Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario in New York

New York is a beautiful state.  You often think only about New York City when much more of the state is beautiful rolling hillsides with mountains and lakes and farming communities nestled in the valleys.  We enjoyed our trip into New York although we continued to have a few problems with the hydraulic slides but the part was on order so we just had to wait.  We drove up to the Finger Lakes which is another beautiful sight that also has many, many fine wineries :)

Driving into the town of Ovid where our RV park was we saw a view of Cayuga Lake in the distance.  This is farmland with many Amish families in the area so horse and buggy transportation is common.

The weather was hot and hazy and each day threatened to rain but never did.  This has been an extremely dry season in this area and it has affected many of the crops.  The lettuce crop was already destroyed unless the grower had some type of irrigation system and the locals said if it didn't rain within the next few weeks many other crops would fail.  The one crop that was thriving was the grape vines.  They have a deep root system and love hot, dry weather so it looks like this will be another bumper year for the wineries.

The Captain and I stopped at several of our favorite wineries and we also stopped at a few new ones.  The first new one was called Lacey MacGruder and the tasting room was in a 200 year old barn that they had remodeled.  There is no heat or A/C in the building so this day they were using fans to keep it relatively comfortable.

The owners are a husband and wife who had been professionals from Maryland and got tired of the rat race so they decided to buy a winery.  They spent several years working at another winery in the area to learn the business before they opened up their own place.

The Captain waiting to have a wine tasting while I took pictures of the interior.  

The roof of the barn was the original wood.  The floor was also interesting because you could actually see in between the cracks in the wood where there was grain and other 'leftovers' from the cows and you definitely got a barn smell while you stood there.  It was good wine so we bought a few bottles :)

While in Ovid we stopped at a local ice cream parlor that sells ice cream cups for dogs.  It's vanilla swirled ice cream with biscuits on top.

Lucy got right to it and slurped out chunks of ice cream along with the biscuits.

Desi ate his very methodically and slowly enjoying every lick. I think this was his first, ever ice cream cup.

While Desi spit out the biscuit toppings Lucy gulped her ice cream down so she could grab the biscuits on the floor of the car.

Yes, it was messy, but this was the one day while there when it was slightly raining and cool and I chose to stay in the shelter of the car.   

The Seneca County Courthouse in Ovid is known as the "Three Bears".  The largest building is the 1845 courthouse known as Papa Bear.  The same year the old Clerk's Office was built similar in design but smaller so it was called Mama Bear.  In 1860, the new Clerk's Office was built and named Baby Bear.  They are all neoclassic design with Doric columns and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.   The town of Ovid has a population of 602 so besides the lakes and wineries, there's not much to see, folks :) 

Several days later we met our good friends from Australia who were kind enough to drive 6 hours from Canada to meet up with us and check out more wineries.

Keith and Christine Holland travel to the United States every year from Australia for a three month vacation.  They have a 5th wheeler and a big truck they store in the Midwest the remaining nine months of the year.  We first met several years ago in Michigan on the Upper Peninsula and have kept in touch ever since.  They are originally from New Zealand and they are waiting for the Captain and I to go over there for a visit so they can help us take in the sights in both countries.

The four of us drove a good distance to a winery on Lake Ontario. The owner of the winery was a meteorologist who decided to also change careers.

 It was a beautiful day and we had to take more pictures of  Lake Ontario.

Another day while out and about we stopped at the Prison City Pub and Brewery in Auburn, NY, for lunch.  It is a new brewery in the area, only been in business for ten months, and they have already won a silver medal for one of their beers from the Great American Brew Festival in Denver.  The food was very good along with the beer and, of course, the company!

 And then, alas, it was time to move on again.  While Keith and Christine had the long drive back up to Canada, we had merely a two hour drive up to Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario near Watertown, NY.  The Captain picked this area because he wanted to drive up to the Thousand Islands area of the St Lawrence River.

Our RV park was right on the water a short drive from Sackets Bay.

A resident of the park decided to wade into the harbor water to check it out.  Shall we say she was mature.

We gave her a great deal of credit because the water in  Lake Ontario was a bit on the cool side.  

Driving into downtown Sackets Harbor we found out there was a Can-Am festival going on.

The streets were lined with flowers and beautiful plants.

Not exactly the same as the Can-Am festival in South Carolina, streets were closed off so vendors could set up their wares.

This shop sidewalk had shoe plants along the walk.

One vendor had an owl sitting on a perch in a tree hollow and it was actually a live owl.  They found it abandoned in the woods and nursed it back to health.

Tents with wares were everywhere

and bands were playing music.
During the War of 1812, Sackets Harbor was the most active naval station in the U.S.  American and British navies were engaged in a shipbuilding competition for control of Lake Ontario. Tremendous effort and money was spent but in the end the navies never met in a major battle on this lake.

 The Can-Am event had a soapbox derby race as one of the major events at the festival.  It was fun watching the youngsters come racing down the street.

Sometimes they didn't make it all the way down.

There were a few accidents 

and a few tears but everyone had a good time.

The pups swam in the harbor to cool off because it was another hot day. 

Lots of sailboats were out.

We visited the Sackets Harbor Battlefield.

This lovely place was the Commandant's House.

A view of the harbor from the battlefield.

As we left town one of the news stations was filming the commentary about the soapbox derby. 

And a young couple was just leaving a church after their nuptials.

One evening our RV park had a music party with a local couple who were pretty good.

Everyone came out to listen along with their pets.
The Captain brought his camera and took some lovely pictures of the setting sun.

The city of Watertown is about a 30 minute drive from where we were staying. On Wednesday we drove into town to check out the local farmer's market and stroll along the riverwalk.  Named after the many falls located on the Black River, the city developed early in the 19th century as a manufacturing center.  In the early 20th century Watertown was said to have more millionaires per capita than any other city in the nation.

The water is a very dark color probably from the minerals in the area so we can see why it is called the Black River.

 The farmer's market was in the downtown area covering 5-6 city blocks.  We checked everything out and bought some vegetables and other goodies.

 Also found something I had never heard of before. They look like ostrich eggs but aren't.

A vendor was selling lamb meat and other products and I spotted these.  They are called dryer balls and are used in your dryer to remove static electricity and reduce drying time.  They are made of all lambs wool and he started producing them because his son was highly allergic to liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets.    

So I bought a box and gave them a try.  The box states to use all four in the dryer but the vendor said two would do nicely. There was absolutely no static cling and I timed the dryer loads and it did reduce drying time. They worked very well so if anyone out there is interested they do ship and the email address is listed at the top of the label.  He said two dryer balls will last 12-18 months depending on the usage.

We took a drive to Clayton and Alexandria Bay, New York, which are right on the St Lawrence River. Both towns are quaint with many shops and wonderful views of the river.

Buildings in downtown Clayton had murals painted on the side walls depicting the town life many years ago.

Situated across from the riverfront is the historic Johnston House, 1880, built for a local shipbuilder and captain.

A 1948 Ford tractor  $3,950.

I didn't know that !

Alexandria Bay is another neat little town that also takes credit for creating 1000 Island Dressing.  Hmmm!
We went back to the area the next day to take a boat ride on the St Lawrence River.  The river is part of the St Lawrence Seaway which is a system of locks, canals and channels in Canada and the United States that permits ocean going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes as far inland as the western end of Lake Superior.  The Seaway is named for the St Lawrence River which flows from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean.

This area is called Thousand Islands because the St Lawrence River is home to over 1,864 islands that straddle the Canada-US border.  The islands range in size from over 40 square miles to smaller islands unoccupied or sometimes inhabited by a single resident. To count as one of the Thousand Islands, emergent land within the river channel must have at least one square foot of land above water level year-round and support for at least two living trees.

Many homes are seasonal while a few with road access can be lived in year-round.

The Thousand Island Bridge from the US to Canada.  Actually it is a series of four bridge spans attached to islands crossing  over the river.

Some of the islands have many homes and the river was full of watercraft.

Wellesley Island State Park has a lovely marina and many sites for campers and RVers.

There were many stately homes. 

I liked this one and especially the boat parked out front.

Other islands were minimal at best.  Several we saw only had a hammock and grill or lounge chairs to sit on.  The owner and family boat over and have a cookout while watching all the other boaters and ships travel past. 
Part of the boat ride was to Heart Island to tour the George Boldt Castle.  It is a 129 room castle that Boldt build for his wife, Louise.  The story is sad because he started building it in 1900 and she died unexpectedly in 1904.  At her death the work on the castle was stopped and Boldt never stepped on the island again.

George Boldt immigrated to the United States in 1864 at the age of thirteen.  He began as a kitchen worker in New York and was hired at age 25, by his future father-in-law, to manage the dining room of Philadelphia's most exclusive gentleman's club, the Philadelphia Club.

When you approach the castle the first thing you see is the Power House which was built to hold a generator to supply the island with power. 

This building was created as a play area for the children who visited.

Boldt Castle

The grand entranceway.

The stained glass ceiling in the entranceway.

The hall ceilings were exquisite.

The original Boldt dining room furniture and accessories.

Views of the St Lawrence River from one of the many verandas at the castle.

The library
A view from the third floor.

The castle was not close to completion when the work stopped in 1904.  Many of the rooms looked like these next pictures.  For 73 years the castle and other structures were exposed to vandals and harsh winter weather. Finally, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired Heart Island and the nearby yacht house in 1977, for one dollar, under the agreement that all revenues obtained from the castle operation would be applied towards restoration.

Many rooms in the house looked like this when the Bridge Authority bought the property.

In the next two decades the Bridge Authority spent $15 million for the restoration and work continues annually to restore the complete property.  The initial goal was to restore Heart Island to the state it was in when construction was halted but improvements have gone beyond that stage.  Many of the improvements now seen in the main hall are not originals but modern innovation.

Another room that was never completed.

All in all, it was a nice tour of the castle but we were a little disappointed because it wasn't like seeing the Biltmore Estate or other great homes where the people actually lived in them.

As we were leaving on the tour boat we saw this huge place and thought it might be the Singer Mansion because that can also be toured but it is only a 29 room house.  Come to find out, this building was one of four yacht houses that was built by George Boldt to house his 40 plus boats.  The man really knew how to live lavishly.  The boat narrator told us the rumor has always been that most of the money came from Boldt's wife, Louise, and as soon as she died her father cut off the money to his son-in-law :)

More gorgeous homes on the river.  This is the only one painted a purple color.

A nest of baby osprey.

This home has a bridge you can cross over to the owner's second island. Interestingly, the larger island with the house is on Canadian soil and the second island is U.S. land.  I wonder if they need a passport to cross over?

A figure of St Lawrence whom the river was named for.

A high level deck with a railing made of Plexiglas.

A huge blue heron that everyone snapped a picture of until you got close enough to realize it was man-made.

One night, a few years ago, this island was hit by an ocean going vessel that went out of control and slammed into it.  The owner looked out his bedroom window and saw the hull of the ship about a foot away.  The only damage was to the owner's dock.  The next day he hung a sign on his house that said,  "No barge docking allowed."     

And then it was time for us to move on again.  We drove back down to Bath, NY, and stopped at a repair facility to get the motor replaced for our hydraulic lifts.

A nice repair place with very friendly people.

They had electric hookups and water so it was easy to spend the night there.

They even had a large field for the Captain to run the pups in because they always seem to need exercise.

As we were leaving the Finger Lakes I saw this cute sign I wanted to share with you.  No matter how old you are, there are always ways to make money!   Peace!  

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