Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Very Erie

"It's so eerie," said the punny wife standing on the edge of the canal, watching the road pass under it. 
The dutiful husband moaned, as is his right and privilege...

Biking the Erie Canal has always been on our bucket list; we have heard wonderful stories about the mass ride across in July, "the hottest week of the year."  Well, the big ride passed through yesterday and the weather was perfection.  Today we began with Albion to Medina, an easy eleven miles out and back, except for the 25MPH headwind going out!

 Them are WHITECAPS out yonder, partner.

 The trail surface was  fine smooth gravel, the scenery mostly agricultural -- apple orchards and corn.  The trail-side wild cherries were heavy and the path sometimes sprinkled with bleaching cherry pits.  We saw deer, wood chucks and indisputable sign of bear; a bear could make a nice living among all these apple trees.

Only two riders came our way.  One was Knute crossing the country on the Northern Tier route after spending last
 year on the Appalachian Trail where he was known as "Late for Supper".  There were lots of stories to be told, but miles to go.  He was downwind, working on another 100+ mile day.

 Perhaps the most fascinating aspects of the canal are the off trail engineering structures which control the water flow.  This is the Medina Aqueduct outflow. We are anxious to visit a Canal Museum and learn more.

 "Welcome to the Big Apple," the punny wife says.

"Is this where we turn around and "Fly Back"?

  "You said there would be ice cream."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Into the Forest Primeval

It has been several weeks of non-stop merriment, fun and frivolity and that's just about  enough for these country mice. We consulted our mentors and after a while and fifteen miles of forest roads found our Heart’s Content.


The  campground has 26 spaces among 100 year old trees adjacent to a virgin forest that rivals any we have seen in the Eastern US. We came by different paths but met Rick and Carole here.  They are the Zen Masters of finding a tranquil place and settling in, but this was just a one night stand for them. We visited a little and put Patty to sleep, a long series of rejuvenating naps. We spent a week, adding a day or two at a time, thinking we should “get busy” , then “Nah.”

The Forest

It is hard to describe the awe we feel walking among these giants; certainly our photos can’t do justice. We estimate some at over 160 feet, thirteen feet at a man’s chest seems average. White Pines and Beech, some standing dead from yet another pest, but many thriving. One recently fallen, so tall it crossed the trail twice. 

Twins, one bending 10 degrees to reach the light, the other nearly 20 to find life. 

A huge Pine twined with a Beech at the ground growing skyward together.

We walked the trail several times in both directions and found new wonders every few feet.  Off trail it would be a matter of months to know the secret places.

This whole area is so under used that a few squeals from a gaggle of  eighth grade girls in the picnic area seemed sacrilegious; we never met another person in the grove. During the week, the campground seldom had more than three sites occupied.

The Allegheny National Forest in Western Pennsylvania and reaching North into New York has a lot of varied attractions. 

The Kinzua Bridge

was once considered the Eighth Wonder of the WorldFor over a century coal, timber and oil moved over one of the highest railroad bridges in the world. Then, in 
2003, a tornado severed the span leaving only tangled wreckage in the gorge and two short spans reaching into the emptiness. Patty had to see this! 

We drove thirty miles, focused on the huge storm cell approaching from the North, remembering the rain gear we had left behind at camp. The squall caught us halfway out the span sporting our church  umbrellas. We looked like a couple of geriatric Mary Poppins heading out for a base jump.  We retreated, the first blow passed and we explored the "skyway" until the rain began in earnest.

Farnsworth Trout Club

began as a CCC fish hatchery providing stock for streams revitalized by the corps. We visited because we are big fans of CCC stonework and always awed by the long term beauty these boys brought to lands ravaged by logging and fire. 

In the seventies the Farnsworth Trout club brought the hatchery back into production, assisting the state's efforts to improve  fishing opportunities in the National Forest. They preserved the original CCC structures and even have a nice two bedroom cottage available for a secluded vacation among a couple thousand trout.









Jakes Rocks

Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail hikers
moan about the rocks -- a couple hundred miles of sharp football size rocks. That is East of here.  Around this part of the Alleghenies, rocks are celebrities. Jakes Rocks are convoluted capstones on a high ridge overlooking the Allegheny Reservoir. They are a favorite family picnic grounds recommended warmly by locals. We did a quick tour in the rain, again Mary Poppins style...

...until the trail ended abruptly at the ultimate "Whoa Buddy."


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Young and Old at Birthday Bash V

If you have been paying attention here, you know that the annual Birthday Bash (for Wally Byam, founder of Airstream) is a consistently great time.  Lots of shiny trailers, smiling faces young and old, great food and a serene setting near Coopers Lake.  So my pictures of these delights look a lot like previous versions: just look here for a sense of all the fun. LINK

Our genial hosts, Frank and Ace, Lisa and Beth  did their usual excellent job setting it up.  Lots of volunteers kept us fed and the children of all ages entertained.  It was grand!

This year, after years of earnest invitations,  our own precious Fourteen year old Cassie “Crashed the Bash”. So this post is mostly about what was new for us at Bash V.

When  a young lady is fourteen nearing fifteen, the world is divided neatly into two parts. There is your PEER GROUP which extends down to kids in diapers (Yuck!) and upwards to girls with steady boyfriends and cars. The rest of the world is made up entirely of OLD PEOPLE.  Sorry gentle readers, that’s just the way it is.

 We had no fear that Cassie would find some fun with her peers, but we warned that the Bash Airstream Rally was mostly about sitting around in camp chairs between meals. Sure, we SAY we are going bike riding and adventuring, but let’s be honest here.

Fresh from several days with her seven year old cousin, Cassie was in tune with huggin and non stop movement.  At the “totally unofficial and marginally boisterous” Pre Bash at Penn Wood Airstream Park, we introduced her to the Old People she had heard tales about, but when activity retired to the camp chairs she found little Sarah and Nicholas and the exploring began.

(The nicest feature of the Bash and the Pre Bash is that they are sited in places where kids can explore safely and adventurously but never far from eighty “old people” who instinctively watch over them and smile.)

On the Bash grounds at Cooper’s Lake, a posse of bike riding, creek wading, fish and frog chasing boys and girls formed and they were seen flashing by on their way somewhere, but reliably always appeared at meal time.  Parents and grandparents and other old people dispensed snacks as required.

In the mean-times, new friendships of an entirely unexpected sort started forming.  Northern grandparents were enchanted by a child that ended every exchange with “sir” or “mam”.  Natural curiosity led Cassie into new areas as arcane as “sewer stuff” , and, of course, critters of any kind were magnets.


Now I’m not saying that basic skill sets like checking messages and talking trash about boys were ignored…

…just that lingering around camp chair circles led to some revelations and surprising friendships.

…and any number of occasions when the lines between young and oldsters was blurred…

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This was summarized in typical Cassie fashion as she made the round of goodbyes before leaving for the plane home. “ Who knew I would get so attached to Old People?”


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Small Adventures with Little People

Franklin Institute .....Wandering through the Brain

We haven't spent near enough time in the city of Brotherly Love, but we seldom miss a chance to visit Anthony's favorite Place --The Franklin Institute. 

 Since Anthony was five, he has been seamlessly guiding grandparents to the really cool stuff.  "Up here.  You can crawl through the heart.."  

This time the "BRAIN" exhibit was open and promised more aerobic excercise for Meme and other "Cool Stuff".

The exhibits were first rate and tested us in so many ways.  We learned that "multitasking" is a myth. Doing two things at once practically guarantees doing two things poorly.  At lunch we tried out new knowledge about navigating.  We learned that women normally navigate by landmarks while men tend to use cardinal directions. 

BIG HE: How do we get back to the institute?  

SHE:  Walk back that way,
          turn at the bicycle with green tires,
then past the book shop,

past the stand where they are frying onions... 

LITTLE HE: ...and then...and then, you walk over to the fountain and you can see it from there! 


A (Hopefully) Unreported Incident

When a guy is seven and not too far from training wheels it's hard to get in solid mileage on your bike and prepare for a REAL bike ride, like on a Rail/Trail.  Meme and Papa go on Rail/Trails and send back bloggy pictures.  So, we all went down to the trail behind the Fire Station.  Papa rode over on his bike (four miles). Me and Meme brought ours in the Yukon.

  I rode faster, so I got way ahead.  Then came the "soft spot".  It stopped me the first time and the second time I was going "speed demon fast" and WIPED OUT! 

 I DIDN'T Cry (even a little) and Papa had a huge bandage for my knee.  He said that if I rode a lot I probably wouldn't fall. He can't remember the last time he fell.

Then I rode more.  Papa said to ride around the soft spot on the grass, and I did.  It worked.  Papa was so proud that he forgot to miss the soft spot and when he saw it, HE CRASHED.   He said he was OK and we should keep going, so we did.  He sat on the bench. I think he cried. Then we had ice cream.  I got Mango Ice, which everybody said was the best.  

I wanted to ride some more, so we did.  I rode four miles, which Meme says is a great start. Papa missed a couple laps, but he rode home really fast.  About the crashes, Meme says "We will never speak of this again."  She says that a lot.

The Grounds for Sculpture

I'm not experienced enough to know how the The Grounds for Sculpture ranks among the world's great exhibits, but I do know that it never fails to delight. Our little people are always ready to wander the park like grounds and wonder again.  When fifteen year old Cassie flew it, we knew that we would probably cover all the "secret places", reprise all the old gags, and probably be awestruck at least once or twice. If you are serious about ART, you may want to pass on this entry, but you would miss a lot.

It's a very welcoming place.  You learn right away that this is the home studio (Atelier) for Steward Johnson whose realistic "people" have made you do double takes all over the world.

All through the grounds, in the open and tucked away, you discover little vignettes.

Your interaction with the art work is optional, but not discouraged.

We decided these New Jersey folks know NOTHING about Barbeque!

Down a gated path, along  stepping stones and across a little rivulet, three young boys are discovered... with a centerfold.

There is (always) at least one great story.  Mr Johnson has a bronze of a well dressed man sitting and checking the contents of his briefcase.  It is called "Double Check'' and was placed near the front of the Merrill Lynch offices at the twin towers.  When the towers tragically came down, "Double Check" was unmoved, but nearly innundated with the paper blizzard that issued from the towers. In the early rescue efforts, more than one first responder thought the statue was a dust covered victim in shock.  Johnson was told it was the only laugh in a long, long day.

This is a representation of that initial chaos.

Over the weeks of debris removal, the statue was never moved, but remained blockaded behind fences.  It became a sort of shrine for the workers.  When Johnson visited the site, "Double Check" was festooned with dead flowers, wore an FBI hardhat,  with badges, crosses and other memorabilia crowding around. The new Bronze he created faithfully represents the original as he found it. It is the only exhibit in the new Hall which  honors Mr Johnson and his wife.