Cross-Country Travel with Kathy Maass Part 4 of 5

OFF TO BUFFALO: Through Jamestown, to Niagara Falls and an Incident
at the Border
Part 4 of 5

A Motor Home Trip – By Kathy Maass

This is part four 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.

Our destination was within our grasp and we followed hwy 77 from the Elk’s Lodge in Canton, OH heading E onto hwy 62 towards Alliance, OH passing under a tunnel with a 12’6” clearance. Some of the older overpasses on side roads are not as high as those in the larger cities, and this is one more little thing to be mindful of while traveling in these tall motor homes. Must ensure the motor home will fit without losing your top vents and antennas. Tornado funnels had touched down in three locations there near Hubbard, OH just the day before – one had hit Boardman and wiped out the strip on hwy 224, one had hit the tower to the local station and lightning had hit all around the gas station we were standing in. Good fortune had truly been with us throughout the Midwest when it came to weather.

As we journey through the old town of Frankin between the Allegheny River and highway, we headed towards Youngsville and on through downtown Warren – through the city of well maintained stately homes and into the tree lined areas. We experienced some confusion when we came off of route 86 at exit 13 and needed to reference the map and Passport America Book to locate the Top A Rise RV Park. This campground is in a wooded setting northeast of Falconer and east of Jamestown, and it is located on top of a rise. To access it, we drove a narrow (emphasis on “narrow”) country road up over the top of a hill surrounded by trees and went down into a protected hollow below. The campsites are simply designated by poles (with electrical outlet boxes on them) randomly stuck in the ground. It’s a bit rugged and very country. The price is good at $8 a night. The guys pulled out their testing equipment and learned that we had 10 amps of electricity coming out of the lines – our rigs needed 30 or 50 amps. This is a camp owner-operated place that does have a honey/dump wagon (for sewage disposal) but not much else. To handle the electricity issues, the owner simply removed the 10amp box and put a higher voltage box onto the same low -level supply. We all knew that would be an issue and decided to use our generators instead of using the campsite power system.

Sightseeing included a drive through a neighborhood of stately homes, past the house where Lucille Ball was born and along hwy 20 into Pennsylvania, where we stopped for wine tasting and to enjoy lunch at the Cray Z Parrot Restaurant in North East, PA.

Motor homes parked in holding area.

Motor homes parked in holding area.

On July 13 we headed north on hwy 62 towards the large parking lot that is the holding area where we are scheduled to park until the time when we would be ushered into the fairgrounds. At the fairgrounds we’ll be assigned a parking spot for the rally. Along hwy 62 there were street signs depicting “carriage and horse” warning of the Amish travelers who share the highways and cautioning drivers to respect their rights to use of the streets. We’d been told that the Amish are vulnerable to the busy street traffic and as a caution they now have more lamps on their carriages for visibity. Once in the holding area, we tucked our big rig in between our friends. There will be a special section in the fairgrounds for the Governing Reps, and since John is representing our motor home chapter from back home, as their friends, we’ll also be allowed to park in that area.

Because there are preliminary business meetings being held before the actual rally begins, and both John and Ray will be attending the meetings, we had arrived on site at the fairgrounds a day before the rally is open to the general population. Their meetings were scheduled for the morning. This gave us time to do our household chores, settle in and then all go explore the area in the afternoon. Again, we appreciated John’s knowledge of the area, and as a group, on July 15 we headed N towards Niagara Falls, driving through a poor section of Buffalo where old stately homes sitting in disrepair with boarded up windows grace the hwy. Entering the city of Niagara Falls, the neighborhood is in better repair and we easily found parking on the street. This is where we ate our first New York Style pizza; foods do taste best in their place of origination!!

Niagara Falls is “majestic”. As with any tourist destination, there is a gift shop conveniently located near the entrance of the Tourist Center. An elevator, cost of $1 at that time, is there to take visitors to the rivers lower level where you can walk a deck and path that leads up closer to the edge of the fall, or you can take a boat out onto the river to emerge yourself into the experience of natures great wonder. Raingear is provided to protect your clothing from the water. As I looked up at the fall, it appears as though the water is cascading right out of the sky – it is huge and forceful and to hear the thunder of the water tumbling over the edge of earth and to feel the heavy spray of
droplets as it rushes to earth splashing huge amounts of water back up towards the sky declaring the strength of nature’s power. This one experience left me breathless.

The rally date has come and we transitioned from travelers and tourists to participants and attending FMCA members. Meetings are conducted, food booths and exhibits (crafts for sale, motor home related gear and mechanical parts and services, etc) are numerous and there is a schedule for various seminars that participants can sign up to attend. Opportunity is there to buy souvenirs and we made plans for activities we wanted to attend and set a meal schedule before we headed our separate ways to enjoy the experience. One of the benefits of attending these gatherings is that a large variety of services for repair, upgrades and manufacturers are available in one concentrated area making it fairly easy for motor home owners to have work done on their rigs. We took advantage of that and scheduled to have new batteries installed in our motor home through one of the venders at the event.

Dit’s knee was bothering him; we headed to the closest medical clinic. Over the next few days, between the visits to a follow-up orthopedic doctor and the numerous follow-up phone calls to ensure the motor home batteries got installed, we were ready to finish up at Buffalo and focus on our trip heading back towards OR. We mapped out a route that would take us into Canada and then back into the U.S. at Port Huron, Michigan. Our plan was to follow a more northern route home, so we could see more of the sights and visit friends along the way. Our friends Ray and Sandy had decided to separate from the group in Minnesota but John and Pat would travel with us as far as Spokane, WA where we’d separate. They would spend time with friends while we headed to OR.

It is a small world, and for those of us who have been members of motor home chapters, it is not unusual to see friends from home at these gatherings. John had met a friend there and made arrangements to take him to the airport on our way out of the area. Leaving the fairground, John took a few minutes to do that and on July 22, we headed towards the South Grand Island Bridge where we crossed into Ontario, Canada through the point of entry.

The Canadian Border Guard waved both the Bakers and us through the point of entry without incident and we pulled our rigs over to the side of the road to wait for John and Pat to follow. The guard asked John if he had ever had a gun in his motor home and John answered: “I use to, but I don’t anymore” – lesson here, just tell them what they need to know. The guard insisted on searching John’s rig, making derogatory comments about the trouble being made by U.S. folks and a young guard headed toward our motor home demanding to have us vacate (with our dogs) and give them free access to search. It was apparent that tempers flared and sensitivity was acute still as part of the fallout from the horrific 911 terror attack. When we reentered our rig, the items I’d neatly stored in the center of the bed were strewn about as through an angry child had let his temper get the better of him. Heading out, our next stop was an information area where the Canadian worker was friendlier. We made our way towards Port Haron, Michigan where entry into the U.S. was slow due to the heavy traffic. We missed our exit to the Sam’s Club where we planned to stay the night and rerouted back to settle into the parking lot. We are a bit weary of camping in parking lots – by now we’ve decided that we do like our utility hook-ups.

Some of the most beautiful scenery of this trip is where we entered from Canada into the northern peninsula of the State of Michigan. The water in the Great Lakes is as crystal clear and turquoise as the oceans in Hawaii. Under gorgeous blue skies, with a few scattered clouds, we drove west on hwy 69 from Port Heron on Lake Heron and then N on hwy 54 to 175 heading towards Fling. There is a nice rest area just N of exit 173 on hwy 175 where we stopped for a break, and we stopped again later to enjoy a walk to the edge of the lake near Pt. Lookout.

Our journey continues as we head out on July 23 towards home and the many new experiences that are ahead along the route.

Next – the bugs, the vets, stop in Minot and the journey home.

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