The beginning and the end

thunderheads are building over New YorkIt is the beginning of our New England cruise trip but the end is all about the last hour of our flight to New York’s La Guardia airport!  Our non-stop flight from Denver was 3 hours of simplicity until we reached the east coast, until we  reached New York, where there was a wild mess of storms that spawned tornados in Virginia. Thinking of Erin and Mui, of course, and hoping you two didn’t get hit by all that wind.

We circled over La Guardia for almost an hour with rumors of a diversion to some smaller airport who knows where before the pilot finally received the notice that we could land.  The turbulence was a bit exciting, and watching the plane circle around those big thunderheads made for some interesting views.  Our seatmate was a frequent flier from New York, you know, those kind of folks that are supposed to be so calm and jaded??  This lady was NOT calm, and with every jump of the plane she screamed and even said once, “I want my mother!”

circling the thunderstorms while we wait to land at La GuardiaEven though I had my camera packed and buried, I suddenly remember “airplane mode” and the camera in the iPhone 4 (no not the 4s yet) and pulled it out for some great photos of truly dramatic clouds.  Once we landed, it  was amazing to me how one dimensional the cloudy sky appeared compared to the three dimensional shape changing views as we circled.

We began our trip with a nice drive from home to Reno, down 139 to 395 into the wide open dry and very warm deserts.  Staying at the Ramada, with the Park and Fly option, our room only cost 79. with all the taxes and ten days of parking for the car, including free shuttle to the airport. The room was lovely, and just 12 blocks from downtown where we parked right on the street near the Silver Legacy Casino.  After dropping a bit to support Nevada in the slot machines we found dinner at Sterlings Steakhouse.  A bit of a sticker shock didn’t stop us, though, and we proceeded to have one of the finest dinners we have had in a long time. In addition to perfectly mesquite fired steaks, our dinners came with amazingly seasoned spaghetti squash, butternut squash,  snap peas, and sautéed spinach.  Yum and double wow!

laughing while we are circlling and shaking over New YorkMy daughter has supported me through the 40 days of 500 calories a day, and now I am on maintenance, and wow, maintenance is so much fun, Deborah!  Somehow skipping the bread and potato and dessert didn’t feel a bit like any kind of suffering at all.  Can you believe I brought my scale along on this cruise and will be watching daily?  I don’t want to mess up all that hard work, and this morning somehow I was down another 2 pounds. Yay for Deborah and all her encouragement!

Our flight from Reno left at 6am, calling for a 3am wake up call and a dark ride to the airport. Check-in was simple, and security in Reno wasn’t the least bit daunting and we were in the air as the sun rose over the Rockies.  Denver is a huge airport, but lucky for us we didn’t have to change terminals so spent a lovely 90 minutes wandering the great shops and eating some more of last night’s yummy dinner that I carried with me.

our view from the East Elmhurst Comfort Inn in New YorkOnce in New York, an hour late, we called the Comfort Inn shuttle to pick us up.  No lost baggage was a relief, and in a short time we were settled into our very tiny room.  Here in New York, the rooms aren’t cheap, with 157 dollars, yes that is US dollars, for our one night here.  We are actually in East Elmhurst, Queens, not far from the airport. The room is at least very clean, but the bed is a bit hard and as I said, it is TINY!  I guess that must  be a New York thing.

We walked a couple of short blocks to the local recommended restaurant, Joey’s, an Italian place.  A glass of wine and some simple antipasto with a ceasar salad was the perfect ending for a long day.  We were entertained by a couple of big Italian guys at the table next to us speaking rapid Italian.  I realized that on the west coast where we live there aren’t a lot of Italian neighborhoods, except maybe in San Francisco.

I have never been to New York before and am looking forward to our drive to the Brooklyn pier today and a gorgeous sunny, if windy view of the Statue of Liberty as we sail from the harbor tonight.

La Guardia to Hotel and Brooklyn

September 11 Watkins Glen, New York

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here.

Watkins_Glen (1) It is a delightful feeling to wake to sunshine pouring into the windows on a Saturday.  Especially when our day ahead included some hiking, some wine tasting, and a bit of actual relaxation. A bit of fog drifted around us from the pond outside our doors and breakfast tasted wonderful with the time to eat slowly and savor it.

I took a little time to actually finish writing blog posts for the last few days, process photos, and check email.  The internet connection here is too slow to upload anything, but at least I could get on the internet long enough to make sure all is well at home.

After breakfast we took a little time to walk around the pond and then left for town and Watkins Glen State park.  Even though the races are over, the area is crawling with vintage sports cars and traffic is heavy.  We paid the fee to park at the main gate, (with Abby safely at home in her crate for the duration) and walked into the park.

Watkins_Glen (6) The Gorge Trail follows the Glen River through a steep canyon cut dramatically into the slate layers creating 19 waterfalls and many more smaller cascades throughout the length of the hike.  Tunnels have been cut into the gorge by hand and more than 880 stone steps follow the path of the river to the top of the gorge in just a mile and a half of almost steady climbing.

This is evidently a very popular place and many people were hiking the stairs and everywhere camera flashes were popping in an attempt to capture the light and shadow in the very dim canyon.  We walked to the end of the trail where there is another state park entrance, a gift shop, and a shuttle to take people back down if they can’t manage the stairs.  We chose to take a different route along Indian Trail back down rather than negotiate the very steep steps.  I can hike up but the downs are pretty hard on the knees so the trail, while steep in some places, was still easier than all those stairs, and we got to see a different view.

Watkins_Glen (9) Watkins_Glen (15)
Watkins_Glen (10)

Like everyone else in this canyon, I took way too many photos, trying to capture the light and shadows and the beautiful cascades.

Afterward, we drove north on Highway 14, the Seneca Wine Trail, along Seneca Lake for a bit of sightseeing.  Seneca Lake is one of the eleven Finger Lakes. and the climate is moderated a bit by the lakes, and the low rolling hills adjacent to the lake valleys are perfect for growing Rieslings, Pinot Gris, and other white wine grapes.  There are more than 50 wineries within a few miles of the lake in this area, and it is the highest concentration of wineries anywhere in the US except for the Napa Valley. We didn’t really want to spend the day wine tasting in the area, but did think at least one stop was called for.  The winery we chose was unassuming, in an antique weathered old barn, and the tasting fee was only $2.00 for 5 tastings.  The wines were just OK, except for a delightful Pinot Noir that I bought more to commemorate our visit, and a truly yummy black raspberry dessert wine served with chocolate.  I am a newcomer to dessert wines, but this was definitely worth having.

Watkins_Glen (33) The town was still very busy, and that made it less than appealing, so we went shopping for some incidentals, and drove home to have yummy leftovers for supper and visit with our neighbors. They were from the Netherlands, had traveled to Nova Scotia on a freighter, rented an RV in Halifax, drove south to New York, planning to return the RV in Toronto, then take the train to Manitoba where they will rent a car and drive to Minnesota to meet friends they met on the freighter.  Wow!  One of the gentlemen was a rose breeder who had worked in the US, and the other one told a very funny story about some adventure they had in Texas.  You haven’t heard anything till you have heard someone from the Netherlands trying to do a Texas accent!

Tomorrow we will try to find the Grand Canyon of the East in Pennsylvania on our way to Ohio.  By Monday, we will be in Casstown visiting friends for a couple of days.  It’s hard to imagine that this trip is on the downhill side as we turn around and head back west.


September 10 back home to the States

The rest of the photos for this day of travels are here

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (4) The morning was cloudy and damp in Ontario and the day seemed gloomier yet with our need to find a place to repair the Tracker.  Our plan was to cross the border, and then stop to see if we could find some kind of repair shop to check out the transmission.  Without a phone or internet access, it’s so difficult to function reasonably.  Garmin Girl proved so dependable taking us through complex freeway systems that we didn’t hesitate to try it again today.  I drove the MoHo with Mo following behind in the Tracker while we set the address for some unknown place in West Seneca, New York.

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (10) The border crossing was uneventful, without even a request for our animal papers.  Understandable in the MoHo perhaps because the cat was safely tucked away in his carrier.  In the Tracker, though, Abby was clearly visible, and the agent didn’t say a word or ask for anything but passports.  In a matter of minutes we were in Buffalo, on US soil, with miles again instead of kilometers.  I pulled into a large parking lot in West Seneca, and Mo pulled in behind me.  She hollered joyously when the Tracker slipped into neutral effortlessly.  Who knows.  But finally we could hook up the car again and be on our way through New York to our next destination.

The sweet little neighbors in Toronto told us about Watkins Glen, in the Finger Lakes District, and after reviewing the maps and checking mileage, we decided it was a much more relaxing destination than Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks.  Especially when we realized that we could actually stay two nights and have time to enjoy the trails and waterfalls. With my iPhone once again operational, I checked out campgrounds while Mo drove through the winding, gorgeous landscape of this part of New York.  The hardwood forests are thick, lush, and green, with only a touch here and there of brilliant orange or red tips on the trees.

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (13)  The KOA campground seemed the most likely choice from what I could see on the phone, and when I called they said they were nearly booked due to the Vintage Road Race being held today in Watkins Glen.  She found a nook for us, though, and we took it.  Expensive as heck, but it is Friday and we had no clue where we might land.  The state park was our first choice, but it was also booked except for the dry camps that were first come first served.  We opted for the KOA and shortly were settled in to a somewhat bumpy, marginal site near the pond.  This KOA has an indoor swimming pool and spa which hopefully we will have time to try out tomorrow. The rest of the amenities aren’t that great, and our site doesn’t have sewer, cable hasn’t been installed out here yet, and the wireless internet connection is as slow as dialup. Ah well.  We are camped and settled at least.

After reviewing the excellent brochures provided, we opted to spend the afternoon traveling towards Ithaca and the waterfalls and trails at the state parks in that area.  I kept trying to remember why Ithaca was so familiar to me, but of course, Cornell University is there.  And the Moosewood Restaurant, home of the vegetarian cookbooks that were my cooking bible back in the early 80’s.  Geez. 

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (23) By the time we were back on the road, the skies had cleared except for huge white puffy clouds punctuating the brilliant blue.  Ahh. blue and white and green again.  The tiny town of Watkins Glen, however, was completely off limits because of the races and the closing of the main streets in town.  In dead stop bumper to bumper traffic, we asked the policeman how to get where we were going.  The only route was nearly 50 miles out of the way.  Pretty stupid for them not to have some kind of detour set up for travelers trying to get around in the area.  Back to the iPhone which allows me to see the actual aerial photo and maps and try to come up with a route.  The GPS has no idea about closings and routes and only wants an address.  Once again, I sit in the passenger seat, two fisted navigating, phone in one hand, GPS in the other, and a map on my lap trying to get us through the crazy back roads to Taughannock State Park

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (25) Eventually we were successful, and the falls were delicate but lovely, and at 215 feet, the highest falls in the northeast.  The trail around the rim of the canyon and the upper falls was well marked, fenced for safety from the extreme cliffs, and dog friendly.  It was a great walk and felt good to be again in a place less populated than we have been recently.

After our hike, we were ready for supper, and I searched the reliable iPhone again for a good restaurant in Ithaca.  There were dozens, but we decided on the BoatYard.  The evening was cool, with a nice breeze, so we left Abby in the car with the windows a bit open to wait for us while we enjoyed our dinner.  The restaurant was great, the service excellent, and we had steaks for the first time in a very long time, with a glass of California old vine zinfandel.  Ahh, delightful!  Until half way through dinner the hostess came looking for us to report that the police were waiting for us because someone had reported animal abuse because Abby was in the car.  Mo stepped out to talk with them, and it was all OK, but it was definitely a bit disconcerting.  Our relaxing, somewhat spendy dinner cut short, we packed up what was left and headed out to see Cornell University and the rest of Ithaca.

The town had seemed so peaceful, but once we entered the Collegetown area it became obvious just how big Ithaca really is, especially with all the students in town.  It was crazy traffic, and students everywhere, steep, winding streets, and no clue as to where we were trying to go.  Even with my two fisted navigation, it was a mess.  After a quick look at the main part of Cornell, we wound our way back through town and south to try to find our little KOA home.  Again, with the roads closed in Watkins Glen until after nine, I had to find an alternative.  This time we routed some very back roads, and over a very steep hill we hooked up with 414 south, just a few miles north of the KOA. 

Whew!  Home!  Out came the leftovers, and we settled in to our evening at home with plans for more waterfall hiking tomorrow.