfleisch, and the rest of “our boys” kick some butt. (Well, sometimes they lost, but we had fun nonetheless.) Aside from baseball, Charleston is a beautiful town and is absolutely worth a visit if you are passing nearby. At Cross Lanes we popped off just long enough to refuel and grab lunch at Cracker Barrel. (Someone gave me a $25 gift card, but it wouldn’t go through. Bummer!) A little further west at Scott Depot, we jumped on US-35, and high-tailed it for Ohio. About 1/2 hour before our arrival, it started raining like crazy. Isn’t that the way?! We had to take on water, so MW was out in it for a bit. Thankfully, though, by the time we needed to park it was down to just sprinkles. Our site was a little challenging to get in because one of the neighbor’s vehicles was parked partially in the road. I asked them to move it, and the mom of that crowd apparently thought we couldn’t back our rig up. She yelled (sounding a little like the mama from “Throw Mama From the Train”, for her son to help us. Really??!! Once their car was out of the way, MW got it in easily.
So, here’s a little side note I was going to say about camping, but let’s just say, about life in general. It is important to bathe! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have the occasional pajama day. (You all know that is one of my favorite things.) Then there is the occasional “whore” bath when you just hit the highlights on the run. (I used to do this when we tent-camped. Who hasn’t sometimes?) Another notable exception is multi-day hiking trips where facilities are not available. (Trust me when I tell you that, after a week on the Appalachian Trail with just cleaning wipes or the occasional, soapless rinse off in a stream, MW would make anyone’s eyes water and their nostrils stage a revolt!) But seriously, in a situation where you have ready access, take a bath or shower with at least some degree of regularity. I say this because those same neighbors clearly had some aversion or allergy to soap and water. That’s the only reason I can come up with for the horrendous smell emanating from their travel trailer. I just wasn’t aware an RV could smell that bad, and that an outsider could pick up the odor from 8-10′ away with the windows open! Add in the cigarette smoke from both parents (yes, inside), and I really don’t know how anyone could breathe.
Rocky Fork State Park is east of Hillsboro, Ohio, and very near Paint Creek State Park, where we stayed on our last circuit. The park is along the south side of Rocky Fork Lake, which unlike some we’ve been to recently, did not limit horsepower on boats. Along with camping and boating, there are fishing piers, swimming areas, hiking trails, disc and mini golf courses, boat rentals, and a nature center. They even have sledding and ice fishing in winter. There are also some areas open to hunting during the season. We did note that some of the lake areas close to shore were clogged with water lilies.) MW said the best feature of the campground was the super clean, air-conditioned bathhouse. During the steamy August mornings, it was nice not to be sweating WHILE showering! LOL. There were also several other bathrooms and a couple of playgrounds. The layout wasn’t bad, but a lot of the sites were close together, too short, and muddy. Ours was not long enough to park Petunia and Brutus, so we had to take him to overflow parking at the bathhouse. Part of the campground circled around among the trees, and another area was in an open field right along the lake. Overall, it wasn’t bad and had enough stuff going on to keep families busy.
Monday was a fairly lazy day, partly because I woke up with a torn cornea. (If you’ve never experienced that, let me just say you don’t want to. Think of how a GIANT stick in your eye would feel, and you’ve pretty much got the picture!) I have a condition called epithelial basement membrane dystrophy, which makes the layers of my corneas not adhere well to one another. Tears (rips, not tears) happen occasionally, and most of the time I just wake up that way, probably from rubbing my eye in my sleep. It’s happened many times, and I’ve had emergency eye appointments in several states. Thankfully, no real damage is done, and it usually heals in a few days. After several episodes, we expanded our medicine cabinet to include bandage contacts and antibiotic eyedrops. I also had a Corneal Ablation in my left eye. (I absolutely DO NOT recommend it! Well, it did help somewhat, so I guess I would do it again…hesitantly. You basically hold your eye open while they bring what looks like a round electric toothbrush down and brush off your entire cornea. Although a bit traumatic, it doesn’t hurt while it is happening (except your muscles from the fight or flight of “holy shit, that’s going into my eye!!!!”) Later, however, you absolutely know that part of your eye has been scraped off. Almost immediately the cornea starts to regrow from the outside in, so your vision is bad in that eye for about a month. After I took care of the first aid, we walked around the park while the air was still pretty cool and dry. Later we headed into Hillsboro, Ohio to have a late lunch. On the way in we passed something we missed on our last visit to this pretty little town…the world’s largest horseshoe crab! Who knew?! We planned to go to Cowaburger, but ended up at LaRosas. We shared Pepperoni Rondos (OMGosh!), Wings with Diablo Sauce, and a Baked Buddy. All were delicious, and we will definitely try this chain again.
Tuesday we hit the road again. We have a deadline to be in northern Indiana by Thursday morning, so no dilly dallying! We headed mostly north and worked our way between Dayton and Springfield Ohio, keeping away from the “urng” (orange city areas on the map) as much as possible. At Fort Recovery, just before crossing into Indiana, we stopped at a city park and had sandwiches for lunch. Back on the road, we passed through Montpelier, Indiana, which had a couple of photo moments and a bit of interesting trivia. On August 4, 1933, their bank was robbed by none other than the Dillinger Gang! We arrived at Chain O’ Lakes State Park by mid-afternoon. This is our second visit to this campground, which is pretty nice. (See previous note here.) Though not too crowded, this time the park had significantly more people than our last time. Our site was one of two in a little separate section, and no one was on the other one. My eye was feeling better, so I decided to remove the contact to see how it was healing. BAD IDEA! Apparently in the attempt (much harder to remove them if you don’t wear them all the time anymore), I made it all worse. After re-bandaging, I took Ibuprofen and just mostly closed my eyes for the rest of the night.
Wednesday morning the eye was still really bad, so I called an audible and decided a doctor visit was in order. While I was in the shower, MW started checking out local Ophthalmologists. He found one in Sturgis (no, not THAT Sturgis), Michigan who would work me in. At that point all I could really do was close my eyes and wait. My eyelid was pretty swollen and only opened about half-mast, and my tear production was WAY up. We arrived there around 10:15 AM, and I was back with Doctor Parial within about 15 minutes. He checked everything out and said I had a huge scratch/tear from due north to due east on my cornea and gave me brownie points for it being one of the largest he has ever seen. (No wonder it was hurting like an SOB!) New contacts, a different type of antibiotic, and some other instructions and I was on my way. What great service! Before heading back, we filled my prescription at Walgreen’s and did a little grocery shopping at Meijer. We stopped for lunch in Wolcottville, Indiana at the Twin Six restaurant where we had average sandwich fare. Then it was back to Petunia, taking a couple of pics on the way. My eyes still felt better closed than open, so my afternoon was spent napping. In the evening before we went to bed, we prepped Petunia for departure as Thursday was going to be an early wakeup.
As planned, we hit the road before 6 AM in order to make our appointment in Middlebury, Indiana. It was time to get some repair work done on Petunia, mostly from the blowout, but also a couple of other items including the water siphoning issue mentioned in a previous post. We were at Grand Design by 7 AM to drop her off, then headed out for breakfast at Village Inn in Middlebury where we had the most charismatic waitress ever! The pancakes were pretty good, too. The next stop was to do laundry at Middlebury Laundry Care…seriously the neatest laundromat I’ve ever been in. After finishing the chores, we basically drove around killing time. We did make it over to a couple of stores in Shipshewana, including Yoder’s Meat and Cheese. (MW just couldn’t resist.) We also walked around a car show at the Essenhaus Village Shops. Shipshe, as the locals call it, is home to the third largest Amish community in America and is one of my favorite areas. You just can’t beat an Amish bakery, and I love seeing the buggies on the road and the draft horses in the fields. It is such a different way of life, and I marvel at the commitment in these modern times. I also wonder if maybe they have the right idea. My eye was still very sore, and the bright sunlight wore me out, so a little after noon MW found a nice, shady spot at Old Mill Park to relax. Around 2 PM we got the call that Petunia was ready, but when we got there MW still had an issue with the underside of the slide. No worries, said Grand Design. You guys spend the night in our campground, and we will pick her up first thing tomorrow and take care of it. The campground is just a row of eight or ten paved sites with water, electric, and picnic tables, but it is free to customers getting repairs. Nice perk. I was happy to lay back with my eyes closed for a bit, and then have a little takeout pizza later.
Friday was another 5 AM wakeup to let Grand Design have Petunia by 6. They said it should only be a couple of hours, so we headed to breakfast at Country Table Restaurant in White Pigeon, Michigan (just a few miles north of Grand Design). Breakfast was good, but the conversation was really interesting. Our waitress was giving us her perspective on the state’s Covid rules. Sounds like the Michigan folks are no happier with their Governor than the folks in Illinois! After breakfast we rode around a little bit. Grand Design called just before 9 AM, and we were able to pick up Petunia and get on the road by about 10.
Our overall route was southwest. We skirted the south side of South Bend, then went south to Rochester, and west almost to the Illinois state line. In Kentland, Indiana, we had lunch at the Good Table Family Restaurant. Wow. I had catfish filets and MW had the Ruben (yes, that is how they spelled it). The Ruben was a little bland, but the catfish was great. (For $8.99, there was so much that we made three generous catfish sandwiches with the leftovers!) After lunch we crossed into Illinois and headed to Rantoul and the Prairie Pines Campground. Our only other stop along the way was at a grocery store for a few things. It had been two days of 5 AM wake-ups followed by a long drive, so we were both ready to put our feet up and relax. My eye still wasn’t doing great, so my plan was to go to bed early and sleep as long as possible.
On Saturday morning I was slowly roused out of my deep sleep to sounds that my brain could not identify. What the hell??? I laid there for a few minutes trying to figure out what it was, then it hit me. Just north of the campground, a group of protesters was marching and shouting. I am all for peaceful protest for change. BUT, with all of the videos and news stories about the protests turning violent, I have to say it made me a little nervous. (When you march as a group with signs and shout your views to bring attention to an issue, you are protesters. When you, as a group or individual, attack anyone, burn businesses, and destroy private property as a means to instill fear, you have now become, by definition, a domestic terrorist. That’s just my two cents.) We were thankful when we realized that they were marching away from the campground. It was still hotter than blue blazes outside, so I spent some time catching up on work. Later I made some Peanut Butter Chicken (a little bit of an Asian taste) in the crockpot.
Prairie Pines Campground is on what used to be Chanute Air Force Base, which was active from 1917 to 1993. It is in the flat lands across from a corn field, but has many trees for shade. There are 95 sites with full hookups and, during the regular season, a bathhouse and laundry. While it doesn’t have lakeside amenities, playgrounds (although there is a swing set), and the like, it is the cheapest full-hookup site we’ve ever stayed in at $83 for three nights over the weekend.
Sunday it was a little cooler, but still near what I assume to be the temperature of hell. Despite that, we walked around the campground for a bit, then watched the live stream of our church service. Except for a run to Meijer north of Champaign for a few groceries, we hung out at Petunia for most of the day. While my eye was somewhat better, it still hurt as the day wore on. Getting out of the sunlight and closing it for a while definitely helped.
Next up…west to Big Muddy. See you on the road!
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