September 5-11, 2021 – Ohio/Michigan/Illinois

September 5-11, 2021 – Ohio/Michigan/Illinois

600 500 Kristi Corder

More driving!

Yes, our Sunday consisted of more driving. This time we were bound for Cracker Barrel in Fairlawn, OH.

Why Fairlawn? Well, we love to overnight at Cracker Barrel…can’t resist their yummy breakfast. And it was fairly close to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a fairly small national park, so we figured we could get into town a little early and have some time in the late afternoon/evening to explore the national park. It actually turned out perfectly!

We parked in the Target parking lot down the street from Cracker Barrel because we didn’t want to pull into Cracker Barrel so early in day. Then we hopped in the Jeep to go exploring.

It’s crazy how this national park is right smack in the middle of residential neighborhoods and cities outlying Cleveland, OH. We didn’t end up exploring the whole park, but we did hike a trail from the Boston Mill Visitor Center to the Stanford House and back before making our way to the famous Brandywine Falls.

Family pic at the Cuyahoga Valley NP sign
Allison on a bridge we found while hiking

The kids had a blast following the trail from the parking lot, under the main road, and to the falls. I’d love to go back during the day so we can explore this area a little more. There were boardwalks that led you further down to get a closer look at the falls, but it was just getting too dark for us to stay and do that.

Brandywine Falls

Before heading back to Target to pick up the camper, we stopped in at Chipotle for a quick dinner. We heard people talking about fireworks, but had no idea where or what the fireworks were for. But we soon found out when we returned to Target.

It was Fairlawn’s 50th anniversary of being a town. The fireworks extravaganza was to celebrate the occasion. And guess where they were shooting off the fireworks?

The open parking lot next to Target.

When we returned to the RV, we had a front row ticket for the fireworks show! Pretty cool way to end our evening.

Watching the fireworks from the Jeep

Monday, we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel and headed towards Indiana (so we thought). We were possibly going to moochdock at a friend’s daughter’s house who lived on 9 acres in northwest Indiana. But the weather seemed to be staying fairly warm (upper 80s) and we just didn’t think it would be a good idea to boondock for a week in those upper temps.

We still had our Thousand Trails Camping Pass membership and we found availability at Bear Cave RV Campground. So we switched up our plans and shot north into Michigan where we spent the week at Bear Cave.

Where we stayed: Bear Cave RV Campground
City: Buchanan, MI

Entrance road to Bear Cave RV Campground

We didn’t get a photo of our campsite, but we did manage to snag the last full hookups site they had. Peyton had fun at the swimming pool and checking out the gameroom. There’s also a cute little area near the office where the “bear cave” is located next to a waterfall. We enjoyed walking that area on our free time.


We worked the rest of the week, then decided to head into Chicago, IL on Saturday. First stop, Navy Pier.

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier
Navy Pier Beer Garden
Huge anchor at the end of Navy Pier
Ferris wheel at Navy Pier

Anytime you’re in Chicago, you have to stop at The Bean. It’s one of the popular things to do in Chicago. So our next stop was Millennium Park.

Yep, it’s a huge mirrored bean!
Our reflection in the bean
Chicago Skyline reflection in the bean
Peyton is super strong holding up the bean!

We also wanted to check out Maggie Daley park which was nearby. But as we were walking, Peyton saw that he could play in water at these giant towers with digital faces on them that squirt out water at you. So we had to stop and check them out.

Interesting art exhibit!

Pro tip: bring clothes to change into so that your kids can enjoy playing in the water.

Next stop, Maggie Daley Park so Peyton could play.

Only one of the many playgrounds tucked into this park
Only one of many slides in this park

Pro tip: there’s also a mini-golf course in this park as well as a skating ribbon where your kids can roller skate, roller blade, ride scooters, etc.

To end our day in Chicago, we had to find ice cream, see the football stadium, and get Chicago style pizza. Both the ice cream and the pizza were just ok. Nothing to write home about.

Ice cream
Soldier Field
View from Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
A slice of our pizza
Peyton loved the stringy cheese
Evening view in Chicago

Tomorrow we plan to drive to Grand Rapids to see some friends. We also extended our stay here in Michigan for another week. Stay tuned to see where we head next!

Have you been to Chicago? Leave a reply at the bottom of this page and let us know about your favorite part of Chicago. We love hearing from you!