Breakdown #1

Awaking in the morning to a large truck dumping rubble just up the road, we packed up and headed down to the restaurant to say goodbye to Craig and Scott. Our next destination was Cherry Springs State Park, renowned for it’s dark sky status. We arrived around lunchtime and had a wander around. We went for a brief walk in the woods and checked out the campsite.

I am still amazed by the price of campsites here. This one was around $27 a night, and offered a toilet and drinking water only. The site itself was on a hill that would have been horrible to sleep on for us and we don’t carry levelling blocks in the van. It seems a lot for such limited facilities and we went and parked up at the very back of the day car park and decided to risk it.

Across the road some campers were getting set up with some pretty serious stargazing equipment. Night began to fall. The park provides red cellophane to put around torches to reduce the light pollution and also has a viewing area with a built up bank around it which I think is to block out headlights from through traffic.

We chilled out in the sun for a bit, the weather is still lovely. You can also see one of the observatories in the background.

We stayed to our corner of the car park and as it got darker we tried experimenting with our cameras to capture the starry skies. Needless to say you really need a tripod for this and it turns out the my camera may be good at many things but night photography is not one of them, so my photos for the evening end here. We did have a clear night though and a good view of the milky way.


I tried to make bread and failed miserably as I didn’t get the yeast right. We did at least have another free night. In the morning, the inevitable park ranger turned up and told us we couldn’t camp here. We were packing up when another ranger arrived and told us the same thing. We packed up pretty sharpish and left, heading for the Pennsylvanian Grand Canyon, a recommendation from Craig.


The ‘grand canyon’ was pretty, but nothing very grand!


Still seemed like a good Steve moment and we flew him out over the river.


We then managed to lose sight of him which made me a bit worried. You can here the buzzing from his rotors, but he is nowhere to be seen. The battery life is getting lower and Lee can’t seem to bring him back. He does have a return home function, but this turns off object avoidance and we were in a very tree covered area so this didn’t seem the best idea. Eventually we managed to bring him in safely!

From the car park we walked down the road a short way to walk the mile long Rim Trail. Shortly after starting but far enough around to be committed to finishing the walk, my trusty flip flops gave up, resulting in this bodgery. Also note my attractive post sunburn peeling leg.


After several different attempts with my hair tie I managed to make a passable for shoe for the remainder of the walk, which was fortunately not too long.

Back at the van we set the sat nav for New York state again, heading for the Finger Lakes (another recommendation from the camera repair man in Philly). We started winding our way back down the hill to the main road when we heard a funny metallic ping. Still nothing collapsed or ended up in the road, so we continued down. Once on the main road I climbed into the back to put some things on charge as drove. One sitting in the back the was a noticeably horrible noise coming from the offside wheel arch, I was pretty sure it was the stupid shock absorber again. I told Lee we needed to pull over and deal with whatever was going on as every tiny bump in the road made a nasty metallic grinding noise.

We stopped in a church car park and had a look under the van. It was soon obvious what had happened. The top bolt of the rear shock absorber had fallen out, causing the shock absorbed to move and jam under the wheel arch. Here it was hitting against the metal of the wheel arch and had also rubbed against the CV boot and split it. Unfortunately I don’t really have a photo of what had happened, suffice to say that it required immediate fixing. As we were debating the best plan, a guy pulled up in a car and asked if we were ok. He recommended a mechanic down the road who might be able to help us and after taking the shock off the prevent any more damage we headed that way.

We made it to the Route 6 Autoworks garage 10 minutes before it shut. After waiting for him to finish a job, we spoke to Jamie and explained the situation. All I needed to repair the van was a replacement bolt which fortunately I knew the size of, but it is an unusual size so I wasn’t too hopeful he would have one. We went out the back where every garage stores there respective bolt box, and after some rummaging found a couple of possible options. Jamie said we could put the van on his ramp and use his tools which would be great, but I explained I was more than happy to do the work myself to try and avoid a hefty bill.


Recovering pretty quickly from the initial shock that a girl would be doing the fixing, Ruby was soon off the floor and after some fiddling around we managed to find a bolt long enough and fit it, this time with a load of loctite! Jamie and another guy who apparently owns a garage down the road gave me a hand with a few bits and soon it was back together again. They were both highly amused when I asked for a torch, apparently to Americans this is a blowtorch and what I really wanted was a flashlight. Jamie was a lovely bloke letting us turn up right as he closed, finding us the right bolt, helping to fix it and letting me use all his tools. While I could have done this at the roadside it would have taken infinitely longer and been a lot more difficult. We asked him how much money he wanted and he refused anything, saying he was happy to help. Especially as his garage specialises in Subaru’s, he was pretty interested in our conversion. In less than two hours we were back on the road, for free!

Later than planned, but we continued on towards the Finger Lakes. We grabbed a pizza from the shop as it was pretty late and set up in a car park in Montour Falls with a plan to visit Watkins Glen (on Jamie’s recommendation) the following morning.

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