From Buffalo to East Hampton NY – Oct 15-26

26 Oct

Well, it’s not looking like I’m a compulsive blogger.  But, I’m back.  Since it’s been sooooo long, this post will be, more or less, a brief chronological recounting of what we’ve been doing . . . unless, or course, it’s not.

We changed our plans and didn’t go into Canada.  Too many horror stories about the US Customs/Border Patrol tearing apart RV’s and campers.  So, on to Niagara Falls and New England.  While in Sault Ste. Marie, we took a boat ride through the Soo Locks.  There is a 21 foot elevation difference between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  Without the Locks, ships would not be able to navigate the rapids.  Neither of us had been through locks before, so this was a new experience.  Not exactly exciting, but interesting and educational (photos).

More photos at the bottom of this post.  Maybe, someday, I’ll figure out how to arrange them.  And, then again, maybe not.

The electronic gremlins continue to haunt me.  A credit card we use for online purchases and recurring payments (e.g. utilities) was used fraudulently.  So, an unwanted distraction needing attention.  And, because of Comcast’s #@$%+*^# website, a lot of attention.  Then, my photographic catalog disappeared in the ether.  Back-up saved my bacon.  But, another time suck.

Since leaving the Seattle area, we haven’t seen any friends or relatives.  We’ll be seeing people regularly as we move towards Florida over the next month or so.  And, the focus of the trip will change from a continuous outdoor adventure to mostly reunions – staying with people, and visiting.  It’s not good or bad, just different.

And so, on to Charlevoix in northern Michigan where we stayed with our friends/relatives by marriage, Jackie and John Coppens (photo).  Charlevoix is one of the beautiful small towns located in this area.  Actually, Jackie and John live near Houston and just happened to be at their second home while we were in the area.  Fortuitous.  We had a great time visiting.  And, it was Apple Festival time in Charlevoix.  It was reminiscent of Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay.

We visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park on the Lake Michigan shore.  Not exactly like Death Valley or the Oregon Dunes, but striking in its own way.  The most interesting site was a long, steep, smooth decline from a high elevation into Lake Michigan (photo).

We’ve been taking two lane secondary roads since leaving Seattle.  The fall colors have been beautiful, becoming more colorful as time and place change.  Northern Michigan, with the maple leaves turning bright red, is spectacular.  Now, however, we’ve made a change and taken the interstate across Michigan to Detroit, then to Pittsburgh and to Buffalo.  Quite a different experience, but an opportunity to cover long distances quickly.

Detroit is an abysmal disaster (photos).  I knew it was bad but, for me, experiencing being there opened my comprehension of how horrible it is.  In this way, it reminded me of being in New Orleans six months after Katrina.  Abandoned buildings, be they homes, stores, offices or factories,  line the streets and seem to be interspersed between occupied structures.  The city feels (almost) dead.  The once magnificent Michigan Central Railway Station, almost 100 years old, stands like a rotting skeleton.  While driving around, we suddenly happened upon a huge, out-of-place, multi-story, windowless monstrosity – the Motor City Casino – rising out of the ruins of Detroit like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.  It seems that gambling is becoming a new revenue source for the city, and a new financial depository for those hoping to pull themselves up by their frayed bootstraps.  Driving through the downtown freeway corridor at evening rush hour was shocking – traffic was very light and moved at normal freeway speeds.  We did see some ‘street’ art, including the well-known Heidelberg Project.  But, with our friends’ Wendy and Jeff’s help, in addition to providing us with information about Detroit, we had great barbeque at Slow’s.

Across Ohio to Pittsburgh where we stayed with our friend from Half Moon Bay, Gisele Paris (photo), who is now living and designing/architecturing there.  We had a grand time visiting with her, Mike the dog, and her three cats.  Gisele just bought an old house, dripping with character, that she is beginning to fix-up and flip.  She’s a very talented woman.  We spent time with her driving and walking around Pittsburgh.

On to Buffalo.  Why?  Because it’s near Niagara Falls.  When we visited Pigeon Forge, Tennessee four years ago I didn’t think I would ever see a more scudsy tourist trap.  Well, the town of Niagara Falls runs a close second.  But, the falls are truly spectacular.  we took the Maiden Mist (Maid in the Mist, whatever) boat tour, and it was a wonderful experience (photo).  Nearby sits another outlet mall, packed with overpriced ‘outlet’ stores and eager shoppers.  However, we did observe one of the most dramatic post-storm sunsets that I have ever seen.  We visited downtown Buffalo on a Sunday – a quiet unremarkable city.  We did find one quaint neighborhood, Elmwood, where we found a farmers’ market and lots of people walking about on a Sunday morning.  Outside of the city sits the sprawling mega shopping mall, Walden Galleria, anchored by some 4 or 5 major tenants like Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penny.  No wonder the downtown area is so quiet.

Speaking of sprawl, while driving through the undeveloped Allegheny Mountains, beautiful roads surrounded by a colorful array of fall forests, we suddenly came upon a gigantic casino and hotel complex, appearing and disappearing like anti-oasis mirage.  very disturbing to me.  Then, outside of Erie, also in the midst of farm country, stood another array of outlet shops.  Not only for Erie residents but, with no Pennsylvania sales tax on clothing, a shopping haven for New Yorkers.  With abandoned factories abounding, gambling and shopping malls growing like a virus, I’m dismayed by what I see.

And so, the antithesis manifested itself as we drove through NY Amish country (photo).  Horse drawn buggies ambling down the road, driver and buggy looking like they were designed by a Hollywood studio.  Lots of labor-intensive farm equipment around the barns.  Lovely.  My question, how do the horse droppings get cleaned up?

We visited the southwestern NY city of Olean, the birthplace of our LA friend, Denise Petski.  We had a wonderful Sunday brunch at The Old Library Restaurant, a period library still containing shelves of books that has been converted to a restaurant.  My reaction to Olean might have been something along the lines of “oh, this is a charming little town.”  But, knowing Denise’s feelings about her hometown, my reaction was more along the lines of “OMG, she had to live here!”  Interesting how perception is effected by one’s point of view.

OK, enough of this area of NY – on to Vermont.  We spent a couple of days in the southwestern town of Bennington.  Truly, a charming little town.  We camped in the Green Mountains above Bennington where the temperature dropped to 28 degrees at night, and we slept great!  We just didn’t want to get up because it was only 39 degrees inside the VW.  Driving around the area, we happened upon an art gallery-restaurant owned and operated by Ann and Ed (photo) with whom we spent some time getting acquainted.  Along the way, by a covered bridge, we were stopped by Jim Scully, a Vermont native who recently returned from California.  Jim gladly furnished us his abbreviated life story.  While in the area, we visited the quintessential Vermont town, Weston.  Cute, albeit a bit touristy, especially the huge country store.  Also, a little known fact, Vermont is the birthplace of the Mural Moose (photo) – everywhere are sculptures of moose (or, is it, meese) colorfully painted to reflect the local scenery.

Reva and Britton sent us a great gift, personal “business” photo cards (photo) with our blog and email information.  We’ve been wanting something like this for a long time, but we haven’t done anything about it and we didn’t envision cards this unique or creative.  Now, we can leave our calling card with people we meet on the road.

Then, a trip down to Stanfordville NY, in the Hudson Valley, where we spent several days with our friends Jeff Brouws and Wendy Burton-Brouws.  Then off the East Hampton for several more days visiting with our friends Steven (Wendy’s brother) and Pauline Burton.  During these visits we had a wonderful time being with dear friends and being “off the road.”  In a few days, we’ll be heading in a southerly direction.  Stay tuned for details.