We woke up on Manhattan that morning and drove out over the Brooklyn bridge, something that I have looked forward to. The bridge had always been the biggest NY icon to me. Even before we could get there we got pulled over by a NYPD car. The fact that we drive in a van like we do, with Dutch plates is a rare sight and the officer was pretty sure is was illegal. After confirming with his superior he told us that what we were doing was indeed illegal. Judging from the tone of the conversation and the questions about Dreams On Wheels the officer was more interested in our story than giving us a fine, but told us to get the vehicle registered.
That night we tried to sleep at the beach on Long Island, but after driving around until dark without finding a good place to sleep we decided to spend one more night in the safe haven of the back yard at the warehouse. Being insecure, feeling judged by the police, not finding a nice spot to sleep got our mood down and my confidence was at a low level. Sleeping at a known and save place really calmed us down and we slept in nicely. The day after the real trip was going to start!
We found this little lake, on the border of New York and Pennsylvania, our new TomTom navigation told us it would take us about 3 hours to get there. We got closer to the Queens bridge when traffic started to get slower and slower, and by the time we arrived at the bridge traffic was so slow that walking would have been faster all the way to the other side of Manhattan. We were not bothered, the van was doing good, the sun was shining and we were feeling good. In first and second gear we drove all the way to the other side of the city and crossed the Georg Washington Bridge into New Jersey.
The wind started picking up when we stopped at a gas station to stretch our legs. Shortly after driving off we decided to check one of the scenic views when all hell broke loose, dark grey clouds rolled in rapidly across the Hudson river, sharp winds, leaves and branches flew by. A police car drove up with lights and sirene to tell us we should get out of the park to get safe from the storm. We waited out the winds and rain for a while before we got going again. What for us was an inconvenience was a bigger drama further up the road. Days on after we could not see waterfalls, stores were closed and roads were blocked due to fallen trees and other damage.
Spending more hours in traffic jams due to fallen trees we finally made it at dawn to the little lake. We loved it! Finally free in “nature” and away from the city, totally what we wanted at this point and not even bothered by the fact that this seemed to be a hunting area. We made our little camp and felt proud to be part of the whole vanlife thing at that moment. We cooked some pasta and fell asleep feeling good!
The next morning we were still feeling good and we started the day like we did all the mornings up till now. Making coffee, boiling water for our oats, chopping fruits, and chilling up to about 10:30. A person, a police man, state trooper or the lovely neighbourhood watch also became part of our morning routine. Telling us it was not allowed to camp here, after we said that we would leave shortly thank you very much.
One night we could not find a proper place to sleep, we got sent away from a lake by the police and couldn’t find a nice spot after. We drove to what was supposed to be a camping, but it turned out we were trespassing on a campground for kids. The friendly guy that stopped us gave us the directions to an abandoned “chickenfarm” and that is where we slept. It was crappy and creepy but it was worth it because the day after we spent hours on the site where Woodstock took place in 1969. Early in the morning about 7:30 ish we got to the museum. The museum itself would not open untill 10:00 but a lot of people were there for a conference. We walked in looking like the people joining the conference and without us even noticing passed by the still closed ticked booths. We had to wait for the museum to open so we decided to get a coffee, and somehow the lady gave these to us for free. We couldn’t believe our luck, free entrance and free coffee. The museum was amazing and left us sad that we missed out on Woodstock.
We have been sleeping on boat ramps near lakes, by rivers, at Walmart parking’s and in fields, everything that we thought our first week would be like. The animals we see, the nature we walk into and the lakes we swim in, it is all amazing! We have used the word gorgeous about a million times and we can’t get enough from all this beauty we are seeing! In our first week we saw the bald eagle, beavers, deer crossing the road, wild turkey, colourful reptiles and countless new rodent and birds. We also had more than one close encounter with the tick, which got to Paco a couple of times and we found them crawling all over us. We sprayed our clothes and checked ourselves and Paco every day.
Slowly we made our way North, towards Canada. But first we had a whole lot more to see of the North East of the US.