The South Riding RV Travels


First Cruise

We had discovered some problems with maladjustment of the slideout and had enjoyed an earlier trip to  northern Indiana so we chose that direction for our first real tour. This also meant we could visit the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan and then pass through Canada back to base. This would give us confidence crossing the border given the horror stories we had heard.

Northern New York State is quite hilly but the road through Pennsylvania and Ohio to Indiana is really quite flat. Not as flat as we are told Kansas is but still to us it was flat. We drove the I90 with its tolls since we wanted to gain confidence in driving and see how much the tolls would cost. The assessment method varies from state to state. Some work on weight, some on axles and some on tyres. The price did not seem extortionate for the distance and the ease of travelling. Note that interstates are free when they pass through urban areas and are often the best way through a city if you avoid rush hours.


Northern Indiana is the capital of RV manufacturing with over half the RVs being built in Elkhart county. It is also the home of the third largest Amish and Mennonite communities. Many of them work in the woodworking industry which produces exquisite furniture and the insides of RVs. There are over 27 manufacturers most of whom offer factory tours. So we had a tour of the factory which made our RV (at Goshen) and they gave us a contact of someone who could fix our misaligned slideout. We also toured the many component stores where you could buy absolutely anything for an RV often at surplus prices. We took the opportunity to buy some replacement parts.
The Amish are not permitted to drive cars or indeed most technology. Neither do they believe in the need for education beyond the eighth grade. Mennonites are slightly easier going. There is a good interpretative centre at Shipshewana which explains the background to these communities. So the buggy passing the petrol station and the buggy towing the boats both taken in Shipshewana highlight the pressures on their way of life.
While we were camping at Elkhart campground we heard about a rally at Goshen being run by the ESCAPEES club. Upon enquiry we discovered we could attend even though we were not members. Many of the members are full-timers and we thought with the  lectures and the people we might be able to pick up a few tips. The rally is held twice a year alternating between the East and West of the USA. The club's base is in Livingston, Texas which offers an accommodation address service which is used by about 15000 members making it one of the largest mail forwarding organisations in the world. Texas taxes are also lower.
We duly joined the rally on the Elkhart county fairground along with almost 1000 other RVs. We felt quite the poor relation given the size and opulence of some of those rigs. When they start by setting up the satellite dish.... The lectures were interesting ranging from insurance to electrics to internet connections to travel in Alaska and Mexico with hints on how to avoid murdering your spouse. The American way of doing things was very much in evidence and the daily doling out of "door prizes" (gifts from dealers) got a bit wearing. (Is this how they distribute the Wheelers campground guide?). But we did find time to visit the genealogy and international travellers chapters, the Baby Boomers group, and even found a bit of western square dancing (we decided we are about 60% of the way to "regular" but may never get any further).

We became celebrities a bit with many people interested in what we were trying to do. There was one other Briton (from Manchester) who I met at a 'Sky at Night' talk when the speaker (who knew his geography from fifth grade) tried to tell me that England was on a line with Philadelphia and not nearly 1200 miles further north as we both knew Manchester and Sheffield to be. It just reinforced our view on how poor is the average American's knowledge of the rest of the world.

Overall I think I was a little disappointed but we did make many friends and now have ports of call in many more places.


We moved on to Dearborn in Michigan. Not a huge distance in miles but we crossed a time zone without realising so lost an hour somewhere. Dearborn is the home of Greenfield Village which is a museum created by Henry Ford by collecting examples of typical houses and moving them to his own village. It included a little railway and lots of Model T's.

There is also quite a lot about Edison with his laboratories demonstrating some of his many inventions. Adjacent is an indoor museum with various forms of transport including an exhibition of flight since the Wright brothers came from this area. The two museums took a full day to see and could easily have taken longer. There is an IMAX cinema on site and you can also tour the adjacent Ford Car plant. Quite expensive but well laid out.

We moved on by taking the freeway through Detroit (horrendous traffic but it was rush hour) and some rain heading for Port Huron where we crossed the Canadian border. Interestingly there were no American officials to check us out of the US and the Canadian officials never even looked at our passports so the Americans would not have known we had left. It does mean that if we don't actively return our I94 entry permits then they may think we have overstayed our visas. I don't think they've quite got the hang of this security thing yet.
We travelled on up to the Pineries which is a Canadian provincial park on the edge of Lake Huron. This took longer than we had expected and it was after dark when we arrived on a Friday night. They booked 600 units in that night alone (a Friday in September! but Canadians take their enjoyment of the outdoors seriously, the forecast was for a fine weekend, and it would soon be winter). We had not booked and so were lucky to get in. You can book into many of these sites over the internet and this would seem to be worth doing. We should also remember the advice given by an old hand in Elkhart: start looking for a site at 3.00 pm, by 4.00 pm be sitting with a Margherita in hand! We also had no groceries. We had crossed the border with virtually nothing since the advice was that the border guards were very prone to confiscating many foods. And being at the end of the season the camp shop was low on stock and the nearest village was not close. Food was a little basic for the weekend! The site was secluded, with woodland and dunes to a beach. And QUIET. You would not believe there were over 2000 units there.
We left on the Sunday for the short trip to London, Ontario (1.5 hours). Very rural on the way but also quite different (and more substantial) architecture than in New York State. We camped at yet another provincial park on the outskirts and visited another village museum on  the site. We had dinner with friends who live there and a look round a Canadian Walmart. They have a slightly different range of goods. As a note finding beer and wine in Canada is not easy, you have to buy from Government liquor stores. I don't think it means they drink any the less.
Finally we came back over the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls to Buffalo. The queues for lorries went on for miles but our crossing was quick and painless. They did not want to see papers for the RV although they did look at our passports. He did ask where we had rented it from and was amazed that we had bought it. He seemed genuinely interested in how we had managed it. A quick question about not having any prohibited food and we were on our way.

We did stop at both borders to enquire about the rules. It would appear that we can theoretically return to the US 10 minutes after leaving it but that we do need to show proof of our intention to return to the UK. (Ownership of property, return air tickets etc) Also they do not have the power to allow us to stay longer than six months (not even by a few days). For that we have to apply to a different office (and pay a much higher fee).