From Navions to Niagara

We arrived at our rally location, Baylor Beach Resort, a day early, as advised by our host, and boy were we glad. Snagged a nice shady site (it was quite hot) with plenty of grassy area for Bago to play in, even though the neighbor dogs were often not too happy about that.

Rigs just kept pulling in Saturday and Sunday until we filled the nice little park. (This photo taken by madmacs from the View/Navion group.)

In the early morning mist:

One of the best parts of the rally was the appearance each evening (except Sunday, of course) of a local Amish family, selling pies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, loaves of bread, and little tchotchkes the young daughters had made. Note that we were careful to not capture their faces on camera. Being photographed is considered a sin of vanity; some sects consider it a sin because it creates a graven image and therefore violates a commandment. 

We scored a jar of elderberry jam (haven't tried it yet) and a $6 strawberry rhubarb pie that was remarkable for the flavor of the filling--not too sweet, not too tart. Very nice consistency. As a budding pie maker myself, I was very impressed. Now, the crust was definitely more Germanic, shall we say. Nothing flaky about this. Sturdy and a bit underdone, probably because she had to make so many. I can't imagine how many hours she baked.... We ended up scooping out the filling and mixing it in our breakfast vanilla yogurt. Oooh boy was that ever a tasty way to start the day.

I'm going to cheat a bit and paste in the Rally agenda.....

Sunday, May 20

5:00 pm
Meet  and greet appetizer event, bring an appetizer and wine with a funny name

7:00 pm
Alaska slideshow by Tom and Judy Salmon

8:15 pm

Monday, May 21

8:00 – 9:00 am
Breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes prepared by Skinnie Winnie volunteers

9:00 – 10:00 am
Visit 2013 View Profile 24V

10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Dialogue with Winnebago Designer, Mike Urbatsch

12:00 – 1:00 pm
Lunch – on your own

1:00 – 3:00 pm
Open House & Garage Sale – check out others’ mods & enhancements, shop

5:00 – 8:00 pm
Musical entertainment – University of Akron Steel Drum Band trio

6:00 pm
Pot Luck Dinner – bring a main dish, salad, or side dish – dessert will be provided

8:15 pm

Tuesday, May 22

8:00 – 9:00 am
Breakfast – biscuits and gravy, prepared by Skinnie Winnie volunteers

9:00 am – noon
Various tech topics and demonstrations

10:30 am – noon
Book Discussion – “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova

12:30 – 5:00 pm
Group visit to Pro Football Hall of Fame – caravan leaves at 12:30   

12:30 – 5:00 pm
OR  Sightseeing in Ohio’s Amish Country – on your own

6:00 pm
Dinner catered by Old Carolina Barbeque - BYOB

7:30 pm
Travel slideshow by Bob and Mavis Duthie

8:30 pm

Wed., May 23

8:00 – 9:00 am
Continental breakfast – Amish breakfast pastries and orange juice

9:30 am
Pet parade

Since Sunday was an "on your own" kind of day, Lisa and I took the opportunity to visit a relatively new (1999) national park, Cuyahoga Valley NP, which encompasses a large swath of the old Ohio-Eerie Canal (try getting that old folk song out of your head!) and sits just south of Cleveland. It's one of the most visited national parks because of its almost-urban setting. Someone with a good marketing spin noted on one of the signs that Lake Eerie and its surrounding lakes were the impetus behind Earth Day and the National Clean Water Act. Now, if that isn't spinning a silk purse out of a sow's ear....

But the park was pretty--very lush--and people sure were using it. The old canal towpaths have been turned into quite extensive bike trails, and the bikers were out in force on this warm weekend day. We looked around at some of the historic buildings and then walked out to the waterfalls on extensive wooden decks with lots and lots of stairs that usually scare Bago. I believe this desensitization exercise cured him of his fear of open wooden steps.

We took the opportunity on the way back down to the campground to stop at Belgrade Gardens, a 4-star (out of 5) Roadfood-reviewed and local favorite since 1933. Oh my. We split a meal and still couldn't finish it. What delicious chicken. But it was the "spicy tomato-rice hot sauce that is positively addictive" that stole the show. The region's thick stew of Eastern European / Slavic / Balkan ethnic groups was all over this menu, from paprikash to dumplings. When we arrived at 2PM to see if we could place a take-out order (it is a large sit down place), there were 6 huge hotel pans wrapped in foil getting hauled out the door for a high school graduation party. Popular place.

We also stopped at a local country winery on our way back. Fastest tasting ever, as they only offered 3 dry wines. The rest, in typical northern/Midwest fashion, were all sweet. Each tiny taste was 25 cents, and accompanied by absolutely no chit chat. We did buy an unusual red and hightailed it out in under 5 minutes. The did have a notice posted about needing new help. Seriously.

We had a ball at the first night's potluck--the BYO wine-with-the-funny-name. (Photo from View/Navion group.) We brought some very tasty pizzas (cheddar-pear-bacon and a pesto) from that great gourmet grocery store we visited in Columbus.

Monday morning saw us all up-and-at-'em for the volunteer-made breakfast and the tour of the 2013 model motorhome, driven to Ohio from Winnebago in Iowa just for our group. It was really great to see so many improvements that are clearly based on user feedback. Nice-looking vehicle, although we're not ready to trade in. One puts so much time and care into modifying one's own vehicle to get it just right....

Which is what we did Monday afternoon! Toured other coaches and took copious notes and made lengthy shopping lists of things we need. We have since even made several of the mods, including our favorite--turning the rear emergency window into a functioning, screened-in window. Well, "we" means Lisa ;-) Quite a handy one, that girl. Plus, I can't even go into a sewing store without having flashbacks to junior high home ec nightmares....

We all (including Bago) loved staying off the road all day Monday. We got the coach thoroughly cleaned and cleaned out--we took everything out of our outside storage bins. Found several things for the "garage sale" (giveaways), but only managed to rehome two items. For that night's potluck, we brought the Weiland's housemade beer bratwursts, grilled, and served with the Amish sauerkraut I picked up at Heini's and doctored up with Weiland bacon.

On the rainy (and cooler!) Tuesday morning we split up. Lisa went to the Tech Talks and I went to the book group for the riveting novel Still Alice. I had not wanted to read this book, nor attend the discussion (it's about a 50-year-old woman with early-onset Alzheimer's), but I'm glad I did both.

We were both happy, however, to go out sightseeing Tuesday afternoon, when most of the crowd took off for the National Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Lisa and I took off for some history. We very much enjoyed our tour of the First Ladies museum, which was only started on the initiative of a local U.S. Representative's wife in the mid-1990s. It has since become administered by the National Parks Service, and Roslyn Carter, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush have all visited for various milestones in its short history. Ohio is the birthplace of 8 U.S. presidents and 7 First Ladies, and the founder felt like it was the perfect place for a national spotlight on these influential women, since none had ever existed up until then.

Part of the First Ladies' museum was housed in President McKinley's home, and since Canton was his home town, he and his long-suffering wife are also buried here.

I read an article that placed him squarely in the middle of U.S. presidents for effectiveness, but I guess since he was assassinated, the over-the-top memorial was justified. 108 steps up to this enormous crypt. When you walk in the door, it is on the same scale as Napoleon's tomb in Paris. Really too much.

Tuesday evening was our "send off" dinner--a very wonderful catered BBQ affair that yielded us plenty of leftovers for another day. Every evening after dinner, we brought Bago over to the pavilion to play and hang out with us. He was so great with all of the people, especially the fellas, who rough-housed with him. He does love playing with the guys.

Wednesday morning saw all of us ready to hit the road again. Lisa and I had decided to make Wednesday be errand day, so we refueled and headed back up to Canton to go to the RV store, Walmart, Jo-Ann Fabrics, pet store, a very nice dog park (gotta keep Bago on the list of to-dos), and the Mercedes dealer recommended by our rally hosts to fix our sporadically failing electronic keys. My goodness if this didn't take all darn day AND yield no real solution to the key problem. They still work mostly, but not all the time. Think I'm going to have to dig around the View/Navion list for how to clean the contact points in the door. Dirt may account for sporadic failures.... But goodness, we've spent enough money on having others tell us there's nothing wrong with it. The silver lining was how much joy Bago brought to the folks in the dealership. They insisted we bring him in, the ladies found all kinds of dog biscuits for him, made sure the water bowl was always full. Then the sales guys made sure to come by (we were there 2 hours) and scratch his ears. He definitely needs to be a therapy dog....

So after all the errands were done, it was 4PMish, hot, and we had only gone 50 miles. We headed out, in a generally eastward direction. We passed through one park we thought might work (cue the Deliverance music) and kept driving. We were so glad we did. Found just the most beautiful state park, very sparsely occupied, with a brand-new showerhouse with laundry facilities. Good spot. Bago was happy, too. Lisa took this great photo of him, which is now the wallpaper on my phone AND the cover of Bago's baby book (available on Blurb here).

On his longline with his beloved Jolly Ball....

Then it was off to our farthest point east: Niagara Falls. We made it through Buffalo and up to Four-Mile Creek State Park Thursday night to take a campsite right along Lake Ontario. We checked in pretty early (3ish) with the intention of going back out for some beef on weck and a visit to the falls, but we decided to enjoy the park and stay put.

Friday morning we headed downtown Niagara Falls, NY. Oy. The things you hear about how tacky it is don't really do it justice. Just horrible. And nowhere except highway-robbery $$, dusty, in-the-sun parking lots. We were supposed to be able to park free with our state park camping receipt, but this is New York, so fuhgeddaboudit.

Nevermind. We headed over to the Canadian side, and were glad we did. It was really well kept and more "natural" on that side. We had to park the RV about a mile and half away from the falls.  There was no one to take our $10 (probably because we were the only RV there), so it was free. The walk did us all good, even though it was quite warm. We really wore ole Bago out, with all the people wanting to pet him, the hot weather, and the roar of these beautiful falls. Here is Horsehoe Falls (aka the Canadian falls).

We didn't do any of the attractions--Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, etc.--as it all was pretty darn touristy and not dog friendly. Just didn't appeal to us, so we enjoyed the view and the mist from up top and watched the boats below.

As we were departing the falls, AT&T reminded us that we don't have an international plan. We had totally forgotten. So, into airplane mode went the phones and we had to rely on the paper atlas to navigate through Canada. We had planned to stay overnight in Canada, but I didn't feel right not having a phone for that long (given my parents' precarious situation), so we kept driving. And driving. It was Friday night of Memorial Day weekend--the biggest camping weekend of the year.

Luckily--and after at least a dozen calls--Lisa scored us a site at a "port in the storm" kind of a place that we normally wouldn't stay in, but that turned out just fine. We stayed 2 nights so that we could regroup on Saturday and plan our westward trip. I spent at least 6 hours online and we now have reservations for the upcoming weekends, and our visits with ND and WA friends all lined up. Whew. There is still room for spontaneity and changing plans, but it's nice to have the "bones" of the return trip pinned down. Once that was done, I could finally take the time to update the blog.

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