On our quest to find new and interesting things in our area to see, we found the Lucky Cat Museum, in the Clifton area. It is one woman’s personal collection of lucky cats. She has been an avid collector for years and has a large variety of Japanese Lucky Cats. The museum is free, although donations are welcome. There is also a gift shop where you can buy your own lucky cat themed items, ranging from postcards to lucky cats.
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One of my favorite pieces was a disco ball cat. The poor cat has been broken 3 times! The cat had been loaned out and broken. Micha glued it back together, painted it, and then covered it in the disco ball mirrors. The medallion and coins were left bare. The second time the cat broke, the medallion and coins were repaired and covered in mirrors and crystals. The last time it broke, the cat was glued together, filled with expanding foam, and the mirrors replaced.
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There were a few interactive pieces as well, including the slot machines (tokens provided).
After visiting the Harmon Museum, we walked across the street to the Golden Lamb to have lunch. Ben and I had both been there pre-kids. It is a really neat old hotel. The attached restaurant had undergone a renovation since we had last been there, so we decided to try the Black Horse Tavern. The restaurant had a nice fireplace, although we didn’t get to sit near it.
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They had the Christmas decorations up still (1/8/22), and it was fun seeing all the little sheep and lamb ornaments on the trees. We decided to try a few different items and share amongst ourselves. We ordered the Sauerkraut Balls, Bacon Jelly and Biscuits, Golden Lamb Farms Platter, Cheese Curds, and a bowl of the Shaker Chicken & Spaetzle soup.
It’s hard to go wrong with cheese curds and there are very few soups that Will doesn’t like. We liked the pickles from the platter and the sauerkraut balls were surprisingly delicious.
There is a really neat factory tour near Columbus, Ohio at a company called the American Whistle Corporation. I have had this on my list of things to do with the kids for years, but never got around to it. We finally found a day where everyone was off of school and made our appointment.
I would pay attention to your GPS, because although there is a small sign, it is easy to miss. There is parking around the back of the building. There is a small entryway with a display case and framed articles about the company. The next room is the main manufacturing area (which also includes the bathroom).
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The manufacturing area was smaller than I thought it would be, but it looks like they had it well laid out and made good use of the space. There was enough room for our group, plus 2 other small families, to walk around and listen to the tour.
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Our tour guide was great. He kept it interesting, as well as informative, and was enthusiastic about his place of work. The tour was a mix of walking and seeing the equipment, a demonstration of the equipment, watching people work, and watching a video. The tour ended at the plastic whistle area near the gift shop. The gift shop had several different items available for sale. At the end of the tour, each person also gets a metal whistle.
For an extra fee ($2.15) you can make/buy a plastic whistle. We made one whistle that I now have on my keys. To make your own whistle, you get to pick a color for either side, as well as the ball. We went with a glow in the dark, a blue, and then a green ball. You put together your whistle pieces (placing the ball in the interior circle area and line up the sides). Once you place your whistle in the machine, you pressed a button on either side and the machine sonic welds the pieces together.
I would definitely recommend taking this tour if you are close to Columbus!
We bought Ben a car a few weeks after we got back to Ohio. Between school starting soon (with no busing) and him having to go physically into work, we needed two cars. I drove the truck as my vehicle. However, with diesel prices high and the truck not having the greatest fuel mileage for short distances/city driving, we decided to sell it. We were on the lookout for larger sized car that we could still take road trips in comfortably. We were leaning towards an SUV and narrowed it down between a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Subaru Ascent. We looked on Facebook, Autotrader, and Carvana for our new (to us) car. I am sure everyone has heard by now but used car prices are inflated and there is a chip shortage for new cars, so cars were going fast and for higher-than-normal used car prices. However, after spending over $200 in one month for diesel with just local driving, we wanted to get a more fuel efficient car.
SEARCHING FOR YOUR CAR: We had never bought a car online, much less sight unseen. Carvana’s site allows you to search for your car by price, make/model, type, year/mileage, and features. Some cars have free delivery, while others have a delivery fee. There are several pictures of the cars, including any chips or “imperfections”. A detailed list of the car’s features and a Carfax report are provided as well. After searching for a while, we finally found a car that we both liked, a blue Subaru Ascent. There were a couple paint chips and a scratch listed, but they didn’t look too bad. We placed the order and were eagerly awaiting our delivery.
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PURCHASING: After you find a car you like, you can then start the process of buying the car by clicking the green “Get Started” button. This will hold your car for 30 minutes while you complete the account registration, trade-in options, payment information (cash/Carvana financing/3rd party financing), delivery/pickup (date/time), driver’s license information, and optional items (gap insurance, etc.). After those steps are completed, there are a few more things that need to be done. If you pay with cash, your bank has to verify the funds either through a 3-way call between you/Carvana/bank, or thorough a third-party called PLAID. To use the third-party verification, you need to give them your account information, including password. We picked the 3-way call, as I was not comfortable giving someone my bank log-in information. Your bank funds will be verified, but will not be withdrawn until you accept delivery of the car. There were a few online forms to complete before delivery as well. Buying a car unseen was a little worrisome; however, there is a 7 day return period for a full refund with Carvana, if you decide not to keep the car.
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The day of delivery, we received a phone call that they were finishing detailing the car and should be there by our appointment time. We had to send (via text) a selfie with our driver’s license, the back of the driver’s license, and proof that the car had been added to our insurance. Your insurance information has to say the name/VIN of the new car in order for them to release the car to you! Even though I had always been told that any car we bought was covered as long as our insurance was up to date, I called and let our insurance know to start it on the date of delivery. Because delivery was on a Saturday, my insurance agent also sent a confirmation letter in case there was a delay of any kind with the electronic card updating.
The car ended up being about a half hour late, but the driver did communicate delays through text message. It was fun to watch the car being unloaded. (VIDEO link here) Once the car was unloaded, we had the opportunity to take it for a test drive. We drove down a few exits on the highway and then stopped in a parking lot to look it over. There were a few more paint chips than were disclosed on the listing, as well as scratches to the interior roof material (which were not disclosed at all). The car drove really well and was comfortable, so we decided to accept delivery. The car came with 1 key fob and a Carvana key chain.
Just like buying a car at a dealer, there was some paperwork involved but there were only a few forms that we had to sign. The car came with temporary tags and Carvana will mail you the permanent plates so you do not have to go to the DMV. I have to say, not dealing with a car salesman and the DMV was really nice. Once we accepted the delivery, we were also given the Temporary Tag application, a Limited Power of Attorney for Vehicle Registration, and an Application for Dealer Assessment that needed to be signed, notarized, and mailed back in the provided FedEx envelope. Our driver was not a notary and we had not been told ahead of time that we would need one to finish the car’s paperwork. We hurried over to my bank with 10 minutes to spare. Unfortunately, she would not notarize the paperwork. She claimed it was because she couldn’t notarize something that gave someone else power of attorney to take out a loan in our name. We read it carefully and the paperwork stated clearly that it was for the purpose of “applying for a certificate of title, to register, transfer title”, so I am not sure why the bank teller would not notarize it. We then rushed over to the UPS store near us that had a notary on staff. It only cost $5 for the notary service. I still would have liked to have known about needing a notary ahead of time. We probably would have moved the delivery time up so that we would have been able to contact the bank(s) and make sure they were available and could/would notarize it.
Because the car only came with one key fob, I wanted to buy another one so that we would each have one. Batteries Plus will cut and program car keys for you. When we stopped in to get a new key fob, it was going to be over $200 for the fob and programing if we bought the key through them. It was cheaper to buy the fob on eBay and then take it to Batteries Plus to program it. Some Ace Hardware stores will also program car keys. Your car does have to be present to program the new key fob. It was $85 for the key fob on ebay and $60 for Batteries Plus to cut/program it. (Check for coupons, Batteries Plus runs anywhere from $60-$70 for programming.)
The key fob that came with the car started dying after 3 days. It seems like the battery was just getting low, but it wasn’t something I would necessarily expect after only having the car for 3 days.
I did send some feedback to Carvana about the missed “imperfections”, the key fob, and the lack of knowledge about needing a notary. They were nice and gave back a standard “we’ll pass it on” message and told me we could always return the car if we were unhappy since our 7 day window was not over yet.
My temp tags were set to expire on 11/23/21. On 11/10, we got an email saying processing had been delayed and that new temp tags were available in my online Post Sale Dashboard. I had to print out the new tags, as they were active beginning 11/10/21 and were a different plate number. The reason given was “Covid”. It seems to be a reoccurring theme; as Ben likes to say, “Covid did it”. At this point, I could have made an appointment with our local DMV faster. On 11/16/21, I received a text saying that the registration was complete and the plates were on the way. It also stated that the plates required a signature from FedEx. I contacted Carvana on 11/17, as the app and online post-sale dashboard did not have a tracking number. I’m glad I contacted them, because they were due to arrive on 11/17. Although it stated I needed to sign for them, and I was home, FedEx just rang the doorbell and left the package on the porch.
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CARVANA, The Pluses:
No negotiating. The listed price is the price (plus any delivery fees/taxes, which are disclosed pretty clearly during the process). There is no sitting for hours negotiating over the price or if the floor mats are included. Not dealing with a car dealership was great.
Getting the car delivered on our time table. Granted, they ran late and we had to change a few things around, but it was still amazing to get it delivered right to us.
Not dealing with the DMV/BMV. No long lines for us! Carvana takes care of getting the permanent plates mailed to you.
Updates. We got several updates during the process via text messages (from online forms needing to be completed to the status of our plates).
CARVANA, The Negatives:
Lack of communication. Some things Carvana was great at with communication: the driver letting us know the schedule changes, online paperwork needing to be signed. However, not knowing that we would have to find and pay for a notary was a big miss in my mind. It would be simple enough to add that to the information given to you during the online buying/closing process. Not being provided a tracking number for the new plates would also be an easy fix. Although customer service told me it should be online, I could not find the tracking number in my account.
Accuracy. The car was in good shape, but there were more chips and scratches than advertised. The interior roof scratches are hard to miss if anyone had actually cared to look. We would have potentially looked at another Ascent, but this one was already here and we did need a car.
For our stay in Michigan, we stayed at Kampvilla RV Park in Bear Lake, Michigan. It is an independent campground. For our stay here, we had full hook-ups for most of our stay, but had to switch to electric-only for the last 3 days. We had made our plans a little too late (4 months before) with the 4th of July holiday to get full hook ups for our whole stay. When we checked in, they gave the boys a Kampvilla postcard, sticker, and temporary tattoo.
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The campground had a heated pool, rec room with a washer and dryer, a patio with foosball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, sand volleyball, badminton, a playground, basketball hoops, and a pool. The equipment was left out (instead of having to go up to the office), so it made it very easy to play. There was another shed with a washer and dryer a little bit further into the park. It had a drive/path through the woods to tent sites, so it made a nice walking path.
There was ice ($3) and firewood ($5) were available for sale. You could pay at the office or in the drop box attached to the firewood shed.
Everyone was really nice at the campground. They had a lot of nice amenities and were pretty close to local attractions and grocery stores. It was about 30-33 minutes to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Visitor Center. We would stay here again.
We were finally able to get our bathroom fan repaired. MaxxAir had sent us a computer board and a motor, as either one of those items could have broken. We were able to find a mobile RV Tech who came out and replaced the computer board for us. As we were talking, he recommended a RV shop that he thought we might like: Sands RV.
We stopped in a couple of days later. This store was really neat! It had a little bit of everything: curtains, furniture, toilets, fenders…
The store was owned by Bob, who also worked on the Ungers RVs. The picture below was 1968 and Bob is the one on the far right.
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As we were leaving, they also gave us a flame color changing stick for the fire. The boys got a big kick out of it at our next camp fire. It did work really well and lasted a long time (much better than the packet we had bought at a campground store).
We had a great time exploring the store. Everyone was very friendly. If you are in the area, I would definitely check out this store. It was like a RV treasure chest with something for everyone! We did a quick video walk through of the store (link here).
For Father’s Day we took a train ride through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. We had heard it was a good way to see the park, but the only tickets available when I looked were the Donuts With Dad for Father’s Day.
We had a friend in town visiting, so I booked tickets for all of us. The ride was 2 hours long and everyone got a drink and a donut.
Masks were “required”, but it seemed like most of the passengers took them off as soon as they boarded the train.
The train was neat looking and had a variety of different seating arrangements based on the cars. We were in a table car, but I would have loved to have been in one of the other cars. I think it would have made the train ride more enjoyable. You can purchase an all-day pass to get on and off the train. There is also an app where you can track the train and listen to audio clips. When we tried it, it did track the train pretty well, but we could not get the audio tour to work. However, it was a free app, so we weren’t too disappointed. If you are a runner/biker/kayaker/hiker, you can purchase a one way Explorer Pass ($5/bike/hiker, $10/single kayak) and jump on at a stop.
There were several seat types: Coach (padded seats of 4 looking at each other), Table Top (4-seater table and chairs), and Executive Class (this one looked really nice, padded seats, more room). All seating was assigned.
The train also had a snack car that sold drinks (even some alcoholic drinks, but not on Sundays until after 1:00), bagged snacks, granola bars, candy, popcorn, hot dogs. The snack car also sold some souvenir type of items (key chains, shirts, train hats, train whistles, toys).
We did see some things along the way. We went by a state park, a neighborhood, a farm, parts of the National Park.
The campground had a camp store, laundry room, paddle boat and banana bike rentals, two pools (1 cool, 1 heated), basketball hoop, pickleball, horseshoes, and fishing ponds. Garbage was placed at the end of your site and was collected.
The campground was located on Grand Island New York. There was a grocery store (Tom’s) close by, a dollar store, post office, and several restaurants on the island. It was about a 15 minute drive to Niagara Falls State Park and a 18-20 minute drive to Buffalo. The one thing to know is that every time you leave the island you will be charged a toll. There was a Tim Horton’s and Adrian’s down the street (just about walking distance). There was also a go-kart/arcade/batting cage/putt-putt within walking distance.
There was a change machine in the laundry room/arcade area, which were located on the bottom side of the office building. It was a nice laundry room with plenty of machines. There was also a book exchange shelf in the laundry room.
The smaller pool by the office was the “cool” (aka unheated) pool. There was a dog park, bike and boat/kayak rental, and playground located here as well. The larger pool towards the back of the campground was the heated pool. There was also the basketball hoop, pickleball court, jump pads, and rec building/planned activities were back here. The one thing I did not like was that there was no parking for the larger pool. All parking spots were parked “Cabin Parking”. It wasn’t a horrible walk from our campground, but would have been nice to have pool parking spots for guests who have mobility problems.
You could fish in the pond as well, but you were not allowed to swim in it.
Sites were pretty nice. Each had a fire ring and picnic table. There was not a lot of shade though. This campground had two sewer connections per site! Both were on the same side, but were spread out. It made it nice for being able to choose how to place the RV in the site. The campground also backed up to an Amusement Park (Fantasy Island), but it had been closed. It looked like at one point the train ride stopped directly at the campground. There were tent camping spots, as well as several different types of cabins. There were a few geese and lots of killdeer birds around the campground.
The campground also teamed up with a local tour group to allow campers to see Niagara Falls, ride Maid of the Mist, and tour Cave of the Winds. The tour bus picked up at the campground. We found it to be more expensive than just paying for the Maid of the Mist tickets, Cave of the Winds, and parking at the State Park. However, it is a good option if you do not have a separate vehicle and want to tour the area.
One of the things that had been on Ben’s bucket list, was to ride the Maid of the Mist. He has wanted to ride it since he saw then on a trip to Niagara Falls when he was a kid.
We bought our tickets online the night before and headed over the Niagara Falls State Park when Ben was done with work. The ride lasts about 20 minutes, so even though there was a line, we didn’t have to wait long.
It was a pretty warm out, so we didn’t wear the poncho (per the recommendation of the staff). We did get wet, but it felt nice in the sun. We saw a couple of rainbows in the mist. The American Falls were easy to see from the boat and to get some pictures. The Horseshoe Falls had a lot of mist! If you wear glasses/contacts, I would wear contacts if you go so you can see better. I had my glasses on and they quickly became hard to see out of.
The boat did have speakers, but we couldn’t hear any of the recorded message being played.
Canada still had its borders closed, so we didn’t get to walk over the bridge to see the Falls from their perspective. I bet they are pretty amazing from there, although they were still great from the US side.
After the boat ride, we walked over to Goat Island and and saw the Horseshoe Falls from the top.
This campground wasn’t too far from a working maple syrup farm, a National Historic Park and Site, the Quechee Gorge, and New Hampshire.
The campground had an office camp store, laundry room, playground, a dog park, a fishing pond, and a pool. Trash was placed at the end of your site for pick-up. Recycling could be placed in a separate bag for pickup as well. The office sold ice, firewood, and bait. There were banana bikes for rent. They did a nice job communicating by text!
The KOA was 18 minutes from Sugarbush Farm, 7 minutes from New Hampshire, and from 4 minutes from Quechee Gorge. It took 18 minutes to get to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. There were two Walmarts at 8 and 18 minutes away, and a Hannaford’s 9 minutes (in New Hampshire).