Friday, August 28, 2015

Campground Adventures...

We have been in Boston/Minuteman Campground for three weeks and will be here until about the first of October. One of our longer stays visiting our oldest son and his family.  We observe A LOT of comings and goings of folks camping here.  Some stay for a few days, some just over night, but because Massachusetts has so few campgrounds the traffic in and out of this RV park is constant, especially at this time of the summer season.

For those of you who are not RVers it is difficult to describe in words the activity of transferring your house from one point to another.  Its practice brings with it its own particular level of anxieties which diminish somewhat with practice but really never subside completely. 

Perhaps the height of anxiety comes when you have to maneuver into a new site in an unfamiliar campground.  I have written about a few of ours in past postings.  No matter how many times you have accomplished this, it never becomes mundane.

Our current site is a back-in and was not too difficult because its location in the campground afforded some decent maneuvering room. We disconnected Hope and Joanie was outside the rig guiding me backwards.  Beside our big side mirrors, our back-up camera is very useful in times like this as it also has a microphone so that I can hear Joanie as well as see her signals. I am constantly turning my head from back-up monitor to left side mirror to right side mirror and it is easy to get a bit disoriented backing up after a long day of driving forward.  Joanie had to remind me of my "left" vs. my "right" vocally while guiding me which brought a few chuckles from our neighbors.

Which brings up the next topic in this discussion which is that in campgrounds this small and tight, you will have plenty of audience. 

40 years ago when this campground was founded, camping was just that - camping, mostly in tents.  Some folks had small trailers and pop-ups that they pulled behind the family car.  Maneuvering them was not a significant source of anxiety.  Since then RV's have grown considerably; from an 8 foot pop-up and a 16 foot travel trailer, they are now 2 and even 4 times that size trying to maneuver in the same tight little campground.

With families trying to squeeze in the last of their summer vacation, the campground is almost full.  Last night a modest size "A" class motorhome came into this wooded campground in the dark, about 9 PM. The campsite they gave him was up a small dirt trail with a dead-end.  With cars, tents and trailers on all sides there was little space to manipulate a rig that large.  This required him to back down the trail to an area he could turn abound in and then BACK- UP the trail and into his assigned site.  I think he may have had a couple helpers too many from all the yelling that was going on but he finally made it.

Last weekend, this 5th wheel spent the better part of a half hour parking in his back-in site.

Back and forth he went trying to determine which way to turn the steering wheel that would point the trailer in the correct direction.

The best way to describe how to back a trailer is that you turn the steering wheel the WRONG way to start the trailer traveling the RIGHT way all the while remembering that all steering is OPPOSITE of the way you really want to go.


You can see his DW just to left of the trailer in the back.  She had a handy-talkie to vocally give directions and tell the driver how much clearance he had on his blind corner.
It is hard to keep your skills sharp if you don't do this often.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Stillness...

Mayfair Campground, Blossvale, New York is out, way out in farm country.  It is a quiet RV park that is getting some age on it but still is attractive. We loved the peace and stillness. Just when you thought its was the quietest place in the entire state, a rooster crows, a cow groans, a pony sings out and a dog barks.  Yes, we are in farm country and about a quarter mile away are old working farms that have not changed since the 1930's.  Oh, yes, when you are down wind, you can smell it, too.

 One morning a couple of free-range hens had explored a little too close to the road I was taking Juniper and Lobo for their morning constitutional.  Through the high grass black dog noses met yellow chicken beaks.  The hens gave a loud screech and ran like, like... well, they were chicken back to the sanctuary of their barn yard.
We have observed in our travels that most man-made things are just abandoned when they no longer are of any use. Nature is very quick to reclaim the abandonment as her own.


Our campsite backed up to a lake that was once an oxbow on the Fish Creek River.  Many decades ago the river jumped it's bank and found a new route to flow leaving the oxbow now as "U" shaped lake.
We left Blossvale and headed to Littleton, Massachusetts which is in the center of the state.  The entire eastern half of the state of Massachusetts is Boston and the suburbs of Boston - one big metroplex.   I hope we are far enough west to hear a rooster crow; I enjoy the stillness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Erie Canal...

Not so eerie; really quite impressive.  How do you connect Minnesota with New York City?  Why with the Erie Canal.  That is what you did back in the 19th Century anyway.  The industrial revolution in America owes a lot to the Erie Canal. We were camped near a cross roads called  Blossvale, New York which is in the heart of canal country.  We saw an old, little sign on the side of the road that pointed to "Canal Lock 21" and our curiosity was peaked.

From the top of lock 21 you can look down the canal across an old abandoned road bridge.

Looking the other way up lock 21.

The rather massive gates at the low end of lock 21.

About a mile down the canal is lock number 22.  We arrived in time to see an adventurer enter.

The gates at the upper end of lock 22 open...

...and in about 20 minutes about 2 million gallons of water fill the lock...

...the upper gates open...

...and the adventurers are on their way.  Some people travel the Great Loop, circumnavigation of the Easter United States, counterclockwise sailing down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico around Florida up the Inter-coastal waterway to New York Harbor and the Hudson River to the Erie Canal and to the Great Lakes and back to the Mississippi.  It's called the Great Loop.  Many Loopers are just like RVers living full time aboard their boats, wintering in Florida or the Bahamas and summering on the Great Lakes. The AGLCA, America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association, is like the association we belong to: the FMCA, Family Motor Coach Association. 
The lock keeper for #22 has been on the job since the Oneida Corporation closed their stainless steel plant in Oneida, NY.  He gave us the story of lock operation in modern times. The New York Canal System provides flood control for a great portion of the state.  Many of the lakes and rivers provide the gravity feed water to operate the locks.



Friday, August 14, 2015

Exploring ...
One of the things we like to do is reconnoiter.  We never seem to tire of this activity probably because we are always in a new place.
Many decades ago I enjoyed the exploits of a journalist by the name of Charles Kuralt  who worked for CBS News.  I especially liked his "On the Road" series.  Kuralt was a wordsmith with a distinctive human slant.  He traveled throughout our country encountering people and places and reporting on what would seem to be mundane but was really quite noble.  I thought Kuralt had the best job on TV.  Now I get to do something like it.
While in Westfield, New York on one particular trip of exploration we discovered the country around Lake Chautauqua.  There are small Amish communities among the farms in that part of western New York.  There are small towns that time has not touched much.  Our reconnoiters are sort of "time travels" or as close as we can get to it.
We were driving through a rural Amish community and saw an Amish school with two outhouses, a ball field and kids playing. When stopped in the town of Sherman we went into the only restaurant for lunch and saw this mural on the wall.  It was the school just as we had seen it.

The proprietor told us that it was painted by a local Amish artist who did it one day with no photographs - just out of her head.  Of course the work is not signed; the orthodox Amish, in their practice of humility, do not sign any of their works.

A dairy farmer put his pubescent calves in one small pasture where they played king-on-the-mountain on what was left of a hay bale.

You can tell an Amish farm house from the other farm houses: there is no electric utility line going to it.

Road signs inform the motorist of possible slow moving Amish conveyances.  Road apples tell you before the signs do. 

We unexpectedly came to a small town named Sherman, NY.  It has always been a small agricultural center.  There is but one gas station which has the monopoly on petroleum, the lottery, bread and other convenience items.  It has one NAPA auto parts store which it, the gas station and the local pizza/grill are the only businesses open 6 days a week.

Downtown Sherman, NY.  The pizzeria had old photographs on the wall depicting the town of Sherman from the turn of the last century.  If people from 100 years ago could come back to Sherman today, they would easily recognize it.  The only change is the type of personal conveyance on the street.   

This is the view of a road as it crests a large hill; beautiful in its detail, scary in the realization that in six months the snow will make this road treacherous! 

A couple of spotty showers add to the waters of Lake Chautauqua.
Back at home, Lobo keeps watch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Adventure at Niagara Falls ...

The editor and publisher of this journal extends apologies to all its readers for what seems like a lack of work on our part.  Publication has been delayed due to a lack of WIFI access (we try not to use our own hotspot connection when posting lots of photos which eats up our data plan - yes, we are frugal, not cheap). --Editor.

August 4th, while staying in Westfield, NY, we decided that we had "to go and see the elephant", what everyone has been talking about for so long, why people would honeymoon at this place, what so many millions of people had put on their "bucket list"; we had to go see Niagara Falls.

You can get a little wet here.

 I took this photo of the American and Bridal Vail falls from the boat, The Maid of the Mist.  It was later in the afternoon and thunderstorm was approaching. The boat runs up the lower river into the Canadian falls. 
 From the boat you can see The American Falls on the left and the Canadian Falls on the right.
Rainbow Bridge which connects the USA to Canada.
This shot was taken from upstream of the Niagara River and a group of islands called the Three Sisters.  You can see the mist rising up from the falls.  The skyline is Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Joanie on the Maid of the Mist just before our run up into the falls.  The wind caused by the falling water is of hurricane force, we were told.  I did not get any photos of the run up into the water as my camera was not water proof.

White water up river of the falls.  Note the absence of kayakers.  "Only people who are crazy go over the falls" which our tour guide, Saint Bobby, reminded us and who showed us the museum dedicated to the "daredevils" who have. 

 The American Falls is on the left.  That is Bridal Vail Falls on the right.

Tourists can view the falls from Canada as well as the US.  Boats on the Canada side fly the Canadian flag and give all the tourists red ponchos.  The boats from the US side of course fly the American ensign and give all who board blue ponchos.  If someone one falls overboard, the authorities know where to return the body. 

This observation tower is on the Canadian side.  Canadian tourists have much nicer observation facilities than their American counterparts.

A tour boat returns from a run up into the falls.

At the falls is a large bronze monument to Nikola Tesla.

Luckily the falls are so large that you don't notice the thousands of tourists who have come from all over the world to see the falls.  My guess is that half of them could not speak English.

Some families from other countries made it easy to locate one another in the crowds.
There was a Muslim family on our tour bus who did not speak English but when they encountered a group of nuns, who, I believe, were from Europe, had no problem communicating a request for a photo that compared head dressing.

Just a little educational note here:  If you had come here 50 years ago, you would have seen 50% more water going over the falls.  At night it drops to 25% of what it once was.  During the winter that drops to 12.5%.  Canada and the US control the water so that they can use more for power generation.  Can you imagine twice the amount of water we saw!