Crossing back into the U.S. was a bit more stressful than when we entered Canada. The officer was very serious, asked a lot of questions, and came inside before he let us pass through. He was pretty gruff with Val and I, but once he came inside and saw Brooks and Hayes sitting there, he softened up considerably. Ahead of us, there were numerous cars that had been flagged and pulled aside for more thorough inspections, but fortunately we didn’t have to join them. It was a relatively quick border crossing, but certainly more thorough than when we passed into Canada.
We drove through Buffalo and then got onto some two-lane roads that took us through the mountainous countryside of upstate New York. Some of the grades were STEEP, like over 10%. Marty doesn’t really appreciate this, and we literally ascended some of these at 25 mph with the accelerator to the floor. I guess that’s what you can expect from a gas engine that is moving 26,000 lbs up a very steep mountain.
A little after lunch we pulled into our home for the next two days: Letchworth State Park. On the western side of New York’s Finger Lakes region, this park is absolutely beautiful and vast, spanning over 15,000 acres. It was voted the best state park in the United States by U.S.A. Today and it has been fun to explore. Yesterday we had gone online and grabbed the last remaining campsite in the park, which has been our modus operandi for pretty much the entire trip. There is something really freeing about traveling off the cuff, going where you want to go and when you want to go without worrying about reservations or having to be somewhere by a certain day. If we like a place and want to stay longer, we do. If we want to keep moving down the road and find somewhere else, then we do. We always know that if we can’t find anything at all, we can stay in a Wal-Mart for the night, though we really want to avoid this if at all possible. This method of travel works most of the time, but since it is right around July 4th, things get a little more complicated. Campgrounds are full and it is hard to find a site that will accommodate a large motorhome as well as a car. So, we got lucky here, although our site is on a hill and so we can’t get Marty completely level.
Let’s talk about that for a second, because most people don’t really think about these things until they own a motorhome or travel trailer (I know I certainly didn’t). A lot of campsites are nice and flat, but once you get into the mountains then things get a little more dicey. Our campsite is very pretty…very wooded with lots of privacy from any neighbors. But it isn’t flat, so when we pulled in the entire motorhome was tilted to the side a bit. This means walking around, leaving doors open, sleeping, taking a shower, and especially cooking (imagine the oil in your skillet all collecting on one side) can become problematic. Many motorhomes combat this by having leveling jacks, and Marty does have these. These are essentially huge hydraulic jacks that lower from underneath and contact the ground. You can adjust them to level your motorhome when the ground is uneven using a little controller up near the steering wheel. Even with these jacks down and adjusted, I couldn’t get things level because of the steep slope. I need to get some wooden blocks to help with this, but there are none to be found, so I am typing this post from bed with my feet a bit above my head. Oh well, I learn something new pretty much every day when it comes to camping in a big ole motorhome.
Now that we are out of Canada, let me share a few thoughts on our time there. It is a great country, large and beautiful and not very crowded at all. It is still hard to believe how cool it was for our time up there. The daily highs were generally around the lows we have in Georgia during the summer months, and while Val was borderline cold for most of the time, I thought it felt great! One would assume that now is a great time to visit Canada because the U.S. Dollar is pretty strong against the Canadian Dollar, approximately $0.75 US for $1.00 Canadian. But, overall it was quite expensive. Grocery stores added up in a hurry. We shop a lot at Aldi and are completely spoiled by the prices. In fact, as soon as we got into New York I went and restocked all of our normal food at a nearby Aldi. I would say that even with the exchange rate, we spent about 30% more on groceries in Canada than we do in the U.S. Gas is also quite expensive in Canada. I would guess that it would cost around $200 Canadian to fill our tank, and the most I have ever spent in the U.S. to fill up is around $130. Campgrounds are also pretty pricey compared to the state parks we generally stay in around the U.S. For example, here in New York we are paying around $30 per night, but in Canada we paid $50-65 per night for most of our spots. Even with the exchange rate, it ends up being more. I was a little surprised by all of this, but it was definitely worth the money to travel through Canada and spend some time in another country. I am not sure if we will be driving back through Canada anytime soon though. Google Maps doesn’t care one bit about the toll roads in Canada and we were routed down several roads that we weren’t supposed to be on without having a transponder. Our license plate was photographed many a time during our travels, so I am sure we will have some fines coming our way once we get back to Athens.
We had a great time at Letchworth, and our two nights allowed us some time to relax, catch up on laundry, do some hiking, and just unwind. When we stay at a new place each night, then we don’t have as much time to explore. So we try to have two night stays pretty frequently to give us time to catch up on things as well as have some down time. The waterfalls throughout the park are superb, and many of them are very large. On the second day we explored quite a few of them, and then we went into Mt. Morris for some lunch at a café. It is a pretty town, very prototypical of upstate New York. Afterwards we returned to the park to let Brooks take a nap as well as get on our phones to figure out where we would be staying the following night. After Brooks woke up we went on a hike and proceeded to get lost several times. We backtracked to the car, defeated by the mountain and the poorly marked trail. A dinner over the campfire, as well as some Smores, capped off our great time here in New York.