May 8 – 25
After leaving St. Louis, we had two and a half weeks until we needed to be in Connecticut. The plan was to hit up the Indiana Dunes, Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio, and then spend some time exploring state parks in either Pennsylvania or New York. The weather had other ideas though and we ended up cruising through faster than expected.
The first half of May is always an unstable time of year in terms of temperature and precipitation, but this year felt more extreme. As soon as we left St. Louis, the rainy cold weather took hold. We crossed the bottom part of Illinois without stopping and made our way to Prophetstown State Park in West Lafayette, Indiana. This stop marked a milestone as Indiana was the last state in the lower 48 we had to visit.
It was a very nice state park, but the weather was cold, windy, and wet for our entire state. Tim got out one afternoon for a run while I stayed inside and did yoga. Other than that, we didn’t do anything of note during our two night stay.
From the state park, it was only a short drive to the Indiana Dunes. Formerly a National Seashore, the dunes recently became an official National Park. There is no RV camping inside the national park, but the Indiana Dunes State Park is located in an area of the dunes surrounded by the national park. It’s a giant campground, but even this early in the year we were lucky to snag the last available spot for the weekend.
The day we arrived was forecasted to be the only sunny day for some time so we quickly settled in and then went to explore the dunes. There are a number of trails to wind around, over, and through the dunes. We hiked up the three tallest dunes and then walked along the shore of Lake Michigan.
The next day it was cold (think in the upper 40s cold) and cloudy but we went out for another dune hike regardless. This time we hiked through the woods and past a couple “blow out” areas where the sand spilled down to the lake shore.
Overall, our impression of the dunes was kind of “meh”. They reminded me of the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. Those were the first sand dunes we ever visited way back at the start of our journey during the summer of 2012. At the time, we were quite impressed, but over the years we’ve visited many, many more scenic, larger, taller, and just generally more interesting dunes around the country. I guess it’s all relative and if I had never seen the Oregon Sand Dunes with massive waves of sand flowing to the ocean, the Great Sand Dunes in CO with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, or the Coral Sand Dunes in Utah with their unique pink hue, I would probably think the Indiana Dunes were the coolest thing ever. Because let’s face it, the kid in all of us will always love a giant pile of sand.
Our last day at the park was a Sunday which worked out perfectly since all Indiana State parks offer a 5 pm check out on Sundays and holidays. We had a lazy morning and then biked over to the visitor center before heading out around 3. The late checkout was much appreciated since we intended to overnight in a parking lot and didn’t want to get there too early.
A short drive took us to the RV & Motorhome Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN where overnight RV parking is allowed both the day before and the day of your visit. It was an interesting visit, but the kind of place you visit once for a few hours and don’t feel the need for a repeat visit. My favorite part was touring the older RVs – especially the ones from the ’30s called “Housecars”.
The museum tour didn’t take nearly as long as anticipated and since we had another parking lot night planned with not much of drive between locations, we drove for only an hour or so, pulled into a rest area and spent the afternoon working in the Airstream before continuing on to our destination for the night.
The reason we didn’t want to drive too far was so we could spend the following day at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. The plan was to do a drive-through of the park with a hike and stop at the visitor center thrown in for fun. It was a good plan, and we even found a trailhead parking lot with large spaces for horse trailers that were perfect for the Airstream. Unfortunately, the trail was so muddy from all the recent rain combined with the impact of the horses that it was a complete mud pit. Aside from the mud, it was kind of pretty, but not any more interesting than any other walk in the woods.
I am going to try to be diplomatic here and instead of declaring it the most boring national park ever, I will say that it probably wasn’t the best time of year to visit and maybe it’s better later in the summer. We also missed out on the waterfalls which seem to be the most popular attractions. At the visitor center, we learned a bit about the history of the areas which was once a hotbed for building canal boats. That part was more infinitely more interesting than our walk in the woods. Anyway, we crossed that park off the list.
From here we had some decisions to make. With a week and a half left before we were due in Connecticut, we could either drive through PA or NY hitting up some state parks on the way – or just find one spot to spend a whole week. But with rain and cool weather in the forecast for the rest of the week, neither of us were feeling terribly excited about huddling inside all week. So we made a major shift in plans and headed toward Vermont instead.
All along we thought we wouldn’t have time to visit Vermont before CT and had decided to simply store the Airstream at a storage facility for the summer. Unfortunately, we don’t really have a good place to park or live in the Airstream in CT so that seemed to be our best option at the time. But going to Vermont first meant that we could leave the Airstream on our friend’s property for free! Plus, it would make it much easier to visit without having to impose on someone’s guest room. Tim was the one to suggest a Vermont visit, and I, of course, jumped at the chance.
Two days later we pulled into my mom and stepdad’s driveway for the first time. Since our last visit to Vermont, they had bought a piece of land with an old apple orchard on it and this was our first time seeing it in person.
The ten days in Vermont flew by. We visited with family, made and ate many, many delicious meals, went for walks in the woods, and did a few home repairs.
Mid-way through the week we moved over to our friend’s house where the Airstream would live for the summer. The last time we were here was three years ago when we parked in this same spot. It’s a nearly perfect set up with a concrete pad and a sewer hook-up! Tucked back on the side of the yard behind the garage and chicken coop, it’s far enough from their house that we don’t feel we are intruding or inconveniencing them by leaving our home there all summer.
On Sunday the 26th, we packed up the truck and drove south the CT. We plan to be there for most of the summer with a few visits north thrown in when possible. I hope to write and post monthly updates, but as this time is less about new adventures and more about family, I probably won’t have much to share until we get back on the road in the fall.