Tuesday, September 20, 2011

49 states in 49 years!

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While the two main reasons for my quick trip out East were to see the Hershey RV show and to camp at Assateague Island, my third reason was to visit Delaware for the first time (my 49th visited state!).  So now, only one more state to go (and hoping I’ve saved the best for last!)… Hawaii.   I’ll save that for next year to take the gloom off of turning the big 5-0 Smile

Before getting to Delaware, I spent a few days getting to know Pennsylvania better.  I’d experienced the “edges” of this state a number of times (Philadelphia for business a few times, visited Gettysburg as a kid, and drove the toll road along the Lake Erie shore), but had never driven and explored the broad interior of the state before.  I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed!

I drove to Hershey via the northern East-West route of I-80 and then turned near State College (home of Penn State) to drive through the mountains and along the Juniata and Susquehanna rivers into Harrisburg and over to Hershey.  Even though it was a cloudy day, the hills, rivers, and farmlands made for a scenic and tranquil drive!

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I camped a few days at the Hershey Thousand Trails Preserve RV Park.  I’m not a Thousand Trails member yet, but my emergency road service, Coach-Net, offered a discount deal if I purchased a ReadyCampGo card through the company that owns Thousand Trails and Encore resorts, ELS.  For a $25 annual fee, I get 15 nights of camping at an ELS resort at a discounted rate of $25/night.  A great no-risk way to test out ELS parks to see if I might want to buy one of their broader memberships in the future.  While a number of these parks also participate in the discount camping program I already subscribe to (Passport America, which offers 50% off the nightly rate on typically weekday and/or off-season stays), the ReadyCampGo card will offer a discounted rate for the times when the PA-rate is not available(weekends and in-season).

Hershey Preserve had just been flooded the week before by the torrential tropical storm rains that impacted much of the region, but fortunately, all except for one road within the park were now fully recovered.  That one closed road, though, made it very challenging to get to this site!
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When you make a reservation at Thousand Trails, they don’t assign you to a campsite, but rather just tell you how many campsites remain.  As I was arriving on a Saturday, I knew that first night only had between 1-19 sites available.   When I arrived to the front gate, the park rep gave me a map and said I could go pick out any open site I wished.  While this normally is a great system, it’s not so great when there’s only 1-19 open sites in the huge park of 200+ sites, one of the main roads is closed, you’re towing a car and can’t back up, and the gate agent gives you absolutely no clue where the 1-19 available sites might be located……get a clue where this is going yet?

Yep, I finally experienced getting stuck in a spot for the first time where I couldn’t turn around and needed to un-hook the toad to back up.  Of course that happened just as it also started to pour rain!  So, let’s just say that my first impression of a Thousand Trails park was not very favorable Smile

Fortunately, I had brought my little Dahon folding bike, so I just parked the toad where I unhitched it, put the bike in the motor home to go find the ever elusive available open sites, and once finally found, road my bike back to pick up the toad—fortunately, by then it had stopped raining!

After getting a good night’s rest, the park looked much more pleasing in the morning, and I actually ended up liking the park.  Sites were fairly big, there was a nice pond and walking trails, and oodles of amenities that I unfortunately didn’t have time to enjoy.  I also, unfortunately, didn’t have any time to explore the town of Hershey and it’s many tourist attractions after spending all day at the RV show, but it certainly looked like a pretty little town with lots to see and do.  I’ll need to plan a longer visit here next time!

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Lots of Canada geese call this park home as well!
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After working a few days from the RV, I drove to my next destination of Assateague Island, Maryland, where I planned to work a few more days from there.  The drive took me through a number of small towns in southeast Pennsylvania.  The towns all seem to have houses that are built similar to businesses and come right up to the sidewalks.
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I also drove the backroads of Lancaster county where many Amish farms are located.  Lots of horse-drawn buggies on the roads, and a few even had turn signals!
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You can tell you’re approaching an Amish farmhouse when you see the laundry out drying on the clothesline!
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After all the interesting scenery of Lancaster county, the drive through Delaware was much less memorable.  The large peninsula known as “Delmarva” (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia), is fairly flat with coastal beaches on the Atlantic, numerous marshland coves on the bay side, and mostly farmland in between.

The biggest thing in Delaware (that I saw, at least) was Dover Air Force Base.  It’s huge, and home to the biggest transport planes in the military--.
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Dover also serves as the main mortuary for troops killed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan before they are returned home to their families.  An excellent movie, Taking Chance, featured some of the dignified work the personnel at Dover do to ensure each fallen soldier is prepared impeccably for their final trip home.

Delaware is only about 100 miles long, so in less than 2 hours I was now entering Maryland for the final leg of my trip to Assateague Island.

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