To give you a bit of perspective on the timeline, we woke the next day, which was Monday the 23rd of September. Anita had made some supermarket suggestions as we were whining about Walmart on the boat. We set off for Sauders, which was roughly a 10 minute drive.Sauders is run mainly by Mennonites, who I have only recently learned are similar to Amish, only they are more open minded to some technology, such as supermarkets (or Chevys).
Now I am not ashamed to admit this, but I have never been so excited walking around the supermarket. We both ran round the isles to the sound of ‘oooooo’… ‘ahhhhhh’ when spotting a cheese counter, or a reasonably priced carrot.By the time we had left Sauders our wallets were much lighter, but the van was fully loaded with all sorts of veg and cheese! Staying on budget is incredibly difficult when you are deprived of cheese and then stumble on America’s version of cheese heaven.Our deadline to arrive in Pittsburgh was looming and so we had to move on from the Finger Lakes. Ideally we would have stayed and explored more than just one, working our way through some more wineries on the way. We now had 3 days to get to Niagara Falls and then drive to Pittsburgh, detouring at a large bridge that had fallen down somewhere.As it was getting late and the weather had been miserably, we decided to stop off at a recommended spot from someone Ken had introduced us to the night before. Again, it had been described as a mini Grand Canyon and as it was enroute, we decided to make base there for the evening before tackling Niagara the next day.We arrived at Letchworth State Park around 5pm and straight away doubted whether we would get away wild camping there. The park had barriers at every entrance and we passed a couple of park ranger trucks as well. The park did have a campsite, but we were still try to keep our spiralling budget under control. Fortunately, the barrier opened at 5pm, at least we didn’t have to pay the $10 entrance fee.Parking up to enjoy the view, we had a look at all of our options for stopping.
We decided to attempt to park in the State Park, we decided if we got moved on to the camp ground then we would just pay the expense.We found a spot that we thought was quite sheltered from the main road of the park. It had a toilet and a drinking fountain. Still concerned that someone may come and spot us if they came to lock up the toilets, I explored the picnic area in hope from a spot completely hidden from the car park.That’s when I found it…
A giant puff ball mushroom. We had heard about these on one of the foraging course we recently completed before leaving. The best thing about these beauties is that they can’t really be confused for anything else.
Whilst we were enjoykng a beer and discussing about whether or not to move the van, a police car entered the car park and pulled up alongside us. Right then, we both knew that this wouldn’t be a suitable camping spot.I headed outside to speak to the officer, she was polite, but immediately asked us what our intentions were. I lied and told her that we planned to stay at the designated campsite and that we were just about to have a cup of tea. She told us that we had to leave the car park by 11pm and then left.As we hadn’t unloaded the van, we decided to leave the state park and return in the morning before the barriers we closed.Parking at a small lake 15 minutes away, we set about cooking the giant puff ball and enjoyed a bottle of wine.
We were up early, but not as early as we intended, which meant we were driving back to the park with minutes to spare. I think we raced past the barrier at 8:58am. Nothing like cutting it close to enjoy an extra 30 minutes in bed.We parked up and followed a trail down the one of the two waterfalls at the park.
From there we let Steve do his thing.We then continued down the path towards the second waterfall. This one was more picturesque, with a giant train bridge stretching across the horizon.
Not feeling content with the two amazing waterfalls we had just witnessed, we decided drive straight to Niagara Falls. We were roughly just over two hours away, so by the time we arrived there, we would have plenty of time to get our touristy one.Apart from one slight detour due to a lack of sat nav concentration by me, we arrived in Niagara in great time. We parked up and ended up having a quick chat with the car park attendant, who was very impressed with Ruby. We then headed straight to the falls to see what all of the fuss was about.
Now I must admit, my expectations had been lowered recently as a lot of people we have spent time with since arriving in America have told us that the view from the Canadian is miles better than the State side.
Not quite feeling blown away by the sheer size of the falls from the viewing platform, we felt it best to jump on the boat tour which takes you right up to the main drop.
From the boat, you could get a better idea of the sheer scale of the waterfalls, feeling dwared by the vast amounts of water roaring over the cliff.Whilst on the boat, we spotted some more intriguing spots to try and take pictures, so raced across a bridge that took you over the Niagara river.
Finally content with the amount of water we had seen, we left Niagara, making our way back south. It’s strange to think that we will be back here next year, only on the Canadian side of the river, at the end of our adventure.We stopped off at another supermarket, this one named Wegmans (another great Anita recommendation!), had a picture with this sexy Ford pickup
And then drove to a nearby Walmart to spend the night. Apart from some kids who decided at some point during the night to sit down close to the van and talk really loudly about rubbish, we had a pretty peaceful night’s sleep.
We set off the next day, Kinzua Bridge our next destination. Willow had done some research before we had left England, and this bridge was somewhere she had identified to visit. The bridge was built in 1882, and at one point was the largest bridge in the world, it was even claimed to be the 8th wonder of the world. At some point, the bridge was pretty much completely rebuilt, with the old wought iron replaced for sturdier steel.The bridge was shut for repair works in 2002, but before they had a chance to comete the work, a tornado struck, wiping out the middle section of the bridge. Apparently, when the bridge was rebuilt in steel, they never replaced the iron anchor bolts (which had erroded) causing the bridge to fall… Whoooopsie! Seeing the damage first hand was mesmerising.
Something that stood for so long, wiped out in a matter of minutes. Leaving a mangled mess of metal lying on the ground.The state park have renovated part of the bridge and have added a viewing point on it with a partial glass floor. Walking out to observation point seemed to make Willow aware of her own mortality and her legs seemed to resemble jelly. The view from the end was awesome. I had hoped to use Steve, but all of the metal was affecting his onboard compass. We thought it best not to risk him up there.We did however give him an run further away from the bridge.
We spent about an hour, walking through the head of metal lying on the ground. Getting artsy with our cameras.
Content we had enough shots of the same thing from almost every angle, we set off, finally heading towards Pittsburgh which was now only three and a half hours away.Not fancying that entire drive in one evening, we aimed for a place to camp around halfway. First we identified a small park, but on our way we saw a truck stock for large HGVs, so we parked up to see if we could get away with stopping there.The parking was quite busy and we both felt guilty for potentially taking some poor truck drivers sleeping spot, so we googled the nearest Walmart and within 10 minutes, we were relaxing in what was becoming a regular occurrence for us now.
Thepast couple of days we had fit a lot of sites in, and for the first time on our trip, it really felt like we were travelling in our VW, rather than visiting America on a short holiday.
The next day we would finally arrive in Connellsville I would finally get to see an old friend (also a few from closer to home!)