Final Stretch – September 27-29

We started out early (7:10) on Wednesday, September 27, headed for East Harbor State Park in Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio. That is about 40 miles east of Toledo, on an inlet off of Lake Erie. To get there, we had to cross the Mackinac Bridge to get from the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan ($24 toll for a motorhome towing a car). Then we traversed the entire LP to get to Ohio. We tried our previously-successful strategy of identifying a two-lane road that went in our desired direction, hoping for a more interesting drive than the interstate. In this case we wanted to avoid staying on I-75 through Detroit, so we cut over from I-75 in Saginaw to Route 52. It looked reasonably rural on our map, but there’s an order of magnitude difference between “rural” in Michigan and “rural” in South Dakota, and we soon regretted that decision. There was lots of traffic, and stop lights at least once every couple of miles. It was slow going, so when we got to I-96, we headed back east to Route 23 (a big four-lane comparable to an interstate), and took that due south across the Ohio State line to I-90. I would estimate that our second-guessing of the GPS cost us about an hour. From I-90 we took the exit to Route 163 to Route 2, arriving at East Harbor at about 4:20, with the odometer reading 10843 (473 miles).

East Falls is a very nice state park, with spacious campsites with full hookups (water, 50-amp electric, and sewer), which is unusual for a state park. The weather was just right to enjoy the great outdoors. In fact, it was so nice out that we ate dinner on the picnic table (which we did about five times on the whole trip).

Campsite at East Harbor State Park, Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio

We would have stayed a second night there if we were able to get reservations for Thursday, but the Ohio State Parks put on some kind of special event during Halloween Week (which is the end of September in Ohio, rather than October, for some reason), so they were booked up for Thursday.

In our last few nights at Log Cabin RV Park, city-girl Therese became a rabid campfire fan, and she insisted that I go buy a bundle of the absurdly overpriced firewood and start a campfire.

Campfire at East Harbor State Park

I think she has a tendency towards pyromania.

Thursday morning, we set out at about 8:20 headed for Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. We could have gotten all the way home, but we wanted to enjoy a last night of “camping”. This time, we heeded the advice of our GPS and followed I-90 until it forks into the Ohio Turnpike (I-80). That is a toll road, and we got to try out the EZ-Pass we had for the motorhome for the first time. It’s a good thing it worked, because (unlike Pennsylvania) the Ohio Turnpike puts gates that close after each car and won’t open unless it is able to read your EZ-Pass.

You can follow the Ohio Turnpike right into the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the state border. I don’t remember if I have ever driven that western stretch of the PA turnpike. It’s more hilly than I expected, and it winds around (what I guess are) the Allegheny Mountains, even going through three different tunnels. Throw in some road construction and narrow lanes, and it requires some pretty attentive driving in a 40-foot motor home. We arrived at Twin Groves RV Park at about 4:10, with 11,267 on the odometer, covering 424 miles. Twin Groves was a nice enough park. They had an on-site restaurant, which we tried, causing Therese to vow to avoid all RV campground restaurants in the future.

Campsite at Twin Grove RV Park, Pine Grove, PA

The next morning, we spent quite a while preparing the motor home for storage – draining and rinsing the holding tanks, emptying the fresh water tank, sorting out which stuff to leave in the rig and which to take out, etc. By the time we got going, it was 10:45. We took a circuitous and crowded route the rest of the way home. I’m not sure if there was a better way, but we ended up getting back to the Pennsylvania Turnpike via Route 222.

When we arrived at home, we narrowly averted what would have been our first motor home driving disaster. On my first attempt to turn into our driveway from narrow Grove Road, I didn’t swing wide enough and/or turn sharply enough to get the back wheels onto the driveway. We have a two-foot deep ditch on either side of our driveway, so the rear wheels would have gone right in, damaging either the rig or the stone walls of the ditch, or both. Luckily (or skillfully, according to who is telling the story) I had Therese outside to watch for just such a problem, and she stopped me in time. Of course, it is impossible to back up with the Jeep in tow, so we blocked Grove Road for about 10 minutes while we unhitched and retried (however, it’s not a busy road, and not a single car came during those 10 minutes). The second attempt was better planned and executed, and succeeded. We parked the unit behind our garage for a much-needed cleaning. Our final mileage was 11341.

Dutch Star behind garage
Nice and clean

All in all, we had a great trip and we look forward to more motor home adventures in the future. I think our scheduling for May and September worked out pretty well, although we did catch both some pretty cold (24 degrees) and pretty hot (113 degrees) temperatures. I think it worked out pretty well to split the trip in half, also. A two-month contiguous trip would have been a long time to be away from home, but a one-month coast-to-coast-to-coast trip wouldn’t leave enough time to see things at the leisurely pace that we enjoyed. There is a lot to see out there!

Statistics:
Miles in Dutch Star: 9551
Miles in Jeep Grand Cherokee: ~5500
Average Dutch Star mpg: 6.94

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