July 2016 – Erie, Pennsylvania

Although I am naming this blog as Erie, Pennsylvania, our destination for the week was actually just over the state line in Ohio.  Most of the trip to our new location was along state highways in New York as we were once again avoiding the tolls on I-90 and the congestion around Buffalo.  It was a pleasant drive, although one of our longer pulls this summer being just about 3.5 hours.  Once we got south of Buffalo, I-90 was no longer a toll road and we joined it for the quick trip through this spur of Pennsylvania.  It is obvious that the whole reason for this spur was to provide the state of Pennsylvania with a port on Lake Erie and the city of Erie is still an important port on the lake.  Our new location was Evergreen Lake Park located right at the first exit from the Interstate in Ohio.  The campground literally backs up to the Interstate, so I was initially concerned that we would have to listen to the traffic all day long.  However, our site was located near the back of the campgrounds and was just about as far away from the noise as possible.  In fact, the traffic was just a low background noise most of the time.  Evergreen Lake Park advertises over 250 sites, which I believe, although like nearly all the private campgrounds in the northeast 95% of the sites are for seasonal campers.  Which meant the campground looks filled to capacity even though there is nearly no one in the campground during the week and not much busier over the weekend.  Most of their sites for transients are located in an open area with no shade near the office, but we were very fortunate to be located in a small area of 4 sites located within the woods near the back of the park.  It was a pull-through site with plenty of room between the sites and lots of shade.  This was important since the temperatures throughout the week was in the 90s every day and with only 30 amp service we had to be careful with running the AC.  In fact, our surge protector cut out a couple of times over the weekend due to low voltage, which protects the RV but also means no AC, microwave, or TV.  The Park also advertises that nearly all of the sites have full hookups, but this is only for the seasonal sites.  None of the transient sites had sewer hookups, which is really not a problem for us as we can make it for a week before dumping.  The only real complaint I have about the campgrounds were the tight turns forcing us to circle around to get out of the campgrounds with the RV and the fact they had no laundry facility.  Rather than dealing with the laundrymat in “downtown” Conneaut that had very limited parking in front of a busy street, we opted to wait until the following week when we could use the facilities in the campgrounds.


Although we had just spent a couple of days last week relaxing in the campground after the kids all left, we had two National Parks in the area to visit during the week.  So Tuesday, we set out to explore the Cuyahoga Valley National Park located in between Cleveland and Akron.  However, we no sooner got on the Interstate that it was obvious we had a problem with one of the tires.  On our trip to the park, Kal had pulled into a truck stop to fill up the gas tank, just to be safe since we should have had enough fuel to make it.  On our way out of the truck stop there were some huge potholes full of water.  She dropped the right rear tires into one of the holes and I suspect damaged the outer tire, since we could tell the belts were separating when we looked at the tires as soon as got back off the Interstate.  Therefore, our plans were changed and we began looking for a tire store.  The closest store was back in Conneaut so we headed back there only to find this store was closed.  The next closest tire store was English Tire back in Pennsylvania and since the tire was getting worse by the minute, we decided to check it out rather than trying to make Erie.  English Tire is a relatively new tire store located out in the country a few miles south of the Interstate.  Although there was nothing around it but farm fields, it looked good so we checked it out.  As expected they would have to order the tires and I decided to go ahead and replace all four of the rear tires.  We had to replace at least the two on the right and I was concerned about the other two tires as we had already replace the two front tires less than a year ago.  So we made an appointment for Thursday morning and limped on back to the campsite.  We spent the rest of the day and all day Wednesday relaxing in the campsite.  It did give me the opportunity to get a lot done on this blog as I had an eventful two weeks to write about.

Thursday morning I took the backroads back to English Tire so I could drive 30-35 mph while the truck felt like it was going to shake itself apart.  They were able to get right to the tires and had replaced all four in about 1.5 hours.  Since it was only 10:00 in the morning by this point, we had plenty of time to do some exploring.  Over the past two days we had determined that the Cuyahoga Valley National Park would actually be closer to our next location near Akron, so we decided to hold off.  Instead we headed towards Cleveland to the James A Garfield National Historic Site.  This NHS is actually northeast of Cleveland in what today is a suburb, so we did not have to deal with the city traffic.  Today the NHS is situated on a city street and consists primarily of the house that Garfield purchased while he was a US Representative as a retreat for his family from Washington D.C.  Where once the estate was over 100 acres of farms fields and orchards to give his family the farming experience that he grew up with on a farm in Ohio, today the urban sprawl has limited the property to a few acres behind the house.  Beside the house itself, your first impression of the property is the strange looking lighthouse with a windmill stuck on top.  This is actually a large windmill that Garfield had built to pump water up into a large cistern on the third floor of the house.  Thus, he had one of the few properties in the state with running water at the time.  The Visitor Center is located behind the house in the carriage house on the property and has some nice exhibits about the life and career of James A. Garfield.  Like myself, you probably don’t know very much about James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States.  He was a Major General during the Civil War leading a brigade during the battles of Middle Creek, Shiloh, and Chickamagua.  However, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1862 and had to give up his commission.  He served in the Congress for 17 years and had some notable successes and scandals during the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War.  During the 1880 Republican National Convention he nominated John Sherman, the then Secretary of the Treasury.  However, the convention was deeply split between Sherman, Grant, and Blaine so on the 36th ballot he consented to have his name entered as a compromise candidate and won the nomination!  At this time in history, Presidential candidates did not campaign for themselves as this was seen as unseemly.  So he moved back to his home in Ohio where he set up a campaign headquarters in the current carriage house and had installed a telegraph wire to stay connected.  However, this also provided the means for reporters to send in their stories and they literally camped out on his front yard throughout the campaign, coining the term Lawnfield to the property, in the popular press.  It also so happened that the railroad ran through the property as well, so after constructing a whistle stop, Garfield had supporters visiting his property on a daily basis.  Thus, he ran the first low-key “front-porch campaign” delivering speeches from his front porch.  However, the reason you probably don’t know much about Garfield is due to the fact that he was assassinated in July during his first year as President.  Unlike today where the first 100 days are critical time for a new President to begin his legislative agenda, in the late 1800s the first few months for a new President are tied up with appointing his cabinet and dealing with all the political appointments throughout government.  This entailed a lot of fights for confirmation with the Senate and having to interview a constant stream of applicants.  One of these applicants was Charles Guiteau seeking a position as consul of Paris, although he was completely unqualified for the position.  After being turned down repeatedly, he decided the nation would be better served with Chester Arthur as President and shot President Garfield in the back as he was leaving to join his family for a short vacation on July 2, 1881.  President Garfield died 11 weeks later from the wound and thus his Presidency has been largely forgotten.  His wife, Lucretia, created a fund to raise money for a memorial that was so successful that she spent a large portion of the fund to add a wing to the house.  In this new wing she created the first Presidential Library to hold some of the massive collection of books Garfield had collected over the years along with a large walk-in vault to protect all of his papers and correspondence.  Today these are all in the Library of Congress, but the size of the vault and opulence of  the library are worth the time.  The most amazing fact is that the house remained in the family until they donated it to the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1936 along with all the original furnishings they had preserved from that time.

The only other thing we simply had to do while we were in the area was to explore some of Lake Erie, so on Friday we selected the closest state park on the lake, which happened to be Erie Bluffs State Park in Pennsylvania.  This was a good choice as it is a 387 acre park that has never been developed and contained over 1/2 mile of undeveloped shore line.  The park is not well developed, on purpose, which also meant there was just a small point of access at Elk Creek.  The trails are also not well marked and along with numerous side trails leading in every direction, it was easy to get turned around.  However, with Lake Erie on the north and highway on the south, it was nearly impossible to be truly lost.  Initially we took the trail up the 90 foot bluff along the lake and went inland to check out the rare Oak savannah, which was quite interesting.  However, after walking about a third of a mile in the heat, even though the day was overcast with a chance of rain, we turned around and went looking for the Lake which was our real reason for exploring the area.  We found the lake with no problem and found a few vantage points to look out from 90 feet above the lake.  Once again it is water as far as you can see, especially with the overcast conditions.  As we made our way back to the parking lot at Elk Creek, we found a place we could descend the bluff and get right up to the lake.  Although there was supposedly a trail along the base of the bluff, I would not recommend it, at least not when we were there.  For as for as I could see along the shore, Lake Erie came right up to the foot of the bluff.  We would have had to wade.  Although we had probably only hiked about 1.5 miles, the weather was so hot and humid with no breeze, that we were both spent.  So we got back into the truck and headed back to the campsite for the afternoon.


We had no plans for the weekend and intended to spend both days relaxing in the campgrounds.  However, Kal had developed a serious cough over the past week and was growing concerned that the allergy pills were not being effective.  Therefore, on Saturday she decided, wisely, to have it check out at a nearby clinic.  They determined she had the beginnings of pneumonia and prescribed some hefty antibiotics and cough suppressant.  I was certainly relieved that she got it checked out as she had a bad bought with walking pneumonia a few years ago.  Especially since she had to stay out of the sun due to the antibiotics, it was good that we could just relax in the campgrounds.  I was able to get caught up on the blog as well.

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