My main goal for the summer was to visit my daughter in New Jersey and see her new apartment, visit my family in West Virginia, and see the east coast. I’ve seen almost all of the rest of the country below New York. But with the month we lost in Wisconsin and the COVID travel restrictions, time was running short.
After our trip to upstate New York and Niagra, we both started feeling a bit sick, so we checked into a suite for a week to recover and Katy took a COVID test just to be sure. The weather was noticeably colder and we knew it wasn’t long before it would be freezing here. But things happen, what’s another week. Luckily everything came back negative and it was just a flu or cold of some sort.
My main priority was visiting my daughter so we drove straight south as soon as we could, stopping briefly in Scranton, Pennsylvania for some photos. We had found an RV park in Jersey City directly across the water from lower Manhattan and close to her new apartment. It was probably the most expensive place we’ve stayed so far but very convenient and we enjoyed staying there.
I got to visit for 2 full days and see her apartment and new neighborhood. I’ve been missing her terribly but happy that she’s enjoying her time in New York and her school. I’ve always wanted her to feel free and empowered enough to live anywhere she wants to. It’s great to see her thriving there and pursuing her goals. I just want her to be happy.
But as expected the weather had started to turn. So we had to leave a bit faster than I had wanted and drive south to West Virginia where I grew up to visit my family.
Another two days there and we headed further south through Kentucky to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park before heading south into Tennessee to visit Graceland.
Convalescence and Scranton, Pennsylvania.
After being awoken in the middle of the night by me loudly vomiting in our Lake Ontario Campground, I think Katy realized we needed to take a break. I fell asleep on the floor in front of the bathroom feeling better exactly where I was. The next day we booked a cheap suite on the outskirts of Niagra and settled in for a week until we felt better. Lots of contactless delivery for us. On the bright side we did get to do a side by side comparison of the original Buffalo wings places. I hadn’t realized that Buffalo wings started in Buffalo. Seems a bit obvious now.
Once recovered we packed up and headed south and stopped briefly in Scranton, Pennsylvania, fictional hometown of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company of the American version of The Office. The interiors of the office and exterior of the office building were shot in LA but many of the exterior scenes were filmed at local restaurants and parks and other references like pizza delivery were based on local chains. We also found the Pennsylvania Paper and Supply Company office and warehouse on Mifflin street that was clearly an inspiration for the series. They had erected a Dunder Mifflin sign on their tower.
Visiting the kiddo!
I was very excited to get to see my daughter and her new apartment. She had recently moved out of lower Manhattan and directly across the water to Jersey City in a tall building with more space and a spectacular view. And given the pandemic, both were pretty important. Her commute was a little longer but since everything moved to be online it really didn’t matter.
I had never been to Jersey City. It kind of felt like a Canadian version of Brooklyn. It had all of the brownstones and cool old buildings but there were lots of families pushing babies around and parks to play in. Many of the old 1-2 story buildings still remained.
We found this odd RV park right at the ferry terminal in the middle of Jersey City. It was mostly empty and the vehicles there were more of the large tour bus variety. It was fun walking to everything and still getting to stay in the camper at night.
I got to see the new place and enjoy watching the sun set on Manhattan. Plus we had a few good meals. We had taken a break from our low carb diet while sick and kept that going through our visits.
I was sad to leave but hopefully we’ll see each other again at Christmas in Seattle.
A short stop in West Virginia.
From New Jersey we drove south through Pennsylvania again and into Maryland, stopping at Cumberland, Maryland, before driving all the way through West Virginia and camping at Beech Fork Lake Campground.
When my mom was my age now I was 14 and that’s when she first started going to this same campground on the weekend. As a teenager who spent a good deal of time camping in the woods, I really didn’t understand the appeal of a grass parking lot next to lots of other people. I would always drag my feet and try to stay home. I hated it.
But now, for the first time, late in the season with not very many other people camped, it was really quite beautiful. Late fall leaves framing a mist covered lake with hundreds of geese claiming the area for themselves. It was quiet and peaceful and we felt very at home in our camper. It’s interesting how much your perspective changes over time.
My parent’s driveway is typically steep so we rented a car for our stay and visited the town of Huntington a bit in-between family time. The economy and the heroin epidemic has not been kind to my hometown. These days it’s only a shell of the place I remember as a kid. Many of the homes that I remember seeming so rich and fancy have now been abandoned or put on sale for a low price. No one seems to want to live in the city any more, preferring the areas around it instead. But other things seem pretty much the same. I managed to sneak in a few hotdogs at my favorite places and visit the Frost Top drive-in.
As I’ve said before, I do see positive signs of resurrection. There are a variety of new locally owned businesses, craft beer, that smell of hipster in the air. I guess we’ll see how that goes. I’m rooting for her.
The hill on which my mother built her house and where she’s lived for over 40 years has recently started to shift. The two houses next door to her were completely destroyed in a matter of weeks. So the situation is a bit tense. The house next door, like literally 10-20 feet away, had their foundation drop 4 feet in the middle of the house, crumpling it, with the front deck sitting about 5 feet away from the house now. A very scary situation.
Huntington was created from scratch by the great train baron Collis P. Huntington of San Francisco and named it after himself. It was strategically located at the intersection of the barge lines from the Ohio River and his train lines to the west. At the turn of last century, the city was booming. This statue of him was created by the same artist as Mount Rushmore.
Mammoth Cave National Park
After West Virginia we really didn’t have a plan. We essentially mapped a path to San Diego where we thought might be nice to stay for a month or so and then started adding stops along the way. About 4.5 hours southwest of Huntington was Bowling Green, Kentucky which was quite near a national park. So we booked the only available spot, a small cabin in the park, and stayed the night.