Trip of Disasters: St. Louis, Indiana, Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, D.C.

We had to take our RV to Indiana for a major repair, so we figured we would make a larger trip out of it and see some new states / attractions while we’re up that way.

I almost didn’t post a blog entry for this trip, since only the trip from Arkansas to Indiana was in the RV, where we dropped it off. It was also a trip full of disasters and I didn’t really feel like writing about it at the time. But…since it was a road trip, I decided to go ahead and document it anyway….

Our first trip with the Jeep Wrangler tow vehicle would be to the north. We have an appointment With Forest River to have a repair made, and decided to plan some fun things around that.

Getting ready for this trip was pretty frantic for several different reasons and it’s amazing that we actually left on the day we aimed for.

The night before our road trip up north, we were up until 12:30 AM installing the roof rack so that we would have enough storage capacity while traveling without the RV. Talk about waiting until the last minute!

The same night I was installing the roof rack, someone came by to test drive the 4Runner and they ended up buying it! That was sure nice to get out of the way before our trip.

Here I am drilling 12 holes in the hardtop in order to install the roof rack:

We got loaded up and ready to take off that morning and I realized that I had forgotten to repair the toilet flush pedal that had broken off during the last trip! Great….

I installed the new part, but could not get the pedal to snap back onto the base of the toilet. There is a cabinet right next to the toilet, so it was really difficult to get any amount of leverage to press it on. It certainly didn’t snap right on like the lady in the YouTube video showed (it’s never that easy, right?).

I had this genius idea to put a ratchet strap around the toilet to help press the pedal onto the base. That idea must have come from the last few brain cells that were still alive after all the preparation to leave. It didn’t really work. Well, actually, it worked a little too well and the pressure of the strap messed up some other part on the toilet and caused the toilet to leak when you flush it! Awesome!

Off to camping world we went and bought a new toilet. We were actually really glad we had to do this because the new toilet is far superior to the old one! It is a “Thetford Aqua Magic V”. It is much more like a residential toilet! I’ve never been so excited about a toilet before, and it’s ridiculous that RV manufacturers don’t include this caliber of a toilet in every RV on the planet. It’s probably $50 more than the cheap junk they include in RVs, yet it’s a pretty critical component when you are traveling and not an area to skimp on…kind of like a sewer hose. Anyway, it was the first time I have ever replaced a toilet in my life, and it was a pretty simple task…. Carla had a trash bag standing by for me to put the old one inside of, and the whole process wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be.

Here she is in all her glory:

Here we are all hooked up and ready to go:

But we didn’t get very far before realizing one other problem. As we were getting into Bella Vista, about 20 minutes from our starting point, we realized the license plate was about to expire on the RV, and would be expired by the time the RV was finished being repaired! We definitely didn’t want to drive it across several states that way. They had mailed our new license sticker to the wrong address, which had happened for the 4Runner.

So, we pulled over into a Walmart parking lot and Carla drove the Jeep to the DMV in Bentonville while I waited with the kids in the RV. Not a great way to start a trip.

These problems are what I’m talking about regarding a trip full of disasters. And this was just the beginning.

We finally got down the road.

Tired kiddo from the first leg of our trip, waking up in St. Louis (and we were tired as well from taking the dogs out at 3am to do their business!):

Our first stop in St. Louis was to visit a favorite uncle, named Uncle Bill! He makes quite the breakfast!

And we had to stop off at Spaghetti Factory later that day:

The major highlight of St. Louis was the Dude Perfect show! We had a great time!

On toward Chicago to Indiana…

We stayed at the Elkhart RV park.

We then headed toward Niagara Falls around the southside of Lake Erie.

I found there was a 4Wheel Parts Store near Cincinnati, so we stopped off so I could drool at lots of parts!

We were noticing how every place up this way looks similar to Arkansas so far. Really nothing landscape-wise I would return here for, and anyone who makes fun of Arkansas regarding wing “backwoods/hillbilly area” hasn’t traveled much and is simultaneously and unknowingly making fun of several other states, as they all look the same…

I like the I❤️NY sign!

We found a powerline with a trail next to it that was near our hotel in Buffalo, so we took the opportunity to do a little bit of off-roading. There was a guy on a tractor clearing some of the areas around the powerlines and he stopped in the middle of the trail, blocking our way around him. We thought we were in trouble for being on the land, but turns out he only was asking us if we had a light for his cigarette! We asked if it was OK to be on the trail, and he said he didn’t care and that he wasn’t even from that area. He even told us to take the trail farther if we wanted. Nice guy!

We stopped at Rainforest Café to eat lunch before heading to the falls.

Niagara Falls!!

At our hotel in Buffalo, I installed some limb risers I had purchased at 4Wheel Parts in Cincinnati. Nothing like drilling holes into the jeep in a hotel parking lot! Really kind of weird.

The hotel in Buffalo was the first place we stayed that was not in the RV. We learned quickly that living out of hotels is not fun with dogs!

As for the remaining disasters, they consisted of puppies laying waste (literally) to every hotel we stayed at. It was absolutely no fun! They really should take a flamethrower to every room we stayed in. And it’s gross to think of what has been on those floors before we were there. If not traveling with dogs in the future, I would definitely avoid pet friendly hotels because they have to be so nasty!

One thing that makes hotel stays really not fun is having to take your dog down an elevator, down a long hallway, across the parking lot and over to the small patch of grass for dogs. Then trying to get them not to bark at people going in and out of the hotel.

One fond memory in a hotel in Louisville, KY was me taking Marley downstairs at 6 AM to go poop and she really had to go! I remember trying to get her to not poop on the way out the door! She kept wanting to squat in the hallway as I am jerking the leash all the way saying “No, no, no, no!!!!”. I had some choice words for her that morning.

Ok, back to the fun stuff…

We crossed the Niagara River into Canada, where we found that things are much more fun than on the USA side of the falls! There’s a whole entertainment district and the falls are lit up from the Canada side.

We drove down near downtown Buffalo to check out Lake Erie. It’s a neat area!

We then drove across New York down to Hershey, PA To see the Hershey chocolate factory. I was on a work calls, so Carla took the kids in to check it out. 

We stopped off for pizza in the neat little town of Dansville, NY and took it to a park to eat and let the dogs play.

We spent the night in a disgusting La Quinta hotel in Hershey, which our dogs made even more disgusting, and then we headed to Washington DC the next day.

Time for another small disaster, but funnier. As we were driving around the beltway in DC, with tons of traffic as you can see below, Tripp said he had to go potty really badly.

Not thinking we could make it to the hotel, we frantically crossed about six lanes of traffic and took the first exit we came to in hopes of finding a restroom. It turned out to be a really upscale neighborhood with no gas stations or restaurants anywhere around. Below are some snapshots of some of the houses we passed.

We finally came to a Safeway, and by this time Tripp was about to burst! He and I rushed through the store to the back where the bathroom was located, only to find a bathroom door was occupied!! Mind you, he was holding himself the entire way we were running through the store. I knew we didn’t have long, so we literally ran out of the store and back to the Jeep where I immediately emptied a Chick-fil-A cup of tea and had him pee in it. Well, he mostly made it, but as he was standing on the door sill trying to…aim…..the inside of the passenger door became a victim in the process. Good thing we had some wet wipes! Man, how I missed having the RV bathroom!

We saw some of the major attractions in DC over the next few days while the puppies stayed back to desecrate the hotel room sufficiently. And man, was it hot outside! We were sweating like crazy walking between museums. This is not the time of year we would normally come here.

Dang food trucks have taken over the streets and are ruining the views of the museums and the capitol!

We went to Mount Vernon, which is George Washington’s house, and it was so amazing!!! So neat to go inside and walk upstairs holding onto the banister that he held onto when he lived there 300 years ago. We even saw the bed he died in upstairs in his bedroom. Spooky.

We then started heading back home.

While charging my laptop battery with a power inverter, I used too many amps and blew a fuse. I decided to teach the kids about fuses in a Walmart parking lot! While we had the hood up, some guys asked if we needed help. We didn’t, but you could tell we were back in the south where people like to help each other out! You don’t see that kind of eagerness to help others out up north.

We finally made it home and MAN was it good to be home!


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