We both woke, surprisingly refreshed after our nights sleep in the Walmart car park, and apparently we had gained more neighbours throughout the night. We woke to the tour bus of power metal band Kamelot.
We had our morning cup of tea with McDonald pancakes, then had a few conversations with our friendly car park neighbours. We ended up speaking to Kamelot’s tour manager, and two guys who both offered us maps of the States. We were finding the van to be a real conversation starter with the American people. We have never been so popular.
With no news on Willow’s camera, I called the company to find that they had forgot about the urgency of our deadline, and so after some strong words, we decided to make our way towards them, so we could collect it as soon as it was ready. We identified a local cemetery to walk around whilst we waited. No point just sitting around. Apparently, in this cemetery was rather neglected and so nature was starting to reclaim the land. It sounded like an interesting walk in the sun.
With the cemetery tour done, we went and collected Willow’s camera. I still can’t believe that the tiny bit of sand that she managed to get lodged in her lense cost £96 to repair. That is a lot of money for sand. I am really hoping that this doesn’t become a regular occurrence. This is already her second camera, as she has done this previously.
From the camera shop, we headed towards Bucks County. I had recently read an article about the strangest places to visit in Pennsylvania, and apparently in Bucks County, they had rocks that would ring when hit with a hammer. Who doesn’t want to hit big boulders with tools?
We arrived at the spot just before sunset, so we parked up and had a quick walk down to the rocks. We decided that we would attack them with tools in the morning. The rocks are located on a small circular walk, which also leads to a small waterfall. We had not long got back to the car park which we intended to sleep in when a park ranger truck pulled in. They couldn’t have picked a worse time, as Willow was currently having a quick shower when they pulled up near the van. I headed over to speak to them whilst Willow attempted to make herself decent. There were two rangers. One a lot older than his partner. The younger ranger was very interested in Ruby and started to ask us a load of questions about the van. The older ranger was more concerned about our plates and asked me if we had registered the van and if we were legally allowed to drive it. Not that it is any of his business as a park ranger, but I explained that we had paid a customs waiver, as we would be returning the van back to England within a year. I also informed him that we had international insurance and international driving permits. At this point, probably sensing my growing annoyance, his younger colleague jumped in and explained to him that he had met someone who had done this before with a car imported from Dubai. By this point Willow had joined the conversation and they asked us where we were staying. I informed them that we had an app that we used to find parking spaces. Not convinced by this, they informed us that the State Park provided camp sites and then gave us directions to one of their sites. We said that we may check it out and then they left. We decided to head towards it, keeping an eye out for a suitable spot that we could stop if one looked accommodating. Unfortunately, nothing did and so we pulled up into their recommended camp site, not quite in the spot which they recommended, but it was late and nobody was around (or so we thought!)
Just as we had set up the van and opened a can of beer. It was long however, before our new friends once again pulled up to the van. They had apparently been sat in the dark for 30 minutes waiting for us in the spot they had directed us to. After the older ranger informed us that we couldn’t stop in the car park we were in, they headed back down to wait in the dark, waiting for us to park up and drive to the designated camping spot. At this point, me and Willow are starting to get a bit fed up. The tourist season is now over, it is getting close to 9pm and there is literally no one else around. Still not wanting to cause any upset so early in the trip, we followed the road round to the rangers truck. Here they showed us our spot and charged us $30 for the privilege to sleep in a site with no staff and no facilities except for a public porta loo. I thought these guys were there to keep the park safe, no mug us late at night. Unable to do anything about it, we both spent the rest of the night grumbling about how much we now dispised park rangers!
Those of you who know me and Willow well, will know that our mood hadn’t improved much by morning. After getting ou monies worth from the facility, we headed back to the ‘ringing rocks’. Now, we don’t actually have a hammer with us in the van, so we raided our tool kit and set off armed with a ratchet and a ratchet extension bar.
The rocks are located in an open field, a couple of minutes away from the main car park. I don’t think either of us had seen quite site before. Hundreds of boulders lying scattered in the middle of a forest. According to a sign on the way to the field, the rocks have a large metal content, and so rocks that sit often in directly in sunlight develop this strange ringing phenomenon. Tools in hand, we set about striking the corners of the rocks. Out of context, we probably looked like a right pair of idiots, striking rocks with car tools and moaning that they just sound like rocks.
We did eventually find strike lucky, and before long Willow was playing the rocks like a xylophone.
From the rocks, we drove down the state to a site named High Rocks. Here we looked from a viewing point down a stunning gorge. The sun was out, but we were definitely starting to feel a drop in the temperature. Heavy rain was forecast, so we kept our walk around the rest of the park brief. We had not long got back to the van an set off in search of a shower facility when the heavens opened. As luck would hav it, we found a shower facility 5 minutes down the road, so there would be no need for a desperate shower in the pouring rain.
We left Bucks County and set off towards a fascinating brewery Named Bube’s. Bube’s is an offbeat brewer in a 19th century building. The brewery has renovated the old catatombs where the beer was originally brewed into a fine dining restaurant.
Conscious of our growing expenses, we settled for the main bar, which offered a selection of their own beer, bar snacks and it was open mic night. A guy named Bjorn, who seemed to be hosting the evening, got it started. Bjorn played a high energy set containing a mixture of country an blues. We were both taken aback just how good he was. As the set continued, other musicians arrived with a variety of instruments and joined in. It was great to watch them trying to pick up the songs, and hear what their interpretations sounded like.
As talented as Bjorn and his randomly assembed band were, the night was complete towards the end, by this nameless genius who appeared from nowhere and stol the show with his own song titled ‘Dr Shakinstine’.
As you can hear, this guy is destined for the very top!
We both really enjoyed our experience in Bube’s. The bar is very well laid out and has cracking acoustics for live performances. We also enjoyed a medley of Bube’s beer selection (We both particularly enjoyed pumkn beer), and a few of their appetizers. It is definitely a must visit destination if you are near Lancaster.
The next day, we said goodbye to Bube’s after popping in for one more drink and another plate of their delicious pretzel served with melted cheese and a mustard beer sauce.
My friend Ross informed us that we were very close to Amish territory, and so we took a short drive down to a town called Bird in Hand. I am not sure who was more surprised. Us seeing Amish people riding their carriages down the main road, or the Amish seeing our little VW roar past with it’s not so quiet Subaru engine. I am sure the parents told their children it was a devil carriage coming to collect naughty Amish children.
With another box ticked, we headed for a picturesque lake to get away from the towns. We were starting to become aware that we had already blown our month’s budget and we were only 2 weeks in.
We parked in a small car park which offered us a spectacular view of the lake from the van. It was the kind of view people pay a lot of money to have from their holiday home, but we were enjoying it for free!
Now as I have mentioned before, we should have known better about our peaceful location and our chances of a good night’s sleep. I mean this was a small car park, nowhere near any houses and yet right on que, around 2am, three trucks pulled into the car park, full of lads who had been drinking and by the sounds of their conversations, taking lots of drugs. I know this because sleeping in the pop-top allows us to hear every noise outside. You could probably hear a squirrel fart from 20 metres away!
Fortunately, all they did was talk extremely loud about their intoxication and rev their engines. Throughout the rest of the night, random cars would drive into the car park then immediately leave. Clearly we had picked the most popular spot in the area.
Not surprisingly, both of us got up fairly early the next morning, gutted that once again we had been betrayed by the spot that offered much promise the night before. Maybe we should stick to the expensive holiday homes like everyone else.
After a quick circular walk around a nearby woods, we put Middle Creek and the poor nights sleep behind us. We set off for some more interesting touristy stuff. Willow had red about an underground cave tour which sounded like the ideal thing to get over our bad night’s experience.
On our way to the Indian Echo Caves, we unintentionally passed through a small place named Hershey. Home of America’s number one chocolate. Neither of us a fan of American chocolate, especially after they ruined Cadbury’s, we continued past the factory to the more fascinating cave system.
Whilst waiting for our tour slot, we visited the petting zoo. Now we have owned some weird looking chickens, but none of them came close to this guy.
The tour guide led us through the underground caverns, created thousands of years ago by underground rivers caused by melting glaciers from the last ice age. We both found the cavern truly fascinating and wished we could have explored it by ourselves in our own time.
With the tour complete, we set off to our next whistle stop tour destination. A ghost town named Centralia, where a fire has been raging underground since 1962.
We initially thought we struck gold with our parking spot. A closed park with a covered seating area that had live plug sockets. Willow managed to pick the lock to the toilet as well, so we were all set for a relaxing night.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Almost at the end of our outdoor movie, a 4×4 drove up to us, informing us that he was the owner and that we could stay there. He did recommed a spot very close where we eventually moved to and enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep.
The next day, feeling refreshed, we headed to a highway that use to head up to the bandoned town. The route was diverted and eventually closed when large sections of it became badly effected by the fire. It now has the name of ‘The Graffiti Highway’ as people travel from all over to add their own piece of art to the tarmac. Sadly, for the second time now, we didn’t come properly equipped. So we just had to make do with walking along the highway whilst couples attempted to spray message of their love, and locals drove up and down it on dirt bikes, 4×4’s and off road buggies.
You can see from the picture why the road might not have been suitable for normal vehicles.
We then drove through what used to be the town of Centralia. I said it is a ghost town, but actually 7 residents still remain there, and refuse to leave. I would later speak to someone at a launderette who told me 7 was the minimum number of people for the place to still be called a town. We also found out that the fire started when the town tried to tidy up before a celebration and so set fire to all of the towns waste that had been dumped in a pit created by mining. Whoops!
From Centralia, we stocked up on supplies an then headed to a launderette. Whilst waiting outside, we were approached by a lady named Sherry who asked if she could take a picture of the van. Apparently, she hada friend who was currently rebuilding a VW themselves. We had a good chat and then Sherry left, before shortly returning and surprising us with a bag full of fruit, veg, water and a sign to hang up in the van. Sherry’s generosity didn’t end there though. She informed us that she lived round the corner and was about to light a bbq, and wanted to know if we fancied joining her, her husband and their pets for some food.
We spent the evening eating, drinking and sharing stories with Sherry and her husband John, who went by the name Jack (like his dad). We talked about their heritage, with Sherry’s family moving across from England and Jack’s from Poland. We head stories about Jack’s dad fighting in WWII, and saw pictures of when his dad had visited Trafalgar Square. It was so nice to share our different views and experiences and we both made the most of being in such delightful company. We talked all through the night and eventually slept in the van outside their house.
Before leaving the next morning, they invited us in to share breakfast and allowed us to freshen up in their bathroom. We then exchanged numbers and before heading off again. We had more strange and exciting thins to explore during our time in Pennsylvania. We would always remember the kindness these two showed two random Brits at a launderette!
I can’t thank Sherry and Jack enough for their act of kindness, and if they ever read this, I hope they know that they really made a great impression on our trip. I hope we can meet more people like them on our adventure.