August 13, 2023 – Landisville to Lewistown
After months of personalizing our new Winnebago EKKO motorhome we left our dirt-bound home today for about a month of, let’s call it an extended shakedown trip. We’ll then drift back home through Landisville to take care of any additional issues before setting off for an undetermined amount of time heading out on an indeterminate, “Aimless”, follow-our-noses itinerary.
A bit about our motorhome:
Our 2023 Winnebago EKKO is a 23-foot, class-C motorhome built on a Ford Transit 350 HD chassis with AWD and dual rear wheels. Three large solar panels on the roof charge an awesome 640 amp-hour battery bank. There are 50 gallons of fresh water on board. So it can probably go anywhere we’d likely want to take her and not need any of the typical campground services like an electrical hookup or water for up to about five days.
WAWA in our Driveway
We added shelving inside the cabinets and installed drawer storage inside what was supposed to have been hanging closet space. Instead of the optional outdoor tailgate kitchen, we installed more storage shelving and a pull-out induction plate for outdoor cooking. The back of the unit has a large “garage” where we set up to store our two folding ebikes and folding chairs as well as a multitude of other camping items. And there were too many other, smaller personalizations to mention.
We named our motorhome WAWA in honor of Bill’s great grandfather, George Strouse. WAWA was the name of George’s 34 foot powerboat that he kept on Lake Champlain. In 1910 he loaded himself, his wife, his best friend and his oldest daughter for an epic, four-and-a-half month voyage through lakes, rivers and canals to Montreal, Ottawa, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Allentown to visit family. Cruising back they entered the Erie Canal from the Hudson River ending in Tonawanda, NY. All that in 1910! Follow this link to see the complete log that George kept while on the trip.
This WAWA “voyage” will be a bit more cushy.
WAWA Logo Bill Cut by Hand
So, on to the first day of this trip. We didn’t go far and it started with a stumble. We got about a mile from home when we realized we forgot Bill’s favorite water bottle and a paper map book. Returning home it was hard to miss the fact that we’d also forgotten to shut our garage door … ugh!
On our way, again, we made a quick stop to visit Sandy’s niece, Tammy, and husband, Don, who just moved to a temporary home about a mile from us to await construction of a new home in nearby East Petersburg. They’re sort of camping out in this rental, with the garage and second floor bedrooms stuffed with their belongings until the new place is finished. It will be nice to have them living nearby.
Next stop was the home of Bill’s high school classmate, Bill Wolfe and his wife Sandi, at their home in Mechanicsburg. Among other things, Bill is an avid gardener. His gardens include two long, tumbling water features, a beautiful collection of Koi, multi-terraced patio and an impressive fountain. We’ll miss this year’s class picnic and asked Bill to give our regards to the gang. It’s pretty remarkable that our class of 1964 still get together regularly after nearly 60 years.
Basalt Columns form Bills Favorite Fountain
Bill Wolfe and Sandy Next to His Koi Pond
Koi Showing Off in the Pond
Lower Water Feature in Bill Wolfe’s Backyard
Then we were off to tonight’s destination, Shy Bear Brewing in Lewistown. This brewpub participates in Harvest Hosts, a program where member campers are invited to stay overnight for one night free of charge. Participants include breweries, wineries, farms, churches and others. Reservations are required and they generally do not offer electrical or water hookups. The hope, of course, is that visitors will purchase a little something from them if they have things to sell but there is no obligation.
Small Part of the Dinner Crowd at Shy Bear Brewery
Our Free Camping Spot at Shy Bear
Owner, Jason, directed us to our parking place, a nicely landscaped level grassy area behind the restaurant area and below his large hillside home. In the case of this Harvest Host, purchase we did. The outdoor patio dining area was pretty crowded so we were seated above the fray on the porch. The beer was excellent, the staff attentive and the food, including tacos for Sandy and ribs right off the smoker for Bill, was tasty and reasonably priced. The live band, Astral Shakedown, was great. Owner, Jason, was on hand, busing tables and making sure everyone was enjoying themselves. His presence no doubt helps guarantee an excellent experience.
It’s been a busy few weeks and we were tired so it was early to bed, at least for Bill.
August 14, 2023 – Lewistown to Raystown Lake
After a lazy morning at the Shy Bear Brewery, we stopped in nearby Boalsburg to visit ski club friends, Pam & Denny Dunn. These are great people who share a history of competitive small boat sailing. While they no longer sail their Thistle, (Wanna buy it?), Denny has, for the past thirteen years worked to restore a 40 foot Sparkman & Stephens yawl named Alita in his oversized garage. Alita is a sister ship of the famous Finisterre, 3-time winner of the Newport-Bermuda race.
Alita from Her Bow
Pam Sandy and Denny Pose Behind Alita
The hard work of replanking the bottom and rebuilding the rudder, engine and a host of other items is basically complete. It involved some very interesting woodworking and at least one amazing Japanese scarf joint. Now, however, Denny has decided to try to sell Alita to another enthusiast to complete the job.
Denny Shows Off an Early Attempt at a Japanese Scarf Joint
Actual Japanese Scarf Joint in Alita’s Toe Rail
After touring WAWA and lunch at the Pump Station Café in Boalsburg, we made our way to the Corps of Engineers Seven Point Campground on Raystown Lake. The one hour drive was extended to one-an-a-half hours when we came to an 8 ft 2 in railroad underpass that we were loath to try to pass under with our 10 ft 6 high RV. Turns out we overlooked the PA route 45 truck route sign that would have avoided the need for us to turn around and backtrack.
Like all the Corps campgrounds we’ve visited, this one is impeccably maintained. It is quite large but is divided into six widely spaced campground loops that make it seem much more intimate. The sites are all level with gravel bases and all have picnic tables set off in separate areas, also with gravel bases. We explored the Seven Points recreational area and visited the huge marina which has more boat slips than any other marina in PA. This beautiful, narrow, winding lake is 28 miles long covering 8,300 acres.
I suppose we’re still recovering from the long stint of get-ready activity so it was frozen gluten free ravioli and green beans followed by relax and read time. The predicted rain arrived during the evening so we had to close most of our windows. Nevertheless, we stayed comfortable overnight with only a ceiling exhaust fan running.
August 15, 2023 – Raystown Lake
The Visitor Center hosts a weekly breakfast provided by local vendors, mainly from the Huntington area. We joined the event, last one of the season as it turned out. There were excellent baked goods including gluten free muffins, fruit and coffee as well as door prizes. We enjoyed the food and talking to some of the fifty or so other campers who showed up. Sandy was talking with one young woman and discovered (1) that she lived in Lancaser, (2) that she worked for Dr Turnpaugh who Sandy has been going to for years and (3) that they were camped in a site next door to us.
Sandy had been talking to the coffee roasting guy, the owner of the Standing Stone Coffee Company, saying how much she liked the one particular coffee he provided. Then, when it came time for the door prize drawing it turned out that Sandy won a pound of coffee from the guy, the same one she liked!
Sandy Poses with ECHO the Bat from Nearby Lincoln Caverns
We decided to explore Huntington so we headed out in WAWA to check the town out. Our first stop was at the public library to use their WiFi since our cell service had been weak since we left home. We downloaded our email and some photos to use in these posts. Then it was off to check out the CUPCAKE place. Closed … “Shucks!” or words to that effect. Next stop was the coffee place to have the coffee Sandy won ground. And, wouldn’t you know, they had some day-old gluten free muffins for sale half price! Next, we’d decided on BYOB food at the town’s most prominent brewpub, Juniata Brewing Company, for lunch. Closed … “Shucks!” or words to that effect.
That disappointment was followed by a near visit to Huntington’s Flagpole Hill, highest place in town. I say near visit because we fell short of our goal, deciding upon sighting it we decided to forgo the mile-long climb to see a flagpole surrounded by floodlights.
A quick stop at Giant for bread and bananas was next on the agenda as well as a stop at a farm stand for corn to go with our BLTs for supper. Returning to our campsite, we found a note inviting us to the neighbors we met earlier campsite for dinner. We accepted.
We had a great time with neighbors, Dale, Renee and their daughter, Desiree. Desiree prepared a huge and delicious veggie stir fry on a foil-covered grate over an open fire. Dale is a competitive corn hole player and he had a regulation setup at their campsite. Dale coached Sandy on corn hole technique before dinner and then we enjoyed an after dinner game pitting Sandy & Bill against Renee and Desiree. Need I say who won?
August 16, 2023 – Raystown Lake to Johnstown
We bade farewell to Dale, Renee and Desiree in the morning and headed out to take in the “World-Famous Horseshoe Curve”. A national historic landmark, the property is operated by the Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona.
Along with the nearby Gallitzin Tunnels, the Curve became known as one of the eight engineering marvels of the world. It conquered the massive 2,000 foot front of the Allegheny Mountains that blocked the westward advance of the railroad. The now-iconic railroad link opened for business on February 15, 1854 and, to this day, remains one of the primary east-west arteries of railroad travel in the nation.
A well designed visitor center at the bottom of the property details the history of the curve but the main attraction is about 100 feet above in the center of the actual curve. Normally people ride to the top in a short funicular but it awaits inspection after repairs. So we and other visitors climbed the 194 steps to the trackside viewing area.
Entrance to The World Famous Horseshoe Curve
194 Stairs to the Trackside Viewing Area
Funicular Track was Closed
Trackside Viewing Area Looking Up and West
Trackside Viewing Area Looking Down and East
Pennsylvania Railroad 7048 Diesel Replaced Steam Engine that Originally was Here
The highlight is to see a train passing by while you’re there. One passed through as we arrived in the parking lot far below. We waited trackside for over an hour before deciding to leave. Just as we were beginning our descent we heard a train climbing the curve from the east and rushed back up to see it go by. It was pretty awesome. The train was 100 cars long and the squeal of the wheels as they rubbed against the curved track was truly ear piercing.
Finally the Engines Pulling a 100 Car Train Climbs the Curve
The Rest of the Train Follows, Wheels Squealing Loudly
Next, we were off to visit the Johnstown Flood National Memorial. Now known as the Lake View Visitor Center, it sits on a spot that would have overlooked Lake Conemaugh, the lake that was formed by the dam that broke and caused the devastating flood that caused the death of 2,209 people in 1889.
The visitor center had excellent displays that document the flood, the conditions that allowed it to occur and devastation that it caused. First of the two most striking elements, for us, was an audio recording of flood survivor, Victor Heiser, as he recalled his personal experience of being swept away by the flood and surviving. Second was the center’s masterfully done and remarkably emotional film that described what the experience of flood victims must have been like.
We missed the separate Johnstown Flood Museum that is downtown because we were due at our overnight accommodation, La Dolce Vita Estate, another Harvest Host participant on the west side of Johnstown. Host, Tiffany, showed us around the grounds of their beautiful home. Originally constructed in 1931 for a, (supposed) Pittsburgh mobster, it also served as a speakeasy during prohibition. Tiffany and her husband purchased it a few years ago and are beginning to work it as a gentleman farm operation.
August 17, 2023 – Johnstown to Confluence, PA
We left La Dolce Vita Estate after Sandy indulged in one of Tiffany’s lattes. We were headed to Confluence and the Corps of Engineers Outflow Campground. We’ve been here before, a small neat campground situated just below the dam on the Youghiogheny River that forms Youghiogheny Lake. The campground is also a place to camp for numerous bicyclists riding the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail that passes right next to the campground. There is a special “Bikers & Hikers” section reserved just for them.
Along the way we stopped for groceries, produce and Lowes near Somerset. Then it was off to the campground. We parked and got the bikes out to take the short ride into town. I need to get my derailleur adjusted but the bike shop there was closed on Thursdays. We did, however stop at River’s Edge restaurant and B&B to make reservations for the following evening and had iced tea and root beer at a table in their intimate garden. There were probably a dozen and a half bicycles in the rack at the restaurant, some there to eat lunch and others to stay overnight. When we returned to the campground Bill did a few small projects with the supplies he’d purchased at Lowes. We spent the rest of a lazy afternoon reading and even plugged in to run the air conditioning for a couple of hours.
Interestingly, while making dinner on the induction plate and microwaving corn on the cob, the 110 volt system shut down! The problem? Bill plugged in our power cord but neglected to also turn on the circuit breaker at the power pole. We’d been running everything, including the A/C, through the inverter which supplies 110 volts by drawing on the batteries. They were down to 63%, by far the lowest we’ve ever seen but not the cause of the problem. The shutdown was because the inverter wasn’t rated to deliver enough power to run the induction plate and the microwave at the same time1
It rained overnight causing us to jump out of bed to close the windows.