Tag Archives: Evangola

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.

Electrics (Part I)

After the air system was in, and I knew the locations of the air lines and accouterments, I could run the electrical lines.  A good friend of ours had let us salvage parts from a 1970’s vintage RV trailer, and from that I was able to get some electrical components,   the two important ones for this were the 10 gauge 25′ power cord and the 30 amp circuit breaker box.  The box had a 30 amp main switch, and three additional 20 amp breakers.  The only odd thing was that the 30 amp plug

A 20 Amp plug

on the end of the power cord had been replaced with a 15/20 amp plug meaning that the power coming into the bus was limited to 20 amps (so far).

A 15/20 Amp Plug

One of the critical things that I learned on our Sprague Brook trip is that getting the power inside the bus proper is very important.  And having a roll of 25′ of three-ply 10 gauge stranded wire to connect to a power outlet outside the bus is no small thing to mount in a secure location.

I decided that the wire would coil in the empty area of the battery box on the port side of the bus, and thus would have to come up through the floor just by the heater box inside the bus compartment (right by the captain’s chair).  As with the soft air line, this needed to be protected from the sharp edge of the metal floor, where the vibration and movement of the floor while the bus is in motion could cut the insulation and wires, producing a dangerous short or a ‘hot skin’ condition of the bus, which is where the metal skin and frame carry the 120 volt AC current, and anyone touching it completes the circuit (Zap!).

I wanted to keep the 10 gauge wire, though, as the smaller the gauge, the less electrical energy is lost getting from the plug to the outlet, and it turned out that the ~1/2″ cable fit just inside a 3/4″ compression connector (for an electrical box to connect to a rigid chase pipe) that I had acquired as a “bit”.  once I had double checked that the hole I was going to drill would come out in the battery box, I slid the compression connector down into the hole and screwed it down tight (leaving the unneeded compression fitting off), and it produced a perfect safety barrier against the sheet metal flooring.

Looking into the battery box, the connector is on the top and the cable coming down through the floor.
Looking into the battery box, the connector is on the top and the cable coming down through the floor.

After the connector was fitted, I ran the wire through it, attached a new 15/20 amp plug, and then set up the breaker box.  I decided to put it just behind the captain’s chair, as it wouldn’t be of any use while the bus was in motion, and was conveniently located by the battery box and the seat where I would be storing the house batteries.

The breaker box in place in the frame of the wall between the captain's chair and the rear-facing bench seat in the passenger area.
The breaker box in place in the frame of the wall between the captain’s chair and the rear-facing bench seat in the passenger area.

The box has a 30 amp main, and three 20 amp feed breakers.  I attached the power cable to the main, and ran one of the 20 amp breakers to outlets behind the captain’s chair and another in the ‘closet’ area behind the wet-wall for the bathroom.

The specs on the power converter.
The specs on the power converter.

Another of the breakers was dedicated to a Magnatek Model 3240 power converter.  This is a unit that takes 120 volt AC  input and converts it to 12 volt DC current.  it can be hooked up to 12 volt batteries and has an automatic switch to detect the AC power, and switch to battery power when the AC is disconnected, and vice versa, without cutting power to the attached 12 volt appliances.

The power converter in place behind the rear-facing bench seat, attached and double-grounded against the wall.
The power converter in place behind the rear-facing bench seat, attached and double-grounded against the wall.

I had picked this up when I got our fridge (a forthcoming post) and the guy threw it in for a very small amount, which on the one hand is great, since we needed something like this, and on the other hand is annoying, since it was an ‘as is’ purchase and it turned out the battery charging element wasn’t working.    At any rate, the converter is a simple affair, using regular automotive ‘knife-style’ fuses, and having both filtered and unfiltered DC outputs (filtered is for sensitive electronics, like the radio).  One of these I set up to go to the radio/tape deck, so that the clock would stay running and I could listen to music while the bus wasn’t on, and another I would run off to the DC connection for the fridge.  Others would be for lighting and appliances like the water pump and water heater, but those will come later and be run through a DC breaker box which isn’t in place yet.

More on this in Electrics (Part II)









Evangola day-trip.

Early morning sun on the shore of Lake Erie
at Evangola State Park.  (Note: This was not my
shot and was definitely not the day I went.)

I needed a day away, just to think and read and regroup.  To do this I drove the bus to Evangola State Park, which has a lovely beach and wonderful slate cliffs.  Well, it’s really wonderful in the summer, like the picture on the right here shows (though the beach is a lot bigger – but this was a nice picture), but I ended up going on a drizzly day in January of 2012.

Evangola is about 45 minutes from Buffalo if you take Route 5, but down south/west of Wanakah, Old Lake Shore Road branches off and the road goes along the shoreline behind some of the beachhouses (and estates!) and up on some low cliffs, so there are plenty of opportunities for some great views and some nice driving, if you don’t mind going slower and doing some shifting.  Some of the roads were not in the best of shape and without the extra weight of seats in the bus, it was a bit bouncy in some areas.  I also felt like some of those roads were really skinny when I had to be on the very edge of the pavement to let people go by in the other lane.  My comfort level in driving the bus has gotten a whole lot better, but for this trip, I was extra-extra-cautious.

Yep, I took up more than one spot, luckily there were
still a few parking spots open for other people …

I set off around 10:00 and it ended up taking me about an hour to get there, but off-season, there’s no gate fee, and the parking was easy.  Very easy really, as there was basically no other cars in the park.  Over the day a few people came and went, walking dogs or just braving the damp, cold weather.

While I did brave the grey weather there, I also spent time with the basic seats I’d put together, some temporary tables, and some provisions.  My only regret here was that I didn’t bring a pillow for my back.  The seats were fine to sit on, even for long periods of time, but the side wall of the bus got a bit cold, and a pillow would have been a buffer.  I did fire up the bus engine and put some heat into the cabin, but it never got really warm in the back, so the cold would seem to creep forward over time.

Not really roughing it.

And there was plenty of scenery.  Some I could see from the bus itself, but others I had to walk to, and it’s a fairly large park.

Looking north-east from the seat in the previous picture …


The winter snowmobile trails map …
And the cliffs and beach and lake looked like this …
And plenty of room on the beach …

So after a pretty full day, I set back off around 4:00 and headed back to Buffalo via Route 5.  I ended up in a bunch of tractor-trailers for a bit, and felt right at home on the road.  Driving the bus took a bit of getting used to, just because it’s so long and wide, but having that extra height and being able to see farther on the road was great.  I ended up getting home -just- after dark, so backing in the driveway was a little more taxing, but overall it was a great test trip!