which our intrepid travelers oversleep,
liquor up for free, and embrace the true
beauty of freedom without suffering the
embarrassment of cavity searches.
200 miles after departure
and we've reached our first night's destination
Evangola State Park in Irving,
NY. Our grand plans for rising at the
crack of dawn and hitting the open road
hit a slight snag. In other words, Friday
night at Max's Allegheny Tavern and far
too many Dutch Darks. To top things off,
our otherwise peaceful slumber was interrupted
by a 5 am phone call.
How do you react when your
mother calls at an ungodly hour to find
out the license number and color of the
van you've rented? Do you scream at her
like she's nuts, or do you suggest that
she stop watching 'Unsolved Mysteries'?
I simply let her know that we hadn't actually
picked the van up yet most normal
people are asleep at this hour
and promise that I'll call later. Yes,
I may be 30, but I'm still her "baby,"
and she can't stand the idea of me "roughing
it." I hate to dash the mental image
of me catching trout with my bare hands,
so I fail to mention the provisions we've
packed for our camping outing... a cooler
stocked to the gills with beverage and
food. Cd player. Propane stove. Corkscrew
for wine. The list goes on...
finally pick up the ACTION VAN (a cool
blue number, not one with "Miley
Truck Rental" slapped on the side...
don't wanna look like a church group!),
and quickly tape our good-luck Scooby-Doo
to the dashboard. He's our equivalent
of a St. Christopher medal.
While on Route 279 North
I realize I'm the proud renter of a cruise-control
vehicle! This is excellent! Up to 65...down
to 55...back up to 65, all with the flick
of a switch. It's like the "Van of
the Damned." Kak is praying silently
that this fascination will soon wear off.
This first day has been
set up to hit a bunch of wineries on our
way to Evangola, stocking up for the week.
We like our wine almost as much as we
like our beer, but since there are no
breweries along the way... Our first stop
is Penn Shore Winery, which is pretty
low-rent. Kak has already toured the SoCal
estate wineries, so this is small change.
I, on the other hand, am a novice and
don't want to look like a wine schnoid.
I spend most of the tasting time swishing
the rosy liquid in my little glass and
sniffing. It's painfully obvious to all
that I've acquired my "wine tasting"
skills from movies and tv.
The wine is nothing to write
home about, but it is pretty cheap. We
grab three bottles (spice and some Cabernet)
and head down the road a couple miles
to Mazza, a far nicer winery where we
tour the facilities with an annoying brood
of "wineheads" from upstate
NY. Ugh. The tour guide is living the
life I envision for myself a few years
from now. A mid-life career changer, he's
training to be a chef and working at Mazza
during a semester course in wine making.
At the wine-tasting bar,
another couple is basically getting a
cheap drunk by going down the list and
tasting everything that's available. How
tacky...I simply ask for the most expensive
red on the list, and we end up grabbing
two bottles (one of which we'll crack
for tonight's dinner of beans and franks).
We cruise into NY state
on Route 5, a rolling, calm countryside
that's home to hundreds of "grape
fields" as Kak calls them. You might
know them better as vineyards. In Dunkirk
we pass Don's Motel whose big selling
point is "In-Room Phones"! No
tv, free HBO, mirrored ceilings or pink
champale on ice for Don. No sir -- I picture
those giant rotary phones straight out
of a 40s noir flick...you know, big enough
to kill your spouse or beat an attacker!
approaches as we pull into Evangola State
Park, which translates into a closed office
and no $5/bundle firewood to be found.
We stake our site at Lucky #13 and decide
to explore the surroundings through the
giant hole cut in the "safety fence."
There's a freakish monolith (perfect for
a PLANET OF THE APES-esque pose..."You
blew it up...damn you! Damn you all to
hell!"), a lovely rendering of the
old Mt. Dew logo on a stone wall, and
"lots of other crazy crap."
Fishermen are pulling in their final catches
of the day, and the sun setting over the
bluff and behind Lake Erie is pretty breathtaking.
It'll be quite a spot for morning coffee.
park itself is nice, not at all what I
pictured. Then again, I'm far from an
authority since this is my first camping
trip outside my parent's back yard. Kak
is the seasoned camper of the pair, having
done that whole Girl Scouts thing when
she was a kid. I showed little, or no,
interest in group activities like Cub
or Boy Scouts, so my folks never pressed
the issue. I got to sleep out in the backyard
in a musty canvas tent once, but I don't
think running into the house to potty
and grab some more cocoa qualifies as
"camping"...call me a purist.
Wandering around the park
there appear to be lots of unhappy families
silently sitting around blazing fires
while their rvs soak up energy from the
generator. Looks like it was a l-o-o-n-g
ride with Joey and Sis.
We settle in to make dinner
and (luckily) there's a giant pile of
cut wood and sticks a stone's throw from
#13. I build a lame fire which Kak quickly
turns into a raging inferno. It's dinner