After our summer of recharge in Wisconsin, we departed later than usual this year on Saturday, October 9, 2021. Our ultimate destination of Florida again, but not until December 1st.
In our previous years heading to the Southeast, we would dip further south in Tennesse but this time we stayed further North and worked our way across Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. We left Wisconsin on Saturday, parking overnight at a Walmart Northwest of Chicago at Belvidere, Illinois. Unfortunately, the next morning we were routed by Google Maps through downtown because of construction and/or an accident on the by-pass we had planned to take. This meant a $26 toll bridge to get over into Indiana!
We returned to a Travel America (TA) fuel stop that works well outside of Chicago at Porter, Indiana. There are two TA stations next to each other here, one labeled “North” and the other “South” on the map. Technically the South station is North of the North station, but the designations are for which side of the road they are located on. Both are located North of the turnpike. My notes on our map:
DO NOT get off at highway 49 East of the truck stop, get off at the main exit SW of truck stop on exit 22. Truck stop is on the West side of the road, there is a stop light Google doesn’t have SE, use that drive way or you will need to make a U-turn north.
We had significant issues this past summer when we were out west in the greater than 100-degree heat. Unfortunately, a traditional absorption refrigerator will only cool to a certain range below the outside ambient temperature. Cooling 40 or 50 degrees below 115 degrees ambient outside temperature means the refrigerator will get up to 60 or 70 degrees. Absolutely unacceptable for storing food at this temperature of course. We decided to make the investment in a compressor drive refrigeration unit instead, which should be able to keep our food cool even in those extreme temperatures.
We have mentioned Shipshewana, Indiana, in our blog previously, an Amish community near Elkhart, Indiana, the “mothership” area of many RV companies. This area is bustling with RV industry supply chain companies. It is also the heart of a significant Amish community and its supply chain too. One of those is “off-grid refrigeration” which does not use traditional home electrical service to cool.
We made the investment of a 12-volt DC compressor unit to replace the gas cooling tower on our Norcold refrigerator. The cost to do this was less than a quarter to replace the unit with a new RV refrigerator if we could even find one now. We used JC Refrigeration to provide the unit and to install it. They did a great job, running a new power lead from the batteries, swapping out the cooling system, and installing the fin fans inside the refrigerator in less than 2 hours.
Writing this post now 4 months later in Florida and we have found this to be a great investment in the Florida heat! We are very happy we made this investment, even though we just had the cooling tower replaced last year because of the failure. Regardless we need to be able to keep food cold.
We overnighted for six nights at the Shipshewana RV Park while we waited for our appointment to get our refrigerator upgraded with a 12-volt compressor. This RV park has very basic amenities but had full hookups. It is part of the Shipshewana Trading Place (flea market) adjacent to it.
AT&T Speed Test Down: 29.9 Mbps Up: 11.7 Mbps Latency: 94ms Jitter: 12ms
Favorite restaurant in area: Das Dutchman Essenhaus
Hillegas Sugar Camp
We continue to seak out Harvest Hosts sites whenever we can and as well went from Shipshewana to Flight 93 Memorial we found this great host. Getting to this host was a bit up and down, literally as we rolled over numerous stretches of steep grades over some narrow well-paved roads. Later we learn from the host that this property is situated on the highest point in Pennsylvania! Since Flight 93 went down in fields away from busy population areas there are not a lot of options nearby and this host was a great overnight stay before we went on to the memorial the next day.
As with all hosts you need to partake in their service, activity, or buy some goods from their store to be a proper guest. We stocked up on some maple candy, coated nuts, and some amazing maple-infused mustard. They do most of their business in person at the camp, but you also can order products shipped to you from their website.
Flight 93 National Memorial
The Flight 93 National Memorial is part of the National Park Service system. We would not recommend this stop for the kids, this is a very quiet and reflective exhibit of the events of the day leading up to the downing of the plane in the adjacent field. There are many artifacts not only from this event of September 11 but also from other sites involved in that infamous day. You can check out the website to experience the Flight 93 story as well as some of the photos and the recordings that have been collected.
There was a high wind advisory the day we visited and on top of the hill over the field, the wind was very blustery, so we only stayed for a short time inside to look over the exhibits. There is plenty of adequate parking for long rigs, but the lanes through the parking lots are a bit tight getting up to them. There are three major parking areas, big rigs should only consider parking in the main museum lot (the second parking area) of the park.
Round Top, Gettysburg
From the Flight 93 Memorial, we avoided the turnpike and took several 2-lane roads eastward to the Gettysburg, Pennslyvania, area for our next week of stay. While a joke compared to what we experienced out west this route did include many restrictions for long vehicles due to switchbacks along the route. Staying diligent of the signs along this route we did eventually make it to the campground, however, it was a lot of meandering around “mountains” in the area.
We stayed at Encore’s Round Top RV Park outside of Gettysburg using our Trails Collection pass with Thousand Trails from October 17 to 21, 2021. Like the drive to here, the topography of the campground is on the side of decent size hills. Some of this campground is flat and that is where you will find the pull-through sites.
We were okay getting into our site but it was a bit hairy and involved inclines and angles that were a bit nail-biting. We used our two-way amateur licensed radios to go at it slow and made it into our spot without any issues. If you are a big rig and using the Trails Collection pass you may want to call and request a big-rig friendly sight at the front of the park.
They do accept packages, but they just pile them in the main building on a shelf and you can come and get your package (or someone else’s if you desire.)
AT&T Speed Test Down: 7.3 Mbps Up: 1.3 Mbps Latency: 112ms Jitter: 112ms
Of course, Gettysburg itself is a tourists “trap” and there is the iconic downtown, the squares, the tight streets, the now multiple century-old infrastructures of buildings and roadways. Leaving the motorhome back in the campground, we explored the local area mostly for dining options. We explored the national battlefield parks and other civil war-focused museums in a previous visit and skipped that this time.
We had marked on our map thanks to Always on Liberty the Historic 1776 Dobbin House Tavern in Gettysburg. Our first attempt at this was later in the evening and we found the waiting time way too long but on our second attempt earlier in the evening to be more fruitful. There are two options for this eating at the Dobbin House and the “Tavern” menu was outside under a tent option during the pandemic. They have a more formal restaurant menu for dining in the tavern as well.
We also drove up to Harrisburg with the intent of ending up in Philadelphia but the headache struck both of us and we decided to turn around and head back home. Philly will need to wait another day for the two of us to explore. Although we did discover a Baker’s Diner along the way and had a great breakfast there.
Lake Fairfax Park, Virginia
We needed to be within driving range of our new church in Manassas, Virginia, to celebrate their “trunk or treat” event and for only two nights waiting to get into our next spot.
The Lake Fairfax county park in Reston, Virginia, was within 45 minutes and is North of the DC metro area. It is positioned well to be a reasonable driving distance to all of the major DC attractions. This is a local weekend destination campground with many end-of-the-year parties around us, but it did serve us great just for the weekend while we transitioned from one long-term to another long-term park.
Check-in was a little difficult, there was very little information about where to go and what to do. We actually knew our site and went directly to the campground and parked. There we flagged down a county truck and asked him what we should have done. You actually check-in at the building near the water park at the front of the park.
We noticed in the two nights that we were here that they do allow overnight RV parking in the lower main parking lot near the water park. We have no idea whether there is a charge for this or if you need permission, but we did observe at least a half dozen rigs here each morning.
If you are looking for a base camp to explore the Northern DC area you should for sure have this on your list!
In our next post, we will spend the month of November 2021 in the Washington DC suburb of Manassas, Virginia!