Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Best State Park in the Country

September 7, 2017

According to the signage, Letchworth has been voted the best in the nation and the claim is totally believable. There are three falls through the gorge, lots of hiking trails and spectacular views.  This could easily be a several day stop although I was there for only a few hours.

Stairs down to the falls

Lower Falls

Stone picnic tables

Amish tour group

Middle Falls

The trail to the Upper Falls was closed because of construction but I don't feel at all slighted with the two that could be viewed.

Yep, I'd certainly call it the best state park I've seen so far.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Heating Up In the North

September 5 - 6, 2017

Leaving Toronto was even less fun than getting there.  I thought the going might be easier if I stayed out of the center of town but not only was there a ton of construction, the roads are also potholed and narrow in some places. To make things even more exciting there was a storm building and the bumpy roads in the city seemed to have made the engine heating issue even worse.  The truck was running warm even on the flats and being buffeted by winds while worrying about the rig made me very unhappy. 

I did a roundabout route into Hamilton avoiding the Skyway Bridge and the accompanying gusts of wind. Of course, since I didn't have any cell reception in Canada and only had a vague idea of where Walmart was in the city, I did a lot of slow driving until I got close enough to allow Google Maps to show me the location.  I originally looked up the location in the U.S. and this allowed Maps to show me more detail of that area.

I also discovered that Canada celebrates labor day by allowing laborers to stay home.  Lots of closed businesses and presumably fewer people on the roads. Other than the plants from Lowes being rolled across the road by the wind, it seems like a more civilized way to have a holiday.

Parked for the night and decided to go back to Niagara instead of seeing what Fort Erie was all about in case the heating situation got even worse.  Ah well, another thing to do later.

The border crossing was just as easy although the U.S. border guard spent a little more time looking in my vehicle.  It seems like a pointless exercise to me since he just kind of peeked and maybe opened a cupboard or something.  Really, if I were going to smuggle something into the country I wouldn't leave it lying on floor in plain sight. 

Or maybe no sensible smuggler would be driving a thirty year old vehicle.

Filled up with gas as soon as I was back in the states (SOOO expensive in Canada!) And drove towards Buffalo.  I figured I'd find a place to stop and then look for a muffler shop in hopes that fixing the muffler would solve the heating issue.

I stopped on the edge of the city and found out that most shops were in the center of the city.  Shops that were close to where I was parked had bad reviews except for one, but he didn't think he could fit my vehicle on his lift.  I didn't feel like describing the camper on a Toyota truck base because really, if you can't figure that out then I don't want you looking at my vehicle anyway.

Found a shop in Springville with good reviews and drove there.  Turned out that not only had I lost one of the hangers (twisty tailpipe) but there was also a couple holes in the muffler and it needed to be replaced.  Well let's do that then.

While chatting with the desk guy he told me about a pretty place to visit if I didn't want to do the standard Buffalo-DC route.  Not wanting to do anything standard I went east instead of south and found an absolutely amazing state park.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Great White North - Or At Least a Nice City on the Lake

August 31 - September 4, 2017

I was a little apprehensive about crossing the border mainly because of the cats but it was a snap.  The lovely young border patrol guard with a melting French accent peered into the rig, spotted the cats' eyes peering at him from under the table and said thanks.  Awesome. 

I decided to stick with the short distance driving scheme and randomly chose Hamilton as a stopping place.  I am so glad I did this 1) because it's all city between Niagara and Toronto and 2) I happened upon a fabulous park.

Lake Ontario looks to have a lot of park space along its shores and Confederation Beach Park is part of that trail system.  I parked in the lot and spent a couple hours walking the trail.  There are some great views of the lake and I found unexpected art work that is adorable.

I just loved these carvings!

The next day it was on to Toronto.  Turns out there IS a big hill but it comes in the form of a bridge and wasn't too daunting.  I also didn't realize that there were so many (...any...) wineries in Canada.  Could be a fun wine tasting trip some time.

Although the roads and traffic suck, Toronto is gorgeous.  Once my Canadian friend pointed out that there is a subway and I didn't have to drive downtown the city looked even nicer.  

Plus they have cool black squirrels.

I wandered downtown a bit, had a great time having lunch with old friends I had never met and discovered that even our extra polite neighbours to the north will ditch an overgrown zucchini if they think they can get away with it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Niagara Is Worth a Second Visit

August 12 - 30, 2017

I spent more time camping in the woods a bit south of Utica in an area that seems to be mainly used by local folks as a picnic area.  I'm a happy introvert and empty campgrounds suit me well, plus the forest rangers always seem to check on lone campers and marvel over a single woman on her own in the trees.  The engine is still getting warm and the flatness between Utica and Niagara Falls is welcome.  I tend to stress when things aren't working correctly despite not panicking about it.

The other thing that needed to be dealt with was rabies vaccines for the cats.  Canada does not like the idea of people's pets infecting their critters (understandably) and will not let in pets without a rabies certificate.  Cool. $170 dollars and a couple pissed off cats and I'll be set, right?  Except that New York doesn't issue certificates for cats, only dogs.  Sigh.  Fortunately the receptionist was willing to work with me to create a document that looked official and had all of the required information on it.  Hopefully I won't have to haul the cats out at the border for an inspection.

Stopped at the Walmart instead of the casino to be close enough to the gym for a morning shower.  Thought I'd be somewhat clean for meeting the Canadians.  Thankfully I wasn't in a hurry because oddly, in a giant parking lot, people couldn't come up with a better place to park than right in front and behind me.

Clearly I wasn't going anywhere any time soon so I decide to check the muffler - one of my possible sources for an extra warm engine.  I grabbed the tailpipe to jiggle it and found the entire thing twisted in my hands. Welp . . . even if that wasn't the source of the problem it definitely needed to be addressed.  I looked for a national muffler shop in Niagara Falls but didn't find anything closer than Buffalo.  Oh well. The way to Toronto is mostly flat anyway. It can wait. 

I debating walking to the gym since it was only a mile away but dithered long enough that the guy sleeping in the van eventually left.  The folks in the big RV seemed to be planning a longer stay and were still there when I left around noon.  I only went as far as the casino anyway.  No point in hurrying since I wanted to take a stroll around Goat Island and hang out for the evening light show.

No, that isn't a picture of the light show because my camera doesn't do dark well. I also think the view would be much better from the Canadian side but I wasn't up for a walk across the bridge.

Wanting to get an early start across the bridge in the morning, and also getting cold from the spray and wind, I left before full dark and went 'home'.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hanging Out in the Woods

July 29 - August 11, 2017

It turns out that both Vermont and New Hampshire are very pretty.  I decided to spend a couple weeks in the White Mountains camping and although I didn't manage to take any pictures there, I did get a few after I left.

The most curious thing happened after I left the campsite - I noticed that the truck would get warm going up hill.  Not hot - I am paranoid about overheating but previous to this the engine temp indicator barely moved even while climbing hills in 90 degree weather.  I've learned not to panic when anomalies occur so I kept an eye on the temps while considering possibilities, not sure if it was a mechanical thing, high humidity, or maybe I just never really noticed the temperature change previously.  I was pretty sure this last point wasn't valid, especially since I was also thinking that I had a bit less power going uphill. 

Something to ponder.

I also met a guy who moderates a Facebook Toyota Motorhome page that I promptly joined and instantly became part of a large group of fanatics.  I posted asking them about my hot truck and received a slew of different possibilities including one who's truck has always run warm and they deal with it by running the heater and opening the windows.  I'm going to resist this possible outcome as heating the cab when it's 80+ and dripping with humidity does not predict a pleasant driving experience.

Whatever.  I'll deal with it when I find a solution.

On my way to Toronto to meet with friends and I think Niagara merits a second stop.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Little More History

July 28, 2017

There's one more fun stop on the way to Vermont with the ruins of both a French fort and what was meant to be a killer British fort that they accidentally blew up before it was finished.
Fort St. Frederic is mostly piles of dirt but the remains of Crown Point are fun to tramp through, plus they had a sign that nicely explained the parts of a properly constructed fort.

This was a short stop on the way to Vermont - a place I had never considered visiting and know nothing about.  I realize that a drive through a state still doesn't give you much information about the lives people lead but it's been interesting so far to compare my expectations with reality.  I guess I'm expecting Vermont to be pretty . .  and that's all I know . . .

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The French at an American Fort

July 27, 2017

Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French around 1755 near the south end of Lake Champlain (Seven Years War/French and Indian War).  In 1759 the British drove out the French and 16 years later the Green Mountain Boys took it back from the British (Revolutionary War). A couple more years of fighting led to some back and forth between British and American occupation until the British finally abandoned it near the end of 1777.

The fort is currently owned by a foundation and presents a bit of a Disneyfied introduction to history.  The entrance fee is pricey ($23 per person) but if you are willing to spend the entire day watching demonstrations it seems appropriate.

Every year they choose a different year to demonstrate and while I was there the Fort was Carillon under French occupation.  I gotta say that they did an amazing job.  Costumes were detailed down to the color of the piping for different troops and commands to subordinates given in French even when they weren't meant to be heard by the audience.

They really do shoot off the firearms.

 Love the details on the cannons and mortars.

The Fife and Drum (brigade? squad?) is composed of high school students. Pretty awesome summer job.

This guy gave a great talk on the history of the fort and also mentioned that every pair of shoes that period people were wearing had been hand made at the fort.

The two guys on the right built the cannon that they then fired.  They had the barrel made to spec at one location, got an Amish wheelwright in Ohio to make the wheels on the carriage and they then spent the summer putting it all together.

The view is amazing