Spring- 2019 NY-OH-MI Trip, Part 1 (NY-to Frankenmuth MI)

After a very slow start to spring 2019 (still dipping into mid 30s each morning!), we headed out to Michigan and the Tin Can Tourist Centennial Vintage Trailer Rally in early May.  We did a few stops along the way first though!!

This PART 1 post covers our trip to the Finger Lakes Region of NYS and then on to Frankenmuth MI which is a favorite of ours.  Part 2 will cover from Frankenmuth to the Tin Can Tourist Centennial Rally at Camp Dearborn in Milford MI and our return trip overnighting at a Harvest Host Winery site off RT 90 in NYS.

First destination camping overnight was to the KOA in Watkins Glen NY where we met two of our very favorite bloggers, Steve & Courtney Adcock of “AStreaminLife.com” who are full time RVers in a 30′ Classic Airstream.  We have followed them since their decision to go full time and watched them sell their “house” possessions, prioritize and fit up their Airstream for full time living.  We have learned SO much from them and along the way built an online friendship “off line” that now will be realized in person!  We will be meeting them at the KOA in Watkins Glen as they make a NE trip from their home base of AZ this spring.

Heading out on Weds, May 9 we wanted to beat the weekend rush and travel more in the evening hours en route to Watkins Glens so we did not chew up our entire check in day with driving.  We overnight boon-docked on 5/9 (weds) at a “TEXT” rest area on the NY Thruway/I-90.

NOTE:  The NYS Thruway is a toll road.  We highly recommend using EZPass when in the northeast.  Not only will you save a boodle of $$ on tolls but more and more toll plaza’s are nearly exclusively EZPass and makes getting through them with far less jockeying trying to cut over lanes to the cash lane!  We use EZpass all over the Northeast and Mid Atlantic states!

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If you have to stay in a parking lot, along a highway, we feel these text stops are far better than the large official rest areas.  Typically the lighting is not as bright but still sufficient lighting for safety, there are fewer large trucks, they are more quiet and you tend to not have the “sandwich” feel of being between two behemoth 18-wheelers in a parking slot.  This was the case at this stop as we pulled off at Mile post 256 /west bound.  There are no services in these “text” rest areas and while it does have highway noise, we found it really dies down after 11 pm and stays pretty low key until about 6 am.  This text rest area is just AFTER Exit 33 for Verona NY (which we have stayed at the Turning Stone Campground before, see prior post for review on that).  The rest area offers a nice grass area for walking our dog.  No picnic tables had been installed yet, but there are pads for them, so assuming we perhaps were just too early in the season. It has been a very cold, and wet spring in NYS.  We felt safe here, cell signal was 4 G with Verizon.  No services, so you must be completely self contained.

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Essentially 20 more feet to the left is the 3 lane NYS Thruway, I-90.

After getting a good breakfast on the fly in our camper, Watkins Glen KOA was only another 2 hours away.  Perfect since check in was not until 2 PM.

FYI-I have mentioned this before but we absolutely LOVE our non-electric, stove top powered toaster.  Whether you are a bagel lover, regular toast or toasted muffin affectionado, this little beauty does it all and NO need for full hook ups or for tons of space on your counter (I store two of these in my oven)!  If this photo does not do it for you…here is the video!  Here is the link to the blog post where I include the link to the item where we ordered it off Amazon.

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So on to Watkins Glen NY KOA.  But first…a stop just south of Geneva NY where we visited Fox Run Vineyard in the town of Penn Yan, NY on the side of the rolling hills overlooking Seneca Lake (one of the Finger Lakes).  This whole area is loaded with vineyards and wineries that welcome tourists.  You do have to be careful regarding access and parking areas because after 3 PM these places get really busy and full.  I always look for ones that say they “welcome tour buses” as this is pretty much a key to know their road, driveway and parking areas will be able to accommodate you and your rig. Careful….some want tour bus business, but really are not set up to handle the egress needed.  Using Google Maps in satellite mode does help.  Calling ahead and also checking their website is important.  Fox Run welcomes tour buses and limos up until 3 PM–so that includes RV;s!!.  so their parking lot entrance sign states clearly.  We arrived at about noon with no issues for parking at all.  After my wine tasting, we had a terrific lunch outdoors .   Kevin had fresh baked pretzel with cheese dip, I had:

FLX Tacodilla $11   Two folded flour tortillas filled with taco seasoned bison and Razzle’s Choice cheese, with a dollop of fresh salsa verde and sour cream. Served with a side of mixed greens and Riesling vinaigrette.  It was totally yum!!!

and of course we took advantage of the first day of sun we had seen in weeks and dined on their elevated deck with lake views (they are on WEST side of the main road, so not technically lake side).  This winery business is actually directly opposite Sampson State Park (east side of lake) where we camp for our September vintage RV rally.  No issues at all with pulling through their beautiful gate, or pulling straight around and through in their parking lot.  Their tasting room was well done, pretty basic selection of wine lover gifts, etc., wines are a little more pricey than a stop on our return trip.  Most bottles were around $22-26 per bottle.  I loved their Merlot (so did Courtney when we opened it at happy hour later that evening!) and their Cabernet Sav. It was a great stop and we would recommend it!

Continuing our drive south on RT 14, we arrived just after 2 PM (check in is at 2 PM) at the KOA Watkins Glen.  Of course, this is a Thursday, we were doing a one nighter and the park was essentially empty.  Did i mention that spring has been way delayed??  Its cold, damp, barely spring foliage has started. Check in at campground was fine.  I had requested a pull through since we were only staying one night.  They ended up putting us far, far to other end of campground, way far from any facilities, AND right next to a class A in a diagonal parked slot.  Seriously??  with an entire empty park, our trailer patio would be 2 feet from their slide out.  So we kept going, pulled around to another site with some breathing space on both sides and notified the camp office we relocated ourselves.

TIP:  We tend to always try to book a site on an END of a ROW so that at least you have no one breathing down your back on your patio side.  So we found site #138 and that was fine.  Nice concrete stamped patio, bolted down ADK glider rocking love seat (we knew Steve & Courtney would like that!) and sufficient privacy for sure, plus not too far from the bathhouse, etc.  Soggy, puddles-they could use some more gravel and drainage, but fine, did I mention this was one of the wettest Springs that we have seen in decades??  

We settled in by 3 PM, Steve and Courtney came by for happy hour and we thoroughly enjoyed terrific conversation and sharing of some of our local to us favorite “Oscar’s Smokehouse” brand cheeses, salami, and horseradish mustards.  Time flew and before we knew it is was 8 PM and time to turn in for the night.  Mother Nature agreed, as rains came down again!

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The first photo in the slideshow below is Steve & Courtney’s Airstream.  They had a back in site which was nice, pretty shaded but close to bathhouse and main building.  The site was too short to keep their rig hooked up.  Several of the sites have paved patios.  The sites with white gazebos are back in only and “only for motorhomes” as the map indicates.  I am sure once the weather turns better, this campground is super busy with families. There is a lot to do for kids with water park, paint ball and many activities. We paid $66 for one night, essentially off season for full hook up.  Not cheap by any means.  Camp store was well outfitted, bathrooms and showers nice.  Nice penned dog park too.

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Steve and Courtney were on their east coast national “waterfall tour” of the USA and were staying in Watkins Glen for a few days to catch all the beautiful waterfalls.  Check out their amazing videos and photos here!

We headed out the next morning with Frankenmuth Michigan in our sites.  First, drive through rest of NYS on 390 West to 86 South to pick up I-90 just northeast of Erie PA.  Nice drive, not a lot of truck or vehicle traffic and some beautiful rolling hills.  Not a lot of services, but scenery was beautiful and road conditions very good.  Our co-pilot Reddy was right on the job…ever watchful!

 

Originally we were going to overnight with 2nd cousins of mine in Fremont OH but those plans fell through so Kevin decided he wanted to push through and get to Frankenmuth so we had a full day, fresh start on Saturday morning.  This meant about 9.5 hours of driving for him but traffic was not too bad and he is a professional driver essentially, working for NYSDOT. We don’t recommend more than 5-6 hours if you can help it.

I found a free overnight parking spot in Frankenmuth using my OVERNIGHTRVPARKING app since we were not due to check into Jellystone Campground in Frankenmuth till Saturday.

The parking lot of the Birch Run Premium Outlet Mall was identified, parking lot P  off 12240 South Breyer Rd.  Easy enough to find, dark, empty at 10 PM (overhead parking lot lights are turned off at 11 PM automatically) and we were leaving by 8-9 AM in the morning before stores would be opening up. This app is a little touchy and not very android friendly.  NOTE:  I noticed the last review on the app was from 2017 so I did call the outlet mall # 989-624-6226 to verify they still allowed overnighting with an RV in Lot P.  The person at customer service I spoke to was very nice, said it would be fine and told me that they no longer require formal check in with registration or plate info (like the 2017 reviewer had noted) and that it is “park at your own risk” and they basically turn ta blind eye and simply allow it to happen with out inviting RV overnighting openly.  We did fine, of course, we kept a very low profile, nothing outside, no awnings, we dont have slides, but would not suggest you put them out if you do.  We were not bothered at all.. No one else was in the lot, it backs up to greenery and woods.  You are in between the Viper Bridal Shop and the VF Outlet. (sorry forgot to take pics in early AM before pulling out!).

We headed out of the outlet mall lot by 9:15 AM and drove literally 15 minutes to Bronner’s Christmas Store which is the largest such store in the world!  Over 5 football fields chock a block full of every conceivable Christmas and holiday decoration, decor, clothing, etc etc you can imagine.  Plus the exterior of their lot is very large and they specialize in tour bus business all year long and at night, it is a spectacle unto itself with huge lighted displays.  We had seen the night displays during our visit in 2017 so did not do that this time.  They open at 9 AM so this was our first stop to browse and do a little shopping.  I was good, again, and did not go nuts–though Christmas and especially Gingerbread is MY THING!  I found a really cute vintage trailer ornament and then also a very nice (and light weight) carved wooden ornament that looked very Bavarian so it will fit nicely with our overall theme.  Kevin gave the nod as both were light, and relatively unbreakable!

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After about 2 hours wandering around Bronners, we relocated our parking to a large public parking lot on the east side of Frankenmuth and part of the Bavarian Inn Hotel complex (off Weiss Street) and right adjacent the beautiful, quaint wooden covered bridge that leads to main street.  The weather was decent but cold.  But we took the walk in and did some shopping on Main Street district.  Frankenmuth MI is a big tourist town and so their parking is well equipped for tour buses.  Just keep an eye out for such parking.  Getting there earlier in the day helps too…just be sure you situate yourself in a parking lot so that non-RVers do not block you in. We always choose the furthest most point away from the store or attraction, and at times, we may even put a few orange cones (with our name on them) out in front if in doubt.

We do love Frankenmuth MI!  This is the second time we have been back in two years.  (Our retirement bucket list includes visiting all the towns in the USA and BC that have European themes).  Last time we visited was in August 2017 and it was definitely a prettier time to visit with tons of blooming sidewalk and street planters overflowing with flowers and warmer to sit outdoors, etc. and just people watch and enjoy the architecture of the main street.  But nevertheless, this time, since it was early season, school not out yet and quite chilly the stores and restaurants were not nearly as crowded…a bonus!

TIP: We tried German food this time at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (where the working Glockenspiel is) and really loved it.  Way too much food, but nice variety and the ambiance in the Edelweiss room where we were was far superior to Zender’s where we ate in 2017. So far, all the restaurants we have tried (and the Cheese house) are great.

This is where I will end Part 1 of our Spring 2019 RV trip to Michigan.  We enjoyed two nights once again at the Jellystone RV Camping Resort in Frankenmuth.  We stay on site 143 {Site Map}which is an end site, opposite the dirt road where dog walking is also possible.  It is far enough from pool area to be quieter but everything in the campground is an easy 2 minute walk.  We totally enjoyed taking a dip in their heated indoor pool at hot tub on Monday morning before we left for our Tin Can Tourist Rally 40 minutes south.  This campground is very walkable to downtown too which we love.  We can walk on sidewalks to downtown and all the shopping and restaurants within about 8-10 minutes.  Easy walk, no hills, all sidewalks and crosswalks and has street lighting if going at night.  We did this walk at least one time daily.

All for now….please visit our Spring 2019 Part 2 post which showcases the many dozens of vintage trailers at the Tin Can Tourist Centennial Rally as well as a free Harvest Host boondock overnight we did at a winery on our way home!  I will have a link to our Harvest Host referral program in that post to save you 15% and gives us a small finder fee which helps pay for the next bottle of wine we buy during a Harvest Host overnight!

Safe travels!

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This trip we took a 1-hr ride on the Bavarian Belle paddlewheeler that goes on the Cass River through Frankenmuth.  Nice little cruise to learn about local history, etc.

Kevin & Luisa Sherman

 

 

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