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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The President Speaks

September 1901 – Buffalo is the site of the Pan-American Exposition, which was sort of like a World's Fair. This was a huge deal, almost like hosting the Olympics nowadays. The city of Buffalo went all out, people came from all over the world to see the newest and latest of everything. President William McKinley even came along with most of his cabinet to take part in this extravaganza. Alas, he didn't have a very good time as he was shot by an anarchist and died a few days later. Theodore Roosevelt was vice-president at the time and was summoned to Buffalo to take the oath of office. He took the oath of office in the Ansley Wilcox house which is now a National Historic Site.

This was an interesting place, not only because of what happened here but what the park service has done to the house. They have restored  three rooms of the house but the rest of the rooms have many interactive electronic displays from videos to voting machines to a re-creation of Roosevelt's office. Some of the displays compared issues that were important in 1901 to issues today and I could not believe how many issues are just the same as back then.

Roosevelt took the oath right where that little table is

Frank Lloyd Wright. I never really understood what the big deal was with Mr. Wright. Yeah, his houses were interesting, but so? I have toured a few of his houses and generally speaking it has been no big deal. I think I get it now after touring the Darwin D. Martin house here in Buffalo.

This house was built 1903-1905 for a self-made millionaire. When you think about the type of grand houses that were being built at the time, Wright was a renegade. He was thinking outside of the box and his thinking was unlike anything anybody had done. The Martin house is in the process of some serious renovation. There is no furniture and most of the inside is a construction zone, but even with all that this house was friggin' amazing.

From the Website:  Martin House
The complex consists of six interconnected buildings designed as a unified composition, including; the main Martin House and a pergola that connects it to a conservatory and carriage house with chauffeur’s quarters and stables, the Barton House, a smaller residence for Martin’s sister and brother-in-law, and a gardener’s cottage added in 1909. The landscape design for the grounds of the complex is highly integrated with the overall composition of buildings.
The Martin House is a prime example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie House ideal, with strong horizontal lines and planes, deeply overhanging eaves, a central hearth, prominent foundation, and a sheltering, cantilevered roof.  The complex contains 394 examples of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed art glass, including the famed “Tree of Life” window


On the way back I stopped at Wilkeson Pointe Park, a small city park on the Buffalo Harbor. Why? Whirligigs!!!!!!

I now leave you with this breaking news:

Friday, September 23, 2016

I Made It To New York!!!! Finally.

I'm on my way to Buffalo but it is a four hour drive so I decided to stop and rest up half way there. Turns out I've been at Lake Erie State Park in New York for three days now. I have a spot on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie and it is very peaceful. Turns out there is a Sunset Happy Hour where my neighbors and I gather on the bluff and since we are facing west, see some pretty beautiful sunsets.

One of our sunset viewers, my cute little neighbor
A bunch of sunsets cause I couldn't make up my mind:

Again, a lovely park, the only issue is that my cell phone is a little iffy. Sometimes I have three bars and other times there is absolutely no service. It will turn on you in a flash. Since I use my cell phone for keeping in contact and also for internet, it has been sort of frustrating and when I realize how dependent I've become on the technology, almost makes me want to cut myself off more. Key word: Almost.

By accident, I found I was about 40 minutes away from Jamestown, NY. So, you say? Well, it just happens to be the birthplace of the one and only Lucille Ball AND there is a DesiLu museum. I'm on my way, Lucy.

The museum is actually two different buildings. The first building is all about Lucy and Desi, from birth until they passed. Lucy was one beautiful woman. Before she hit it big, she was a model and a Chesterfield Cigarette Girl. There was a lot of reading (which I like) which gives you a basic understanding of both Lucy and Desi, how they got to the height of their fame and what they did. There were also a lot of personal items, outfits that they wore, family mementos.

Did you know Desi came from an extremely wealthy family in Cuba but they lost everything when Baptista came into power. They immigrated to Miami. He actually was a band leader, I thought that was just something they put in the I Love Lucy shows. Desi is responsible for changing the way sitcoms are taped. He is the first one who had a studio audience come in while they recorded the I Love Lucy show. They had three cameras rolling at once and then edited it later for nationwide broadcasting.

The second building was more about the show. They had full scale replicas of the apartment that Lucy and Rickie lived in. On monitors, they were showing clips of the show and you could see how it worked on the set. Very interesting.

Fun Fact: Vivian Vance, who was the older woman who played Ethel was only two years older than Lucy. That amazed me.

I had heard about how Jamestown had honored Lucy by creating a memorial park in her honor. In this park, they had a bronze statue of Lucy which is one of the ugliest, scariest statues I've ever seen. When I asked at the museum where ugly Lucy was, the receptionist knew exactly what I was talking about. Evidently they have a new statue ready to be put in place, but it was currently in New Jersey and they were waiting for it to arrive. For your viewing pleasure, I present: Ugly Lucy.

I can't leave you with that thought - here is beautiful Lucy

Picture from the web

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cleveland Sort Of

I have a Fitbit. I put it on the belt of my pants and it records the number of steps I take every day. I try to get in 10,000 steps at least which is about five miles, give or take. I have finally gotten to a park that has laundry machines and I'm so excited that I will finally have clean clothes, I throw everything into the washer. Yup, even my Fitbit. It got washed, it got dried. The amazing thing is it still worked. I then discovered that one wash and dry cycle gets logged as 10,410 steps. Hmmm – it occurs to me that all I need to do is wash clothes everyday and I will never have to take another step. Brilliant. I suppose that is probably not quite in the spirit of Fitbits and physical fitness but it is something to keep in mind.

I've traveled a long way today – a total of about 2 hours to Punderson State Park which is just a little bit southeast of Cleveland. I have full hookups, I have the laundry, it is a good base park. My next door neighbors look sort of like survivalists, old army tents, a UPS-like van full of canisters of some sort, scruffy looking guys in overalls and suspenders. The women look rather hard scrabble. They turn out to be very quiet except for one loud gravelly voiced man who spent a great deal of time lamenting the loss of his woman.

Punderson State Park - Punderson Lake is right behind my site

I travel into town to go to the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. Garfield was the twentieth president of the U.S. and only served 200 days of his sentence before he was assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker. He was shot on July 2, 1881 and died on September 19, 1881. It turns out I was visiting this site on the anniversary of his death so they had his house all decorated with funeral swags. How lucky am I? I took a tour of the house and learned a lot about Garfield. It sounds like he was a brilliant self-made man. He was the last U.S. President to be born in a log cabin. One of his claims to fame was the initiation of civil service reform which helped get rid of some of the graft in the White House.  The two notable facts about the house is that Garfield campaigned for president on the front porch and after his death Lucretia, his wife, established the very first presidential library in the house.

The very first Presidential Library

The tour guide was wonderful, but this was the first national site that I have visited where the ranger lady was just sort of going through the motions of rangerdom. It was interesting, I had to interview her (Jr. Ranger requirement) and one of the questions I had to ask was “What is the best part of your job?” She came out with “Answering visitor questions” in a very short, curt dismissive manner. Well, ok then.

The David Berger National Memorial has the distinction of being the smallest park (listed as .01 acre)  in the National Parks system. David Berger was an Israeli-American wrestler who was killed when the Palestinian “Black September” terrorists took nine Israeli athletes hostage during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Germany. The statue is located on the grounds of the Mandel Jewish Community Center which looked like a extremely large fitness center based on the constant flow of people in their exercise clothes.

I think I was able to capture the whole National Memorial in one photo. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Round And Round We Go!!

We motored on ever eastward, this time it was less than an hour drive. It would have been shorter but there was an oversized cabin cruiser going down the road for quite a bit which slowed things down a bit. I am now at another Ohio State Park, this one is called East Harbor. It is on a peninsula, right north of Sandusky Ohio. It is also quite a shock after the wonderful park I was just in. This one is seems very much like a private RV park. The only difference is that there are nice trails and people can build their campfires right underneath your windows so that you too can enjoy their campfire smoke.

East Harbor State Park:  You aren't supposed to park on the grass - notice how my front and rear wheels are properly placed so as not to be on the grass. 

These lily pads are actually about as big as my head

Not too sure what type of boat this is but it was in the harbor - a dredging boat?

Today we are heading to Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. This takes some getting to – I have to drive a bit, then hop on a ferry and cross the great Lake Erie to a little town called Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island. I debated whether to take my car on the ferry but cheap person that I am, I opted for the $7 one way fare as opposed to the $16 one way fare for a car. I was a little worried about how I was going to get to the Memorial once I got to the island – I think the island is about two miles long and the ferry drops you on the south end and the Memorial is on the north end. It seems the preferred method for getting around the island is to rent a golf cart. After talking to a fellow passenger on the ferry, I decided to forego that option. He said that ten years ago, when he rented a golf cart, it was $53 for the day. I figured I was going to be doing a lot of walking. all worked out – they have an old school bus which takes you from the ferry landing to the north part of the island for $2.50. Cheapness wins out in the end. Of course, those golf carts looked like a lot of fun.

The ferry leaving the pier

Approaching South Bass Island - you can see the Memorial on the right

These are all golf carts people have rented - seems like parking is at a premium

This memorial was interesting in that it was a memorial to a battle and it also is a peace memorial. The peace memorial is a 352 foot Monument – it is the world's most massive Doric column.

“Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the war of 1812, and to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Caada and the U.S. The Memorial column, rising over Lake Erie, is situated five miles from the longest undefended border in the world.” Wiki

There is a visitor center where I watched the movie about the sea battle in 1813. Commandant Perry was only 27 at the time of the battle (he first went to sea at 13) and it was the first time the Royal Navy suffered the loss of a complete squadron. Perry had a flag that he flew on his flagship with the words “Don't Give Up The Ship.”

You get to go up to the top of the column and the views were magnificent. It didn't hurt that it was one of those most perfect days – sun, light breeze. Even the ferry ride was perfect, I sat outside the whole twenty minute journey both ways to the island.

The View

The next day was not as great, weather-wise. It rained and rained. What to do? Let's drive to Sandusky and go to:

Did you know that there is a National Carousel Association? Evidently carousels are a quite the draw. This is actually a serious museum with many antique carved animals plus a working carousel that was built in 1939. These carvings range in value from about $5000 to over a million dollars. Some of the carvings were brought to the White House and were part of the Holidays at the White House. They have carvers on site who are restoring these figures and use many of the techniques.

Carousel Terms:
Standing: Four feet are on the ground, they do not go up and down
Prancing: Back two legs are on the ground, they do not go up and down
Jumping: All four legs are in the air and they DO go up and down

Lions and Tigers and....

Look at these beauties

Amazing as some of these creatures were, the highlight for me was to actually ride the carousel. It was going to be a private ride for me until some little toddler decided he needed to go also. The operator said that this carousel was three times faster than most carousels and revolved at nine miles per hour. It was fun and super smooth and I tried to practice my most excellent riding skills by keeping my heels down and eyes up.

My steady steed

My whirlwind ride:

Side Note: RV thing I learned - I have an auto dumping awning.  The awning is fairly flat and fills with water when it rains.  When it gets too heavy, one side of the awning automatically lowers and a great gush of water comes running out.  I first saw this when I was horse camping with friends and when it happened, the waterfall nearly hit friend Dave.  I guess I thought it was a personal problem of Dave's, but now after much research, I see this is an automatic feature.  It is rather nerve wracking when it happens but sort of cool also to see this huge wall of water falling to the ground. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Let's Throw In A Little Culture

Had a lovely RV re-positioning today. In fact, the next couple of “re-positionings” involve drives of an hour or less.  It is going to take me forever to get to where I am going.   My type of travel.

I came to Maumee Bay State Park, just a little bit east of Toledo, Ohio. After spending so many extra bucks for the pleasure of camping in Michigan, it was a thrill to see that this park was part of Passport America complex which means that Monday thru Wednesday, camping is half price. Two nights of camping for $27. To top it off, the sites are huge, secluded and there are tons of walking trails so Miko (and Me) can walk forever.  This park is right on Lake Erie but we really didn't have time to find the lake.  So many trails, so little time. 

Funny thing: There are over 250 camping sites in this park, everything is really spread out. Who do I find, three sites down from me – but Bob from our Precept gathering last weekend. To top it off, it turns out that Bob and his wife went to a tiny little college in Michigan named Adrian. I'm talking enrollments in the hundreds not the thousands. Tiny, tiny little college. Turns out I was going to that same little college the same time they were. Small world. They didn't remember me, I didn't remember them, but then I don't really remember what I had for breakfast today.

This is a cultural stop for me. I am going to the Toledo Museum of Art because they have a special glass exhibit showing right now. Toledo is known as the City of Glass and the museum has set aside a whole building to exhibit art glass – funny enough they call it the Glass Pavilion.

Before I went to the Glass Pavilion, I tooled around the rest of the Museum. I'm especially fond of Impressionist art and they had a nice selection – all the big names: Van Gogh, Seurat, Monet......

What blew me away though, much more than the glass exhibit that I had gone to see was an exhibition by a Spanish artist called Jaume Plensa who is after a fashion, a sculptor. I was fortunate that I was the only one in the gallery or on the grounds so I could spend a great deal of time just being with the art.

This is called Self Portrait - you can't see it but inside the ball is a person done in the same style as the outside ball

This was just wire put together in such a way as to see heads

There was also a painting done in the style of Chuck Close - I can't remember the actual artist

This is what it looked like when you were close up

And this is what it looked like from a distance

My second stop was to be lunch at Tony Packo's Hungarian eatery. It was made famous by Jamie Farr on the tv show Mash. He mentioned it on about seven different episodes. It is also the home of the Hot Dog Museum where all these famous people have signed hot dog buns and they are displayed on the walls. I think there are supposed to seven presidents who have signed buns, not to mention many mega celebrities. But.... I was starving and didn't make it there – I ate at the Museum's cafe and had Pesto Chicken Gnocchi which was incredible. So sorry Tony Packo. At least I got a picture because the light turned red at the right minute.

The original restaurant

Pesto Chicken Gnocchi - how exquisite is this? 

Last stop this time around in Toledo was the National Museum of the Great Lakes. They had an actual iron ore tanker that you could explore. The Col. James M. Schoonmaker was launched in 1911 and called the “Queen of the Lakes” because she was the largest bulk freighter in the world. I think she is 691 feet long. It was a self guided tour and you could go down in the holds, thru the engine room, into the crew's and the officers' quarters, all the way up to the Pilot house.

The bow of the Col. James M. Schoonmaker

The rest of it

Toledo has a pretty bridge - I crossed this in the RV - we were very very very high up

It's a long way back to the stern
Aren't all my Navy friends impressed with my ship jargon?

The museum was really fascinating, it had a short film and a very extensive display area. There was an interactive display on the Edmund Fitzgerald where you could go diving through the wreckage. I found the section about all of the shipwrecks on the Great Lakes the most interesting. Fun (or maybe not so fun) Fact: The most shipwrecks have occurred in Lake Michigan – in fact one of the docents said that Lake Michigan is like the Bermuda Triangle of the North – People/ships would just disappear.

Two more fun facts
1.  Lake Superior is the deepest lake and right in the center of the lake, it goes down 1392 feet
2.  Sailors who are used to sailing on the ocean often get very sea sick when sailing the Great Lakes, turns out the wave pattern is very different.

Miko and I spent most of the rest of our time in Toledo hiking in the park.  There seem to be a lot of deer in the park and being as how Miko is a deerhound and has no control when she sees a deer, my left shoulder has been yanked out of it's socket.  Not really, but it sure does hurt.  We will be using a lot of ice.