Maumee Bay State Park + Gifford Pinchot State Park

Up until this point in our nomadic adventures blogging, the Vandy Vagabonds crew had been mooch-docking in the driveway of Jeremy's family's home in southern Illinois or in the front yard of NeXus in Elkhart, Indiana. 

We had done a few tweaks to Velma the Viper ourselves, and by mid-September we had our compost toilet installed by the team at NeXus. (Don't you worry - we'll be sharing a post on just how the toilet's been working and what we think!)  With everything on the rig in working order, It was time for us to get a few days of driving and a few nights of camping under our belt.

From Elkhart, we drove to Oregon, Ohio and spent the night at Maumee Bay State Park. We were there less than 24 hours, but we managed to explore some beautiful highlights of the 1,336 acre park that that was established in 1975. The park is set on land that borders Lake Erie. Thousands of years ago, Lake Erie was much larger than it is today. As it receded, the land uncovered by the shrinking lake became known as the Great Black Swamp. It wasn't until 1859 when public ditches were laid to drain the land that it started to become habitable by humans.

Today only a thin strip of coastal wetlands remain along Lake Erie between Maumee Bay and Sandusky. The wetlands, though, are rich with native flora and fauna. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded at Maumee Bay State Park amidst the black willow and cattails that are also home to painted turtles, spotted salamanders and chorus frogs.

We will definitely be coming back to Maumee Bay when we're in the area, but this trip was a quick turn-around because we were Hershey, PA bound for America's Largest RV Show. You might be saying to yourself, "Friends. Isn't your motorhome less than 2 months old? Why on earth are you going to an RV show?".  Well, dear reader, one mark of any genuine full-timer is to always be thinking about your next rig.  I love to squeeze myself into the tiny TAB trailers and pods while Jeremy lingers over the giant 40'-45' class A motorhomes and toy haulers.

Day 2 of America's Largest RV Show. Sunny + hot, but the morning wasn't terribly crowded. Yet.

Day 2 of America's Largest RV Show. Sunny + hot, but the morning wasn't terribly crowded. Yet.

Walking the wide aisles between motorhomes on display.

Walking the wide aisles between motorhomes on display.

If we were dogless and money weren't a factor, we'd probably be in one of these Leisure Travel Vans. 

If we were dogless and money weren't a factor, we'd probably be in one of these Leisure Travel Vans. 

Jeremy's off exploring the features of a class A while Alexandra's in the driver's seat, trying really hard to imagine navigating this behemoth down the road. (She couldn't imagine it, FYI.)

Jeremy's off exploring the features of a class A while Alexandra's in the driver's seat, trying really hard to imagine navigating this behemoth down the road. (She couldn't imagine it, FYI.)

While at America's Largest RV Show we were able to meet up with Stephanie and Jeremy of RV Family Travel Atlas. Along with the Snowmads and a handful of other full-timers with strong online presences, RVFTA was one of the resources we turned to early on in our scheming. RVFTA's podcasts are chock full of the latest RV trends, campsite reviews and interviews with industry players. In fact, the RVFTA Hershey RV Show wrap-up podcast just so happens to include both Jeremy and I sharing our purchasing process for Velma (which you can listen to here).

Jeremy + Stephanie of RV Family Travel Atlas, and us, outside Giant Center.

Jeremy + Stephanie of RV Family Travel Atlas, and us, outside Giant Center.

After browsing the manufacturers and dealers outside Giant Center, we walked through the vendors who set up shop inside the arena. While the variety and representation of motorhomes was vast and varied, a majority of the tables inside the arena were advertising resorts, parks + campgrounds in the region. We had hoped to see more vendors focusing on selling mods, technology or other RV lifestyle related goodies and were disappointed by the variety of companies and products that were selling in the arena.

We did note a few future purchases.  One early stop was at the LIppert Components. Inc. tents outside to browse their goodies. We have our eye on a Dometic portable ice machine, which Lippert had on site, but we're going to wait and hold on to our pennies a little longer before investing in one.  We also made a mental note to revisit the collapsable cookware from Nautical Scout.  Since Velma is kitted out with induction burners instead of the traditional propane stove, the 5 cup collapsible tea pot would be an awesome, space-saving addition to our kitchen.  We broke open the wallet for one purchase at the Oztent USA booth.  Their BiFold Table was just what we needed for our outdoor set-up.  It not only acts as a dining table for us, but it also folds up nicely and fits in Velma's somewhat smaller basement storage.

One day at the RV show was enough for the two of us to see what we wanted to see. It was sunny, hot and humid, so by hour 3 we were already waning.  We were also lucky to have the hounds boarded at Hersheypark "Barking Lot" just ten minute's walk from the RV show grounds.  Rosey and Ramble stayed cool in the AC while we did our rounds.  If you plan on visiting Hersheypark or the 2016 RV show, we definitely recommend using the onsite kennel for your four-legged companions.  Just be sure to get there early, as space is limited.

NeXus, the manufacturer of our 30' Class B+, Velma, had a strong showing at the RV show.

NeXus, the manufacturer of our 30' Class B+, Velma, had a strong showing at the RV show.

THAT'S where the bags games went! Alexandra was disappointed to learn they had disappeared before our arrival in Elkhart for some work on our rig. (Jeremy was ok with it - Alexandra's been kicking some serious A-S-S lately.)

THAT'S where the bags games went! Alexandra was disappointed to learn they had disappeared before our arrival in Elkhart for some work on our rig. (Jeremy was ok with it - Alexandra's been kicking some serious A-S-S lately.)

Vendors on the floor of Giant Center.

Vendors on the floor of Giant Center.

Along with meeting Stephanie and Jeremy with RVFTA, we were also eager to spend some more time in PA with some new-to-us friends, Jennifer and Deas Nealy from Nealys on Wheels. Jennifer so kindly reached out to us when she saw me mention on Instagram that we were Hershey-bound. We coordinated our visits to stay a night at the same place, Gifford Pinchot State Park, about 30 minutes from Hershey, PA.

We ended up camping next to the Nealys and couldn't have had a better time. We had great camp-side conversation the first evening, and the next morning we took all 5 dogs (our Rosey and Ramble and their Nikki, Jack and Shorty) on a hike through the park to catch a blessing of the animals and 5K race for the community conveniently held in the park.

Gifford Pinchot State Park is a 2,338 acre park with a 340 acre lake, Lake Pinchot, at the center. There are 18 miles of hiking trails, two 18-hole disc golf courses and 4 miles of biking trails around the lake, while you can also swim, fish and boat on Lake Pinchot. You can even cross-country ski, ice fish and ice skate in the winter.

Nearby Reeser's Soft Ice Cream, in Lewisberry, is worth a visit.

Nearby Reeser's Soft Ice Cream, in Lewisberry, is worth a visit.

Alexandra had the Reeser's Summit Sundae, which was delicious. But next time we're back, she's going for the straight up peanut butter soft serve.

Alexandra had the Reeser's Summit Sundae, which was delicious. But next time we're back, she's going for the straight up peanut butter soft serve.

Taking a hike with our pack of dogs.

Taking a hike with our pack of dogs.

Watching the start of a 5K, after a blessing of the animals.

Watching the start of a 5K, after a blessing of the animals.

We had great experiences at both state parks.  A few nights of drive-way surfing were up next in New Jersey to spend time with Alexandra's family before exploring New England before winter arrives.  Lobster is coming, friends.  Lobster is coming.