After we returned from Vermont we had a sleepless night thanks to high wind and heavy rain from Tropical Storm Ida. This makes for the third tropical storm in the past two months with Elsa, Henri, and Ida. What the hell? If we wanted this, we’d be living farther south. Sigh. Anyway, fortunately Ida had blown through by the time we were scheduled to officially haul out, so after a VERY busy few days securing Pegu Club for the winter and packing and re-packing the VDub, it was time to finally start our road trip and head west.
Our first stop was in Rochester, NY to visit Jeff’s family and wait for a slightly-delayed package that we had ordered while we we in Vermont. After spending way too much time charging our electronics in the campground’s bathroom, some research led us to ordering a Jackery 240 portable power bank and solar panel. It truly feels like a want vs. a need, but we’ve come to the realization that electronics – and the need to charge them – are simply a way of life for us now. They provide information and entertainment, and trying to figure out how to charge them as we drive across the country is not appealing in the slightest. An added bonus is that it’s small enough that we can use it on the boat after we get back.
While in Rochester we decided to take a day trip up to Buffalo to check out some Airstreams at an RV dealer that claimed to have them some in stock. An Airstream is far-off in the future, and we’ll definitely be buying used, but we wanted to see if our thoughts on the trailer’s length were on track. Well, we should have called because when we got there we were told that they didn’t have them on the lot. “But your website says you have them in inventory.” “Those are on order.” “Well, then they aren’t in your inventory.” Not that we needed confirmation that we would be buying used in the future, but this experience gave it to us anyway. It appears RV salespeople and dealers are as bad as most car salespeople and dealers.
The trip was not an entire waste, however, because we decided to regroup and head to Niagara Falls. When we lived in Rochester we went several times, and I even went there with a law school classmate after the first day of the bar exam to give us some much needed perspective. Seeing the falls never grows old though, and it had been awhile since we’d been, so off we went to be wowed once again by nature.
A few days later we were up with the sun to drive to our first National Park destination: Indiana Dunes National Park. Indiana Dunes has been a National Lakeshore since 1966 but it wasn’t designated as a National Park until 2019. The identically named State Park is completely surrounded by the National Park which made for a bit of initial confusion on our part as to what campground and hikes we should look at, but we sorted it out and ended up at the Dunewood Campground for two nights in the National Park.
I read on a National Park Facebook group that you should always stop at the Visitors Center to get oriented. An added bonus is that the park rangers can offer suggestions for hikes and things to do based on our preferences, so that’s exactly what we did. Watching the introductory video, we learned that the park has everything from bogs to forests, and the microclimates in the area gives it some of the most diverse plants – Arctic to desert – of all the National Parks.
While one of the more popular hikes is the Three Dune Challenge in the state park, our idea of a good time is not hiking for 3+ miles in deep sand dunes, so the ranger suggested a great 3 1/2 mile hike that proved to be an excellent demonstration of the park’s diversity. In giving us directions to the trailhead, she also told us to ignore the detour signs on the highway which we surely would have followed otherwise, so be sure to talk to the rangers when you go to a park!
. . . to woods.
Before we arrived at Indiana Dunes I had read that it really wasn’t worth spending more than a day, but if you enjoy hiking then I would say that’s giving it short shrift. We had a great time and would definitely go back. It was an excellent start to our trip west.