Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Odds and Ends From Our Trip

1 This is what my camper bed looked like after a night staying in a motel - I had things in so many plastic bags, that my friend asked if I would like to borrow a suitcase! Some things are still in plastic bags!

2. Part of my trip was on the Trail of Tears. I wish I had spent more time learning the history of that highway.
3. It's great to be able to get breakfast at any time at Jack in the Box. I was often off to such a late start that breakfast was all ready over in most places.
4. I think there are more Waffles Houses in the east than even dollar stores. How many people eat there?
5. Motel 6 and La Quinta are the only motels I know of that allow pets at no extra charge. La Quinta was a little more expensive but did serve a hot breakfast. Motel 6 only had coffee.
6. I went through Traveler's Rest in South Carolina. Some marketing person must have named that city.
7. I also drove right through Hollywood, Arkansas - almost missed seeing it.
8. I forgot to put this picture on my blog. It is the Gateway Clipper and the Mt Washington Incline in Pittsburgh.

9. This is the famous restaurant in Pittsburgh that puts french fries directly on sandwiches and on salads. I didn't stop there this time.

10. When I make a wrong turn, my GPS no longer says "Make the first legal U turn"; now it just guides me in a new direction. This time it took me past a beautiful Arabian Horse farm just outside of Monongahela, PA. It was about 20 times larger and more beautiful than this picture. What a pleasant surprise!

11. This was the statue outside of the Pittsburgh Penguin's stadium.

12. There is a cute little children's amusement park in Noonday, Texas.

13.. Back to the Asylum - this is one part of the building. It is symmetrical so you could fold it in half and everything would match. This section is the center and the watch tower.

14. This is one of the children's rooms in the Asylum that has been restored. I am obsessed with this place. Maybe in a past life I was here - hopefully as a doctor or nurse and not as a patient! If you ever do visit Weston, W Va, do tour this and ask for Michael. Tell him the lady with the dogs sent you.

16. I wish I could be in 2 places at once - I already miss my family and friends in the Pittsburgh area, but missed my family and friends here when I was traveling.

16. I am already missing a little adventure. I loved traveling mostly without a plan and discovering things I never expected. I now have to save up for our next trip to ???

The End

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Home Again

I continued my vacation eating today. First Mary made coffee and bacon. Then we went out for donuts - found cream filled maple and couldn't resist. Less than 2 hours later, Mary suggested trying a good restaurant in her town that had good catfish. I wasn't hungry but was still on vacation eating time, so we went for an early lunch sharing (thankfully) a catfish platter.

Just after we got back to the house, the dogs were staring intently at something -

Rick's lunch! He was good and didn't give the dogs any table food, but they still waited, just in case.

When we finally left for home, I stopped at a little grocery store that makes great sliced beef sandwiches. I wasn't in the least bit hungry, but one has to plan ahead! It was nice to get home but I dread unloading the camper. I will do that one of these days.

When I let the dogs out in the backyard for their last pre-bedtime pee, I was greeted by a familiar site.

We think it is a little owl that has taken to hanging out on my screened porch.
Yep, everything is back to "our" normal.

I have a few more tidbits of info I forgot to include in my blog. I will gather them and write one final note from our trip - later.

It was a great adventure!

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Location:Wimberley, Texas

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Almost Home

When I got up yesterday, I decided to head for home. I called Mary, whom I stayed with my first night on the road, to see if I could stay there again either last night or tonight, depending on how far I drove. She agreed that either night would be fine. So we headed out.

I saw a little Farmer's Market outside of Hope, Arkansas and we stopped.

There were only about 4 tables of products there, and none were fruits or vegetables. They were all home made items. I talked to people in each booth and they were very friendly. I don't think they were used to out of town visitors stopping in. I bought a couple of things and they admired Seymour and Zooey, so we were all happy.

I saw that I was 422 miles from Mary and Rick's and texted her that we would be there last night. I liked that my GPS took me through the small towns of East Texas instead of through Dallas or Houston. We passed Lake Palestine which was so big, it looked like the Gulf and not a lake. I would like to go back and stay there one day. It had a few RV Parks on the lake. We finally got to our destination and all the dogs were happy to socialize while the grown ups headed to Taco Cabana for some Mexican food and margaritas. This morning, I will leave for home.

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Location:Bastrop, Texas

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Showering at a Canpground

Although it's fine to shower at the campground, getting dressed in the bathroom is a chore. No matter how you try to dry off, you're still wet and it's not easy to put clothes on a damp body.
Just a thought - it would be great to have a mumu with a bra insert. Just throw it on and walk back to your camper to get dressed. If anyone is thinking about buying me a gift sometime, this might be something to look for.
Okay, off to the shower.

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Heading Out Today

We will be packing up later and heading out. I haven't decided where we are going yet. No diamond hunting for me today. One main reason for leaving is that I am down to tuna and crackers for lunch and dinner. After almost 3 days, I am in need of fast food or at least something hot. But Seymour and Zooey are happy with the tuna, so I saved them a couple packages.
I would definitely love to come back here again.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Crater of Diamonds - One More Day

I again tried my hand at diamond searching - first using the dig-rinse-sift method. I didn't find any diamonds but I think my hands look younger after playing in the mud for 2 days. I guess it wouldn't be proper to stick my face in the mud! But while I was sifting, a young man found a 1/2 carat yellow diamond out in the field. So, this afternoon, I walked the fields, sweating profusely, looking for sparkles. No luck. I am not sure I have the energy to try again in the morning. But I do finally know what a diamond looks like in the ground.

I am thinking twice about going to Hot Springs. It is further away than I realized. I probably should have gone there first but I was afraid that I wouldn't get a campsite here for the weekend. It is already getting crowded in the diamond fields so I imagine that the weekends are crazy.

They do have a playground and pool here so in the summer, it would be fun for kids. But I can't imagine looking for diamonds in weather hotter than this - and it is hot here in the afternoon.

This is being sent from the bench in front of the laundry - no more wifi access in my camper now that I had to move one space away from perfection.

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Location:Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Crater of Diamonds - Most Dog Friendly Park Ever!

What a great park for people with pets!

I have not seen one sign saying "No Dogs". We walked through the Welcome Center, into the bathrooms, into the laundry and into the diamond fields - no problem. I've never seen a park this friendly. And, I haven't seen any pet owner abuse the privilege. I could easy stay here another week, if I had the time and money! I plan to come back and hopefully stay in site 10.
Today I will do more diamond hunting in the morning and then move our camper to site 11 for one more night.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Crater of Diamonds State Park - a Day One

This morning I had to go to the Welcome Center to register since I got in late last night. I took my "Diamond finding tools" so I could start my adventure. My tools consisted of a kitchen colander, a kids shovel and sifter combo, a garden shovel, a pair of gloves, a towel in case I had to be on my knees, and a pail.

The path to the center is right beside my camper and it is beautiful. It is only 2/10th of a mile.

I asked to stay 2 more nights but my campsite was taken. I can stay one more night and I only have to move to the next campsite. I sure hope the wifi reaches there. I am spoiled here. My senior discount doesn't apply to weekends so the site is $30 plus tax. It costs about $8.50 to look for diamonds. So I payed it all and headed to the Diamond field.

It was not exactly what I expected. It's a big field that they plow up periodically to help uncover diamonds.

Needless to say that the kids shovel did not come out of my bag. The gloves were useless since you spend a lot of time rinsing rocks and mud in a long trough. And I never used the towel since I just leaned over and shoveled dirt into my bucket. No one mentioned my kitchen colander but it was the only one in use. This is what you are supposed to use. But mine worked fine.

Once I dug up the dirt, I shoveled some of it into my colander and shock it in the water to try to clean off the mud.

I had to squish the mud between my fingers since I didn't have the proper tools, until I just had little rocks/gems left. Then you sort through each rock and took out the ones that looked promising.

Notice that there is at least one sparkling thing in this batch. I did this over and over for about 2 hours and went inside to have my "finds" inspected. No diamonds but she did tell me what kind of rocks I found. I don't remember any except for volcanic rock. She gave me tips for finding diamonds so I went back later with Seymour and Zooey - yes dogs are allowed in the mining area - and I found another sparkly thing. Again, no Diamond. Only 2-4 diamonds are found most days and I think that they are tiny, but the hunt is fun and relaxing and the other people are nice.

It got extremely hot in the field this afternoon. It was 91 but no clouds. I am hoping that tomorrow morning is cooler. The hunt will continue!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We Made It!

After nine hours of driving we finally pulled into the State Park just before 6 PM.

The office was closed but they had my name and my site number on the bulletin board. When I found my site, it was the most perfect one in the campground. I am next to the trail to the Welcome Center and the diamond mining area. I am across from the restrooms, laundry and trash bins. And there is Wi-Fi in front of the restroom area. Tomorrow I will take pictures and write a better blog. Tonight I am just using my cell phone.
I talked to some people who have been here before. They have never found a diamond. They say it is backbreaking work. I don't think I will mine very long tomorrow, maybe a few hours.
I am very excited to be here. More tomorrow.

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Location:Crater of Diamonds State Park

Fogged in

Woke up this morning to thick fog.

I was hoping to leave by 8:30 am this morning but may wait a little. Driving in fog on the freeway isn't my favorite thing. Can't wait to get to the Crater of Diamonds State Park this evening. This will be another thing marked off of my bucket list. And the park seems to be dog friendly!

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Location:Dixon, TN

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What a Day!

Last night I checked Google maps to see how far it was to Crater of diamonds State Park. Since it said it was about 450 miles I decided to take it easy this morning.
I went out to breakfast, did laundry, and went to a few stores to find diamond mining tools. Then I put the address in my GPS and started out. Unfortunately, the GPS said the park was over 850 miles away. What? Which was wrong? Google maps was wrong.

Since I had to be there tomorrow afternoon, I had to drive as much as possible today. Of course there were road construction sites all along the highways. I wanted to get through Nashville so I didn't have to deal with rush-hour in the morning. I finally got into - yes another Motel 6 at 9 PM tonight. I still have about 425 miles to go tomorrow. So much for moseying on home. The good news is that I fiddled with my light switch during one of the construction delays and got my Dashboard lights to work! That almost makes up for the crazy drive today. Almost, but not quite. We will probably leave by 8:30 AM tomorrow to get to the park by about 5 PM. I guess the diamond mining will start the next day. By the way, Zooey seems better this evening.

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Day 2 of Going Home

We left Mike and Lou's at about 10:30 yesterday morning. I took my time driving. Although we went through Pennsylvania, W Virginia and ended up in Ohio, I don't think we drove more than 200 plus miles. I did stop to get necessities twice and stopped for an hour at the Wheeling Island Casino -loved it and wish I had more time there.
We also stopped at the West Virginia Welcome Center. It was an awful place to walk dogs - between the truck lot and the car lot. They didn't even have a trash can for poop bags. I have to also say that I found the Pittsburgh area to not be dog friendly. I called a couple restaurants that had patios and they didn't allow dogs even on the patios. I have been spoiled by the Austin area.

At about 3:30 I started looking for campgrounds. It's surprising how few are here in Ohio - at least where I have been driving. So, once again my stop is -

The Motel 6 here in Grove City, Ohio is very pet friendly. They gave us poop bags (we had our own but that was nice) and dog biscuits.

As you can see next to my key, they are almost as big as the dogs, but Zooey took hers. I haven't looked to see what she ate of it, but this morning she has been throwing up. She seems okay right now. I will watch her. I am doing laundry and then we will head off. I actually made reservations to stay at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas for 2 nights starting Thursday, so we have 2 days to go about 440 miles. That should work. I have always wanted to go there and search for diamonds. I am going to try to buy some diamond searching tools at Target or Walmart today :-)

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Location:Grove City, Ohio

Monday, September 15, 2014

Remember When-

Sunday I drove to Monongahela to see my friend Pam and her family. Along the way I stopped at places from my past. This is the first house we owned when I was first married. I was always afraid that the kids would fall off of that high porch. To the right is the house Pam lived in when I met her. Notice the cobblestone street!

This is where my kids went to elementary school. It is now abandoned and was just sold. It was in the parking lot of that school that I learned to drive a stick shift. I went up and down the hills of the parking lot to practice stopping and going using the brake and clutch.

This was the hospital where both children were born. It was only a few blocks from our house. It is now an apartment for the elderly.

Things had really changed!

Then we went to Pam and Dennis's house and this is the first thing I see when pulling in their driveway-

Yep, their generous and sweet daughters bought their Dad a 1977 (1976?) Corvette a few months ago. Now that's a gift!

We caught up with life for awhile and their daughter and granddaughter came over. I was looking forward to meeting the new baby. They call her Lexi and she is adorable.

After continuing to eat my way through my trip with eggplant Parmesan, cheese burgers and pumpkin pie, I reluctantly headed out before it got too dark. Having no dashboard lights is a hindrance! I got back to my home base - thanks Mike and Lou for putting up with me, my dogs and my "stuff" - we watched football, I ate her yummy meatloaf, and we looked at the map to try to figure out how I will go home. I still haven't quite figured that out. But I know that I am going to miss everyone here!

I think that their cat Fred will finally enjoy having the run - or walk - of the house again.

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Location:Monongahela PA

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Eating My Way Through Pittsburgh

Before I left my brother's yesterday, I asked if he could get me one more piece of Beto's pizza - and he did! I then drove to the flea market where my friend, Lou had a booth - and as usual I got lost. When I called her the conversation went like this.
"Okay, I am at the Library Fire Station and I can't find you"
"We are in the long building right beside it. Do you see a lot of cars?"
"Yes, but it looks like they are all for sale."
"Wait, you are supposed to be at the Castle Shannon Fire Station."

Well, that made a difference! I finally found it and it was a great flea market that is only held twice a year. Unfortunately by the time I got there, many people were packing up. I did find a few things I probably didn't need, but I wish I had been there earlier.

Then I went back to Lou and Mike's house and Lou and I decided to go to the casino. Neither of us won, but I did get some French fries with gravy in their food court. That is not easily found in Texas.

On the way home we stopped for necessities - ice cream, donuts and apple pie English muffins. The exciting thing is that I found a Maple donut, another thing I cannot find in any grocery store near my house. The only reason I can take a picture of it is because I haven't made my coffee yet this morning. Gotta have coffee with my donut!

Today I will be visiting my friend Pam's in Monongahela, which is where both of my children were born. I hope to take a picture of our old house and drive around a little.

Tomorrow I leave for home, but I still haven't figured out which way to go. I might set my GPS for less highways and see where that takes me.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

One Advil Later -

Yesterday, my sis-in-law, her daughter and I walked through downtown Pittsburgh, took the T under the river, spent a little time at the Rivers Casino and walked past all 3 stadiums. Things have really changed in Pittsburgh. I only recognized a few things, the old Kaufman's clock where we would always meet people, and this Lutheran church that is in between some big office buildings in town.

The skyline is really beautiful but was too large to get a good picture. This is from the North Shore area.

Here is the Gateway Clipper with the incline to Mt Washington in the background. People over 65 can ride the incline for free just by showing their Medicare card. In the downtown area, anyone can ride the T for free so we did take advantage of that.

After miles of walking, including many steps, we decided to stop to eat. My niece Kelly found a great place. It is called Rivertowne Brewery. They had many menu items that were new to me. We each decided to get different kinds of pizza and share it. Marcia go Pierogi Pizza, Kelly got some kind of Chicken Wing Pizza and I got the most tame, Ohio a River Pizza. I may have the names a little off, but it is close. I almost tried the Rueben Pizza but we already were having sauerkraut on Marcia's pizza so that was experimental enough. The Pierogi Pizza was better than I expected. I would go back.

Then we walked past the Pirates stadium and people were already arriving for the game. I wanted my picture taken with the Roberto Clemente statue - he was my hero growing up. You will notice we have no dogs with us. That was a nice break.

We drove home and the first thing I did was take an Advil. I don't think my legs and knees have had such a workout since I was in Italy. We were going to go out last night but we all agreed that we needed a rest. Instead we got ice cream from Dairy Queen and watched the Pirates win.

This morning Marcia had to go to work so my brother and I bonded for awhile. The dogs kinda bonded. I heard that my niece Colleen came over yesterday while we were out and she opened the bathroom door and Zooey ran out. Zooey was afraid of Izzy so Colleen ran all around the house trying to catch her while Zooey ran away from Izzy. My brother thought it was pretty funny. I wish we had a video of it! This is the best picture I could get of all of the dogs here.

I am heading back to my friend's house for the night but will visit her at a flea market where she has a booth, later this morning. Luckily it is cool enough here to leave the dogs in the van. I think it is in the 50's and is only going up to the 60's today. I love this cool weather!

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pittsburgh with my Brother's Family

When I got up this morning, Mike made me coffee and ML left me the most delicious muffin I have had in ages. It was pumpkin and had a cream filling. Yum!
Then I packed all of my various plastic bags back into the van. The van looks pretty bad because I took much of my so called " valuables " out of the camper when it was towed so now the bags are all piled on my bed waiting to be stored. They will probably be waiting until I am ready to sleep in my camper again!

Anyway I got to the relatives and was excited to see everyone. My niece had two little boys I had never seen. I visited with my sister-in-law, my brother and their children. It was great catching up on what had been happening. I hadn't seen them in over 2 years.

In the early evening we headed to my favorite pizza place, Beto's Pizza. It has been around since I was a kid and is now being run by the grandchildren of the original owners. I doubt if you have seen or tasted anything like it.

Only tourists ask for the cheese to be melted.

I also had a chance cuddle my brother's youngest grandson. So cute!

When we came home, my brother turned on the Steeler's game and we periodically switched to the Pirates game. Because we can do more than one thing at a time, my niece, my sis-in-law and I also played Candy Crush.

They have a dog named Izzy and after a rough start with alpha Seymour, they got along fine. Zooey spent her time trying to hide. My dogs are now both in their crate in the guest room with me and we are all planning an early bed time. Tomorrow is casino day!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update on Camper Van

I got my camper back - this was written on the bill from auto repair "blower mower resistor had aluminum foil caught in it creating a short. Ferraro Chocolate". Now let me just say I have never eaten Ferraro chocolate in my camper. I think it had been causing my A/C blower problems for a long time. So, I am lucky the fire started in front of my friend's house in Pittsburgh instead of along the highway. The camper still smells pretty badly. The repair people said they are still laughing.

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Location:Pittsburgh, PA

What Camper?

Today started out fine. Mike made me coffee and I enjoyed a piece of pound cake for breakfast. I made plans to visit my friend Sam for lunch. I packed up the camper, set my GPS to the right address and took off - a few feet. I smelled smoke, like someone was burning wood. Then I saw smoke pouring out of my car vents. I tried to grab the dogs but they kept running away from me to the other side of the van. Finally I grabbed them and we hurried back into Mike and Lou's house. I think Mike was getting ready to enjoy some time alone, but alas it was not to be. I looked up the names of auto repair places so I could tell AAA where to tow it. At least 7 places turned me down. Finally, Tony's Auto a Repair said they would look at it.

AAA came and Bill, the tow truck driver said he knew Tony so I feel more comfortable leaving it there.

Bye Meryl ( my camper). Hope you get well real soon!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cool Tour Today

We took our time leaving the campground this morning because the friend I was going to stay with tonight had to work today. I decided to drive through downtown Weston, WV because it said it was a historic town.

I saw a sign for a tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. It sounded interesting so I went to find the tour. When we found it, I saw 3 people sitting by the fountain who looked like they might be going to play the part of inmates and a young man standing outside the door. He said he was a tour guide and said it was fine for me to carry the dogs on the tour. I signed up for the 45 minute tour for only $10. There was also an hour and a half tour for $30. When we went in, I asked the lady who had been sitting by the fountain if she would take a picture of me and the dogs. She did but I found that her group was actually taking the tour with me.

The tour guide, Michael was excellent. I think he went above and beyond when describing and showing us the buildings. He did look the part!

The building is 25 ft shy of a quarter mile long. It is very impressive looking.

There is one room where they say they have detected paranormal activity from a little girl name Lilly. He said that if you look on uTube, you can learn more about her. I plan to do that. This is her room.

There was so much more I learned about this place but it would take a few pages to write it all. After the tour, you could go to the museum rooms and see patient notes, tortures that thought helped patients, and a list of reason for being committed. Some of the reasons were ridiculous - things like "being depressed",
"being kicked by a horse", "trouble", "sunstroke" and "jealousy". They made me sad to think about how many people were confined for no good reason.

I recommend this tour to my Pittsburgh friends. It is only about 2 hours away and you won't be disappointed.

Then we headed onward. We stopped at a rest area and I always think my vehicle is bigger than it is. When the signs say trucks and RV's go to one parking lot and cars to another, I always go to the truck lot. Today it was obvious I was probably in the wrong lot.

I'm still laughing about it.

We got into Pittsburgh by 4 pm, just before my friend got home. We are now talking and relaxing and enjoying our time together, well except for a Seymour-cat run in. I am guessing that Seymour will be staying away from the cat during the rest of our stay.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Almost to Pittsburgh

We left at about 10 a took our time driving and site seeing - and shopping. We all seemed to need more than the usual potty stops which I thought was working out fine since I didn't plan to drive more than 250 miles today. I drove like an old lady today ( no comments). I drove as slow as I could going down the mountains and I think that I could have been passed by someone on a bike. I didn't care but it did make the trip longer.

We stopped at a rest area in Virginia and I noticed a woman standing at the pet rest area. She was still standing I the same spot when I came out of the restroom. I went to get the dogs and let them walk there and noticed that there was no where to walk. The are was about 4ft x 8 ft and although it doesn't look like it, but there is a steep embankment just behind the sign. This was one of the worst pet areas I have seen at rest stops.

We then stopped at my favorite Welcome Center - West Virginia. I didn't take a picture this time but there is one in one of my older blogs. It is worth looking up.

Finally I decided that it was time to find a campground. I turned off of 2 different exits that said there were campgrounds, but I didn't find any. My GPS finally told me that there was only one campground 14 miles ahead. I decided to trust it even though it is often wrong.

On the way I passed a beautiful scenic overlook and decided to stop to take a picture.

While I was there I asked a young man if he wanted me to take his picture. He said no, he was taking a picture of his truck at the overlook. But he asked if I wanted him to take a picture of me. This one's for you, Joan!

Back to the campground search. The GPS was actually right. It is called the Broken Wheel Campground. It is funky and quaint. It has a little country store In front.

It looks like it is inhabited by permanent campers mostly. They also will store your RV and then in a separate area, they have short term campers. She gave me a choice of about 20 camp sites to choose from, so it basically wasn't crowded. My only little complaints are that the bathroom is probably too far away to take advantage of, and the water comes out brown. I was going to wash my new coffee pot but decided that I would rather taste the chemicals. This is the towel I was going to wash it with. It was white before I ran it under the faucet.

Otherwise, the camp site is really pretty. There is even a small stream beside us.

I am sitting on the porch of the country store to use their wifi and when I looked up, 2 rabbits were running across the parking lot.

I would stay here again. I like funky and quaint.

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Location:Weston, WV