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Old 07-13-2017, 04:52 PM   #1
SummitPond
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Our 2017 spring cross-country trip: FL to CO to ME

We recently completed a 5518 mile, 32 day trip from NE Florida to southern Maine, the DW’s familial home ground. Our initial destination was Denver, CO, to attend a nephew’s wedding. Our first night was on the outskirts of Montgomery, AL at the Capitol City RV Park, a nice campground with very level sites and a stocked pond. Next we stayed at the AgriCenter in Germantown, on the grounds of the Shelby Farm preserve. It was convenient to friends we were visiting and many of the tourist attractions in the area. From there we headed to Overland Park, outside of Kansas City, KS. We had to dodge the flooding rivers throughout Arkansas and Missouri; the latter’s DOT had their act together with respect to signage whereas the former’s did not. We ended up backtracking 125 miles (and about 5 hours worth of travel) through Arkansas to avoid road closures, something that could have been remedied by better DOT directions and postings. We spent one night outside of Springfield, MO at the Silver Bell mobile home park. We called ahead to let them know we would be late (because of detours) and someone was sitting in a car in the spot we thought was assigned to us. After circling the park a few times to make sure we were at the correct spot, we asked the person sitting in the car what they were doing there. It turned out they had the spot reserved for the following night and they were just checking it out!

While in the Kansas City area we went to Independence, MO and the Truman Library. This facility is operated by the National Park Service, but your “golden age” pass doesn’t get you a discount! The museum is quite a place; we hadn’t been to a presidential library before. I don’t know if they are all configured this way, but we left with a much greater appreciation of Truman as a person rather than a politician. After leaving Overland Park we spent the night at a very pleasant city campground in Ellis, KS (our second time there; again, very reasonable rates, right on a small river – beautiful views, full hookups and sometimes-decent internet). Walter Chrysler (of auto fame) was born and raised in Ellis; the town has preserved his family home and turned it into a museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed on the day we were in town, but this being small-town America (and very accommodating) we were able to talk with the Chamber of Commerce (after being directed there by the Public Works director) and we had the place all to ourselves. It is a delightful little museum.

In the Denver area we stayed at the Prospect Park RV Park in Wheat Ridge (NW of downtown Denver), again very convenient to everything we needed to be near for the wedding festivities, plus relatively convenient to touristy things, too (such as Boulder, Dinosaur Park and Standley Lake). The area was quite industrial, but we backed up to a large county park and road noise was masked by the large buildings between us and the main road. Internet at the park was not accessible to us; we were in a zone where the area transmitter got hammered by the hail storm that we missed by one day (whew!) One day we walked over to the nearby RV dealer to see what they had on the lot (what can I say, we like looking, but the more we look, the better we like our little trailer) and the damage was phenomenal. There was hardly a trailer that didn’t have some kind of damage, whether smashed skylights or dinged shells. There was extensive damage in our park, too. We also walked around the county park (quite extensive trails and a nice lake) and to a local bookstore.

From Denver we went to visit Fort Laramie National Historic Site, a historic outpost and fort, then on to spend the night in Lusk, WY at BJ’s Campground, a small, family-owned facility. In the Black Hills of SD we camped just outside of Custer at the Heritage Village campground. It had a view (on a clear day, which we did not have!) of the Crazy Horse Memorial. While there about four inches of snow accumulate on the trailer the night before we were to break camp; it made clearing the slide a challenge. This campground charged for using their dump station (assuming you didn’t take the full hookup site); for the amount of time we were staying it was less expensive to pay for full hookups (although we did have to disconnect the water during the freeze!) Wind Cave, Custer State Park, Hill City, Mount Rushmore and a whole bunch more is a convenient drive from this campground, and their rates were considerably more reasonable than others in the area. Internet was supposedly only available from the laundry facility and the bathhouse, but it did adequately reach our campsite.

From the Black Hills we headed to Wall Drug (the DW said we visited this 40 years ago on our last camping trip this way, but I don’t remember); we had hoped to visit the Badlands, but the weather was not conducive to viewing the vistas. We had also planned on going to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, but I misinterpreted their tour reservation policy (24 hours notice required) so we didn’t get to do that either. We went on to Mitchell, SD and toured the Corn Palace (both at night and during the day); it is their civic auditorium. It is decorated with multi-colored ears of corn in patterns and pictures. This year’s theme is related to Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson, the “Rock of Ages”. We stayed at the Dakota campground; close to the highway but none of the noise.

Next, on to the Mall of America! We camped at the Lebanon Hills regional park, a county park in Apple Valley, and once again a convenient drive to our destination. All I can say about the Mall of America is that it’s big. There’s an amusement park of sorts in the center of the mall – that was interesting, but otherwise, it’s just a larger version of what you have in any reasonably-sized town. Parking at the Mall is either in an elevated garage or in a large lot that can accommodate RVs. Across the road from the Mall is an IKEA; we had never been to one, so that was quite interesting. We bought some towel bars that I will mount on the back of the bathroom door; the small hook provided by Keystone just doesn’t cut it for us. From Minneapolis we headed to Goshen, IN. We didn’t make the distance in one day, so we spent one night at a campground operated by the Hollywood Casino group outside of Joliet, IL. We took advantage of the restaurant but did not indulge in their one-armed bandits. I’ve discussed the Keystone tour in another post (http://www.keystoneforums.com/forums...ad.php?t=29433); we camped in Elkhart at the Elkhart Campground. They had nice, large sites and several bathhouses. From the look of the park office I believe the campground used to be affiliated with KOA, but now it’s independent. Internet access at this site was excellent, and the laundry was reasonably priced. We went to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum (also discussed in the previous link) and a local “superstore” RV parts place (don’t remember the name, but their prices were all over the map – some good, but most not so).

From here we did a quick visit with family in Fort Wayne and then headed down towards Indianapolis for the Memorial Day weekend. We stayed at the Sleepy Bear Campground in Noblesville, across the street from the Klipsch Music Center (an outdoor music venue). The music fans for the Klipsch are Sleepy Bear’s typical customer, and they seem to use tents rather than RVs, so the tenting customer is the focus here. There are a few RV electric hookups available, but there are no water hookups, and the toilets are port-a-potties. There are two outdoor showers enclosed by a wooden fence. It was sort of boondocking, but we cheated by showering at a cousin’s place who lives in McCordsville, a short drive away. The 30 amp electrical hookup we used had reversed polarity, so the recently installed Progressive Industries EMS saved our bacon. Fortunately, one of the other campers was an electrician and he fixed the polarity on the outlet. Other than visiting with family, we did picnic at and hike around Fort Harrison State Park.

From Indianapolis we headed to Dayton, OH and the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This place is phenomenal! If you are an airplane enthusiast or a history buff, you’ll find something to like here. There are now four enormous hangars chocked full of planes, rockets, missiles, spacecraft and other items related to the USAF in fulfillment of their duty (my last visit was in the mid-60s and everything was stationed out in the elements). Amongst the collection we saw one of the planes my father-in-law flew (he was a navigator with SAC) and the plane “Bockscar” that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. That night we stayed at Buck Creek State Park in Springfield, OH, situated on a large lake with plenty of hiking and other water recreation available. We had a hard time finding the campground within the park; it is way in the back, and signage is not the best. This was the only campground we had to reserve through ReserveAmerica. I feel their fee is exorbitant for what you get (enough said) – but the campground itself was quite nice. None of the sites had sewer hookup, but the freely available dump station was a well-engineered facility.

The next day we visited the Warther Museum in Dover, OH. You may be familiar with the Warther name because of their knives (http://warthercutlery.com/). The founder of the company was what today would kindly be called an eccentric; he carved true-scale trains from ebony and ivory as a hobby and would not sell them. To earn a living he started selling his whittling knives, which eventually grew into the company we know today. The museum, founded by a son, is adjacent to the old Warther homestead. All museum tours are guided (except for the house and the wife’s button collection) but you are free to roam the museum and grounds after the formal tour is done. The knife factory is attached to the museum; it is amazing how small their shop is. The carved train models are amazing – it is hard to believe the detail in the vast array of model engines and cars that Warther produced. We had a small challenge finding the correct parking lot that would accommodate the truck and trailer; fortunately the lot was mostly empty when we were there, otherwise parking could have been challenging.

Hubbard’s Haven in Hubbard, OH was our home for the night. It is a small, mostly full-timer campground. The bathhouse was, in both our opinions, quite below the place. If you ignore this one factor the place was very nice. Our last night on the road was spent at the River Beach Campsites in Milford, PA. Our site had a view of the Delaware River. There were no sewer hookups, but a dump station was freely available to campers. The interstate is situated high above the campground, but its traffic noise was painfully obvious.

We ended up in southern Maine at the family homestead. The trailer is temporarily parked in the driveway, but our appointment at an Old Orchard Beach repair facility to get the converter fixed is coming up quickly. Eventually we’ll head back to the land of heat and humidity, better known as Florida. It was a grand trip to get from Florida to Maine the route we took. Next year we hope to go further west before looping back to visit family here in Maine. A few photos are posted in a forum album (http://www.keystoneforums.com/forums...hp?albumid=868).
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Old 07-13-2017, 05:29 PM   #2
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I truly appreciate the time and effort you put into the detail of your trip. You covered some areas that we are intent on getting to and your post was very interesting to us. Thank you so much for posting your adventures and sharing with us.
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Old 07-13-2017, 07:17 PM   #3
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Thanks for the post, considering cross-country in the coming years and your post was helpful.
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Old 07-14-2017, 05:20 AM   #4
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Shackter, what they ^^^^^ said. It takes a long time to get all that down "on paper" and we appreciate it!
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Old 07-14-2017, 06:04 AM   #5
SummitPond
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We attempted to map out the entire trip ahead of time (you can call me anal). Of course things happen that one can't foresee (good or otherwise) and we sometimes change our plans to see something extra, but we were fairly accurate overall. We used the Good Sam, AAA and Google Maps utilities to scope out the trip. It has been mentioned elsewhere on this site that you can enter your desired travel mileage or time in the GS program but I never could figure out how, but it does give you fairly accurate distances between points (I find the GS distances easier to interpret than the way Google Maps presents its travel instructions). We typically traveled about 300 miles a day when we were on the road. Sometimes I would bracket a range of travel distances and use the GS (or one of the other utilities) to located possible places to stay the night. I then used a spreadsheet that listed starting location, estimated mileage traveled that day (typically taken from the GS program), estimated travel time (assuming 45 mph average, what is what we seem to make) and estimated # of gallons of gas and estimated cost for each leg. To find campsites we used the GS big book, the on-line GS site finder (integrated into the mapping program), AAA (books and on-line) and the RV Parky on-line and phone app. We typically called ahead to our next campsite the morning we left (that was the DW's job while I was driving) and only met with disappointment one time - Memorial Day weekend - when we couldn't get into the campground of our first or second choice.

Internet access from campsites was inconsistent on this trip, so having the route pre-planned helped a great deal. The RV Parky phone app was used in conjunction with the paper copies of the GS big book and AAA camping books as needed on the road when we needed to fine tune our plans. This is basically how we planned and managed the last year's trip, too (FL to CO to ME, but a different route). Back when we used the VW camper (mid-late 70s and early 80s) there seemed to be less campers on the road, and getting into a campground was much easier. I don't ever recall a full-up campground where we couldn't get in.
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Old 07-18-2017, 05:07 AM   #6
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I just realized I didn't post an image of the route we took in the album. It is a broad outline of our route; I couldn't get the detour in Arkansas to map out, and the trip from Elkhart to Ft. Wayne to Indy is also lacking - too many points for Google Maps to handle, but you get the general idea. The broad outline we traveled is posted below.
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Old 07-01-2018, 05:45 PM   #7
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I spend alot of my time at museum .Tucson has some of the best museum a lot of being for the buck .
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