Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy, Happy, Happy, Merry, Merry, Merry

With Christmas in two days and New Years next week, there is no better article now than to just wish everyone of our readers greetings of the season.

Merry Christmas!
Happy Christmas!
Blessed Christmas!

Have a holly, golly Christmas!
Good Christmastide!
Happy Hanukkah! (belated)
Happy New Year!
Season's Greetings!
Happy Holidays!

There will be lots more to come from Meryl and Me in 2016! See y'all next year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Country Acres Campground is located in Gordonville, Pennsylvania which is in Lancaster County. There are many campgrounds in this heavily tourist visited area. We have been going to a different campground here for several years and decided to try out Country Acres.

This campground is owned and operated by the family that owns several operations in Lancaster County - most of which are located around the Village of Bird-in-Hand. They own several hotels, a restaurant with smorgasbord, a bake shop, a dinner theater (as part of their restaurant), and this campground. The campground is not in Bird-in-Hand. It is off of Route 30 just east of the village of Paradise. Yes, Lancaster is full of towns with colorful names.

You enter the campground from Route 30 and travel up a short distance of road to the actual entrance of the campground. The road continues on to the right with residential houses. You turn left into the campground entrance which is a newly paved road. Ahead is a quaint looking building that is the office. The right lane of the entrance is to stop in to register. The left lane is to drive into the campground.

The campground has been developed over the years in sections and the newest RV section is just to the right of the office in an open field of gravel sites with hookups. There is also a full sized swimming pool in this area - with what they call a beach-style entrance (you can walk into the water). To the left of the office there is an electric lift gate that requires a keycard to open. When leaving the lift opens automatically.

When we arrived there were two people in the office and we were helped by a very friendly and welcoming woman. We had made reservations in advance - and I have heard that this campground is so popular that generally reservations are required sometimes well in advance to get a campsite. There is a discount club available to join for free that provides discounts at local businesses and attractions and nine punches on the card - one for each night stay - gives you one free breakfast for two at the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant in Bird-in-Hand, up on Route 340. We had intended to join this when we arrived - and before I even asked the woman was filling out the discount card for us and punching the nights we would be there. We were handed the usual map with wifi login information on it and the list of cable television channels and our site number. We were also given a free Hershey chocolate bar! We received the keycard and told how to use it. When you first arrive, the gate is opened for you from inside the office. When you drive out, all you have to do is drive up to the gate and it opens automatically. When using the keycard, it is necessary to lean out of the RV window - the Roadtrek van window was slightly high to reach the slot without leaning out the window to reach it. A large Class C or Class A would need to have someone either get out to use the card or for the driver to reach down. The card slot seems to be at the height for a car or small truck window - which makes sense as other than a Class B, a C or A rarely leave the campground once in and a towed car is used to get around. The card was no problem - other than remembering to get it out when coming in - and in the rain, getting wet leaning out to get the card in the slot.  If you have reservations and will be coming in after the office is closed, you must call them THAT day and let them know and they will let you know where the card will be left for you. You must, of course, return the card when you leave.

As you pull through the gate there are different roads ahead to go to different parts of the campground. All of the roads inside the campground are gravel. If you take the road ahead that goes off to the right you loop up and around to several RV spaces and then into the tent/pop up section. The tent/pop up area has sites with water and electric. Some of these sites have cable. There are also six primitive tent sites and two cabins. If you follow the road to the right, you will drive past a number of RV sites and this road leads up to a road going up a hill to another section of the campground with a number of "big rig" sites. We missed our site driving in the first time and followed this road to the right and where it branched off to go up the hill it also looped back to the entrance of the campground bringing us back to where our site was. I have to share what there are hills that the roads go up and over. Where I thought we had not gone up hill at all, we wound up driving on this road looping back with a drop off on both sides with nothing on the edge of the road to keep you from going off. I was glad that we would not have to drive that road inside the campground at night.

RV sites vary in price by the type of site. There are 30 amp sites and 50 amp sites. There are sites with electric/water only, electric/sewer/water, electric/water/cable, and electric/water/sewer/cable. There is wifi that reaches across the campground. If you don't want a sewer hookup at your site, there is a campground dump station to use. We had a very strong wifi signal at our site. The cable television was clear - it was a cable company and not a satellite company providing the signal. The selection of channels was large - there were a number of sports channels (which we had no interest in), all of the regular networks, and also several popular cable networks including Turner Classic Movies (TCM). We tried the antenna for over the air channels and had pretty good reception without having to raise the antenna or point it. We found the channels that we were looking for that way and there may have been even more had we put up the antenna and directed it.

We reserved a 30 amp, electric/water/sewer/cable site and that is what we got. There was an electric box with a 30 amp, a 50 amp, and a 20 amp outlet inside - all with circuit breakers. I was surprised when I walked around vacant sites that were marked on the map as 30 amp that there was a small outlet box with just a 30 amp outlet inside - and no circuit breaker.

The site that we had was bordered on three sides by upraised ground and large rocks that formed a wall into the ground around the three sides. This seemed to be the only site like this that we could see. I would prefer to not have this same site again. Other sites were flat to the grass and would have been much easier to back into and to position the Roadtrek to find level. When I made the reservations I told the gentlemen on the phone that we needed a level site as our RV has not automatic leveling system. He indicated that the site was level. It was not quite level - but I was able to move around enough in the site to find an almost level spot that was close enough to not have to pull out the leveling ramps, which while easy to use are a pain in the neck to deal with - especially as we go and come every day. I looked around at other sites over the days that we were here and other sites looked more level - and we pulled into one that was level right off.

All of the sites have a picnic table and a fire ring - and while our fire ring was on the grass the picnic table was in the site and too much to move over the wall up to the grass to get it out of the way. It would have been much easier to get around in the site if the picnic table was not there. The other sites we could see had their picnic tables on the grass - or easily moved onto the grass.

You can see in the photos above the space we were in. Below is a photo of spaces along the other side of the road from us that were all flat to the ground.

 The restrooms were spotless. There were four shower stalls in the men's room and four toilet stalls with a row of sinks. There were also two urinals. The restroom was heated (we were here in the Fall). The ladies room was on the opposite side of the building. There was a utility sink outside the men's room and the laundry room was next to that.

The campground is well maintained. The cable TV connection at our site looked new. There is a large pavilion for campground activities up on a hill. This campground has ice cream socials and activities in the pavilion.

 Many things are also offered to guests of the campground off site at the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn on Route 340 in Bird-in-Hand. You may use the indoor pool, the fitness room, the game room, the tennis courts, the playground, the basketball courts, the hot tub, and the hiking trail there. You are also given passes for two complimentary two hour bus tours of the Amish Farmlands. These tours are the same as those sold by ticket in the area - and leave from the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn and Restaurant. While not at the campground, this is an area where if you stay all day and all night and never leave a campground - any campground here - you are missing all that this area has to offer. With a Class B it is easy - take off each day and explore. With a C or an A, you want to come to this area towing a vehicle that you can take off for the day in. Of course, with a trailer, you have your tow vehicle.

Sites are not pushed close together. There is a lot of room between the sites. The grounds are extensive with a lot of open space. You are very close to Route 30 which is a major truck road and you can hear the trucks going past at night. On nights that we had the heat pump (part of the A/C) on, we could not hear the trucks. When it was not on, we could hear the trucks going past. I was wondering why when I was listening to the trucks one night, why at the "other" campground I had not noticed them - but realized that when we are there, the A/C is on all of the time.

Will we go back? I am pretty certain that we will. Everything was nice about this campground. Another site would be preferred and we will make sure that we request not having this same site again. It is also less expensive than where we had been staying - and while not by a great deal, with repeated nights, the savings adds up for a stay. It is also much easier to get in and to exit than the "other" campground. Check in is at 2:30 and check out is at 2;00 pm which means no need to rush to dump your tanks on your last day.  It is a bit further out from where we have stayed and used to stay when visiting here by hotel, but I know there are shortcuts through the farm roads to make that difference negligible.

 Country Acres Campground is located at 20 Leven Road, Gordonville, PA 17529. The telephone number is 866-675-4745. There is a website. Use your GPS to easily find it, if you are not familiar with the area. There is a lighted sign at the entrance on Route 30 that makes it easy to find at night.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Never a Dull Moment Part 2

Welcome back! In our last article - Never a Dull Moment Part 1, we never actually got to the article that I sat down to write. We took a meandering path to why we were going to a new campground in an area where we have had a favorite campground for four years. Well we are back now to what was to be a one part article about our October trip.

The Roadtrek was packed the day before. Two days before that water went into the fresh tanks. We saw on the weather ahead that there might be some cold nights - nothing below freezing but just in case, Meryl suggested that we isolate the interior (rear) fresh water tank and use the water in the exterior tank first. This is easy to do with the various settings on the 190 and the 210. (See our Summer Mode/Winter Mode article for specifics on how to do this.) Of course, the bed was already made when this was decided so Meryl crawled under to the cabinet with the water valves, I held up the mattress so that she could get the door open and she made the adjustments to the water valves.  When the night temperatures got cold- which was to be almost the end of the trip, the exterior and larger fresh tank would be empty or near empty and we would switch over to the interior tank which is much more protected inside from the cold. We were ready to go.

We got out the morning we were leaving at about 9:15 am. If you read this site regularly I have mentioned that we live on a very busy four lane suburban avenue and while everyone should already be at work at 9:00 am, there is a constant stream of cars and trucks going past our house well after 9 am. The first thing we do when we get into the Roadtrek to start a trip is turn on the compressor DC/AC only refrigerator. All that is involved is putting the Roadtrek battery switch on and turning the thermostat inside the fridge up from off - to about mid-way which should get the temp inside up in about a hour and a half. The only thing inside the fridge is my spare insulin pen which must be kept at a temperature between 36 - 42 degrees F. After the pen is started for use it cannot be kept in a refrigerator and must be as near to room temperature as possible (more about traveling like this in a future article). So I had the pen in use with us inside one of the cabinets and the spare in the fridge - at the time - in a cold bag with two ice blocks also inside - just to keep it cold until the temperature goes up in the fridge. We are in, I am behind the wheel with the engine started, and Meryl is setting up the fridge. She pushes the test button on the Roadtrek monitor panel after the fridge is on - and she says - "We have a battery problem!" OK - what? The battery LEDs with the engine on - for every other time like this - usually shows all LEDs to the top lit indicating that the engine is charging the batteries. The lights are now down to the bottom two LEDs. Not good! The batteries are low - and apparently too low for the panel to indicate that the van engine is charging them. We discussed what to do and decided to shut off the fridge. With that the LEDs still did not go up to indicate charging but now went to G - the third LED from the top of the four. At worst we would lose the pen, at least worst we would have to start the countdown of days the pen can be used out of the fridge much sooner than we would like, at best the batteries would start to charge as we were driving. Of course, this is on my mind as we finally get to pull out into the street - which took about twenty minutes for there to be a break in the traffic. We started out with the idea that we were leaving "early" - at least for us. It was after 10:00 am and we were just turning the corner from our house.

As I am driving, I am thinking about the batteries and the refrigerator. We decided that the pen would hold up in the cold bag for several hours, but I kept wondering if the battery panel would ever show that they were charging. This has happened with the generator when the batteries are low - and it takes about a half hour for the Charge LED to come on. To get to a limited access road it takes us just about a half hour from the house. Just before the highway entrance came up I pulled over into a shopping mall and we checked the LEDs - Charging! Good. One less thing to think about. We left the fridge off and decided we would wait until we stopped at a rest area for lunch to put it on. The start of this trip was certainly not dull - nor was it relaxing. Maybe I am expecting too much to relax on a trip...

Traffic to Pennsylvania was not bad - at least once we left New York State. We bounced and banged on what were supposedly recently newly paved roads - none of which actually looked like they were newly paved - or at least had, already, splits and large holes in the pavement. Not unusual - the trip out of NY and back in is always - bang, rattle, shake, bang. We stopped for gas in New Jersey - a must, as gas in NJ is about 40 to 50 cents a gallon less than where we are in New York and about 20 cents a gallon less than in Pennsylvania. We paid $1.97 a gallon. I know that gas is a lot less than this in other parts of the country, but it has not gone near to be below $2 here where we are in NY at all this year.

The "new to us" campground has a 2:30 check in time and while I did not expect it to be crowded or full, since this was our first time here we did not know what reaction we would get if we arrived there early As it was, it was 2:10 pm when we pulled up in the lane to the office. There was a big trailer in the lane in front of us. We went inside the office and we were greeted by a woman who was working with a man behind the counter who was getting the trailer registered. Each was very nice and we were welcomed like old friends. (More about this in our review of the campground in two weeks.) I did make a point of telling her that we come to Lancaster regularly and are hoping that we will be staying with them for now on - again, mentioning why. She also was not surprised like the Amish woman working here mentioned in Part 1. She gave us our site number and our key card. She said that she would open the lift gate the first time in and then you must use the card to enter after that. The gate opens automatically - same gate - same lane - when exiting.

We drove through the gate and after passing the site, not seeing it, we had a little tour of the roads through the campground to get back to it. Our back in site was closed in on three sides by large rocks that created a wall about a foot and a half to two feet high. The site looked narrow and had a picnic table taking up a corner of the rear of the space. Up from the rocks was grass mounded up around the site. It was next to a road on one side and nothing but grass on the other with the next RV site about 50 feet away. The site angled into the road. I backed in hoping to find that it was level and not have to bother with the leveling ramps. Often with a Class B you have the room to move around in the space until you find the right level area. This site was not cooperating and we were winding up off level in all directions - front low, side high. It took almost a half hour until I hit a place that was close enough. It involved being in the space diagonally and at the same time avoiding the picnic table - which had it not been there, I still think I would have found a level spot much faster. OK - get out to put down markers to find that exact spot again and test the electric box. I opened the driver's door and Meryl said "Wait!" but too late. The corner of the door hit one of the wall rocks. I sighed as I looked around at all of the other sites- most of them vacant with nothing around them but flat grass...  Electric box tested good. The markers were placed next to the tires (I have to say that sometimes getting back to where the markers are exactly is like finding a needle in a haystack - and on this trip - which has never happened before - we never did get close each night when we got back and wound up finding level all over again each night. I actually discovered one night that if the front of the van stuck out into the road (which it should not) the van was perfectly level.) We got into the Roadtrek and headed over to Roots Farmers Market for what was left of the day.

That night when we turned on the water pump it ran but little water came through the toilet or the sink. Oh boy, now what?!? I turned the pump off and then back on and turned on the sink. The water ran slow and then ran with regular pressure and stayed that way. I wondered if this happened because it was colder outside than it has been when using the water. I had the water running fine at home when I tested it before the trip so that we would have no surprises. The water ran fine that night and up to the last night when it was really cold out - mid-30's at night and it did it again. Well, whatever it was it worked itself out - and before I winterize which will be soon, I will check the water pump filter to see if there is anything in there that is slowing the flow that had to shake loose to run steady. 

I knew in advance of the trip that the next day was supposed to rain - just rain. We have found places to go and things to do here in the rain before - all too often - and I figured we would get past the day and onto what was forecast as good weather. During the day it rained heavily on and off - and even more off than on as it got into the afternoon. I was thinking how great it was that the rain would just pass, but weather on the radio was still talking about heavy rain that night. Fine. What we did not know is what was about to come.

We went to a restaurant not far from the campground that night. I felt it would be better than driving a distance on already dark roads with the rain expected to start and fog being talked about. After dinner we should have just headed back to the campground, but it was early - for us -, it was not raining, and I decided to make a stop before going back just to kill some time. By the time we were back in the Roadtrek to go back to the campground, it had started to rain. It was a steady rain but not a hard rain. We had the radio on to a popular local country station and in the middle of a song, I heard something that I have only heard in tests (and having been in major hurricanes I had never heard this for any of those) - the emergency broadcast tone. This was not a test. It was an emergency broadcast by NOAA and it named the counties and towns that a severe storm was heading for. The warning said that there would be 60 mile per hour winds and that anyone outside should take shelter in a strong building. One of the counties listed was Lancaster and one of the towns included was the one the campground is in. They gave a time frame for when the storm would reach us and when it would pass. We already in the rain and that was starting to pick up. The winds were yet to come. We got back to the campground and pulled up to the gate. I discovered quickly one of the drawbacks to campgrounds that have gates and keycards to open them - you have to lean out of the window to get the card in when it is raining. The box from the Roadtrek window was a stretch and I had to take my seatbelt off to get far enough out the window to reach - hoping the whole time that I would not drop the card. (I tend to drop things at the most opportune moments.) I got the card in the slot and back out and the gate lifted. I tossed the card to Meryl and we drove in to our space. It was raining and the wind was starting to pick up but not to any extreme. Unfortunately, backing into this site required assistance from someone outside so as to not hit the picnic table. Well, I was driving - and Meryl got out. We were both getting out eventually anyway to hook up. In the time that it took to get into a spot on the site that we were close to level and then hooking up the electricity and cable in the rain - it is very exciting plugging into 30 amps when soaking wet - we both did get wet. While we were out there, I looked right behind us and up to see the electric pole that was there with its wires going right over the top of the Roadtrek - and it occurred to me that this was not a great thing to have right behind us and over us in a 60 mph wind. There was not much we could do about it now - and it, I reasoned, that it must have weathered other storms and was still standing - and it had large and long guide wires holding it in place. I also looked at the rock wall on three sides of us and imagined the rain building up into a pool that would surround us in this site. We were still out there getting wet - it was time to get inside. We had rain jackets on - and hats - but that just meant that we had wet jackets and hats to deal with once we got inside. Meryl put down some plastic covers and put hooks up on the side ledge in the front of the Roadtrek and hung up the wet jackets. While she was doing this, I went to one of the cabinets and got out our NOAA emergency weather alert radio. I plugged it in and pulled out the antenna. It had been awhile since I used it last and it took me a little while to remember how to get it to broadcast. We heard the same alert we had heard over the van radio. It also indicated that the storm was getting closer. I wondered to myself if when they say if you are outside you should get inside, if that meant standing or walking outside - or if you are in a car or - say an RV - if you should be getting the heck out of it and finding a building. The only open building here was the restrooms. In there we would not know what is going on with the alert or if the alert would be extended past the time predicted that the storm would pass. I did not say anything to Meryl and she did not say anything to me - as she was thinking the same thing. She was already planning if we could fit under the bed if need be - away from what she decided would be breaking glass from trees crashing through the Roadtrek's windows. I looked out the window at the several RVs and trailers that were near by.  They were all occupied. No one was running for cover. Foolish as it might be we stayed inside the Roadtrek which is a heavy van. Out on Route 30 that passes the campground nearby, I could see trucks and cars driving along. A bit nervous, we sat down in the front seats and put on the television. I started my laptop and looked at weather radar maps and saw projected paths of the storm for were we were sitting. At about the time the warning said the winds would arrive we could both hear them and feel the van being shaken side to side. Were we having fun yet? This certainly was not a dull moment - and I certainly was not relaxing. I thought of long past trips when we would be in a hotel and it would rain. You stayed inside and did not give much thought to it other than you were limited in what to do going outside. We were once in a hotel in a hurricane - and the electricity went out and was not expected back on for days. We stayed one night like that and found another hotel that had power the next day - walking our luggage down the staircase from the fourth floor to the car requiring several trips. Even that was not quite like this. I guess feeling vulnerable to the elements is part of the RV lifestyle... Well, if you know this site from the beginning of the articles you know why we do this now and will never go to another hotel - so it is this or stay home.

The storm did pass just around the time it was predicted to leave the area. Things got quiet outside and the van was nice and steady as the wind was gone. I was going to keep the NOAA alert radio set to broadcast if there was another alert- this one works that way, but we decided to pack it up and put it away. We did hear on the television that another part of the storm was coming late in the night - around 3:00 am or so - and sure enough, the rain started hitting the roof about that time and we fell asleep to the sound.

Well, just like the songs lyrics - "the sun will come out tomorrow ..." and "There's got to be a morning after..." - the storm was gone the next morning. The sun did not come out until later in the day but there was a morning after and all was fine. The grass was wet, but the gravel was fairly dry when we unhooked for the day to go off doing the things we do when we come down here.

The last night we saw that the front exterior tank was just about empty and Meryl went into the cabinet to isolate the front tank and turn on flow from the interior tank. Good timing as the temperature was dropping and this was what we planned for when we set the tanks at the start of the trip.

That last night it got colder than the heat pump will handle (40 degrees and below) and while we should have just gone outside and turned on the propane valve to run the furnace and heat the inside up nicely, I decided that we would just pull out the electric space heater that we brought with us - just in case. Finding a place for the heater was the first issue. There is the kitchen counter - full of things we use to go to bed and when we get up. There is the floor. We started with the kitchen counter, moving everything aside. That did not really work out. The temperature where we were sitting was getting really hot - but away from that it was cold. It was a continual dance of getting up to turn it down, then getting up to turn it back up - as the the thermostat on this space heater does work - but it is made for a much larger space and not intended for a six foot open box in front and another six foot open box behind. I tried it on the floor. Here the air was getting warm from waste height up but because it was in line of the cold from the floor and the door, it was never turning off. This was where we left it - eventually setting the thermostat on it to 51 which was the highest temperature that it reached at the floor - at least it turned itself on and off at that setting and I could fall asleep not thinking that it would burn itself out - or worse while we were sleeping. From now on - cold weather trips - we will not bother with the electric heater (we may bring it as a backup in case there the furnace does not work) and we will just turn on the propane. Propane is something that we don't really like but will use if we have to - which so far has been rare.

So there you have it. I have to say that we did enjoy this trip overall - but there was really never a dull moment. We did things we enjoy doing on each of the days - even when it was raining. We could have done without the "big" storm. It would have been nice to be able to relax more in between the fun.

Was this the last trip of the year? Well, it is with running water on board, but we are not sure if there will be a cold weather, winterized trip coming or not. That will depend on a few things yet to be seen. On the last day we emptied the black tank and the grey tank - and I did not add the usual water into the black tank to prevent it from going dry. There will be antifreeze in it very shortly. Oh, and did we love the new campground - it has its pluses and minuses. A review will be coming up very soon - with photos.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Never a Dull Moment - Part 1

There is a superstition that if one starts out the day saying that it will be delightful and carefree, this almost assuredly guarantees just the opposite. Well, I was looking forward to our October trip to be just that - delightful and carefree. Silly me! We had to cancel a two day trip in September because we had not made reservations at a campground in advance. For the past two years we have been waiting to a day or two before planned trips to call to make reservations. This seemed to have been working - no risk of paying a canceled reservation fee - as much as a night's stay at some campgrounds - when at the last minute the weather would be terrible or unexpected things at home demanded our presence. I had not even thought twice about not doing the same for this trip at the end of September. We were going to a Quilt/Fiber Sales Show near Philadelphia and then planned to spend the next day at Green Dragon Farmer's Market in Lancaster the next day and home at night on the next day. A nice three day business/pleasure trip.  Well, there were no campsites to be had in any campground that we called - even a few that I would not normally consider staying at. The Roadtrek had been packed the day before - the bed was made - all was inside - our clothes and necessities for three days. And it did not happen. We did go to the Quilt Show - by car and home in one day the next day. So as that trip did not happen I was really looking forward to this October trip!

I made the reservations for the October trip right after this all happened in September. We were going to stay in a different campground in Lancaster County - not the one we have been staying in for the past four years. A coming article will be a review of the "new to us" campground. Why we were not going back to Old Mill Stream Campground is a tale in itself. Old Mill Stream raised its rates two years ago and there were signs that things would be changing. All of 2014, things were somewhat as usual - though they no longer accepted charge cards when making reservation by phone and required a check be mailed to hold a reservation. The couple who have run the campground for years and years were not always around. This was not a good sign. They were made this an exceptional campground - beyond a good campground. Our first trip there in 2015 in May, these people were nowhere to be found. Things were becoming more "corporate". This campground had been owned privately and then by the Hershey corporation (along with the children's amusement park next door - that this campground has been a part of). Just after we started coming it seems that a European corporation bought out the amusement park and the campground - but there has been no evidence of that until now. When we arrived for five days for July Fourth this year - there was a great deal of change in customer relations and particularly in the revision of the campground entrance - and not for the good. Let's start with the entrance - and exit. It was being changed so that anyone coming into the amusement park and also the campground had to enter a single lane entrance that split off into three lanes going into three parking booths. The right hand booth and lane was for RVs going into the campground - but this did not mean that cars going in to park for the amusement park did not get into that lane as well. Busy amusement park - lots of people with small children coming in (this amusement park is focused on young children) - and big RVs trying to get in to get into their space. One would think that at 2;00 pm when the campground starts check-in that this would not be much of a problem - but it is. To make it even more exciting the entrance lane at the corner of busy Route 30 is alongside the exit lane and cars pull into the entrance lane to exit - while you and your RV is out in the road trying to get in. We saw this happening that Fourth of July week. We discovered that week, that to exit the campground you now followed a sign that led your RV into the parking lot for the amusement park - and as you tried to make your way though the narrow aisle - narrow even for a Class B - you came upon moms and dads walking their toddlers by the hand through the lane - oblivious to the RV behind them. We saw a few close calls. By our trip there in August, the parking lot changes were complete and the situation getting in or out was even worse. Now, also in July and August we discovered that the last row of the campground - which just happened to be where our preferred for four years site was (next to the bathhouse) - was located right where the "overflow" parking on the grass for the amusement park starts. We woke up one morning to some odd sounds and looked out the window to see cars being parked behind us. (Just what you want for security in a campground - people who don't belong in the campground getting in and out of their cars all day - and into the evening, right behind your RV.)

OK - that is just the getting in and getting out. The people working in the campground and in the office were different. In July, there was one woman who we recognized from before. I spoke with her about the changes that we were seeing and her answer was that the corporation decided it all and no one asked them for any opinion or consultation in planning. It was very evident that the corporate people were taking over. This campground always books solid for Fourth of July weekend and it has always been policy that a reservation cannot be made more than one year to the day in advance. We were told when we first came there that if we wanted to come for Fourth of July weekend we had to make the reservations a year in advance and we have been doing that - every year, despite our not making advanced reservations for other trips. When we checked in I told the woman behind the counter that we wanted to make next year's reservations right then starting on that same date. It has been custom here to give whoever is in a site regularly, preference for that site when making that year in advance reservation. We asked for the same site for next Fourth of July week. The woman at the desk is flipping through papers and calendars and says - "OK I can make the reservation for you - BUT not for that site. It is taken." What?!? We were polite - we exclaimed our disbelief - how could this be? It has always been policy to not make a reservation for a site until one year to the day - and we walked in to the office at exactly 2:00 pm at the very start of check in for this day. When was the site reserved - "several days ago". What?!? "Sorry, it is now first come first serve." Oh yeah?!?  We made the reservation (which can be canceled with no penalty) at our second preferred site. We knew that our favorite campground was not going to be a favorite any longer. We had to find another campground that we would like. The problems were mounting up. The final straw was in August - we went back just for convenience. We had the site for four days and decided that we wanted to stay another night. We got another night but in a different space which was understandable and fine. The morning that we were going to move. We were getting dressed inside the Roadtrek at 10 am and there was a bang on the Roadtrek door. I looked out the window past the closed curtain and there was a man outside. He looked like he belonged to the campground - there are lots of men in tee shirts working now in the campground from the amusement park. Official checkout time at the campground is 11:00 am. It used to be 1:30 pm. It was an hour before that. I open the door and he says we are supposed to be out of the site! I tell him that checkout is an hour away. There is a trailer in the entrance road. Remember - check in is at 2:00 pm - it is 10 am. He gives me a look. I told him that we were moving to another site and when we were finished doing what we were doing we would be moving over there. He went off in a huff. What the heck is going on here?!?

So in August on a rainy afternoon we headed over to a campground that I had seen good reviews for and that is owned by one of the large local companies that has hotels, restaurants, and bake shops and all are family owned and run. It gets great reviews. My hesitation with it in the past was that it has a traffic gate that requires a key to open. Never having been in a campground with a gate - and our usual schedule of arriving late at night on some trips and getting in past office closing. We had to know what the story with that gate and our late arrivals would be. We parked the Roadtrek outside the office and went inside. There was an Amish woman at the desk. Interesting - and nice. We explained that we were just in for information - that we were regular visitors to the area but were in need of a new campground - mentioning some of the problems without saying any name - and she smiled knowingly. The gate key card would be no problem. As long as they know that you are coming with a reservation, they will leave the card and the site number for you outside the locked office. Wonderful! We tried to walk around to look at the campground but it was pouring. From what we could see it looked nice. The next trip we would try it - which was supposed to be the September trip, and I have already said what happened with that. The October trip would be our trial stay.

Wow! All of this and we have not even gotten to the start of the October trip yet. Maybe it is best that we end here and make this Part 1 and the article that I set down to write this afternoon will be Part 2. Sometimes when you think, let me tell you this before I tell you that - well, it can take some time, but we try to keep the path interesting and entertaining as we go meandering along.

So - end of Part 1. Part 2 in two weeks...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

For Chevy Roadtrek Owners - Replacing a Broken Sun Visor Clip

This article is going to be of interest to just the owners of Chevy Roadtrek owners with the newer Chevy Express 3500 or 2500 van - that would be Roadtrek 170, 190, and 210. This applies to years from 2011 on - and MAY also apply to earlier years.

It should seem like it is no big deal to replace the clip that holds the sun visor in place over the windshield. This is something that is in all vans, trucks, and cars - and usually is held in place by screws that screw the clip into the metal roof line under the headliner. That is how many of these are installed - but not on the Chevy Express vans. In fact, doing a search for how to do this on the Internet comes up with results for just about everything else but the Chevy Express Van.

When we first got our Roadtrek in 2011, during the first trip I went to move the sun visor to help to block the sun in my eyes while driving and I noticed that the clip that holds the sun visor from moving and in place to flip down, was loose. I carefully moved the visor out and the clip came down. I tried to push it back into place and it did not stay. On our next trip to dealer service - not knowing if this was a Roadtrek part (as this sits right below the curtain track for the front windshield curtain) or if it was a Chevy part - I asked the Roadtrek service tech at the dealer if he could put it back when he was doing the other work that we were there for. He said he would and when the work was done and we were given the Roadtrek back to leave he said to me that he had never seen a clip go in as this one does and he was not sure that how he got it back to stay would hold for very long. The clip seemed tight, but not exactly in the position it should be in. It actually lasted there until this past summer.

Again, while on a trip, I had glaring sun in my eyes and I went to move the sunvisor and the clip came down in my hand. This time, if we were going to continue on with the trip, we were not going to have time to find any type of dealer and spend time there to have this fixed. So we finished out the trip with a sunvisor that moved with every turn of the van and never really stay in the right spot to block the summer sun.

When we got home I went on the Roadtrek groups for help and was informed that the clip was not from Roadtrek - that Roadtrek does not touch the headliner (though we know that it has to be touched to install the curtain track) and that the part comes from Chevy. Well, at least I knew now where to go to for the part. One kind responder - another Chevy Roadtrek owner - shared the part number that he had been able to find - but no one seemed to know exactly how it installed. I had no problem getting the old one out - it was sitting on my desk.  I started searching for both the part and the method of installation. The part is available from a number of sources - some say that what they are selling is original GM, others say it is a used part from a van, GM sells the part in their service department. The part number is GM# 25840046.

I called the local Chevy Parts Department at the Chevy dealer that I have bought several of our cars at and asked about the part. I was told that it was a two day order and I could order it on the phone. I asked if I could come in and show them the part I had that had fallen out for them to see if it was broken and if I really needed a new part - and if so I would then order it there in person. He said sure and the next day, off we went with the part to Chevy.

I showed the part to the man at the service desk who I had spoken to. He looked at it and told me he had never seen anything like that before. He had no idea how it went in, and he was not sure if it was broken or not. He called over the parts manager who said, "What's that?". They suggested that I walk it over to the service department - which I did. I saw a service manager who I have worked with in the past on my car. I asked him to look and tell me if he thought that the part was broken. He, too, admitted that he had not seen one of these before - apparently they don't come loose or fall out too often (which is a good thing - but when they do it seems they are a mystery). He looked at it and thought he could see parts of it that looked broken or cracked. That was enough - and I knew that I would order the part. Before I walked back to the parts desk I asked the service manager if when it came in, would he have one of the service techs put it in for me - I was not asking him to do it for free - I was willing to have them do it and pay the dealership for the work. His answer was "We'd rather not. We don't want to take the chance that it might break when we try to put it in." Well, that was a surprise! Chevy did not want to repair a broken visor clip in a Chevy van with a Chevy part. As I was walking away, he asked what the part costs. I told him what the parts department told me - $25 including State and local sales tax! He said, "Wow! For that?". Yep...

Online the part is much less - but it is uncertain if you are getting OEM GM and if you are getting a new part. So it was best to order the part from Chevy - have it the next day and not have to have the visor flop around any longer.

OK so we order and pay for the part and go back the next day to pick it up. The part comes in only one color - beige which matched the one in my Roadtrek.  The part has a button that comes down in the middle of the bottom. It appears that the button locks a clip that secures the visor clip to the hole in the metal ceiling beneath the cloth and padded headliner. When I had tried to put the old one back, that button looked like it pushes two sides of a clip apart that lock the visor clip to the metal. With the old one those two sides did not spread very far and the clip just fell back down when touched. I was hoping that the new one would lock in.

Here is what you find when you look up through the head liner where the clip once was -

Here is what the clip looks like and you can see the button below the base behind the part that comes down to clip onto the sun visor -

 Here is the clip from various angles and you can see how it works to go in.

 You can see in the photos that there are actually two mechanisms that hold this in place - the upper part that spreads into the hole and below that just above the base there is a spring clip on each side.

As I examined where this has to go and how it has to go in, I used the old one to see what happens when I push the part up into the hole and where the springs on the side seem to go. It seemed that all of that went up into the hole. I found that I had to push and hold the headline all the way up to make sure that the part went as far up as it could to lock in. I also found that the maneuver to do this and get the button in was awkward.

I also knew that once it went up - if it did not seat properly, there was no taking it down without breaking it and spending another 25 bucks for another one. I measured the depth of the hole - there was enough room above for the whole clip assembly to the base to go in. I started my attempt at this.

I pushed the headliner as far up as I could. I made sure that I had the clip in the proper direction and orientation - VERY IMPORTANT - check twice so that it does not go in backwards! Over the years I have learned that check and "measure twice and cut once" is an important lesson to learn. I had it in the proper direction and I pushed the clip up toward the hole in the metal ceiling though the headliner - making sure that the base was on the outer side of the headliner where it belongs.

I then pushed with some force up and into the hole to sandwich the headliner between the base of the clip and the metal. I pushed it up as far as it would go and I started to push the button up to lock the clip in place. The button went halfway up and then there was a LOT of resistance. It took a lot of effort to push that button into place with the fingers of one hand, but I could not let go with the other hand in case the clip came down before it locked. I got the side of the palm of my hand on the button and got it to go the rest of the way up and as far as it is supposed to go. When I let go, there was a deep impression of the bottom of the button in my palm. It was up and it did not move when I took my hand away.

Now, I very gently touched it - was it going to come down? No, it stayed in place. Next I gave it the acid test and I pulled on the clip - it was solid. Good. So far it seems that is is fixed and secure.

It may be that this is the only instructions on the Internet on how to install a visor clip on a Chevy 3500/2500 van. There seems to be nothing else like how this one goes on. I looked at the visor clips on my 1996 Chevy van and they have screws that hold them in place. I looked at the clips on my 2013 Chevy car and that clip is completely different than this one.

So if your visor clip comes down, now you know what part to get and how to install it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Colonial Williamsburg Revisited

I have been going to Colonial Williamsburg for over 50 years and have seen many changes over those years. Meryl and I started going to CW - as called by those who work there and those who have a special relationship to Colonial Williamsburg - when we were first married and have gotten there almost every year since. We had not been able to get there last year and I have not written about it here since the first year that we had the Roadtrek. Things have changed since then and it is time for another article.

From where we live - by routings - the trip should take eight hours including stops for lunch and dinner. With construction and traffic the trip can take almost 12 hours and while we have done this straight through it is not the best idea to do. A stop in PA and move on the next day for the rest of the trip. I take what many would consider the wrong way to go. We go on 95, around Baltimore to avoid propane restricted tunnels - which some claim you can go through and some claim you cannot - so we just go around and take the bridge - if we are not stopping in PA first. Then it is 95 to the Capital Beltway and around DC back to 95 and straight down until the Richmond bypass and then onto Rt. 60 which takes you right to CW and the campground that we prefer. We have rarely gotten stuck around Baltimore and we have never had a problem around DC. The problem comes in before Fredericksburg and approaching the bypass around Richmond. Many have shared what they feel are better routes - all of which take one way around and way out of the way - and when looking at travel times for these routes come out to be the same time as dealing with the traffic - but you are moving along through the many more miles. Anyway - the unpopular 95 has worked for us before and since the Roadtrek. It also brings us to a gas station that has always had the lowest price gas of any in that area or any other that we go through - both traveling and at home. I don't know why this is with this station but it has been this way for years. We paid $1.94 here in August when gas at home was still near $2.60 and was not much better anywhere else that we traveled through. Hmm... wondering what it is right now - quick check with Gas Buddy and its $1.88 (Oh my!). (This is at the time of this writing 9/30/15.) Here it is still well over $2.00. (I get real excited when I see low gas prices!) So moving on - cheap gas that actually lasts and is not gone after 100 miles - to getting to the campground.

We stay at American Heritage campground in Williamsburg, VA. It is reasonable and is the nicest campground of any that we have ever been to. Every site is a paved, level site. The cable television selection is better than most and the wifi is very good. We don't use it but there is a swimming pool and also sports fields and a hiking trail into the woods. It is situated off the road and you do not hear the road noise.

So, on to Colonial Williamsburg. If you have never been there or don't know at all what it is, CW was built in the 1930s with Rockefeller money. Rockefeller was enticed to spend his wealth by the pastor of the local and historic Anglican church who had a vision of restoring a sleepy college city back to what it looked like in the 18th Century. Many of the buildings remained. Well, Rockefeller with the help of Rev. Goodwin's influence bought the whole town - well just about the whole town as there were a few holdouts and they were just built around. They created Williamsburg as it was with archaeologists and researchers and specialist architects and did so with 18 Century building techniques. What you see today is coming on 100 years old on its own in a not a very long time. What you see, go into and are surrounded by are restored or reconstructed homes, public buildings, and trades shops populated with people of the past - living history interpreters that bring the city of the 18th Century back to life. It is all around you and if you let yourself be drawn in, you are part of it. It is time travel - and for the serious visitor - meaning not the family or couple who come in for the afternoon on their way to the amusement park, walk the streets and don't buy a ticket to experience what goes on inside and areas outside not on the street and look and leave - it can be an experience like none other.

In CW you will encounter every day people of the past, trades and workmen - men and women, and some people who you may recall from history lessons long ago - Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington - to name a few. These are not people in costumes walking around as in Disney parks - these are historians who have taken their interpretations to the highest levels of research and will convincingly portray these people of the past so that you will come away believing that you have met the real thing.

Since my last article some things have changed. I spoke then of the Revolutionary City program which at that time was spread over three days. Since that program has gone from three days to two days to now a part of one day. These are scenes of events that took place in the city of Williamsburg in various years during and before the American Revolution. The focus this year has been 1781 - the year leading up to Washington's victory over the British at Yorktown, Virgina just several miles from Williamsburg. The year will change next year, and the next year, etc. Added in the day in the afternoon were outdoor,  staged programs about other events that took place in the city - most on a more personal basis between people who lived in the city in the 18th Century.

There has been some construction going on as research showed that a "Market House" existed on a stretch of property that has been left open. The CW team of archaeologists did a dig and found traces of the posts that supported this open air structure along with a small building that was also found in the research. It has taken three years to complete the research, build the buildings using historic tools and methods and it is about to open to the public this Fall.

This is where people would go to do their food shopping - no, not everyone grew their own. There was a market place that would open early in the morning and some would have stands inside the Market House structure and others would sell from blankets around the outside. You would go to buy vegetables, fruits, fish, and meats. One needed to get there early to get the best cuts and the best choices. When opened it will be interpreted both as an historic site and also be used as a sales site.

This is the newest - some of the photos below are the oldest. The Capitol Building - the building that housed the legislative body of the House of Burgesses where Washington, Jefferson, Henry all served as Burgesses. The Capitol is a reconstructed building built on the original foundation.

Duke of Gloucester Street - the main street of the colonial city - full of trades shops, taverns, and residences.

A tavern in the 18th Century is not only a place to go to enjoy a rum or punch but also is a place to dine and/or sleep.

You will also find the homes of some patriots who were very famous in their time but little taught in history books today - unless you live in Virginia. This is the home of Peyton Randolph - the President of the First Continental Congress and the President of the Second Continental Congress until his death while in Philadelphia at the beginning of the proceedings. He was highly respected  throughout the Colonies and would have been, it is felt, the first President of the United States had he lived.

In the trades shops and yards you get to see and interact with those everyday people who helped make things happen. This is the yard of the Wheelwright's shop.

One of the staged programs - this looks at a serious situation of a woman about to be married who realizes as we watch the short encounter with the aunt of her fiance that she will not be able to bring both her personal servant (slave) and that servant's child with her to her marriage. There are many programs presented that make very real to us the realities of life in this time.

For us this is always a great trip. We had the pleasure to be able to talk with old friends who work at CW who we have met over the years and we also met, by surprise, friends from home that were there visiting as we were who are fellow members in our reenacting unit.

If you have an interest in history this is a must visit. When you arrive buy a multi-day ticket. It is now good for any number of days from the date of purchase to the end of the calendar year. It takes a minimum of three days to see enough of Colonial Williamsburg to come away with an appreciation for it. Less and you barely scrape the surface. There are also many other historic places to visit in this area and I will write articles about our visits to those soon as well. We spent 9 nights and ten days here this year. We have stayed longer. It is open all year. From January through February there are fewer programs but all buildings remain open. There is RV parking at the Visitors Center and shuttle buses or a walking trail to the historic area . I have a secret parking place to park the Roadtrek that I am thinking now I better keep to myself...

Colonial Williamsburg

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Finally Resolving the Window Cover Problem

The front of every Roadtrek roof has a signature thee windows. On the Chevy Roadtreks and also the new Zion, these are real windows. On Sprinter Roadtreks these are decals. I would so much have preferred decals.

Our 2011 Roadtrek 190 Popular came with three plastic panel covers for these windows. The covers for the two flanking windows have done a fairly decent job in blocking the sunlight that streams through the roof windows. The center window has done a poor job at this with light streaming through past the top of the cover - since we have owned the Roadtrek. I could never figure out why. The window covers are held in place with turn buttons that fit into slots cut into the covers at the Roadtrek factory. The turn buttons are installed at the factory to match the slots. Why did then did the cover not fit?  It took me until very recently to realize that the either the turn buttons are in the wrong place or the slots on the cover are in the wrong place. But how could that be? Surely, there is a template or computer guided cutter used to cut out or stamp out the cover. And when the turn buttons are installed there must be a standard placement.

To block the light coming through the window, the cover needs to cover the gasket that surrounds the window glass as shown in the photos above. The side covers do this. The center cover does this on the sides and bottom but not the top.

I decided to make my own cover to correct this and finally, get the coach dark when the sun comes up in the morning. Now, I have gotten the comments on the last article about blocking the light that comes through the ceiling fan - just wear a sleep mask. A sleep mask was the first thing I tried when I was being woken when the sun came up every morning. The sleep mask seemed a good idea and I put it on and in the morning it had moved off of my eyes and there was the sunlight. It may work for some, I must move a lot in my sleep and the mask was not staying on. I have heard from other Roadtrek owners about these windows who feel the same way as I do - the covers - particularly the center cover - just do not block the light. There are earlier year Roadtreks that did not come with any window covers at all.

I looked in home stores and craft stores for a hard, not flexible, material that would make a good cover. I was hoping to find a plastic similar to the original but found nothing like it at all. Most of what I found in craft stores - corrugated plastic board or foam core board did not block the light. I also looked at window cling material that is used for blackout windows which would have worked but I was concerned about a warning on the package that the glass could break with this material applied if the glass becomes too hot. These windows in the direct sun get VERY hot. I did not want to chance having these windows break - they are an odd shape and size and to replace one, you must wait for Roadtrek to send a replacement or hope to find a glass shop that is willing to match the shape with auto grade glass. I was in my workshop and  found a small piece of oak surface plywood that I had used for a project at sometime in the past. It is nicely finished on both sides, is the correct thickness - this was another problem in matching the cover as the cover must fit under the turn buttons. The original cover is 5/16" thick. This plywood just happened to be 5/16" thick. The turn buttons can be loosened - enabling more space under each one - but they can only be tightened down so far, so any significantly thinner material is no good. I went to Home Depot to find a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet of finished oak plywood. Having been in Home Depots and Lowes stores in other parts of the country, I know that the condition of the wood sold is very much better than the wood that is sold in these stores local to me. Any trip out for wood involves visits to multiple stores to find wood that is not warped, cut up, or scarred. If one wants to build a boat you will find wood perfectly bent at these stores near me. Plywood should be different, especially hardwood plywood - but two stores and I found nothing usable. At that point I gave up to wait to go another day to more stores. Perhaps I was not meant to find the wood, as I returned to my workshop and was rummaging around in my wood stacks and there was a nice piece of oak plywood large enough to cut the cover from.

OK - so I took the original cover which is actually the correct size and traced it onto the plywood. In the Roadtrek I measured where the slots for the turn buttons were off - if the bottom of the slot on the original had been the top of the slot, it would have fit as it should. I traced the line of the bottom of the slot on the original and moved the original down so that the top of the slot would now be in the correct location and traced around the slot. I took the plywood over to my bandsaw fitted with a fine tooth blade for a smooth cut and cut out the new cover. A little sanding on the cut edge and the new cover was ready to test.

Perfect! The top of the cover completely covers the black gasket as the original should have.

No light now comes through the new cover! If I do this again, there is one more thing that I would correct. The length of the slots are just a little too long - on the original of all of the covers and on my new cover. Shortening this would hold the cover a little better and would prevent the little light that leaks through the slot.

Just to illustrate clearer what is wrong with the original cover. Here are two photos comparing the corrected cover in wood to the original grey plastic cover.

We tested the new cover out on the next trip and it worked perfectly. If you have mis-fit covers (how can that happen???), this is an easy way to make new covers if you have basic woodworking skills or know someone who does. (No need for big shop tools, a hand scroll saw for a few dollars will cut this out easily.) Finished oak plywood is really nice wood to work with - both sides are finished and the grain pattern is beautiful. I have not used any surface finish on the cover. If you do want to finish it, use something that will hold up to the heat of the sun coming through the glass in the morning when the window is in place. As I say, these windows get very hot in the sun. I have made Reflectix covers for the three of these roof windows (sometimes called "opera windows") to put up when leaving the Roadtrek in the sun all day to cut down on the intense heat that builds up in the coach in this area under the windows - but the Reflectix fits loosely and does not cut out the light.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hollywood Casino and Penn National Race Course, Grantville, PA

A year ago we tried to go to the Hollywood Casino with the Roadtrek. The casino is part of the Penn National Race Course near Hershey, PA - the city the chocolate comes from. Before going on that trip I contacted the casino and asked where RVs may park as I knew that they had a parking garage that we would not fit in. I was told that there was a special lot for RVs and trucks and that we should not enter at the main entrance but follow the signs past that and continue on to this special lot. When we got to the parking lot it was nothing more than a gravel road that went in a circle with a line of 18 wheelers parked in it every which way. There was no place to put even an RV as small as a Roadtrek. We drove around that lot a couple of times and gave up. In the distance we could see a regular parking lot for cars. When I had contacted the casino before we went, I was told very emphatically DO NOT PARK in the car parking lots. OK. We left.

This year we would be in Hershey again for the same event as last year and I decided in advance that we were going back to the Hollywood Casino. I brought their location up on Google Maps in satellite mode and carefully examined where the main entrance leads. There was a very large parking lot right before the entrance to the indoor parking garage just to the right. There was plentyl of parking there and I could easily see that the Roadtrek would have no problem finding a place to park there. After mentioning last year in a article here about our experience in the so-called RV lot there, I received a few responses that there is no problem parking if you just go into the car lot.  The heck with what management told us in the email... And that is exactly what we did.

This was at night and the lot we went to was not crowded at all. Most of the cars were turning toward the parking garage. We would have a short walk mostly uphill, but that was fine. There were two other RVs in the lot - one a Class C and another Class B off in the distance which could have been just a standard conversion van. We parked and went into the casino.

We are not gamblers but I love the atmosphere of casinos. This one, I learned from their website  has a museum. A museum of gambling? Nope. This casino's name and theme is Hollywood and this casino has a collection of Hollywood memorabilia - props and costumes from some pretty significant stars and movies. I am a long time film buff and have been going to the movies since I was an infant in my mother's arms. My parents were not going to stay home and not go to the movies and brought me along. I don't remember, of course, what I saw as an infant but I remember some pretty big films that we saw in the mid-50's and beyond. I love the movies! Anyway - I wanted to see the collection at this casino.

The museum is free and not very large but we saw some pretty neat things that impressed me. There are two costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe, props from Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra though the dress on display was a reproduction - everything else in the museum was original, and more.  Here is the motorcycle driven in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade - Harrison Ford and Sean Connery!

Another motorcyle - the Triumph ridden by Marlon Brando in The Wild One (and owned by him when he made the movie).

And another motorcycle - but the BEST of all - Steve McQueen in The Great Escape! This one got a big "Oh MY!"

There were costumes and props from Batman Returns - both Batman's outfit worn by Michael Keaton shown below and Catwoman's stitched together jump suit (no photo - it was dark in the museum and this all was behind glass which made photograph quality marginal).

From the movie Aliens - the Alien - (up on the ceiling hanging over you as you walked past)

From one of the Star Trek movies (Kirk era - Star Trek IV) - a phaser and autographed poster -

And from Back to the Future II - a hoverboard!

There was more in the musuem. And my photos here do not really do these objects justice.

The decor of the museum is also Hollywood and there are Roman Arches, backdrop sets, a full size park statue of a Rev War soldier on horseback, the front of a cruise ship (that I looked to see if it said Titanic but it didn't - but that was what it was supposed to be, and more. It is important to know that no one under the age of 21 can go through any entrance door to the casino. No children at all may enter. Some casino complexes - Atlantic City and the casinos in Connecticut have areas that children can go into and walk through to game rooms, shops, restaurants, etc. NOT HERE. They can't see the musuem. They cannot get to any of the restaurants that are part of the casino.

We walked around the casino and no, we did not make a bet. We had dinner and then after dinner we got to see something that neither of us had never seen before.

Penn National Race Course was running races and neither Meryl or I have ever been to a racetrack where the jockeys sit on the horses. Years ago we both were at a local racetrack - since closed - at which Trotters raced. These are horses pulling sulkies (carriages) driven by a jockey. We are not far from the famous Belmont Race Track but neither of us have ever gone. After dinner we went out of the casino and walked right into the racetrack. The racetrack is also free. (Another surprise as it used to cost an admission fee to go to the trotters track we had been to. While there are no children allowed in the casino - there were plenty of children with their parents at the track! This was all a new experience for us and I am sure if this is all common to you, you are wondering what the big deal is but it was a big deal for us. We walked up to the rail and were just a very few feet away from where the horse run. We heard the trumpet and the race was about to start. Each horse came out with its jockey and another horse ridden by what I assume is a trainer and they all walked around the track. Again - all new to us. We watched three races - had we known that the races were going on we would have come out earlier. Between each race you can walk up to where the horses are prepared for the next race - and when the race ended we followed the crowd to see what was going on and found this. There was a food stand outside so if you bring children to the track you can eat outside without going into the casino - though the Skybox Restaurant is within the casino where no children are allowed. Again, we did not make any bets. We did get to see a horse and jockey injured during the last race resulting in both a "people" ambulance and a horse ambulance going out to get them.

Now, while the kids can't go into the casino, there were lots of kids waving race bet tickets around and not one's that they found discarded on the ground. The kids were all making bets along with their parents! And lining up at the payout window with mom or dad to get their winnings. After the races the kids and their parents took off and we went back into the casino to see a free show in the lounge on the casino floor. Not a name but a decent band with a good singer.

Lots of excitement for one night out! For non-gamblers we had a really good time.  We had two events to attend this weekend - one during that day and one the next day and this was the highlight of the trip for us. The events were good too.

The casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am not sure if you could stay overnight without drawing some reaction from the security cars that drive around the parking lots here. If you are inside the casino, no one will stop you from parking. If it is obvious late at night that you are sleeping there, I don't know if they will react. The Connecticut casinos anticipate that an RV will stay overnight - but this is in a specially set aside lot. Here that lot is full of 18th wheelers - which we could see in the distance. We were staying in a campground a bit of a distance away but we choose that not for our Hershey event but for our event near Kutztown, PA the next day.

Here is a link to the museum with hours -

The Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is located at 777 Hollywood Blvd
Grantville, PA 17028. Their phone number is 717-469-2211. Their website is

Hooray for Hollywood!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


We are "night" people. It is just how we are. We go to bed late and tend to get up later in the morning, even when traveling, unless there is somewhere that we plan to be that we must be at early. For some time now, I have been trying to find some way to block out the morning daylight that comes through both the Fantastic Fan cover in the roof and the spaces around the poorly fitting and warped night covers over the three "opera" windows in the front ceiling.The windows all around are pretty well covered by both the curtains that came with the Roadtrek and the insulating Reflectix bubble foil that I fit into the inside frames of some of the windows.

This article will focus on the light coming through the Fantastic Fan, as we have still not come up with an effective way to deal with the three ceiling windows, which Meryl and I are still working on. When I first started asking around the forums about what others do, the first suggestion was a commercially sold foam insert that goes up into the vent frame - and I bought one of these, even though I knew that on the Fantastic Fan with its control knobs shallow to the frame it would not work. Several said, "Oh yes! It works!". It doesn't. This insert is made for a vent with no motor which has a frame that is much deeper than the Fantastic Fan. That went back the next day.

Another suggestion was to cut a piece of Reflectix and use small bungee cords to hold it in place inserting the small wire tips of the six inch, thin cord, bungee cords in between the edge of the frame and the padded ceiling. This actually worked, but I cringed every time I pushed the wire tip of that bungee cord between the frame and the ceiling.  I even covered the wire with heat shrink tubing but even with that there was still a point and I was certain that doing this every night in the RV, sooner of later it would cut into the padded ceiling and the ceiling would rip. This was only a temporary solution.

I started to design a foam insert of my own design. We bought foam and took measurements, drew a pattern, test fitted the paper pattern and cut the foam. The foam was an inch thick and the knobs and controls come down less than that. I cut around the knobs to friction fit the foam up into the frame of the fan - it stayed up for about ten seconds and then came down. The foam had no support to keep it up and anything that might be added to support it would make it too heavy to stay up.  No this was not going to work - good foam cut for nothing.

I went to arts and craft stores looking for something that would work. There is no metal on the frame that attracts magnets. Even the screws were not going to work with magnets. What would work with magnets was the shower curtain frame on the ceiling that widely surrounds the fan. I started looking at ways to put something up around the frame - cloth, a quilted cloth, a piece of foam board that would sit inside the frame. All ideas that had their faults when examined closely. I was not giving up and I kept the idea of using the shower curtain track in some way in mind.

Now, a curtain hung from the track to the floor on the side of the track facing the bed would not work - it would not only block getting out of bed, it would also block getting to the toilet. In the middle of the night when you gotta go, you don't want to struggle with a curtain in your way when you are half awake. That idea was considered and dropped.

What would work? I had one of those "ah ha!" moments walking around a store when I saw the pop up fabric trash cans and clothes hampers. The wire in these to give them support and allow them to fold up flat would work fit inside the shower curtain frame with fabric fitted tightly around it. The wire would hold it in place on the frame and the fabric would stretch around the wire and not sag blocking all light coming through the fan in the middle. I wondered where one would get such wire - and then on our first trip of the season, actually saw it for sale in the surplus and hardware shop at Green Dragon Farmers Market. If there is something that is hard to find, this shop usually has it. They had piano wire in various thicknesses. This was a possibility taking shape - but buying fifty feet of piano wire on a maybe idea was not something to jump on. The idea needed to brew and perk a bit more. We had to know how the fabric would be fit and what fabric would block the light. We passed up the wire - it would be there next time, if we had an actual potentially working design. But the idea continued to perk...

That night in Walmart we are walking around the store - again, late night people sometimes look for places to be out late and a 24 hour Walmart in many places is easy to find (again, to those who are astonished - to each their own - this is "our" own), I pass in the auto aisle windshield covers that are just about what I am thinking about making. Would these fit? I took down the measurements (28.5" x 31.5" and considered "jumbo size" on some of these and "standard" on others) and when we got back to the campground and were settled in for the night, I measured the dimensions inside the entire shower curtain track. It was about 28.5" square - though the track goes off square on the shower side of the aisle slightly. It seemed like this might work - and we did not have to create anything or reinvent the wheel. The next night, back to Walmart, we would find out if this would work. We bought a pair - they are sold in pairs - for less than $10. The one we picked was silver fabric on one side and black on the other. The best part about Walmart is that one can return just about anything - open or not, as long as it is in the same condition as when purchased. If it did not work, it could easily go back - to any store - there or at home.

Back at the campground, I took the circle of folded covers out of their package and they popped open into huge potato chips. I took one of the pair and fitted it up into the frame. It was a bit tricky to get it in and it took the two of us to keep one side up in the frame while the other side went in.  Because the frame does go in deeper on the shower side, one side and that the cover is three inches in length longer than the dimensions of the frame, one side of the cover was going to curl, but it stayed close to the ceiling, was not in the way of any cabinets or the bathroom door, and most importantly, it stayed in place - even with a little coaxing to come down. Huzzah! It looked like it was going to work. That night we left it in place to see what we would see - or not see in the morning when the sun came up.

That next morning I would say that 90% of the light was blocked. It was not blocked completely as there was a grey, dull light coming through the cover around the fan opening. Not really a problem, the idea was working. That night I had the idea, that since we had two, if one worked two would work even better. I put the two together - black fabric side down and thicker silver fabric side to the fan - and the two of us fit the pair in place as one - just like the night before - with the curl on the kitchen cabinet side, which seemed the better side for it. The next morning - darkness. No light was coming through the fan vent opening. This was it! This works!

There are instructions attached on one of the pair to fold them together back into a less than one foot in diameter circle. "Put your thumbs here. Fold inward like a taco". Heck if that didn't work.

So if you are tired of the light streaming in from the Fantastic Fan in the morning when you really would like to sleep some more, this will do it!  Take your own measurements in case your shower track is different.

Fits nicely!

Folded for Storage