Getting back on the road again with our stroppy van

The morning brought the sun and we spent around 3 hours sorting and repacking all our things. We then headed out of New York for the first time, knowing we wouldn’t have to come back. My camera was being repaired in Philly and Lee hadn’t had his Rocky moment so we headed back out the same way. We stopped at Double Trouble State Park for the night and attempted to cook for the first time since we got here. Naturally, the Wallas (our diesel cooker) refused to turn on. After some testing, I discovered the wires to the control panel had got burnt on the side of the unit so I cut out the bad section and re-soldered it and we finally managed to make some proper food!

In the morning we went for a quick walk around the park.

Continuing to head further south we headed back to Lake Absegami where we had spent a night previously in the SUV. It was a lovely place and we wanted to enjoy it properly with the van. We spent two days camped up here enjoying being out of season while still having some great weather.

We used the generator to successfully charge our leisure batteries for the first time and Lee had a good chat with one of the park rangers who wasn’t at all bothered about us stopping.

Ruby clearly wasn’t happy that I’d managed to fix the Wallas issue, so in order to get her own back she started chucking coolant all over the carpark for no particular reason. Turns out it’s the same hose that had been giving me loads of problems before that started leaking again. So that’s another episode of rolling around on the floor in carpark as it’s really awkward to get it. Fortunately we didn’t lose much coolant and for the time being it’s holding together ok.

We walked another trail in the area which was fairly nondescript and did some of the video editing for our Youtube channel on the second more cloudy day. We briefly headed out to get some more petrol and check our tyre pressures. The garage owner saw me looking at the air machine and then insisted that after we fuelled, I pull up outside his garage doors where he checked and adjust all our tyres for free. Again, VW van life perks!

The second evening we were cooking dinner when the state police arrived and told us we needed to move into the proper campsite around the corner. Needless to say we had been avoiding this as it’s $25 a night for facilities we don’t really need. Not wanting to annoy the police though, we moved around later and after a quick shower in the morning we left before they tried to charge us.

Now being close to Philly we headed into the city centre and decided to try what seems to be the traditional Walmart camping. Walmart has been a mixed bag so far. While I love that you can literally buy anything to service your car or go camping, it has sacrificed some key parts of the grocery store to make room for this. It’s harder to find certain vegetables, I’ve never seen chicory for example. It’s also crazy expensive, a head of cauliflower was just under $3.

On the plus side, it is apparently fairly well know that they well let you sleep in their car parks overnight. Maybe not the best nights sleep, but at least you don’t have to worry about be moved on. When we arrived, there was clearly several people already doing just that from some people in a car, to a couple of big lorries and a coach.

Leaving Ruby in the car park we took our bikes and cycled off down the river in order to see Philly. We passed the Ben Franklin bridge and then headed inland to see Rocky’s Statue and the famous steps to the Art Museum. The city has some quiet generous cycle lanes and cars do actually give way to you, so while I normally hate cycling in traffic, this wasn’t too bad.

It took us about half an hour to reach the statue and steps where we had to get some touristy pictures.

From there we went to look at the Mutter Museum, while houses a lot of bits of bodies as a teaching aid for medical students. They have everything from babies in jars and 7ft skeletons to dried hands and bits tumours. They also have a part of Albert Einstein’s brain, which is pretty cool. A slightly odd, but interesting experience and despite the contents of the jars it didn’t manage to put me off my lunch.

The next stop was to try an authentic Philly cheesesteak and after having read up on the best places to try a vegetarian one, we headed to Joe’s across the city. We ordered two small cheesesteaks with different cheese options and some pizza fries (which are chips with tomato sauce and cheese on them). Lee tried some form of root beer which I thought was pretty disgusting. I was almost tempted by the large cheesesteak, but after only just managing to eat what we ordered I was glad I didn’t attempt the 10” version.

From here, we were only a short bike ride to the where Rocky’s gym used to be so in order for Lee to continue to get his fan girl on, we went for a quick look. We were now cycling through a much less pleasant area of the city under the rail tracks. After going past it by accident and having plenty of time to appreciate some the much poorer and slightly less sane portion of your average Philadelphia resident, we turned around to try and find it again. I refused to give a women begging change and we cycled away to her screaming death threats involving me and any passing bus. We saw the outside of Mick’s Gym, but it wasn’t really much to see. Having never actually been a gym and the front only used for the film, this now looks like any other place on the street. Safe to say Rocky didn’t grow up in a pleasant area.

Feeling like we had definitely earnt it, we thought it was about time we tried some local drinks. When we had stayed at the airbnb previously, we spoke to the owner and their friend who recommended going to a place called Tattooed Mom. Cycling back across the city centre we headed for this bar. On the way, we passed a music venue which said the band playing that night was Kamelot, a band I used to listen to a while ago.

As Philly is quite set up for people using bikes we left them right outside the bar and went in. We managed to get a table with a plug socket and proceeded to abuse the wifi for the next 5 hours. We also tried there $1 tacos and drank the happy hour half price draft lager. This meant by around 10pm we had updated ourselves with everything online and only spent $35, which was pretty reasonable. We got our bikes, and cycled back down the river to Walmart and the van.

We had a pretty good nights sleep considering, and we were getting the van ready to move on the next morning when, as usual, several people came to speak to us. We chatted to a guy sitting in a car next to us who gave us two maps in case we needed them and then we spoke to the guy in the car on the other side who also gave us a spare map! A woman drove past and wanted our details to follow our trip, we have now actually ordered business cards with our details on as already in the past week we have had several people ask us for our blogs.

Lee starting speaking to the guy who was with the coach that looked suspiciously like a tour bus and it turned out that we were parked up right next to Kamelot in the carpark! One of the best things about having the van is that she is such a talking point, it’s hard to go anywhere without complete strangers wanting to know what you are doing and often offering places to go or their tips on where to shop or eat.

Next, we continue to wind our way north, heading for Niagara Falls…

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