Tolkien wrote: “not all those who wander are lost.” Ed and Rachel Barnhart are this sentiment sprung to vivid life. When they retired in 2004, the intrepid RVers hooked up their Alfa Gold fifth wheel on a mission to see all that God created and man constructed…and find the best pizza in the USA. From the beaches of Seattle, Ed and Rachel set their sights on Maine. From there they would turn south toward the sunshine, only to be greeted by the worst Mother Nature had unleashed in decades. Undaunted, the Barnharts headed off into the sunset, through the southwest and across the Rio Grande to the shores of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. From sea to shining sea and back again, all in their first year exploring what they call the “Land of Awes.” In Chapter 7 Ed and Rachel explore Ohio’s invention, inland seas and the allure of the simple life.
We left Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” with promises to return to visit new friends and a must-see list chock full of places we missed on our trek across a state that seemed to fit us like a glove. Next on the itinerary was Hartland, Michigan; but somewhere between Frankenmuth and Hartland, the RV scribbled a few notes in the margin of our to-do list. We began having problems with our battery charging system; so, instead of driving directly south to Waldenwoods Resort, we headed over, around and down to Lexington. We dropped the fifth wheel off with some folks who had experience winning arguments with electrical systems and drove over to the picturesque Lexington waterfront. Once the battery system was ship shape we set up shop for a week at Waldenwoods.
Nestled against the shore of Lake Walden – a private, 140-acre, springfed lake – are 320 grassy campsites. Most are full hookup. Reservations are accepted but only required during the summer holiday periods. The lakefront setting makes for gorgeous days of fishing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. For the landlubbers who still like to take a dip, they offer an Olympic-sized pool and Jacuzzi. If you like to put the “active” in leisure activities, you can hike or bike, play volleyball, tennis or basketball, watch the kids or grandkids at the playground or just dance the night away.
But, aside from the top-notch services and amenities, budget was a big factor in our decision to stay at Waldenwoods.
Because we are members of Resorts of Distinction, a chain of parks and resorts with which Waldenwoods is affiliated, we can stay for free. There are a total of 50 ROD-affiliated resorts, and we will be stopping at several. Of course, there are other organizations that offer this as well. While in Soap Lake, Washington, we joined Western Horizon Resorts. On this trip we will be staying at seven WH resorts, including six weeks in Kino Bay, Mexico – all for FREE!
Up to this point, our pace had us feeling like perpetual tourists, so this stop gave us a chance to just enjoy “regular” life. Rachel worked on some beaded jewelry and set up shop at a weekend flea market in the resort. Saturday was gorgeous and the market was open to the public, so shoppers came in droves. Rachel’s bracelets were a hit!
While we were staying at Waldenwoods, we took a trip over to a quaint little town named Brighton. Perhaps because of her love for the brand, the name had leapt off the map at Rachel. While there was no jewelry growing alongside the road or handbags hanging from the trees, our curiosity was rewarded with wonderful old buildings and a scenic millpond in the center of town.
Our time in Waldenwoods was our first real, extended taste of the “relaxing” aspect of RV living. We had taken it easy
A sign indicating the presence of the
Amish in the vicinity
other places, but there was always a set agenda. Our last few days in Michigan we just kicked back and took some time to be “us.” Speaking of lifestyle choices, on the road from Waldenwoods to the Ohio shore of Lake Erie there is a sign indicating the presence of the Amish in the vicinity. One wonders what, exactly, those folks make of signs “warning” other drivers to “watch out” for their horse drawn buggies. It’s likely they wish we would slow down while most of us wonder why they don’t get a move on. Then again, that’s why we RV, isn’t it? We get the “simple life” without all the extra work!
So, having been justly warned, we headed into Ohio with a wary eye out for Amish. On day one we drove over to Vermilion to explore a maritime museum right on Lake Erie. Sponsored by the Great Lakes Historical Society the Inland Seas Maritime Museum was once the opulent home of Commodore Albert Wakefield. Originally built in 1909 a new
Pilothouse at the Maritime Museum, photo courtesy of Inland Seas Maritime Museum
wing was constructed in the late 1960’s to house the Maritime Museum. Visitors can tour a replica of the circa-1877 Vermilion Lighthouse, the original pilothouse of the Great Lakes ore carrier, Canopus, and the shipwreck research center. Displays include a history of lighthouses, including a Fresnel lens, ship models, and artifacts recovered from what is, arguably, the Great Lakes’ most famous shipwreck, that of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Inland Seas Maritime Museum is located at 480 Main Street, Vermilion, Ohio 44089. Call 440.967.3467 or 800.893.1485 for rates and information.
After touring the museum we headed into Huron for a picnic on the beach and over to Sandusky for a look at the beautiful Victorian homes and interesting waterfront area. On the way home we stopped at the Moose Head Bar and Grill. No pizza, but the award-winning barbeque ribs took first place in the “Informal Ed and Rachel Northern Ohio Barbeque Competition.”
The next day, while on our way to the home of the inventor of the light bulb we again passed the sign warning us to watch out for the Amish. Drive by irony! Despite the recent quarrel we had with our batteries, we still have no desire to cut the power and hitch the fifth wheel to some literal horsepower.
Edison Home in Milan, Ohio
Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio in 1847. His birthplace, at 9 Edison Drive in Milan, is open for tours and offers an interesting glimpse into the early life and later success of one of the world’s foremost inventors. Compelling, but far from the only historical draw in Milan. Though twelve miles from the Lake Erie coast, this town was once one of the busiest inland ports and shipbuilding centers in the United States. A canal led four miles from Milan to the Huron River allowing schooners loaded with wheat from the heartland to head upriver to Lake Erie and through the Erie Canal all the way to New York Harbor. Today Milan Town Square is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings reminiscent of this town’s 19th century heyday.
The more we see and do the more excited we are about this adventure. We were asked recently if our “vast” 375 square feet of living space had us bumping elbows and butting heads “yet.” Rachel responded: “we are closer now than ever before.” How true! We are both happy we chose this “life on the road” and we are more determined than ever to keep RVing as long as our health, stamina and God’s plans permit. Pennsylvania is just over the horizon, and there is a campsite at Presque Isle with our name on it!
Read previous chapters by selecting one of the links below:
Chapter 7 – The Amish and Edison
Chapter 6 – Dutch Treats and Bavarian Festivals
Chapter 5 – Two American Icons – Miller Beer and Chicago Pizza
Chapter 4 – Touring the Twin Cities
Chapter 3 – Discovering Middle America
Chapter 2 – A Trip Around the Sun
Chapter 1 – Pacific in the Rearview, We Wave Goodbye