Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Erie Canal

The last two days we have been on the Erie Barge Canal near Lockport. On Tuesday we took a 2 hour boat ride and today we biked 22 miles on the old towpath. The boat ride went through two locks that had a total change in elevation of 49 feet. On the original Erie Canal there were five locks to get the boats over that spot, the Niagara Escarpment, and bring them up to nearly the same elevation as Lake Erie. Lockport was the only place on the canal with a double lock system. Five going up and 5 coming down. The remains of the old lock wall are still there and the water flows over them in a series of waterfalls. There are several draw bridges along the canal, in Lockport one person operates two bridges. After you go under one he gets in his car and drives one block to let the boat go under the other. Because much of the canal in this area is on the side of the hill a canal walker checks 12 miles each day to make sure there are no leaks. We also found out that the canal is drained in the winter. In several places they have built gates that are lowered in the fall and the water is emptied out. In the spring the gates are raised and the canal fills up for the season. We saw replicas of old boats traveling the canal. These can be rented and sleep up to six people. The bike path we were on is the old towpath of the original canal and will eventually enable you to bike along the canal from Buffalo to Albany.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mist and Winds

We had a great day at the falls yesterday. We stayed on the American side which does not offer the best views but still is an excellent way to experience Niagara. We first went on the Maid of the Mist, a boat that goes so close to Horseshoe Falls that you get soaked from the mist and can feel the water of the river boiling under you as it comes over the falls. This ticket also includes admission to the observation deck that extends out over the river and offers a good view of the area. You can also walk to the bottom of the American falls from the dock of the Maid of the Mist. Next we went to the Cave of the Winds where you take an elevator down to a point where you are in front of Bridal Veil Falls. There you walk on wooden catwalks that take you right in front of the falls. We walked to the Hurricane Deck where you not only feel the mist and the water coming down but where the wind blows on you so hard that it really feels like a hurricane. Even with the very fashionable rain wear and sandals they provide you still get wet. The deck really gives you the best sense of just how powerful the water is and this is the smallest of the falls. While the American side does not have all the glitz of the Canadian, a visit to the Cave of the Winds makes it a worthwhile trip. It was AWESOME!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Yesterday we went to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Butterfly Conservency and drove along the Canadian side of the gorge. The town is located where the river empties into Lake Ontario. It is a beautiful place with many flowers, shops and restuarants. We ate at the Irish Harp and walked through many of the stores. Living in a motor home does not really lend itself to buying souviners but we enjoyed looking. I did find a book by Farley Mowat a Canadian author whose older books are hard to find in the US. The Butterfly Conservancy and Botanical Gardens were great. The couple of butterfly pictures don't do it justice. They were all over, landing on people, feeding and just flying around. If you are ever in Niagara we highly recommend you stop. While the garden's flowers were mostly past their prime the landscaping was fabulous. There must have been at least a half dozen wedding parties taking pictures. They were standing in line to get the best spots. It was pouring rain when we got to the falls so we plan to go back another day.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Seneca Falls Area

This week the weather has not been very good. Two days were chilly and rainy and showers threatened all of the others. One day we went to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and another we went to the Women's Rights National Historical Park. In the refuge they control the water to simulate the seasonal conditions. We saw a lot of birds even though the largest numbers are during the spring and fall migrations because it is located on the the Atlantic flyway. The Women's Rights Park is in Seneca Falls where in 1848 the first convention was held related to these rights. The group drew up the Declaration of Sentiments based on the Declaration of Independence that outlined the rights women did not have in America. These included voting, owning property and a professional education. The original parts (2 walls and part of the roof) of the Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held are all that is still standing. The park also has exhibits to show the changing role of women in society. As of today we have been on the road one month and it is the first day of school for Washington so I am now officially a retiree.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another Day Another Brewery

Yesterday we toured another brewery, the F.X. Matt Brewery in Utica. They brew Saranac beer and soft drinks. Their main brand when they were a regional brewery was Utica Club. They advertised the beer using two talking beer steins Schultz & Dooley and the commercials became so legendary that the local TV Guide listed when they would be shown. They had a video of them in the store and they were hilarious. They also sell a line of Schultz & Dooley steins portraying various characters. This brewery was much larger than the two we visited in Cooperstown. They also brew beer for other labels, such as Pete's Wicked. The tour was interesting and included many antiques the owners have collected. At the end of the tour we went to the tap room to taste a couple beers. Of course I had to buy a six pack. After we came back from the tour we had a short rain and we saw the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Today we drove about 75 miles to the other side of Syracuse and are at the northern end of the finger lakes. Driving through the town near the campground we saw a sign saying they were having the Mosquito Festival. I don't know that we will be sitting outside very much.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fort Stanwix

Yesterday we toured Fort Stanwix in Rome. It was originally built by the British for the French and Indian War. It is located on the only six miles of land between the Mohawk River which goes to the Hudson and the Oswego River that flows to Lake Ontario where goods could not be moved on water. In 1777, during the Revolutionary War the British attacked the fort for 23 days but could not capture it. This, along with the American victory at Saratoga stopped the British plan to divide the states along the Hudson River. The fort was reconstructed in 1976 and is one of the best examples of this period we have ever visited. They had people in period dress who explained the life of the soldiers and their Indian allies the Oneida and Tuscarora. We also had our first mail delivery thanks to Tom & Goergie. It seems like this system will work out well as long as we stay on good terms with them. Today we did a few things around the motor home and went for a nice 15 mile bike ride on the roads around the campground.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Erie Canal

Today we rode our bikes 25 miles along the Erie Canal. There are really two canals, the remains of the original that was started in this area in the early 1800's and the Erie Barge Canal that was completed in the early 1900's. The bike trail goes between both. On the original you ride on the tow path that was used by the mules that pulled the boats. The newer canal is still in operation and the whole system is over 500 miles running from the Hudson River to Lake Ontario. We stopped at one of the locks and watched as they brought a boat through. After they were done, we were allowed to walk across the lock gate to get back to the canal path.

Beverage Trail

Saturday we followed the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. There is one winery, two micro breweries, and a farmers market were they make cider. I really enjoyed the beer tasting. Even Nanc tried a few beers. Cooperstown Brewing Company brewed English beers and they let you try each of their six brews. One of the beers, Backyard Yard, used hops grown at the brewery. I enjoyed these beers the best and bought a mixed case of four different kinds. Brewery Ommegang brewed Belgium beers which had very unusual tastes and very high alcohol content. With one that was a dessert beer they gave you chocolate. I only bought one of these. On Sunday we veged out all day just reading and lounging around the campground. We moved on Monday to the Treasure Isle RV Park near Rome.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hall of Fame

On Friday we went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It was neat seeing all of the plaques and memorabilia of the players we have read about and seen play many times in Pittsburgh. Even though we're not really fans they already had the signed batting helmets for Barry Bonds record tying and record breaking home runs. In the area were they had the lists of record holders they update the lists daily. We also went to Doubleday Field where the game of baseball supposedly began. Cooperstown is filled with numerous shops selling baseball memorabilia. Despite the Hall of Fame and the commercialism, Cooperstown is a beautiful old town with many architecturally interesting homes. We also visited Otsego Lake which is the source of the Susquehanna River that runs over 400 miles and empties into Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland. Interestingly, one of this years' Hall inductees, Cal Ripken, was born in Havre de Grace.

Corning Museum of Glass

We visited the Corning Museum of Glass. The exhibits ranged from a history of glass making in ancient cultures, to glass in art and its many modern uses. There was a demonstration of glass blowing. They had glass from all over the world including some that looked like Duncan Miller from Washington. We moved to Beaver Springs Lake CG near Cooperstown and are planning to tour the Baseball Hall of Fame. We had no cell phone or Internet access at this campground but the stars at night were spectacular. There were several couples there who were full timers or snowbirds and we spent time talking with them about there experiences.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Curtiss Museum

On Monday we went to the Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. It is dedicated to Glenn Curtiss who started out building bicycles, then motorcycles and finally planes. Many of these were on display. He is the Father of Naval Aviation and built the first plane to fly across the Atlantic. Part of the museum is a restoration and building area. At this time they are building a replica of the America, a seaplane originally built in 1914. Volunteers have been working on this plane for four years. On September 15 using two original engines they are going to fly it from Keuka Lake. We were able to walk through the shop and talk to the workers. They stopped their work to answer questions and were very proud of what they had accomplished thus far.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Keuka Lake Region

On Friday morning we drove to the Watkins Glen track before we moved 32 miles to the Camp Bell CG in Campbell, NY. It is well located for touring the Keuka Lake region. After setting up we drove to Bath to a Camping World store to buy a folding stepladder and a couple other things we needed. At the campground many of the campers were square dancers who were here for a weekend of music and dancing. We talked with several of them and enjoyed their entertainment.
On Saturday we toured wineries. Nanc was very impressed with the varieties of dry New York wines. Each winery is unique in how the tastings are done. At Dr. Franks there were only 8 people at the table and we got to try about 10 wines if Nanc & I shared. At Bully Hill there were 50 to 75 people and it was wild. Both places had some excellent wines. Driving around the lakes offers outstanding views at every turn.
On Sunday we drove to the Fox Run Winery's Garlic Festival. I for one was amazed at the different types and tastes of garlic. They had a number of vendors, food and entertainment and of course we bought some garlic.