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Old 08-24-2016, 01:43 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Gilbert, AZ
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Cross Country - AZ-Niagara-Boston-NY-DC

Got back from my two and a half month long vacation with the family a few weeks ago (I get a sabbatical every 4 years for 6 weeks or every 7 years 10 weeks - I know, it's why I keep my job and don't leave). I wanted to note some things I did and things I saw. I generally planned my trip as much as I could for 2 years.

One thing I bought before I left was an Illinois E-ZPass. I am so glad I bought that. If I had to stop at every toll to pay, I would have turned around. I had no idea how many tolls were back east. I am sure there are ways to get around the tolls, but that would have been worse than just paying the tolls.

Two days before we left, I luckily looked at my license plate for my trailer and found that I had expired tags. I thought I paid them, but I think I confused it with my wifes car. Two days before I left on a long trip, I had to visit the AZ DMV.

Starting point - Gilbert, AZ
Left on Saturday afternoon May 28 - Went up the hill to Flagstaff and then east to Red Rock Park (near Church Rock, NM). We pulled in and looked around for a spot. The park has a decent amount of shade and full hookups for $10 a night. When we were there, they were having a rodeo about a half mile away. We got in late afternoon/early evening. The rodeo was quite and so was the park. The spots are all dirt, and I mean that powder dirt that you sink into about 4 inches. We pulled into one spot and I didn't like it so we started to move to a different spot. I had to use 4x4 to get out of that spot. Once we setup in the nice spot we found near the entrance and started to get level, I noticed all of the prairie dog holes - everywhere. They were under every tree, fence post, building, dump connection and electrical connection. They didn't bother us, but I just couldn't believe how many there were. We got some really nice pictures and views of the mountains back behind the campground. There is a huge open field that you can pull into and boondock camp. I don't know if they would charge for that. Overall, I would stay there again if I was passing by for a night.

More to come
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Old 08-24-2016, 01:58 PM   #2
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Day 2

We left Red Rock Park Sunday Morning. We got to Ute Lake State Park near Logan, NM. We were headed to my dad's in Kansas. We got there late afternoon. The park was decently full - it was Memorial weekend so that makes sense. The lake looks really nice. There were a lot of people out on it. The spot I chose had electric and water, but no dump. Near the front of the park entrance, there are 3 dump stations side by side of each other. The people in the park were fine - a few hillbilly's and a family or two that liked to make noise in the middle of the night when they pulled in. I am not the party type, and I have had worse next to us. If I remember correctly, the cost was $17 because we had electricity. It was a while ago, so my I may be off by a couple of dollars. The campground was pretty decent. A lot of spots - most with a lake view. Nice grass between every site and at our section of the park they have concrete picnic benches and covered patio. The sites where we were must have been 75+ feet long. The wind came up in the night as well as a little rain, but the sites were well positioned for drainage. For such a large campground, I would have thought they had a good website, but I never found anything good - pretty weak website is available. I planned on staying there from the start, but I only found it by looking at the lake and then zooming in until I found the campground.
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Old 08-24-2016, 02:25 PM   #3
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Day 3

The next day we left Ute Lake State Park in the morning heading north east on the 54. The roads so far were pretty good. We turned north at Hooker, OK and took Mile 45 road north. My dad is a truck driver and said usually there are fields of flowers being grown as well as you can stop on the state line where Mile 45 and RD-20 meet and be in both KS and OK if you stand in the middle of the road. There is a nice pull-off on the south side of the road so we stopped and took some pictures. The road is nice and there is very little traffic so it was safe to stop. The kids liked it.

Then we headed north on RD-20 up to the 51 highway, turned back west and then north on highway 56. We stopped at Eagle RV park on the corner of the 56 and RD-13. The park was pretty decent. Not a lot of noise, good space between spots, free wifi, laundry, pool table, showers, TV in the clubhouse. There wasn't anyone there so we called the number. They had us just leave $25 in the box. I don't think I would say that is too much, but for just a night after staying at two better parks, it was as much as I would have paid. Don't get me wrong, it's a decent park, but it is in the middle of nowhere. The sites are all full hookup pull thru's. They had a few farming company trailers that looked like they were living there with 4 guys in each trailer. I think those guys just travel and farm during the season. They were fairly quite as was everyone else.
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Old 08-24-2016, 02:26 PM   #4
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Day 4

We left Eagle RV Park and headed NE on HWY-56. We stopped at Prairie Wind RV Park in Montezuma, KS. I had backup campgrounds picked out along the whole route, just in case I needed them. We only stopped for lunch and to fill our water tank - I don't like traveling with a bunch of weight for obvious reasons. I am so glad I did not stay there overnight. There is a dairy farm next door and you can hear the trucks constantly as well as HWY-56 which is pretty close too. If I had to stay there, I guess it would have been ok, but I am a light sleeper and I would have been awake all night. The campground itself was fine. Full hookups for $10, but there are only 5 spots total. All pull-thru and plenty long.

Then we left and kept NE on HWY-56 until Dodge City and then got on HWY-50. We headed E to Elmdale, KS and then took Lake RD E to Chase County State Lake. It is a small lake, but the campground next to it is great. No hookups, but great views and right on the lake. If I were going to boondock somewhere, this would be the place. Nothing for miles and free - you read that right, I verified, it is free. I am not into fishing, but there are 8 rock jetty's that go out into the lake. There is a small fishing boat launch and a spot for swimming. Near the dam, once you walk over it (all grass/dirt road), there are some great water falls. That night, was the first time in my life I had ever seen real firefly's (I am 42 from the west coast so this was one of the highlights of the whole trip). It was fairly warm and humid when we were there. There are maybe 15 spots at this campground and a large area for tents - no tents when we were there. Lots of shade and it cooled off nicely at night.
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Old 08-24-2016, 03:34 PM   #5
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Day 5

We got up in the morning and got ready to go. When I started my truck, I got an engine light. I have a code scanner and it said my exhaust temp had some problem. We were near nowhere so I had to start driving. We only had to go a couple of hours to my dads so I cleared the code and started driving. As we started to get into traffic near Kansas City, the engine light came back on again. I had my wife call the Ford dealer near my dads to see if they could get me in the next day. We were only staying one full day so I didn't need any long repairs. They said no problem, but then I called them back and asked if they could get me in that day, luckily they weren't busy and they got me in after we dropped of the trailer at Walnut Grove RV Park in Shawnee, KS.

The Ford dealer (Shawnee Mission Ford) takes my truck as I wait, they come get me 20min later and ask me if I have mice at home. I don't, but guess where does - the last campground. Overnight, mice had started eating some of the insulation, tape and paper around my engine compartment and made a small nest on my battery. The reason I was getting the engine code was my EGT cable got eaten and had to be replaced for $400. I am so glad that dealer had the part and was able to replace it the next morning.

Anyway, the campground was the worst place we stayed for the whole trip. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but every other place was better when compared. The spots are wide enough, but I don't think any are level. I usually don't complain about sites being unlevel, but this place was pretty bad. As well as the manager wanted to help me get into my site - thanks, but I didn't need/want it and it only made it worse. My storage lot is really tight so I am good. The wifi was horrible and the whole dump/water setup was weird to say the least. Just getting into the place was pretty tight. It was the only place close to my dads so I was stuck with it. I won't say don't stay there, but I wouldn't stay there again. I didn't get any pictures from that place.
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Old 08-24-2016, 03:54 PM   #6
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Day 7

We visited my dad for day 6. Day 7 we left in the morning. I wanted to get as far as possible toward Niagara falls because I had a reservation for the campground for a couple days later.

We stopped at the St. Louis Arch and took the elevator up to the top. It was ok, but it ate up some time and I would have been fine just seeing it from the ground - it was also expensive in my opinion for what you get by going up.

We parked across the river at the Casino Queen RV Park - we actually parked just outside of their gates where they have plenty of parking for free. We walked 1/2 mile down to the bottom of the Eads Bridge, bought a ticket for the tram, went upstairs, got on the tram across the river and got off on the first stop. Then we walked up to Memorial Drive and headed south to the Old Courthouse where we had to buy tickets. I hear that they sell them at the arch, but since they are under construction, we had to go to the courthouse. Once we saw what we wanted to see, we walked north along the river back to the bottom of the Eads bridge and went back to the trailer. Total walking was probably 3 miles if I had to guess.

We left after we ate and headed east again on I-70. We stopped in the early evening at Cloverdale RV Park (N of Cloverdale, IN). The campground is really nice. The sites are water and electric and there is a dump station. I got a pull-thru and the manager helped me park - he pretty much stayed out of our way so no complaints with that this time. We really weren't there much, but I did see they have a nice small lake and the park looked pretty nice. It is far enough off the freeway that you can't hear it and I think the cost was $30 for the night. I know they have some amenities, but we got in late and didn't look around much.
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Old 08-24-2016, 03:56 PM   #7
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Day 8

We left the next morning and headed to meet some family for lunch just outside of Columbus, OH. Then we headed NE on I-71 until we stopped for the night at Geneva State Park near Geneva, OH. We didn't have reservations but luckily they had a couple sites for us to choose from. I am not sure why places will give you the sites available, let you go look at all the sites, but want you to not park in that site until you go back to tell them which one you have chosen. I get that someone could book that site or something in the few minutes it takes for you to go look, but that seems like it would be a really rare occasion. Either way, we picked a spot and setup after.

The spots all looked level and had plenty of space between spots. The spot we chose had electric but no water and no dump. There is a dump and water fairly close to the front of the park.

Once we got all setup, we headed for the lake (Lake Erie). It is easily within walking distance across the road from the campground near the cabins for the park.
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Old 08-24-2016, 04:36 PM   #8
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Day 10

We left and headed NE on I-90 where we encountered our first tolls for the trip. I said before I am glad I had the Illinois E-ZPass. We had to slow down at the toll booths until the light lit and said the E-ZPass was accepted. Others had to stop and pay. What we didn't know before starting our trip is that sometimes the toll is on the freeway and sometimes it is on the on-ramp getting on or off the freeway. It just depends on the tollway. Sometimes the toll for the E-ZPass was in the left lanes, sometimes in the right lanes. Sometimes they were dedicated for E-ZPass and sometimes you could go through any lane. The signs were pretty easy to see and I didn't really have any problems figuring out where I needed to be.

We stayed a couple of days at Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort. The park is off the I-190 a few miles and is really nice. The spots are all spaced out well, with full hookups on a small lake. They have all of the resort amenities you need and a good website that shows you what they have. All of the sites looked level and the roads/sites were all gravel with grass all around. We traveled back and fourth the next couple of days to Niagara Falls which is about 15min away. You do have to pay the toll coming back to the island where Branches is located, and the E-ZPass worked for that as well.

Niagara Falls is beautiful to say the least. I had never really been one that wanted to go there, but I am so glad we did. We did all of the tourist boat and tours and it is really worth the cost. It wasn't really clear at first, but when you go on the boat, they give you the poncho (that was clear), and when you go on the Bridal Veil Falls, they give you the poncho and cheap sandals (we kept them after the tour - they said we could - and used them for shower shoes later in the trip). We bought the package tour which included the aquarium - don't waste your money or time on the aquarium. I like aquariums and this has to be the worst in the country. The discovery center was ok at best.
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Old 08-24-2016, 04:37 PM   #9
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Day 13

We left Niagara Falls and headed east on the I-90 and then we headed SE on HWY-162. We had reservations for Hide-A-Way Camp Sites near Central Bridge, NY. When we first started making plans for our trip, I didn't know what the toll costs would be for the trip so I wanted to try and go around them. I gave up on that months before we left, but had already planned on staying at this campground because we wanted to visit Howe Caverns which is a few miles away.

The campground is decent. There are about 25 sites that have permanent trailers. They are all around the outside of the campground. There is nothing wrong with that, just saw them. The grass was really soggy from the rain they got before we arrived and we tore up some of it pretty bad while backing into our site. There was nothing I could do about it but it happened. They have wifi at the store and we were close enough to use it. Not the greatest, but it worked ok. It was too cold for the pool and it had a cover on it. My youngest liked the playground.

The next day we went to Howe Caverns. I have been to some caverns when I was younger in CA, but this one had a river in it and you get on small boats at one point during the tour. I was surprised at how few stalagmites and stalactites there were. I would categorize the caverns as more wide caves. Don't get me wrong, it was still very interesting and I am glad we stopped to see it.
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Old 08-24-2016, 05:31 PM   #10
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Day 15

Our next stop was Wompatuck State Park near Hingham, MA - near Boston - for a couple of days. We got in late afternoon and left right away to have lobster dinner with some family in Boston. Wow, the roads and drivers in Boston are out of control. Super narrow and I don't think anyone even pays attention to any street signs/lights/directions whatsoever. I just had to drive like them and do whatever I wanted. It was nuts to say the least.

Dinner was great as I had never eaten a whole lobster. Our family showed us the ropes to eating nearly everything - minus the head.

The next day we went to visit Boston. We didn't really make too many plans. Maybe we should have. The best part was MIT. Some of the exhibits were a let down - if you have robots and robot parts, please put power to them and make them do something. I don't need to see robots in a glass case just sitting there. Kinda a waste. They did have some other exhibits that made up for it though. We also saw the Museum of Natural History - I would highly recommend that.

The day after that we drove up to Salem to see the witch museum. That was the one place my 14 year old daughter wanted to see on the trip. It was expensive for what you get, but what are you going to do?

Our last full day we drove down to Plymouth Rock to see the sites. Luckily we found free parking near the water. It sprinkled slightly throughout the day. The actual Plymouth Rock is really small. Its a historical stop at best. They have a ship there, but we didn't go on it. Mostly what I remember from there is they have a good ice cream shop nearby.

We didn't really stay at the park for any length of time. It looked like a nice park. We stayed where there was water and electric and a dump is available near the front. There are not many of those sites. Most of the sites are back in the woods and I am glad we got the site we got as it would have been claustrophobic back in the trees like the other sites were. Forget about getting any kind of satellite signal at this campground. It's not going to happen.
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Old 08-24-2016, 05:32 PM   #11
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Old 08-25-2016, 07:50 AM   #12
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I got a kick out of your description of driving in Boston. I'm a transplant to the Boston area and it's all true! Crazy, aggressive drivers who view signaling as a sign of weakness.

Also fun to read your perspective on the campground at Wompatuck State Park. As a life long New Englander I find the forest peaceful and comforting, but you're not the first westerner I've heard complain of it being claustrophobic.
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Old 08-25-2016, 11:36 AM   #13
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I got a kick out of your description of driving in Boston. I'm a transplant to the Boston area and it's all true! Crazy, aggressive drivers who view signaling as a sign of weakness.

Also fun to read your perspective on the campground at Wompatuck State Park. As a life long New Englander I find the forest peaceful and comforting, but you're not the first westerner I've heard complain of it being claustrophobic.
Remember, I live in the desert now and am from the California beaches. I was in one of the first spots in the K row there. I would say that is less trees overhead in those spots than anywhere else in the campground. Claustrophobic is a strong word, but from the other sites I looked at while driving around, I would say it is the closest word I could use. It's hard to describe compared to most other sites we stayed at.
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Old 08-25-2016, 11:49 AM   #14
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Day 18

Let me try and pick this back up where I left off yesterday.

After staying in MA for a couple of full days, we headed down the coast to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, CT. That was a great location right on the ocean. The spots there are massive. They have electric and water sites with a couple of dump locations near the front of the park. The sites are the widest I have ever seen. Some people parked sideways in their spot with RV's and had plenty of room left over. The spots must be 100x75 where we were. The beach is really clean, the water was nice, the sunsets were great. After not really enjoying Boston (sorry Boston, it just wasn't as visitor friendly from my perspective as the other places we visited during this vacation), it was really nice hanging out at the beach. We wish we would have spent a couple of days longer here, but we had reservations for NY already for the next day.

This park has hundreds of camping spots. It is a huge campground, but I would say the spots are so big that if the park was completely full you would still feel like you had plenty of personal space.
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