Thursday, June 30, 2011

Above is a shot of John, Abner and me at the Craggy Pinnacle overlook and the one below is of John at Whiteside Mountain. These were taken when John visited us over Memorial Day right before Abner and I left on our big summer Odyssey.

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It is Saturday night the 11th of June and Abner and I are now 8 days into what is supposed to be almost a summer’s length odyssey in my new trailer. While there have been some really fun things thus far, I have to admit that I am not exactly in love with my trailer.

We started in Asheville on the morning of Saturday the 4th with the plan to drive as far as Williamsport, MD on the first day. That seemed to be a reasonable distance that would allow me to pull into my space at the KOA there during daylight hours and get all the various utilities hooked up without having to resort to wearing my headlamp. Things seemed to go pretty well initially. The drive from Asheville via I-26 and I-81 as far as the interchange with I-64 was identical to one I had made a couple weeks back with Jim Sundquist when he came to Asheville for a visit, so there really were no surprises. I have gotten reasonably competent at refueling with my 30 feet of trailer behind me, although sometimes it takes patience since many stations that have diesel only have one pump that is for low sulfur highway fuel.
This also was going to be Abner’s longest trip since we went to see family in Indiana a couple years ago so I decided that for both of our sakes we would use roadside rest areas every two or three hours along the route. At one of them we had stopped so Abner could walk, sniff and pee, and so I could gobble some food in the trailer. This is one nice thing about a trailer with a fridge filled with food. No more stops at Subway.

At this one stop, as I have realized will be common, a couple in a very large fancy motorhome came by to ask about the trailer. I have an Earthbound Golden Ridge and it looks pretty unusual. . .really nothing like most trailers. People who are into RVs seem very curious about my setup so I talked with this older couple briefly as I had others before. They left rather quickly probably 10 minutes or more ahead of us. We eventually got back on the freeway heading north and after about another 20 minutes I got off to get diesel. Right before I got off there was an electronic road sign warning of a lane closure ahead due to an accident. I didn’t really think much about it because traffic wasn’t bad so I wasn’t really concerned about a slowdown due to an accident.

Unfortunately, when I got back on the freeway within about another 6 miles or so we hit a solid block of stopped traffic. It was a very hot day so for awhile Abner and I just stayed in the car. A fire truck went by on the right shoulder and up ahead we could see a couple of helicopters landing but that was it. Eventually a group of four truckers got out of their cabs and were standing in the grass beside the road chatting, so I got out and walked Abner a bit, and then went over to this group to see if they knew anything about the delay.

The report was that the accident had involved at least one fatality, and was in the process of being cleaned up. They were guessing we would have about a total of an hour wait and at that point we had already spent more than half that so after a brief walk-and-pee we got back into the car to wait in comfort. At about the 50 minute point all of a sudden both lanes began to move at about 8 mph. It appeared that they had reopened both lanes and in a short time we were moving at around 15. Since the accident was only about 2-3 miles from where I had been stopped it didn’t take long to reach the site.

To my amazement, the vehicle in the accident was the big fancy motorhome of the couple I had chatted with so briefly 30 miles back. It appeared to have gone off the right side of the road, crashed through and over a guard rail and ended up about 75 feet off the right side of the road up a slight rise in deep woods. The entire front end of the motorhome was gone. The front wheels and chassis still seemed to be there but the cab where the driver and passenger would have been was gone. . .no floor, no walls, no steering wheel, no dash, no windshield, no seats. . nothing.
It isn’t like I knew these folks but I had just talked with them and now at least one of them was dead, and from the looks of their motorhome it would have surprised me if either had survived. This is not the kind of event one wants to experience on the first day of a very long RV trip.

By the time I got to Williamsport I was more than an hour later than I had anticipated being. To make matters worse, the KOA is in a lovely spot but definitely off the beaten path down some narrow country and suburban roads. When I was near it I missed one critical turn and ended up in someone’s gravel driveway with no way out. The owner of the house very graciously assisted me in backing out of his road and getting me pointed the right direction. He said that people are always winding up at his place because the signage for the KOA is pretty limited.
Once I was turned around I was driving really slowly on the way back to the intersection I had been told to look for and a young man who was playing catch with a little boy came out and gave me more specifics about where to turn. I guess these people are really used to seeing big RVs lumbering down their roads with drivers who look lost and confused. They were very nice about helping which made the ordeal a little less significant.

By the time I pulled into the KOA it was 7:30 and I was dirty and tired. It took a little while to check in but an employee guided me to my spot on a golf cart and I began the process of setting up for the night. This was simply not going to go well. I plugged in the electrical cord so I could start the A/C and get the trailer cooled down but the next step was connecting the water line. No sooner was it turned on than water began gushing out of the bottom of the trailer on the left side right in front of the wheels.

The Quebecois couple in the adjacent space deduced that my water heater was leaking (although that didn’t exactly turn out to be the case) and suggested turning off the valve to it. That worked and the leak stopped but it meant that I was going to have a cold shower that night.

I made a simple dinner and hooked up my computer to check some email before showering and climbing into bed. I was demoralized by the day and thinking that having a giant leak that rendered my water heater unusable did not bode well for a trip that was to last 37 days before I would briefly be home in mid-July. Since I would be driving to see my friends Ann and Bowers in Summit NJ the following day and staying with them for three nights, I figured I could find someone to fix it while I was there and not have to worry about it in smaller places like Ithaca, NY or Kingston ON which were my next stops.

We left Williamsport at a decent hour of the morning and headed back onto i-81 north toward Pennsylvania. This is one of these strange Interstates that require pretty much a whole day to get through Virginia and the only an hour to get through West Virginia and Maryland to make it to the Pennsylvania line. The original 13 colonies had borders drawn for very specific reasons and while no one I spoke with knew why a tiny piece of Maryland sticks over the north side of West Virginia, it does to this day.

The drive, as planned, to Summit was a relatively short one so we were there by 2:00 in the afternoon. Ann and Bowers met me in front of their house and we were pretty casual about leaving my “rig” in the street. The smaller residential streets of summit are not wide so I was a little surprised that this was OK but it did allow the neighbors to gawk and allowed Abner to get to know Holly, the resident Vizsla and for me to relax a little. Eventually though it became time to park the trailer in the large loop driveway of Ann’s friend Liz who lives across the street. Ann and Bowers both had assured me this would be easy but when we got there it didn’t prove to be quite the cakewalk they had envisioned.

For any of this to make sense you have to understand the physics of turning with a 29’+ long trailer with two axles in the middle. You cannot turn too tightly because the front end of the trailer can actually hit the side of the car that is towing it, so turns are, as a rule, wide and gentle. Because the street is so narrow in front of Liz’s house, this was not reasonable. I made the turn as wide as I could without driving on lawn or into shrubbery but it still didn’t allow the trailer to clear what looked like a small cherry tree on the left side of the drive.
Stuck partway into the driveway with Ann helping me decide what to do, I was then confronted with a sudden burst of cars wanting to get either into or past Liz’s driveway. Seems that both of her 20-something sons were at home and both appear to have active social lives. Ann stood in the street diverting traffic to other routes while helping me negotiate my way out of the first entry to the drive. Backing up still isn’t my strong suit but this went actually quite well and we were back in the street and in good position. As luck would have it, even though the second entry to the drive was a right angle turn. . .much sharper than the first, the people whose property faces that drive had just put a bunch of small rocks in what became the only shoulder in the neighborhood. Liz encouraged me to go ahead and drive on her neighbor’s rocks allowing a much wider curve of approach and at this end of the drive there was no limiting tree. Success!

After that the various moves required to locate where my water and electrical equipment could be hooked up to the outside of Liz’s house seemed relatively easy, and after a short time, the trailer was parked, stabilized, plugged in, and ready to be seen by the residents of Summit who felt the need.

On Monday bright and early, I contacted Earthbound to get their permission, and hopefully input on who to call, to get the needed repair work done so I could start using hot water again. A guy at Earthbound by the name of Bill Hughes whom I gather is responsible for warranty claims was put in charge. Bill said he realized the need to get it fixed promptly and authorized me to hire someone but couldn’t give me any help regarding a good mobile service. He did, however, make some suggestions about what I might do prior to someone coming by to help diagnose what had actually failed. As it turned out, this was very helpful.

When I finished talking with him, I started calling numbers I found on Google searches and nothing was working. I then started calling dealers for recommendations. The interesting thing about this part of New Jersey is that it is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet but RV dealers and parks are few and far between. There is one giant dealership about 40 or so miles away called Garick’s and when I finally got through to someone in their service department he grasped the situation immediately and gave me two names and numbers to try. One he said, Steve Raye, would be my best bet. Boy was he right.

I called Steve Raye first and got him on his cell phone. I explained my situation and he was very sympathetic but was also very busy and far away. Nonetheless, he agreed to come by on Tuesday morning around 10:30, got my particulars, and rang off. Meanwhile, Bowers, who is something of a do-it-yourselfer, having spent the last two years rebuilding a 1969 Mustang with his son Matt, was eager to do some of the investigation Bill Hughes had suggested and offered to assist.

So late Monday morning, armed with a couple of tools, Bowers and I attacked the problem. Since the leak was daylighting in front of the wheel housing we figured its source could be anywhere between the water heater itself and the actual spot where it was appearing. First I took off the outside panel that protects and ventilates the water heater. With Bowers inside I opened the valve to provide full water flow to all the trailer’s parts and the water began gushing from the same spot as before but clearly the water heater itself and its housing were dry. This was something of a relief because it meant that we wouldn’t be having to repair or replace a costly on-demand water heater.

The next step was removing an upholstered panel below the sofa which fills the slide out. This was relatively easy and when we repeated the pressurization of the system I could see the point where water was spraying profusely from one of a cluster of hoses. This seemed like a major victory because it meant that all Steve Raye would have to do was figure out exactly which hose was leaking and cut out the offending section to be replaced by intact hose. Feeling quite victorious and self-sufficient, Bowers and I headed back to the house and had a very pleasant rest of the day.

On Tuesday morning, after a couple of cups of coffee and reasonably complete emails to keep the Earthbound people in the loop, I awaited the arrival of Mr. Raye. Sure enough, at 10:32 I got a cell phone call telling me he was at my trailer. I walked over to meet him and we began the process of further investigation and repair. Quickly Steve found one pipe that had a large flat section on one side that appeared to have either been flattened and then leaked, or perhaps was just defective when it was installed and eventually burst. The removal and replacement of this pipe was quick and painless. In the process though, Steve discovered the root cause of the problem.

Armed with his powerful flashlight, we could see the lettering on the sidewall of the left front tire through a 6-inch + hole it had worn through the wheel well. Once it made it through the plastic of the wheel well it had gone to work on the hose, grinding it down to the point where pressurizing the night in Williamsport had been enough to cause a crack of more than an inch and the resulting gusher of water. Further observation indicated that all four of the tires are rubbing against the insides of the wheel wells, although the other three have just abraded the plastic without actually wearing through. Steve’s assessment of this problem was that it was a serious error from the manufacturer and that they definitely needed to be the ones to fix it. What he did do though was to pull the whole cluster of pipes and wires far enough away from the tire that they would be safe from further damage and he looked at the conditions for the others just to make sure that even if they did wear through, nothing would be damaged.

At this point I called Bill Hughes and explained to him what had happened. Understandably he was embarrassed and flabbergasted by this situation. His feeling is that either the axles were delivered too short resulting in the contact with all four tires, or the wheel housings were too small. In either case, armed with my photos of the problem, he said he would reimburse me for the cost of the initial repair and suggested that when I am going through Indiana, I need to stop in Marion for a day so they can get the trailer in and look at the problem. We are scheduled to have them look at it and hopefully repair it on the 6th of July. I guess the worst case scenario is that they will figure out what has to be done and then instruct a local shop to do it once I get back to Asheville.

The visit to Ithaca, which came next, was interesting to say the least. It had been ridiculously hot on the drive to NJ and was even more so the day we left for Ithaca. Even though we were heading north the heat didn't abate and in fact, when I was pulling into downtown Ithaca on our way to the campground where we had reserved space for three nights, the outside temp guage on my car read 100 degrees. This is hardly normal for Ithaca.

We checked in to the campground and were assigned a site at the far end of the place but which was mercifully shaded. Since Abner would end up having to spend time in the trailer while I was doing some business at Cornell it was necessary to keep the trailer cool and while the air conditioning seems to be pretty good, in 100 degree heat it is not the easiest task to keep a trailer cool. The walls are well insulated but still are thin and had we been in direct sun I would have worried about Abner's well-being. As it turned out he seemed no worse for wear.

We walked a bit on campus once the sun was low the first evening but it was just too hot to do much so we went back to the trailer to just relax and enjoy some down time.

In the morning I had an appointment with the Director and Curators of the Johnson Art Museum so Abner had to stay at the RV park. I took him for an early brief walk and then got dressed and headed over to Cornell for my meetings. Things went reasonably well with the museum people and I was free around lunch time so after checking in at the College of Architecture, Art and Planning where I had a meeting scheduled for the following day, I had a quick bite in a cafe in a building on the Arts Quad that was operational when I was there 40+ years ago. It was still pretty mediocre.

In the afternoon it was still ridiculously hot so I took Abner to places I knew we could walk in shade, carried water, and hoped for the best.

Friday was a different matter. The weather finally broke and was down in the sensible but still warm 80s so after my morning meeting with the new Assistant Director of Admissions for Undergraduate Architecture, and lunch with her at a deli downtown that was also a relic of my time at Cornell in the 60s, I headed back to the RV park where Abner seemed to be taking everything in stride.

Since the park was located on the West side of Cayuga Lake and quite close to Taughannock Falls State Park, I thought a hike in the much milder weather would be fun so we headed over there and it was just as beautiful as I had remembered.

Finally, after three nights outside of Ithaca, Abner and I hitched up again and headed north up I-81 to Canada and what we planned to be a lengthy stay just outside of Kingston Ontario.

Some of the campgrounds are not what they are cracked up to be. I am currently in one that advertises free WiFi as well as offering level pull through sites. I am on a steeply sloping, tight back-in site and there is literally not one site on the property where the WiFi signal will come in once there are leaves on the trees. Considering that the place is closed until April, this makes it so there are very few months that the WiFi they promise actually works. I think I am going to shorten my stay by a couple weeks and move on. My old friend John Cowle, who is a practicing architect in Toronto has a house in Picton which is about 40 miles from where we are now. He has offered his house to Abner and me for the two weeks that we are anticipating spending in Ontario once we check out of the RV park in Kingston and I think we will take him up on it.

One of the planned side trips was to see Ottawa for a day and that was a worthwhile visit. Ottawa, the federal Capital of Canada is in the Northern section of Eastern Ontario right across the river from Gatineau and Hull Quebec. As a consequence, there are lots of people one hears speaking Quebecois French around town which adds to the somewhat exotic feel to the place. The government buildings and in particular, the houses of Parliament are unlike any government buildings in the US. Unlike the ubiquitous Neoclassical architecture that pervades US government buildings, the Parliament buildings are some confection of stony Gothic revival that is quite spectacular. Some of the roofs are so steep you almost wonder why they even bother with the copper cladding. The complex sits on a high bluff above the Ottawa river right next to where the Rideau Canal locks lower boats that can navigate from Lake Ontario all the way up to Ottawa.

We had the good fortune of being there on a spectacularly sunny day. It was almost too hot at times to walk Abner but because of all the shady routes available along the river and canal we managed to walk for most of the afternoon. At one point we walked into the lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel to get some information and seek some water and shade for Abner to rest and cool off. Even though we weren’t guests of the hotel, the people at the concierge desk arranged for us to have access to a covered terrace off a restaurant. They brought out a chair for me to sit on, a huge bowl of water for Abner, and a glass of iced tea for me, and wouldn’t allow me to pay for any of it. The Fairmont chain has always impressed me. I have stayed at three of their hotels in the past and they were all superb. They are mostly old grand hotels that were built in close proximity to the Canadian National Railway System stations and are, as far as I can tell, all dog friendly.
Unfortunately for me, they were booked up for the night we were staying in town and we ended up at the Delta City Centre Hotel. Delta hotels are a medium sized Canadian chain that also offers dog hospitality. Sadly, the hotel didn’t do much for the human customer or the dog. For starters, it is almost impossible to get to the point where the bellmen and valet parkers would be able to assist you when you arrive to check in. The hotel faces a one way street where traffic flows the opposite direction of their entry ramp. As such, you cannot legally turn into the place from the street where the address is. What exacerbates this problem is that the other street from which you could get to the entry ramp prohibits auto traffic from turning into it from the main streets connecting to the freeway during business hours. After circling several times, I finally turned the wrong way up a one way street just far enough to get onto the entry ramp.

At the top there was a clog of cars, seemingly abandoned, and no valet or bellman to assist. I parked and ran inside to ask at the front desk for help where I was greeted by a desk clerk who clearly didn’t give a shit about the fact that there was no help to be found. He told me I could leave everything there and eventually someone would come for my things. With Abner sitting in the car and my computer bag, luggage, and sundry other things to get inside, I began the process of unloading my stuff myself. Of course there were no luggage carts anywhere either so I ended up just stacking stuff up next to the door to the lobby and took Abner inside so we could check in.

Eventually a bellman/porter/concierge showed up and explained to me that he had to do all three tasks by himself so he was a little overwhelmed. I find it rather galling that I had to pay $27 to park in the alleged valet area which turned out to be about 40 feet from where I had left the car. It was neither attended, secure, nor watched all night.

The hotel is no great beauty either. I would say the last time anyone did any work to the place was in the early 80s. It is ugly and rundown in a way that only something neglected for 30 years and designed in the clich├ęs of that period could be. My room had hooks on the wall where art used to hang, a ceiling over the tub/shower that will fall into the tub soon due to seemingly unrepaired water leaks, and my favorite. . .an air conditioner that thumped so loudly when it shut off that it woke me up in the middle of the night. What a dump. To top it off, when I checked out the bill was $10 higher than I was quoted with no explanation. There is no mini bar so I certainly couldn’t have been tempted by that.

For the drive back to Kingston, I headed down the 416 freeway all the way to Prescott ON, a small burg on the banks of the St Lawrence River where it is narrow enough that you can see pretty good detail on individual buildings on the NY side of the river. After a brief lunch in a riverside park we headed down route 2, which follows the river, and ultimately along the 1000 Islands Parkway. This is a beautiful drive allowing you to hug the river almost the whole way. The 1000 Islands area has appealed to me since I first saw it in the 60s when I lived in Ithaca, NY and it is even more appealing today. There are houses on many of the tiny little islands and some rather grand castles on some of the larger ones. We stopped at a park at one point where you could see what I was told is the Singer Castle on Dark Island (part of the NY side). I gather the house was built as a summer home and is now available for weddings and other events. It looks quite impressive from a distance although it was hard to get a good picture of it. 6.16.11

It is now 6.29.11 and the couple weeks we have spent in Picton and Toronto have been a whirl and generally great fun. We checked out of the Rideau Acres RV Park and campground as planned on the 17th. I have to admit that while things were less than perfect as far as the accommodations, the owners couldn’t have been nicer. They really did their best to make the screwed up Internet situation work for me by giving me access to a private WiFi system they have in the lower level of an events building on the property where some of the employees, and ancient Mastiff mix named Sophie, and three tiny kittens all hang out. The setting of the place is quite pretty and I found some of the other RVers to be very nice people who were friendly and helpful. I think most people have more experience than I do so it is nice that they are so willing to pass on their hints about how to deal with various difficulties that turn up.

So, on the 17th, as planned, Abner and I headed SW on the 401 toward Prince Edward County in which Picton is the largest town with roughly 4,000 fulltime inhabitants. It didn’t take very long to get to Picton and John and Signy’s house is a block off the main drag (Main Street as it happens) and was easy to find. John had arrived from Toronto before I did so when we got there he had me pull up the trailer in front of the house and come inside to unwind and catch up a bit. We figured that it had been close to 20 years since the last time we had seen each other so there was a lot of catching up that we eventually did but the afternoon chat was a good, if frenetic start.

At a certain point though I decided we needed to maneuver the trailer into the driveway where it would spend the next 2+ weeks and I wanted to do it before any significant traffic showed up on the street. John pulled his car out so I had plenty of room and with only about 3 maneuvers, we got the trailer into a pretty perfect spot on the right hand side of the drive. I was pleased that it went as well as it did and that John’s driveway is level and paved. Setting up on level hard surfaces is so much easier than on sloping gravel or dirt.

Once in place I plugged into an outside circuit and set up for the long stay. This has been interesting since I had planned to be living in the trailer for most of the time I would be on the road. I didn’t really plan to have clothes or toiletries anywhere other than in the trailer so I have been going back and forth between it and the house daily to get things I need. Still, it has worked out well. John and Signy’s house has been super comfortable and Abner has a yard to protect. It is a short block from the center of town so everything we need is within walking distance.

Prince Edward County is a largely agricultural county that is on what used to be a rather crenellated peninsula jutting out into Lake Ontario. It is now and island due to a canal that was cut decades back to enable boat traffic to hug the shoreline. In recent years the area has become somewhat tony for people from Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. It is a bit more than two hours from Toronto and not much more from Ottawa. Not sure but I would guess maybe 3-1/2 to Montreal so it is certainly within striking distance for weekenders.

There are now lots of art galleries and studios and depending on who you talk to, 30-40 wineries all of which have sprung up in the last 10 years. I have tried relatively little of the wine but what I have tried convinces me that the French, Italians, Spanish, Chileans, Argentineans, Australians, and most US based winemakers don’t have much to worry about. These wines are expensive and to my taste, not well made. I suspect part of the problem is that these are mostly young vines that aren’t producing really fine grapes yet. It is also very costly to make wine from locally grown grapes due to the necessity of burying the vines under mounds of soil to protect them during the long very cold Ontario winter. Still, $40 for a Pinot Noir that can’t hold a candle to some California and Oregon ones that are half the price is hard to justify.

Art is another matter. While there is a wide variety of quality and medium, it is almost shocking how much first rate art there is here. Of particular note is an astonishingly good gallery called Oeno. It share property with Huff Estates Winery and Inn east of Picton and North of even smaller Bloomfield. The art that is shown there is from many places but a lot of the artists are local or at least from this region. I have to say that I haven’t seen a gallery with this much really great art almost anywhere. It is almost like a smaller version of Blue Spiral 1 in Asheville. I think a lot of credit has to go the eye of Carlyn Moulton who owns and operates the place. She clearly has great instincts and I got the impression that she is also a very savvy business woman. There is no question in my mind that I will be buying work from this place and will definitely let friends and old clients who collect know about it as well. Picton is a fun place to visit anyway. Oneo makes it a must see.

In the middle of all this Abner and I made a brief three day foray down to Toronto to see where John and Signy live, see some of John's work over the last couple of decades, and reacquaint with Toronto itself, a city I have always loved. One of the best parts of this little side trip was spending three nights on a 1928 50-Foot Elco Flat Top Motor Yacht that John has owned since 1992 and restored almost entirely on his own. It was like being a character in the Great Gatsby. The boat was in the Outer Harbor Marina in Toronto which was oddly isolated but still quite close to everything. We met some interesting people who live on boats in the Marina and Abner was, as usual, a big hit.

Toronto was great fun. John and I had a busmans holiday and went to see work by Gehry, Calatrava, and Liebeskind as well as a number of projects John had gotten built over the course of the last 20 years. The Calatrava piece, connecting several old buildings with an enclosed shopping concourse was elegant and very successful. the Gehry addition and remodel of an old art museum in the middle of Toronto was, in my opinion, mixed. There were some nice elements, the most successful of which was a huge glass and wood gallery that extends the entire one block length of the building forming a huge new canopy for the entry on the lower level and a gargantuan linear space for temporary exhibits on the upper level.

The Liebeskind addition to another museum, sadly, was not successful. It is actually kind of apalling. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that Daniel Liebeskind may have the biggest ego in architecture and that is going some. The addition he slammed into this 19th century historic structure literally looks like some huge glass object that fell from the sky and crushed part of the old building, becoming embedded in it in the process. I don't know how Liebeskind convinces his clients to build these atrociously arrogant insensitive buildings gut he seems to get away with it. The emperor has no clothes.

Anyway, after three delightful days we headed back up the lake to Picton and another week or so of lazing about.


We have hiked just about everything anyone has suggested here but the favorites, for those of you who end up visiting this area, are Point Petre and Little Bluff. Both are conservation areas and have rocky shorelines where you can easily walk a dog and get your fill of Lake Ontario. The water is almost shockingly clear, particularly at Little Bluff and on the days we went to these places we were almost the only ones there. What I would not recommend is the Millennium trail. I gather it is an overblown name for a flat viewless path that is in an abandoned rail bed. The stretch we took was completely unmarked and I wouldn’t have found it were it not for the fact that I figured I was close to being lost and stopped at a farm supply store and asked where it was. Once on it I wondered why this is conspicuously recommended in town on a sign that has suggested hiking routes. It is dead straight, flat, largely treeless, and seems to cross through open fields whose main claim to fame is an abundance of ticks.

On John’s suggestion, we drove to Clayton, NY yesterday to visit the Antique Boat Museum. This was a terrific side trip that anyone should do if they are in the 1000 Islands region or even Prince Edward County. It took an hour and 45 minutes to get there from Picton and that included going through US customs at Alexandria Bay. Once you get to Clayton the museum is hard to miss. It is probably the largest collection of buildings in town. They have an enormous collection of boats on display and apparently an even larger one in storage. I gather they rotate exhibits so people have the motivation to come back. I loved it.

Your viewing of the vast majority of the boats is self-guided and there are a few movies as well in a small theater. There are also two shops where you can watch boat restoration going on and talk with the people doing it who are very well informed about the boats and the processes involved in what they are doing.
The only element of the whole experience that requires a guide is the tour of George Boldt’s houseboat. For those of you unfamiliar with the 1000 Islands, Boldt was an hotelier best known for merging the Waldorf and Astoria hotels into what became the original Waldorf Astoria. He ran it and other hotels for many years and was a fixture of the summer social scene in the 1000 Islands. Boldt Castle was one of the largest summer homes ever built in the area but he never completed nor occupied it due to grief over the death of his wife.

Nonetheless, in the years preceding her death he entertained grandly at his homes in the area around Alexandria Bay and had an enormous houseboat built for guests and occasional rentals. It is 106 feet long, two stories high and has servants’ quarters as well as master and guest staterooms. It went through the hands of a couple of other owners over the years and at one point sank at its mooring, but has been restored principally by the last owners, a McNally family, who donated it to the museum. While elements of it are no longer as they were when Boldt had it built it is still fascinating to tour and well worth the time.

So, tomorrow is Canada Day and Abner’s and my last in Picton. I will be doing laundry and cleaning house to prepare to depart on Saturday morning. I am supposed to be in Fort Wayne to see my parents on Sunday followed by visits to both of my sisters and then a stop of two or three weeks in Asheville before setting out for California for the second half of my summer adventure.

Sunday, May 08, 2011


In January a smaller group of the family than usual went on the annual winter trip, this year to Belize. We stayed on Ambergris Cay and the photos below show my nephew Jon and some of the views from the plane as we approached (a little more than a day late but I won't get into a rant.





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Above is my friend and Abner's dog sitter Rob at his graduation from UNCA


The next group shows Biltmore, again, in spring. It never loses its beauty no matter what season or how many times I have seen it.




My friend Ingrid came to visit from California in early April and somehow ended up being photographed in front of a lot of the local scenery. . .as is evidenced below.






Biltmore Flora and Fauna are bursting with abundance again this spring. I think the impressive white shrub is Spyrea.




One day this spring Abner and I accompanied our friend Josh to Rumbling Bald for some bouldering. I did a little climbing, Abner mostly watched, and Josh worked on a problem he has been attacking for some time. He is a pretty amazing climber to watch. Though small in height he is ridiculously strong and moves like Spiderman on some of these bouldering problems. On this particular day, the problem didn't get sent (in bouldering vernacular, that means success wasn't there on that day).





Winter scenery isn't usually what people come here for but to me it is some of the best. We don't get a whole lot of snow but when we do it is usually quite beautiful spread across these mountains.



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