Minneapolis thru Ohio and West Virgina

We stay for two nights in Cincinnati, Ohio, and two nights in Milton, West Virginia, what trouble can we get into in such a short amount of time? Both stays were busy and surprisingly rewarding stops!

There always seems to be something that causes some stress when we are “leaving for the winter” from Wisconsin and Minnesota. This year we were trying to get our air conditioning on the motorhome fixed at 2 PM on the day we were trying to head out East. This put us about half a day behind on our travels, but ultimately it just meant we had to adjust our overnight locations and we pushed harder the following two days to catch up with our schedule in Cincinnati. We headed back to Cincinnati so that Barb could get her penguin fix and we would continue on to West Virginia for a couple of nights before ultimately landing in Manassas, Virginia, area again for a few weeks.

Interstate Power Systems

We mentioned in our previous blog we had not moved much over the summer, but we had gone up to Northern Wisconsin in July for a short weekend “camping” trip. On that trip, we determined the chassis air conditioning, the driving dash A/C, was on the fritz. We started the process in early August to get it repaired and on our last day, September 16, at 2 PM it is finally fixed. We would still recommend Interstate Power Systems (Lakeville, MN, location) but CoVID-19 impacts on their staffing and issues with the supply chain were very frustrating. They did what they could to get it fixed. It took two attempts to repair the system, a big system the length of the RV with piping and seals that are now 14 years old. Ultimately the final repair was replacing the compressor at the back of the motorhome.

We had more than one opportunity to stay in the Interstate Power Systems parking lot in Lakeville, MN, this summer. The team here had never worked with an RV extended warranty insurance before and they did great at addressing the issues. The first time they found several dried-out seals and replaced them, recharged the A/C system and it worked for a couple of days. The second time they found a large crack had developed in the compressor. Then the third and final return time was because it took weeks to get that part due to supply chain issues. They replaced the compressor and some other pieces in the system and seem to have done the trick so far.

Fortunately, we were “forced” by our motorhome financing company to purchase an extended warranty for this sort of $2,500 repair. We have a policy with Cornerstone United warranty that covered this and numerous other repairs over the last 4 years. Ultimately we have taken out about $7,000 on a policy that cost us $4,000 to buy into. Cornerstone has never been an issue for us, until this time we had to pay the $250 deductible twice. They required this because we had to return to the shop to address the issue a second time. Cornerstone does not have a network of repair shops, you just have to work with a technician that is “licensed” to do the repair and they handle everything over the phone or by email with them.


Travel Days

While it was not our intended stop, we did find a very quiet and off-the-beaten-path Walmart in Sparta, Wisconsin, for our first time back out on the road. The lot does pitch more than normal for drainage, but ultimately we were beaten from the long day of air conditioning service fun and slept just fine. We did confirm with the store manager the location to park and got the OK to do so.

Once the air conditioning was fixed we made our way through Wisconsin, staying overnight at a Walmart in Sparta, Wisconsin, for a night. We wanted to route around Chicago, so we headed toward Bloomington, Illinois, and tried to stay at a Harvest Host for the second night. Unfortunately, the host says they have had rigs up to 72′ in their little private yard but we bailed when we saw the driveway which confirmed our fear of the satellite reconnaissance we had done.

No worries, we ended up at a Cracker Barrel instead for the night. We use the overnightrvparking.com service to find spots like that. So far this service has been worth the expense associated with it. Now that they are part of the Rover Pass, it is something free as a perk for being a supporting campendium.com member. Check out the resources page for what else we use for planning.

FMCA Campground

We used our 2 free nights at the FMCA campground through our FMCA membership. FMCA has a campground on the Southeast side of Cincinnati (on the Ohio side of the river) and is a great launch point for the area. Members can stay here for 2 free nights each month, you can also pay to extend your stay up to 5 days total.

The FMCA Campground is an awesome perk when you are visiting the Cincinnati area. Members get two free nights every month. The sites are very spacious, level, and concrete, and the angles are all easy for backing into them. There are also just parking spaces on asphalt though too, so make sure to check closely which site you might be reserving. On our departure day, it was a very foggy morning in the hills around Cinncinnati making for some interesting driving out.

It can just be a little white-knuckle getting into the park, make sure to follow the directions to come in from I-245.  If you are coming into Cinncinati from the Northwest you will want to take the extra 20-minutes and go clockwise around downtown on the I-245 to exit 63A.  They have instructions on their website.


Cincinnati Zoo

Jason was able to take Monday off and unlike our first time here we had an amazing weather day for the zoo. The animals were all very active, seeing both the African and the Little Blue Fairy Penguins, as well as Fritz the baby hippo born in August.

The Cincinnati zoo has two types of penguins, the “traditional” African penguins that you will see in the United States. These are often housed outside because they can appreciate the warm temperatures of the US. Oma’s penguin is visiting these penguins so he can tell our granddaughter all about his travel!


Cincinnati Zoo Hippos Bebi (mother, left) and the latest August 2022 baby “Fritz” are the draw of the park now. We were there just after the park opening and they were still very active and putting on a show.


The world-famous Fiona Hippo was extremely premature when born at the Cincinnati zoo. She has now reached 5 years old and is no longer the baby, but she still draws a crowd. Oma’s penguin is looking forward to sharing cute hippo photos.


Posing with statues of the Little Blue Penguins you get a perspective of how small this species is compared to their cousins. We of course are joined by Oma’s Mary Poppins penguin too!



The Hofbräuhaus of Newport, KY, is immediately south of Cincinnati, OH, over the river. Another restaurant that we had to check out multiple times. There was a bus parked outside here when we arrived, but it would be difficult to get here with a big rig and especially for one that may be towing a Jeep. So plan a day trip here when staying at FMCA and it is about a 20-minute drive.

The area has numerous German restaurants, one stood out on a number of “top X” lists of German restaurants. We even had to make a repeat performance to double-check that the quality would be repeated and they did not disappoint.

The Hofbrauhaus is actually across the river and state border in Newport, Kentucky.  This 16th-century-based brewery favorite did not actually come to the United States until 1997, with the first being built here in Cincinnati.

The Hofbäuhaus has a large indoor dining hall, some bar seating, several private function area rooms, and of course an outdoor Biergarten too.

Our favorite dishes at the were the Heidelberger Rahm Spätzle, Bauren Schnitzel and for dessert, Jason loved the Bavarian Cream Puff (just like being at the Wisconsin State Fair), and for Barb the Cinnamon Pretzel. They have a small gift shop where you buy steins, t-shirts, and some other collectibles.

Blue Beacon Truck Wash

The motorhome was getting pretty scuzzy on the outside, it had been since March since it had gotten a bath by hand and even then that was on one side! It was long overdue and we have seen numerous Youtubers having their RVs washed. We did some recon in advance, figured out how to get there, and what the skinny was on the process and we were ready to go. Once again we had to make sure to get out to I-245 from the campground and we headed South to Kentucky to the nearest of the Blue Beacon Truck Wash sites.

The motorhome was really getting to look shabby and needed a refresh. It is hard to find good detailers that work on such a large surface and also do it right at an affordable price. Blue Beacon Truck Washes are all around the country, usually at truck stops making getting our big rig in and out easy.

The process was very easy. We pulled into the wash, and waited our turn, they came to the driver’s window and we told them what we wanted from the menu of options and they guided us into the bay. Jason then went into pay while Barb comforted Wheezy who was completely and utterly terrified of the full-force attack on the motorhome by the half-dozen pressure-washing and scrub-brushing guys. They were done with the motorhome and Jeep in less than 10 minutes.

For less than $80 both vehicles got a layer of grime removed. It does not replace a good detailing though. It was worth taking care of the one layer and adding some protection to the rigs.

Service Performed Cost w/Tax
Motorhome, Coach 30’+ No Britner $42.00
Motorhome, Coach 30’+ Brushed $0.00
Car (Jeep) Classic Wash $18.40
Motorhome, 2 Front Wheel Brighten/Powered $0.00
Motorhome, 2 Back Wheel Brighten/Powered $0.00
Car, RainX Complete $6.10
Motorhome, RainX Complete $13.10
TOTAL >>>>> $79.60

They did a pretty decent job, it is only a touch up though between detailings. We will still need to find a suitable detailer when we get back to Orlando.

Milton, West Virginia

Where? We specifically headed in this direction to pick up another Jeep Badge of Honor on our way to DC from Cincinnati.  To do that we picked a KOA located North of the Hatfield and McCoy’s trail system.

Fate would have it though we would not get to the trail! Our 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (a/k/a “Rubi”) was giving us some issues and we could not complete the trails. Rubi started to throw a check engine light with one code before we left Wisconsin and by the time we made it to West Virginia she was throwing three.

So we decided to avoid the trails and just did a light driving day to Point Pleasant instead. We also found out that even road-legal Jeeps must have DOT-approved helmets for drivers and passengers on the Hatfield and McCoy trail system and we were not prepared for that. More about the trails below.


There seem to be polar opinions around KOAs. They are easy to book online through their reservation system and they have reasonable cancelation policies. We are paying VIP members so we do get discounted rates and can rack up points for free nights. They also charge only a minimum fee and allow up to the last minute to cancel reservations.

We stayed at the Huntington / Fox Fire KOA south of the freeway. Getting to the campground is a little difficult. If you come from the West you need to make sure to watch for small signs to where you will turn left into the access road, DO NOT pay attention to the big KOA sign which is past your turn. It is better to come from the highway and approach from the East but then you will have a more than 90-degree turn to the right to get onto the access road.

The campground seems to have a significant number of season sites. They have ample pull-through big rig parking. The cost per night was very reasonable. You are in the country but you are only about 500 feet from the interstate. Topology must be just right to minimize the noise and we didn’t really notice the noise but it was there.


Point Pleasant, WV

This small community was featured on the Youtube video “Top 10 CREEPIEST Small Towns in America” and we think it was on there unfairly. While the video does explain the unfortunate history of this town, it is very quant and well worth a stop by.

There are dozens of murals along the flood retention wall on the riverwalk depicting scenes around The Battle of Point Pleasant (1774).

The town has a history dating back to the American Revolution and that is featured prominently on the river walk and at the state park. Many of the artifacts around the town depict the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774, a battle that is often considered the “first” battle of the revolutionary war.

There are several statutes along the riverwalk that depict the key individuals in The Battle of Point Pleasant (1774).

The town is still embracing some interesting folklore which is wrapped around a 20th-century bridge collapse, which killed 47, in 1967 after 13 months of “Mothman” sightings. You can visit a local museum on the subject to learn more.

We enjoyed a walk along the river, posing with the popular statute downtown, and did some routine shopping at the local hardware store. While we were only there for a couple of hours, it was a pleasant afternoon. There is a museum dedicated to the Mothman story we passed up, and several main street diners that could have been great places for lunch.

In the late 1960s, the Mothman began to terrorize the community of Mount Pleasant. If you were sober and saw one of these things in the dark you probably were beside yourself. Across from the Mothman museum in the center square you can pose with this brilliant large statue. This was a very popular place for tourists to stop.

Hatfield and McCoy Trails

The Hatfield and McCoy Trails (HMT) are hundreds of miles of trails for ATV, ORV, OHV, etc. throughout West Virginia. Since “Rubi” was not feeling well, we did not put her up to the stresses of a trail ride. We also did not read in advance about the need to find DOT-certified helmets, even for Jeep drivers and passengers! Next time we will use Facebook groups in advance to make contacts and arrangements for the right gear.

Motorcycles should check out the Devil’s Den, which is over 1,000 miles of winding crooked roads in this area. Still also fun to drive with the Jeep.


Shaffer’s Drive-In in Milton, WV, has a traditional car hop service. Servers were not on roller skates, but they were in the windows suggesting a time that they may have once been. They have a traditional drive-in menu with good food, but they have over 80 different shakes and malts on the menu and at least two of them were amazing! This is a don’t drive by this and miss it sort of place.

Tudors Biscuit World was something new we have never seen before. We saw many of these around the area in small rinky-dink sort of locations but accessible to small towns. According to their website, there seem to be about two dozen of these baking power biscuit locations that serve a traditional breakfast and pivot to a hamburger joint lunch.

Blackberry compote over a warm biscuit, yum!


Where next? We continue East until we get to Manassas, Virginia!