When last we left off, I had decided to scrap plans to go to New England and start heading west from Atlantic City.
I know I should have routed around it, and I almost always do routes around toll roads. However, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is the U.S. Interstate, and avoiding it was not at all convenient for a few stops I needed to make. So I ended up on this horrible road.
Pennsylvania turnpike frustrations
BIG MISTAKE and NEVER again!
In fact, the Pennsylvania Turnpike experience made me feel that if the state of Pennsylvania disrespects visitors this much, I don’t EVER need to go there again.
When I expressed a similar sentiment in a couple of RV groups I am in, almost EVERYONE was in agreement.
What goes on with Pennsylvania toll roads should not be legal.
What’s the problem?
There are many, starting with the fact that they are the most expensive toll roads in the world. Not the country, the WORLD!
Again, I am not talking about a private little tollway of convenience, this is the United States Interstate. Personally, I don’t think there should be tolls on the interstates, but it seems a common practice in the East.
Ohio does it too. But at least in Ohio, as a tourist, you can pay your tolls as you go. Not so in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, you need a transponder. Having one saves you 60 percent on tolls. That’s right—If you don’t have one, the world’s most expensive toll road will charge you a whopping 60 percent more.
They sell transponders at the rest areas on the turnpike, which might be okay except that:
- The ones they sell are ONLY good for passenger cars, not RVs or vehicles towing anything.
- It takes a minimum of 24 hours for the transponder to work, so if you are driving through, too bad. And if you are already on the turnpike, too late.
- There is a monthly charge that comes with the transponder, regardless of whether or not you use it in subsequent months. Again, if you are a tourist, you are out of luck.
I have yet to get the bill in the mail from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but I am guessing it will be in the $100 or more range for my truck and travel trailer. My nephew, who did the trip to Atlantic City in just a van earlier this year, was in shock when his bill came in the mail.
You might think that such an expensive piece of highway would be perfectly maintained. But you would be wrong.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a mess of so many potholes, screws were shaking loose in my RV at every stop. One time the bathroom door fell off, hinges and all.
I was starting to dread opening the RV door at each stop. This was a new adventure I had not experienced. At least not regularly and at this volume.
The Pennsylvania turnpike is NOT tourist friendly
That is the bottom line. If you are just visiting Pennsylvania for a short time, there is no way to pay the tolls on the spot. And likewise, no way to avoid getting overcharged. Unless you avoid the toll roads altogether, which I would do in the future. But personally, I think I will just avoid Pennsylvania altogether. I have been there, done that in the past, and there are so many other states that act more welcoming to tourists.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike was downright hostile.
Ohio turnpike—somewhat better, but beware
The Ohio Turnpike, also an interstate, is pricey but not as bad as neighboring Pennsylvania. But most importantly, you DO at least have the option of paying the tolls as you go.
This seems like the LEAST a state should do if they are charging travelers to use the public roads. But apparently, the Keystone State does not agree.
The other thing I liked about the Ohio Turnpike is the RV parking with hookups at many of the rest stops. You put $20 in the slot and go park and plug in. It’s that easy.
I used the Ohio Turnpike RV parking on the trip out and did this time too. However, I learned an expensive lesson this time.
Maybe this is in the fine print of the rules if you go into the rest area. I did not do that. Make sure that you do not spend more than 24 consecutive hours on the turnpike or you will get hit with a penalty. I believe it was $30.
I started on the turnpike in the morning and was not feeling well. I stopped at the rest area and decided to take advantage of the $20 RV parking. I planned to take some migraine medicine, take a nap, get some computer work done if I felt better later, and take off the next morning. According to the signs, the parking was good for 24 hours.
I got up the next day, had breakfast at one of the rest-stop restaurants, and continued driving the turnpike. By the time I got off, I had been on the road for more than 24 hours. Not allowed. Extra charge. Yeesh.
I was happy to leave the toll roads behind and fought my way through Chicago traffic, back to my friend Craig’s house in the Chicago suburbs.
Chicago moochdocking, round II
I promised Craig I would not be moochdocking for a month this time. He said it was no problem if I did. For those who don’t have a Chicagoland friend to moochdock with, I covered other options in Part I of my Chicago stay.
I stayed a week. During that time Craig made sure the screws and hinges in my trailer were going to hold and did an oil change for me. What a guy!
We checked out two more iconic Chicago eateries, but neither held up to my favorites that I talked about in my original Chicago food article.
It did not hold a candle to Johnnie’s. Not only was Al’s significantly more expensive, but it also was not nearly as good. The sandwich and bread were greasy. Yuck. To top it all off, the woman behind the counter was rude. According to Craig, she always is.
Johnnie’s Italian Beef is still my favorite iconic Chicago eatery.
Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, Illinois
My second stay in Chicago gave me time to explore something I forgot about in Chicago, and that is all the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and history, especially in Oak Park.
I went back the next day to tour Wright’s original home and studio.
Wright designed and built the house while in his 20s. It is fascinating to see the Prairie style starting to emerge there along with so many of his hallmarks like the efficiency of space, built-in furniture, and incorporating nature and Japanese design elements into his buildings.
Some of his earliest homes are in the neighborhood within easy walking distance of his home and studio.
Our tour guide was both knowledgeable and enthusiastic and truly left me with a greater understanding of Wright’s work. His work, but not of the man himself. The tours here don’t seem to like talking about that, even though the group had posed a number of questions.
The next leg of the long, long RV trip
I kept my promise and headed out the next week. My plan was to spend some time out in nature—hiking and eating right. I had been on “vacation” for too long and was putting on weight. Especially with all the classic Chicago foods, which are delicious but hardly healthy.
But I knew my “RVer’s diet” would soon have me back on the right track.
That involves two components:
- Staying for a while in places that have easy hiking right out the door so that no matter how much work I have, there is no excuse to not get off my butt a couple of times a day and go for a walk or hike.
- ONLY stocking my RV with foods I should have. So for me, no bread, no sugar, no starch. Lots of veggies, meats, and some fruits.
If I am camped out in the middle of nowhere, I am not going to unhitch and go into town just because I have an ice cream craving.
It works for me.
NEXT WEEK: Camping on the Mississippi River in Wisconsin
Previously in Cheri’s long, long RV trip:
- Week 14: The Urban RV in Baltimore and Atlantic City
- Week 13: Virginia Camping on a Civil War Battleground, Montpelier, Monticello, Fried Chicken and more!
- Week 12: Summersville Lake Camping – Almost Heaven in West Virginia
- Week 11: Ohio Turnpike Camping, Airstreams, Caverns, and Beer
- Week 10: Circus World, Wisconsin Dells, Gearing up to Go Again
- Week 9: Circus Graveyard; Taste of Chicago Festival
- Week 8: Iconic Chicago foods (get ready to drool); RV electrical issues
- Week 7: Moochdocking in the Chicago burbs; Re-evaluating this trip
- Week 6: An EXPLOSIVE tire blowout and an emotional goodbye
- Week 5: RVing in Kansas, and an amazing campground
- Week 4: Having fun on more Colorado explorations
- Week 3: RVing during Colorado’s surprise snow, and a castle!
- Week 2: Friday the 13th, road trip woes set in
- Week 1: RVing sites and attractions in Las Vegas and beyond