Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Montreal and Mount Washington

I'm way behind in posting again! Sometimes it feels like doing homework.  But, I don't want to skip over any of the places we have been to, just to "catch up." I want to be able to look back at these posts and remember all that we did.

We had heard that parking in Montreal was hard to find and very expensive, so we took the Metro in. We were given printed driving directions to the Metro station at Camping Alouette, where we stayed. It made life a lot easier.

Note: You need to have Canadian cash for the Metro parking and Metro tickets.

These are a few of the things we saw on our two walking tours of the Old Montreal area:

One of the oldest buildings in the city
The altar at the Notre Dame Basilica

City Hall

We headed back to the States on Friday. We would have liked to stay in Montreal a bit longer, but the campground was full because it was a Canada/Quebec holiday.
Our next reservation was in New Hampshire near Mount Washington. We ended up taking a route that was about 70 miles longer, so that we could stop in at a Trader Joe's in Burlington, Vermont. Some detours are good! 

Forty-seven years ago we visited Mount Washington while Craig was working for a few months in Boston.  We were in our early twenties and quite prone to doing crazy things. That weekend we decided we wanted to hike to the top of the highest mountain in the East! 

We had not prepared in any way, and had no particular athletic conditioning. We took no water, hiking poles, or jackets, and did not have good shoes!

As I recall, the trail up wasn't bad below the tree line. It seemed to go around the mountain in a spiral up to the top. However, as the trees became shorter, the air grew cooler and a slight fog began to settle around us. At the tree line, I was a bit put off by a large sign warning of extreme weather changes, high winds, and deadly risks for hikers who were unprepared.  

I wanted to turn back!

We did not, at first. 

But then the trees were completely gone and all we could see ahead was a very rough rock field. We had difficulty seeing where the trail was because of the fog. So we turned back and went down the way we had come, hoping to try again someday.

This time, being much older and fatter, we choose to take the Cog Railroad up to the top. A much better way to get there for older people.

Each of the train cars is brightly painted and has its own engine. 

The cog tracks go pretty much straight up the mountain. There is one switching place where upward going and downward going trains can pass each other.

The cars are all hand made onsite by talented wood workers. In our upward bound train the seats were beautiful, but not very comfortable. The car we had going down had nicer padded seats.

There was a slight haze in the air that made the more distant hills fade into softness. We never skied in the East when were skiers, but this sight made us wish we were younger and it was winter. The summit parking area was full of ATVs. They were having a rally. It was fun to see all of them.

One of the things people (including us) do when they get to a special place is to get a picture of themselves with a sign.

So here we are: 2013 at the lowest place in America, 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley CA, and at the highest place on the East Coast, 6286 feet above sea level on Mount Washington NH. 

RV life is good, or at the least fattening!

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