Highways, Bi-ways, Parkways, Expressways, Turn-pikes, Interstates? The learning curve is steep and you better pay attention. Stock high-roof Sprinter Vans require at least 10 feet of clearance. Get the 4x4 option, add new tires, a roof rack and a MaxxAir fan you may be needing closer to 11 feet of clearance. New York State has these pretty Parkways that have some overpasses at 6'11", we didn't know this. As we drove across the NY state line there was a glimpse of Do's and Don't's regarding their roadways that flashed before our eyes in the rain, at night. So, there we were driving in NY traffic trying to see the height restrictions and avoid low hanging fruit. All while trying to read street signs and make it to Queens. We had some close calls, made some wrong turns, yelled at each other and yelled at the NY drivers that were honking at us! This was so crazy and stressful I couldn't believe we made it to our destination.
Parking is an issue all on its own. We pulled up to a Pay lot and explained that we needed to keep our keys because we sleep in the van, the gate attendant was not having that, at all. We promised the attendant we would return before he locked up the gate... which we did. So we parked in the lot and went to the high-rise where Darin's daughter lived and began our NY visit. Once we said our hellos to Willow and Matteo and told them about our current parking situation, we knew we would have to go on a hunt for a spot for the night.
Before we started that hunt we shared some highlights from our trip so far and let them know we were planning a Youtube Channel and needed a name. We started explaining what we wanted to do and how we wanted to document our travels in video. With no real thought at all it seemed, Willow says, "What about The Rolling Stowes"? She is so smart! I loved it! Darin loved it! And so it was hatched, TheRollingStowes became our new 'handle.' Once that was settled, we still needed to move the van. Darin, Willow and I ventured out to walk around in search of a spot to park for the night. We located something about a block away, parked and walked back to the High-rise. Right at the front door there was an opening! I stayed put while Darin and Willow went back to get the van, THANK GOD no one came to park while I was standing in our spot. So there we were, right in front of her building, she told her door man what the plan was and they promised to keep an eye on us and the van while we were there. It worked out great.
The next morning we took a nice long walk around the area and were blown away by the number of vans we saw that appeared to be residences. The good news is when a need arises, people figure out a solution. Lots of folks of course sneer at van-lifers, I believe that is because they just do not understand the freedom of living in a van. Whether it is temporary or long-term. For the most part van-dwellers that I have come across are respectful of neighborhoods and do their best to leave no trace. Yes, yes, I have seen the horrific opposite that leave trash and will never be welcome anywhere, unfortunately that type of entitlement is in all walks of life. Our visit was short but sweet, here is a view from Willow's window:
Before sunrise after spending two nights in NY in July 2020 we'd had enough of the heat and decided to move on and catch a sunrise before traffic got too crazy in the city. We headed to Montauk at the end of Long Island and made it in time to catch this beautiful sunrise.
After watching the early morning surfers we decided to check out Oceanside, NY and Long Beach, NY... we live in Oceanside CA not too far from Long Beach CA so why not, right?
Once we escaped from New York City unscathed we made our way toward West Point. We came across a restaurant that was serving food on their deck. The server suggested we take Seven Lakes Drive, which I highly recommend. We looked around a bit, West Point was of course closed to visitors but we found this little gem for the night.
This is Lake Kanawauke, Harriman State Park, right off of the picturesque Seven Lakes Drive. This is so beautiful and peaceful, I would definitely take that drive and sleep in this park again. Due to COVID, the gates were open and unattended which allowed for free camping.
Next up was Ringwood NJ where we hopped on a quad and hit the forest, Norvin Green State Forest. This was fun, bumpy and rough on the butt, fun nonetheless. The quad was a one seater that we both got on, I basically sat on the back rack and held on for dear life. Again, not a fan of the heat so we said our goodbyes and headed to the Jersey Shore.
The Jersey Shore is a place I've wanted to visit for some time, here is our first stop at Sandy Hook Beach and a cool overnight spot in Ocean Grove.
We went in for a refreshing swim and came out minus a wedding band, Darin's ring is currently residing in the Atlantic Ocean. We caught another gorgeous sunset and scored a front row spot just steps off the boardwalk to sleep for the night in a quiet little neighborhood on the shore. The lost wedding band was only the beginning of our weird experience at the Jersey Shore. Next up, Atlantic City.
We had just finished up Boardwalk Empire so Atlantic City was in order. I'm not sure if COVID is to blame or another economic disaster, but this city has seen better days. We drove through and around to find a parking spot to do some sightseeing and quickly decided we were not willing to walk away from the van anywhere near the boardwalk. We ended up at Harrah's resort where I won $1000 at the slots and decided to get a room for the night and have a long hot shower and good dinner. We were planning on Gordon Ramsay Steak for dinner.
While playing the slots we asked a Harrah's employee how best to see the rest of AC and he point blank said, "If you go downtown, do not step off the Boardwalk". Hmmm, ok, well we grabbed the shuttle bus and went for it. We walked around, saw the sights on the boardwalk and knew immediately what that guy was warning us about so we went back to get the shuttle... We waited precisely where we were told to wait, no shuttle, we called and waited, no shuttle, we called again and waited. NO SHUTTLE, so we walked to another casino garage and finally caught the shuttle back to Harrah's.
We had inquired about reservations for Gordon Ramsay Steak and were told there was no need for a reservation. We went upstairs, showered, got ready for dinner and headed to Gordon Ramsay Steak. No reservation, no admittance, no reservations available for the rest of the evening... ok. We walked over to the burger place, the line wrapped around the moon and back so we decided to go upstairs and order room service. No such thing. Darin gave up and turned on the TV, me... not so much. I was on a mission to get food. I headed back to the lobby and returned to Gordon Ramsay Steak to ask about other options. The person was not very helpful and I think my voice may have cracked or squeaked or pierced her ears because I finally found myself with a menu standing by the bar waiting on our food order. Sadly, we should have gone without. It was awful, I mean bad, we didn't even eat it all... really really bad - Darin is not a picky eater and he wouldn't touch anything after the first taste of each item. These were appetizer type foods, not $90 steaks or anything. The french fries were literally like eating crayons and the rest was just gross. We gave up and went to sleep. Darin woke all itchy scratchy and our Atlantic City adventure continued. We both showered and I headed back to the registration desk. I began telling the lady about our experience and she began typing, I began talking louder, people began gathering, she started talking softly telling me ok, ok, ok, I'll comp the room. Which she did and we left Atlantic City as quick as we could.
Here is another photo of our parking spot in NY, zoom in and you can see our prototype for our K.I.S.S. Airflow window bug screens. They were messy and flimsy and ugly but they worked! When we returned home, we recreated them and now have a sturdy reliable window screen that is very effective. You can see the new model here on Amazon or here in our shop.
Please subscribe so you get updates and join us again for a brief journey south before we headed back west. TheRollingStowes, signing off til next time.