Friday, July 8, 2011


We finally were off on our first trip. I had made the reservations at the campground for Fourth of July weekend just after we took delivery of the Roadtrek. When we regularly traveled in the past we had favorite places to go for specific times - and Fourth of July has always been Lancaster, PA and the nearby Kutztown Pennsylvania German Folk Festival. Now that we are traveling again, there was no question where the Fourth of July trip would be.

The reservations were for four nights. We would be out for five days. We left on Friday and since the Fourth was Monday and not a good day to drive due to the holiday traffic, we decided to not return home until Tuesday and there is a place that we like to go in the area that is only open on a Tuesday.

Over the next few weeks I will write an article about each day - and this is day one. We might title this sub-chapter, "We Leave and We Arrive".

We set out on Friday morning a little latter to attempt to avoid morning rush hour traffic. Traffic as it turned out was not the problem but road construction was and a trip that should have taken at the most four hours took five and a half hours. This was also the first time driving the Roadtrek on the truck route to avoid the low overpasses that are on the parkway that we would usually drive our other vehicles on. We have driven this route at night but not in the day with the Roadtrek. Let me take a moment to tell you a little about what it is like to drive a Roadtrek 190. While this is not the longest Roadtrek, it is a long van and takes a bit of getting used to the size that you have to maneuver in and out of lanes with cars around you. To add to this, there is limited visibility behind you on to the rear next to you. There are two mirrors on each front side - one over the other. The top mirror shows you what is on that side of the van behind you but has no picture of what is on that side next to you. The smaller mirror below that one if set properly - and this is a mirror that must be manually set and is not controlled from inside like the larger ones - will show you what is next to you right up to the point that the vehicle is about to pass you. Well, that is the way they are supposed to work and pretty much do unless a car is driving over to the far side of the lane and then there is little view, if any of that car once the car comes up along side. It takes a bit of moving one's head to see the corners of that smaller mirror to make sure that you are not about to cut a car in half if you change lanes. The other thing about driving the Roadtrek is the noise. I have driven vans, SUVs, cars, and a small school bus. Nothing is like driving with the shake and rattle going on inside the Roadtrek as you roll! Every bump in the road, every upraised spot of tar in the road, every pothole no matter how small that is caught by a tire results in the van to move up and down and there is a resulting BANG of something hitting something inside. Some roads result in a bang, bang, bang, rat-a-tat-tat sound like a machine gone of something rattling loudly inside. We have gone through a lot of the inside and cushioned and secured as much as we could find that might possibly move, but there were are still some that we have not found. (My apologies to my wife for saying that one of them was the can of Lysol spray on the shelf over the toilet - which by the way was wrapped in foam rubber because it was tapping against the wall - as when we removed that on my emphatic demand, the noise from that location was still there.) The roads in NY are less than smooth and this particular road was nerve wracking with the noise from inside the Roadtrek. Once we got onto the highway with the approach to the bridge things quieted down - at least for a short while until we found more road that is in need of smoothing out. I never noticed all of these bumps in other vehicles - but there is nothing really to rattle and bang in other vehicles.

We were off and traffic was stop and go where road construction was being done - not roadwork to smooth out the bumps - it will likely add new bumps. We were heading for Old Millstream Campground in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We would go directly there even though there was a place that we wanted to visit for the day because I wanted to be sure we checked in and all was well with the site before anything else. It was much later than I anticipated when we arrived. No problem, though. We drove into the campground and found a large Class A (think bus) and a large Fifth Wheel (a trailer with its hitch inside the flatbed of a pick up truck connected like an 18 wheeler truck) parked in along the road next to the office. We pulled up to the front of the office and checked in. The lady there is very nice and we paid and were assigned our space. The office here is open until 9 pm - which is good for late arrivals - and check in and check out is at 2 pm. We managed to go all around the campground the long way to our space as the larger RVs were still parked in the road next to the office. As we looked at the RVs we passed we were the smallest in the park. There were no other Class B's here the entire stay.

We found our space. There was a group of people sitting outside their trailer parked opposite our space and they watched as Meryl guided me in. As I have been told - everyone is friendly at campgrounds - Meryl waved to them and they waved back. We got into the space and tested the electrical outlet for polarity and voltage. All was good and we got back in and left - likely to the surprise of the people sitting and watching. We were off to the activity of the day - Green Dragon Farmers Market in the town of Ephrata.

I have been going to Green Dragon for so many years. Over the years it has become more of a flea market than a farm market but the buildings are still full of local Amish and Mennonite farmers selling their farm produce. Along with them are stand holders selling everything from locally made furniture to hardware to clothes to books. Outside there are vendors set up under canopies selling cell phone cases to antiques. On a summer Friday - this market is only open on Fridays this market can be packed. Most of the people coming to this market are local, but it gets a good share of tourists as well. If you want to walk among the Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans) then this is the place to come. And if you like animals, come into the auction building and watch farmers buying chicks, roosters, ducks, bunnies, and other small farm animals. There is a larger building where large animals are auctioned. Unless you live where you can keep and raise farm animals, don't get tempted to bid because the prices seem to me to be real good and it can be oh so tempting.

We spent the late afternoon at Green Dragon and then realizing that it was getting late - as the local restaurants in this area close at 8 pm, we left and headed to dinner.

After dinner, we went to Walmart - in fact every night of this trip we went to Walmart. Why? It is a place that is air conditioned where you can walk around and burn off carbohydrates from dinner which takes the place of my nightly exercise bike. And, of course, as usual, we had things to buy. One of the things that I wanted was some type of small ice cream cup. We don't eat breakfast and have a night snack instead - and contrary to what most will tell you is bad for you if you are Diabetic - four ounces of ice cream for me at night keeps me from going too low in blood sugar through the night. There is a freezer in the Roadtrek refrigerator and we had turned the fridge on just before we left home. We would test out how well it worked. This is a "Super Walmart" - meaning that it is open 24 hours, 7 days a week and it has a full supermarket. I purchased an ice cream bar that had just about the correct amount of carbs and we headed back to the campground to hook up for the night.

We arrived at the campground and found our space in the dark. Meryl guided as I backed into the space and got close enough to the electric box to hook up. We had filled one fresh water tank at home the day before and did not need to hook up to water. The water in the tank should hold us for a couple of days. I stopped the engine and got out to help with hooking up. When I was outside the van did not look level side to side. The campground is supposed to have all level sites, but of course, with a gravel site it may be level in one spot and not in another and then again, it may not be level at all. I went back inside, figured out where we hid the level, and put it on the counter. I have since realized that I have been making a presumption that the counter is level on its own. I actually am not certain of that at all and need to get to a place that we know is level outside and then check how level the counter actually is. The level bubble did show that the passenger side of the van was higher than the driver's side. I decided that with all else on this first night, I was not going to get out the leveling blocks that we had purchased and start leveling the van. It was close enough - though later that night I found myself rolling across the bed.
Back outside we got out the Coleman LED lantern that we had bought a week before to light up the campsite while we did our hook ups in the dark. The box said that it ran on four D cell batteries or the included rechargeable adapter. We picked this particular lantern because it included the adapter - which the others did not. I had a package of 6 D batteries that even at a discount store for no name batteries are ridiculously expensive and we went inside the RT to get the lantern out of the box and put the batteries in. I knew that I should have done this at home and we were in for a big surprise. Yes, this model included the rechargeable adapter but rather than have a place to put the batteries it required an optional battery case to run with batteries. This was printed in very tiny print on one part of the packaging. And none of the stores that we had looked at the lanterns had any such battery case for sale. I tried the switch with the rechargeable installed in the lantern - just in case it did not have to be charged first, and the lantern lit. We were good for the moment at least and got outside to hook up before the lantern went dark.

Outside with the lantern we discovered that every flying bug and mosquito liked the light of the lantern and could now see us to take a little nibble. Swatting bugs away, I got out the very expensive, 30 amp, rv surge suppressor that I purchased in the last several weeks by mail order from Camping World. We also purchased the locking block that is supposed to prevent anyone from stealing it. That came out too. Meryl got the Roadtrek's electrical cord out and I walked it over to the campsite's electric box that we shared with the space next to us where another RV was hooked up. There are two completely wired sides to the box and we had one of the sides. We next fumbled with the surge suppressor which is large, heavy, and awkward. Instead of just putting it all together and then plugging it all in, I plugged in the surge box first, connected the RV plug to it, and then fumbled some more with the lock box and padlock. Finally it was all in place and I switched the circuit breaker inside the electric box on. The proper lights lit on the surge suppressor and then after the expected short delay, it switched on.

This site also provided a cable television hook up which we were paying extra for. I had a long length of cable from home and we connected one end to the outlet in the Roadtrek and the other end to the post. Now all was connected. I turned off the lantern, waved off the bugs, and went inside - well bitten.

We settled in now inside. Got things into place and I went to the TV - unsecured it - oh yes, this rattles and shakes when you drive also. I fixed that with velcro straps. I switched the wiring connection to Cable from antenna and set the TV to scan for cable channels. Many started to be found and we now had a large assortment of channels to watch - and go to sleep with. The cable hook up is well worth the few dollars extra.

I then thought that I would write this article and got out the laptop and started the process of connecting to the campground's free wifi. I am well use to connecting to hotel wifi and figured it would be similar. Since the woman at the campground desk had not given us any password or user name I made an assumption that I would not need one. The laptop found the network connection - actually two connections. I tried one and it had difficulty making the link. I tried the other and a good signal was found and the connection was made - but no internet came through. I worked at it a bit longer and eventually a page came on screen from the campground's internet service provider asking me for a username and password. I got out the only paper we had gotten from the campground which was their map and all that it said about wifi on it was a number to call for help if you could not connect. Looking at this page, the implication was that without a username and password, one would pay for the connection. We called the phone number and were waiting on hold - perhaps all over the country people at campgrounds were having problems connecting. For the heck of it I tried the link that said register - the worst that could happen would be I would not complete any information. There is said "for one weeks service - fee is $0". Zero dollars sounded like the right price for me and I registered a username and password. It did not ask for any money or credit card and the page changed to tell me that I was now fully online. Nice - we hung up the phone as we were still on hold for the help line. By now, I was too tired to think about writing and discovered that sitting in the seats of the Roadtrek with the laptop on my legs was extremely uncomfortable to use the laptop's keyboard. I checked email, offered it to Meryl, and then shut it down.

The TV had a nice clear signal and we discovered that the campground used DISH TV as their service provider. I watched for a while and Meryl read the newspaper that we brought from home. Later - we are both "night" people - so much later - it was time for late night snack and I got out the ice cream pop from the freezer. Meryl had bought cookie/cakes that were also low enough in carbs to have. My ice cream pop was hard on the outside chocolate coating and the ice cream was semi-soft in the middle. When we had first gotten married we lived in an apartment that had a refrigerator that did not have a real freezer. For those years in our marriage we never had hard ice cream because the freezer compartment would never keep it frozen enough. This reminded me exactly of those times. It was good anyway.

I also have a piece of rye toast - yes, an odd thing following the ice cream, but I like it and it works for its purpose. Anticipating this, we had purchased a cheap toaster that would plug into the 110v AC circuit of the Roadtrek and I could make toast. We had that in one of the cabinets and Meryl brought rye bread sealed in a plastic, airtight box. She plugged in the toaster and put the bread in and in less than a minute - beep, beep, beep! There was no visible smoke but the smoke alarm was sounding. We turned off the toaster and I reset the alarm. So much for toasting inside the Roadtrek. Well, untoasted rye bread is nice too.

Snack done and a while later it was time for bed. I kept hoping that this night - for the first time - I would actually fall asleep in the Roadtrek. It took awhile and it was near or maybe past 5 am and I did fall asleep - hooray!

One of the nice things about Lancaster for us is that we can set our own pace for the day. There are places that we want to go but there is no hurry to get there. We slept late and then got out to unhook and be off on our day. And that next day I shall tell you about in my next article.

I am going to leave this one up for a week and a half and then on a Wednesday a week from now put up the next sub-chapter of our trip. In the interim here are some photos that I took of the campground.

Ah -let me tell you about the campground - Old Mill Stream Campground is next to (and owned by) Dutch Wonderland amusement park. This is an amusement park for small children but they do have one roller coaster. The campground is to the back and the side of the amusement park where the roller coaster is. When I made the reservations, I was told by the woman at the campground that the space would be noisy from the amusement park. Forewarned, we just figured that we would have a reason to get up in the morning earlier. The amusement park is not open at all at night and opens around 9 or 10 in the morning. From inside the Roadtrek we could not hear anything outside. We did not hear the roller coaster in the morning at all - and it was running when we came outside. Outside you can hear it but it is not overwhelmingly loud. I will talk more about the campground as we go along.

You can see the coaster in the back looking out from our site.

The coaster and the amusement park's monorail ride.

View behind out site of the stream that runs behind the campground that also serves the Steamboat ride at Dutch Wonderland. Fishing (catch and release) is permitted in this stream and on the other side is an Amishman's farm. His cows come walking along the stream to drink and cool themselves in the water.


  1. Yay! You're "out there!" Hope you're having fun.

  2. Enjoying reading about your first trip.