Updated: Jan 29
Isn't there a saying about best laid plans? Some say, "when man plans - God laughs" or something like that. I've mentioned that my Mom follows us on our travels via the FindMy app, right? She had begun texting and asking 'where to next' type questions. Just in the nick of time she finally let us know that she was packing her RV to meet us at our next destination. Hmm... We were on a trip without an itinerary, so it was time to put in some serious thought to be able to meet in a convenient place, Mom lives in Georgia and we were in New Jersey - we picked Virginia.
This is our spot in the Shenandoah National Forest, the green lush surroundings were just what we wanted. The air was fresh and the added benefit of seeing my parents was the icing on the cake. My desire to travel and camp comes naturally to me. When I was a kid we went camping quite a bit as a family and with the Girl Scouts. My mom planned the family vacations and lead my Girl Scout trips.
Now getting into Shenandoah was not without incident, we mapped the quickest route only stopping for gas, water and food. When we were a couple hours away I got a phone call from Mom saying they were stopped at the entrance to the park due to vehicle issues. Darin and I, of course, had no idea what to expect, we were imagining all sorts of things. When we arrived Dad was aggravated and Mom was, well, happy to see us. Thankfully, there really was no issue with her RV so we went and found two spots and enjoyed the rest of the evening. A few years back Dad was in a near fatal accident and his ability to communicate became difficult. While Mom was showing me her RV, Dad was chatting it up with Darin. Somehow he got on the subject of sugar cane and was attempting to describe the process of a good old fashioned cane grinding in the south. This actually led to plans for our next trip - but more on that later.
It was time to head west for us and south for my mom so we took off the next day and went our separate ways. It was mid-July 2020 and Mother Nature was reminding us of this with temperatures that kept us moving north to try to get to cooler temps. We got through West Virginia and passed Pittsburg Pennsylvania when we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We are spoiled in Southern California with good Mexican food, or so we thought. As it turns out, you can find good Mexican almost anywhere.
We wanted to get close to water so we made a bee line to Ohio and ended up in Avon Lake on Lake Erie. While out walking the waterfront and catching another beautiful sunset, we met a super nice couple that actually recommended a spot to park and explained that strange smell we encountered on our way east the first time we rolled through Ohio by Lake Erie.
We got settled in for the night and that couple came knocking on the door... They offered us their driveway and a shower, which we thanked them for but declined and suggested they be careful with inviting strangers to their home. I think they were very nice but maybe a little too trusting. I completely understood the sentiment and we all had a good laugh over it but we stayed put and they went home. At some point in the middle of the night we got our first and only knock from the local police. They knocked a few times and we stayed perfectly still and quiet, they went away. Then they came back and knocked more and were more vocal - we stayed still and quiet, they left again. As soon as we woke the next morning we took off and continued west.
Chicago was fairly active and the Navy Pier was actually still having live shows. One of which we caught after a nice walk around downtown and the river. The band was really good, so I bought the t-shirt and we enjoyed the evening. The temperature was still a bit much for me, that is over 72, so we drove into Wisconsin. Since it was getting late and we just needed to stop, we pulled into a rest area for the night. Not our first choice but it served its purpose.
This stretch of our trip was destination oriented - we were headed to cooler weather. Have I mentioned I don't like the heat? We stopped and looked around Fargo, the last time I was there was in the winter with lots of snow. Good to know they have more than one season. We drove straight across North Dakota only stopping a couple of times and ended up in Menoken. We took a random exit and parked on what seemed to be a county maintained area. Not! It was someone's farm land. They were finishing up their day at night fall and just went about their business without a second thought of us parked on the corner of the access road.
Farmers work late and start early, so we got moving early too. Once my mom noticed we were on the road, she told me about Salem Sue. How could we pass up such an attraction? Roadsideamerica.com says: "According to local history, one of New Salem's early settlers was plowing the prairie in 1883 when two Sioux stopped to watch. The older one turned a piece of the newly-broken sod over so that its grass was back on top. "Wrong side up," the younger explained. The farmer thought about it, admitted that the ground really was better for grazing than breaking, and New Salem's dairy industry was born."
If you find yourself traveling on I-94 in North Dakota, don't blink or you may miss New Salem and this roadside treasure.
Join us again for the most beautiful drive of the journey and the most out of control bugs. Speaking of bugs be sure to get your K.I.S.S. Airflow screens before you head out on your Springtime travels.