It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. After making our way from South Dakota to the Hidden Ridge RV Resort, I think the road to hell must be paved with whatever material they use to build roads south of Chicago and the first ten or twenty miles of I-94 in Michigan from Illinois!
And that is saying a lot because I come from Oklahoma, where you can tell when you cross the border even if you are blindfolded!
Anyway, it was as we were bouncing over this stretch of road, me thinking we would not have any car left on the trailer when we finally stopped, Mireille almost in tears about what she imagined must undoubtedly be happening to Charlie under such abuse, when one side of the passenger side shade assembly came off. The whole thing was hanging down, threatening to brain Mireille, and since I was in traffic, and driving, there was not much I could do to help her.
She got the shade down in short order, and we went on with the ordeal. I recommend you take this stretch of road very slowly or avoid it all together if possible.
I understand the impact extreme weather can have on road materials. I do. But south of Chicago we probably paid over $30 in tolls in just a few miles for the honor of giving our kidneys (and Charlie, and Gretchen) a beating Joe Lewis would have been proud of! I do not see the point in paying for the privilege of driving over roads that can do real harm to my vehicle. When we got to Michigan, the tolls stopped, but the highway got no better. It did not make me feel any happier about getting to abuse Charlie for free, however.
After a while, it seemed that the highway did smooth out. Of course, “smooth” is a relative term, and it could have been that we had simply gotten used to having our teeth rattling in our heads, and when that stopped we, being so jangled and frayed, now called that “smooth.”
When we got to Kalamazoo, we turned north on 131 for about 25 miles until we got to our exit. It was at this point that we got another lesson about communication and directions.
From the south, you exit, turn left over the overpass and then immediately after crossing over the bridge, turn back left again onto what looked to me like the on-ramp back onto 131 heading south. The way to the park is not well marked, and I was going too fast and missed the turn I should have taken. Don’t you do that should you ever decide to visit this park!
Hidden Ridge RV Resort is kind of…remote. I did not drive a mile down this two-lane farm road, having missed my turn, before the road I was on was going to turn to gravel. No way was I going any farther down that road! I had to stop, unhook Gretchen, and turn Charlie around. Fortunately, there was a gravel drive over the ditch on the side of the road where the farmer drives his tractor into the field on the other side which I was able to use to make a three-point turn, and get going back in the other direction. Mireille drove the car, I hitched the trailer back on and followed her.
I came across this park because it was about two days drive from Sioux Falls according to rvtripwizard.com, one of the tools I use to plan our adventures. It is an excellent tool, and I will write more about how we plan trips some other time. For now, know that by using this tool I can get some idea of where we will be after two days driving at 65 mph (my top highway speed) for about 5 or 6 hours per day. From there I look at all the parks available, check ratings, cell coverage, and we pick from the best choices we have. On this occasion, Hidden Valley was our choice.
I have only good things to say about this place. After being right next to the interstate for a week in Sioux Falls, Hidden Valley was quiet, though we could still hear some highway noise as we were very near the front of the park, however you had to listen for it. The park is gated, the roads are wide and feature big turnaround areas if you need them and, unlike the interstate, well paved. We had a pull in site facing a beautiful pond. It was spacious, level, had a concrete drive for the car, and was very well kept. One short moment of panic occurred when I realized that our electrical cord would not reach from the back of our RV to the electrical post, which was at the front of the RV. One of the camp hosts happened to be traveling by in his golf cart as I discovered this, and he brought me an extension. Problem solved! Everything about this park was top notch, and we would stay here again in a New York minute! The only thing that would keep us from it is fear of subjecting Charlie to the torture of those roads once again!
I did say that the park is remote, and this is true. But it is not so remote you are too far from Kalamazoo and all that town offers (Meijer’s). And, just a bit farther north and you have the Gun Lake Casino. Mireille loves shiny, flashy, noisy things, so she is quite happy in any Casino that does not reek of cigarette smoke. This is a very nice one of those. We had a decent dinner in one of the restaurants there and she had fun playing the machines for a bit. When it comes to Casinos, I do not understand the attraction to slot machines, and having been a programmer for so long I get the attraction to these new ones even less…but she likes them and has fun so it is all good.
Life is full of surprises, and one of the more surreal of these happened one day as I was taking a walk in the park. Hidden Valley is a big park. It is not wide, but it is deep so you can go on a pleasant walk never having to leave the park. I like walking in RV parks. Most people are amiable and say “Hello” and as I have mentioned in a previous post, meeting new people is one of our favorite things.
As I was walking, I came across a twin of Charlie. I was trying to figure out if it was the same model as ours when the owner stepped out from his car in the drive. I asked him if it was a 34PA and he said that indeed it was. I said that we had one too, and we were situated near the front of the park. He said that he and his wife had seen it. He introduced himself as Mike, and I introduced myself to him.
He said, “THE Eddie Merkel?”
Now, never in my life has anyone said anything like that to me in seriousness, and I just thought Mike was joking with me. But apparently, he wasn’t.
“Travels with Charlie, right?”
I suddenly felt like I had just dropped down the rabbit hole. I tried to recover since I was utterly gobsmacked. I never expected anyone other than our kids and a few friends to read any of this, but Mike and Debby had been reading as well, and not only reading but enjoying it.
Mike and Debby invited me inside their RV, and we had a fun visit talking about trips, sharing RV information, regular stuff. Mike came over to visit us in Charlie one afternoon and met Mireille, and then when Mireille and I were on a walk one other day we stopped back, and all four of us got to visit for a short while again.
It may not sound like much, but this was an extraordinary experience for me and Mike and Debby were very encouraging. You never know what is just around the corner.