Saturday, June 27, 2015

Finger Lakes - Part 2

Roger here... Dianne and I are loving life in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  In the last post we documented our winery and museum visits with Jay and Nancy.  This post will have more of an outdoor theme, filled with the fun that our Retama friends Larry and Sharon (who have a summer home about twenty minutes from our campground) organized. 

Speaking of the campground... we booked two weeks at Bristol Woodlands, near Canandaigua.  It is located on the slopes of Bristol Mountain where the local winter ski resort is located.  Talk about a serene and beautiful setting!  The pictures above and below were taken along the long gravel entryway to the park.

This picture shows the steep road (on the left) that leads to the RV sites.  It took a while, but we finally adjusted to the very slow (and enforced) 5 mph speed limit that requires continual riding of the brakes.  The speed limit rule was a great trade-off, considering the setting.

The dogs have been enjoying long walks on the campground trails, and up the gravel road that leads to a zip line course.  We  frequently encounter wildlife, especially deer.  The photo above shows Bandido checking a lone deer out in the distance.

Here is our huntress, Tequila, at the same moment.  The action increased exponentially one morning when a napping doe woke up and leaped across one of the campground trails.  I may need to go to a doctor to have my right arm put back in the socket :-).

Enough about the dogs.  Let's show some of the people fun.

Our first morning with Larry and Sharon was idyllic.  Larry took us on a paddle (not really a paddle) on Canadice Lake.... 

.... while Sharon walked our dogs on one of the lakeside trails.

Larry (in a single kayak) led the way as we glided from the south end of the lake to the north end, and back.  The lake is 3 miles long.  The water was calm (no wind).  Motorized boats and swimming are not allowed on this particular lake since it is a water source for the city of Rochester.  

I hinted that this was really not a paddling trip (although it could have been.)  Larry and Sharon's Hobie kayaks are pedal powered.  They are steered  by a hand-operated rudder that turns on a dime.   The only time we used the paddle was at the landing, when the pedals were raised and the rudder was trimmed.  What a wonderful way to get some exercise while enjoying the quiet on the nearly deserted lake.  Note the reflections in the photo below.  For an instant it is difficult to determine if the puffy white clouds are in the sky or the clear water.

We returned to the campground around 3:00 p.m. to get ready for dinner.  Larry and Sharon picked us up.  We ate on the porch of an old house in the town of Woodville.  The restaurant (named Roots) was surrounded by a small-town street with historic homes on the front and extensive vineyards in the rear.  Many of the dishes were made with the roots of vegetables (radishes, etc.), thus the name.  The food was tasty and interesting.  Sharon and I had cabernet-infused chilled pasta --- not very appetizing to view as the red pasta resembled earth worms, but it tasted great.  You just needed to close your eyes.  

After dinner, Sharon insisted that we find some ice cream.  (Ice cream is a big deal in this area.  Every small town seems to have an ice cream shop.)  After dessert, we then enjoyed an early evening tour of some of the local sites.

This picture was taken from a foot bridge on the edge of one of the scenic small towns.  The rocks in the bed of the stream were  slate, very common in this area.

On the way back to the motor home we stopped to gawk at Honeoye ("honey oi") Lake.  Sharon graduated from high school in the nearby town of Honeoye.  The was a good place for a couple of couple shots.

Sharon and Larry

Roger and  Dianne

This was such a great day.  However, I must say that the adventures of the next day matched the first.  Our friends rented a pontoon boat on Canandaigua Lake for a perfect four-hour cruise.

Larry was the skipper for our trip.  We traveled from the south end of the lake to the north end, and back (15 miles each way).  Luck was with us again, weather wise --- 75 degrees with more of those puffy, white clouds.

What a great picture of Sharon with the lake and those green hills of her native western New York in the background.

Many of the homes along portions of the lake were perched at the top of slate cliffs.  The stairway to the right has 200+ steps, according to the owners who talked with us from their boat while we took this picture.  Wouldn't you hate to have forgotten your sunglasses after reaching the bottom?  If you look carefully to the left of the dock, you will see the infrastructure of a very steep trolley system.  Many of the cliff homes had these.  Something new for me.

As we neared Canandaigua at the north end of the lake, Captain Larry stopped the boat so that we could enjoy some munchies and ginger ale.  Please ignore my ridiculous-looking hat that protects me from the sun.  In my case, it seems that sunscreen is not enough.  Too many hours in the sun as a lifeguard many years ago.

Dianne took pictures of some of the gorgeous homes on the trip back to the dock.  Even though we personally no longer want to take care of a large home, many of these were spectacular, intriguing, and likely exorbitantly expensive.  We hear that the property taxes alone on the lakefront home sites are incredible.  (Dianne here:  It was still fun to try to imagine sitting on the terraces, balconies, or porches of these elegant homes and enjoying a cold drink with a view of the lake and rolling green hills beyond.)

This next home was voted the favorite of all four of us.  It was actually a compound and required three photos to capture the entire property:

Waterfront Guest House

Hilltop Guest House

The main house

Hilltop Farm Viewed from Lake
Land ho!  It is 4:00 p.m. and time to disembark.  Thanks so much to Larry and Sharon for this amazing time on the water.  

After the cruise, it was time to drive a few miles to Naples for ice cream, what else.

And if ice cream was not enough, we drove a few more miles for a stop at Monica's Pies, a very popular local spot.

Larry and Sharon bought two pies as well as a chicken pot pie.  Dianne bought FOUR mini-pies:  peach, grape, key lime, and chocolate chip (for me).

The grape pie, a regional favorite, turned out to be Dianne's dinner that night.  It is a good thing that we are getting plenty of exercise, considering all the ice cream and pie we have been eating.  

The adventures in the Finger Lakes are not yet over.  The theme of the next post will be two days of big, big waterfalls.

The pet picture of the day shows Bandido with the big stick that he found along the road in front of the campground.  He is very proud of his stick.  Actually, as our friend Sue says, he is gloating.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ohio & Finger Lakes = Family & Friends

Roger here...  Dianne and I have decided to name this year's summer sojourn "The Family and Friends Reunion Tour."  We have already visited: 
- My cousin Beth and her family in Chattanooga 
-  Greg and Diana Jones at the RV Dreams Reunion Rally
-  Bill and Nancy (and others) at the RV Dreams Reunion Rally
-  Dianne's cousin and her husband, Nancy and Jim, at Four Paws 
-   And Retama friends, Greg and Barb and Izzy, at Four Paws Kingdom.

There are several more reunions ahead, including one in Ohio and one in New York that I will include in this post.

The purpose of our first stop after Dianne's genealogy research in Coshocton, Ohio was to see my brother and sister-in-law, Dick and Pam, in Mansfield (Lexington), Ohio.  We were able to park in front of their house and connect to their electricity.  They graciously allowed our dogs to have access to their house, making the visit more pleasant for everyone (at least for us).  The picture above shows a dinner in the Ohio Amish country.  The fried chicken was delicious.  However, I cannot fail to mention all the great meals that Pam made for us during our stay.  Pam is a great cook.  She also is a great hostess --- taking us (and the dogs) on a nice hike in a nearby town, followed by ice cream.  Poor Dick was at work.

Mexican Train on the screened-in gazebo was the evening activity each night.  There were many serious discussions of the various rules of the game.  

Lehman's Country Store was one of our stops in Amish country.  These intricate  three-dimensional wood carvings were fascinating.  How did Paul Weaver, the artist, do that?

On to the Finger Lakes of western New York state, where we spent a week with our dear friends of 46 years (all the way back to college days), Jay and Nancy.  They drove from near Indianapolis to meet us at the Bristol Woodlands Campground just outside of Bristol Center, New York.  The champagne celebration pictured below shows Nancy adding Pennsylvania and New York to our U.S. map, which depicts the states Dianne and I have visited in our motor home.

We traveled about an hour to spend the first full day together at the Corning Museum of Glass.   What an amazing place!  The picture to the right is of a large glass bobcat.  Very cool; however, it did not dart into the jungle like the ones we have seen in south Texas. 

Below, we stood behind one of the large creations in the first exhibit hall.  All of the displays in this part of the museum were isolated in hallways of pure white.  The all-white effect was a little disconcerting, but certainly showcased the works of art.  I liked it.

The museum displayed modern works as well as endless historical pieces.  Some of the relics dated from 650 bc (obviously not this one!).  I do not usually linger in museums, but I did here.  So very intriguing, beautiful and interesting.

Tiffany vases.

Jay and Nancy in front of a Tiffany Window

We wandered around the beautifully-landscaped town of Corning

after a lengthy visit at the museum, ate pizza for lunch, and drove back to the campground.  But first, we made two stops along the southern shore of Lake Canandaigua to sample (and buy) some wine.

The first stop was impulsive.  That looks interesting.  Let's stop there.  The Heron Hill Winery  proved to be more than interesting.  

We really liked the wines here --- especially the Cabernet Francs, which seem to be popular in this area.  We bought a couple of bottles, as well as a bottle of Baco Noir (never heard of it before, but liked it).

The second stop was intentional.  Friends Larry and Sharon, who live in this area in the summers, had brought us (in Texas) some wine from Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyards that we really liked.  

We discovered that we still like it.  We purchased two bottles of Rkatsiteli (dry white) and two bottles of an interesting peppery red  called Lemberger.

What a first day!

We spent the second day in nearby Canandaigua.  Our first enjoyable stop was at the historic Sonnenberg house.  As you can see, it was quite a place in its heyday, built by a New York bank president and his widow.  Today it is a historical state park surrounded by extensive gardens.  

We chose to walk around the grounds rather than ride one of the extended golf carts.  We found ourselves separated and temporarily lost as we wandered through the expansive greenhouses.  (The weather on this day was bright sunshine and upper 70s -- absolutely perfect for strolling the beautiful grounds of Sonnenberg. -- D.)

A trail through the "deer park" led us to one of the themed gardens -- this one, Japan.

The opening picture of this post depicts the arched stone bridge in the garden.  The pagoda to the right was nearby.

A short walkway from the Japanese garden led us to the house.  Quite a fancy lady.  (Unfortunately, it needs a little bit of restoration so that  future generations can also enjoy it.  Hopefully, the State of New York can lend a hand.

The lights in the interior hallways were at one time gas lights until Thomas Edison (friend of the family) initiated a change to electric lights.

The interior rooms were interesting.  I suspect that the owners would be the type to have visited the Granthams' at Downton Abbey if it were not fiction. 

 We learned an interesting fact from the tour guide about Widow Mary Clark Thompson, who was responsible for putting in the various gardens around the mansion after the death of her husband.  While vacationing in Europe she learned of a tulip display in Holland and, not wanting to miss it, delayed her scheduled departure date, thereby not sailing home on the Titanic as she had planned. 

Dianne and I enjoyed the outdoor spaces the most...

.... even the Roman statuary that the family shipped out of Italy.  They certainly would not be allowed to do that today.

After our stroll into and out of the privileged past of Sonnenberg House, we made a short drive to the northern end of Canandaigua Lake for lunch.  We enjoyed excellent food at the New York Wine and Culinary Institute, with a view of the lake in the background.  Yummy.

Friends for 46 years and still going strong! -- D.

Day three was dedicated to Seneca Lake.  We drove through Watkins Glen at the south end of the lake before making a series of stops along the east end of the lake.  The most notable stops were:  Finger Lakes Distilling, where we bought a bottle of Maplejack liqueur;  the Stone Cat Cafe, where we had a tasty lunch; and....

The Standing Stone Winery, recommended by friends, where we bought three bottles of ice wine.  I am pretty sure that we now have enough wine for a while.  We really do not care much for the Rieslings (especially the sweet ones) that are a specialty of the Finger Lakes.  However, we had no trouble finding other white wines and cabernet francs that we liked.

We stopped by the Belhurst Castle at the north end of Seneca Lake for one last vista of the lake, then headed back to Bristol Center for a delicious dinner at Cafe Sol. 

 Then it was home to our campground for several games of Mexican Train.  Jay and Nancy rented a cabin at Bristol Woodlands campground where we're staying in our RV.  Here's a shot of us starting the game at their place.

By the way, I won four games in a row during our time together.  Not bragging --- just a fact.  :-).  

(Dianne here:  Needless to say, we were out to get Roger after that; Nancy beat him (and the rest of us) soundly on our last round of games, just after the above photo was taken.)

The fourth day started badly, but ended well.  Jay wanted to see the Seward house (Seward of Seward's Folly fame) in Auburn.  The hour-plus drive was uneventful.  We located the house before eating lunch at a nearby deli.  When we returned to the house, we were refused admission.  Even though we arrived during the posted public hours, a school group was touring the house and it was closed to the public for three hours.  After explaining that we were all from out of state and had just driven well over an hour just to tour the home, the lady at the ticket counter said that she would check to see if we might be allowed in.  At that point, a surly young woman emerged from the back and informed us that the temporary closure had been posted on the website.  She then acidly told us in no uncertain terms that she did not care about our long drive or our inconvenience.  She was not the least bit apologetic or empathetic.  We left determined not to spend any further money or time in Auburn, but wondered how a very uncrowded museum could afford to turn paying customers away, and insult them in the process.   It certainly left a bitter taste for the four of us.

Rant over.  We decided to drive a few more miles to check out the affluent village of Skaneatles (pronounced skinny atlas) on Skaneatles Lake.

Hindsight would have led us to this quaint town in the first place, skipping Auburn altogether.  It was full of magnificent well-kept historic mansions -- many with lake views --  and beautiful streets.  The view of the lake from the business district was amazing.

That evening Retama friends Larry and Sharon, who live in the area in the summers, joined us for the best dinner we have had since our arrival in New York, at the Brown Hound Bistro.  Such good food and good company!  We will be spending more time with Larry and Sharon in the coming week.  

After dinner, Sharon suggested that we drive to the top of a local park for the view.  What a good idea that was!  We made it there just in time for the sunset.  Get a load of the sun setting over the hills.

As we drove back to the campground, the sky exploded with color.  We stopped along the road so that Nancy could take this picture.  Wow!

Jay and Nancy drove home to Indiana today, but Dianne and I have another week in this beautiful place.  We'll see them again this summer when we get to the Indianapolis area.

Dianne again:  We received an email today from our veterinarian in Mission, Texas reminding us that today is Tequila's birthday.   Since she was originally a stray who ended up at Cinderella Pet Rescue, it's hard to know when her actual birthday really is.   But the pet picture of the day is a silly photo of my precious girl, taken at a doggie day care during one of our trips.   I've seen her grin like this a few times and it always makes me laugh! 
I love this silly face!