Sunday, May 27, 2018

New York - Day 27


Cumberland Bay State Park
Sunday, 27 May 2018

I woke up really early this morning, so the dogs and I were able to have a nice long walk around the whole park before people started getting up and walking their dogs.  In fact, we were so early, we got in another walk several hours later while most people were still in bed.   And we luckily had some sun earlier so I could leave the dogs tied up outside the RV for a couple of hours where they could play with each other and look at everybody going by.  Since then, the wind’s really been picking up and now there’s a little rain starting. 

It turns out that doesn't faze some enthusiasts here.  Several camping groups have packed up and left, probably because this weather wasn't what they'd hoped for.  But there's a batch of people - mostly young men - kite surfing and having a ball.  If you blow this photo up, you can see how many people are actually in the water.  I counted 18 at one point.  They're wearing wet suits, of course - that water's pretty cold and you can see from the surf there's a wind chill.
kite surfing in Cumberland Bay
I bought some chicken and am cooking it in my slow cooker; that’s the advantage of staying in one spot, that I can use my sockets which only work if I’m plugged into a power source or if I’m running the generator, which I don’t want to do for hours and hours.

I’ve done some reorganizing of my storage system – now that I’ve been living here for several months I have a clearly idea of what I need.  Even though I brought only a fraction of what I wanted to bring, I still brought a lot more than I need.  I don’t want to give the extra things away because I’ll want them in a less nomadic future life, so I’ll just keep adding more to my belowdeck storage, I guess.  Too bad I’m half-way across country from my storage unit in Plano.  Give me a few more months and I’ll have most of this figured out, at least what works for me.

I’d forgotten last week to report on finances.  This is for the period of April 15-May 14:
   gasoline           $ 732.43
   tolls                       57.60
   campsites        1,053.20
   propane                46.65
   admission fees     13.00
   supplies                58.20
   consumables      480.28

   total                $2,441.36

Camping fees have gone up over last month both because New York charges more for its state parks than Pennsylvania does, and because I’ve slept in campgrounds every night here, which I didn’t do in PA.

New York - Day 26 - Lake Champlain/Plattsburgh


Cumberland Bay State Park
Saturday, 26 May 2018

Since I had to check out of my non-electric site this morning but couldn’t get my electric site until this afternoon, I decided to go see if I could get a clear view of Lake Champlain.  The bay this campground is on faces south and I’m not sure how much of what I’m looking at is the actual lake.
today's route
The campground is just a few miles north of Plattsburgh, which is just a few miles north of a village called Valcour, which the map says has a clear view of Lake Champlain.  The route on the map is pretty clear but I looked it up on Google just to be sure.  Despite all that, I found once again that the roads aren’t marked in real life the way everybody says they’re supposed to be marked, and I had to drive around in Plattsburgh for a while before I could find the right road.  Plattsburgh is small enough that you wouldn’t think you even could drive around a while, but I managed it.  Twice, counting later on.

But first, I drove into town under a huge banner reading, “Georgia Pacific Welcomes You To Plattsburgh.”  So I guess I know what the main industry is.

I drove south of town and did indeed find some unobstructed views of a body of water that was clearly Lake Champlain, and I had an equally clear view of Vermont on the other side.  Very pretty view.
Lake Champlain
Along the way I passed something called the Stoneledge Sculpture Garden, which I’m guessing is the work of a single person, probably the man who was cutting the grass when I went by.  I stopped briefly in someone’s driveway (this road not having a shoulder either) to gawk.  The sculptures were mostly of metal in a wide variety of shapes.  He’d even done the Last Supper.  It was remarkable and I wish I’d been able to figure out where I could park so I could get some pictures.  If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood, take a drive south of Plattsburgh on St. Rt. 9, or you can look it up online - it's got a website.

Back in Plattsburgh, I tried to find the CVS the internet assured me was there.  Once again, nothing looked like Google had told me it would.  I mean, who can you trust anymore?  I got lost and then poked around a little and got found again.  Thank goodness I’ve just got this little RV so it doesn’t matter so much if I have to pull into a Tractor Supply parking lot to let Jasper out to use the box and the dogs to get a walk and me try to get directions.  The local 4-H was having a car wash there, but they reluctantly refused to wash my RV.  Not quite that small, apparently.

I finally found the CVS (too bad, it only had some of what I wanted) and I found a grocery store and a wine store across the street, so we got provisioned up to be able to stay a couple of days at the campground without having to go out again.  I thought everybody could use the break.

Our new campsite is within view of the bay, and it’s also within view of dozens of other occupied campsites, almost every one with a dog.  That wouldn’t matter so much except neither one of my dogs is willing to pass another dog without reacting somehow.  Plus Gracie’s gotten so hypersensitive that she can’t stand even so much as the sound of a child’s voice pitched at a perfectly reasonable level, let alone screaming as they do when they’re having fun.  If it were up to her, we’d never get back to our RV once we’d left it because we’d never be able to go past the campsites with little kids, bouncing balls or other dogs – i.e. all of them.  Truly pathetic.

New York - Day 25


Cumberland Bay State Park
Friday, 25 May 2018

The last 2 mornings I walked with the dogs down to the boat launch at the Hudson River they have in that state park.  Yesterday morning I saw a pair of Canada Geese; today I saw the same pair but this time with at least 4 goslings.  It was great to see the nice little family.

Near there, the park has a sign that says the Hudson has been known for centuries as a river that’s not in much of a hurry to get anywhere.  This end is a tidal estuary ending in a dam upriver at Troy, which is 150 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.  If you drop a stick into the river at the dam, it’ll take 126 days to drift the down the river to the sea, which is pretty slow-moving, all right.

TV stations in this part of the state include weather for Vermont and Massachusetts, as we’re closer to those states than to the Finger Lakes region.  All day I was picking up a Vermont public radio station.

today's route
I left the main highway at Lake George to travel part-way around the lake.  I’d heard it’s a lovely area and a pretty drive, and both are true.  But for a vehicle like mine it’s a little claustrophobic because the road winds around in sharp bends and narrow lanes and no shoulders and lots of trees - it’s in the Adirondack Park – and dozens of camps and cabins for rent.

I was briefly accompanied by a Pileated Woodpecker.  He was probably trying to fly across the road just as I drove by and swerved to avoid me and kept on flying in my direction until
Pileated woodpecker
he veered back the way he’d come from.  That’s why I got a good enough look at him to figure out what he was.  It was great because we don’t seem to get anything that big with so much red on its head where I’ve been living.

I finally decided to go back to the main highway, which had its own share of beauty because almost the whole rest of the way up here I was in park boundaries.  The highway goes through what I think are probably the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

I saw kayaks strapped to cars all the way up.  If they’re all going to the same place, it’s going to be a traffic jam on the water.

As I got farther north, I started to see highway signs in French as well as English. Sortie, for instance, at an exit, or hébergement to indicate lodging ahead.  I deduced that I was getting closer to the Canadian border, borne out when I saw a highway sign saying it was 64 miles to Montreal.

This campground is on a bay of Lake Champlain.  I had intended to stay the night in an Albany parking lot (hard to find a reservation on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend) but when I called this park, where I have reservations for Saturday and Sunday, they said I could have a non-electric site on a first-come-first-served basis.  I decided I might be safer there than in a miscellaneous place in a city on a national holiday weekend so came on up.

I had a lot of very strong and gusty wind on the highway, and that continued in the campground.  But much easier to take if I’m not having to steer.  Several license plates here are from Québec and a family with 4 young kids across from me are speaking French.

New York - Day 24 - Albany/Schenectady


Schodack Island State Park
Thursday, 24 May 2018

Eastern Towhee
On our early morning walk, we walked almost right up to an Eastern Towhee, previously known as a Rufous-sided Towhee – beautiful birds with lots of black and rusty-colored sides.

Yesterday, I managed to get an appointment for Dexter’s annual check-up at a Banfield in Schenectady, which I learned is only a few miles down the road from Albany.  The only time I could get was 3:45, so I decided to spend the day checking out the two towns to get a feel for them.



This tree, and others like it, were in the park I found.

New York State Capitol
As usual, I got lost in Albany and found a lovely park where I could park, get a wi-fi signal to get found again, and walk the dogs.  Getting there, I’d driven by an incredibly ornate building, which turned out to be the state capitol.  After I’d gotten found, I drove back (getting lost again) to try to get a photo it but, once I got there, I couldn’t find anything like a parking place, other than the state parking garage, and I didn’t want to pay to park when all I wanted was a quick photo.   So I’m cribbing this photo.  To me, it looks more light-hearted than most state capitols.  According to the New York Times, which I can get fairly easily around here, it’s not light-hearted at all but instead a place of corruption and other bad things.  Oh well.  I like the building.

I liked Albany, too.  I kept getting lost there but got found more and more easily.  It’s an old city, established before the Revolution, and there are still some old buildings, especially in the city center.
State Route 5, also known as Central Ave. in Albany and State St. in Schenectady, is a pleasant drive of about 20 miles or so, with several other small towns built along it between the 2 cities.  I smelled a skunk along there, which may give you an idea of how rural parts of it are.

We passed a fire station along the road and I finally figured out why it had sounded so odd at that firefighters museum when they kept talking about fire companies.  Around here they have fire companies, but back home I grew up with fire departments.  Semantics, but I’m glad to know why it had sounded off-kilter.

If I tell you that in 1892 Schenectady was the home of General Electric and a major manufacturing hub, and then fell on hard times as jobs were moved elsewhere, but is now trying to reestablish itself in other areas such as renewable energy, you’ll know what the town looks like.  It has some oddities: 25% of the population lives below poverty level; scenes from “The Way We Were” were filmed at Union College in the city center; it has a growing population from Guyana; it has some lovely old buildings and several neighborhoods on the National Historic Register.  If the town leaders can figure out how to pull in new industries and retrain the work force, Schenectady will be able to come back to life.  Right now, it looks like it’s on the brink and could go either way.

Back at the vet’s office, I’d gone in before 11:00 asking if they’d maybe had a cancellation and could fit us in earlier (no), but when I went back about 2:00, she said they could get me in instantly.  So Dexter got his shots and his annual check-up, and both dogs were pronounced free of ticks, and I agreed to some pills to give them once a month to deal with the ticks.  Expensive, but so is Lyme disease.

I’d asked for the earlier doctor visit to avoid being stuck in Albany’s rush hour traffic going back to the campground, but I got stuck anyway because I got lost again.  Well, not exactly lost but they don’t label their roads the way the look on the maps or on Google so I had to drive around for a while before I found a sign I recognized.  And after I got across the bridge onto the other side of the Hudson River, I made a wrong turn and got lost again in Rensselaer.  That time I got rescued by a man whose directions were absolutely perfect, unlike some I’ve gotten.  And from there the campground wasn’t far.
today's route

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

New York - Day 23 - Van Buren


Schodack Island State Park
Wednesday, 23 May 2018
today's route (you can see my camera's working again)
The main thing I did today was visit the home of Martin Van Buren, our 8th president.  It’s a home he called Lindenwald, about 2 miles south of Kinderhook, where he was born and is buried.  I went partly because it was half-way between last night’s campground and tonight’s, and partly because I didn’t know a single thing about him, which seemed wrong, given my history major a zillion years ago.  Now I know more than a single thing, and so will you if you read any of this.
Born in 1782, he was the 1st US president to be born an American citizen: the previous 7 were born on this continent but were born British subjects.  He spoke Dutch as a young man, given the strong Dutch influence in this part of the country.

He never went to college but became a lawyer the same way Lincoln did – by studying the law under another lawyer.  He was both Secretary of State and Vice President under Pres. Andrew Jackson, who Van Buren practically revered.  He was elected president in 1836 and was a 1-term president.  The main reason was that during his term, the US experienced the worst economic depression it had ever faced.  Of course the president was blamed for it, as almost always happens whether it’s their fault or not.  Another reason was that he opposed annexing Texas because he agreed with most people who thought it would likely split into several states, all of them slave states, upsetting the balance in Congress.  Southerners didn’t like his opposition to expanding the range of slavery.  So he lost in 1840, and again in 1844, and again in 1848 (because in 1844 he lost the Democratic nomination only on the 9th ballot, so he thought he’d have a good shot at it again).

While he was president, he followed Jeffersonian principles: strong states’ rights, strict constitutional construction, and civil liberties.  He had on his wall portraits of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

Lindenwald
His home was on the Old Post Road between Manhattan and Albany, well situated to get lots of visitors passing back and forth.  He loved politics and apparently was a good strategist – just not a good candidate.

A few of the original furnishings have been donated to the National Historic Site, but the most remarkable thing, to me, was the original wallpaper in the dining room.  It came in 1840 from a company in France and depicts a hunting scene that runs all the way around the very large room.  When the National Park Service got its hands on the house in the 1970s, the wallpaper was in strips and shreds draped from the walls.  Unbelievably, the original wallpaper company was still in business and helped repair the wallpaper so that most of the original could be saved.  I think the tour guide said it had taken several years to do it, but I’m amazed it could be done at all - it's getting on towards 200 years old.

Van Buren added all the modern conveniences to the house he bought, including running water in some places, a flush toilet, and a huge zinc bath tub.  He lived in the house from 1841 after he left the presidency until he died in 1862.

Aside from Van Buren, I can report that wild jasmine is growing in this park and it’s blooming like crazy and smells wonderful.

New York - Day 22 - Hudson


Saugerties/Woodstock KOA
Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Being unable to visit Eleanor Roosevelt’s home as I’d planned today, I decided to take a look at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting in Hudson.  (FASNY stands for Firefighters Association of the State of New York.  I had to ask.)
FASNY Museum of Firefighting

I spent an hour and a half in there and left only because I was overloaded with information and underloaded with nourishment (it was lunchtime).  I learned a lot that I want to remember so, mindful that people reading this won’t care as much as I did, I’ll put that stuff at the end.
FASNY Fireman's Home

The museum stands in the same grounds as the home for firefighters.  As far as I could tell, it’s a senior living place for people with the one thing in common of having fought fires.  And it looks like it’s pretty well funded because it’s got a lot of land, a baseball field, a cemetery, quite a few memorials, 2 horseshoe pits, a large building that looks like a fire station but had tables set up to feed a lot of people inside – anyway, lots of things, all in excellent condition.

I spent some time after my visit doing errands – gas fill-up, wine shop, grocery store – both in Hudson, which is on the east side of the Hudson River, and in the town of Catskill, on the west side.  Between the two is the Rip Van Winkle Bridge (of course it’s true, I’m not capable of making this stuff up) across the Hudson, which finally gave me a good view of the river.  It really is pretty.  Woods all along both sides, and they continue along all of the river I’ve been driving along these last few days.  This whole area is heavily wooded, with many hills – right next to the Catskill Mountains after all and not far south of the Adirondacks.  I can see where the Hudson River Valley school of painting got its inspiration.

Now that it’s spring here, complete with April showers (never mind that it’s late May), the wisteria and honeysuckle are blooming and it’s really pretty.  Everything’s finally green.

Ticks are common now.  I find one on me at least once a week and ditto on Gracie.  They just don’t seem to like Dexter, though, which is a good thing but I wish I knew what makes him special.

I’ve been trying all month to get photos of the license plates and finally managed today.  The bright yellow ones seem to be the current plates, and the white with blue trim seem to be the previous ones that everybody’s still using.  I'm sorry I couldn't get a closer shot (that's what my camera doesn't want to do anymore) and am hoping you can blow these up if you want a better look.
 While I was taking pics of plates, I shot this photo of a handicapped parking spot.  I’ve noticed they use this symbol frequently here in New York.  Better to show that physical disabilities don't make a person helpless, as other symbols do.


Museum of Firefighting
Here’s some of what I learned:
  • In 22 BC, Emperor Augustus created what became the largest well-trained and well-equipped fire brigade in the world, and it was the last one for 1000 years.
  • In the Dark Ages, there was no organized firefighting because there was no centralized government or authority.
  • In the Middle Ages, William the Conqueror ordered that bells be rung to warn people of a fire. It stuck; later, bells were used on fire trucks and are still important symbols to firefighting.
  • In medieval France, there was a law called courvre-feu that required all fires in town to be either out or covered by a specific nighttime hour, so people could sleep with less fear of fires.  From this comes our word “curfew.”
  • In 1648, Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Netherlands, appointed fire wardens who inspected people’s chimneys and fined the people if they harbored a fire hazard.  It was also the law that a homeowner was fined if a fire occurred in his home.  The fines were used to buy firefighting equipment which, back then, was basically buckets and ladders.  These measures actually went a long way toward reducing the number of fires.
  • Most homes in the colonies in the 1600s had thatch roofs, but Stuyvesant outlawed both them, in 1647,  and chimneys made of wood, in 1648.  I can see where wooden chimneys and thatch roofs might present fire hazards.
  • In 1731, New York City assessed a property tax to pay for pumpers and the city’s residents eagerly awaited their delivery.  Possibly the last time a property tax pleased people.
  • In 1736 in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin helped organize one of the first volunteer fire companies in the colonies.  When he wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he was referring to the obviously hazardous, though common, practice of carrying hot coals in open warming pans from one room to another.
  • Among our earliest volunteer firemen, count Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
  • In the 1800s, all water pipes were made of wood.  Firefighters would drill into a pipe to get water to fight a fire and then plug up the hole.  That’s where our term “fire plug,” meaning a fire hydrant, comes from.
  • The sliding poles in fire stations to take the men from upper floors to the engines were introduced in the 1870s; the early ones were wood, and later they were made of metal.
  • Pulling the equipment trucks was considered “a man’s job” by firefighters who refused the suggestion of using horses – up until the cholera epidemic in New York City in the 1830s when they had no choice because there weren’t enough healthy men to haul those heavy trucks.  That’s when they learned that the horses actually worked pretty well.  Someone developed a quick hitch harness that allowed a the horses to be attached and ready to go in 14-18 seconds.  Horses were used until the early 1920s.
  • There were no water tanker trucks before the 1930s.  People mostly used a bucket brigade or pumped from any easily available water source – a well or a pond, for instance.  Otherwise, they mostly just had to watch the fire burn.
  • Water works well on fires because when water is heated by the fire it becomes a vapor; the vapor takes oxygen from the fire; fire can’t burn without oxygen.  How about that?
  • In 1968 Bell Telephone first introduced 911 for emergency calls, but that applied only to the phones on the Bell system.  By 1999, when Pres. Bill Clinton signed a bill designating 911 be used for all phones in the US, at least 20 different emergency numbers were in use by all the different independent phone systems.
  • 69% of all US firefighters are volunteers – 756,000 of them.
  • The Edmonds Company in Hudson is the oldest active chartered volunteer company in New York State, founded in 1794.
  • Forest fires were numerous in the 1920s and 1930s because they were deliberately set: blueberry pickers set them, knowing the potash remaining would provide a bumper crop of berries the next year.
While I was at the museum, there were 2 busloads of young elementary school kids touring.  The museum has lots of interactive exhibits, which I enjoyed too.  One of them allows the kids to be part of a bucket brigade to put out a fire and they had a great time doing it.  Not a real fire, of course, but it was a pretty good substitute.  

The museum has dozens of firetrucks from different eras and types.  It also has a semi-resident Dalmatian, Molly, who I met.  She's a descendant from one of the original mascots of the local fire company.  The museum had an exhibit on how Dalmatians became identified as fire company dogs. 

Good museum.  The $10 admission fee was worth the visit. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

New York - Day 21

Saugerties/Woodstock KOA
Monday, 21 May 2018

Well, I miscalculated. 

The one thing I really want to do before I leave New York is visit Eleanor Roosevelt's house Val-Kill, now a National Historic Site.  It's about 30 miles from here, which means it's about an hour's drive because there are a limited number of bridges across the Hudson River and the main roads go through lots and lots of towns, as I did yesterday.  They let visitors into the house only on a tour, and the tours are only twice a day, at 1 PM and 3 PM.  I decided I'd wait and go tomorrow, and spend today resting and catching up (I keep falling behind for some reason).

That seemed to work out pretty well, because it's a beautiful sunny day and I could open the windows and tether the dogs outside for hours, and put their beds on the picnic table to air out, and take the dog bed covers and the towels I've been using on them up to the washing machines to bring a little freshness into this place.

Then this afternoon, when I was trying to figure out where I was going to be staying for the rest of the month and what I'd be able to see (and what I'd have to miss), I discovered those tours of Val-Kill don't happen on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.  Tomorrow is a Tuesday.  So I won't be taking a tour tomorrow, or even the next day.

Because I'm not leaving the state without this visit, that meant I had to rethink my whole travel plans.  And I can only be just so flexible because of the Memorial Day clog in almost every single campground.

Anyway, I've spent several hours at it and finally think I've got it worked out.  This was complicated by the fact that very few of the state parks in the Adirondacks have electricity to the campsites.  If I'm not going to have electricity, I might as well be staying in a hotel parking lot. 

And then I discovered my camera isn't working right.  I can't take photos of the map any more, for some reason.  I'll be in the Albany vicinity later this week and maybe I'll try to find a camera store.  But that'll have to come lower in priority to getting the dogs to a vet.  Maybe I'll have more time to deal with cameras and things next month: Vermont is a smaller state than New York so I might have a little extra time to get things done.

New York - Day 20 - When we finally got to Woodstock ...


Saugerties/Woodstock KOA
Sunday, 20 May 2018

I was very disappointed to not be able to connect with my friends while they were in the area, but I suppose it happens.

Instead I drove around this general area, getting a feel for the Hudson River Valley.  One thing I couldn’t help noticing was that the closer I got to New York City, the cheaper the gas prices got.  Back in the Syracuse vicinity, regular was usually a little over $3/gallon, give or take a few cents.  That gradually went down as I drove along the road east and south, and around here it’s usually $2.85 or so.  It wouldn’t have seemed like much when I was filling up Momma’s Honda, that didn’t take more than about 14 gallons, but when the RV’s down to about a third of a tank left, I can put in 35 or 40 gallons, and that 15¢ or more difference can add up.

I liked driving through Saugerties, which you have to do to stay on Rt 9W (the road that parallels the Hudson River on the west side); it seems a nice little town, lots of older buildings and homes.

Kingston is more spread out and crisscrossed by highways.

One of the things I enjoyed most about driving around Saugerties and Kingston and Woodstock and the even smaller towns in between were the names of businesses.
   Inquiring Minds Bookstore
   Lox of Bagels
   Bread Alone (a bakery)
   Cheese Louise!
   Metes and Bounds (a real estate company)
   Transcend Dental (near Woodstock)

In Woodstock I met a man wearing a t-shirt that said: National Sarcasm Society.  And lower down in smaller letters it said: Like we need your support.  He said he got it online.

Woodstock is a village that seems to be supported almost entirely by tourists.  Lots of clothing shops, several places that offered Tarot card readings, gift shops, like that.  But it has an actual life as a town because I watched the local Boy Scout troop put out flags to mark the graves of veterans in the local cemetery.  And I was there on a Sunday, so it may be more down-to-earth on weekdays.

I hadn’t realized till I looked more closely at the map that it’s actually in Catskill Park, at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.  That would help to explain all the ferns and hostas I see growing everywhere.  Including here at the KOA park, which is 7 miles down the road from Woodstock.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

New York - Day 19 - NW to SE


Saugerties/Woodstock KOA
Saturday, 19 May 2018
today's route
I drove 200 miles today, almost all of it in driving rain and wind.  It was quite a drive.  I saw a herd of cows huddled behind a barn, trying to get some protection from the rain.  A big delivery truck almost blew into me as he was passing me and getting shoved around by the wind.  But we made it safe and sound.

I planned to stop in Rome to get groceries and noticed accidentally that there’s a National Historic Site there so stopped to see what happened.  It’s Fort Stanwix, which I’d never heard of.  It sits at a bend in Wood Creek, which flows into Lake Oneida and, from there, into Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes.  Six miles away is a bend in the Mohawk River, which flows into the Hudson River, which flows north to Lake Champlain and, eventually, the St. Lawrence and also flows south, winding up in the Atlantic Ocean.  It was those 6 miles of land that had everybody excited.  They’d been used for thousands of years as a connecting link and, at the time of European settlement of North America, were called the Oneida Carrying Place.  At the beginning of the French and Indian War, the British built a fort there to protect their right to use that area from French interference.  The fort was named after the general who had it built.

Gen. George Washington rebuilt it in 1776, on orders from the Continental Congress, to protect the US’s northwest border.  (Picture a nation with a northwest border where Rome, NY, is today.  Not quite what we’re used to.)  The British had the fort under seige for a few weeks during 1777 but reinforcements finally made it through and the British retreated.  That retreat contributed to the later surrender of Maj. Gen. Burgoyne when he needed the additional manpower that hadn’t been able to get past the fort.  Odd how the domino theory works.

From Rome I drove straight through to the campground, wanting to get that yucky drive over with, and not wanting to stop to walk the dogs in the rain any more than I had to.  The road from Rome to Albany runs along the Mohawk River the whole way.  It’s probably very picturesque if it weren’t raining too hard to see anything.  I passed up some things I wanted to see so will go back for part of the way later on.  One is the town of Herkimer.  Does anybody else remember the song/skit on Captain Kangaroo about Herkimer the Homely Doll?

I started noticing lots of Dutch influence in the place names as I moved into this part of the state.  Rensselaer, for instance, and Kaaterskill Creek.

In case you didn’t listen to Weekend Edition this morning, Scott Simon interviewed Al Roker about his new book on the Johnston Flood, which is still the worst flood in our nation’s history.  He was talking about a 40’ high wall of water moving downstream that took out a functioning steel mill, and carried with it molten steel as it moved along, and it took out a barbed wire factory and carried its product downstream too, sometimes moving at 50 mph.  That sounds terrifying.

New York - Day 18

Selkirk Shores State Park
Friday, 18 May 2018

Nothing to report except that I got some chores done.  We enjoyed a day without packing up and moving somewhere, which meant I had to forego doing laundry but nothing else I really cared about.

Tomorrow I'll be crossing the state in hopes of being able to see some friends who will be in the area over there, and then just stay in the Hudson River Valley a few days and sight-see.  So today is a day off.

Friday, May 18, 2018

New York - Day 17 - Syracuse

Selkirk Shores State Park
Thursday, 17 May 2018

today's route
I spent much of the day driving through farm country, going from near the southern border to northern New York. As I was going by one farm, I glanced to my left and saw a man sitting in a chair in the middle of a fenced garden. And then I realized it wasn’t a man but a creative scarecrow. My first seated scarecrow, but I’ll bet it worked.

I passed another home in a wooded area with lots of houseplants and wood carvings in front. One large one had its back to me but I’m sure it was Dumbledore. You know, you can tell him from behind, which is a trick since he’s not real. But some of the realest stuff is the stuff you want to believe. As our president can attest.

I’d read in several different places that a barbecue place in Syracuse has won awards and achieved far-flung fame for its barbecue so, of course, I had to check it out. Called Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, it’s your basic dive, as you can see in the photo. I got a combo – you pick 2 meats and 2 sides, they add cornbread – and chose ribs (they have pork only) and brisket plus coleslaw and broccoli slaw. It was a lot more food than it first looked like and it was pretty good (except the cornbread which was inedible, in my opinion), but I’m guessing it wouldn’t win any awards in Texas and likely wouldn’t even get very high on Texas Monthly’s annual list of best BBQ places. But I guess it’s as close as New York’s likely to get without a plane ticket. 

Niagara Mohawk Power Building
Niagara Mohawk bldg. detail
monument
The best part about it, from my point of view, is that it’s only a couple of blocks from what was the center of town a hundred years ago. One street over is Erie Street, which was formed when they filled in and paved over the Erie Canal, which helped bring Syracuse to prominence back when. There’s a town square there, and it has a Soldiers and Sailors Monument on it that was dedicated to Civil War veterans. One block away is a stunning Art Deco building for Niagara Mohawk Power. I tried hard to take photos of these things but just couldn’t do them justice so I cribbed them.

Selkirk Shores State Park is on the edge of Lake Ontario and I’m staying here 2 nights. I can intermittently get a wi-fi signal and, when I can, I’m trying to get reservations for Memorial Day weekend (curse you, national holidays!) and, in fact, the rest of my New York stay.

Because I took so many photos of the continuing winter landscape, I think it's only fair that I show a few now that spring has arrived.  I've seen dogwoods and lilacs (real ones, not the Texas version) blooming away, little wild violets everywhere, including right behind the camper now, spring green leaves, ferns coming up - it's spring now.  Just in time for summer, I hope.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

New York - Day 16 - Elmira/Binghamton

Chenango Valley State Park, near Binghamton
Wednesday, 16 May 2018

today's route
My route south from Keuka Lake State Park led along the west side of Seneca Lake; a week or so ago I was camped on the east side at Sampson State Park.  Many vineyards along the lake.  Very pretty country.  I passed on called Pompous Ass Winery.

I was aiming for Elmira to pay my respects at the grave of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.  His wife’s family lived in Elmira and he and his family spent quite a bit of time there.  He wrote some of his most famous books there (Huckleberry Finn, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi) but left for good in despair after the premature deaths of several of his children.  After his death, his body was brought back to be buried with his wife and children.  Woodlawn Cemetery seems as old as the town – it’s very large and beautiful with graves much older than those of the Clements family.  The dogs and I all enjoyed our walk there.



  

By then it was 11:00 and we were all getting hungry but I had a plan in mind.  I drove an hour away into Binghamton and, getting turned around only once, went to The Original Lupo’s Char Pit.  They don’t claim to have invented the spiedie but do claim to have
You can see I'd already started eating.
perfected it.  A spiedie (pronounced speedy) is a regional speciality – you can find it only in the Binghamton area but, there, it’s wildly popular.  It’s marinated pork or chicken (usually), cut in chunks and charbroiled on a skewer, then the cook uses a sandwich bun as if it were a potholder to pull the meat off the skewer.  And that’s it – meat and bun.  Nothing else.  It’s the marinade that provides the flavor, which is piquant and delicious.  I had no trouble wolfing down
a pork version and didn’t even add salt, which is almost unheard of for me.

After that I planned to get some important chores done. It’s time for Dexter’s annual checkup and I’d located a Banfield Vet Clinic at a PetsMart only a few miles from Lupo’s.  But when we went there, the store told us the Banfield’s had closed about a year and a half ago and that the closest one they knew of was in Albany.  I’ll certainly call that to the attention of someone when I find another outlet, and this time I know to call ahead to confirm when I think I’ve located one.  In the meantime, I’m going to be nervous because it really is time for Dexter’s shots (fortunately not his rabies shot - NY state parks wouldn't let us in without it - but everything else).

Then I went to a CVS to pick up 2 prescriptions I’d called ahead about, only to discover one of them didn’t have any refills left and I need to call my doctor to get another one.  Of course, then I have the problem again of planning ahead to locate a CVS I can get to easily to have it sent to for filling.  Meanwhile, I’m out of that medication, which is supposed to help my blood pressure.

Well, I’m not expecting any serious stress ahead, and when I can get a wi-fi signal, I’ll look up my doctor’s phone number.  (I’m absolutely certain that I brought her business card but couldn’t find it or any of the others I know I brought, even after a 20-minute search.  They’ll show up when I don’t need them and I’ll need to figure out a better spot to put them in.)

I’d originally intended to spend more time in Binghamton because it calls itself the Carousel Capital of the World, but earlier in the month I looked them up and learned that, of the 6 remaining antique carousels here, all are closed until Memorial Day.  I can tell you that the flight simulator was invented here, and IBM was founded near here, and in 1858 the New York State Inebriate Asylum was established as the first in the country to treat alcoholism as a disease.  Interesting place, huh?  Binghamton’s at the confluence of the Susquehana and Chenango Rivers, so there are 11 bridges in town.

This state park, a great deal of which was built by the CCC, is located around 2 kettle lakes formed about 11,000 years ago when the glacier sheet retreated.  It’s pretty and wooded and quiet.

New York - Day 15


Keuka State Park
Tuesday, 15 May 2018
today's route
Leaving the Allegany State Park, we passed the Seneca Casino.  And presumably also Hotel because the building must have been 15 stories tall and it just couldn’t all have been casino.

For some time yesterday and today I saw highway signs like these and assume they show the names in the Seneca language as well as English. 

My plans for the day got torpedoed by the critters.  First Gracie decided she was probably going to be carsick.  I’ve learned that we can head that off by letting her out to walk a bit – fresh air, exercise, chance to poop – so I turned off at the next exit we came to.  That road was one of the bumpier ones we’ve been on and got so obnoxious that in desperation I just pulled off the road into a miscellaneous side road and pulled onto the half-shoulder.  Gracie and Dexter and I had a nice little walk and, fortunately, I was the only one of the 3 of us who saw the 2 deer looking intently at us.  But I started getting very nervous because I was remembering a road sign I’d seen just before I pulled off saying to look out for bears for the next 3 miles.  With the long winter, they’re probably starving and I just did not want to deal with that situation.  It was hard to get the dogs back into the RV.

Then back over the extremely bumpy road, onto the highway, and Jasper started yowling.  I was assuming that was his I-need-to-pee yowl and couldn’t find an actual exit so I just pulled onto the shoulder.  There was enough room on the shoulder, but people don’t always pull into the other lane and my mirrors stick out quite a way, and when I looked out the back window and saw a semi bearing down on us and not moving into the other lane, I got very nervous again.  And after all that, Jasper didn’t want to pee.

So we went on again.  And it happened again.  And again no results.  By then my nerves were getting frazzled and I needed to take a break to regroup because so much time had passed that I hadn’t planned on.  The next decent-sized town had a sign saying “Welcome to Hornell, Est. 1888, Home of Bill Pullman.” For those who can’t quite place him, Bill Pullman is the fiance who loses out in “Sleepless in Seattle” and he’s one of my favorite actors.  I had no idea.  It looks like a nice little town.  It calls itself “Maple City” and is probably beautiful in the fall.

I’d intended to drive to see Mark Twain’s grave today and then go to the campground, but given the extra time we were using, I decided to save that for tomorrow and go straight to the campground.  I was pretty tired when we finally got set up anyway so it’s just as well.

Not far from the border with Pennsylvania I saw a sign saying I was entering the Lake Ontario Watershed.  That surprised me.  Lake Erie is much closer to where I was.

The small town of Hammondsport at the south end of Keuka Lake has a lovely town square – very old fashioned with a band stand in the middle.

Isn’t this beautiful?  I came upon it suddenly on the small winding road along the west side of Keuka Lake. 

Keuka is pronounced Cuke-ah – cuke like cucumber.  I guess you have to be from New York for that pronunciation to make sense.

I keep ending up in campgrounds with no wi-fi access, which is why these aren’t getting posted in a reasonable amount of time.  I’ll get them out soon, though.