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Archive for September, 2008

Our first two days in Maine were good. We had a shaky re-entry into the U.S. The port at which we entered was under construction and there were trucks parked all over. A sign pointed all trucks and big vehicles through a portal to the right, so we drove through it and parked next to a truck that might be entering the U.S. or might be there for the construction. The inspector got frustrated that we hadn’t waited for him to tell us when to drive through, but the sign didn’t say that. Then, even though we were under our liquor limit, he began to lecture us about duty and taxes on liquor until the next vehicle that didn’t wait for him to go through the portal.  He told us he was working by himself that can’t be fun because there was a lot of activity going on. I still don’t even know the name of the port we came through; I thought it was better not to ask him. 

Maine road

Maine road

Things got better at Lily Bay State Park. Pretty far north in Maine, the park is lined up along a small chunk of enormous Moosehead Lake. We went for a walk along the shoreline at sunset and listened to loons calling back and forth across the water. The air was completely still and the lake was glassy, with little islands popping out here and there. The trees in the area are about 25% changed. It’s interesting to see the process of color change happening. 

Changing Maple leaves

Changing Maple leaves

Sunset on Moosehead Lake

Sunset on Moosehead Lake

The next day, we hiked around the lake for a while, hoping to see some moose, but no luck. We drove to a bog that moose liked, but none were to be seen. Then we decided to let Garmin lead us to Spencer’s Bay. It put us on a “road” without a name that quickly turned into a small rutted trail. After 1.5 miles, Dave decided not to creep through a puddle that might be deep, so we gave it up.

 We spent the rest of the afternoon reading at the beach by the lake. There was one other couple sitting far away, being entertained by local ducks. Then the ducks abandoned them and waddled purposely towards us. After ascertaining that we weren’t going to feed them, I though they would leave. But instead, they stuck around, picking at stuff in the grass, periodically nibbling our shoes and shoelaces to redetermine if they were edible. Two were definitely a couple and the third might have been a juvenile. Dave shooed a spider off his chair, and Mama duck obligingly ate it. Finally, one, two, three, they settled down in a row about 6 inches from our feet, stuck their heads into their back feathers, and took naps. (As Dave said “We finally have our ducks in a row.”) Sitting like that, we got a good look at them. Each of the three had a beautiful blue streak at the bottom of their wings that changed color from cobalt blue to purple to teal blue as they moved. Otherwise, they had different plumage. They made a few clucking noises to each other, but never quacked at all. It was amazing that they would be so unconcerned with us right behind them. Maybe we still have the aura of Butters the duck on us. Suddenly, all three rose straight up into the air from their seated positions and flapped off in a panic. We couldn’t see a thing around that might have spooked them, but who knows what scares a duck?  

Boat dock

Boat dock

I had trouble sleeping that night and remembered that we had forgotten to look at the stars. I got up to check out the stars, but a plethora of trees and a lack of contacts made it difficult to determine if there were any up in the sky. Oh well. It’s too bad because upstate Maine is a good place from which to see the night sky; there’s no big cities nearby.

We’re in a campground near Bar Harbor now. Today is a major laundry day – 5 washing machines worth. We need to get our chores done. Tomorrow will be rainy and on Sunday, Bar Harbor is expected to experience the tail-end of the latest hurricane. We’ll have a front row seat, looking out over the bay.

 

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After drinking up all our wine so Canadian Customs wouldn’t charge us exorbitant duty, they never even looked in the RV. So we got up to Montreal quickly and camped pretty far outside the city. The next day, we drove 20 miles to a point where we could catch the Metro and went into Montreal. We headed for the Old Town, passing the congressional building which looks like a Mondrian painting, with colored windows, as well as a forest of bright pink tree trunks inside. Old Montreal was nice, but we weren’t overwhelmed. We visited the Beaux-Art Museum, which has an interesting collection of artworks, including some by the Inuit. We ended the day at Sir Winston Churchill Pub, a two-story bar/restaurant on rue Crescent with a very good happy hour.  

Montreal Palais des congres

Montreal Palais des congres

Dave in color

Dave in color

The next day we went to St. Joseph Oratory, a wonderful church perched on the top of Mont-Royal, with spectacular views from it’s terraces. We then, after some noisy, traffic-laden hiking, found our way into Mont-Royal Park, another high spot with great views.

Our third day was spent at the Olympic Park. We ambled through the Biodome, converted from the Olympic Velodome. It contains four biological zones, with vegetation, animal and marine life from each one. An interesting exhibit had two lynxes, each with it’s own dead rodent hanging from its mouth. Rather than settling down to eat them, they paced back and forth, perhaps enjoying the anticipation of a meal, or nervous with all the people staring at them. The penguins were another great exhibit with various kinds of penguins cavorting both in and out of the water.

We then meandered through the Botanical Gardens, which were enhanced by the annual Magic Lantern display, where hundreds of hand painted and individually crafted lanterns were distributed throughout the Chinese Garden. The rest of the Gardens were also beautiful and too big for us to see it all. 

Fish lanterns

Fish lanterns

The next stop was Quebec City, where we wore ourselves out yesterday. I had several walking tour narratives I had copied from tour books, but it was hard to follow them while looking at a map. We managed to see a lot just wandering around. We stumbled onto St-Jean late in the afternoon, and gratefully sank into chairs in front of a bar. There were no cars or trucks on the street and a 2-foot strip of grass going down the middle. People, dogs and entertainers wandered up and down. After a while, we realized that the street was closed to cars just for that particular day. We sat and drank, then we moved on down a block or so to eat dinner. We both had escargot, mine in garlic butter and Dave’s in Pernod. Yum.  The rest of dinner was pretty good as well.

 

Le Chateau Frontenac

Le Chateau Frontenac

Place Royale

Place Royale

 

La Gare de palais

La Gare de palais

 

 

 

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Our time in the Adirondack Mountains wasn’t optimal, weather wise, but we did what we could. We went up to Old Forge on Saturday, and went to the Old Forge Hardware Store. As we were informed, it was a huge warren of separate rooms, some with kitchenware, some with yarn (including ladies knitting and sipping coffee like they lived there), some with tourist junk, and on and on. We needed needles and an extension cord, and the clerks knew exactly where each of those items was. We also found replacements for our original enameled tin coffee cups that were so perfect for reheating coffee in a pot of water on the stove. (God knows what contaminants came off the tin, but we can’t live forever.) We had a pleasant lunch, sitting outside, watching tourists and locals wander Main Street. We took a little drive around the local lake, noting the almost total lack of public access. It’s surprising how little public access there is to water in the East. You’re okay once you get a boat in the water, but forget it otherwise. 

The next day we proceeded to Lake Placid-Wilmington. We stayed at a lovely KOA with a nice manager who gave us some good pointers on visiting local spots and Montreal. It rained quite a bit during the night and the next day we went hiking in wet, cloudy weather. It wasn’t bad under the trees. We’ve learned that great photographs can be made in inclement weather. The most notable thing I saw on the trail was the large variety and quantity of fungi. It ranged from one that looked like a flower to little pink ones that looked like bubble gum.

Fungi on the Copperas Lake Trail

Fungi on the Copperas Lake Trail

The next day was spectacular: perfect autumn weather with great visibility. So we drove up to the top of Mt. Whiteface. We climbed up about 200 or 300 steps to the summit and joined those who had taken the elevator. The 360-degree views of Lake Placid and the Adirondacks went for about 60 miles. There wasn’t a whisper of wind. After a picnic on the mountain, we drove around the Lake Placid area; very pretty. The trees aren’t changing color much, so we’ll move on.

   

Stairs to Mt Whiteface summit

Stairs to Mt Whiteface summit

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We had to make a tough decision about what route to take to Buffalo, our next destination. We found out that we could only take 4 bottles of wine with us through Canada. We had 18. Apparently the Canadian duty and taxes on alcohol are extremely high – more than our wine is worth. So we tacked on an extra hundred miles to drive through the United States and save our wine cache. That gives us two extra weeks to drink it down to an exportable amount. Darn Customs.

We reached Amhurst (north of Buffalo) and our friend, Michael D’Ambrosio’s place on Friday afternoon. He has a beautiful home with lush greenery in front and back, though not as lush as it was before last October’s terrible ice storm. People are still dealing with dead or dying trees as a result of that storm. After going out for a “fish fry” dinner, we visited the local Albright Knox Art Gallery, which has a wonderful contemporary art collection. We had gotten soaked while dashing towards the gallery in a sudden downpour, and we shivered and giggled our way through the Op Art galleries; they were wonderful.  

Mary and Michael

Mary and Michael

Michael took us out to the Western New York Gas and Steam Engine Show on Saturday. What a weird experience. Hundreds of people spread out their old gas- and steam-driven machines over acres of field. There was an enormous, steam-driven plow, with four men raising and lowering the plow blades. There was a cannon that shot pumpkins an enormous distance. There was a very old Maytag washing machine, spouting suds. There were home-built miniature machines that went “Ta-pock-a-ta, ta-pock-a-ta”. There was a tractor pull (not terribly exciting). There was some very good kettle corn (which made me think of Sandy Sary, who would bring big bags of it back from lunch at work). An edifying day. It ended with a delicious dinner, created by Michael, of chicken with artichoke hearts and an amazing number of fresh vegetables, and, of course, one of our many bottles of wine that we have to use up before visiting Canada.

An older Maytag washer

An older Maytag washer

Sunday we went to Rochester, to the Eastman House. George Eastman is the person who invented a camera that was easy to use and established Kodak. The house, Eastman’s lavish mansion, contains an enormous collection of photographic prints, several galleries, a movie theater, and a café with very good chocolate cake. Michael led us to Dinosaur BBQ for dinner and we had the best barbeque we’ve had in ages.

 The next day was chore day. We got the RV water pump replaced for the fourth time. We bought an extra water pump to carry with us, because they fail so quickly. We got the seal on the toilet fixed, which should result in better-smelling bathroom. Not too exciting.

 Tuesday, we were on our own. Michael, for some reason, didn’t want to go the Niagara Falls with us. (He’s only been there a few hundred times.) So after a hearty breakfast of Spam and eggs (not me, I don’t like Spam), we headed north, parked at Goat Island, and walked around for several hours. The falls are spectacular, but very different from how I remember them in 1975. We photographed a lot, took many pictures of other people with their cameras, decided not to get wet on the “Maid of the Mist” boat, and finally took the Bocce lamp to a viewpoint to photograph. That aroused quite a lot of interest, and we had to explain many times that the lamp was on a tour of the U.S. 

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Bocce Lamp observing American Falls

Bocce Lamp observing American Falls

Wednesday, we took off to the Finger Lakes. We drove alongside Seneca Lake, passing many wineries, and settled in at a KOA.

 We had a great hike yesterday and hopefully worked off some of the weight we gained at Michael’s. Watkins Glen State Park is a great place, a deep, narrow canyon that has 19 waterfalls of various sizes along a 3-mile round-trip trail. We dawdled along at our usual pace (slow) and enjoyed the great vista points along the way. It’s lucky we got a hike in yesterday, because today has been rainy all day. We are now outside of Old Forge in the Adirondacks. I hope the rain stops tomorrow.

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We’re ensconced in front of the Mahanic home in Allen Park, Michigan. Roger had to go to city hall yesterday to get a permit for us to camp in front of his home. He was muttering something about gypsies, but that can’t be Dave and me; we’re part English, Italian, Irish and Norwegian with no gypsy in there, although Dave’s Italian blood may be slightly suspect. But neither of us have flashing, dark eyes.

Our final day before entering Mahanic-land was spent at Frankenmuth, a pretty town proud of it’s Germanity. There are many flowers, clocks, meat products and tourists. It also contains Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the World’s Largest Christmas Store. I enticed Dave to come with me and we did a 30-minute run-through before it closed. It was very impressive, with entire areas devoted to Michigan State and Nascar ornaments, as well as angels and the more usual decorations. 

Santa outside of Bronners

Santa outside of Bronners

We got to Roger and Linda’s place on Saturday and distracted them from preparing for the annual Bocce tournament on Sunday. They took us out to dinner at a Lebanese restaurant (absolutely great) and then we went to a bakery for dessert. They had the most beautiful French pastries that I’ve ever seen except in Paris. We got 5 of them, all different, all scrumptious, for $6.50.  It’s almost worth moving to Detroit just for the food. We spent the end of our first night in the living room with Roger and Linda, Nick and Katie, their son and daughter, Maggie, the dog, and Butters, the duck. Yes, duck. Butters resides on a towel on an ottoman and remains quiet, preening herself or napping. She has the run of the large back yard and has her own kiddie pool to paddle about. Raised by humans since she was a chick, she’s not afraid of people, although she avoids being touched, except by Linda. It’s fascinating to watch her.

Roger, Maggie the dog, Linda, Butters the duck

Roger, Maggie the dog, Linda, Butters the duck

The Bocce tournament, in the Mahanic back yard, was amazing. There were 40 two-person teams and that didn’t include kids too young to play and a few adults who didn’t participate. Nick and Katie, the Mahanic progeny, performed logistical magic in keeping track of all the teams and making sure no time was wasted between games. Bocce, beer and great food went on from 2 to 10 p.m. I and my partner, Brent, survived two rounds but lost the third one. But my amazing husband, with his lovely partner, Hope, just kept on progressing until the final playoff for the championship. It was pitch black by then and lanterns were being wielded so players could see the field. Dave and Hope came in second to Bob and Jane, but not because Hope didn’t try very hard to distract and harass Bob. So Dave and Hope didn’t get the lovely chandelier that is first prize; but they won something far better: a bowling pin lamp. Hope graciously relinquished it to us for the duration of our trip because the lamp has not seen much of this big world, and so we are going to make it more widely traveled. Then we will return it to Hope for the remainder of the year. (The chandelier and lamp are always the first and runner-up prizes.) Dave and I have figured out how to safely integrate the lamp into our 26-foot home, although it was mentioned that a bowling pin is used to getting knocked around. A good time was had by all. 

Dave's game

Dave

Measuring in the dark

Measuring in the dark

The Runners Up Prize

The Runners Up Prize

Monday was spent recuperating. Tuesday, we accompanied Roger and Nick on a trip to Ann Arbor, MI where Nick attended law school. What a pretty college town. The University of Michigan is beautiful, with old trees gracing a sunny quad and an astounding law library, built underground so as not to disturb the historical building above it.  

 

Michigan U Law Library

Michigan U Law Library

Thursday we got a definitive tour of Detroit from a friend of the Mahanics, Jim Gross. The man has prodigious knowledge about the area. We saw the mansions in Grosse Pointe. We saw the burned out houses in some other areas. We saw “The Heidelburg Project”, two blocks in a run-down area that are devoted to art pieces sitting in vacant lots and houses painted in unique ways. One house had numbers painted all over it; another had varicolored dots; a third had “O.J.” painted all over it. We were exhausted by the amount of information he imparted to us (although the hot dogs we had for lunch might have devoted all available energy to digestion). In the end, we decided “Detroit: It’s not that bad”. 

 

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What’s a Polenta?

After Baraboo, we headed up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We camped at Wandering Wheels, in a space surrounded by 3 sides of thick trees. When shopping in the local store, I asked if they had polenta. “What’s a polenta?” responded the teenage clerk. They’re not too fancy in northern Michigan. We went for a hike to see couple of waterfalls in Pictured Rock National Seashore (on Lake Superior). Mosquito Falls was pretty nice. Dave jumped down off a shelf to get some better shots, while I hovered above, hoping he would find a way back up. He did. We saw a white-tailed deer, which looks a little different from our California black-tailed deer. 
Mosquito Falls, Pictured Rocks National Seashore

Mosquito Falls, Pictured Rocks National Seashore

The next day we drove to Miners Castle Beach and lazed around for a few hours, watching several people prepare to go kayaking. It looks complicated, but I hope we get to do it at some point on this trip. We then drove back to the Chapel area and hiked out to Mosquito Beach. That area has layer upon layer of sandstone, of various colors and consistency. Lake Superior water also consists of various shades of blue and turquoise near the shore. 

Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks

Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks

On Tuesday, we found a secluded state forest campground called “Three Lakes”. There was maybe one or two other campers there. We then went on a much-too-long drive to Taquamenon State Park. It had a neat, second-largest-waterfall-east-of-the-Mississippi vibe, but wasn’t worth driving 94 miles to and from. We did see a shoe tree and get some pretty decent ice cream though. I’ve been reading a book titled “Crooked Tree” that is an Indian-bear horror tale, set in the area we’re camping in. Luckily, it hasn’t been too scary for me, camping in the wilds of Michigan. 

Taquahomen Falls, Upper Peninsula, MI

Taquahomen Falls, Upper Peninsula, MI

 

Walker Lake with morning mist

Walker Lake with morning mist

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