Friday, October 17, 2014

Traveling in New York: Corning and Niagara Falls

We like museums and William's uncle worked for Corning Glass, so a trip to the Corning Glass Museum for a tour was a natural choice.
The museum covers 35 centuries of glass making and glass art from an ancient Egyptian glass Pharaoh head to delicate Venetian glass. I was interested in the history, but began to glaze over after too much glass art.
a contemporary art piece

a glass spider

snuff bottles

The first Palomar telescope lens that was spoiled

Glass blowing demonstration
This piece is for sale. Only $44,000.
 The story of the glass works was interesting. It came to Corning after the Erie Canal and really contributed to the growth of the city. The demonstrations and innovations were quite worthwhile. We watched a couple of glass shaping and blowing demonstrations. Corning Glass has been responsible for a lot of innovation and inventions in glass products. But most of them seem to have been by accident. They would work for seven years to develop a product and then someone left an oven on too hot or broke a jar or some other thing would lead to the development of either the product they had been searching for or another product that would prove to be very valuable.
 I still use my old glass ceramic pots. Glass ceramic was an accidental discovery. I was looking for a lid to a small one. The glass lids do break when they hit granite. When I discovered that small pot was discontinued in 1987. Time flies. I can of course buy it on eBay for $12.95 plus $32.55 postage. I think not.
At Niagara Falls State Park, we did the hop on hop off trolley tour. This is a good deal for $2. We hopped off quite a few times and did a lot of walking. The trolley covers the whole park including Goat Island.
on the trolley

So much water

We are high up right at the edge of the American Falls

Pretty color back in the rapids back from Bridal Veil Falls.
Giant spider in the middle of the path. I almost walked into it.
Contrary to all posted rules and regulations these people had climbed over the fence just to get a picture right at the edge of the falls. She was wearing slick soled leather shoes. This is at the end of the Three Sisters path with huge rapids right before Horseshoe Falls the largest of the falls 177 feet high and about 700,000 gallons per second flow. Although the first woman to go over the falls in 1901 survived, she did have a barrel and a cat. She survived with only a few cuts and bruises, probably from the cat. No word about the cat. We didn't stay to see if these people  got back.
I didn't know black squirrels are pretty common in the east. We saw both black and gray squirrels in the park. 
Next is the ride on the Maid of the Mist.
You can see the boats far away at the bottom of the falls.
We signed up for a tour that took us to the Canadian side of the falls, since for $2, we had seen most of the sights on the American side. On our own we had seen the huge Occidental Chemical plant that dominates most of Niagara Falls, New York, except for the Niagara Falls State Park, hotels and restaurants. The Headquarters of Occidental Chemical used to be here. Now it is in Alabama. I've read too much about the Bhopal chemical plant explosion to love chemical plants. 
After picking up six other passengers including a couple from Kentucky and a guy from Perth, Australia, we are off in a small tour bus over the Rainbow Bridge to Canada. Our guide/driver was Martha, small, chatty and very knowledgeable about the area. 
The Niagara River connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Over 35 miles the river drops 326 feet, counting rapids and the great Niagara Falls. Power has been generated here since Nikola Tesla's inventions made possible large scale power generation. The river's flow is managed now to maintain the attraction of the falls while minimizing erosion and maximizing power generation.
Our first stop is the Journey Behind the Falls. A tunnel was dug behind part of the Horseshoe Falls to give you the experience of walking behind the falls.  You are given yellow garbage bag type rain ponchos. Then you head down the tunnel to open ports where water splashes in.
Port Hole
An observation deck at the edge of the falls puts you right up next to the water.
Yes, the Niagara water is green. The color comes mostly from dissolved limestone.
Up at the edge of Horseshoe Falls
The tour boats come as close as they can to the falls.
We drive along the edge of the Niagara River and stop at various points along the River Road and the Niagara Parkway. Although there are certainly a lot of businesses clustered near the falls, the impression as we drive, is of a very beautiful area. There are stately homes, mainly operating as bed and breakfasts. It reminded me of Victoria with the lovely gardens in the front yards. We drive by the Botanical Gardens and a lovely golf course, but stop to view a few scenic overlooks at the Giant Whirlpool, a huge power plant and the Floral Clock.
Across the river we see the church that was the last stop on the underground railroad for slaves escaping to Canada.
The colors were lovely at the Giant Whirlpool.
If you squint hard, you can see a white speck that is a high tower in Toronto.
The Floral Clock. Here since 1950. The 1814 is commemorating the end of the War of 1812. The American war of aggression against the Canadians. According to the Canadians. Americans, who do not remember history, forgot about this long ago.

Then we get a half hour break at Souvenir City. Don't skip the samples of Pumpkin Fudge. It was good and William bought some.
Here I go Over the falls.
Giant Inukshuk made by the Inuit as guides in the vast Canadian Arctic wilderness.

After this it was time for us to go on the Hornblower tour. This is just like the Maid of the Mist tour, but on the Canadian side. We get red garbage bag ponchos for this trip. William spends most of the trip outside in the spray.
William braves the wind and spray right up to the side of Horseshoe Falls.
William seeks some shelter.

I venture out when the spray is not too bad. Even though the sky is mostly cloudy there is a bit of sun and the crowds are light. In the summer they cram 700 people on the Hornblower, with a shoehorn I guess. There were only about 70 people on our trip.
After the trip, off the boat,looking a bit damp. William looks cold.
The venues will shut down soon due to winter ice and not open up until the ice is gone in the spring. In the summer the traffic is bumper to bumper all over Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario. Just like the summer bumper to bumper all around Lake Tahoe.
It's pedal to the metal in the morning as we seriously start to head west.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More Travels in New York: From Herkimer Diamonds to Watkins Glen

Herkimer diamonds are naturally occurring quartz crystals in dolomite. Hardness is 7.5. William says his greenstone from New Zealand is about that hard. We went in and looked around the museum. Not too much to see. Free for us since we had stayed at the KOA, which is part of it. I had bought a bit of stone with a crystal in it at the Erie Canal Gift Shop, since I knew I wasn't going to prospect. I'll put it in my eclectic display of "treasures" from around the world.

We actually braved a city, Syracuse, to see the Erie Canal Museum. Free for a donation and very worthwhile. A movie and great displays tell the whole history of the Erie Canal and how it contributed to the opening up of the land beyond the Adirondack Mountains for farming by immigrants and made New York City the greatest American port. Towns developed phenomenally along the canal, since the big New York banks let the local banks keep the cash collected at the weigh stations and the banks lent this money out to people to start many new businesses. The Erie Canal fell into disuse when the railroads and then highway system and trucks came into use. Also, the development of the St Lawrence Seaway, which could handle huge ocean going vessels, took revenue away from the canal.

The museum is a former weigh station. The barges and packet boats were weighed and charged a toll, since the canal was a toll waterway.
Model of the Weigh Station

With a packet boat

Mule and boy on the tow path statue

I'm to guard the fire.

Watkins Glen State Park was our next stop. This is place of great natural beauty, which the state of New York has put little effort into developing. The development, consisting of an ice cream stand, gift shop and filthy restroom, has to be bypassed to reach the beauty of the rock stairs, tunnels and bridges trailing along the wet waterfall filled gorge. You  have to ask what they are doing with the $8 charge per vehicle to park here.
Watkins Glen
Lovely to watch the leaves falling down the canyon gorge. But wonder where the rangers that are supposed to be along the trail are. Laid off for the season I think, along with the cleaning staff.
Hiking together

Although it is pretty warm and humid right now, the woolly bear caterpillars are big and fluffy anticipating a cold winter here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Traveling Around: New York

In the town of Holland Packet we see signs for a Farmers Market. The last one of the season. we bought a "fruits of the forest" pie, a braided loaf of savory bread and a few last of season vegetables. I also bought a cute alpaca and rag braided hot mat. I've bought a lot of gifts for me on this trip. The nooks and crannies of this vehicle are filling up.

We arrive at Fort Stanwix National Monument. Wow, it is really lovely. The fort was gone and buried under the town of Rome, New York. But the people of Rome were proud of being the site of the fort. In 1976 there was an opportunity to reconstruct the fort on the original site. The program in the visitor center is great and the reconstruction is very authentic.

Fort Stanwic had been originally built during the French and Indian War by the British in 1758. The Revolutionaries had control of it now and there were more of them than the British planned for. St. Leger was supposed to take this fort and join up with Burgoyne. But he wound up mounting a siege for 3 weeks. He gave up when reinforcements for the Americans were arriving.
Model of the fort

Officer's quarters

Got to have a selfie

Because this is not only Columbus Day weekend and also Canadian Thanksgiving weekend we have had a hard time finding an RV spot. So we wind up going a bit sideways to Herkimer. We are at the Herkimer Diamond Mines and KOA Kampgrounds. This place is really geared up for the weekend with tons of activities. We take advantage of the Laundromat.

Today we are heading off to ride the Erie Canal. So historic to ride on the canal and think of the Erie Canal song. But children about 8 years old were the ones who led the mules on the tow path. 15 to 20 miles a day with your mule and then you slept with your pal the mule. Not too romantic, if you were living it.
The remains of Fort Herkimer was made into a church. Old edge of the canal is in the foreground.

Now we have been through a lock. Lock 18. Leonardo da Vinci designed the way the gates of locks function. The gates leak now because the men who made the shims are all gone and the next generation don't do as good a job. 
After the children got to drive, William got a turn. Looks good there.

Erie Canal Cruises
Back to the RV park for our own bonfire. 
The bonfire music is always Doctor John

Do you think this is enough wood? Don't worry about the leaves on the ground.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Traveling West: New York

Our first stop is the Robert Frost Stone House Museum just outside Bennington, Vermont. When I had read his children's names on the tombstone yesterday I thought he had all girls, but Carol was a boy. I never heard of Carol as a boy's name, but the use of names do change. I remember buying the children an illustrated book long ago of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

We pass the actual site of the Bennington Battle August of 1777 in New York. Vermont was not a separate state until 1791. They were the New Hampshire Territories partially claimed by New York. The negotiations to split from New Hampshire went pretty easily. The border was the Connecticut River and New Hampshire got the river. The negotiations with New York took longer as there was no easy boundary.

I spot the Hoosick Vet Clinic and have to chuckle. Who's sick? The cat? The dog? The town of Hoosick, New York is on the Hoosic River. Grandma Moses grew up here.

The Hudson is a huge wide river. We stop at the Saratoga National Historic Park up above the river. This is the site of the battle that essentially decided the Revolutionary War.

Burgoyne retreated to the Hudson. We are on a bluff overlooking the river.
British General John Burgoyne had sold London on an idea to win the war against the revolutionary colonists. He would sweep down from Canada on Lake Champlain and cut off the head of the serpent by taking the Forts along Lake George and the Hudson River. His plan included having General Howe come up from New York and Colonel St. Leger was to cut over from Lake Ontario along the Mohawk. Burgoyne's troops included British regulars, Germans, Canadians, Loyalists and Iroquois and Algonquian warriors. The Germans were not mercenaries. They were German troops who had been ordered to join the English.

The first problem was that supplies got thin. There was an American supply depot at Bennington, so Burgoyne sent 1,000 troops to obtain those supplies. But they lost their battle and none returned. They were all killed or captured.

Howe seems to not have wanted to leave New York very much. But he never did get a direct order to march north. St. Leger was stopped at Fort Stanwix and turned back.

The first Saratoga battle was in September. The Americans drove the British back to their line, but were then told to break and return to camp for the night, so the battle counted as a British win as they held their line.

Burgoyne's reinforcements never arrived, but the American General Gates was reinforced by the Green Mountain Boys. In October Burgoyne attacked, since he despaired of any reinforcements. The British were driven back to the Hudson River and retreated north to Saratoga where they surrendered. It was a decisive victory. Burgoyne went back to London and was not heard of in the Revolutionary War again.

Our back lane route takes us along Spook Hollow Road and then to Lake George.
Lake George

on Fort Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga was the first fort Burgoyne took on his sweep down to Saratoga. After Burgoyne's defeat the Americans took it back. But it had been abandoned to time and decay when it was rebuilt as a private nonprofit educational center. The entire fort was rebuilt quite authentically and is filled with displays of colonial soldiers equipment. There are docents giving demonstrations of various aspects of the soldiers lives. We watched the musket firing demonstration.

It has been cold, wet and windy. Not exactly the weather that was predicted. The Hungarian goose down comforter has been useful, since I don't want the heater on at night and I do like the window open, at least on my side.

We are in the Adirondack Mountains. From what I have seen they are very softly rolling mountains covered with trees, conifers and hardwoods turning color. Some new reds show up.
Adirondack comes from the Mohawk word meaning bark-eater which they used to refer to porcupines and the native Algonquians who often had to resort to eating bark and tree buds in poor times.

We spend a full afternoon in the Adirondack Museum. Residents of the New York City were looking for places to go to recreate away from the smog and crowds of the city. People came up to spend time in Hotels or camps. The very rich who already had summer “cottages” on the shore, came to the Adirondack Mountains in private rail cars to private personal “camps.” The only time the Adirondacks are not great is in the spring when there is plenty of mud, rain and black flies that bite.
railroad engineer


I want an island on Blue Mountain Lake.

More New York to come. Lots of adventures here.