Sunday, March 5, 2017

Upstate New York and Vermont

Upstate New York along the Canadian border is something between the beauty of Minnesota and the subculture of Deliverance.  I'm sure you wonder where we get our impressions of places when we travel so quickly through some of these areas.  So let me introduce you to some of the characters we met in upstate New York.  First, there's Marge, a cross between Flo saying "kiss my grits" on Mel/s Diner and Edith, Archie Bunker's wife.  Marge is a waitress at a coffee shop where we sought desert and coffee.  She'd been dealing with all the tourists of the season, has opinions about everything, but has never heard of bread pudding.  Most of her opinions align with 20th century thinking, or earlier.

Next there's Buddy.  He's a hard working American beer drinker who lost his good paying job to foreigners and now tries to make a little extra down at the casinos.  I met him after we visited the Eisenhower Lock to watch sailboats go through.

We stopped at International RV park.  Kathy filled water while I visited with the locals about a bridge that had been built in 1899 and used until 1970.

Finally, there's the RV park manager who brags about his comprehensive maps of the area and gun collection.  We were in Adirondack park trying to find BLM camping. He talked us out of dry camping in the area after sightings of the escaped convict in the area. One escaped prisoner had been shot two miles away from where we planned to camp and the locals were gun toting rednecks.

Back north to the Walmart in Malone, we ended up parking out front near the Tractor Supply and the noisy highway.  We were getting a good night's sleep except for frogs then we were awoken by a vomiting dog.

The next day, we happily crossed Lake Champlain into Vermont.  Vermont, home of the earth-loving green people and many famous lesbians, should welcome the two of us and our rig.  Beth Robinson served as co-counsel in the case of Baker v. State, the landmark 1999 decision that led to Vermont becoming the first state to enact civil unions. We hoped that the home of gay marriage, Vermont, would offer a diverse cultural experience. We found little beyond hunting and fishing.  That being said, our first campground was lakeside and would have been perfect if it weren't next to a large fifth wheel with two tents and fifteen kids outside.

Our next stop was Brighton State Park.  $30.00 with no services was shocking but even more shocking was their idea of a level site for a 35' rig.  The angle of the driveway and the ditch caused by rain runoff was terrible.  We got stuck while turning into the spot. Without freaking out, I created a ramp with our levelers in order to get in/ We got it in and we stayed in! After a quick swim in the cool pond and a campfire, we chatted with our neighbor, Denise.  She is a youth minister who camps at Brighton nearly every summer.

This next morning, we decided to visit the only national wildlife refuge in Vermont.  We drove 7.5 mile toward Missisquoi NWR. After briefly getting lost, we finally found it and got our stamp/

Back at camp, we asked for fill to fill the ditch.  The camp host brought two five gallon buckets and was not too enthused about it. Kathy moved the rig back and forth about 8 times as I moved out leveling blocks to build mini-bridges over the ditch and watched tree limbs. We finally got the hell out without a scratch. While saying goodbye to Denise, she told us dogs were not allowed in NH state parks.  The northeast was continuing to show its unfriendliness toward RV'ers.  Luckily, Denise was wrong.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Niagara Falls

This dream location has been featured in over 100 TV shows and films. Both our parents had visited the falls and we looked forward to walking in their footsteps as well as creating our own memories.

Niagara Falls, as the combination of Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, is a popular honeymoon location and a place to see with someone you love.  Of course, that means us! Technically still on our honeymoon, being married (legally) less than a year, we looked forward to seeing not only the magnificent waters but also the night lighting of the falls, something our parents did not see.

We located a great RV park, Four Mile Creek State Park, about 15 minutes north of town.  Situated on Lake Ontario, we hit our fifth great lake for our final toe dipping.  Quite a feat to have visited all the great lakes in one summer.   We headed to town and found the falls just as the sun was setting.

Parking was relatively easy and we immediately found the trail and headed with the throngs of fellow travelers in the direction of the sound.  You could hear them long before you could see them.  The pathway followed the river to its bend where you could see the edge cut back by the mighty waters of American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.  Across the way and further down, you can see Horseshoe Falls. Below us, the US and Canadian tour boats filled with colorful poncho-covered passengers pushed toward and back from below the falls.

As the sun set, the falls began to be lit up in green and red lights.  Somewhere between Christmas and the fourth of July, the spectacular was loud and amazing.  We shared a romantic evening with about 10,000 of our closest friends.

Driving back to our campground, we saw lots of deer darting across the busy roadway.  It was strange thinking about deer this close to the major cities of Niagara Falls, NY and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The next day, we returned to our easy parking spot and headed to the Rainbow Bridge.  Sorry to all those pet owners out there but this is the original bridge that crosses from Niagara Falls USA to Niagara Falls, Canada.

It was a breeze checking into Canada and we walked out into the beautiful gardens and followed the parkway along the edge of the city toward Horseshoe Falls.  This side of the river was all about landscaping.  The Niagara Parks Botanical Garden boasts some of the best summer flower gardens anywhere and not only did they look beautiful, they smelled wonderful. The view of the falls from the Canadian side was even more spectacular.  We now understand why so many recommended we cross the bridge.

We also enjoyed the Centennial Lilac Garden and the Floral Clock as we explored even further and highly recommend others enjoy these adventures on the Canadian side of the river.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA

I’ve always enjoyed looking at and drawing buildings, and designing Lego and Lincoln Log houses. I was also lucky enough to take an interior design class in High School.  The options for electives were awesome at Hibbing High School back in the 1970’s.  During this class, we took a walking tour of the neighborhoods around the high school and identified the multitude of beautiful architecture styles in Hibbing.  From that class, I took a love of thinking about the people those buildings housed. Today, the people of the world and their structures often catch my attention.  I like taking pictures of barns, houses, and even quirky looking businesses and signs.  I love seeing how fence lines and gardens accentuate the structures.  I think about the lifestyles of the people who live and work in these buildings.

Growing up as Joy Wright, and the daughter of an expert carpenter, Ed, I loved the idea that dad might have been related to Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect, as both are from Wisconsin.  It became a dream of mine to visit the ultimate mid-century modern house called Fallingwater. This house, once the Kaufmann Residence, is a house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania.

Fallingwater was built on top of a series of cascading waterfalls on Bear Run in the Allegheny Mountains. A beautiful choice stylistically, but the location led to a series of architectural challenges and some extensive mold problems. The fact that the location on the bank of the river was not large enough to support the foundation of a typical Wright house is what prompted the cantilevered design. The original owners used it as a weekend home until 1963, when it was donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and it’s been open to the public as a museum since 1964.

Our visit was planned a few days in advance as you can’t get same day tickets. Kathy bought ours online.  We stayed at one of the many beautiful Pennsylvania state parks, Ohiopyle. This is a great place for hiking and biking.  Kathy learned the ride down was much easier than back up the hills in the area.
The little town of Ohiopyle had great ice cream parlors and hosts several places for tourist collectibles.  We enjoyed the bridge above the river and watching children and dogs playing in the cool water below.

On our tour day, a light rain threatened a perfect day for a hike in the PA thick.  Luckily, we got enough sunshine to get some nice photos and enjoy the beauty of the site the house is built on.  The tour starts at the visitor’s center and you walk through the wood alongside the creek which widens into a stream that a bridge crosses above and beside the lower levels of the home.  Seeing is believing how glorious this location truly is.

The house feels lived in and is filled with the nuances of day to day life.  Even the son’s library is intact and gives you a good idea about him as a person. He grew up to be an architect himself.  You aren’t allowed to photograph inside the house but you can walk the grounds and take as long as you want on the grounds after your tour inside. Most people are interested in these views anyway.

I just wanted to pack my bags and move in.