We recently returned from a trip to two Pennsylvania state parks. Initially we intended to go to the Finger Lakes in New York, but they had a mandatory 2-week quarantine restriction in place for Marylanders. We decided to head back to Ohiopyle and had hoped to stay there for the duration of the trip. However, with so many people camping now, we were unable to book a pet-friendly site for the full 8-nights. So, we decided to book another PA park for the second half of the trip.
I don’t have a whole lot to report, as we had a nice relaxing trip. I’m going to jump around a bit; apologies in advance. First, I’ll take you through some upgrades on the RV itself and RV camping lifestyle wise, then I’ll talk a little bit about each park, and finally I’ll get into how Stevie Mix is adjusting and our future travel plans.
Digital Tank Sensors: I mentioned in the last post that Andy installed digital sensors on our grey, black, and freshwater tanks. Halfway through our trip, the black tank sensor started giving an error code. Andy contacted the company, and they promptly sent us a new sensor. Of course, after emptying the tank at the end of the trip, the sensor seems to be reading correctly now. We’re on the fence about replacing it before our next trip since we still have the factory installed panel inside, though it doesn’t provide as much fidelity. However, with the other sensors working properly, and our next trip being another short one, it’s not a major concern at the moment.
Somewhat related to the sensors, we plan to purchase a spare water pump to stow away. We’ve heard and read a lot about them breaking frequently in RVs and trailers. It’s probably a good idea to have a spare one on hand, which means we also need to take a look at what we have and how it’s installed.
Refrigerator: In preparing the RV this time, and thanks to the temperature monitors we added to the fridge and freezer, we noticed just how long it takes to cool them down. Since we store Homie in a climate-controlled facility and have the ability to keep him plugged in, which also keeps the batteries charged, we decided to just keep the fridge going 24/7. It’s also nice to have cold drinks on-board when we’re out working on the RV. You wouldn’t believe how much we actually stop by to check in, add some new element, or pick something up. I feel like I live there sometimes. We know many of the other RV and boat owners pretty well now, as well as the facility’s manager.
RV Check Out: There’s a big Class A stored a few slips down from us owned by a very nice gentleman named Henry. With over 20 years of RV experience, Henry is well versed in all things RV maintenance. He seems to really enjoy taking all of the newbies in the storage facility under his wing. Since Henry is also an electrician, he offered to go over all of our electrical components and systems, as well as the wiring underneath the coach. Prior to heading to PA, Andy, Stevie, and I went out and spent half a day going over everything. Thankfully, unlike some of the other coaches stored there, there really wasn’t much to be corrected except to wrap some wires under the coach, apply grease to some electric fittings, and spray high-temp paint in some areas. Afterwards, as a precaution, we ended up purchasing some extra fuses to keep on-board.
As an aside–I really can’t say enough about the warm welcome, joy, and enthusiasm that the RV community extends to everyone – both in-person and virtually on social media. I’ve been lucky to meet a number of helpful, diverse, and fun people.
Staying Fit While on the Road: Prior to the trip, I purchased two thick yoga mats (some campsites are pretty rocky) with the intention of testing out how we might keep up with our workouts while on the road for longer periods of time. Even though they roll up, they’re still pretty large. We’ve moved them around a bit trying to figure out the best place to store them. Thankfully we have a lot of storage. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that we didn’t use them at all. We got into relaxation mode halfway through the trip, but I think we compensated by the amount of biking and hiking we did during the first 4-days. We definitely plan to get use out of them next time.
Ebikes: One of my complaints about our last trip was that I didn’t have the ability to explore or pull an escape chute to take a break, unless I went on a walk or took a hike. Andy brought his bike to Michigan and was able to go off on long rides. Sometimes it was nice to sit and read quietly, and it did give me a chance on one particular day to spend one-on-one time with my brother, sister in-law, and their kids. However, at times I felt that I really needed a mental and physical outlet. Fellow introverts understand what I’m talking about. When we returned from our June-July trip, Andy started looking into ebikes for me. In the meantime, he took his Giant OCR3 compact frame road bike off the trainer in our basement. I rode it around a bit so that I could get accustomed to riding a “real bike” instead of the beach cruiser I recently sold.
By the way, if you have a bike to sell, Facebook Marketplace is the place to do it. It took me approximately 5-10 minutes to write the ad, and about 1 minute to receive 10 offers on it. I can see why after learning that you can’t really find a bike to purchase in stores like Walmart or Target right now.
I ended up with a beautiful Luna Cycle ebike, and have been really happy with it so far. It’s not the typical ebike, as it only weighs 39 lbs and has no throttle. It’s low-powered, has only 3-gears, and has a torque sensor, so it adds to your level of effort by whatever you set it to. I would qualify it as a gravel bike, and it’s easily ridden without any assist at all since it’s not terribly heavy like most ebikes. However, kicking in the assist for steep climbs or longer rides was awesome. I am hoping it will condition and prepare me for much longer bike rides on the Giant.
Regarding steep ascents, there’s a killer gravel hill connecting Ohiopyle State Park and the Great Allegheny Passage (see my last post for info on the GAP). This connector is a pain to even walk, but with the ebikes, it was no problem at all. The first time back up with my bike, I grew tired of walking and pushing it up. To Andy’s surprise, I jumped on and started pedaling like crazy. A man on the trail called out to me that I was going to “hurt myself” when he saw me climbing the hill on my bike, but I pressed on and passed him walking his bike – eat my dust, sucker! The next time up, aside from a brief pause and reset halfway after sliding a bit on the gravel, I rode it up the whole way. I still wouldn’t attempt riding down the hill from the campground unless you have an actual mountain bike and some skill.
I digress. Andy wanted in on the ebike fun too. Of course, projects like this are probably really fun to avid bikers and engineers alike. Shortly after we ordered my bike, Andy purchased parts from Luna Cycle to convert one of his bikes into an ebike. His is much, much more powerful than mine because it uses a throttle and a high-powered battery. HIs battery seems to last forever, unlike mine, but it boosts his bike’s weight quite a bit. I believe his bike weighs in at about 50 lbs, but you can really fly on it, getting up to speeds of about 35 mph. Mine purports a top speed of around 24 mph, though I’ve had it up to 27 mph. One day, after a long hike in the heat to Cucumber Falls, I opted to sit and read a book, while Andy took off on a 30-mile ride to a neighboring town. He was able to really let loose and reach the top speed on his bike. He was also back in record time.
Ohiopyle: I wrote a bit about this state park in my last post. This time around we were well aware that not all of the sites were particularly level in the Ivy loop, so we chose a spot a couple down from where we were the first time, and it was perfect. We didn’t have to get our leveling blocks out at all. It was also fairly insulated from view from our neighbors, which was nice. Everyone we encountered from fellow campers to park rangers were been incredibly friendly and nice. My only gripe about this location is the treacherous gravel hill connecting the campground to the GAP. However, the surrounding hiking trails, access to water, and proximity to the town make up for that. The GAP is an amazing rail trail to bike, and you can white water raft or kayak in the Youghiogheny River. We actually hiked down a somewhat steep area with Stevie to access the river, and we had the place to ourselves. The town of Ohiopyle was also accessible to us from the GAP. Had we needed something, we could have easily biked into town.
The weather while in Ohiopyle was hot and humid, but it rained the day we left for Keystone. Once the rain passed, the humidity and temperatures dropped quite a bit. It was perfect weather—warm days and cool evenings and mornings with a slight breeze. I actually had to break out some jeans and wished I had packed a hoodie.
Keystone: We chose this park specifically because we both had read that the biking there was amazing, but we found that to be incorrect, or at least not very accessible without a car. The loop from our campsite and around the lake was about 3.5 miles. We could do it fairly quickly, so we got bored of it. The surrounding hiking trails were designated for foot traffic only, and were fairly short trails. We really slowed down on our physical activity when we arrived at this park, but it was a nice break.
We went into full vacation mode at Keystone. We’d walk the loop with Stevie in the late mornings and take another stroll in the late afternoon. We hung out at the site most of the day, and took some late afternoon or evening bike rides. I think 4-nights there was probably too long though. We were getting restless after a couple of days. It was an adjustment to get used to a slower pace.
I should also mention that you can rent boats, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and canoes at Keystone Lake. There were a lot of people fishing from the shore as well. There’s a designated swimming and beach area, but it was incredibly busy during the weekend. Not only did the beach clear out after the weekend, but our campground was nearly empty.
How’s Stevie Mix Doing?
Stevie is always up for an adventure! We started calling her Dirt Dog because second after exploring hiking trails and watching chipmunks around the campsite, her favorite camping activity seems to be snoozing while lying in the dirt.
Stevie also seems completely comfortable riding in the RV and staying inside alone when we’re riding our bikes. Earlier this year she started to really protest being crated when we left the house. She would bark loudly when we put her inside—something she had never done before. She would also walk past her crate into Andy’s office to avoid going in. She was telling us she didn’t need it anymore, so we started to gradually leave her out at home, and eventually put her crate away entirely. We weren’t sure how she might act inside the RV alone, so we packed a crate for the trip, but ended up not using it. Occasionally she would bark when she saw us ride away on our bikes, but it didn’t last long. With the long morning hikes and no real daytime naps, she was pretty exhausted. I think she probably enjoyed us leaving for a bit so she could catch up on her beauty rest.
Where Are We Headed Next?
Later in the fall and possibly into winter, we’re considering Georgia, Kentucky (hopefully a bourbon tour!), Hilton Head, and South Carolina for longer stays. We’re actively researching that now, so stay tuned for updates.
As promised previously, an RV tour can be viewed here
I hope you’ve managed to make the most of your summer this year. Best of luck to everyone returning to school—children and teachers alike.