At a picnic table at Evangola State Park, in New York, about 32 kilometers from Buffalo. Got to get used to the metric, as I’m hoping to land in Canada tomorrow. I’ve been biding the weather for three days here, as I’ve decided to paddle from here to Point Abino, a 20-something kilometer open water crossing. In retrospect, I could have made it yesterday, and maybe today, but I’m holding out for calmer water and a sky full of sunshine.
I spent Thursday with John and Wendy, a lovely couple I met at the kayak launch in Barcelona, New York. They kept track of me via the SPOT, and showed up at my campsite at Evangola Wednesday evening, as I was making dinner. They picked me up the next morning, and gave me a tour of Buffalo. John, a mechanic, grew up in the area, and knows well its geology and history. As we drove past miles of shuttered factories and warehouses, he told that one time 25,000 people showed up everyday at Bethlehem Steel alone. From there, we went to visit with their paddling buddy, Mitch, a retired blacksmith.
Mitch and his wife, Peggy, have been doing the back-to-nature homestead thing for 30-plus years. The beautiful wood home they built is complemented by an equally unique smithy, a couple of small barns, boat shed, and a sauna deep in the woods.
There’s a pond, where Mitch teaches kayak rolling, a pair of big solar panels, and amazing sculpture everywhere. Mitch even fired up his forge and fashioned me an ornate “S” hook. I ended the day doing my laundry and sharing a glass of New York wine at John and Wendy’s.
Today I’m surrounded by picnic pavilions filled with families celebrating reunions, and one guy’s 60th birthday. Jimmy Buffet on the boom box, water balloon games, lots of burger and hot dog smoke. They really know how to stick it to a vegetarian…
The park is hosting Pirate Fest today. Who would have guessed there are pirate re-enactors? I’m uncertain how authentic it all is, though. Most of the characters look as though they did their research at a Disney movie, with costuming purchased at a dollar store. One young woman is definitely channeling Johnny Depp. Unless it goes into the evening, and it might, it looks like a bit of a bust, as there are more pirate vendors than paying customers at the airbrush tattoo tent. The plastic swords and eye patches aren’t moving very quickly, either. The restroom walls, though, are echoing loudly with kids screaming “aargh!”, and the treasure hunt looks like it was a hit. And, I must say, the pirate pizza and pink lemonade taste awfly good. All in all, everyone’s having fun, and it’s a lovely day up on this grassy, shaded bluff overlooking Erie.
I’ve been staying in the tent section at the campground, which is pretty nice. After folks set up, they have to park their cars in a designated lot. It’s not far away, but at least I don’t feel like I’m camping at a car dealership.
We had some drama at the site last night. About 2 a.m., a guy yelled, “You pushed me into the fucking fire pit!”
“Fuck you!” a woman yelled back. “You called me a crack whore!”
“Well, you are bi-polar!” he yelled back.
Between my being half-asleep, and their slurred speech, I couldn’t exactly tell what he said that ignited the sparks, but I sensed that alcohol was fueling the fire.
The two parties went back and forth with pretty much the same refrain, when a second guy yelled at Fire Pit Guy, “Hey, get your fucking keys, get in your fucking car, and get the fuck out of here! I’ve got a family to protect here!”
“I am leaving,” Fire Pit Guy said, in his very whiny voice. “I got no problem with that. But she pushed me into the fire pit. See, I burned my hand?”
He didn’t get much sympathy from Family Man:
“I’m this close to kicking the shit out of you! Get the fuck out of here!”
This and forth then also repeated, pretty much verbatim, at least four times, and I was just crawling out of my sleeping bag to take a look and call nine-eleven, when the gravel crunched and red light flashed through my tent. A car door opened, and the yelling ended. All I really heard after that was the cop car’s engine, and occasional missives from the dispatcher over the radio. I believe I heard Fire Pit Man suggest that he simply drive himself home.
“That ain’t gonna happen,” the cop said. “Just stand over there by the side of my car.”
After about 20 minutes, the cop car’s doors opened and closed four times, and then it drove off, lights still flashing.
When I rolled out of the tent this morning, I looked around to see if any tents or people were missing. Everything looked the same as it did before I went to bed.
Why can’t we all just get along? Like the pirates.