Jump! Lake Ontario Shore, 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Visiting Carm and Laura

Our trip into Ontario was made for one special reason: to meet Laura and Carm, "good friends we had never met". 

They are "anytime" RVers. They share their Ontario home with three sweet dogs and one Amazon Grey Parrot. 

Laura often shares some of her creative writing on her blog Pursuit of Idle Pleasures, along with tales of their camping trips and other adventures.

Laura and I have followed each other on Blogger for several years.  In fact Laura was the first person to comment on my blog.

I knew in my heart that we would hit it off with these two, but our compatibility was almost over the top!

Carm and Craig shared many thoughts and past experiences in the computer world, including assembly language, PDP-10 systems, and a programmer's evolution as he gains experience and skill.  From similar starting points, Craig's career drilled down into computer hardware and architecture, while Carm soared upward into databases and enterprise (corporate) applications.

Laura and I were instantly comfortable with each other. I think we chuckled about our men a few times when they weren't around.

We parked the Alfa in their driveway, and for three days were total guests.

We arrived on Saturday and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon talking and enjoying the warmth of summer. I was delighted by the fact that Carm was as interested in American politics as I am, and holds many of the same opinions on what is happening.

[From Craig] I was hoping that such a political pairing would not develop, as it had the potential to dominate the visit.  The wide-ranging conversation Saturday night went on delightfully longer than any of us expected.

On Sunday they took us to Upper Canada Village, a heritage park that depicts 19th-century village life in Upper Canada.

Their good friends and neighbors Trudy and Leo met us there.

[From Craig] Trudy and Leo are not connected in any way with the following plaster statues.

We started by going through the exhibits in the welcome center. 

Then we wandered through some of the many restored buildings that have been moved there from locations in the area. 

Costumed docents gave short talks in each and were quite available for interactive questions. I felt very much like I was talking to people from the 19th century. 

While at the village, we watched the "Musical Ride Show" put on by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

The horses are bred and picked for their conformity of size, color and gait. The riders are mostly young men and women, who train together for several years. 

The performance of precision drill patterns that were set to music, and reminded me a bit of some of the police motorcycle demonstrations we have seen in the US.  But horses make it better.

After the show, people were  given the opportunity to meet the horses and riders up close. I of course told this fine fellow he had done a beautiful job.

On Monday, Carm and Laura took us on a driving tour of downtown Ottawa, and then the four of us visited the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Laura's father Olaf is a volunteer docent, and gave us a personal tour. He is a retired doctor and works at the museum a few times a week. 

Here Olaf gave Craig a few pointers about the cockpit controls in a demonstration model.

I have been to several aeronautic museums, but this was better than the others because we had such a knowledgeable guide.

The weather was very hot while we were visiting. Something I did not expect to experience in Canada!  But it was not nearly as hot as it was in the southwestern US at the same time. It did cool down at night, so we were comfortable sleeping in the Alfa without air conditioning.

On Monday evening we were treated to dinner at Trudy and Leo's home. Somehow we didn't get pictures of the Canadian Goose burgers we had. Their property is a farm, and Leo hunts, mostly on their land. The gooseburgers were very good, moist and tasty.

Laura's parents were also there and discussion about the Upper Canada Village led to their stories about Laura's grandparents as early pioneers. Trudy and Leo also shared some of their family stories, and we did too. It was all very interesting and the evening passed quickly.

One of the best benefits of blogging, and reading the posts of other bloggers, is making contacts and new friends.  It is a real treat to be able to meet people like these. 

We now have a very good reason to come back this way again someday, but even if we can't do that, these special people will be in our hearts as good friends who we have met in person!

Yes,  you too Grace!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lake Ontario, Northeastern Shore

The early June weather in northwestern New York State has been cool and rainy. Many of our days have been spent in or around the rig, reading, watching TV, or otherwise relaxing. But we have had some sunny days, of which we took advantage as best we could.

One of our afternoons included a walk along the beach and marina area of the park just up the way from Cedar Point State Park. There are so many parks, I've almost forgotten which this was!

I noticed a large flock of Canadian geese grazing on a narrow lawn area near the boat dock. The picture below, only shows about one-third of them. I was surprised to note that they were almost all goslings, with only a few adult birds supervising. I could tell the young ones were from many different clutches by their variety of size. Some were quite little, and some were almost as big as the adults.

I know that some mammals, lions, wolves and elephants for example, will employ baby-sitters to take care of their young while they are away, but I didn't know geese did that too. This was like an end-of-the-year school trip with only a few chaperoning parents to keep the kids together.

I didn't threaten or rush at them, but as I walked closer the adult birds sent out an alert and the young ones gathered closer together.

OK, everyone get in line.  Wait a minute, that's water, not a bus. 

The few geese that stayed on land were all adults. They may have been visiting this park on their own, and not part of the group. 

And away they went. 

On another afternoon we went for a walk in the woods at Cedar Point State Park.

It was the first (but I'm sure not the last) time we have run into mosquitos this year. We will have to start remembering to apply bug repellant when we walk in the woods in the future.

This reminded me of the woods I played in as a child in Wisconsin.

The path we took led us to an open stretch of beach. Craig noted the air smells different than at an ocean beach. No salt and fewer ions.

On our way back we noticed a lot of this pretty weed:

Three shiny leaves ...

Monday, June 6, 2016

Another campground, more special places!

Our next stop was at Cayuga Lake State Park in New York.

The campground was empty when we arrived, but just about every space was full over the weekend. Even though the weather was "iffy" with regard to rain, it makes me glad I have the habit of making reservations in advance. I bet it is going to be a very busy summer!

From there, we took two enjoyable day trips.

It took us a little more than an hour to drive to the Corning Museum of Glass, in you guessed it, Corning New York:

We have enjoyed seeing wonderful "art glass" in many places. There was no lack of it there:

A few of the beautiful glass art pieces we saw

One of the demonstrations we watched was in the Hot Shop Amphitheater. Every time I see a glass blowing demo, I imagine trying it and burning myself!  I had a hard time learning to use a hot glue gun without injury!

As much as we enjoyed the art, I was really intrigued by the educational exhibits in the Innovation Center. In my 69 years, I guess I have never really thought about how glass windows are made, nor the industrial developments and inventions that have led to what we have today. I'm not going to try to explain the process in this post, but I must say I learned a lot in a very short time. 

If you ever get to Corning, New York, this is one place not to miss.

Our second day trip was up to Rochester, New York to see the home of George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak company.

His story is much like the tory of so many of our successful industrial entrepreneurs and innovators. He was a relatively poor young man, but he had a need for a product that didn't yet exist. The time was right, and other inventors around the world were working on the same idea, but due to luck and being in the right place at the right time, he got financial backing and was able to patent and bring the products, dry photographic plates and then roll film, to market before anyone else did.

His company, Eastman Kodak was a great financial success in part because it continued to bring new and innovative products to market. If you are old enough, as I am, you will remember the Brownie Cameras. They were brought out in 1901 and produced until 1935. Our family had one in the 1950's,  I guess it took them a long time to move on to newer equipment.  Much later, 1963, they brought out the Instamatic Camera.  I loved using mine because I didn't have to futz with focus. All of my daughter's baby pictures were taken with an Instamatic! 

Eastman Kodak company brought photography to the people. We may not be professionals, but picture takers we all have become!

We have toured many beautiful estates from bygone eras on this adventure of ours.

 Some, like the Vanderbilt homes were ostentatious, and built to show off wealth and impress others.  Some like the Roosevelts', were old money, and were tastefully elegant showing how the rich were comfortable in their own skins. 

Eastman had the 50 room house built for himself and his mother. It was elegant in some ways, but also very much his. I'm sure he intended to impress, but that was not the primary purpose of the mansion. Personally, I think it was just the right mixture of money and personal comfort. I could imagine him living there.

We left Cayuga on Sunday and are now at Southwick State Park on the shore of Lake Ontario. We had some rain overnight, but Monday dawned dry and cool, just the way I like it. I'm not sure what we will find to explore in the next few days, but I'm sure there is something just waiting for us.

I'll keep you posted. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A change of place, but still being Tourists!

After the hustle and bustle of our New York City adventure, followed by a very interesting day visiting Hyde Park, we have slowed down and are spending a few weeks in quiet but beautiful New York State Parks. Four days here, five at the next, just long enough to get a taste of the local areas and visit some of the many interesting and special museums. 

We have a destination toward which we are slowly traveling: Ottawa CA to visit one of our blogger friends for a few days.

We spent Memorial Day weekend at Lackawanna Lake State Park in Pennsylvania. On one of our days there we took a peaceful paddle around the lake in a rented canoe.

On another we went on a coal mine tour at the Lackawanna Coal Mine and Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, PA.

A big piece of anthracite coal 

Anthracite coal was all mined by hand in underground mines. It is harder and cleaner than the coal that is mined by surface strip mining, but it is too expensive and too dangerous to return to. These mine jobs are long gone, and will never return.

The average lifetime for an anthracite coal miner was fifty. Many died younger, some made it a few years longer. Accidents and black lung disease were their enemies. Most also suffered from arthritis which the cold wet conditions made worse. The shafts they worked in were only as tall as the veins of coal they were removing. In some cases that was less than three or four feet. A miner would have to work in a crouched or recumbent position for hours.

Boys as young as eight went into the mines to open airlock-type doors, and when they were a few years older, they guided mule drawn coal hoppers.

It was a very hard, dangerous life. If a miner was killed there was no insurance or social support for his family.

After the mine tour, we went through the associated mining museum. It had many items from the everyday life of the miners. Almost all of them were immigrants from Europe. There was a good exhibit about the passage experience. 

While the miners worked long shifts underground, their women worked in the silk mills. Girls went to work at twelve or younger. 

As they grew in skill, they went from material handlers to keeping the spools on the bobbin winding machine.

The women and girls who worked in the lace and silk weaving mills, probably never got to have or wear any of the delicate fabric they produced. As miners' wives and daughters they were too poor for such luxuries. Their meager salaries were needed to help support the family.

We, on the other hand, have been sleeping late, shopping at Wegmans groceries, and watching the NBA playoffs.

RV Life is good.

Out-of-focus fox running through the campground as we prepared to leave

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Roosevelt home and Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park

Travel days are not always easy!

We had a couple of disturbing problems with the Alfa as we were getting ready to leave our space on Long Island. First the large slide didn't want to go all the way in. We put it back out and gave it another try and it was OK. Hopefully it won't be a problem in the future. 

Then one of the leveling jacks didn't want to come up. Craig thought it might have been because of the muddy conditions we had in Virginia.  He get it to work after he crawled under the rig and cleaned it. 

When we arrived at our new location, both the leg and the slide seemed to be OK. We will know in the morning when we pull out from here. 

I got my chance to face highway traffic through Manhattan and the Bronx because after we started out, Craig needed a bathroom break at the first rest stop. I took over driving, feeling confident in myself. I figured the GPS would take us along the same route we came in on. 

Not so.

Since we were coming from the East, and leaving toward the North, the GPS programed route was not the same. We were on "highways," but some of the route was along very congested surface streets.  Yikes! But we survived without any problems and shortly after leaving the city we stopped at another rest stop where I gave the wheel back to Craig.

We stopped at Mills-Norrie State Park, which is about 100 miles from NYC. We came here to see three places: Springwood, the lifelong home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, his Presidential Library and Museum, and a Vanderbilt Mansion. 

The campground has no hook-ups, but we can dry camp for two nights. The cost was $22 per night, plus a reservation fee on Reserve America. It was recommended by someone on the Living the RV Dream Facebook page. See, your comments are useful to others! 

Our first stop,was at the Vanderbilt Mansion. This opulent, fifty+ room mansion is one of about forty built by the family. It was used as a Spring and Fall "cottage", for one of the third generationVanderbilt sons and his wife. They had no children. 

Since it now belongs to the National Park Service, our 90 minute tour was free with our senior pass. $10 for general public. 

Three rooms and the servants staircase
After seeing the mansion we took a walk through some of the gardens.

We were a bit early in the season for the roses, but the number of buds promised a spectacular show in not too long a time.

Then we were on our way down the road to Springbrook. 

I love this statue of FDR and Eleanor. It seemed like you could just sit down on the bench next to them and have a chat.

The Roosevelt family was also quite wealthy, but unlike the Vanderbilt mansion, the Roosevelt home was built and decorated for their own pleasure and not as a showcase of their wealth.

Another nice day. More peeks back into the history of our nation.

I wonder what houses the tourists a hundred years from now will be walking through. 

This is a wonderful quote from FDR:

I wonder what quote will be left by our next president for the future generations to ponder.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Last trip into NYC and more about Long Island Camping

I could have done without our fourth trip to New York City because I really didn't feel well.  We spaced out our tourist days, never going into the city two days in a row, and I had had a good nights sleep, but I just didn't feel good on Monday.

We wanted to go to the Guggenheim Art Museum, but when we got there discovered the main vestibule, which is the long curving down gallery was closed. 

So, we left and walked a few blocks over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art instead. 

There was so much to see:

My favorite was a large gallery of avant-garde fashion designs. Craig teased me with "It's like Thursday night come to life!" I am an avid fan of the TV program "Project Runway", which challenges young designers to create forward-looking fashion. They do an avant-garde challenge and an unconventional materials challenge.

Mid-afternoon, we left the Met and walked across Central Park (the narrow way) towards the Natural History Museum.  Considering how I was feeling, we decided that it was one too many museums, and headed back to Penn Station instead. 

The train ride home was uneventful and we had a pleasant pasta dinner at a little Italian restaurant in Port Jefferson. 

I don't see how anyone could survive commuting like that everyday, but they do. Craig often had a fairly long drive to work, and for many years, my personal commute was down one flight of stairs to my studio. I sure was lucky!

All in all, our sightseeing time in Manhattan was just about what I expected. The city was a little bit cleaner (except for the subway stations) than I thought it would be. I was surprised to see trees along many of the streets. Of course since we were in our tourist bubble, I felt safe at all times and any people we spoke with were nice. I will have good memories of this trip, but no great desire to return. 

Now, just to round out our experiences of the last two weeks, here are a few things about our campground and what we did on "non-city" days.

When looking for a place to call home while seeing New York City, I was quite frustrated trying to find a place that was a reasonable distance from the city, had hook ups, a nice surrounding, and a reasonable rate. There is one RV Park called Liberty Harbor, that is very close to the city, but the reviews were not good, and the $90 per night rate, for only water and electric, was a bit hard to swallow. It would have been OK for an intense two or three day tour of NYC, but we wanted to stay more than a week. 

I looked at state parks in New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. All would require use of the train system, so I settled on Wildwood State Park which was about 15 miles from the train station at Port Jefferson.

I booked our full hook-up site thru Reserve America. The cost came to $37.83 per night, which included a reservation fee and "out of state camper fee." Round trip train fare to Penn Station, was $18.00 each (senior off peak). 

The only down side was that it took almost two hours to get to Manhattan. The first few trips were an adventure, but commuting got "old" rather quickly.

On our non-tourist days we enjoyed a very peaceful, uncrowded setting.

If you look at the map above you will see that Long Island has two Eastern "legs." We drove out to each. 

Montauk Point Light

Montauk Point is to the south.

We decided not to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse, but we did enjoy the view and the small museum.

The Saturday we were there, a couple was getting married on the lawn below. It was very windy, the bride was late, so we didn't stay to see the ceremony. 

It reminded us of when our daughter had a sea-side wedding in San Diego and she arrived at the hotel dock on a sailboat. She was  dressed in her beautiful white gown, with her father giving her away.

We also drove out to the northern Orient Point.

We were able to see where the Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean.

We stopped for a nice walk on a secluded stretch of beach. What a contrast to the busy city streets!

As we walked along the water's edge, I couldn't help but to think of how diverse and beautiful the stones were, more so than on other beaches we've walked. Each an individual. Each shaped by the force of its time on earth, and at the same time maintaining its base color and identity.
So much like our nation. 
Full of diverse beauty.