Substitute Sandusky

South Sandusky Campground sign

We were supposed to go to the Smokies. We had reservations for two weeks in Gatlinburg. Now, we’ve been lucky. We’ve done a lot this year. We’ve had big trips to Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa and Texas. And some smaller trips in between. But about a month ago, Dan and I had “the discussion.” We reviewed our budget, taking into account Christmas and all of the end of the year bills coming up. Plus we had a car repair. Those never come cheap.

After our fiscal “review”, Dan said, “We need to cancel our reservation for Greenbriar. Why don’t you look and make reservations for us at Rend Lake?” My first thought was, “Great. Stupid Ole Rend Lake.” Even though I love Rend Lake. I knew Dan was right, but I couldn’t agree just yet. I hadn’t gone through the five stages of grief. I was stuck in the bargaining stage which is a couple steps away from acceptance. I wasn’t bargaining with Dan, just myself and the numbers in my head.

Well, it took about a day and half, but I did finally accept our fate of a close-to-home five day camping trip at a half-price senior discounted Army Corps of Engineers campground. I even concurred when a nice neighbor commented, “The Smokies will still be there next year.”

So, here we are at Rend Lake. We’ve been here three times before, staying at South Marcum COE campground. This time, in order to keep the excitement alive, we decided to stay at South Sandusky. I have to say, as far as consolation prizes go, it is number one. It’s beautiful here. The sites are really spacious. But, the best thing is the bike trail.

Bike on bike trail at Rend Lake.

The bike trail is at the beginning of our campground. It is eight miles in one direction and four in the other. The trail is almost all concrete which is so nice. There aren’t any large, gaping dangerous cracks like on some asphalt trails.

Bike Trail with goldenrod and blue sky.

Our first day here, after we were all set up, we rode ten miles. With the day’s light dwindling down, we spotted several deer along the trail. Our second morning, we rode from South Sandusky, our current campground, over to the South Marcum campground where we had stayed in the past. This section of the trail ends at South Marcum, so that was the end of the line. We added a bit for a total of twenty miles.

Sign which says "City of Sesser  A Certified City."
Yep, a real Certified City!

Our third day was met with rain, but not enough to keep us from getting outside some. We visited the small town of Sesser which is just three miles away. The town’s population is 2,000. I’m surprised they didn’t update the sign and add us in. The place seemed deserted except for the trucks that barreled through the main drag.

Things didn’t look so much in disrepair as just empty. Main street was lined with old time stores. Many were empty, but those that weren’t empty were closed even though it was late morning on a weekday. I can’t blame them as it was only Dan and I as far as the eye could see. We stopped by the one antique store which stored a number of items out front. Not sure if “stored” is the right word. It looked as if the stuff was dumped there. In any case, it was only us and a couple of mosquitoes who, by the way, were glad to see us.

Opera House

There were some bright spots. A “Bagels and Brew” with outside seating. A custard stand which always looks inviting to me. There was an old opera house building which boasted character of long ago. This town is just waiting to happen. Now they do have “Rend Lake Days” and a craft fair in the fall. And we did just miss the “Testicle Festival” – thank heavens. But they need more, and I hope they get it. A bike trail from the Rend Lake campgrounds to the town sounds like a good starting point. But perhaps I am a bit biased.

After feeding the mosquitoes, it was back to Benton for lunch on the square. We ate at The Buzz which was delicious. It’s across from the courthouse, and, not surprisingly, it closes at two. After lunch, we buzzed over to Walmart for some needed supplies. No bike riding this day.

The next couple days were too chilly and windy for much bike riding. With a perfect forecast for the coming weekend, we decided to extend our stay. There was one available full hook-up campsite for Friday and Saturday night in all of Rend Lake land – which is literally hundreds of sites. Someone probably had to cancel. We know what that’s like. In any case, we grabbed the site, so we could stay two more days.

Because of our extended stay, we needed a bit more food. Walmart was 12.4 miles from our campsite; Sesser Foodland was 6.8 miles. We went to Sesser, that Certified City we had visited earlier. Sesser Foodland was a smaller, local store, but it had most anything one could need. There were also some items we didn’t need but sure looked good. If you’re camping at Rend Lake and need groceries, I recommend Sesser Foodland. It’s a nice grocery store.

Of course, we do have to move for our weekend stay. Our next campsite is in the North Sandusky campground, and that’s where we’ll be in my next post. Hope to see you there.


  1. Feeding the “skeeters” is a nightly ritual where we live. Thankfully, the cooler morning temps are whittling their numbers down. I enjoy reading your stories, Betty! Who knows, maybe The Smokies were closed, due to Covid. But they can’t literally close The Smokies, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those “skeeters” are everywhere! And they particularly like me. And yes, I am glad when Fall arrives and the “skeeters” leave. God willing, we will get to The Smokies sometime. I appreciate your comment, and I hope you have a wonderful “skeeter-free” weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness, Rend Lake!! We’ve never stayed there, actually had never even heard of this lake but on our way to Tennessee last month for our long camping trip we stopped at a rest area right on Rend Lake. It looked so very inviting and gorgeous. And now that I’ve read your post I want to go back and actually camp!!! And because of you I know what COE parks to check out!! You rock, Betty! We didn’t camp in the Smokies but we took a two day visit for our first time there. Such a beautiful area. I need to focus on blogging about our Tennessee trip. Have a blessed Saturday and thanks for the great read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are welcome! I like that Rend Lake rest stop, too. It is very pretty, plus they have all kinds of tourist info. I look forward to reading about your Tennessee trip. It may take a little while, but we will get there! And after reading your posts, we may add in some additional stops. Thanks for your nice comments, and I hope you have blessed Saturday, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you are enjoying your plan B trip. The local grocery store sounds like a great find. We camped at Rend Lake for two nights on the way home from an RV trip one year. We didn’t have reservations but were able to get Site 139 at South Sandusky. All I remember is that it was HOT! We didn’t do much except rest up for the rest of the trip back to Georgia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Late summer can be hot as heck here in the Midwest. They do have a beach here that I am sure is very popular. Fall is a wonderful time to be at Rend Lake. I find the area to be very peaceful, so it’s the perfect place to rest! Thanks for reading, and enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So sorry you had to cancel the Smoky Mountains, but it doesn’t matter because y’all still went somewhere. I like Rend Lake but understand how it might get a little monotonous after awhile. Bike riding sounds fun though. Still waiting on our bikes to be delivered. Maybe next time you can go to the Army Corp campground at Lake Shelbyville. I like that area too. It’s not far to the Amish town of Arthur which we found interesting. Be sure to go to Yoder’s Kitchen for some good home cooking. Oh , never mind, I just remembered you don’t do buffets. — Happy days and safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lake Shelbyville sounds like an excellent suggestion. Not too far from home. We could check out Yoder’s Kitchen, too. Sometimes they have a menu option, too. And it’d be fun to explore the town of Arthur. Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll get to the Smokies some time – God willing. Enjoy your Saturday, and safe travels!

      Liked by 1 person

    • We will get there some day – God willing! I’m not sure it will be next year. We have reservations in Yellowstone for ten days, so that’ll be a big trip. Plus we want to return to Gulf Shores, and, of course, our annual Michigan trip. But it is definitely a priority for 2023! This country has so many wonderful places to visit! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was so intrigued by Sesser that I looked them up on the map. I love the Opera House, and while driving Google, also found the downtown and the beautiful United Mine Workers of America building just off the main street. In trying to find out about the building, I stumbled on a free ebook Franklin County, Illinois War History from 1832-1919, published 1920. It detailed the role of the UMW of A building during World War I, and also featured information about the Opera House and other early Sesser buildings. It is not the Great Smoky Mountains, but it was an interesting story. Foodland looks like a place I would like, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that Opera House! And I thought of you immediately upon seeing it. I knew you would love it, but I didn’t realize how intrigued you would be! Love that passion! The city’s website says the Opera House puts on plays, but there is no schedule posted – just “More information coming.” There are two large planters with gorgeous displays in front of it; someone is taking great care. So, there must be more to its story. I will have to check out the United Mine Workers building next visit. And I will have to check out that ebook from 1920 (misplaced modifer on purpose – a little humor just for us!) as I feel we will return to Sesser. Maybe for a play! Thanks for your enthusiasm, and have a great Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Terry. At this stage in life – or really any stage – it’s wise to make the best of things. And it’s also important to be grateful – we did get to do a lot of traveling this year. My glass is more than half full! Enjoy your weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh, those financial compromises we’re forced to make! It does sound like you’ve made the best of it, all things considered. We have a similar situation coming up next month with a milestone birthday to celebrate, but COVID and funds needed elsewhere are forcing us to lower expectations. I am sorry we don’t get to learn about the Testicle Festival, though. Then again, perhaps it’s better not to know. 🙂 – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Other than seeing the sign for the Testicle Festival, I don’t know anything about it. Nor did I ask! I do hope though, that however you decide to celebrate the milestone birthday, it will exceed your expectations – even if they are lowered. I do think travel will be better in several ways when Covid is behind us. Enjoy your Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am sorry you had to cancel your planned vacation in the Smokies. Where you landed, though, sounds nice. We will have an opportunity to ride on a bicycle trail this coming week. We will be staying in an Airbnb near a trailhead for the Great Allegheny Passage. That trail is 150 miles long. Obviously we will ride only a small portion of that trail, namely 11 miles between Confluence PA and Ohiopyle PA. I plan to blog about our mini getaway, so keep an eye out for my posts sometime in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that sounds like a wonderful trip for you this coming week! I will definitely keep an eye out for your post. Fall is the perfect time of year to take a trip. I hope you have a great time. It’s okay we didn’t make it to the Smokies. Hopefully, we will make it there sometime, and when we do, we will really enjoy it! Enjoy your Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You have been blessed with many great trips this year. I’m sure there are wonderful memories from each excursion. Rend Lake sounds like a good finale even if you have been there several times. Predictability sometimes beats novelty!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we have been very blessed this year! And we do have wonderful memories. We do have one more short, close to home trip to close out the year. Thanks for reading and your comment. Hope you are doing well, and have a great Sunday!


  9. In my albeit limited experience… sometimes these changes of plans happen for a reason! We might never know what exactly the reason was, but I believe that there is always a reason. 😊
    I’m glad you are having a nice time at your back-up plan trip! Great job rolling with it, you’re an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know what? I agree with you. And actually, I was even thinking the same thing. Like you, I also believe there is always a reason why things work out as they do. We may never know the reason, but I do have faith – there is a reason. And honestly, in the grand scheme of things, not being able to go to the Smokey Mountains this year – really isn’t that bad. I’m grateful for the many blessings we do have. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful Sunday!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Finally getting caught up. Oh how I know about change of plans. The last two years it seems our whole life has gone off the rails. I seem to spend more time making repairs to Elvira then actually going somewhere. And now that we have a house, well, a fiscal review shows the house needs some sprucing up which means trips will have to take a back seat for a bit. How long? Time will tell. Yet this I know we’ve had a great four years and so no complaints from me. I will continue to say and believe we are two of the most blessed and fortunate people in the world. Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you and Barb have a perfect set up! All I see for you is lots and lots of choices. Florida has so many possibilities. You’re set up to go, and you’re set up to stay. One thing I know. I love traveling in our travel trailer, but I also love our home as well. We all have to balance our resources, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s how we live our values. You both are “two of the most blessed and fortunate people in the world.” And one reason is because you always make the best of things. I hope you have a great week, too!


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