Friday, August 24, 2012

Visiting the Newlyweds and a Birthday

DSC_7625_36115From Niagara Falls, we made our way back into the Midwest to Columbus, Ohio.  We are here to visit our son and daughter in law, Andy and Natasha.  Since Christmas, our only other family visit was with our niece in Birmingham, Alabama back in April.   We pulled a “Cousin Eddie” (the movie Christmas Vacation) and drove our rig right into their cul-de-sac and began dumping our tanks in the storm sewer.  NO, we are just kidding.  We are camped at a super nice RV park north of Columbus.  It is great to see them.  They bought a house right around the time they were getting married late last year and have been very busy whipping it into shape.

100_3949This week also marked Gary’s second birthday since we moved into the motor home.  We were also in Ohio last year for his birthday as well.  This year Andy and Natasha took us out to our favorite BBQ house in Columbus, Barley’s Smokehouse.  We highly recommend it if you are ever Columbus way.

100_3947I didn’t bake Gary a cake, but I did make one of his favorite desserts – the Boone family recipe Sugar Crème Pie.  The “custard” is milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, corn starch, and a pinch of salt cooked on the stove top and then poured into a baked pie crust and topped liberally with cinnamon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Beef on Weck–Another Local Delicacy

On our travels we have sampled many local delicacies.  Local foods are something we have enjoyed very much:

Texas – BBQ

Memphis – BBQ

Myrtle Beach – Calabash

Savannah – Paula Deen’s

Space Coast – Rock Shrimp

Tampa Bay – Cuban

Indiana – Deep Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

North Carolina – BBQ

Lancaster – Shoofly Pie and Oatmeal Pie

Philadelphia – Cheese Steak

Maryland – Crab Cakes

New York – Thin Crust Pizza

New England – Whole Lobster and Lobster Roll

Acadia – Ice Cream Filled Popovers

Prince Edward Island, CA – Mussels and Clams

Digby, Nova Scotia, CA – Scallops

Quebec, CA – Poutine and Euro Hot Dogs

Vermont – Maple Syrup Jelly Beans

Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, CA – Shepherd’s Pie

Well, we found another local delicacy in Western New York State – Beef on Weck.  We started seeing it pop up on menus in this area so Gary ordered it up for lunch one day.  Beef on Weck is thinly sliced roast beef on a Kaiser-type roll that is topped with caraway seeds and sea salt.  It is served with a cup of au jus and a thimble of horse radish.  The weck part comes from the German kummelweck roll.  It apparently came to Western New York States with German immigrants and was a favorite of the German immigrants who worked on the construction of the Erie Canal.

In researching Beef on Weck we came up with a very interesting kernel of information.  The original name of the restaurant chain, Buffalo Wild Wings was Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck.  We had wondered a time or two why Buffalo Wild Wings is referred to as BW3’s when there are only two W’s in the name.  To quote the late Paul Harvey, “know you know the rest of the story…….”

Our south/north travel loops over the next years will move progressively westward.  We cannot imagine that we will see again the amazing diversity of foods that we have in the east.  But we will be looking.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Erie Canal

Well, we didn’t leave the Niagara area quite as planned.  We hadn’t communicated our travel plans well enough with our son and come to find out he was going to be out of town this week.  We decided just to stay put awhile longer and enjoy some more Niagara.

We did another thing unique to the American side of the Falls.  We visited the Erie Canal.  We had seen various references to it in the travel literature and in our travels across New York State.  The Erie Canal first opened in the 1820s and is still fully operational today, having undergone major modernizations twice since its original construction..

We played some Par 3 Golf in the morning and then took in the Canal in the town of Lockport, NY where there is an Erie Canal Visitor’s Center.  The Erie Canal truly is an engineering marvel.  It was dug with animal and human power only.  Dynamite had not been invented at that time – they had to blast using volatile black powder.

100_3944The Canal is about 360 miles long, stretching from Buffalo on Lake Erie in the West to Albany on the Hudson River in the East which is navigable downstream to New York City.  Originally there were over 80 locks in the system.  One of the hugest challenges was right in Lockport – the Niagara Escarpment.  This is a ridge of solid rock running through New York State into Ontario, Canada that forms the Northeastern end of Lake Erie.  Great Lakes water must flow over the Escarpment – think Niagara Falls -- in order to flow to Lake Ontario, the Saint Lawrence River and out to the Atlantic Ocean.  So to complete the canal from Lockport to Buffalo they had to build a system of locks through solid rock about the 100_3943height of Niagara Falls.  And then blast a channel in the top of this solid rock after the climb for the run to the Lake.  The first two pictures are of remnants of the five “stair steps” up the escarpment.

The Erie Canal opened Western New York and beyond to grain farming. Gary remembers seeing remnants of the Wabash and Erie Canal near the Wabash River in his boyhood home in north central Indiana.  That canal carried grain from the Wabash Valley to Lake Erie which could then access the Erie Canal.  The Erie Canal system made New York City the great inland and ocean seaport of the day.

Canals were hugely economic but only until the advent of railroads at which time most of them were abandoned.  The Erie Canal continued to be somewhat economic until the full opening of the St Lawrence Seaway in 1959.  Today, it is used mainly by pleasure boats which pay very little for using it.  Tolls from the New York State Thruway now pay for the operation of the canal.  The Erie Canal is a part of the Grand Loop for pleasure boaters such that they can navigate the Eastern and Gulf Intercostal Waterways, the Mississippi River, the Illinois River to Chicago and Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes system back to the Erie Canal. 

We enjoyed our Erie Canal history lesson. No, we are not in the market for a boat to cruise the Great Loop.  Below are a couple pictures of the present locks and canal.



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Niagara Falls

100_3898During our many years in Detroit, we visited Niagara Falls several times, maybe 10 or 12 times.  It was a half day drive and a great place for a long weekend stay.  As we were traveling into Western New York State, we decided we would spend a week in the Falls area.  This time there was one major difference, we stayed on the US side.  We had always stayed on the Canadian side on every other trip.  We always traveled over to Niagara through Canada – that was the shortest drive from Detroit.  Further, the view of the Falls is better from the Canadian side and there is more to do on the Canadian side as well.

100_3871This time is was just far easier to stay on the US side and it proved to be a interesting change of pace as well.  Our campground was at a New York State Park on the shore of Lake Ontario.  But it wasn’t the typical State Park.  Actually, it was a State Campground.  There wasn’t a beach, pool, trails, or any other activities.  It was just a campground, but a darn nice one at that. The sites were 50 feet wide and even more than 50 feet deep.  On clear days you could see the Toronto skyline across the lake.

We had a huge surprise while camped there.  Gary rode his bike over to the shower house one day and on his way back he rode by the motor home that was immediately behind ours.  He got off his bike and sat down.  He said that the woman at the motor home behind us looked like someone who we knew from our winter RV park in Florida.  He asked me to kind of walk by and see what I thought.  As I walked by it looked enough like her that I called out, “Betty?”.  Sure enough, she responded.  Four months and a thousand miles removed from where we camped in Florida we run into a person we knew there.

100_3883We went to another State Park along the Lake Ontario lake shore where Gary was able to accomplish a traveling milestone.  He took a dip in the lake and it marked the time that he had swum in all five of the Great Lakes.  Yes, he even swam in Lake Superior a few years ago, and was lucky to get a warm and calm day to do it.


0808121649We did many of our favorite things in the Niagara region yet again.  We walked across the Rainbow Bridge and saw the Falls lit up at night.  We passed through all the kitsch of Clifton Hill and I didn’t even whine this time to go to a wax museum.  We drove to the town of Niagara on the Lake and ate at our favorite British-style pub, the Olde Angel Inn which is purportedly haunted by the ghost of Captain Swayze of the Canadian militia killed in the basement of the pub during the War of 1812.  It has all the classics such as shepherd's pie and steak and kidney pie.  The main street of Niagara on the Lake is always adorned with such beautiful planters and hanging baskets.

We also tried our luck at the Seneca casino on the New York side but didn’t have much luck.   Gary was able to play in some poker tournaments but didn’t get to any final tables.

It likely will be quite awhile before we ever get back to Niagara, a place that we have enjoyed so much.  We are glad we took it in yet another time as we were chugging toward the Midwest.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

One Year of Full Timing

Today is our first anniversary of living full time in the motor home.  Here are a few stats from our first year of travel

  •   8,037 miles in the motor home.
  • 17,463 miles in the car, including two long trips totaling about 5,000 miles from the south to the Midwest (plus being towed for almost all of the motor home miles).
  • 27 states visited – Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont (and the District of Columbia). 
  • 5 provinces visited – New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario.  We covered an amazing about of territory for the number of motor home miles.
  • 4 months -- longest stay – Willow Lakes RV Park, Titusville, Florida.
  • 6 weeks --  second longest stay – Lakewood RV Park, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • $$$$ – we haven’t really figured that out yet but we know the expenses were less than the income so that was a good thing
  • Highlights – we think we cannot leave any out in order to highlight a few – they were all that special
  • Alley Cat – she is sleeping away the anniversary over there on the couch.  She has been a great little traveler even if she is not thrilled about travel days and riding in her house.  She is fussing that we have yet to post her first blog.

It has all been a memorable experience, but we aren’t about to quit yet.  We have so much more to see and do.  Right now it looks like our horizon for full timing is at least another 3 years.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Finger Lakes

100_3821We really liked this region of New York State.  In ancient times, glaciers followed the course of river valleys in this hilly area.  The ice cut deeper channels and when it receded it left its debris at the southern ends of the valleys effectively forming natural dams.  These cuts then filled up with water forming long, narrow, and deep lakes that somewhat have the appearance of fingers.  The views from the hilltops are spectacular.  The very deep lakes help to provide an environment very good for the growing of grapes.  There are many vineyards in the area which are a tourist draw as well.

100_3842We hiked the gorge of Watkins Glen Stare Park with its many waterfalls.  The trail leads you behind a couple of them.  If we were doing it over, we would have started on the upper end and walked down instead of hiking up the gorge – there are over 800 steps going up the trail.  We drove over the short way to Watkins Glen International raceway.  We couldn’t get in the grounds as a car club had rented the facility for the day.  This coming weekend will be NASCAR at the Glen, one of only two road circuits that NASCAR runs.


We drove on over to Taughannock Falls.  Shown below left is what they would have looked like with a full creek of water flowing over them. The drop is even taller than at Niagara.  At the right is what we saw in this summer’s dry conditions. 


We then toured Ithaca a bit including Cornell University, high above Cayuga’s waters.  The Finger Lakes area is one we could see returning to some day and spending more time exploring.

Our pictures from the Finger Lakes are at:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Corning Museum of Glass

100_3825We are making a slow pass across New York State.  From Cooperstown we moved not far to the Finger Lakes region.   Thanks yet again to Passport America, we got a huge campsite for $18 a night.  We had our second weenie roast in the last two weeks.  Gary is still amazed that these were my first two weenie roasts ever.  Apparently those farm kids had lots of weenie roasts while we city kids didn’t even have campfires.

100_3765Our first outing was to the city of Corning and their amazing glass museum. We have been to a lot of museums and galleries in our tour of the East and we saw glass art works in many of them, but if you ever want to take in an amazing amount of glass art objects, this is the museum for you.  As they describe it, “see 35 centuries of glass art, from ancient to contemporary works”.  We also saw various glass making demonstrations including one on glass blowing.

100_3816We were surprised to learn that Steuben Glass is out of business.  Steuben was a division of Corning that made art glass which was frequently the gifts of Presidents to visiting dignitaries.  They used to have a retail store in Manhattan.  Apparently Steuben was sold a very few years ago and last year is was shut down by the new owners.   Our Corning pictures are at: