Category Archives: camping

A Trip to Ohiopyle and Fallingwater (Part 3)

(Continued from Part 2)

After a quick breakfast of coffee and cereal, we packed everything up, put up the awning and headed off to Fallingwater.  While it was only about 2 miles away in a straight line, the campground was up atop a high ridge that we had to backtrack along to get down, and it ended up being an eight mile drive.

We also had to travel down PA 2010 (which was just one last long uphill drive as we were getting in so late on Friday night), which has a pretty steep grade for almost a mile of the mile and a half we were on it.  There was an option of going another route, but that would have replaced the 2010 route with a sixteen and a half mile detour.  I decided to just plan on stab braking my way down, and it all went fine.

We drove back through the town of Ohiopyle and along 381 North back up to Fallingwater.  The ‘campus’ has a couple of nice parking lots, one of which is set up for about eight RVs or buses, so parking was easy.  It was a chilly day, and the area the education people had for display space for the architectural models was in an outdoor area with a roof but no walls shielded from the parking area by some lovely evergreen trees.  That meant that while it was really comfortable out in the sun, sitting in the pavilion was kind of chilly.

Luckily, we had the bus right there and I was able to run back and get a sweatshirt for the boy, and then some coffee, and then a jacket.  The kids showed their models, and our son worked with staff to get their laptop to run Minecraft and load his world in, so he could show his. We then got to tour the Fallingwater house.

We couldn’t take an pictures inside the house during the tour, but let it be said that it certainly is a Frank Lloyd Wright house.  Low ceilings and corridors make you feel squeezed, and subconsciously make you move to more comfortable places in rooms.

After our tour, our son was able to give a tour of his house on the projector screen, but a couple other kids couldn’t get their digital data off their iphones, which was a bit disappointing.  But when it was all done, the kids were happy, the folks at Fallingwaters were impressed with what our homeschool group had done, and we went back to the campground.

Again, we took the steep shortcut and just rode it slowly.  All was fine.

Back in the campground, I turned the bus around at the intersection made by a utility (water & power) access road instead of trying the way-too-tight loop, and we slid right back into our spot. More Boss Monster ensued, and we had another chilly night.

The next morning we repeated the process of getting back to Fallingwater, but were delayed getting out of the town of Ohiopyle by a train.  While tempted to blow the train horn at them to get back at them doing so in the middle of the night near our camp, there were too many people around outside.

We arrived again at Fallingwater and over the day, the kids had some classes on architectural drawing & scaling, building paper cantilevers, and perspective drawing,  My wife found that the information area had these small little pieces of colored paper, each with directions on how to get where you were going from Fallingwater, so we grabbed one that confirmed how we would get to I-76.  Afterward, we said our goodbyes to the folks staying another night, made a quick dinner in the bus before leaving, ate, and headed back to Buffalo.

We had already decided that we would take the longer (but faster) route home, going back up 381 to 711 (and avoiding the shortcut that got us lost) to 31 and then onto The Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) West.  It was nice to see all the places we’d missed in the dark, and I had noticed when we’d passed over the Turnpike on our way down, so I had an idea of where we were going.

The Turnpike was it’s own adventure.  I’d never taken the bus on a toll road, and rather than having a manned toll booth, there was just a machine that spat out tickets.  As I was looking for a way to figure out what class we were, a ticket came out and, well, we were a class 3.  I guess there was a person watching somewhere. So, onto the westbound ramp we went, and I worked at getting up to traffic speed.

The speed limit was a zippy 70.

I can push the bus all the way up to 65, but that’s all the way up at 2600 RPMs, so I feel tenuous about holding it there.  So I rode us along between 63-65 while the trucks zoomed around us.  Some $17 later we got off the paid section of the Turnpike we had been on, and our exit onto I-79 North which would take us from Pittsburgh to Erie.

And again the speed limit was 70.

But we made it to near Erie and got on I-90 East, and I promptly got us off to get some fuel – just 10 gallons, as we were close enough to to the Seneca Reservation near Irving that I could fill up fully there, which we did.

Finally home!

A Trip to Ohiopyle and Fallingwater (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Our first night actually was fine, even if short.  The back of the bus faced the east, which meant that the sun streamed in through the trees in all the windows.  The new bench-platform bed fit a queen-sized foam pad with room to spare, and the pre-made bedroll made putting the bed together easy.  After a pot of espresso was brewed up on the stove, we started to unpack and find what we needed.

The new awning in place and rolled up.
The new awning in place and rolled up.

As a light rain started and slowly got heavier, I opted to put out our new (to the bus) awning, both to insure that we would have some dry area alongside the bus and because the awning had not been unrolled and exposed to a nice cleaning rain in over a decade.  It came out easily and I was able to use a cloth and the rain-water to clean the supports of the dirt and grime it had accumulated in the under-building storage it had been in.

One thing to note here was that we were in our first extended-stay non-electric sites.  Given that we’d be moving and wouldn’t be able to use the solar panels, I didn’t even bring them, and we opted to use the fridge (which had chilled on before we left and had been running off the inverter on the way down) as a cooler, opening it as little as possible to conserve cold.  But it was nice.  We still had lights with the DC when we needed them, and there was no buzz from the inverter.

A nice soft, safe spot for a dog.
A nice soft, safe spot for a dog.

The Ohiopyle Campgrounds were really nice.  There were lots of little streams and big rocks.  (Our dog liked nestling among them.)  There were tons of trees and plenty of birds, though not many animals that we saw, though we were in one of the two dog-friendly loops.  The other loops are not pet friendly, and you aren’t even allowed to walk your dog through them.  If there’s a trailhead in one of those loops, you have to drive your dog there to take them on the trail.

And there was no excess light pollution after dark.  It was really nice to be able to see the moon and stars amongst the clouds from our bed.

The bench platforms in place. Basically all the space under those middle panels is storage!
The bench platforms in place. Basically all the space under those middle panels is storage!

After a hearty breakfast, we set about some organizing.  We drove down to Ohiopyle with the bench-platform in place, and the height of the platforms means that all of the plastic totes that we have used so far slide right underneath it.  This is great because the open space is about 60 inches by 42 inches, which is a ton of space where the totes can’t bounce around in the far back of the bus.

One of the issues we had in arranging was that I haven’t yet built the under-counter storage, so everything was tucked away in the bathroom area, and we needed to be able to tuck it all back there the next morning, as we needed to take the bus to Fallingwater the next day (Two miles away as the crow flies, but eight by road) as we couldn’t leave our dog at the campsite and we didn’t bring a toad or chase vehicle.

As the day progressed, and the rain worsened periodically, it also became obvious that we needed better pre-planing.  I had checked the weather and noted that it was going to be cold and grabbed winter gear (coats, gloves, hats, scarves), but not rain gear, and the weather was still relatively warm.  Luckily the spotty rain cut out often enough that it wasn’t a big problem, but when our friends on a different loop stopped by and our son wanted to go and play with them, he didn’t have rain gear to take ‘just in case’.

(So, we’ve determined that we need a better pre-trip list, and currently everything that was packed away in the bus is now out for cataloging and sorting.)

But we were fine.  We hosted the kids from our friends’ site (they had a total of five kids) as their son remarked that we always had good games with us.  Boss Monster was the game of choice, and much fun was had by all (except the heros, of course).  But we also had brought our LEGO Fallingwater set and our Pop-up Frank Lloyd Wright book, so they were seen as well.

LEGO Architecture Fallingwater (21005) (Discontinued by manufacturer) (Toy)


List Price: $99.99 USD
New From: $299.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Frank Lloyd Wright in Pop-up (Hardcover)


List Price: $19.98
New From: $57.99 USD In Stock
Used from: $5.13 USD In Stock

Boss Monster Card Game Bundle (Toy)


List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: 0 Out of Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Toas-Tite Aluminum Sandwich Grill, Regular (Kitchen)


List Price: $31.99 USD
New From: $25.95 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

And for dinner, we got to christen two new toastite makers on the fire! My wife got me one years ago, and last year my wife and son decided that if I was making toastites for everyone, I wasn’t getting to eat with everyone else.  So they got toastite makers for themselves and I got to make three toastites all at once.

The night got down to 37F or so, but we were all pretty warm.  Mixed in with our blankets and bedding were blankets of reflective mylar and faux-sheepskin that we tend to call ‘magic blankets’ for just how warm they are.

The next day was classes at Fallingwater, so we had to contend with packing up in the morning.  And getting the bus there.

 

Continued in Part 3

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)