Aug 20, 2018

Camden, New York's Forest Park

I knew that Harden Furniture Company in McConnellsville
was in the process of being sold and thought maybe they would have some great deals in their showroom. The internet said that the company was open so John and I decided to check it out.  The factory was open but only operating on a limited basis but they hoped the changeover would be completed in a couple weeks and then they would be back in operation. We missed any bargains that might have been available because the showroom was closed.  

However, it was not a lost day.  On the way back, just before we entered Camden, we saw a sign for Forest Park. There is a driving tour of about 2 miles that passes by Emmons Brook and Cob Brook. The paved road is perfect for driving, jogging and biking. There were only a few people in the park when we were there but I imagine on a warm summer weekend there are many visitors. The day was overcast with a few light sprinkles that sounded pretty as they hit the leaves.

The park was owned and named after Alva Raymond. Today the park consists of 117 acres and has many pavilions, picnic tables, and benches where one can relax and enjoy the tranquil scenery.

 By the way, we wondered why Camden was called “The Queen Village.”  It was called “The Queen Village of Oneida County” because “seldom can be found a more beautiful place…” or so it was written in “Pioneer History of Camden” in 1897. 

The drive was not only pretty and relaxing it was also interesting.  There was a sign saying that the area was the pathway of the Oneida Indians.  Many of today’s roads were once the hunting and trading trails used by Native Americans. The creeks in the park must have been good for fishing and, most likely, the trails led to Lake Ontario for more fishing.  The trails were later used by pioneers and then developed into major
roads.  I noticed a “bent tree” and wondered if it could have been bent by the Oneidas as a trail marker.  It was a bit higher up on the tree than other ones I have seen so I am not sure.  It seems that the indigenous people bent the trees by taking a limb and tying it to the
ground and then inserting a piece of charred wood at the “elbow” so the tree would grow around it.  The culturally-modified trees served as navigational aids and also may have indicated that food and water were nearby or there was rough country or danger ahead.  There is a lot of controversy about the “bent trees.”  Were they natural? If so, it was a strange shape of nature.

There were several walking trails.  And, I thought I saw another possible Native America site – Standing Rock.  It was, in reality, placed
there in 1961 by the park commission as a tribute to friends of the park. 

One of the signs says: “Let no one say and say it to your shame that all was beautiful before you came.” I would like

to think that in a day of ecological awareness that it would not be necessary to remind people not to litter or destroy however I remember a former caretaker at Mexico Point Park remarking that the thing he hated the most was picking up soiled diapers people tried to hide in the bushes.  

Aug 14, 2018

Things to do in Rochester, NY

Need a great summer day trip.  Check out Rochester. There are indoor places where you can escape the heat and outdoor things where you can relish summertime. Rochester was first called Rochesterville after its founder Nathaniel Rochester who established the settlement in 1811. It has grown into a thriving city with many exciting things to see and do. It was home to George Eastman of Kodak fame and Susan B. Anthony, the famous suffragette: both are open to visitors.

Check out the canal boat rides. Rochester is another city that owes its existence to the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825 creating an affordable western route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.  Even though Sam Patch and Mary Jemison did not live in Rochester their legacy lives on in the names of two Erie Canal tour boats. The Sam Patch, a replica of a 1800s Erie Canal packet boat, leaves from Pittsford for a trip on the canal traversing Lock 32. The boat’s namesake was known as the Yankee Leaper having gained fame for jumping off waterfalls. Twice Patch successfully jumped off Niagara Falls. On his second 97-feet jump off Genesee Falls on Friday the 13th, 1829 he failed to surface. 

The Mary Jemison, a 1931 historic wooden boat, honors the legacy of "the white woman of the Genesee," who chose to remain with her adoptive Seneca family after being taken captive as a child. The Mary Jemison departs from the trendy Corn Hill area traveling the Genesee River and the Erie Canal. As the Mary Jemison passes under several bridges the scenery changes offering unique and different views of the Rochester area.

There are family fun things to do. Seabreeze Park is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks.  The park opened in 1879 where the main attraction was the shore-side picnic area but mechanical rides soon arrived. In 1904 George Long, Jr. and his family brought a merry-go-round to Seabreeze beginning a family legacy that continues to this day with his great-
grandchildren working at the park. It is said that the energetic Long took a break at the park and looking out over Irondequoit Bay said, “This is the life…” The park has grown to include a water park with a wave pool and a variety of state-of-the-art thrill rides for all ages. Currently Seabreeze is North America’s 4th oldest operating amusement park with the Jack Rabbit the 3rd oldest operating roller coaster.

Escape the heat – go to the Strong National Museum of Play, which has a vast collection of toys and dolls. The museum is one of the largest history museums in the United States; it is interactive so it is fun for the whole family. Youngsters can ride the Elaine Wilson Carousel and the Strong Express train. 

The George Eastman Museum is on the estate of the Kodak founder. There are exhibits, film archives and gardens.  A young engineer for Kodak invented the digital camera but Kodak wasn’t interested because they had cornered the market in cameras and film.  The young engineer never made any money from his invention because what he invented on Kodak time was
Kodak’s. However, Kodak did make a lot of money from the patent but they did not enter the digital photography market until it was too late… they filed for bankruptcy in 2012. While in Rochester also visit the Seneca Park Zoo, the Planetarium, and the Memorial Art Gallery, 

Visiting Toronto

Visit a foreign county this fall – Canada.  Toronto is only four hours
or so from central New York. Take the southern route one way and the northern route the other. Do it while the ferry from Cape Vincent is operational. The ferry stops on Oct. 17 this year. 

Nothing is simple any more. 
To return to the United States from Canada by land you need one of the following: passport, enhanced driver’s license, or NEXUS trusted traveler program card.  If you are traveling with a minor or a foreign visitor then it is best to check with the state department as rules get even more complicated.

I love Toronto with its diverse population and myriad of things to do.   I especially like their Broadway productions because they are less expensive and just as good. The best place to start learning about the city is at the CN Tower. The view from the LookOut is spectacular due to the floor-to-ceiling panoramic wall of windows and the glass floor. Looking for a dare devil experience? Try the Edge Walk or for a more sublime experience dine at the revolving restaurant. 

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is one of the largest museums in North American and the largest in Canada. It is a museum of art, world culture and natural history so it can be a day of learning for the whole family. There is a café for lunch and, of course, a gift shop.  I have found that museums have some really unique gifts, especially for children – think Christmas shopping. If you suffer from arachnophobia you may be able to squelch your fear by touring their current exhibit on spiders.  The museum offers free ROMWalks, a walking tour exploring the diverse aspect of Toronto. 

Toronto has its own castle – Castle Loma. Get the feeling you are in Europe.  The excesses incorporated into the Gothic Revival hilltop 98-room castle bankrupted the owner who is known for bringing electric lights to Toronto. The electric company he founded was the main source of his income but his wealth declined rapidly when it became publically owned; that along with excesses like $250,000 to put the names of his horses on their stable in 18-caret gold. That was in 1911 dollars when the average income was $520 and a new car sold for about $750.

One of the most unique places in Toronto is the Bata Shoe Museum.  Even if you have no interest in shoes you will find is interesting as it traces the history of shoes through the years and variations made my different cultures and occupations. They have more than 12,000 shoes in the museum which is shaped like a shoe box. Toronto has a beach… most people doen’t realize that but on the Toronto Islands there is Hanlan’s Beach and Centreville Amusement park.  The
island community is the largest urban car-free community. Access to the island is by ferry or water taxi. 

There is so much to do it will take several trips. Shoppers will love Eaton Center and St. Lawrence Market. Visit one of
the several art museums and galleries. At Ripley’s Aquarium you can pet a sting ray or have a sleepover with the sharks. Take in a game or event at one of Toronto’s eight stadiums and arenas. As always the best get acquainted tour is on the Hop-on Hop-off bus but there are several free walking tours of various neighborhoods.  

Jul 30, 2018

Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator who designed more than 1000 structures, of which 532 were completed. He is touted at America’s greatest architect and “The Man who Built America.” His architectural style was a reaction to the stuffy, ornate, and crowded look of the Victorian era.  He felt buildings should be inspired by the land and that there should be fewer rooms and that they should flow from one to another.  One of his most famous buildings is Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh. Built in the mid-1930s it was the summer home of the owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store. The house is built over the waterfalls and only two colors are used: the light ochre similar to the concrete and Cherokee red for the steel.

You don’t have to go to Pittsburgh to tour some of Wright’s most famous buildings. At one time Buffalo was one of the richest cities in the United States and the wealthy wanted the latest in architecture and that would be a Wright-designed building.  The Darwin D. Martin House is listed on the National Historic Landmarks. It is actually a complex of six interconnected building designed to look unified. The main house has a pergola that connects to the conservatory, carriage house with chauffer’s quarters and stables, the Barton House (for his sister and her husband), and a gardener’s cottage. The Martin House is considered an excellent example of Wright’s Prairie House style with horizontal lines, overhanging eaves, and central hearth. Even though the buildings had deteriorated an organization has been formed to restore the complex. 

Just south of Buffalo, on Lake Erie in Derby, is the summer home that was built for Martin’s wife. Called Graycliff, also on the National Historic Register, it was nearly torn down to build condominiums but the Graycliff Conservancy was formed to save and restore it. Martin’s wife, Isabelle, took an active part in designing the building with Wright, which was unusual for the time when males dominated society. She wanted a “severely simple, two-story house” and that it be flooded with “light and sunshine, including the maid’s rooms.”  She was instrumental in designing the extensive gardens. 

Both the Martin complex and Graycliff are open for tours; however, the Wright house in Rochester is privately owned and not open to the public. The Boynton House is also built in Wright’s Prairie style. 

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous public buildings is the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. It is impossible to miss its unique spiral design. Wright was not thrilled with Guggenheim’s choice of NYC for his museum: “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum, but we will have to try New York.” He thought NYC was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit. Visitors to the museum start at the top and walk down the gentle curving continuous ramp where they can access various galleries. 

Wright liked to divide his time between his two homes: Taliesin East in southwestern Wisconsin and Taliesin West near Phoenix. Both are open to tours and offer master classes in architecture along with special performing and visuals art events. 

On my long “To-Do” list I have added the Usonia District north of NYC in the town of Mount Pleasant. Wright designed the area deciding where each house should be built and personally designed three homes and approved the plans of 44 others.

Jul 23, 2018

Richardson Bates House in Oswego, NY

The house was built for Maxwell Richardson, a real estate attorney, insurance broker, and two-time Oswego mayor. It was built in two stages between 1872 and 1890. Norman Bates, the sole heir of the Richardson family, inherited the house in 1910. After the death of his widow in 1945 the children donated the house and 90 percent of the original furnishing to the Oswego County Historical Society to be used as a public museum in memory of their family. 

The Entrance Hall was designed to impress and it does.  It was where one left their Calling Card. Following proper etiquette the owner of the card waited in the carriage while the servant delivered the calling card leaving it on a special Calling Card tray.  If the card was delivered in person the corner was folded over.  The first call rarely resulted in a face-to-face meeting. 

The Reception Room is where most visits took place and where
family portraits and other personal expressions of the family were on display. The Drawing Room was considered the best room in the house. It is where they entertained and where the furnishings, decorations, and pieces of art were a showcase of their wealth. Take note of the
beautiful stained glass and woodwork which is beyond the realm of most people today.  I am sorry to see the demise of the formal Dining Room. When a family gathered around the dining room table in the day, before television and cell phones, it was the time of sharing family stories and just enjoying the conversation. I read where the Princess Kate’s children are not allowed at the dinner table until they have learned to converse properly. 

There are excerpts of Naomi Richardson’s 1884 diary detailing her
days spent on needlework, receiving visitors, and visiting others. Upstairs her bedroom is on display but also of special interest is the County History Gallery. 

I was surprised to learn that the Ox-heart Cherries that I loved as a child were made in Oswego.  People who are familiar with the
“Great Rope” by Rosemary Nesbitt will recall that Alvin Bronson, during the War of 1812, would not tell the British what public stores were in Sackets Harbor. When he was ordered to board the British ship to Quebec and he refused to get up from his chair so the
British sailors carried him aboard in the chair. The chair is on
display. There is also information about Dr. Mary Walker, an abolitionist and Civil War surgeon, who was the first and only woman to receive the Medal of Honor but the medal was rescinded in 1917, two years before she died only to be restored in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.

Jul 10, 2018

Museum of Intrigue - amazing!

Interesting how Destiny is more than a shopping and eating venue; it also has unique entertainment such as racing cars, rope course, mirror maze, and now the Museum of Intrigue. John and I love museums but we had never heard of this one mainly because it is new.  It is also very innovative and a bit hard to explain.  The museum is 9000
sq. feet with areas set up in a variety of sets: rain forest, art gallery,
Salem, medieval dining room, archaeology, and more – all unique and interesting. Adventurers purchase one of the 16 different adventure books.  They are designed according to level of difficulty and to the number of players it is designed for. There are some for all age levels and some perfect for multi-generational fun. The price varies according to the level of difficulty.  There are also live, role-playing staff members who will help but only if you can convince them, in their role playing
job, to do so. Common staff roles are the professor, the archeologist, the scientist, and doctor.  One might be able to bribe the archeologist with a bone – “If I give you this bone I found if you help me…” The adventures indicate the number of minutes which corresponds to the price; however, once the adventure starts player can stay as long as it takes. There will never be another group playing the same adventure and new adventures are added all the time plus some are retired only to be reintroduced in a slightly different format. Each adventure uses the entire museum space.  

John and I tried the easiest level adventure – Still Life.  We had to create a still life with object we were directed to find. We had to find baby doll pictures which led us to picture frames with a still life that could only be seen with special glasses. Each still life had another image we had to look for. Once we found all the still life articles we returned to where there was a table with an outline of the articles we needed to complete a still life which then opened a picture frame with a picture of the still life.

While trying to solve my
adventure I was intrigued by the settings that are used in other intrigues.  Plus there are secret rooms, hidden messages and other unique features. They have a small party room set up as a speakeasy which would be a great place for a birthday party – food can be ordered and delivered.  It is possible to reserve the entire museum for an event; which may also be more economical than purchasing the intrigue for many people.  It would be a unique way to celebrate any occasion.  

I chatted with Jono, the Lead Designer, who was as interesting as
the museum.  He just finished his masters at Syracuse University. He said that it is often the older person who is the best at solving the intrigue but the Professor said his two youngsters loved their experience which was designed without the need to read and they are anxious to return to do more.  I want to return to try the Salem Witch Trial but that is best done with three or more because one person – unknown to the rest of the group – is the designated witch.  John showed an interest in the book called “Containment.” 

Jul 4, 2018

Taking the Train across the United States

One of the best ways to see the USA is by train.  John and I recently took the California Zephyr from Emeryville, Ca. to Syracuse.  If you are considering a cross-country train adventure here are some things to consider. 

1. Why the train?  Avoid the traffic, no need to book accommodations along the way, meals are included with some tickets, and it is faster than driving. Taking the train allows one to relax and enjoy the scenery plus some portions of the train routes travels through areas not accessible by car. 
2. Which route? There are several scenic train routes across the
United States including the California Zephyr from Emeryville (San Francisco) to Chicago and the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago. From Chicago it is possible to connect to New York, Washington and other destinations.  
3. Buying the ticket: Ticket
prices vary with the season.  There are special rates for senior citizens.  Once the ticket is purchased – if bought on the Amtrak website – check back occasionally to see if the price has changed.  If it is less expensive than the ticket purchased contact them for a refund. There are multi-ride tickets and other parameters that should be investigated ahead of time. 
4. Which accommodation: If you are not up to sitting in coach for several days then check out the variety of accommodations available. The choice is yours: roomette, bedroom, bedroom suite (two adjoining bedrooms) and accessible
bedrooms.  Some come with toilet, shower, and sink while others have only a toilet and sink. 
5. Meals: If you opt for sleeping accommodations then all meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) will be included in the cost. Breakfast and lunch are on a first-come, first-serve basis but dinner will be at a scheduled time.  The attendant will come to
your cabin to find out what time you’d like dinner. If meals are not part of your ticket a café car is available.
6. The views: All windows are large but the dome cars allow for a more panoramic viewing.  If you want to spend time in the dome car get there early as the seats are quickly filled.  On some portions of the trip an informational narration is provided.
7. Packing: It is possible to check your luggage or to store it on
the luggage rack of the car you are assigned to.  If you have a sleeper car pack only the items you will need in a smaller bag so that larger bags do not take up unnecessary room in the compartment. 
8. Attendants: Each car has a designated attendant who will answer questions and will take care of making and unmaking the beds.  A tip for good service is appreciated.  The wait staff in the dining cars will also appreciate tips. Red caps are available in most stations to help with boarding
the train. 
9. Package tours: Amtrak has a special department for booking train, hotels, and tours.  Popular packages include one to Glacier National Park and/or other national parks.  They offer special family packages and even rail and sail packages
10. Tips: Arrangements can be make for taking along a bike
and/or pet.  Smoking is only allowed at designated stops.  Relax, expect delays. By law, Amtrak is supposed to receive priority over freight trains but that doesn’t always happen. Some, but not all trains, have Wi-Fi. Sign up for their customer loyalty program to garner points for future trips.