PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Early pioneers crossed this vast country in Conestoga Wagons from Pennsylvania to the Pacific. Today getaway seekers are buying and renting the modern equivalents for travel near and far, over paved highways to welcoming campgrounds or secluded lake or mountain hideawayds. The wagon is a Recreational Vehicle or Camper. It combines transportation, lodging and recreation center all rolled in one. RV’s can sleep 4 to 6, have galleys for cooking, bathrooms and showers, entertainment centers and the ability to hook up to commercial campground utilities. Autumn is a perfect time for a repeat or first time experience. There’s the fascination of blazing Fall colors, reduced highway traffic and lower cost. Here’s a look at a pair of Fall destinations that are easy to navigate and breathtaking to visit.
This unique campground is anchored on a historic Civil War site with easy access by foot or horseback to the Gettysburg battlefield. Yes, horseback. The campground shares land with the National Riding Stables that offers battlefield trail rides, we described a few weeks ago. The campground is also equine friendly with stalls and corrals available for horse owners who trailer their own. Artillery Ridge is laid out to provide some isolation for visitors who skew toward a more secluded lifestyle, and for those who want to socialize with other campers and travelers. Kevin O’Rourke, the son of late KYW Sportscaster Jack O’Rourke is an avid RV traveler. He raves about the socialization, “Each trip is an amazing adventure. We meet great people at every RV park. People actually put down their electronics and start a conversation.”
On site are outdoor sports, a catch and release pond, laundry, kids playground and an enclosed riding area. Nearby you’ll find the scenic Catoctin Mountains for dynamic Fall foliage.
WHAT’S THE COST
Camp sites here with water and electric are $55 a night. Add another $5 for a sewage hookup. If you come by car and are tenting or decide to stay in a rustic cabin, Artillery Ridge has them at varying rates.
Artillery Ridge is easy to reach over good roads. From the Delaware Valley head straight west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Exit to Route 15 south. Then take the route 30 west exit to Gettysburg and go south for a couple of miles on route 134 (Taneytown Rd) to the campground.
Our first evening on pristine Sand Lake was punctuated by the calls of loons, the iconic northern water birds that give their name to the Canadian dollar, “The Looney.” sitting by a campfire, schmoozing with old and new friends around a campfire alongside a spacious RV is the essence of a motorized camping experience. Sand Lake is part of Ontario’s 125 mile long Rideau Canal. The waterway that connects Lake Ontario with Ottawa is a series of picturesque lakes, linked by locks. At Sand Lake Campground, about 25 miles from the U.S. border, you can park the RV on a waterfront site and boats are available for rent. You can even rent a cabin. My friends Roger and Denise Wiltshire make it their Spring, Summer and Fall home. He drives the RV while she brings a car. It is truly one of the most relaxing, thinly populated, stress-free spots in the eastern part of the continent. Yet it’s only under 8 hours driving time from the Delaware Valley on major highways – until the final few miles. The weekly Fall rate for a basic site is $210, extra for water, electricity and pump-out. Daily rates are also available.
The attraction is the lake and the solitude it offers. But with a boat rental and a fishing pole you may not have to be concerned about, “What’s for dinner?” The fishing is spectacular.
If you brought or rented a car, the nearby town of Westport serves up lakefront dining at the Cove Country Inn. If you have a craving for a perfect prime rib, the hamlet of Newboro sports the Stagecoach Inn. Nearby Chafee’s Lock unlocks a view of fascinating canal lock operations that allow boats to bypass a scenic waterfall. Then lunch in a rustic themed room and a tasting of Canadian brews.
It’s a straight shot up the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-81 north. Just take I-81 to the Thousand Islands Canadian Border crossing. Then follow signs to Highway 401 west. Continue west toward Gananoque and take exit #645 on to Highway 32 north to Highway. 15. Turn right (north) on 15 for about 15 minutes. Turn left onto Bush Road, then take the 3rd left onto Battams Road and follow the signs. It’s about 30 minutes from highway 401 at Gananoque. It’s all major highway until Bush Road.
TIPS: Former KYW reporter Richard Maloney was the envy of News-Radio when he drew an assignment to travel the country in an RV and broadcast “Slices of Life” vignettes. He covered 38 states in 5 months. Then he took two RV family excursions. KYW rented his wheels from Stoltzfus RV & Marine on RT 202 in West Chester. He offers these tips for a novice RVer.
1. Rent from a reputable company. There’s lots of info on the internet.
2. Become thoroughly familiar with the workings of the RV before you leave the dealer:
Make sure the electric generator works – and you know how to operate it. Learn how the electrical, water and sewer systems operate. Actually go through the hookups so you know how the fittings work and you have all the parts on board.
3. Traveling with kids – keep them safe while underway. Try – try – to keep them in seat belts.
Keep them occupied with games, movies and books.
Be sure to carefully stow away anything that can fly if you have to stop suddenly or swerve.
4. Plan ahead — know where you are going to stay for the night and make reservations in advance.