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A Trip to Presque Isle State Park, PA

So, on the 13th of July we set out for Presque Isle State Park in/by Erie, PA.  Our son had a day’s worth of homeschool classes on aquaculture, swamp & beach biomes, the geology of the park, and preservation and maintenance of the park.  While it was only two and a quarter hours away from Buffalo, as the classes started at 9 am, we decided to camp overnight.

Our trip was uneventful, except for the fact that I made the mistake of topping up the coolant level in the bus before we left.  Why was this a problem?  Because there was a small leak at the coolant reservoir that dripped down onto the alternator, frying the voltage regulator.  By the time we had hit the Angola Rest Area on the NYS Thruway/I-90, we were running on battery power.  But as on our Evangola trip, I knew that the engine would keep running fine, but unlike that previous trip I had the house batteries fully charged, and chargers for both the house and bus batteries that would work when we got to shore power.  But now I knew the reason WHY the alternator was failing.  Unfortunately, the fluctuations in voltage damaged the board in the fridge, though I got it to work for part of the time we were plugged in.

We stayed at Sara’s Campground, whose lands abut right up to both the Presque Isle State Park and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.  Their grounds also have sites on both sides of Peninsula Drive/Route 832, the east side has sites for actual beach camping (in tents), and the west side is in the more forested area.

Sara's Campground Site Map
Sara’s Campground Site Map

So, we ended up getting Site 21 in the Forest Section.  It was our first stay in a private campground, and I was frankly surprised at the density of sites! The dashcam recorded our trip into our site, including the trepidation and worries I had of getting the bus in a place I’d have to back out of.

Sara’s Campground, Site 21, with the bus all settled.

But the site was fine.  The electric/water pole had a streetlight on it, so we had to put a blanket up over the windows on that side (thankfully magnets hold to bus steel wonderfully).  But there were no sites to our starboard side (where the firepit was), so it was a nice open site (next to a parking lot). And the concrete pad was very nicely level, so everything was comfortable.

Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.
Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.

But right across the street (via a crosswalk with speedbumps and a pushbutton controlled set of flashing lights to cross) was the start of Presque Isle’s beaches, and we walked all the way up past the first couple of breakwaters.  We did a little beachcombing, then returned and we made a fire and some lovely toastites for dinner.  We had some people stop by, interested in the bus, and we gave them the tour, and some skoolie info, as they had expressed interest in working up their own.

The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.
The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.

A little while later, as the sun was setting, we found that the sun was setting directly behind the bus, through the path to the beach.  It was, however, it was basically 9pm, so we were forced to get to bed before we felt we were ready.

Our next morning was fine, coffee and bowls of cereal for breakfast, and as the engine was running and I was doing our pre-trip, folks came over, interested in the bus. Alas, we didn’t have time for a tour, and weren’t returning, but they thought the concept was cool and were absolutely fine with us being there.

Unfortunately, given the short timing of us getting to the Tom Ridge Center for the aquaponics class, and then us getting from that class to our pontoon boat tour, I forgot to turn the dashcam on for those trips. But after the boat tour, I remembered to turn the cam on, so we have a video tour of Presque Isle, sped up 4x.  You miss out on a whole bunch of the cottonwood tree seeds floating about at that speed, but I recorded us getting from the tour to Barracks Beach, and then down the beach road to the Tom Ridge Center again, and then around the whole park once more.

 

Our trip back was uneventful, except for the one tractor-trailer driver who LOVED the train horn.  He paced us while we were still in PA, blew his horn and motioned for me to blow ours and gave a thumbs-up when I did, and hung out in front of us to break air for us until he got to the Angola, NY exit where he sounded his horn again and waved, and I sounded ours again.

A Week in the Bus (Allegany State Park trip – Part III)

(Continued from Part II)

The Red House area of the Allegany State Park is really nicely suited to biking. All the camping and major cabin areas seem to be connected with paved trails, and all the roads within the tent/RV area were paved, with the sites having gravel parking area and some grassy area as well. Our site was actually very close to level, but many of the other sites were not, and I helped one of our neighbors with the ‘lego block’ style levelers, which worked for him nicely.

Staying for the whole week was great, and we only saw one other rainy day than the night of our arrival. However, we didn’t take advantage of any of the hiking trails, though we did bike the ‘on road’ biking trails and canoe on Red House Lake. This was due to my wife having a project that she needed to finish (and with the back of the bus pointed south, she got great natural light from all the windows), and our son spending most of the days at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Science Camp that one of our other homeschooling moms heroically set up and co-ordinated for other homeschoolers. A bunch of the homeschooling families were also staying in the Red House area (several right in our loop!), and so the kids were able to work at camp, then come back and play, grabbing their bikes (and often the wrong shoes) to go exploring the local playground in the camp area, or the park toward the lake, or the treed area between some campsites, or the creek that ran alongside the campgrounds down to the lake. As a result, we didn’t see our son much that week.

But having all three of our bikes meant finding a place to store them securely. I have a long Kryptonite lock and cable, and it worked out that I could lock all three bikes to the bus by fitting the lock around the bottom edge of the safety cage of the fuel tank.

Kryptonite Keeper 12 LS Bicycle U-Lock with Bracket Bicycle U-Lock (4-Inch x 11.5-Inch) (Sports)


List Price: $26.06 USD
New From: $24.90 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

KryptoFlex 4′ Cable (Sports)


List Price: $12.99 USD
New From: $8.95 USD In Stock
Used from: $10.00 USD In Stock

Our site Captain was from Bradford, PA, and lives right by a rail line, and noticed the Super Tyfon right away. After chatting with him a bit, I promised him that I’d sound the horns when we left, as I was concerned about disturbing other campers. Upon leaving, when I sounded the horn, I got a thumbs-up from the Captain, and a not-surprising number of looks from others nearby. I got a report from one of our friends who left after we did that lots of people in the campsite cheered and called for the horn to sound again, but unfortunately, I was already off on the road by then.

Our trip home was via the Quaker area, as we were due to meet friends there in October. This meant going over one mountain/ridge, and then back along the same route, and then out of the park over the mountain with the ski area and fire tower. This was probably the longest, steepest climb I’ve taken the bus on, and I ended up in third gear, doing about 25 mph and watching the coolant temperature climb. I gave the bus some time to cool at the top, then took it down the other side of the mountain (seeing some neat views from the overlook), really getting comfortable with letting the bus engine retard the speed, and using (gentle) stab braking.

A break in the trees while driving down the mountain shows the Allegheny River Valley at Salamanca!
A break in the trees while driving down the mountain shows the Allegheny River Valley at Salamanca!

(In case you don’t know what stab braking is, it’s when you push down hard on the brakes to dramatically lower your speed, then let off again, letting the engine and transmission slow you down, until you get over a speed where they lose efficiency, then you ‘stab’ the brakes again.  It keeps the brakes from overheating, and your vehicle well under your control.)

A Week in the Bus (Allegany State Park trip – Part I)

So, after a hectic summer hiatus of making updates, I’m back.

Not much has happened on working on the bus, but we DID get to make a trip, and I got some night footage on the dash-cam.  During the last week of August, we spent a whole week in the Red House area of Allegany State Park.  Due to some other scheduling, our Saturday departure (and the less than 24-hour prep time) wasn’t during the afternoon, like I’d hoped, but well after dark.

But with the bus relatively packed and the canoe on the car (with my wife following behind) we started off on the ~80 mile trip.  The trip encompassed well-lit streets, in Buffalo, and smaller villages like Ellicotville and Salamanca, as well as expressways that ranged from well- and sparsely-trafficed, and from well- to poorly-lit, and then there were the more rural two-lane roads as well.  And then there was some rain – an interesting test, as there’s no wipers up on the eyebrow window.

I thought that in the well-lit (lots of streetlights) or well-trafficed (lots of headlights), the camera did well.  After I had the alternator rebuilt, the headlights are MUCH brighter, but in some places in the recording you’d never know they were on.  And the footage of the reflective signs on the 219 where there was hardly any late-night traffic reminded me of an early 80’s driving game I had for our family’s Apple IIe.

But once we were there, we did plenty of troubleshooting (another upcoming post), socializing, and I got requests to sound the horns!  But perhaps the coolest thing was when we were driving the canoe to the launch and saw a warship out on the lake.  We ran into Gerald and Esther Kirk who were our running their nearly 11 foot long working model of the U.S.S. Boston (CAG-I) (A heavy cruiser converted to a Terrier missile cruiser, much like Buffalo’s USS Little Rock (CLG – 4) which is a light cruiser with a Talos missile system.)

When we get our pictures downloaded, I’ll add a couple, but I did find this bit of video  which doesn’t do the model justice, and Gerald HAS the Terrier launchers in place, and they not only rotate, but can elevate the missiles as well.  The thing is a work of art and hard work, and Gerald spent the better part of 40 minutes giving us a ‘tour’, explaining life on the ship, and answering kid’s (and our) questions on both the real ship and the model.

 

More on the trip in Part II.