Leaf Peeping on the Reading

After leaving a little behind schedule from Wisconsin, we headed to State College, Pennsylvania, to have our Jeep checked out by a Youtubing automotive diagnostician.  We stopped over in the Amish community Shipshewana for the weekend, stocking up on RV parts, and baked goods, and witnessed the six-horse-hitch world championships for 2023. Plus, we celebrated Barb’s birthday with a fun fall leaf-peeping train adventure.

White Pigeon, Michigan

We made it from Northwest Wisconsin to Bontragers Surplus Thursday evening around 8 PM and we used their free parking lot for our first overnight stop. If you have an older rig, this is a great place to find random RV-related parts for it. East of the RV manufacturing mecca of the United States (Elkhart, Indiana)  they have ready access to end-of-production run parts, closeouts from suppliers, etc. They have an eBay store, but it is also great to just browse through their aisles of stock. This time we scored a bunch of 12-volt light switches that we can use to replace our yellowed with age switches. We found a few other things in our goodie bag, including some nice light sconces for the living room wall.

Shipshewana, Indiana

Only about 20 minutes south of Bontragers Surplus is the quaint little village of Shipshewana, Indiana, and is just along I-80 and the Michigan / Indiana state line. We have stayed at the Shipshewana RV Park & Service Center twice now. They were very accommodating with our ever-changing schedule and worked with us to move our reservation with no additional costs.

Right across the way from our RV park was the Michiana Event Center (MEC) which is a big arena for the area. There are lots of horses, and tourists, in this Amish town. There were even more the weekend we were there! The World Championship of Six Hitch Teams was being recorded for RFD-TV’s program Gentle Giants while we were there. We enjoyed Saturday afternoon watching the amazing teams of horses, the brilliant sparkling hardware, and their humans competing for the title. The program aired on Thanksgiving day on RFD-TV.

The 35th Annual Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series World Finals at the Michiana Event Center in Shipshewana. This was filmed by RFD-TV and aired on “Gentle Giants” on Thanksgiving day. Given it is a “world series” it was amazing to watch all of the high-caliber teams competing. Barb also enjoyed conversations with a young Amish gentleman, gaining his perspective on the teams. They each would be successful at picking out the winners of each heat.

East to Ohio

We left Shipshewana on Sunday morning and headed East, with a stop at a Harvest Host location for the night.

Somewhere in Ohio, Barb is covered in cat! This is day two of a full day of traveling and neither are happy at this point. Even more so they hate the fall weather transition and are looking for warmth. You know when it is bad when they touch each other! The sacrifices they had to make to be on mom for warmth and comfort.
Seems to be the thing to do in the fall, staying at a Harvest Hosts sugarbush overnight. The family that now owns this over 150-year-old sugarbush was super nice and very accommodating. Since we had to disconnect the Jeep, we did a quick run up to the Lake Erie shoreline too.
The Harvest Hosts program asks that you spend between $20-30 at each host to “pay for your stay” and to make it worth it to the host. The Sugarbush Creek Farm (Middlefield, OH) had lots of packaged syrup options and some amazing dried crystallized sugar. The Sugarbush is open to the public to buy goods directly too.

State College, Pennsylvania

We were in the State College area for a specific purpose and on specific dates, so this limited our ability to find a campground that would be in suitable distance to the Jeep diagnostician we were meeting up with there. The Bellefonte / State College KOA was available but it was less than accommodating. We have learned to increase the length of our RV in our reservations so we get a bigger campsite, but even then it failed us here.

Watch for our next post where we will go over the saga of our Jeep repairs!

The problem with the Appalachian mountain campgrounds is that you often have to deal with terraced campsites. Unfortunately, we saw (and heard) way too many rigs dragging their tails across the gravel as they tried to get up these steep three to four-foot ramps onto the terrace. Sure, these may be pull-through sites but in reality, they had to be back in sites to prevent that from happening. (Bellefonte/State College KOA)
Our second site at the Bellefonte / State College KOA was long enough for our rig. The first site when measured across the ground was long enough, but those trees at the rear of the rig are so overgrown it took up nearly 10 feet of our site. The KOA did find us another site, but they forced us to pay for this bigger site! We reserved the first site with the correct length and it was their fault, but there was no convincing them that this should just be a comped “upgrade” site. There were no additional amenities, it was just a couple of feet longer.


Shartlesville, Pennsylvania

Our final Pennsylvania location was at the Appalachian Campground, Shartlesville, Pennsylvania, a Thousand Trails Collection park just North of Reading, Pennsylvania. This was our first extremely negative experience with a property. We have had a share of older campgrounds, but this one came with a big attitude from the staff that checked us into the park.

We are a “big rig” by all standards, especially for older parks that were constructed before all of the slides and the increase in height that came with commonplace class-A motorhomes of today. We were forced because of our “status” as “Thousand Trails freeloaders” to use a very tight-fitting, hard to get at without damage, campsite.

When we asked to be moved to the open field, we were told we were not “entitled” to those as “one of them” sort of folk. From what we gathered the Appalachian Campground in Shartlesville was recently overtaken by “RV on the Go” (a/k/a Thousand Trails) and the previous management is not happy with this!

Barb did an excellent job at the wheel maneuvering us through the maze with Jason directing with arm signals from outside. The two of us worked well together to maneuver our way through a non-traditional route and go to our site, even with some applause from the group amassed in the end!

We first started at the office and had to go (green lines) around the campground clockwise, to the right side of the campground, to be able to get aligned with the section on the left side. Then we realized that no one of our height ever drives back in this section (red lines) and there are branches at windshield height that are going to do damage. We go to the office and they refuse to put us in any of the numerous “open air” sites because we are there as Thousand Trails Collection members. So we made do and did our multiple-point maneuver (the yellow lines) and eventually made it into our site. (#103)
Site #103 was a nice site but it was a terrible bear getting into it. This photo doesn’t show the depth and angles we had to deal with as we had to do a 270-degree multiple-point turn around the tree and the RV site there with the Sprinter RV.
Nothing drives our cat Wheezy “nuts” than in the fall, these nuts falling on the roof of the RV. At this campground, some of these nuts were average acorns but then some were five times the size (and bang on the roof) falling too.
As bad parents, somehow, we ended up giving treats to the cats in our bathroom once. This created hope then that treats may be given in this spot, which turned to expectation every time someone went into the bathroom. Finally, it turned to anticipation that someone will need to “go” and Rico is ready in case! If you can’t find a cat, look outside the bathroom first. (Oh, and always check before closing the door behind you on the way out too! #MayHaveLockedRicoIn #RicoPiggedOutOnAnEntireBoxofTreats)
MOM!? What is this thing taking up my daytime nap #2 sleep spot?

Leaf Peeping on Reading Railroad

You may have grown up playing Monopoly and thinking the “Reading Railroad” is pronounced like “reading a book?” It is pronounced by the locals as “redding,” as in like the color red!

Both of us love train adventures. They take you along routes you cannot otherwise see. Even more awesome is during the fall leaf color time. We celebrated Barb’s birthday with a fall leaf-viewing train excursion on the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. It started with some hard rain and turned into a constant drizzle for most of the day. However, we did see a few peaks of sun that popped the colors in Jim Thorpe.

Even by today’s standards, the Pullman Room Car was pretty spacious for the day. In their day, these cars must have been very high-end travel options. (Word of warning: buy 1 ticket for the room not a ticket for each of the passengers. We never did get a refund from them for buying a second ticket!)
Train excursions give you a new view of the world from an exclusive route. The fall color excursion from Reading to Jim Thorpe through the Pocono Mountains crosses over the Hometown Trestle. From the bridge, you get a quick look over the whole area and even in the rainy gloomy weather it was still spectacular.
The Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad’s “Fall Foliage” tours bring thousands of people to this little town in rural Pennsylvania. There were many pop-up art sales, food trucks, and lots of permanent tourist-oriented stores along the main street. It would be nice to explore this town more, but in the middle of the week when trains are not dumping thousands into it.
The Reading Northern Railroad uses either a diesel or a steam locomotive for the fall foliage excursions through the Poconos. On our rainy day, we were pulled by the #270 diesel. We did get to see some bursts of sun just as the train was pulling back into Jim Thorpe to pick us up to take us home to the “Reading Outer Station” depot.
Much of our day was spent avoiding the rain and watching people coming and going from the train depot platform. However, just as we were preparing to board the train the sun came out and the valley was just a glow. It was a great ending to a birthday celebration!