Monday, October 10, 2016

Into The Past - How Far Can We Go?

It is time to leave Watkins Glen. Shoulda stayed longer, shoulda hiked the Gorge again. Shoulda, Coulda.

Down in southern New York, there is a little town called Corning which hosts a giant Museum called the Corning Museum of Glass. This is a must-see for anybody who likes glass. This museum is like the Disneyland of Glass, without the rides and the mouse ears. The gift shop alone was bigger than my house.

The first area you enter is the Contemporary Art + Design(1990-2015) area which showcases artists who are stretching the boundaries of what we think glass should be into what glass could be. Some of it was just plain ugly – whoops – perhaps I'm not cool enough to see the artistic vision that was sought after. Some of it was weird and entertaining and some of it was beautiful.

Hard to see but a lot of lacy glass

The other major gallery was called 35 Centuries of Glass which was fascinating. They had glass samples from well, 35 centuries ago up to fairly contemporary times. The displays were really well done and it flowed from country to country and glass making method to glass making method. I was especially enamored of the paperweight displays – I have a small collection at home and it was wonderful to see samples from the major paperweight houses.

I'm walking through the many centuries and what do I come across but an actual window from the Darwin Martin House that I toured in Buffalo.  That was rather special how everything seems to be tied together.

Interspersed between all the galleries were several different demo labs. I sat in on a basic how to make a blown pumpkin. What was interesting, besides the glass blowing, was the audience. There was a huge Chinese contingent so they had a translator. The English speaker guy would talk rather in a monotone and then the Chinese woman would speak. She was jumping up and down, laughing, doing her own little demo of what the glass blowers were doing. I couldn't understand a word, but she was probably the most entertaining part of the whole demo. There were several other demos throughout the day that sounded interesting (glass breaking demo – huh?) but none of them fit into my schedule.

Hassidic Jew and Roman Catholic Chess Set

Some people have sometimes called me obsessive - I think of myself as being very focused and rather a completist.   Case in point - I think I need to visit all 400-some National parks, monument, historical sites, battlefields etc. I mean, all these sites belong to me (and America) - I need to check them all out, make sure that they are doing all right.  I do get  a kick out of them.  Now I have that Junior Ranger thing going also.  But, after spending a few weeks chasing after these National Sites, I get to a point where I just don't care anymore.  I know the next trip I take, I will be right back at it, but I am pretty much done with the whole National scene at the moment.  I had about six more sites on my radar for this trip and I just decided I don't need to go see them.  Enough is enough.

So, I made a right turn somewhere in Pennsylvania and headed for southeastern Indiana.  It is sort of on the way home, isn't it?  The reason?  I was heading to the land of my ancestors - my people settled in Metamora Indiana in 1811.  I thought I should go find out what was up with them. 

The library in Brookville has quite an extensive genealogy department and I spent several days digging through their collection.  It was very satisfying.  My timing was really great also as when I was there, they had a genealogy conference going on which was much fun.  What is not to like talking about lost dead people and how to find them, plus there were a lot of munchies. 

I also mixed it up a bit and visited a few graveyards to pay my respects to these new found family members.  What was fun was that I visited one graveyard on a Sunday morning.  The church, which I think was a Pentecostal church was getting their religion on.  They had a band and there was a lot of whooping and hollering and some really good music.  Almost made me get down on my knees and raise my hand to the sky. 

GGG-Grandma and Grandpa

Half of Duck Creek Cemetery taken out the car window - I looked at every single one of these stones up close and personal

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Final Frontier

When I started the 2016 Fall Journey, there were two sights that really pulled me. One was the Women's Rights Monument in Seneca Falls and the other was Watkins Glen. I had heard so much about Watkins Glen over the years that there was no way I was going to miss it. Watkins Glen, the town, was a touristy little town, but Watkins Glen, the Gorge, was the main event. 

Miko was not allowed on the Gorge Trail, only on the Rim Trails so she had to stay home. I was on my own to hike up the gorge for a mile and a half. No easy mile and a half either – did I mention the 800 steps you also have to climb. A mile and a half out plus 800 steps up and a mile and a half back with 800 steps down. It sounded horrible, but it really wasn't too bad. There would be maybe a couple of flights of stairs up and then there would be a level path for a bit before the next flight of stairs. Mother Nature thoughtfully arranged to have some beautiful scenic sights at the top of each of these flights that you really had to pause to admire and reflect on (and perhaps catch your breath). It is all worth it for the 19 waterfalls you get to see.  There were even a few you could walk behind.

When I started hiking, there was a steady stream of people and we all marched along in line. About half way up the gorge, it started to rain and magically people started to disappear. In fact on my way back, I hardly met anybody coming up the gorge which made for some wonderful personal moments with Ol' Ma Nature.  Watkins Glen did not disappoint.   

Notice people climbing the stairs in the background

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

We Be Rockin' These State Parks

Stellar day today – walked gorges in three (count them), three state parks.
I started with Cuyuga State Park where I had been camping for three nights. Miko and I did our normal walk to the wave-catching lake, through a tunnel and then back home where I packed up the RV and headed out for a big hour drive to our next state park.

Taughannock state park. We were only here for a couple of hours to see the 215 foot vertical waterfall which is 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls. There is a 3/4 mile wooded trail down to the waterfall. We hadn't gotten too far when I noticed people walking on a big flat area next to the trail. Turns out this was the actual riverbed for Taughannock Creek. For the last nine months, this area of New York has been under a severe drought. The creek has done dried up. It is probably not the best year to go in search of New York waterfalls. That said, it was interesting to see what the riverbed looked like – all rock, not any sand like what I would expect. This is rock that has been chiseled out. When I got to the waterfall, it was nothing but a trickle.

The dry riverbed

What it is supposed to look like (picture from the web)

What it looks like now

We then moved on to Robert H. Treman State Park which is right outside of Ithaca New York. It was another twenty minutes down the road. This area of New York is ripe with state parks. I am spending the night here at this park. Scored the last electrical site. Yay Me!!! Interesting that to get to the campground I had to cross a creek – no bridge, just drive through the creek bed. 

Crossing the creek to get to the campground

This is hilly country and it was rather difficult to get level. The people on the ridge behind me had to back up right to the edge of the drop to hook up to electricity. They actually had a many tiered wooden structure on the hill to try to get themselves level. It really looked like an accident ready to happen. I leant them my 30 amp electrical cord so that they could get off of the ledge and I was really glad that I had because that night it poured rain, I'm talking serious rain, and I think if they had been balanced precariously like they were, they might have just slid downhill into my rig. No, I'm not a nice guy, it is all about self protection – didn't want them to slid down the hill into my rig. They were actually lovely people, but I'm glad that everything just worked out.

Robert H. Treman had a lovely gorge walk. I think it was the first time on this trip that I actually felt like I was hiking. There were actual hills here and many many steps, created by the CCC that I went up and down. Ran into a bunch of young men who were at an overlook, drinking beer and being crazy young guys. Miko, being her usual gregarious self, went over to introduce herself and one of the guys told her she was too young to drink beer. I, of course, had to correct him because in dog years she is 28 years old, definitely old enough to drink beer. She did not partake as she had more important things to do like head down the trail.

This was a lovely gorge to hike and even though there was a drought, there was enough water falling to make this a gorgeous hike. The main draw is Lucifer Falls which is a 115 foot multi-tiered drop.

Stairway to Heaven

Lucifer Falls

More Lucifer Falls

Miko actually looking like she might like her picture taken

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Auburn New York

Today I'm off to Auburn, just a few miles down the road from Seneca Falls. I have three sights to see and I'm going to start off with the one I thought I was least interested in and work my way up to what I was really interested in seeing. I think I've mentioned before that a friend of mine once said that it is the stuff you think is going to be the most uninteresting and boring that turn out to be really special places. This happened today.

I went to the William H. Seward House Museum. We all know Seward from learning a tiny little bit about him in school. He is the guy who bought Alaska from Russia for us. Seward's Folly and all that. So this will be another pretty house with original furnishings from the era. Yes, that was true, but there was so much more. Besides being a Governor and Senator from New York, he was also Secretary of State. He was responsible for keeping Britain and France out of our Civil War and was very close to President Lincoln. They say that most of the famous Lincoln speeches were either written by or heavily edited by Seward. This guy was a power house. There was even an assassination attempt on Seward as part of the conspiracy that ended up with Lincoln being assassinated. Nothing makes or breaks a historical site like a docent. The one I had touring the Seward house was fabulous. He made you live the history. When he was talking about the assassination attempt, I was breathless, waiting to hear what happened next.

Fun Fact: Lincoln was 6'6” tall. Seward was 5'3”.  Can you imagine the two of them hanging out together?   On the second floor of the house, Seward had put portraits of all of the famous people he met and there were a lot of them, from Queen Victoria to von Bismarck.  He cataloged and numbered all of the portraits. Lincoln's portrait was number 66 because of his height. Seward's portrait was listed as 66 1/2. What a scalawag that Seward was. 

A pretty grand house - it had 30 rooms

Mary Todd Lincoln sent Seward the flowers from Lincoln's casket and Seward had them framed

On to Harriet Tubman's house. Harriet Tubman was known as the 'Moses' of her people. She was born a slave, escaped to freedom and then brought many of her relatives up north. I think I talked about her before on a previous blog when I was in Macon Georgia. She ended up settling in Auburn on land the Seward helped her acquire. Back in the day, there was no place for elderly people of color to go – all of the old age homes were for white folk, so she decided that she needed to start a home. There was a twenty minute orientation on her life and then a tour of the home she created for these old folks. Got to say again, a good docent makes a difference and this was just not on the same level as the Seward house tour.

Tubman Home For the Aged - Just your basic farmhouse

On to the Willard Chapel. This chapel was built in 1892-94 and is the only surviving complete installation by Louis Tiffany in it's original location. Tiffany designed the stained glass windows, the mosaic floor( created by Irish Catholic immigrant women because they supposedly had smaller hands), the chandeliers, stenciling, carvings – the whole kit and caboodle. Unfortunately, when I was there, it was a cloudy day and no sun was coming through the window. The docent kept apologizing, saying that we all need to come back to see the true glory. Also, because it was so cloudy and dark, not many of the pictures turned out. Oh well, I guess that is what memories are for but take my word, it was a damn fine place. 

Willard Chapel - Richardsonian Romanesque Architecture (are you impressed?)

The brown pendulum in the center is actually a raised piece of glass

Part of the podium

When the 7th Day Adventists took over the Chapel, they painted over all the stenciling and the deep maroon walls with this off white color.  As the chapel gets more money, they are hoping to restore the walls back to the original color

I think I'm getting sick – either that or allergies. I pulled out a new box of Puffs, opened the box up and this strong smell started wafting through the RV. Evidently, they are now putting Vick's Vapor Rub in tissues. Sort of comforting when you have a cold, but I think it would drive me nuts to have them stinking up my purse or bed stand.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Seneca Falls

I am now in the Finger Lakes area of New York state. I'm at Cayuga Lake State Park which is on the north end of Cayuga Lake. We are talking a 38 mile long lake. Twice a day Miko and I walk down to the shore and Miko tries her luck at wave-catching.

Women's Rights National Historic Park
I don't know what happened here in the mid-1800s, but this area was a hotbed of progressive thinking. This is where some of the modern day greats lived and it was from here that they changed the landscape of the U.S. I am talking about five women who got together and worked for Women's Rights. The first Women's Rights Convention took place in Seneca Falls in 1848. To imagine how this changed the social and economic fabric of our country is unbelievable. Remember, back in 1848, women could not own property, women had no rights to their children, they could not vote or sign contracts, husbands and fathers directed every aspect of their lives.

Five women whose names should be remembered:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Lucretia Mott
Mary Ann M'Clintock
Jane Hunt
Martha Coffin Wright

came together and presented a Declaration of Sentiments which was based on the Declaration of Independence. This Declaration was the foundation of many of our common rights we enjoy today. I found this very moving, maybe because even though I knew most of the status of women, it was brought home to me how bad it was, how far we have come and how far we have to go. These women were brave beyond belief. 

The Suffragist Flag: Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose; and gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving

Life size statues of The Movement Leaders - notice Frederick Douglass is there

Fun fact: One of the prominent woman who joined the movement was Amelia Bloomer, who edited a temperance journal called The Lily. In 1851, bloomers became all the craze among progressive fashionistas.

1851 Bloomer Craze

Seneca Falls is built along the Cayuga-Seneca canal and the town has put a nature trail along the banks. They have also added sculptures which I guess makes it an art/nature trail. I didn't care much for the sculptures, but by going to go do the trail, I came across “The Bridge”.

Seneca Falls also claims that it is the inspiration for the movie “It's A Wonderful Life” staring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The bridge figures conspicuously in the movie.

True story: a young woman through herself off this bridge trying to commit suicide. A young Italian immigrant, Antonio, saw this, pulled off his jacket and jumped into the freezing water. He reached the young woman and brought her toward shore where another man on shore grabbed the woman and finished bringing her to dry land. As soon as the man on shore grabbed the woman, Antonio slipped beneath the water and drowned. Every year, the town celebrates Antonio's sacrifice. The town was so grateful that they raised funds to bring the rest of Antonio's family over from Italy to the United States.

Frank Capra comes to town and hears this story. He was developing a movie based on a book called “The Greatest Gift”. There are so many coincidences between Seneca Falls and the movie that Seneca Falls calls itself the Real Bedford Mills. They also have an excellent museum called funny enough – It's A Wonderful Life Museum”. They take each of the actors, discuss their role in the movie and then talk about what happened with the rest of their career. I probably spent a couple of hours there. 

It's A Wonderful Life Bridge - Don't Jump George Bailey, Don't Jump!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Waterfalls - Glorious Waterfalls

Letchworth State Park in western New York, besides being voted 'Best State Park in the Nation”, is known as the Grand Canyon of the East. I think perhaps somebody has a few delusions of grandeur. That is not to say that this place is not impressive and beautiful, but it might be a little bit of a stretch.

The campground has eight loops in it and if you are traveling with a pet, you are limited to only three loops. Doesn't make too much sense to me because it seems to me that the majority of people are traveling with a pet. I am currently in a pet loop but there is a non pet loop right out my back window. Go figure. This is also the first campground where I have had to produce Miko's rabies certificate. Ohio doesn't let you drink in their campgrounds and New York wants your paperwork all in order. Different priorities I guess.

During the Depression, this park had three CCC work camps and the stone work along the paths is impressive as are all of the buildings. On one of the sites of a work camp, they have a statue and informational signs all telling us about the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Letchworth is a park that is about fourteen miles long. The campground is in the north end and almost everything else you might want to do here is in the southernmost three-four miles. Since the speed limit in the park is only 25 miles an hour, it takes about thirty minutes to get down to the sights. I spent most of my time on the trails and because Miko was with me and not allowed in the buildings, I did not go into the people buildings such as restaurants(yes, this park had sit down restaurants), museums and nature centers. We just stuck to the trails.

The main sights, besides the gorge itself are three waterfalls- Upper, Middle and Lower. Miko and I hiked to each of them, plus a few other trails. I think Miko actually got a little tired hiking. Usually I'm the one giving up.

The rest of this post is going to be nothing but pictures. It was a beautiful place to spend a few days.

Miko Ears

Upper Falls - that is a railroad bridge that they are in the process of replacing. 

Upper Falls without the bridge - I like it better this way

Middle Falls - these have a 107 foot drop

View from Inspiration Point - Middle Falls up front, Upper Falls way up on top

Which way should I go?  I took the not so easy way which was much more satisfying

Lower Falls

The only bridge crossing the gorge, built by the CCC

Miko looking way way down the gorge

What a glorious place Letchworth is. Can you imagine what it must look like when the leaves change?  Miko and I are the luckiest ever to be able to see this. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Trials and Tribulations (Of A Very Minor Sort)

My scenic site at the Erie Fairgrounds near Buffalo - it was just me and that other guy there - nobody else ever came by

I am awakened at 6:00 am on my last day in Buffalo by a loud rhythmic clicking noise. I jump up and it seems to be coming from the refrigerator. I turn off the refrigerator and the clicking continues. I turn off the main power switch for the RV and thankfully it stops. But then I hear a drip, drip, drip noise. Again from the fridge. I can't see anything happening inside the fridge so I open the front door of the RV to see if I can discover what is happening. There are two black panel covers right behind the fridge area. The top one contains all the fridge controls, the bottom one is the one that has the furnace controls. Water is pouring out of the furnace area.

I opened up the top panel and discover that the hose that sends water to the ice maker in the fridge is leaking like all get out. I tightened the hose and it stopped dripping. I opened up the furnace cover and there is a lot of standing water there. I mopped up the water and turned on the main power switch again. Click, Click, Click from the furnace area. I quickly turned it off again and tried to figure out what to do. Keep in mind, I am not the most mechanically adept person. I finally figured I needed outside help so I called my friend Dave back in Mpls and woke him up. He listened to my problem and then brilliantly said, pull the fuse for the furnace. I did that, turned the main power switch back on and the clicking stopped. Dave told me that the circuit board had probably gotten wet and just needed to dry out. Later that night, I put the furnace fuse back in and all is well. Kudos to Dave for crawling out of a warm bed to get me back up and running.

I had a fairly short drive to my next spot – Letchworth State Park – or so I thought. I normally use Google Maps to tell me how to get from Point A to Point B. The problem is that Google doesn't know I'm not a little car motoring down the highway, but a huge 18,000 pound beast. Google just wants to take me the shortest, quickest route, even if that means going down tiny little country roads or across roads with a 6,000 pound load limit. I normally check with a Motor Carrier map book that I have that truckers use to make sure there are no low bridges or unfortunate roads that I should avoid. Well, with my morning stress factor, I did not check the trucker guide. I ended up spending a lot of time taking unplanned turns to avoid the load limits and the low bridges. Did I mention that western New York is super super hilly? And who in their right mind puts a stop sign at the bottom of a super steep hill? I actually had no idea where I was going but eventually muddled through and got to Letchworth.

Once I got the RV in my site, I go to move the car also and I have a low tire warning going off. Luckily, the town of Perry is about three miles away so I drove over there and they put air in all of my tires. They were all about 3 to 5 pounds low.

Oh, I forgot to mention - when I started my drive, I needed gas.  I picked up about 65 gallons at a gas station at $2.29 a gallon.  Ten miles later, I drove onto Seneca Nation land where there were a ton of gas stations with gas at $1.79.  Oh well.

I guess that every now and then, days like this happen. I am just grateful that everything worked out. If the furnace circuit board hadn't dried out, it would have been a very cold rest of the trip. All is good and I will spend the next few days exploring Letchworth which has been voted the 'Best State Park in the Nation', or so they say. They don't tell me who voted or where this vote took place, but they sure do have a lot of signs announcing that fact.

This post is already long enough and is severely lacking in pictures. I will make up for that in the next post. It will probably be all pictures, no talk.

My site at Letchworth, much more to my liking