Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Untold Story

We're home after a busy and eventful 75 days on the road (6700 miles -- 4440 towing --  600 gallons). Reviewing pictures and logs,  the number of little details, adventures and misadventures that aren't recorded here amazes us.  Since Patty will shortly slip into septuagenarian status  (70 years --  50 married to ole what's his name -- countless adventures already dimming in memory) it seems useful to capture here a few of those. 

First we must record the absolute Joy it is to have "Our Sister Beth" along for part of the trip.  She joined us at Letchworth State Park for a quick tour of the Waterfalls, then on to Pine Creek for biking.  Perhaps the presence of a professional editor on board inhibited blog production, but somehow our visit to Watkins Glen State Park went unrecorded.

 Watkins Glen IS spectacular, even breathtaking. It is also a little like Disneyland with its engineered walkways and crowds.  We decided these were advantages, since it would be hard to concentrate on the treadway when each step reveals a new wonder (and it is nice to have someone nearby to share a gasp of appreciation with.)  The walk is less than two miles, but we took our time to study each nuance.

Beth left us in New York on an AMTRAK headed for Milwaukee. (400 passengers, nearly two days with delays and NO WATER or toilet facilities).  The algae bloom that closed water supplies along the great lakes left the train travelers with no resupply.  It's a horror story that deserves a minimum of retelling. 

But we have no shortage of toilet stories.  Prologue: We enjoy retelling the first advice we heard about RV maintenance on the road. 

 " If you have a problem, stand in front of the RV and scratch your head.  In minutes a crowd of at least 10 will appear. Half will have heard of this problem, at least three will have a solution and ONE will have the tools." 

Our friend Doug (who routinely disassembles Airstreams in campgrounds all over North America) added.  "If you really want to draw a crowd, toss your toilet out on the lawn." 

We tested this at Lakeside State Park in New York after a sixty mile trek to Camper World for a replacement, and a 120 mile return trip to actually get the right size.  Sadly, there was less interest in helping with this project than expected.  

Then there is the tale of the old man who carried replacement headlight bulbs around for two weeks. (Thanks to all who pointed that burned out bulb to us). He studied videos of the rather detailed dis-assembly required,  priced the required fender bolt removal device, vowed to do it himself (in the grass, after he replaced the damm tongue jack). Then, on his third trip into town for tongue jack whizzits, he approached the Elsworth Maine Pep Boys. The bright young mechanic wanted to see what was involved (having spent a couple hours lately on another GM bulb replacement.)  The ole man dutifully, but humbly, showed him what he had learned from the videos and sought an estimate.  The cheerful young man didn't open a ticket, whipped it into a bay and before the ole man could mutter "young whippersnappers", he was back in the waiting room asking what to do with the old bulbs.  He would not make a charge for his work. The ole man emptied his cash poor wallet and told him it was worth far more to him.  The mechanic just smiled the smile of a young man on the top of his game. "See you next time."

Whenever sister Beth is aboard there is the requisite "milling and muttering" also known as a visit to the Museum.  Any museum will do, just so it is cluttered, crowded and in close proximity to some adequate eats. 
Corning New York made this easy on us.  The parking was simple with the 'stream in tow; shuttle bus runs to the Corning Museum of Glass, the Rockwell Museum of Western Art and the Gaffer District of galleries and eateries.

The Glass museum features work both ancient and modern,

and demonstrations

I liked the craft and imagination displayed in this Chess Set with Jewish and Christian pieces. 

 Fortunately, we all got hungry before Chihuly overload overtook us and we found sustenance in the Gaffer District. 

Patty hung back from the ice cream ordering then scored BIG.

We returned a second day to visit the Rockwell.  There you can see a large collection of the art that spurred our leaders to fund the first National Parks.  

Huge canvases
and a really well presented collection of ancient and modern Southwestern Pottery with notes that were coherent without all the usual pomposity. 

The traveling exhibit was really a treat. Who knew that the Inuit and other circumpolar peoples had contact with the Viking-Norse settlements? How might their traditions and stories intermingled? 
Sculptures in Brazilian soapstone that you want to touch (Don't) and study from every angle...


Sunday, August 24, 2014


  overheard on our recent visit...

Well, Junior Rangers, we are just winding up our study of the beautiful Carriage Roads here at Acadia National Park. We have been hiking and biking and seeing each of the beautiful stone bridges and Gatehouses. Remember there are well over 45 miles of roads… and what are those large rocks at the edge of the roads called? 

Mr. Rockefeller’s Teeth..Giggles
That’s right little Timmy, but I’m sure it was meant respectfully.  We are all very thankful to the Rockefellers for the gift of these roads to our park. 

Any other questions from you Junior Rangers?

What are those piles of sticks lying between the "teeth" way up on the high parts of the Roads?

You mean the bushy ones with the trimmed ends all piled neatly between the “teeth”?  Well, that’s going to take a little explaining…

You know, of course, that Mr. Rockefeller took an active interest in designing and building these roads.  He was out with his engineers and workmen picking just the right slopes for the horses and making sure that the passengers got a good view of all the mountains, the waterfalls and especially the lovely beaver ponds.  The roads pass close to the ponds at low altitudes and the vistas high up the roads nearly always look down on a pond or stream. 

Now as time went on and the Acadia NP was formed, what do you think happened to the trees in front of the scenic vista?

Chorus:  THEY GREW..

Yes, indeed they did grow.  How quickly you recognized that!  The trees and brush grew and might have obscured the vista.  This happened in other places managed by the Park Service …like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park and others. There they couldn’t just trim the bushes (now trees), they had to form an Intragovernmental Committee with representatives from all over, and take public comments and Study..
And what were the trees (now 80 years old) doing?

Chorus: GROWING! giggles,

Well, they did finally cut the brush and trees back.  They got out the original drawings and marked the lines of sight and prepared to cut the trees (which by now were huge and some quite attractive themselves.)   Contracts had to be let because this was now a job way too large for a few park employees with a brush hook.  Objections were raised by those who wanted the vistas to look “just like they always did” – a leafy green wall apparently. One suggestion by a well-meaning  “holistic environmentalist” to airlift the largest trees out to Wyoming to provide shade for the wild horses that were being “saved” was tabled for future study.

FORTUNATELY, we didn’t have that problem here in Acadia because we have BULL BEAVERS.

What are Bull Beavers you ask?  Bull Beavers are just regular beavers, but they are HUGE. 

 beaver clipart  

A beaver lodge. 

They live in those well-appointed lodges you see along the carriage roads in the lowlands. 

  They have no enemies here, so they grow large and somewhat indolent.  But in late summer, as the bike traffic on the carriage roads peaks, their summer work begins.  They must work at night to avoid the bikes, but you can often see the drag marks their tails make in the loose gravel as they climb the roads to the high places.  There they trim the likely brush, usually branches with a 1-2” diameter, about 6-12 feet long.  (You can tell the work of a Bull Beaver because this brush is cut in a single clean stroke, not those little baby nibbles of lesser beavers.) 
After a hard nights work, they hide out in the little streams during the heat if the day.  If you ever see a beaver high up in the hills, splashing in a pool, you’re a lucky ranger; few people ever sight them. 

When this summer work is complete and the brush neatly stacked, it’s easy to look down and see the ponds far below.  Then, all there is to do is wait.

  Come November the park is nearly empty, and the first big snow falls. It is also the time of the full winter moon. It is now that all the little baby beavers scamper up the carriage trails. (They may mess up the grooves that nice volunteers “groom” for the cross country skiers. And the Park Service folks will issue stern warnings to keep “horses and dogs” out of the grooves.)


Each baby beaver grasps a long brushy bough between its front paws, climbs astride it with its broad tail pressing down on the leaves and slides down the steep, clear vista to the icy pond below. The ride is far superior to anything the cross country skiers experience.  It is wonderful! And it provides both a break from midwinter “Lodge Fever” and a big load of tasty snacks (since the Park Service” frowns on cutting too much brush around the ponds).

 And, oh yes, the vistas from the high points on the carriage roads once again peek down on the ponds and streams below, just as Mr. Rockefeller intended


Dr. Narinder P. Bhalla. 
Cardiologist extraordinaire
Riverside Cardiology
Montgomery, Alabama

Hi Doc.

On the reverse is a map of the Carriage Trails at Acadia NP –- 45+ miles of glorious ups and downs with scenic views, fresh air with the scent of Balsam. 

We started out on the Parkman Mountain trails which may not have been a great idea.  

 No, put away your stethoscope, I’m fine.  I’m GREAT, just a little winded on the long climbs. (Some of these are much higher and 5x as long as the one I had my heart attack on.) Heck, I was winded on these when I was 65. We rode all week and finished again the last day in the hilly southern end.  We Almost did every mile. I was trying.

The views at the top are worth it.  Couldn’t get Al to take a picture of me leaning over the handlebars gasping (...at the view).  He says ONE picture of me having a heart attack is enough for his portfolio.

Really, I didn’t overdo.  People of all ages and shapes ride here. One guy with an Alpe d’huez jersey has done the “Circle of Death” in the Pyrenees twice, and one little four year old on his own bike seems destined to be great on the downhills.   Most are just casual riders like us or they are friends that get dragged along. We passed one petulant young woman who was declaring "I will NOT climb another hill." Everybody finished their ride and, though they may not think so tomorrow, they are better for it.  I know I am.

Thanks for the great job on the stent, Doc.  See you soon.  I think I’ll bring Al in to see you too.  He says he won’t need the Stress Test.  He’s already had that.


This is me ordering another Lobster Roll at Thurston's Lobster Pound.  I insist.  
Beauty shot of the bikes.  Al insists...