Happy Halloween 2013

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Presenting the World’s Largest Blown Glass Pumpkin!

world's largest blown glass pumpkin

Gorge-eous, Just Gorge-eous!!

Lechworth blog header post size

We’ve been following the Fall season color for about a month. Our next stop was to be THE Fall photo spot but… Mother Nature seemed a bit ahead of us. Many of the trees were quite bare but many were still dressed in glorious reds, yellows and oranges. Our stop would be at Lechworth State Park along the Genessee River Gorge. Often referred to as the Grand Canyon Of The East, the gorge drops almost 600 feet to the riverbed below. Last year about this time we were at The Grand Canyon Of The South (see our post in October 2012 archives).

The Highland camping area at Lechworth has both serviced (30 amp, tank water) and unserviced sites. Some loops allow pets and some do not so be sure to specify that when you make reservations. We’d picked a site close to a water fill point in the 700 loop. After Steve backed in we realized the site was extremely unlevel side to side. We tried two boards, then three, then four. At last with five boards under the tires on the right we were even. This was the most leveling we’ve ever had to do. Even using the stool at the end of the steps it was a steep climb into the trailer and I felt I should be singing “Climb Every Mountain”. For non-campers there are cabins and a lovely hotel in the park. The park staff was great and not only accepted our mail at the Visitors Center but brought it up the nine miles to the camp office.

Who Needs A Stairmaster?

Who Needs A Stairmaster?

Weather however was not as cooperative the first few days. Our first photos of the gorge were blah and very contrasty. Thanks to HDR technology we were able to counteract the contrast problem to more accurately show what our eyes enjoyed. We’d almost finished the scenic drive when the sun appeared so back we went to redo some of the more photogenic spots. Here’s a brief tour.

Genessee River Gorge, Grand Canyon of the East

Genessee River Gorge

New York State, Fall

Fall In Western New York State

fall foliage

Color Me Beautiful!

Genessee River Gorge

Reflections In The Gorge

More Color And Reflections

More Color And Reflections

Down The Lazy River

Down The Lazy River

Lechworth State Park

Scene At Letchworth State Park

HDR Vintage Look

Pretty Enough For A Postcard

Fall foliage

A Single Red Tree On The Hillside

What A Showoff!

What A Showoff!

A few days later we drove over to Watkins Glen State Park. Steve had been there as a child and even though I grew up in New York State, I’d never been to the Finger Lakes area. Watkins Glen was a grist mill area that became a privately operated tourist attraction in July 4, 1863. I thought it was interesting that the day before people were attending the opening and strolling along Watkins Glen, the battle of Gettysburg was happening only a state away. Then in the early 1900s Watkins Glen became the first New York State Park in the Finger Lakes area. Dogs aren’t allowed on the Rim Trail so we gave Opal a walk on the South Trail and left her in the truck while we did part of the popular Rim Trail. Here you can cross a suspension bridge and go down into the gorge, walk behind a waterfall and get great photos. The path tends to stay quite wet and muddy. Even though there are numerous signs to wear “appropriate” footwear there were folks in flip flops, high heels and stylish boots. Watching them try to get through puddles without getting their feet wet was entertaining. Glad we had on our hiking boots and could just plod on ahead. Here’s another quick tour.

Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen From The Suspension Bridge

New York State Parks

Walk Behind A Waterfall

The Finger Lakes

The Rim Trail

waterfall

Making A Splash At Watkins Glen

western New York

Waterfall On The Rim Trail

photography

Watkins Glen Curves

Time For Some R & R

TI header post size

We are finally on the way back to the USA. After 3+ months of steady activity both our bodies and bank account needed some R&R. How do full time RVers take a vacation? After all our life is one big vacation. They stay put for a week or two or even a few months and “stay home”. We opted to take a longer way so we could drive along the St. Lawrence River on the New York side.  One more border crossing (or so we thought) then on to Wellesley Island State Park in New York.

As we approached the border we had our passports and Opal’s rabies certificate ready. In all of our other crossings trucks, RVs and cars all went through the same lines. Now we saw a “no trucks” sign going straight ahead and trucks being directed to the right.  Where should we go? Do you think there is a height restriction? I don’t know. I can’t see a height posted. We decided to go right and got in line with the trucks. We just crept forward for 30 minutes. When we got to the gate the Border Patrol officer was in a tower positioned to talk to drivers in truck cabs. He looked down at us and said “What the hell are you doing here?” We know our Border Patrol has a difficult job and don’t mean to poke fun but they aren’t known for their sense of humor. Steve had to roll down the window and stand on the door sill to get up high enough to talk to him. I explained we were confused by the signage.  “You’ll have to go turn around.” Where is there room?. “Well, then you’ll have to go through x-Ray with the trucks. Then he paused, called and talked to someone else. Shortly a car marked Field Officer appeared. “Follow that car and he’ll lead you out.” So off we went following the car with lights flashing around the barricades and at last back on the road. Welcome Home! Moral of the story: You are not a truck. Stay with the cars. Just before we pulled out to follow the Field Officer I’d looked back and had seen 2 vans and a passenger car in line. I hope they hadn’t just followed us. For their sake, I hope they get into a different line.

Wellesley Island State Park is located on one of the larger islands of the Thousand Islands area in the St. Lawrence River. We had to cross over via the I-81 bridge. Since it must allow ocean going freighters to pass the bridge rises steeply. We had no difficulty though and easily found our full service site in the Fox loop. A lovely, spacious and open site. The loop would hold about 40 RVs but outside of Columbus Day weekend there were no more than 10 rigs there. We had both satellite television and our own internet for the first time since July! Ah, life is good.

The first night we met a couple from Ontario and joined them at a campfire. We enjoyed their company, exchanged contact information and hopefully will see them in the south this winter. One of the pleasures of this lifestyle is meeting new friends and getting to see old friends too. We drove to Syracuse to see a friend of Chari’s from her Air Force days. It had been over 25 years since they’d seen each other. As with most good friendships conversation picked up quickly as if someone had just hit the pause button. They took us out to dinner at Dinosaur BBQ. It turns out this was also on the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives app. So you know we loved it.

Wellesley Island, Canada

Bridge From canada To Wellesley Island

St. Lawrence River, Thousand Islands

River Observation Tower On The Canadian Side

We didn’t plan a great deal of activity worthy of blogging but we didn’t become couch potatoes either. The park is a great place to ride bikes during the slower season. Nearby is the town of Thousand Island Park with beautiful Victorian/early 1900s homes. Much of our time was spent culling over photos to be considered for the 2014 calendar. Once was the time we had to search for 12 calendar worthy photos. With better equipment and more training the task has flipped to one of being very critical about our selections. After we’ve given our holiday gifts we’ll let you know which pictures made the cut. We also spent time creating our Christmas card and adding new friends to our list.

One beautiful day we rented a small boat from the park and toured some of the islands. We took Opal along. She’d done well on the pontoon boat last year. This time had mixed results. Getting into the boat she didn’t like sliding down the metal sides or the metal bottom. Putting the lifejacket pillows on floor helped. She wanted to see over the edge but couldn’t stand for long. “Just what part of speeding along when you can’t see where your going and being thrown off balance do they think is fun?” She settled down. After a lunch break on one of the islands making up the Thousand Islands (Canadian) National Park (formerly called St. Lawrence River NP) we had to lift her to get her back in the boat. She isn’t a small boat dog. The island provided a much needed break. This island and several others allow primitive camping. I returned to the boat with a park brochure in hand. Steve just shook his head. Only my wife could find a brochure on an uninhabited island in the middle of a river! We motored through the islands, most of which are privately owned and have cabins or homes on them. We went through an area called the Canadian Rift where the US and Canada are less than 100 feet apart. Good thing we’re friendly neighbors. We went passed Boldt Castle but didn’t land and do the tour since dogs are not allowed. We planned to return on a commercial tour but weather and other errands prevented this. Guess here’s where we say “When we come back…” Boldt Castle was built by George C. Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria and creator of Thousand Island Dressing, for his wife, Louise, whom he adored.  Heart themes are everywhere on the property including statues of European deer on the roof peak known as Hart deer. She died before the castle was finished and work ceased. It’s hard to imagine this 120 room building was just a “cottage” with it’s boathouse that would accommodate a boat with a 60′ mast and separate castle style playhouse for the children. Also in the area is the Singer Castle, built by founder of  Singer Sewing Machines and another museum showcasing the art and sculpture of Frederick Remington.

dog, pets, boat

Are We Having Fun Yet?

St. Lawrence River

Freighter On The St. Lawrence

lighthouse, New York

Yet One More Lighthouse

Cormorants Drying Their Wings

Cormorants Drying Their Wings

Chess Anyone?

Chess Anyone?

Of Course You'd Have A Boat Garage

Of Course You’d Have A Boat Garage

Is This An Amphi-RV?

Is This An Amphi-RV?

Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle Boat House

Boldt Castle Boat House

Hart Deer Sculpture On Roof

Hart Deer Sculpture On Roof

One of the things that occupied a lot of our time was trying to resolve a problem with a Best Buy gift card. We’d paid for work to be done on Steve’s computer at the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia store. When it wasn’t ready as promised we were given a gift card in lieu of a refund. We were told it was useable in the USA. We didn’t look at the reverse side or we would have seen it said “for use only in Canada or online at BestBuy.ca. So if you are traveling be aware that Best Buy in the US and Best Buy Canada, although under the same parent corporation, operate completely independently. It is as if you bought something at Walmart and asked Target to honor it. After hours on the phone to corporate numbers and two frustrating trips to the Watertown, NY store we were no closer to getting our $247 back. We didn’t really need to buy anything but figured maybe a purchase through the Canadian site would be our best option. We went to finalize the purchase and … guess what? They don’t ship to the US!! So once again we had to cross into Canada, drive to the Kingston, Ontario store and make one last attempt at a refund. We want to give credit where it’s due. The store manager in Kingston, Derrick and all of his staff, were wonderful. Even though none of this problem had been from his store he spent time and effort to resolve the problem. We got our refund credit. We don’t know if there are other corporations that operate this way but we’ll never take a gift card in lieu of a refund again when outside the USA.

There are numerous New York State Parks along the St. Lawrence and the two Great Lakes, Ontario and Erie. We plan to return to the area for a longer stay so we checked out several campgrounds and  kayak put-ins. We also drove along the Canadian side of the river on the Thousand Island Parkway. We stopped to pick up a hat pin for Ontario and found a map for an area to the north called the Fontenac Arch. This area is covered with lakes and trails. Oh, the list just keeps getting longer!

Now this really is the last border crossing for a while as we came back from Ontario. The Border Patrol Officer seemed curious about where we lived. Were they wondering why we’d crossed the border so many times? I told them we were full-time travelers and hadn’t been back to North Carolina since March. That satisfied them. Then they asked if we had any lamb or goat products. That was a new one. We’d just stocked up on dog food and yes, we’d bought some canned lamb. He looked in the back of the truck but allowed the cans to go through. You just never know what they’ll ask or inspect. 

Relaxed and refreshed we moved on to western New York and the Finger Lakes area.

Old Montreal C’est Magnifique!

No trip to Montreal is complete without spending time along the Old Pier and roaming the Old City. Once a bustling wharf area along the St. Lawrence River it has evolved into a city park with walk/bike paths, museums, IMAX theatre and cruise ship port. On the other side of the street are cafes, upscale shops and photo ops galore. The old city has a special lighted route to walk at night so you can enjoy the buildings bathed in a golden glow.

Having done our version of a “marathon” walk the day before we opted to tour Old Montreal via the Amphibus, a land and water vehicle. We called to make reservations for the 4pm tour and asked about parking. We were told there is “lots of parking at the wharf.” We planned on an hour of travel. That was until we were detained for over 30 minutes in construction traffic. No way we’d make it on time so we called and moved to the 6pm tour. Later we learned that the 4pm tour went directly into the sun when on the water and no one could take any photos. A lucky break for us. Finding parking turned out to be a challenge. The “plenty of parking” was all in garages. One we entered was tall enough but the turns were so tight we almost got stuck. Off we went on an open lot hunt. With our very limited French we read a sign that allowed parking at a business on weekends. This put us about a half mile away from the tour kiosk. We took note of landmarks so we wouldn’t repeat our wanderings from the previous night. After checking in for the tour we had almost an hour to wander the wharf area. So much to see and do. Another trip or two for sure.

We boarded the Amphibus and set off through the streets of downtown Montreal. The tour guide was excellent. We learned that Montreal was located at the point where the St. Lawrence River current made it too difficult for explorers to continue upriver. They landed here and continued overland. Originally called St. Mary’s the city was known by it’s landmark of Mont Royal. Gradually the name morphed into Montreal. The tension between English speaking and French speaking populations dates to the early years in Montreal. The French lived on the east side and the English on the west side. Other immigrants not wanting to take sides developed Chinese, Portuguese, Italian and Greek communities along the dividing line. Today Montreal is a modern city benefitting from the contributions of this multicultural population. You’ll find just about any type of restaurant here.  Who’d have guessed Montreal has it’s own Chinatown?  As a hub of commerce the city also became Canada’s banking capital and one time capital city. After the Great Depression the banks and political seat moved to Ottowa. The beautiful buildings remained. Then we headed for the harbor. Into the river for a waterside view. We stayed in the calm waters but you could see where the swift current met the harbor, as if a line had been drawn on the water.

Coming back on land we passed an abandoned industrial site that the guide said was often used by Hollywood. Can you name a famous Kirk Douglas movie that was filmed here? Hint: It involved Romans. OK, we won’t make you wait… the movie was Spartacus.

By now we were ready for dinner. Restaurants, restaurants everywhere. How much to eat, how much to spend. This stop had been pricey so we opted for one of the Poutine places. Poutine? What’s that? Never heard of it? Neither had we until Steve tried it in Halifax. It’s a common “fast food” for Quebec. The dish consists of french fries, a modestly spiced gravy and cheese curds. Then you can pick a meat topping. I ordered another local specialty known simply as smoked meat and Steve had Italian sausage. It may not sound good but it is and very filling. We started talking with another couple who were from Connecticut. Montreal is one of their favorite places and they visit 2-3 times a year. They mentioned a fantastic art glass exhibit at the Art Museum. We thought perhaps we’d have time to squeeze it in the next day but time and energy were both limited quantities.

Then we walked the Lighting tour route. Not wanting to drag tripods with us we weren’t sure how our pictures would come out. We were pleasantly surprised. So join us for a quick look at this touch of Europe just over the US border.

Two Gems In Montreal: Rio Tinto Alcan and Jardin Botanique

For web Montreal pano

Here goes another attempt at keeping up with our “on the move” lifestyle. We’ll try to fill in the gaps as we can. We have five days in Montreal and so far the weather has been warm and sunny with just a tinge of Fall that says “enjoy it, it won’t last”.

One of our ongoing challenges when we visit a city is to find outdoor parking so our truck with the boats on top will fit. We’d planned on taking the train into town then catching the Metro but when we got to the station the times for mid-day trains weren’t good. So we headed to the park that was used for the Olympics, now home to the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Biosphere, Incline Tower and Sports Centre. Good parking found.

We spent the first afternoon at the Planetarium taking in two shows. At the first one we were on the floor in bean bags (Adirondack style seating also available) for an impressive light show and in very comfortable theatre style seats for the second show, a more traditional constellation journey. The new Planetarium is about a year old and full of exhibits for kids of all ages, even those in their second childhood. One exhibit showed a piece of stone estimated to be 4.28 billion years old. This rock is from the oldest geological formation ever discovered, the Nuvvuagittuq volcanic and sedimentary formation on the eastern shore of Hudson’s Bay in Quebec Province

geology, planetarium, Montreal

Oldest Rock On Earth

planetarium

Planetarium Exhibits

We considered riding the cable car up the Incline Tower for a panoramic view of Montreal until we heard the price. At $22.50 each it seemed a bit high. We had so much more to explore. Maybe next visit.

We returned to the same place and parked for our visit to the Jardin Botanique across the way. Due to construction we had to wind our way along a path following signs to the garden. With a bit of clairvoyance I said “I hope there are good signs coming back.” It was about a half mile walk to the gardens. We’d purchased tickets the day before along with our Planetarium ones so we didn’t have to stand in line. It seemed like the whole city was out enjoying the beautiful day.

This Botanical Garden is HUGE. How far we walked is only a guess but we estimate at least five miles in the garden alone.

Sometimes I’m amazed at our luck. We choose a location and arrive to find that a very special event is occurring. On our visit to the garden we found not one but two special events: Montreal Mosaicultures Internationales 2013 and the Magic of Lanterns. Referred to simply as MMI 2013 on the signs the Mosaicultures exhibition was to end in three days. It is an international show of 40 topiary sculptures scattered throughout the garden. This year’s theme was Land of Hope. The exhibition has been held in Montreal three times since 2000 and also in China and Japan. The last exhibition was in 2009. The topiaries range in size from three to over forty feet. While the large sculptures are very impressive our favorite was one of the smallest. It was a driftwood sculpture of a horse and colt called Hope (colt) and Odyssey (mother horse) by a British sculptress. She collects driftwood for her sculptures and does not alter the pieces. She then painstakingly intertwines them to get just the right fit. Look closely at the ear on Odyssey to see how she made a protrusion look just right.  According to the explanatory sign it took her months to collect just the right pieces.  another very impressive display was the Bird of Paradise Tree that towered over a reflecting pool and people below. The sign said there were eight different birds displayed: Hooded Grebe, Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Green Peafowl, Bali Myna, Fuertes’s Parrot, Indian Vulture, Ouvea Parakeet and Gunnison Sage Grouse. How many can you find? Remember the picture can be enlarged to full screen by clicking over it. Click again for a further enlargement you may need to see the birds in detail.

Montreal, garden, topiary

Birds Of Paradise Mosaic

The other event was the Jardin Botanique’s annual (September) display of traditional Chinese lanterns in their exquisite Chinese garden. Each year the Jardin chooses a theme and designs the displays during the winter months. Then the lanterns are fabricated in China and arrive by June. It takes about three months for the staff to set up the displays. Be prepared for crowds with everyone jostling for photo ops. Optimistically, I’d taken my tripod for the longer night time exposures. Forget that! All I did was lug it around all day and never took it out of the bag. It is well worth the time and crowds to see this display. It’s one of the most beautiful sights we’ve ever seen at a botanical garden. 

Chinese garden, Montreal

Building At The Chinese Garden

We thought the best way to share our experience would be with a video set to music. We used the following songs and artists: “Going Out Of My Head” by Smokey Robinson, “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” by The Cowsills, “Dance Into The Light” by Phil Collins and “You Light Up My Life” by LeAnn Rimes. The following movie can be viewed full screen by clicking on it. Remember to allow it to fully upload before viewing for best results. To view in full screen click on the diagonal arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the movie box.

After all day on our feet we were more than ready to get back to the car. We came out of the garden at a different entrance and started walking. We needed to go all the way around the Olympic Park to get to our parking lot. We walked, and walked, and walked for at least two miles navigating only by landmarks through empty terraces, stairways and sidewalks. Not the brightest bulbs in the pack, eh? We were never so glad to see signs pointing to the Planetarium! Finally our truck with boats appeared. Steve said “Well at least you didn’t have on a long skirt and high heels this time” referring to our walk in the dark back to camp July 2012.

There is enough to do in Montreal for six trips but we’re glad we chose to visit the Jardin Botanique on this visit. We hope you enjoyed the tour with us. Our next post will be about Old Montreal.

“Honey, I Smell Smoke!”

New York, RV living, RV fire

Wellesley Island State Park

We interrupt the tales of Homeless and Loving It! from the Canadian Maritimes for this breaking news from Wellesley Island State Park, New York….

Despite being awoken at 5:15 AM eastern standard time to a trailer full of smoke we are pleased to report that Chari, Steve and Opal are fine.

What good is a smoke alarm that goes off routinely when you cook bacon but doesn’t make a beep when the trailer fills with smoke from melting plastic? What happened was that the fan on the electric fireplace stopped working. The heater kept going and began to melt the plastic trim around the CD/DVD/radio component. Chari was the first to wake and realize the problem was the fireplace. She turned it off while Steve went outside to disconnect the electric power. Then Steve removed the fireplace insert to make sure nothing was smoldering behind it. So far, so good. The fireplace went outside to cool down. The trailer was aired out and electric power came back on.

Adrenaline still running, Chari made coffee while Steve (adrenaline not running) went back to sleep. Thank you Guardian Angel for working on a holiday weekend!

The Highs And Lows At Hopewell Rocks

Hopewell Rocks Header

(Chari) The first time I heard about the Bay of Fundy was when I was ten years old and read about it in National Geographic. I guess I started my Bucket List then. I wanted to see these almost fifty foot tides for myself.

In 2004 I finally traveled to New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia for the first time. I not only saw the tides but kayaked for the first time at age 57. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? (Opal here… Don’t get any ideas, Mom!) When I learned that you could kayak at Hopewell Rocks so you could be in both the highest and lowest tides in the same day I knew I had to return to do it. One item off the Bucket List and another one on the list. So that’s why my list never gets any shorter?

(Steve) My first trip to Nova Scotia was in 1997. I saw the tides from the Nova Scotia side and never went to New Brunswick. When Chari told me about Hopewell Rocks, I also put it on my Bucket List.

One of the first things we did at Fundy was to check the tide tables. If possible we wanted to kayak and walk on the ocean floor the same day. The weekend in the middle of our visit would be perfect. We called Baymount Outdoor Adventures to schedule for Saturday. Don’t worry if you visit when the tides aren’t available during daylight hours in the same day. Your ticket to the park is good for two days.

On Friday afternoon we received a call that high winds were predicted and the Saturday trip was cancelled. We rescheduled for Sunday morning. A twenty minute walk is required to reach the outfitter so it wasn’t feasible to use our own boats. We used their tandem kayaks. We’d be on the water an hour before the highest tide and return at maximum tide. A change of over 8 feet in an hour. The day we paddled the total tide change was 46 feet. When you watch the video we put together take special note of where the water is at the viewing platform while we were kayaking and again when we walked on the ocean floor later.

We had 3 hours between returning to shore and when access to the beach opened. During that time we had a picnic lunch and took a hike.

This trip was a highlight in our time in the Maritimes and contributed to 2013 being the best summer we ever had.

Enjoy the show! Popcorn sold separately.