Cedar Point and the Sandusky KOA

First of all, the KOA!  I have to admit, there have been several times in my life when I thought “why would I ever stay in a KOA?”  Call it camp snobbery or something, but my assumption was that if I couldn’t be backpacking, I’d want to be as far from an “organized campground” as possible.  That even if the campground were well-appointed, I’d want it to look like it was primitive.  I’m now re-thinking that.

It was actually pretty cool, and served our purposes well.  They’re clearly used to folks like us rolling in with their homes on wheels and rolling right back out, and they ensured we were up and running with everything we needed within 10 minutes.  The location left a bit to be desired.  It was hard not to flash back to My Cousin Vinny after the freight train rolled through in the wee hours.  “She’s s’posed to come through ten after 4!…”  Some day I’ll have to figure out why all the horn honking on those things, and whether they do that for their entire route or only when they pass sleeping people.

I was also surprised to see how many people seem to spend months at a time at KOAs, or at least at this one.  Some of the setups people were sporting implied very long term stays (actual porches built from lumber, satellite dishes dug into the ground and wired, etc).  I tend to see the KOA more as a fine solution to the temporary problem of “where do I sleep tonight?”

Cedar Point.  Another very cool place within very specific parameters.  It sits on a peninsula (used to be an island) that juts out into Lake Erie, and is basically a mega amusement park and resort with an emphasis on roller coasters.  There are 16, and just about all of them would qualify as the flagship ride at any other park.  I think we lucked out with the weather again.  It was low 80s, perfectly clear, and low humidity.  Cedar Point strikes me as the kind of place where you get a lot of summer thunderstorms and rarely dry off.  Not so today.

Amusement parks tend to be a mixed bag for us these days, given the kids’ ages.  Inevitably we (parents) need to split up due to the girls wanting to ride different rides than Keeper (and us).  Lots of texting and checking phone battery life. “where are you right now?”  “getting on in 5” “I’m down to 16%” “meet you in front of that fried Oreo shop”  I’m struck once again by how impossible the task of herding any sized group must have been just a few years ago, before we could tell each other exactly where we were moment by moment.  Also, and I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but my career choice notwithstanding, there are lots and lots of rides that make me feel like crap.  Even roller coasters.  Too much twisting & inverting?  I need an hour to let my head settle.  Head banging back and forth?  Sore for half the day.  Anything that swings?  Fuggedaboudit, I’m scrambled and done.

But, again, the roller coasters there are spectacular, and there was plenty for the kids to do.  Firebolt and Woodsprite were even able to up their coaster game a bit too.  Firebolt has been uncharacteristically tentative in the thrill ride department.  The last time she rode a roller coaster (at Universal in Florida), she calmly told us thereafter that “I didn’t enjoy that.  It made my heart scream.”  Fair enough, and I love your choice of words!  We did manage to find a semi-thrill ride we could all ride, that was new to me.  Basically it simulated a half-pipe and had about 40 of us in one big car that was allowed to spin freely as it rocked back and forth along the half pipe.  It was sportier than it looked from the ground.  The kids all loved it; I was about 2 minutes from puking.

I think the best ride is pictured up above, behind Keeper doing his I’m-not-the-least-bit-nervous face.  It’s called Top Thrill Dragster, and shoots you via linear induction to 125 mph, then up and over that huge vertical hill.  I guess on occasion it doesn’t quite make it over the top and comes back down in reverse.  Unfortunately we made it over the first time.  Quick ride, but intense the entire time.  I could’ve done it all day.  Keeper got to do it twice in a row due to the “parent swap” option they offer you, which, if you’re a parent of young kids and don’t know about this, by all means check it out. When I pointed out to him that a cat shot on an aircraft carrier gets you to almost twice that speed in the same distance, he responded “sure Dad, but you’re not open air and not nearly as close to the ground, so the sensation of speed isn’t the same.”  Very good point!

Another highlight was the Millennium Force, which was easily the smoothest coaster I’ve ever ridden, with nearly constant G force (from zero to ?) and a good bit of speed.  After Tacco got off she said that it was fantastic, but she was pretty sure she had greyed out at least once. (!)

Overall it was a good, if busy, day.  I think we’re all still finding our stride and trying to catch up to all the change.  It’s moving fast, and it’s taxing to stay a few steps ahead so that we’re not just reacting to everything.  There’s been no relaxing yet.  The next few days may be challenging, as I’ll be commuting to work for the first time from the road and flying for a couple days.  I’m not thrilled about leaving them behind, but it’s something we’ll all clearly need to get used to.  Working out the logistics was daunting, as we’re planning to stay at a State Rec Area in Michigan about an hour north of the Detroit airport and my flight leaves at noon, so we need to break camp here in Ohio, drive up to the campsite there, set up very quickly, and pile everyone back into the car to drive back down to DTW and drop me off.  That means dawn patrol, at least for me.  I’m hoping I can get everyone right back to sleep once we get on the road.

Another take on D-Day…

Departure Day looks a little different from my (TACCO’s) perspective. It was a day of frenetic activity from which it took three days (past Detroit) to spool down. In some ways our impending departure was not unlike waiting to give birth.   Our three monkeys each made their respective appearances late (Keeper was 8 days late), later (Firebolt was 11 days late) and ridiculous (WoodSprite was 12 days tardy to the party). It felt as though I was not ready to enter into each new phase until I set aside some time to honor the transitional process at hand, to acknowledge what chapter was coming to an end and welcome the new one unfolding.

About two weeks prior to our departure, I was speaking with a dear friend as to whether we should even go on this adventure as the house hadn’t yet sold. I expressed my frustration with not being able to wholly commit to the trip because we weren’t free of our ties to Maryland. She patiently listened to me reiterate what we hoped to do this year and also consider what was keeping us here, namely that we hadn’t sold our house, we have family in the area that we love, and that Keeper had been accepted into the STEM Magnet Program by lottery, which is a fantastic opportunity, and one that he was pretty excited about. She then asked me if I had made it a point to cut ties with the house. Wait, what? I hadn’t thought of that.

On the next morning that our kids were all at summer camp and Flight was away on a trip, I carved out some time to honor the current transitional process. Especially over the summer, solo time in our house is a rare thing. I went into my treatment space, got down on my knees and started to pray. I gave thanks for the house that we’d lived and thrived in for the past nearly four years, and acknowledged that we are ready to move on. I also asked for some discernment about whether we should forego our plans entirely, or only go out to the Grand Tetons to witness the solar eclipse and beat feet back to Maryland in time for our kids to start the new school year, or start this adventure regardless of our house selling, or something else I hadn’t even considered.

Within two hours I got a call from the local STEM Magnet Program Manager to let us know that Keeper was not actually enrolled in the program, but was #142 on the waitlist. And, as there are only 100 seats available, the likelihood he would be offered a seat in the program for this upcoming year was close to zero. ??!?! I had called the middle school earlier in the week expressing concern as to whether or not we were on the appropriate email distribution list because we hadn’t heard anything about the STEM Program. The lovely woman who answered my call assured me she’d have the program director get back to me soonest.

Earlier this in the year, Flight had been tracking what he thought was Keeper’s lottery number and watched this set of digits move from number 7 or 8 on the waitlist to having solidly secured a seat in the program. In an uncharacteristic episode of momentary dyslexia, Flight had transposed two of the digits and had tracked someone else’s 6th grader’s progress. Keeper’s actual lottery number started near #170 on the waitlist and had moved up to #142. The key entering argument for sticking around in Maryland and potentially postponing our adventure for another three years had been Keeper’s acceptance into the STEM Program. Without that tie, even with the house still ours and being around the corner form our cousins, we felt a little freer to wheel about. We being I as Flight was about to land in Florida and had no idea what had transpired in the wake of my prayer.

Needless to say a flurry of texts ensued upon his landing and we were able to briefly discuss “What next?!” Flight was not due home until late that evening, Keeper not until the next day, and I still had to collect WoodSprite and Firebolt from their respective camp experiences that afternoon. We were fortunate enough to spend the evening visiting with some new friends (whom I seem to have known forever) new to our recent neck of the woods. But between now and then I had a brief moment to process this game-changing piece of info and realized, “it’s go time.” It was Friday, 21 July, and, a brief look at the calendar indicated we had a narrow window of opportunity to depart.

Things that have been languishing on the to do list now had 9 days to get done. Or not, meaning those items would wait until Flight and I returned to pack out the house when it sells. The action of saying thank you and good-bye to our house allowed me to mentally and emotionally transition our home to Davista. While flight was doing some heavy lifting to get our massive landcraft operational (check out his work here…), I had some detail work to do to assume residence within. A gaggle of our cousins came over for some pool time and pizza and I was heckled for cutting out fabric on the pool deck. The duvet covers that I had planned to make for the girls weren’t yet finished started and I was determined to knock them out before we left. I finished sewing them the day before we left – it was really important to me that the girls could make their bunks their own.  Flight had already helped Keeper make his space his own.

MLP duvet cover
WoodSprite is all about My Little Pony and now her new bunk just about screams it.
HP duvet cover
Firebolt’s duvet celebrates Harry Potter and Gryffindor House.

In logging countless hours of research over the last six months (much of which while sucked into Pinterest…), I had read many full-time RVers emphasize the importance of bringing hobbies with you on the road. Because I left that task to the end, maybe because moving my creative work space made our departure real, I had to comb through the Michael’s-like warehouse in our basement thick with palettes for my various hobbies and determine what was both compact enough and critical for my sanity during our deployment. Jewelry-making, knitting, sewing, skin-care products, scrapbooking, card-making, book-making, not to mention building a traveling apothecary (not including the Varsity and JV First Aid Kits – those had already been built) and acupuncture clinic.

At one point Flight came down into the basement after midnight to see me surrounded by knitting needles and yarn from no less than 12 different projects in various states of completion, a traveling sewing kit half-assembled, and paper crafts littering my desk. Sometimes my creative process is confusing to Flight, sometimes perplexing, but he usually gives me a wide berth so long as he can shut the door and contain the chaos. He didn’t know what to make of my sitting in this advanced state of “not the way we want to leave the house when we depart in ten hours.” I assured him this was just my process and all will be good to go by the time we pull away. And with that assurance (?), he went to bed.


Tulip Pillow
Just looking at this pillow makes me happy…

In the following hours, I managed to build a sewing kit (the kids will each learn to sew by hand by the end of our travels – I left my sewing machine in our museum), pack my knitting needles and yarn for a few projects (the kids will each learn to knit as well), pack my acupuncture needles and herbs, collect enough paper and envelopes for making cards on the go, and sew two sets of decorative pillow cases for Davista’s living room/galley/dining room/movie theater space. Although there was no sleeping for me until at least Pennsylvania, I needed some last minute quiet time alone in my creative space to express my gratitude by knocking out a few more projects, and to identify the scaffolding for the year’s creative outlets.

Flight woke up to an inspection ready basement, with the rest of the house almost back to museum state. The morning was dedicated to frenetic cleaning, spreading some of our Cascadian Mountain Dogs’ ashes in the backyard where they romped the last of their days, and gathering and shuttling last minute items to Davista. While we departed Davidsonville without a can opener (fortunately we have a Swiss Army Knife and can open cans old school until we get a new one), Keeper’s flip flops (he’s been wearing a pair of mine for shower shoes), Firebolt’s glasses (“It’s okay, Mom, I don’t really need them.” !!!), and plenty of things we have yet to discover, we’re settling into a new way of living and enjoying our time together. Or will, after I get some sleep.


Perfect weather, after some ugly days.  House not sold, though the original plan stipulated a sold house as a requirement.  Two divergent (and poorly communicated) ideas about how our last day in Maryland would look, scheduling-wise, leading to some frustration at 1AM the evening prior, or I guess I should say the morning of.  There has to be either some foreshadowing or some greater truth in there, but I haven’t made the effort to dig deeper and probably won’t.  Because ultimately we took the first step, which I’ve got to think is the biggest, and we pulled it off!

[Note:  we’re not using our actual names on this site.  See the “Who Are We” page or click here for explanation of callsigns.]

Backing up slightly and with the benefit of a little hindsight, I can see that there was simply no way we were going to feel prepared.  For months I’d blabbered about how we had so incredibly much to do and we had to get on it now now now, but that now seems naive at best, somewhere south of annoying at worst.  Though I’m sure we could have executed more efficiently on several levels, it was always going to come down to that last week.  Later and later nights sorting / discarding / donating / fretting / fixing / packing throughout the week, with Davista parked in our driveway (much to our HOA’s chagrin I’m sure), culminating in a no-kidding all-nighter by Tacco the night before leaving.  After a going-away party and the attendant clean-up no less.  It really was a herculean effort — I loaded food and “stuff” into the fridge and various RV compartments until I was incoherent, and then fell into bed, likely fully clothed.  I knew it was time when I tried to have a conversation with TC about our progress but found myself unable to form words.  But, and here’s the herculean part, I remember waking at some point while it was still dark — call it 4:30AM — and hearing a whirring noise from downstairs.  I found out the next day that it was TC on the sewing machine, making new duvet covers for the kids and pillows for the couch.  Spontaneous last minute project.  And they’re fantastic; they really add a sorely needed touch of home.  Wow.

7AM stretched to 10AM, which stretched to 1PM.  There really is a lot of “last minute” when you’re packing your life into a small space, possibly for good, and attempting to leave your house in a state in which it can be shown to potential buyers.  Yet in retrospect that part went as well as it possibly could have.  The hot & sticky sun and the hot & sticky rain finally relented and we enjoyed a 78 degree un-humid morning during which we were able to sign one of the studs in our basement for posterity, spread some of the ashes of our Cascadian Mountain Dogs in the yard in which they spent so much time playing, and enjoy a last picnic lunch by the pool.

And then we headed out.  The picture on the top of the blog is from the moment we hooked up the car to the back, I gasped in temporary horror at the beast of a rig we were about to lumber around the country, and we left our Maryland house in the newly installed back-up camera (no real rear view mirrors on this thing).

Our first destination was Cedar Point, in Sandusky, OH.  Not so much because we were dying to ride the roller coasters there, as that it’s generally in the direction we wanted to go and seemed about the right distance to travel.  But the coasters were kind of a bonus.  Though I’m nowhere near as much of a fan as I was when I was young, I’ve passed some of that bug on to Keeper, and I still get a kick out of a well-designed thrill ride.  TC saved me, about a half second prior to an ill-advised mouse click, from booking disgustingly expensive lodging right at the park (no RV sites available, so I figured we’d just park it and stay in a “cabin.”  Bad idea jeans.), and we opted for the far more reasonable Sandusky KOA instead.  KOA!  This will be a first for all of us.  Interested to peek behind that particular curtain, particularly since we’ll likely be spending quite a bit of time behind it for the next year.

Here’s our route:


Ignore that max speed.  That would be against the law.  Plus I’m pretty sure we didn’t get up to 2614′ in the Appalachians.  Silly app.

I’m trying out a few different iPhone apps to track our progress, so these maps will undoubtedly vary in appearance.

The best I can describe the driving is that there’s a learning curve.  For the first two hours or so, driving took every bit of my attention, so much so that I couldn’t even really engage in conversation.  In aviation we talk a lot about “Situational Awareness” or “SA” for short.  It’s essentially a catch all term for having an instant-by-instant understanding of where you are, what’s around you, what the potential hazards are, your “energy state” (much more complex in an aircraft than an RV, but essentially how fast you’re going with a consideration of how fast you might want to be going a moment from now), the status of your equipment, a host of “what ifs,” etc etc.  That’s what driving this thing feels like — starting all over with driving SA, and needing much more of it than I was used to.  You can’t stop, turn, or change lanes quickly, you take up about 50′ of road front-to-back and all but about 2′ of the lane side to side, and the inputs you’re getting from the mirrors and cameras aren’t familiar.  Plus reverse is impossible without disconnecting the car you’re towing, so there’s some foresight required there as well.  Anyone who has driven a full-sized truck would probably yawn at this, but it’s new to me, and far more challenging than towing a boat.  I’m continually surprised by how much the entire thing flexes and yaws and buckles with every turn or gust of wind or bump in the road; I’d imagined motorhomes to have a much more solid feel to them.  We learned early on (i.e. well before today) that we needed child safety latches for the drawers to keep them from flying open and sending all our plates, pots, and pans flying across the floor during left turns.  All that said, after a few hours the driving felt pretty comfortable.

I found myself amazed that all this equipment is working together, as advertised.  Learning the motorhome systems was one thing, but two months ago the idea of buying a car we could tow, installing all the requisite aftermarket gear on it, and actually getting it and all our “stuff” on the road was completely overwhelming.  I had to break the task into tiny, achievable sub-parts to keep from throwing my hands up.  But here I was barreling down the road looking, via the camera I’d installed, at the car with the 2 bikes on top and the new base plate bolted to the frame and attached to the RV via the two telescoping bars and the wiring harness I’d wired, and sure enough, when I pressed the brake, the little light I’d installed in the dash came on, telling me that the cylinder and control box I’d bolted to the floor of the Outback and tied into its braking system was, indeed, pulling on the cable that I’d attached to the brake pedal and actuating the Outback’s brakes for me.  Amazed, but it also feels like a mini-victory.  This kind of thing was never in my skill set, so slogging through putting it all together, understanding how it works, and watching it actually function is far more satisfying to me than maybe it ought to be.  Perhaps you’re accusing me of risking a hurt shoulder while patting myself on the back, and I won’t argue with that.  In this case I highly recommend it though.

The route was pretty, but not mind-blowing.  I think we were all wrapped up in fairly heavy introspection/processing.  Still are.  And with that, I’ll sign off, other than to say that the KOA is….. interesting.  And I promise most posts won’t be this long.  Unless they are.