A Trip to Ohiopyle and Fallingwater (Part 1)

So, over the last weekend we traveled to Ohiopyle, PA, as a culmination of a class our son took in understanding architecture run by the education folks at Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Fallingwater.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

The symposium ran on Sunday for the students who took the class (a bunch in our homeschool group here in Buffalo, and some public school students from around Pittsburg) to show off the houses that they designed and built, either in model form or electronically, got a tour of Fallingwater, and then our homeschool students got a series of four additional classes on Monday.

So this trip was going to be the longest trip we’d taken in the bus, as Ohiopyle (the nearest state park with camping to Fallingwater) is about 215 miles from Buffalo as the crow flies.  I thought that it would probably be best to travel via the shortest distance rather than taking expressways that went farther out of the way, and Google maps put together a route that made the shortest distance 272 miles.  This looked even more appealing as the route passed through the territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians near Salamanca, where diesel was just over $2/gallon.

The short trip route.
The short trip route.

The route was calculated to take 5 hours and 50 minutes, but, as so often happens, it took longer.  We got out late, and as direct as that route looks on the map, it’s full of twists and turns and lots and lots of hills.

And of course, the bus has a manual transmission.

It ended up taking us 7 hours to get to the campground, more than half of that in the dark, and without high beams on, the headlights only show a short amount of the road ahead. We did drive through Pauxsutawney, and saw one of the Phil Statues (like the Herd About Buffalo) in a parking lot we paused in.

We passed over two (probably scenic) summits along the way, and we were limited to being in 3rd gear going up and fourth going down (with heavy stab braking), along with a myriad of smaller hills along the way.  The lowered speed limits, reduced visibility, and gearing/power limitations of keeping the bus at a safe speed and still making forward progress all added up to our getting in late. My shoulders ached from all the shifting with my right arm and managing turns with my left.

But checking in at the Ohiopyle State Park Campground was painless, even though we were late.  They had out a clipboard with a listing of all the sites, those reserved/occupied and the ones that were available, so that people could check in or ‘take’ an unoccupied site and settle accounts in the morning.  I circled our reservation, and we made our way to the site.

As nice a site as it was, I needed to turn the bus around before we could back in, and the campground map indicated that there was a loop at the end of the campground road we were on, so after checking out the site visually, we proceeded down the road – only to find that the loop at the end was not designed for a bus!  After some jockeying to make the first corner and lots of getting out to plan the next steps of getting past trees to continue forward we gave up, and I backed back around (again with several back and forths to make the corners and avoid other campers’ cars) and then up into the tail end of the dead-end road, and we were able to go back up the road in the direction we wanted to.  It is one of the times when I really thought I should have installed a switch to turn off the back-up beeper, and I apologized to the one camper who did stumble out to find out what we were doing …

After that, backing into the site was an easy task, and without leveling the bus, we made the bed (the boy had climbed into the bunk an hour or so before) and conked out for some much-needed sleep.

(Continued in Part 2)

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