Cross-Country Travel with Kathy Maass Part 3 of 5

From Tipton, IA to the Newmar Corp in Nappance, IN and then on to Canton, OH
“SOB” and a Willy Wanka Experience
Part 3 of 5
A Motor Home Trip – By Kathy Maass

This is part three of a five part series that describes the cross-country trip made by Kathy and Dit Maass to attend the annual Family Motor Coach Association rally. Enjoy reading about Kathy’s trip of a lifetime. Kathy is an Oregon retiree and can be reached at kathymary1@cox.net.

We had so many more ventures yet to enjoy before arriving at our destination in the state of NY. On June 28, we crossed over the Mississippi River into Illinois, we made a stop in Union Grove, ILL on hwy 30 to eat lunch in an Elks parking lot before heading towards Joliet to look for a Walmart or Sam’s Club wanting to stop early for the night. This was a time for the first motor home repairs – fortunately, Dit and Ray had both spend a career in the maintenance field of work and John had owned a car repair business after his Navy retirement. We were again deluged with heavy rain and this time we had left the windows and vents open in the motor home so our first order of business was to mop up water.

Crossing into Indiana and heading towards Merriville to buy diesel fuel, we did once again stay at a Walmart parking lot, and as with other Walmart and Sam’s Club camp experiences, the guys went into the store to meet the store manager and ensure we were welcome to spend the night. As I mentioned before, the price is right and this did give us another chance to buy a few needed household essentials.

We headed towards Nappannee on June 30; our destination was the Newmar Corp where the big motor homes are manufactured. Not only was this stay in Nappannee one of the most memorable experiences for sight seeing during these travels, it was also where our friend John was injured and where we had our only negative interaction with other motor home travelers. The Newmar Manufacturing Plant had been contacted prior to this trip and we knew we would all be welcome to camp in the parking lot adjacent to the building where there were hook-ups to accommodate overnight stays. We had been told we would also be able to tour the plant while there. Ray and John were driving Newmar products while Dit and I were in Some Other Brand (SOB). It wasn’t until after we had pulled into the camp area, we were told the tours were not being conducted due to the pending 4th of July holiday and factory closure for maintenance projects at the plant.

Still having fun, we were undaunted and backed into available campsites, set up camp and to our disappointment, we were asked to move our rigs to the other side of the building to accommodate work on that section of the parking lot. As I mentioned before, this is not small task (to back our rig into the spot, put out the slides, crank out the awnings, adjust the television antenna, complete other household tasks and prepare for the duration of the stay). In the process of resettling, as John was exiting the door of his rig, he caught his arm on the door latch and ripped a gash in his arm. Pat drove him into the local medical clinic where he was stitched up and at that time he declined the tetanus shot. While the medical needs were being tended, a very apologetic young worker once again approached us and said that another camper had complained about the SOB parked in the camp areas and Dit and I were asked to leave. The complainer had voiced concern that Newmar customers should have first choice at these campsites and one might come in to have factor work done on his rig and not find an available spot. Although there were several spots open throughout the campground, we were still asked to leave. We didn’t want our friends to feel obliged to give up their spots, so as an accommodation, the apologetic worker offered us the use of the factory’s empty overflow area, which turned out to be a gravel parking lot that was located just across the country road from the factory in full view of our friends.

For the second time that afternoon, we packed up and moved, this time across the street where we settled in next to a peaceful road on a gravel parking lot that was surrounded by lush green trees. With our awnings out, folding chairs set up and our pets comfortable on their pillows at our feet in the pleasant evening air, we soon discovered our situation was the better of the circumstances. Settled inside during the evening hours we could hear the calming rustle of the forest around us and the pleasant “clip clop” of horse hooves as the local Amish families went about their business in their horse drawn carriages.

This was a place of serenity where Amish communities peacefully go about their lives bridging between their traditional and modern worlds. Some holding jobs in the Newmar Factor to subsidize the simple farming lifestyle by which they support themselves.

Life is good and we ventured from there to explore the Amish culture and communities such as the quaint old town of Rentowne where food items are sold in bulk, obviously hand measured into the zip lock bags they were packed into for sale at the Amish General Store. Shipshewanee is a lovely town that houses a terrific store frequented by tourists for the Amish made goods. By July 2 we opted to stay an additional day so John could follow up with a scheduled doctor appointment and I committed to remove the stitches for him in a few days. The extra day also allowed us a return visit to Shipshewanee and a drive into the beautiful country communities of Bremen and Wakarusa to browse in isolated country shops along the road. Ray and Sandy headed one direction in their car while the rest of us carpooled for a tour of the area.

A store in Walnut Creek, OH where a horse and buggy patiently wait for the owner to finish his business.

A store in Walnut Creek, OH where a horse and buggy patiently wait for the owner to finish his business.

It was very common to see an Amish buggy and horse patiently stationed outside these remote shops waiting for their master to complete business. This whole area is so riddled with culture that it is a must see for anyone traveling through. A wise guy came by as Dit was emptying tanks in preparation to leave and taunted Dit with “You ought to get a Newmar Product.” This experience at the Newmar Corp was the only negative experience we have had with fellow campers. July 3 we headed east on hwy 6 and onto hwy 33 at Ligonier and then southwest towards Fort Wayne, Indiana where we took hwy 30E into Iowa. We had traveled more than 2,300 miles since leaving UT.

In Beaverdam, OH we paid $1.35 for diesel and saw the wheat and corn farms east of Bucyrus looked like they’d recently been severely pelted by hail storms and a billboard sign, advertising motor homes, was severely pockmarked as an aftermath of the recent storms. Hailstorms are one of the worst weather conditions for our mode of travel because they can cause a lot of damage to the exterior of the motor home. Our chosen campsite for that night was a Sam’s Club parking lot in Mansfield Iowa with the right price: FREE. Too, in a phone call with his daughter (the nurse back in Mt Vernon, WA), John was now convinced to get a tetanus shot for that wound so Pat and John headed off to find a place to get a shot. Also, we now needed to keep an eye on the propane; we use propane primarily to operate the stove and generator whenever we need them and to operate the refrigerator during the times when we are not hooked up to electricity.

On to Canton, OH to an Elks Lodge that John and Pat had stayed at several years earlier. It’s great to have a traveling companion who has some familiarity with the area.

As we approached the lodge, the driveway is located at the right of the building and slopes down into a bit of a grassy field/valley behind the lodge. At the bottom of the back end of the field is a picnic pavilion that has electricity and water hook-ups. Fortunately there was room to drive down into the low area and jockey the motor home to back up to the back edge of the field. As with most Elk’s Lodge’s motor home camping accommodations, there is an “honorary system” box in which to place a small donation to offset the utility costs. The guys learned from a note posted on the lodge door that this lodge had just been shut down the prior Tuesday due to a liquor law technicality. That was not a show stopper for us – we settled in and relaxed playing board games as we enjoyed sitting outside in the warm evening listening to the fireworks around us and watching a few beautiful bursts of firework activity over the tops of nearby trees. Our little dogs enjoyed a brief romp in the lush green lawns as fireflies sparked up the fields with their own mid-western welcome.

Harry London Chocolate Factory in Canton, OH

Harry London Chocolate Factory in Canton, OH

Our next big treat was a Willy Wanka experience!! This is another “must see” place for travelers, or for anyone who enjoys chocolate for that matter. We took a short drive through the neighboring housing development to arrive at the fabulous Harry London Chocolate Factory. Chocolates are made for the White House in this factory – ingredients do not include wax, and the display room is a wonder to behold! As you enter the display room, the center of the room is surrounded by a glass display counter housing the hundreds of chocolate treats – the place sparkles with glass showing off the buckeye chocolate mints, salt-water toffee and the list goes on. This is a display as well as “sample” room – a sample plate of each variety of candy is set out for visitors to try before making their purchase – it is a chocolate lovers heaven. We’d brought small iceboxes along to keep our purchases fresh while traveling since we wanted to take some home to family, and we did take the factor tour the next day. As well as seeing the manufacturing processes, we learned that soft filled chocolates will last 3 to 6 months while other chocolates will last up to a year as long as it doesn’t get too hot, and they should be kept above 70 degrees.

During the tour, another thunderstorm came down hard, but that didn’t discourage us from scouting out Kohl’s department store in the afternoon. One learns to take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself and weather cannot be a deterrent when on an adventure. We also used the evening to plan the next leg of our trip – heading towards a Passport America campground located in Falconer, a small town near Jamestown, N.Y. and only 60 miles from Buffalo, N.Y. Our goal was to be positioned to enter the rally location from a convenient and nearby area.

Throughout the trip we did enjoy interacting with locals. A group had come to use the pavilion one afternoon for a retirement celebration and as we ate our meal near our motor homes, children from the group came over and squealed with delight as we squirted them with our “spray bottle-fans”. One little boy had a hand buzzer he tried out on everyone.

There are so many things to see in the countryside around Jamestown – we explored the Amish areas near East Sparta, which is located south of Canton, OH on road #8000. Walnut Creek and Sugar Creek are communities along the way and we stopped at a gift shop in Sugar Creek, browsing the old building that housed a unique display of antiques representative of that area and later we lunched at an eclectic market-deli-gift store in Walnut Creek before touring an original Amish Farmhouse. Our tour guide was a local college age girl who had grown up in the neighboring home and been friends with the Amish children. The house had been vacated by the family not many years earlier to enable the tourists an opportunity to experience the culture of the house, farm and lifestyle. The bare wood floors, lack of any current utilities, hand made furniture and display of basic clothing exemplified the simplicity this culture clings to as they adapt to the progressive world. The clothing is hand sewn; straight pins are used to secure the necklines and openings (except for the smallest children who could harm themselves on the pins during play). For extreme emergencies, they allow themselves to walk to an outside phone located on a nearby telephone pole, and unlike the Mennonites, more liberal branch of their culture, they do not drive cars – for those who are working outside the home, they may on occasion accept a ride to work with a Mennonite friend. They do not focus on their personal appearance, and for that reason, they don’t want their pictures taken. Bicycles and horse and buggy travel are evident everywhere. We marveled at the simplicity and kindness within this culture as we headed N on road 515 towards Winesburg and then E on road #62, picking up hwy 77 to exit 111 and back to the Elk’s Lodge.

The last night and last morning in Canton, OH was a roar with a frightening thunderstorm that rolled overhead and we saw the thunder clouds and tornado shaped billows of cloud off in the distance at various times, realizing that many had touched down often within miles of where we camped. Weather continued to be a legitimate concern for our little group.

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