Saturday, August 24, 2013

Aug. 22, 2013

‘becca Glover,  Watkins Glen

First thing today we went north to collect the last of the five.  Sue had to put her feet into Lake Ontario, the last of the great lakes we have visited.  Finding public beach access has been challenging on the last couple of lakes but we have managed with some searching. We found a spot after some bushwacking and got the pictures.

Lake Ontario


East toward Rochester.  Along the way we found an Amish produce stand that had sufficient parking for the Carbus.  We bought some sweet corn, some squash, and a melon at very reasonable prices. 

Note to any one traveling cross country:
STAY OFF OF FREEWAYS AND THROUGHWAYS!!.   We would not have found this spot (or seen much of what we have seen) if we took fast roads.  Probably the best produce we have ever had – no exaggeration.  Definitely the best sweet corn I have ever had.  Melt in your mouth and smooth to the taste.  Could eat several ears at once if available.

On to Rochester.  A little girl (memories) whom we have known almost since she was born recently completed her doctorate here in mathematics.  She will begin teaching at a university here in a few weeks.  We called and asked if we might stop by to say hi.  Turned out that her sister was visiting from Oregon so we got to see both.  Rebecca had just purchased a home and was ‘camping out’ basically in a home well over a hundred years old as she got situated and began to make it her own.  Will be a fun project.  Nice to see her and her location.

Becca's House in RochesterUs, in front of Becca's house in Rochester, NY

South to Watkins Glen.

Watkins Glen is located at the southern tip of the largest of the Finger Lakes in New York state.  The Finger Lakes area is the grape growing and wine making center of New York and probably the east coast.  I have lived in Northern California all my life.  Have visited and lived near the Napa Valley and surrounding wine making areas for nearly seventy years.  I’m sorry California but the Finger Lakes region has you beat.  The scenery alone is amazing (and we saw it without color change).  Lots of vineyards but then the view beyond is a lake with green hills and vineyards  beyond.  Not vineyard after vineyard with brown hills around and tourist traps in between.  No castles. No tourist traffic.  Many wineries but lots of space and views in between.  VERY PRETTY AREA!

Grapes and wineries on Lake Seneco, NY

Watkins Glen among other things has a state park (wherein we are camped).  The state park primarily exists to protect and showcase a gorge.  Eons of erosion have created a waterway that is a naturalist and photographers dream.  We hiked about 3/4 of the gorge (the rest was not as spectacular).  Would be fun to see at different times of the day.

Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, NY Stair Step Water Falls at entrance to trailMiddle Fall, Minihaha, falls into Heart Shaped Pool

Walking behind the falls


Spiral Falls

Aug. 21, 2013

Lockport, NY

Lockport is located only about a half hours drive east of Niagara Falls.  It is situated on the Erie Canal and is the location of the last (first depending on direction) set of locks on the Erie Canal.  There are two locks now (34& 35) where there used to  be five to raise or lower canal travelers 100  feet  on their journey.

  Historically this spot could take two or three days to traverse because of the backlog of traffic. People spending time here spent money.  As a center of commerce this area became quite wealthy.  The local Presbyterian Church benefited from local benefactors.  The result was a fine church decorated with stained glass windows done by Tiffany.  These are not your usual cut glass windows.  The glass is stained and textured amazingly.  Texture, depth of field, shading, facial and postural features are all incorporated in the glass.  Definitely NOT you typical lamp shade glass.


This only one of twenty plus windows.

We found another religious song origin here.“This is My Father’s World” was written by a pastor of this church.  Cool. Smile


Fifteen Miles On the Erie Canal

We took a two hour boat tour on the canal.  Up through locks 34 & 35(last or first depending on direction), under the widest bridge in North America, under a bridge that raises horizontally (as opposed to tilting), back down through the locks, more canal, etc.  Traversing the canal is actually pretty cheap.  Traveling the length of the canal (over 350 miles) through all the locks would cost about $100.  If no motor, no charge at all.

Five Flights

Original five locks used to make this elevation change.  No longer in use.  Replaced by two much larger locks located just to the left of picture.

Into the Lock

Sitting in lock #35 – last lock on the Erie Canal. Concrete wall in front is level of Lake Erie.  Water will raise to allow boats to clear this level. Twelve feet  plus depth clearance.  Entire process through both locks takes less than twenty minutes.

Locks down

Headed down stream canal.  Level lowered and gates opening.

Bridge on Elevator, rises for us to go under

Bridge raises horizontally.  Note towers on each end so pedestrians can cross when bridge raised.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013

Playing in Water at Niagara Falls

The last few days we have been working our way west in northern Pennsylvania and then north to Niagara Falls.  Today we did three major tourist events. 

A note on tourists.  There are more here than we have seen in total in our trip so far.  There are tourists everywhere and we can see that there are many more at other times by the facilities layout.  The majority of the tourists here are either East Indian or Oriental, primarily Chinese.  You have 'heard the phrase ‘Ugly American’ – I have a counter – ‘Ugly Oriental’ – specifically ‘Ugly Chinaman’.  They are rude, they are loud, they are pushy, they act like they own the territory around them and will push their way through a crowd or walk a path like they are the only ones on it.  They do not acknowledge the existence of others.  If someone is taking a picture they jump in the way so they can get a picture of friend or family instead of waiting 5 seconds for others to clear.  They jump into the front of lines.  This was a unanimous observation of all Chinese we saw.  All other tourists we saw were friendly, courteous, and polite. 

Off the soapbox and on to the day.

We left early for the falls park so we could maybe get close parking and get early ride on our first attraction.  Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest State Park in the country by the way.  Got a close and free parking spot (Lots cost $10) and were near front of line for ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat trip.


You have all seen pictures of this.  Boat takes you to the base of the falls so you can experience the might of all that water close up. 


Everyone gets a poncho which is actually pretty sturdy.

As the boat leaves the dock and heads to the falls there is a canned narration that gives history and particulars about the falls. 


Another Maid of the Mist Smile

Just as the boat reaches the falls the narration concludes with “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Niagara Falls”.


We were closer than this but had to put camera away because of ‘mist’.

  We then spent about ten minutes less than 50 yards from the base of Horseshoe Falls with the boat held stationary pointing at the falls.  Heavy ‘mist’.  Smile  Tons of water per second landing right in front of you. The only sound the roar of the falls.  Awesome. 

The elevator that takes you to the boat landing descends from an observation deck built out from the bluff to give views of the falls.  Pretty impressive structure.



Falls from tower


Bridge to Canada (on left)



Another view of boat


At one point I saw a full 180 degree rainbow but light and mist changed before I could get picture.

The park has lots of green space, many walking paths, and an auto bridge and foot bridge to get to Goat Island.  Large island that separates American Falls from Horseshoe Falls.  Also location of our next water adventure.  The Cave of the Winds used to be an eroded area behind the falls where one could actually walk behind the falls.  Continued erosion and collapse have made that no longer possible but there are wooden catwalks that get you to the base of one side of American Falls.  One platform gets you within 15 feet of the base.  Lots of water spray.  Ponchos and water shoes provided here but extremities still get pretty damp.  Fun to do though.


View from a lower deck.  No picture from upper deck.  Too much spray for camera.

After Cave of the Winds we drove through the park and strolled another walkway to some small islands on the other side of Goat Island.


Niagara Falls from behind.


Rapids a hundred yards above the falls.

Back to the carbus for lunch and then on to our third water adventure.  Best for last.

I have wanted to do this for years.  One of the first things I put on my map of do not miss if we went east.  The Whirlpool Jet boats run up the river below the falls through some class 5 rapids and alongside the Whirlpool which is a class 6 rapid.  Large boat specially designed for this spot. Three big engine/jet power trains pushing it.  Boat holds about 50 people.  Did I mention that the boat is open.  Yep, shooting Class 5 rapids (big, wide, Class 5 rapids) in an open boat.  When you sign in for the trip they point out some complementary lockers and tell you not to take anything with you that you would not jump in to a swimming pool with.  They also tell you ahead of time to bring a change of clothes which are stowed in another set of lockers at the landing.  Water shoes are provided if needed.  Ponchos are available.  Heavy duty rubberized.  Of course everyone wears a substantial life jacket.  The day was warm so we passed on the ponchos.  They call the first three rows on the boat the ‘Power Rows’.  We got seats in row two.  Don’t know why ’Power’ but wet is the name of the game.  All seats will get wet but when diving into a rapid water hits the front of the boat first and most.  A woman who had been on the boat before said she got wetter than she ever did in a shower.  Hard to see how that could happen but we found out.  We started out with a couple of 360 degree turns.  Brought back memories.  Felt exactly like those I did in our boat.  We were toward the front so did not get the full whip but fun to do.  Then up river.  Through some gentle rapids and past huge power plants on both sides of the river.  A pause for some instruction and then into the narrow canyon and the monster rapids.   Zigzaging  through the troughs going up stream, turning and diving into the troughs going down stream.  We spent half an hour doing that (probably eight trips) and then a trip further up stream to view the Whirlpool.  Combination of lots of water moving very fast (35 mph)through a narrow canyon and making a turn of more than 90 degrees makes some nasty looking rapids and a a large whirlpool that they have no idea how deep it is.  Something getting into it could stay under water for a long time.  Pretty awesome to view at eye level.  One final trip down through the rapids where the boat pilot made every effort to hit the deepest troughs and then a fast jet boat ride to the dock.  How to describe wetter than a shower – hard to do.  Think of the water in five or six 50 gallon drums.  Now think of all that water being thrown in your face all at once.  Not poured on you.  All of it thrown directly at you all at once.  The person next to you is getting the same amount of water at the same time.  Even the people in the back, wearing ponchos, were wet when they got off the boat.  Great adventure.  We bought the video because it is impossible to describe and their video shows pretty well what goes on.


Our boat loading the tour before us.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 3.06 Hi from Niagara Falls.  Smile

Aug. 15, 2013

Valley Forge

If one lived nearby or had several days to visit this would be a fun place to visit.  Large park with many open spaces and walking/biking trails.  Also road tour of the park.  Not much ‘get you involved’ stuff to see.  Washington and Continental Army spent winter here.  It was cold and wet.  They were hungry and under clothed.  Late winter and early spring things got better with food and clothing and they received much needed military training.  In June they defeated the British in several important battles and went on to eventual final victory.

With more time it might have been nice to do some biking but we needed to move on to find lodging.

Aug. 12, 2013

Harpers Ferry,  Antietam

Layover day with touring.  We are now in an area where things are closer together.  Tens of miles instead of hundreds.  From Gettysburg it is only thirty to fifty miles to many points of historical, cultural, and natural interest.  Today we went southwest to visit the historical town of Harpers Ferry and the Antietam battle site.

Harpers Ferry is a small town at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.  It has much history not only related to the Civil War but before and after as a center for some industries, westward expansion, tourism, recreation, etc.  We learned some more Civil War history, admired the views, and strolled the town. 

More Civil War history at Antietam.  Battle here only lasted 12 hours and basically ended in a draw.  But,  more soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in that 12 hours by far than in any other similar time frame in the entire war.  It was also the first time that pictures were taken of dead soldiers in the field and shown to the general public.  The scope of the fatalities and the graphicness of the pictures opened peoples eyes to the realities of war.  Until then people not connected with fighting had a very naive impression of what war was all about. 

Our little trip today took us into four different states. Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.