It’s weird to be back on the road again after a two-month hiatus at home in Vermont. Our third day on the road (May 15th), and I think we are getting back in the groove.
Although I have innate organizational skills that came in handy during my years as a librarian, I often employ a *fly by the seat of my pants* strategy while on the road. On many travel days, we will start our journey with no idea where we will spend the night. This was the case when we left Buttonwood Campground along the Juniata River in Mexico, PA. We had stopped off there for two nights to visit with my sister and her husband, who are work-camping at this spot for the summer.
After a slow morning start (we needed to fill up with fresh water, dump and backwash tanks, etc), we headed west on Route 322 towards Interstate 80 via the site of my old alma mater, State College. It was a sunny morning, and a scenic route – one that I could have navigated blind-folded back in the late 70’s. We continued on Route 322 past State College and through the Phillipsburg area – enjoying the morning and the more laid back travel experience off the interstate.
Eventually, we joined I80 and headed west. All was good until we stopped for fuel about 75 miles after picking up the interstate. One of the daily challenges on the road is fueling up – I think most Rver’s would agree with me on this. We’ve developed a pretty reliable strategy when we find a fuel station, and take the exit towards the travel stop. The approach is critical to avoid getting into a pickle at the pumps. There are several key observations that need to take place as you near a fuel station or travel center. Where are the diesel pumps located? What is the traffic pattern? Do I have enough room to enter/exit the station? Am I going to block any entrances or exits when sitting at the pumps? Are there separate pump stations for trucks and are they RV friendly? These decisions have to be made quickly and accurately.
We pulled up to a gas station on this fine, sunny morning, surveyed the scene and made our assessments with minimal conversation. We decided to pull in behind someone who was fueling up on the end island (where the diesel pump was located). Jim made sure that folks could get around us to enter or exit the area. We turned off the truck and proceeded to patiently wait our turn. Our tranquility this fine morning was about to be shattered.
We have never experienced anyone exhibiting *road rage* before – especially when that road rage was directed at us. Jim had just turned off the truck when a guy driving a small Toyota truck pulled up to us, rolled down his window, and started shouting.
“Who do you think you are?” he exclaimed. “You can’t pull up there! You need to move! Are you going to park there all day!” This guy was really irate, and out-of-control. He was clearly having a bad day. And, we clearly could not understand what his problem was with us.
Now, my husband could have reacted any number of ways to this outburst. On some occasions, he might have ignored the antagonist. But, on this particular morning at this particular moment in time, Jim was already somewhat irritated because, as we were pulling off the interstate to make this fuel stop, he noticed that he had no trailer brakes or trailer lights. He was just about to get out of the truck to investigate that problem when this guy starting yelling at him. Let’s just say that Jim did not choose the option that might have deescalated the situation.
As things were heating up, a older, gray-haired, pony-tailed man at an adjacent pump offered up some sound advice. He interrupted the dialogue between Jim and the instigator by aruguing that it was just too beautiful a day to be angry. His calm demeanor attracted Jim’s attention. Jim agreed with him, turned away from the other guy, and thanked this person for his rational assessment. The angry guy would not be placated, and continued his rant a bit more, then backed his truck up, and spun his wheels out of the parking lot. Our friend with the pony-tail turned to Jim at that moment and exclaimed “Boy, that guy needs a good a**-kicking!” We all laughed at that remark, the guy ahead of us finished filling up, and we proceeded to do the same.
Oh, and as it turned out, the trailer brakes were just fine. Jim checked his trailer plug-in, found that it had just come loose and we got back on the road. An eventful fuel stop to say the least! The rest of the day passed with minimal drama, thank goodness!
Later in the day, as it became clear how much further we would be able to travel, I started researching camping spots for the night. Of course, free is always nice. It is hard to find free campsites in the east though, unless you want to stop over in a rest area, or a Walmart parking lot. I started scanning my go-to apps and, at first, was coming up empty. There were few options near us in Ohio that were either free or cheap.
One of my favorite apps is the Ultimate Campgrounds Public CG app – an application that maps out public campgrounds of all kinds throughout the U.S. We have talked to many other RVer’s who have taken advantage of county fairgrounds as an option for an overnight stay. Ultimate Campgrounds includes those fairgrounds that allow overnight camping. Along Interstate 80 in Ohio, there are several county fairgrounds listed as potential choices. We decided to give this a try. I have been wanting to experiment with this possibility, and here was our opportunity!
I love agricultural fairs. I remember as a young child attending the Unionville Farm Show – when I was a student at Unionville Elementary School in Unionville, PA. Many years later, when my own kids were enrolled there, the name had been changed to the Unionville Community Fair. The name change reflected the demographic shift in the area from a farming community to a corporate bedroom community. But, it was still a good, wholesome fair complete with agricultural exhibits, amusement rides and good old-fashioned cotton candy!
When we moved to Vermont, we were fortunate to live one town north of the famous Tunbridge World’s Fair. We were active participants in these local fairs – both myself and my sons entered arts, crafts, baked goods and vegetables in hopes of being awarded a coveted blue ribbon!
So, the prospect of using fairgrounds during our travels intrigued me. I’m all in favor of supporting these treasured community events. I found a fairground listed on Ultimate Campgrounds that was located just off the interstate, and near where we wanted to stop for the night. We took the exit and pulled into the Fulton County Fairground.
We did not immediately see any indication of how the camping registration worked. The grounds were fairly deserted, and no one was about to inquire as to procedures. So, we parked near the entrance and started walking. We soon discovered a sign that read “Camping – $20.00 per night” and a bulletin board with a map and a note to deposit $$ in the slot at Building 19. Bingo!
We followed the map directions, driving the narrow road weaving through the fair buildings and back to the campground. There were only two other RV’s in the entire campground – and one was the host! Coincidentally, the host turned out to be Glenn from The RV Driving School. He had been a participant at the RV Dreams rally we attended in TN two years ago. I remembered him immediately. He conducts workshops for people wanting to learn how to drive their RV safely and confidently – and especially caters to women drivers.
Glenn gave us the low-down on camping at the fairgrounds. We could choose any site, including full hook-ups, and he showed us the bathhouse where we could secure a hot shower! All for $20.00 a night. We found a nice, level grassy spot and had the place literally to ourselves (with the exception of Glenn). I must admit that I am now enamored with the idea of seeking out fairgrounds as an option for convenient, overnight stays along the road.
Our spot was level enough that we did not have to unhitch. We settled in to cook dinner, and after eating, decided to stroll around the empty fairgrounds. This is obviously a BIG fair with lots of agricultural buildings and outdoor arenas. It was so much fun to wander around the deserted grounds!
Looking forward to our next opportunity to enjoy the laid-back ambiance of camping at a local county fairground!