Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hotter than a Firecracker on the Fourth of July - PART 1

The title of this article is an expression that I am using a bit differently. Fourth of July - and the days before and after this year in the Middle Atlantic states - were hotter than a fire cracker. Temperatures were over a hundred and we were traveling in Pennsylvania in our Roadtrek.

I made the reservations for Fourth of July at the campground - Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster, PA - three months in advance. When I made them, I had not been able to make reservations for Memorial Day weekend in any campground in Lancaster, and decided that I would make this Fourth of July trip for four nights and five days. Then, as you know, if you have been reading along, I got last minute reservations in Lancaster for Memorial Day - the only reservations that I could get anywhere. So our trips to Lancaster were coming close together and this is something that I try to space more apart. But there are things to do in this area of Pennsylvania around Fourth of July. As we did last year - and every year since I was a boy - we go to the Kutztown Pennsylvania German Folk Festival - or the Kutztown Folk Festival as it is now better known. This takes place from the full weekend before the Fourth of July to the full weekend after the Fourth of July in the town of Kutztown, Pennsylvania. People come from all over the country to attend. So, Pennsylvania over Fourth of July is a given for us.

Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday this year and that posed a question as to what was Fourth of July weekend - which actually created a problem for many tourist oriented places this year. Was it the weekend before leading up to the Fourth or was it starting on the Fourth and leading up to the next weekend. Many chose the first weekend. Some the second. We went during the week. We left on Tuesday and stayed through Friday night, driving back at night on Saturday. The campground was busy throughout. They had reservations for the weekend before, during the week, and the next weekend.

I was able to reserve a site that we have been in before that is easy to get in and out of. I have been uncertain about this site because it has not always been level. There have been a time or two that we were in this site that we could not find a level spot. But it is a very convenient spot - on the end of a row off the main entrance and exit - and we have been requesting this space. And for this trip I was able to get it. More about the space later.

Before we left, we received our Easy Pass statement. Easy Pass is the electronic toll transponder that automatically charges your charge card when you drive through a toll booth. It is in NY and several other states including Pennsylvania. For the past year we have been comparing the tolls paid on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for the Roadtrek and for our car. They had not seemed any different, but suddenly on the past two statements the Roadtrek tolls are higher. There is a higher toll on the PA Turnpike for heavier weight vehicles and apparently with Easy Pass they have started to enforce this. There are a few ways to go to Lancaster. Using the PA Turnpike has been how we have gone for many years, but the GPS is always trying to send us off the PA Turnpike around Valley Forge to take two limited access roads to Lancaster County that would take us more directly to Old Mill Stream Campground. We decided on this trip that we would try that route.

We headed out early - around here early means as soon as after rush hour as you can without still sitting in stop and go traffic. We did encounter the usual construction traffic through Brooklyn getting to the Veranzano Bridge to take that over Staten Island - which is also under road construction and over the Outerbridge Crossing into New Jersey to the NJ Turnpike. Interesting side note - the Outerbridge Crossing is not named this because it is an outer bridge. It is named for Mr. Outerbridge. Anyway, the TomTom calls the Veranzano Bridge the Veranzano Branch and the Outerbridge Crossing is called the Outerbridge Creek. So much for Tom Tom.

It took us the usual delay times to get to the New Jersey Turnpike which also is completely under construction and that to the PA Turnpike which was not completely under construction but just in varied locations. We decided to take this "new" way to go and pulled off at Valley Forge and headed to Route 202 which lead us to Route 30 - which once you get into Lancaster becomes a local route and is the road that the campground is on. It seemed to make sense. The problem was that both roads were also under construction - major construction - even on the day before the Fourth of July and the road surfaces were completely broken up and in some points temporary lanes were formed on the sides to bring you around the work being done. This all added about an hour to the trip - which was delayed from all of the other construction. It did save us several dollars in tolls. My opinion on going this way again is still out - when the construction is finished it will be great - but until then, I am just not sure.

We arrived at the campground and checked in. I don't think I have ever told you about checking in at a campground. It really is no different from checking in at a hotel. You pull up close to the office and out of the way of other RVs and trailers that may need to drive through. Inside there is a desk and someone, hopefully, with a smile that will register you in for the days you will be staying. Unlike many hotels, you pay in full up front. If you will be there for four days, you are asked for payment in advance for all four days. You are then told your site number and given a map and that is it. Unlike a hotel, you do not check out. When you leave, you just leave. There is no need to go into the office to say you are "checking out". I did not know this last year and they looked at me strange at a campground when I did this.

When we were checking in on this trip we were asked if we wanted to reserve the site for next Fourth of July. I first said no because I was not sure when we wanted to come down for Fourth of July a year from now - but we were told if we did not make the reservation now, there was someone already asking for our site for next year - and if we took it, it would have to be for the corresponding days next year - and not the Saturday at the end as the space was already booked. The one thing I like about this campground is that you can cancel right up to the day before. I was tired from driving and I just looked at Meryl. She said, "take it" - so we took it. This is a very popular area and even with the many campgrounds that are there, holidays book solid way in advance.

We then did our usual routine as I have written about before. We went to the site and backed in. I was amazed. When I randomly stopped the two levels in the front of my Roadtrek were on level. Wow! There has been some work done on this site. It was level - and I found level spots to stop on the site the whole four nights.

End of Part 1 - Part 2 is next week.

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