This weekend, I took the Westy for the first camping trip to Stony Brook State Park, in Dansville, NY, south east of Buffalo.
I wanted to go somewhere that was not too far for the first outing, but somewhere that I could run highway, hills and find a nice spot to camp, and a place that I had not been to before.
Because it was the long weekend in Canada (Victoria Day), I decided to cross the border into the U.S. as the campgrounds in Canada can be a little crazy on the May 24 weekend!
Stony Brook State Park is on the edge of the beautiful Finger Lakes, and has some of the incredible geological formations that are common to the area, similar to the gorge at Watkins Glen or at Letchworth State Park close by.
I left about 20 minutes behind schedule, and headed for the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie – my current favorite border crossing. The bus cruised nicely on the highway – no problem keeping up with traffic, and the new Hankook tires keeping the ride smooth.
Arriving at the border around 3pm, the lineups at all the Customs booths were long – looked like about an hour wait. Lucky for me I have my NEXUS card, so I breezed by all the cars in the left NEXUS Only lane which was completely empty.
2o seconds later, I was on my way. NEXUS is well worth it.
I took I-90 west towards Erie, then headed on some Blue Highways across the beautiful upstate New York countryside – rolling hills, farmland and fresh (sometimes bovine) air.
Highway 20A through Warsaw has some pretty good grades, both up and down, so it was a good test for the bus which managed fine.
I saw a sign for Fresh Brown Farm Eggs so stopped to pick up something for breakfasts. There was a young Mennonite woman tending to her garden, but she did not come over to the farmhouse when I pulled in the driveway. There was a sign saying ‘Customers Please Use Front Door’, and a young goat tied up with a long rope that reached easily to the front path.
I said “Hi” to the goat and patted its head – it was really only looking for company or maybe thought I had food. On the front porch was a small bar fridge with a jar of money on top, along with a sign saying $2 a dozen for the eggs. I took a dozen and left my $2 in the jar, and headed back on the road.
The State Park is pretty nice, albeit that the campsites are fairly close to one another and not really private. I had a nice spot right on the river, which I looked over before heading in to town to buy some firewood.
It did not take long top set up camp. Thankfully I had done a dry run of setting up the E-Z Awning at home, so it was a breeze!
You will note my spare gas can on the roof rack, in case I ran out as the gas gauge is a little wonky:
All set up, with my Coffee, Tea and incense burner!
Of course the first time I sat down to relax on my vintage 1970’s chair, I leaned back and heard a snap and the back fell backwards! The plastic on the arm was brittle and broke.
Naturally, I had only brought one chair, but I did have my tool kit, so a little McGyvering later with a zip tie, and the chair was stronger than ever.
Vintage stuff is cool, but it is old, so you sometimes have to accept that things will break.
Because it is a 77 Westy, I tried to go vintage for most things – Coleman Stove, Oil Lamp, Coffee Maker etc.
The exception was my music, which was courtesy of my iPod and a Bluetooth Sony Speaker Cube. Even that could be a vintage illusion though, when the speaker was hidden behind my vintage clock radio and playing vintage 70’s KMET from Los Angeles!
Dinner that night was canned Shepherd’s Pie. Yes, it tasted about as bland as it sounds. But it was fast and easy and nourishment at least.
The campsite was dry – ie: no electric or water hookup, but there was a tap nearby, and I had brought my fresh water. I also was set up so I could use the Coleman inside if needed, to brew coffee at night.
That was handy, although I usually cook outside.
I settled in after a nice campfire – sleeping on the bottom bunk. The bus was at a slight angle, so I ended up turning around with my head to the back of the bus, but I found the bottom bed not completely flat, so not as comfortable as I would have liked. It was also short for my 6’1″, so my feet ending up dangling.
Thankfully I had bought and brought my Mr. Heater Buddy, which I ran for about 10 minutes prior to bed to warm up the bus, as it was pretty cool at night.
I made sure to open a window while I ran it, and checked the CO detector, but it runs pretty clean. I shut it off and crawled into my sleeping bag. I woke up a couple of times in the night – mostly because of the cold and the bed.
I ran the heater again to warm things up – it is really awesome!
I’m working on my social skills – I’m not really the type to strike up conversations with strangers, but travelling alone is an opportunity to both relax and find peace and quiet, yet also to listen to the interesting stories of people you meet on the road.
Luckily for me, owning a Vintage VW bus attracts folks to say hi, and relate their own stories of their encounters and experiences with an old VW bus, which everyone seems to have.
Case in point was Pedro, an introverted, long haired fellow who was camping on his own with his Toyota Corolla, a small tent and his skateboard.
He came over to talk, and it was obviously a bit out of his comfort zone too, so we had that in common. Turns out he was Portuguese, and living near Buffalo, NY, but was dreaming of living the ‘Bus Life’ – buying a VW bus like mine, and traveling around America.
Of course I encouraged him to do it, and I hope he does. Pedro – if you are out there and reading this – let me know when you get that bus!
Sunday night brought a group of young girls to the site next to mine – seven young seniors to be exact. I was expecting that evening to be a long and loud one, having two daughters of my own who together can make a lot of noise with typical girl laughing and giggling.
I was surprised that I did not hear a peep from them all night, and impressed with their teamwork and camaraderie as they dismantled camp the next morning.
It was refreshing to see a group of young girls having a great time camping without being stuck on their cell phones or being crazy. They had been rafting at Letchworth State Park in the afternoon, so were pretty tired when they finally set up camp, one of the girls told me.
I wanted to take photos of Pedro, and also the girls with the Bus for my blog, but my introverted social personality held me back. I’m still working on being more outgoing, and trying to capture those moments that are really one of the most interesting parts of being on the road.
Next trip in about 3 weeks to points east – likely Vermont and New Hampshire. See you on the road…