Niagara Falls on the American Side
The casino stay in Niagara Falls NY was perfect – a spacious, fenced gravel parking lot largely to myself with free wifi from the casino reaching into my parking spot. The casino itself was too smoky for me to stay more than a few minutes before my eyes were stinging. But with the falls just a few blocks away, I couldn’t resist riding my bike down there with Sadie in the evening to check it out. They were so impressive: beautiful trails all around, with more places to walk and less crowded than the Canadian side, I went again the following morning!
Crossing back into Canada
Border crossing was smooth with my relatively empty fridge and inventory list in hand. Knowing what food items they don’t allow to cross the border (eg. citrus, eggs, meat) and planning ahead to be sure I am not carrying those things, helps a lot. I find if you can convey to the border agent that you know the regulations and have put effort into complying with them, they are less likely to feel the need to search your rig. From Niagara Falls I drove straight back to New Lowell to unhitch and head home.
Awnings & Wind
We were just relaxing at our site at Robert Treman SP when I noticed the wind was just started to buffet our awning. Suddenly, an isolated gust of wind flipped our side awning over the top of our RV, ripping the top anchor bolts right out of the RV. Bollocks. Fellow RVers ran over to help us get it back over to the correct side and we were able to roll it back up and lock down the feet at the bottom. For a few minutes, it looked like a storm was about to whip up – I was just coming outside to lock it down when it blew off, and then the storm never hit and was gone. Bizarre.
So the arms were a bit warped on one side and we spent some time straightening bent metal and reassembling everything. We screwed the bolts back in but since they had ripped out, they wouldn’t grab. Feeling this was a risk for driving home, James popped out on the motorcycle to the nearby Lowes for wood filler and bigger bolts. The wood filler worked well but the bigger bolts wouldn’t fit through the metal bracket. Old bolts should be fine once the filler hardens – apparently I have to redrill the holes now but that is no trouble since I have a drill. :o) We may need to replace a few metal parts and have the tension recranked so it will wind up on it’s own again. Hopefully it will be mostly okay without spending too much money.
Lesson learned is that we shouldn’t take both awning arms off the RV and put them on the ground as there is nothing but gravity holding them down. We noticed other campers had pinned theirs down – probably because they saw what happened to us! Lol! James likes to unhitch the awning arms from the RV because they get in the way to walk around – so this was a good learning experience for both of us to be cautious about this. Fortunately, the antenna was not up when the awning flipped over – if it had been, it would have been damaged for sure so we were lucky on that point.
James left this morning to go back home. The heat broke with yesterday’s evening rains and this morning it is only 10 C – high is 15 C – I don’t mind. They have a good trail here Sadie and I will tackle after lunch and run the genny this evening to try to burn off the last of the old gas and charge back up – cloudly today. I did some research and decided to stay at casino Niagara tomorrow night – I don’t want to go to a HH because I have to cross the border and don’t want more food/alcohol to bring. Also this way, we can add a casino to our list of places we have stayed on this trip!
Planning on the Fly
Since we had no cell signal at Rickett’s Glen SP, we couldn’t make arrangements for our next stop or even properly research the options. We wanted to see the Finger Lakes and James wanted to go to the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca. James used his GPS to discover some Ithaca Museums and I noticed the Finger Lakes National Forest on a paper map and figured they might have some dispersed camping options. We met at the McDonalds in South Waverly on the PA-NY border for lunch to access wifi and make some calls. James called FLNP and they said there were a few pull-off dispersed sites as well as a campground with no dump station for $10. I called the Museum of the Earth and asked if we could park overnight to visit the museum and they said yes! We were tired of camping and wanted to be in town so we headed for the museum.
Great decision! Their upper parking lot was partially sheltered from the road by a hill and the museum was just a few miles from downtown, though down a steep road. Furthermore, it turned out Ithaca was having their Ithaca festival – yes! We managed to serendipitously hit an event! Unsure of parking with the festival, I asked a departing museum employee if he could give us a ride downtown and he said yes! So we grabbed our stuff and hopped in his car – Matt was super nice and we talked about environmental issues as he is a recent environmental studies graduate. He dropped us right at the Moosewood where we had yummy vegetarian dinner and I bought a t-shirt.
Timing was perfect to catch the Ithaca parade right after dinner just around the corner.
We managed to catch a city bus back to the museum though we waited over 30 mins for it, we got chatting with a local Jen who works with the city’s homeless at Loaves and Fishes. Jen filled us in on the problems of drug abuse (marijuana and heroin) in Ithaca and the large number of disillusioned young people who have chosen drugs and street life over paying for expensive housing and getting a job. Apparently the shooting-up is such a problem, the city had to close all the public washrooms as they were just filled with used needles – sad indeed. I felt sympathy for these young people who must see wealth all around them but can only get a minimum wage job.
Compost & Propane
I had a full bag of compost coming out of Ricketts and nowhere but a garbage bin to put it. I kept my eyes peeled as I drove looking for a compost bin anywhere and finally spotted one. I pulled over safely and ran back with my compost bag – the homeowner was actually outside and agreed to put it in her bin so I was happy about that! Seems that compost disposal options may be hard to come by on the road – we may need to be prepared to carry our compost for a week or two if we want to avoid putting our food scraps in the garbage. It is a matter of principle for me. I needed propane again and found it along the way, this time at a TruValue Hardware store. Based on our experience on this trip, I expect we will need to fill a propane tank 3 x month at around $17 per tank – $50 per month. Laundry seems to run about the same. Good to have some practical experience to put behind those budget estimates.
Around Town in Ithaca NY
The museum was awesome and they agreed we could stay one more night so we decided to unhitch to go downtown with our bicycles in the van. We rode around Stewart Park – a municipal waterfront park Jen said was nice – she was right! Then headed for the Ithaca Fallsview trail in town – a short hike to a huge 104 foot tall waterfall we were not expecting!
Next up Ithaca bakery for dinner and a fresh loaf of bread to bring home – yay! We left the van at the bakery (with permission) to hop on our bicycles a few blocks to where the festival continued with an artisan sale and live music! Perfect and Sadie got lots of approving looks in her buddy rider and managed not to bite anyone all evening!
Robert Treman SP
We headed back home and hitched back up in the fading light to make things easier in the morning. After a morning walk with Sadie and surfing the free museum wifi, we headed just 5 miles south to Robert Treman State Park. No reservation on the weekend but they still had a site for us for 2 nights. We set up in an open area happy to have full solar but it was hot hot hot! Fortunately there was a swimming hole we could walk to but the bicycles made it so much quicker to go, we went back and forth 3 times to cool off waiting for the heat to break.
New Folding Bicycles
I was super happy with the bikes and we bought two – James chose the one with no shocks – it was a bit smaller and I think it reminds him of his BMX bike when he was a kid. I liked the one with shocks – it was larger, had thicker tires and at $100 more, seemed slightly better built all round. Also works better to have shocks for Sadie on the BuddyRider. We had Yi at 2KSilver assemble mine while James assembled his own in tandem. Great solution as the bikes needed a bit of fine tuning after importing from China and Yi tuned them both up perfectly.
James also bought a new helmet (I still have one at home) and we were set. We found a park nearby to go for a test ride and let Sadie have a little run around and we were ready to head back home.
Farmer’s Market Overnight Stay
Home at Dove Valley Winery was a highlight. Parked in a field far enough from the road that the noise didn’t bother us, it was pastoral and perfect. We were sad to leave but called ahead to Rohrbach’s Farm Market where they had a spot we could stay.
The parking area had an amazing view at the top of a mountain and we saw deer grazing in the orchards against a stunning sunset – wow! We walked Sadie beside the picturesque farmer’s fields – the only downside was the traffic noise was more than we wanted but for one night it was no big deal. Our cupboards were fairly full but we still managed to plug some of the holes in our food supplies in the morning from the market without feeling like we were buying food we didn’t want. So a successful stay!
On the way north we stopped in Centralia, Pennsylvania to explore the old destroyed highway PA-61. It is covered in graffiti and the asphalt shows huge rifts.
Next up was Rickett’s Glen State Park where they had a trail with an amazing 20 gorgeous waterfalls! We were unsure if we would stay 2 or 3 nights but when we realized there was no cell signal at all anywhere in the park, we decided 2 was enough. After 1 night, we drove out with the van to the nearest town to get signal so I could check in in case my tenants had contacted me for anything. It rained and the site footing was a dirty gravel that covered everything in red mud/dirt. Happy to leave that behind but we were glad we stayed there as the falls were amazing.
Washington was a blast but I have discovered that RVing near a city makes for a busy time! The campground we chose had an excellent location close to the Metro but also had ticks. Sadie’s bug jacket worked pretty good but she still got some ticks and we had to keep searching her whole body to find and remove them. We arrived Monday evening and stayed through Saturday with James working his Canadian job remotely at the IBM office right near the White House while I went to the free museums.
We were so ready to leave on Saturday: we had enough of the ticks plus it was Memorial Day weekend and the campground was filling up. Normally traveling on a long weekend without a reservation somewhere is risky but we called up a Harvest Host winery and had a private place to stay! We also had our first full recharge day: we drove to Trader Joe’s in the morning to get groceries and bought drinking water, returned to the campground to shower, hitch up, dump and throw out garbage. Drove to the winery and had a lovely visit, walked Sadie and got permission to stay 2 nights. Unhitched, and drove the van to the local laundromat. So in one day we completely refreshed everything! We lasted 11 days for laundry and drinking water, 5 days between dumps and got groceries 3 times so far on this trip (2 big shops and one small one).
Dove Valley Winery in Rising Sun Maryland has yummy semi-sweet wines and gave us a deal on 6 (20% off and a free wine tote bag) I couldn’t refuse. It occurred to me this morning that Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome could have great synergy: buy wine at the HH and then give a bottle to a BW host as a thank you! Today we are heading to New Jersey for a 1:30pm appointment to buy folding bicycles in person from an online company that has great prices on Columba bikes! Hoping we like them!