Jul 27, 2015

Traveling New York's Route 20

Everyone has heard of Route 66 but few know of historic U.S. Route 20.  It extends from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. Spanning 3,365 miles Route 20 is the longest road in the United States.  It roughly parallels Interstate 90. The more famous Route 66, called the Main Street of America, is 2,451 miles in length. New York and other states are promoting tourism along Route 20. I have chatted with people along the route in New York State and they admit that they are having a problem making people aware of the great things to see
along the way. Why, they wonder.  The remedy is simple.  Route 20 needs two things - a popular song and TV show.  Those are the reasons Route 66 is so well known.  Route 20 is life in the slow lane that goes through quaint villages, historic sites, with great scenery along the way and traverses Yellowstone National Park.  I would love to drive the entire route someday and visit Yellowstone, one of the places on my Bucket List.

John and I have driven several segments of Route 20 in New York. There are many quaint shops, restaurants and things to see just within a short diversion from Route 20. There are my favorite stops along the route; however, each is worthy of a day trip. New York State Department of Tourism and the Route 20 Association have brochures to help people plan their exploration of this historic byway. The brochure shows side trips from each location. 

Sharon Springs is an historic spa town that seems frozen in time but
the reality show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, brought fame, and tourists, to the little town. The reality show followed the adventure of the city boys as they learned to become farmers. We visited their trendy store, Beekman 1802, where the product are locally made, some the result of their farming. They do most of their business on-line.  Across the street is the beautiful American Hotel built in 1847 and after being vacant for more than 30 years is now an excellent place to eat and sleep.  It didn’t hurt that Rachel Ray helped to promote it. Side trip: Canajoharie.

Cazenovia is a canal town that still has many buildings original to the Erie Canal era. The town is home to Cazenovia College and the Lorenzo State Historic Site The 1807 house with a great view of the lake was occupied by family members until 1968. There are guided tours and a self-guided walk through the beautiful gardens. Side trip: Chittenango and Canastota. 

Auburn, dubbed “History’s Hometown,” is one of the bigger places
along Route 20 and it is a favorite of ours because we enjoy the wonderful musical productions at Merry-go-Round Playhouse. There are many historic places to visit including the Seward House, Harriet Tubman’s home, and the beautiful Willard Memorial Chapel. Side trip: Skaneateles. 

Seneca Falls is another personal favorite.  It is the place that celebrates the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a special museum and next to the museum is a unique museum called IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity with a focus on leprosy. Don’t miss the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. John and I took the Midlake Cruise’s trip on the Seneca Canal.  It was a wonderful experience and one of our favorite canal trips. Side trip: Cayuga Lake Wine Trail.

Hit the road, explore, and enjoy.

Jul 21, 2015

Visiting the Akwesasne Cultural Center

Summer is the time to take a road trip for a day or two.  There are so many places in New York State that it is impossible to visit all the great sites.  We have been exploring the state for years and are still amazed at the new places we discover.  A good way to plan an adventure is to travel one of the state’s Scenic Byways. The Seaway Trail is a National Byway that extends from the Pennsylvania border to the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation which is part of the bi-nation Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation. 

It would take days to explore the entire length of the Seaway Trail so it is best to break it up into segments.  Recently John and I drove the Northeastern end of the Seaway Trail starting on Route 37 near Morristown.  That portion of Route 37 follows the St. Lawrence River. We stopped in Ogdensburg to visit the Remington Museum.  His sculptures of the American cowboys are easily recognized but before he began sculpting he painted scenes of the American West and other iconic American scenes such as the Charge on San Juan Hill.  

My main objective of the drive was to visit the Akwesasne
Cultural Center. I think the Iroquois contributions, influence and impact on the development of New York State and the United States is grossly under promoted.  In the 1300s the Iroquois created fortified villages along the St. Lawrence – protecting one’s borders is an age-old concept. Over the years the area grew and waned as the French and English battled over the area. In the mid-18th century people from a Catholic Mohawk village south of Montreal settled the area.  Today Akwesasne has about 12,000 residents.  The name “Akwesasne” means “Land where the Partridge Drums” referring to the wildlife in the area.

The Akwesasne Museum is located in the lower level of the library.  Park in the back of the library for easy access to the museum. One of the interesting exhibit deals with a popular sport that originated with the Iroquois – lacrosse. Lacrosse is still at the heart of Akwesasne life for they believe it is more than a sport. Their traditional belief is that it is a medicine game played in the “Sky World” to lift the mind of the “Master of Life” and can be played to heal an afflicted person.  Lacrosse tests the player’s strength, endurance, speed, and teamwork. At one time one village would play another to settle a dispute without resorting to war. One of the displays shows the different aspects of the game such as “Be tough but fair.”

There are several displays of basketry, for which the Akwesasne
are well known. For them it is more than a craft but a cultural process, a way of learning about the cycles of nature and the way to live in balance with the land. Lesser known is the fact that the Mohawks helped to construct countless skyscrapers and bridges in New York City and across the United States. There is an interesting video about the Mohawk iron workers who witnessed the 9/11 attack from their lofty perspective and then rushed to the site to help. 

We overnighted at the Awkesasne Casino Hotel where the room and food were great. They have a nice pool. We had a lovely drive home along Route 11 through the college towns of Potsdam and Canton. 

Jul 20, 2015

The North American Fiddler's Hall of Fame

The North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame and Museum is a great Sunday getaway when coupled with some stops along the way and a dinner on the way home. Most people are not aware of the free Fiddler’s Sunday concerts in Osceola or even the Hall of Fame. In 1973 fiddle enthusiasts got together for a “Fiddler’s Picnic.” Over the next couple of years they were joined by other fiddlers and in 1977 they formed the Old Tyme Fiddlers’ Association with the goal to preserve, promote and perpetuate the art of old time fiddling and the danc

e pertaining to this art. About the same time the North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame and Museum was established and in 1981 they purchased a 100-year-old+ building in out-of-the-way Osceola which currently houses the Hall of Fame. In 1994 a pole barn and stage were built behind the house for the purpose of holding the Sunday concerts and other events which proved so successful that in 1998 it was enlarged with a new stage and brick patio added and named “The Fiddlers’ Pavilion. I think fiddle music is uplifting. I have been to the Sunday concerts a couple of times and find the rural setting perfect for fiddle music.  Each time the concerts were well-attended with many couples dancing.  This summer when I visited they gave polka
instructions for those who were interested. Each week a different artist is on stage. I especially loved watching the youngsters, mostly 10 and younger, keeping the beat to the music. After the host group performed others were invited to the stage to play.  The last time I was there an amazing, elderly harmonicist played and his wife sang.  It was an old-time good afternoon.  Relaxing and refreshingly wholesome. They have concerts most Sundays from June to September and also offer a Kids Camp and workshops. 

The setting is very relaxed with time to go into the house to see the Hall of Fame.  Those honored have their picture with a short biography on the walls throughout the building. The building also houses a small collection of fiddles – many are unique and some are homemade.  It seems that people have always wanted to create music.  During the open mike a man played the spoons and another twanged on a jaw harp. The concerts are from 2 to 5 p.m. so there is time on the way to stop at Salmon River Falls.

The best way to attend a concert is to make a day of it with a stop
on the way at Salmon River Falls.  I never get tired of the view. There is a nice 1,100-foot wheelchair accessible trail with overlooks and then steps down to the flat rocks. There is a steep hiker’s trail to the bottom but it is a bit too arduous for me. The falls have dazzled people since the Native Americans first discovered it and gathered salmon that were blocked from continuing up the river by the waterfalls.  The first
settlers began visiting in the early 1800s when roads allowed access to the area, later a tourist lodge known as The Cataract House was built near the falls. 
End the day at Tailwater Lodge in Altmar for dinner. It was once a school.  I had the most incredibly good onion rings. It is a great place to eat. Another great Oswego County day of exploring.

Jul 7, 2015

Visit Stoweflake Resort in Stowe

It has been years since John and I have been to Vermont so it was time to return.  We had never been to Stowe and always thought it was a solely a ski destination. That is not the case.  In fact, Chuck Baraw, the owner of Stoweflake Resort said that the 80% of his guests visit outside the winter season.  I can
understand that.  There is so much to see and do.  First of all the drive is much nicer when there is no snow and ice on the roads.  The 60-acre Stoweflake Resort is a destination in itself with a 30-room spa with a marvelous Aqua Solarium and a seven-circuit Zen Labyrinth, indoor and outdoor pools, a 9-hole golf course free to guests, tennis courts, squash/racquet ball court, and more – I am sure I missed something. 

On the way, via Route 100, we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury, just a few miles from Stowe. I love the Ben & Jerry story.  They took a five-dollar online ice cream making course from Penn State and turned it into a multi-million dollar business.  Part of their success is due to using only fair trade products and giving back to the community. I asked the
young lady directing traffic, “Do you get free ice cream.” The answer was, “Yes, three pints a day.” The place was busy but we only had to wait 20 minutes for the next tour.  It started with a video about the company and then a walk by the production floor.  The best part was the free ice cream at the end.  The taste treat of the day was Salted Caramel Blondie – vanilla ice cream with blond brownies and salted caramel swirl.  Oh! My! So delicious. They have a Wall of Honor. We were
surprised to learn that the long-time favorite Cherry Garcia is no longer the number one favorite flavor; it is now Half Baked: Chocolate & Vanilla Ice Creams with Fudge Brownies & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Before we left we walked up the hill behind the parking lot to the Flavor Grave Yard. Sugar Plum was the flavor that died out the fastest – sounds good - but even though based on the tombstone it lasted a year it actually only lasted a couple months, from just before Christmas to just after New Year’s. Some of the “dead” flavors sounded great like Tennessee Mud.

After we arrived at Stoweflake we had a light lunch in the resort’s casual restaurant, Charlie B’s Pub & Restaurant with a lovely alfresco deck.  I am not a real fan of sushi mainly because it is often too fishy but I loved their Spicy Duck Ninja Roll made with duckling leg comfit, rice, miso aioli, and rolled in nori paper. It was lightly coated in tempura batter. It was served with a surprisingly delicious seaweed salad and ginger.

After we settled in our luxurious room we drove into Stowe, a
classic 200-year old village in the shadow of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. They have preserved its small village ambiance. We visited the museum of the Stowe Historic Society housed in old West Branch Schoolhouse. We picked up their free Historic Walking Tour of Stowe and wandered the Historic District. Also in the village is the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum – but it was closed while we were there.

Jun 30, 2015

Exploring Otsego County, New York

When John and I were in Cooperstown we visited the Ommergang
Brewery which is part of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. It is New York State’s first official cuisine trail.  Ommergang Brewery is located in a large building that is reminiscent of the breweries in Belgium. The tour of the Brew House points out the attention to detail in the production of Ommergang beers. The water comes from aquifers located on their property. At one time New York was a leading
producer of hops, in fact, at one time the area was the hops-growing capital of North America. The state doesn’t produce enough for the brewery so the hops they use are from Slovenia, Germany and America with special malts from Belgium, Germany and America. I was surprised by the variety of spices they use - paradise, ginger, star anise, cumin,
coriander and orange peel. Actually the Brew House is the kitchen of the brewery. Beer is not made in the Brew House – the “wort” is. The beer is produced in the large, metal vats outside the Brew House. After the tour we went into the bar at CafĂ© Ommergang where we enjoyed a tasting. Our guide explained the different brews and the spices that give the brews a unique flavor. 

Besides breweries, the Beverage Trail includes wineries, a distillery, and an historic cider mill.  The Fly Creek Cider Mill is a destination in itself and obviously a local family favorite. They have been in business since 1856 and have over the years grown and diversified.  Today the mill, besides making its renowned hard cider and selling apples, has a Marketplace. They have partnered with New York State’s Pride of New York so the store features many items grown and produced
throughout the state from pure maple syrup to fresh cheese curds.  There are plenty of foods to sample. In the restored barn adjacent to the mill is their restaurant and bakery where we bought their Cider Mill donuts to save for breakfast and pulled pork sandwiches ending with ice cream. Nestled in a quiet town the Mill has a picturesque setting with a pond, ducks and geese. I’d like to be there when the make the cider – the old fashioned way.  How do you know when they are making cider? The building is shaking!

John and I drove around the bucolic countryside. At the north end of Otsego Lake is Glimmerglass State Park with hiking trails and campsites plus the historic Hyde Hall, a National Historic Landmark. The neoclassic country mansion was built between 1768 and 1835.  It is on NYS’s Haunted Trail.  

Sadly there was not a presentation at the Glimmerglass Opera while we were there.  We had heard wonderful things about it. The other thing we missed was a boat tour on the Glimmerglass Queen but the drive around the lake was beautiful; luckily the forest on the east side of the lake has remains untouched. 

Upon leaving Cooperstown John and I drove north to Cherry
Valley and stopped at their museum.  The museum has an extensive collection but I most enjoyed the informative video.  This quiet little town is an example of survival.  Twice in the 1700s most of the residents were massacred but the survivors rebuilt their community which was once a popular stop for those going west.  The Erie Canal and then later the NYS Thruway bypassed it so now it is a quiet example of Americana. 

Jun 22, 2015

Visiting Clayton, New York

Once again the value of revisiting a place was driven home.  It had been years since we had been to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton and the museum has expanded so it was as if we had never visited.   

Our main purpose for visiting Clayton was to check out the new hotel which we heard was the best in the 1000 Islands.  The 1000 Island Harbor Hotel has a wonderful location on the waterfront right in town.  Our room had a balcony from which we would watch the sunset each night.  The days were often
cloudy with some sprinkles but come sunset time the horizon was ablaze with color. We also enjoyed watching the ships pass by.  It was especially fun because we had a book called “Know Your Ships” so we could look up each ship to find out if it was a “salty” or a “laker” plus its home port and many other interesting facts about the vessel. (The book can be purchased at the Antique Boat Museum.) 

The first evening we hade a five-star dinner with a view of the river. Other nights we ate on the patio.  Each night we relaxed around their fire pits – great place to watch the sunset if one’s room doesn’t have a sunset view. The hotel is wonderful and they are open year round.  In the winter they have an ice bar which sounds awesome.  I wish we were going to be around to see it. This is definitely a place we want to return to.  It is a great place to celebrate that special occasion. 

On our way to Clayton we stopped at the Coyote Moon Winery.  Besides wine they had wine slushies and wine-infused jams and sauces. They also have a store in town with seating on the river which is an easy walk from the Harbor Hotel.  Both places have music at various times. 

We spent most of one afternoon in the Antique Boat Museum.   I loved their “Canoes to Go” display featuring portable boats.  We were able to take apart the folding canoe but had to ask for the cape boat to be explained.  It was a cape that when taken off and inflated became a canoe! The “Quest for Speed” has its own building which wasn’t open during our last visit.  There were speed boats, of course, and a video of some races.  I learned that the “World’s Fastest Bandleader” was Guy Lombardo. Lombardo
helped popularize the sport and, as a driver, won over a dozen Gold Cup victories between 1946 and 1953.  Another building is home to the “Oar Else” exhibit where I was in for another surprise.  On the wall there were illustrations from Essomarine advertisements by Dr. Seuss.  The characters are instantly recognized as Seussian. 
The highpoint of a visit to the Antique Boat Museum is a fun and informative ride in “Miss TI” a beautiful, gleaming Hacker-Craft triple-cockpit runabout that wends its way around the islands. Visitors can row a St. Lawrence Skiff for free. It seems today that if someone doesn’t have a boat or kayak they know someone who does. At one time boating was

Jun 8, 2015

Visit the Carousel Capital of the World - Binghamton

There is something magical about a carousel or a merry-go-round that appeals to all age groups.  The Binghamton area has been dubbed the Carousel Capital of the World because out of only 150 antique carousels remaining in the United States and Canada, six are in the Greater Binghamton area. All six are on the New York State Historic Register and the National
Register of Historic Places.  They are located in C. Fred Johnson Park in Johnson City, the George W. Johnson Park in Endicott, Highland Park in Endwell, Ross Park in Binghamton, West Endicott Park in Endicott, and Recreation Park in Binghamton.  John and I visited Recreation Park to see their carousel which is one of the most beautifully restored ones.  It was installed in 1925 and has 60 jumping horses, chariots and the original two-roll WurliTzer Military Band Organ with bells. All the carousels were made by the Allan Herschell Company in North Tonawanda in what is called the “country fair” style. 

The area owes its carousels to George F. Johnson, a shoe
manufacturer who, between 1919 and 1934, donated the six carousels to local parks because he felt they contributed to a happy life and would help youngsters grow into useful citizens.  So that everyone could enjoy the magic of a carousel ride he insisted that the rides should always be free and only required that “one piece of litter” be deposited in the receptacles instead of money. 

John and I also visited the Bundy Museum where we learned about the beginning of IBM.  The Bundy brothers opened a time recording clock company.  Time recording clocks were where workers “clocked” in when they went arrived at work and “clocked” out at the end of the day.  The company flourished and eventually grew into IBM. The house is a testament to the elegance and beauty of the Victorian age; however, there is much more to
see in the annex. There is a Broadcasters Hall of Fame next to their broadcasting studio. Especially fascinating was an exhibit dealing with one of their “favorite sons,” Rod Serling. Serling grew up in Binghamton and is best known as the creator of the Twilight Zone.  The displays include replaying some of his famed programs on a vintage TV along with many of the shows props and other artifacts.  

We parked near the Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts Gallery.  The works of Tice Leaner were on exhibit and it was a thought-provoking display of daily life of people in the Binghamton area – the people we never see. Tice tries to showcase life and “show what people walk by daily and ignore.” 

Visitors should not miss the Roberson Museum and Science Center
which has a variety of displays.  We found their “Vintage 1954-1964” a fun trip down memory lane.  In the more distant past their “Journey from our Prehistoric Past” is fascinating with a Randolph Mammoth skull as a centerpiece, the most complete mammoth specimen fount in NYS. Actually, there is a variety of displays to interest visitors. The model railroad display depicts what Binghamton, Johnson City, Owego, and Endicott looked like in the 1950s. There is also a pictorial history of the area. Connected to the museum is the 1904 Roberson Mansion with a sweeping grand staircase.

We know no visit to Binghamton is complete without enjoying their local specialty, spiedies, so we had lunch at Lupo’s where they lay claim to the “original” spiedie sandwich.