Friday, July 27, 2007

Travel Day Four, Wednesday, July 25, 2006

We start the day with the continental breakfast from the motel lobby. The day is looking terrific! There isn’t a cloud in the sky. The temperature is already feeling warm at 9:30 when we take our leave of the Econo Lodge. Our destination this morning is only a few miles away. We take a right off of route 11 and follow the signs to the Almanzo Wilder Homestead, in Burk New York. I read the entire Little House series when I was a little girl, including Farmer Boy. I read them all again when the girls where young. This is a treat for me.
It takes all of ten minute from town to get to the homestead. The place is deserted. The sign indicates that they don’t open until 11:00. We walk around the grounds and try to peek into a few windows. During the stroll I recount some of the highlights from the book, Farmer Boy, for our amusement. I take a few pictures for the girls. They’ll get a kick out of it I think. While we are sitting there on the side of the road, I remind Andy about some falls the clerk at the motel counter had mentioned. He tells me to “honk” when I see the sign. “Umm, my horn is croaking” I remind him. We take out the tools and find that it’s a loose connection. HONK! That’s better.
The falls are just a little further down route 11 in a town called Chateaugay. The entrance is a campground and we are a little confused. The sign does say High Falls Park too, so we stop and inquire. The young girl at the desk informs us that campers can see the falls free, but visitors such as we have to pay two bucks. I don’t think she enjoys her job. I have a feeling Andy has the same impression. He asks for the senior discount and we get in for a buck each. We follow the path that was indicated to us and we can hear the roar of the falls as we hike along. To get to the falls you have to descend a steep path and a series of stairs built into the side of the hill. They switch back and forth all the way down. As we descend, the roar intensifies. It’s worth the climb. The falls are fantastic! We walk out toward them as far as the stones in the river bed will let us. The mist is refreshing after the climb down those stairs. We linger for a while because it’s a long way up. If you are unfamiliar with the Stairmaster at your local gym, I don’t suggest you make this climb. I’m winded as we reach the top and the sweat is running down my cheeks. We get back on the bikes and are off, heading east on route 11 once again.
The roads in this part of New York run straight east, west, north or south. There are few, if any, twists. Instead, we undulate like waves on the ocean, and so it goes as we pass farm after farm. They are large prosperous looking, sweet smelling, farms. The people we see are busy at work doing what it is farmers do.
By the time we reach Mooers New York the bikes are ready for refueling. Andy pulls into another Mom & Pop. This one has two pumps. The name above the door indicates that it’s a country store, but whatever name comes first is washed out and unreadable. As I cut the engine on the bike, I hear the church bells of St Ann’s next door playing a beautiful hymn to strike the noon hour. We pump and pay for our gas and notice they have a deli. It’s noon so we decide to have subs for lunch. It takes a while before the subs are ready and I brows around the store. The stuff on the shelves looks as if it’s all been here a while. There is a turn style with a few greeting cards. The cards are all limp and folding over. Just above these are caps. The kind of caps on puts in a pop gun. My brothers had these toy guns as kids and thought it was great sport to pop these caps behind our backs and startle the bejebers out of us. I’m wondering if eating anything from here is wise.
It’s too late to change our minds about the subs, and it turns out they are pretty good. We eat these on a bench outside the door and only a few feet from the gas pumps. There is a little US Post Office attached to the place and our bench is between the store and the post office. This affords a good vantage point for people watching while I polish off the foot long sub. I try to surmise their circumstances as I observe their behavior with each other. One mom, pulls up, jumps out of her beat up four door sedan and leaves it running while she heads into the store. I soon notice that a young girl is in the car unattended. She’s hopping around in the front seat. Now she’s kneeling looking toward the back and her feet are dangerously close to the automatic gear shift on the column. I stop chewing and hold my breath. The mom returns and yells at her about a soda that has been knocked over in her absence. If she had a clue, she would realize it could have been a whole lot worse.
Our route takes us back to where we crossed over Lake Champlain just a few days ago. Andy pulls into a marina on the New York side so I can get a photo of the span across to Vermont. The day is absolutely beautiful and the wind off the water is comfortable. I take a few shots of the boats in the marina as well and some of the lake. The lake looks inviting and I watch some of the water sport activities with a touch of wistfulness.
I’m following Andy on this leg of our vacation so I don’t know our next destination. He picks up 105 in Vermont and heads east. This route runs just south of the Canadian border. I notice how the roads have changes the moment we crossed the lake. We begin to find bends in the road and long sweeping turns. The wooded growth is closer to the roadside as well. We swoop past a number of farms in Vermont, but these are not as sweet smelling as those I encountered in New York.
We are diverted from 105 to 118 because of road construction. We can’t understand why we have been diverted. They are working on 118 too, and the road is torn up and gravel only. In spots where there is pavement it’s been scarified. Yup, that’s the word I believe I read, scarified. It is no picnic as it goes on for miles. Finally, we meet up with 105 again. Andy is leaving the route and heading upward. We reach Jay’s Peak at 4:00 where we meet another couple on motorcycles. They have a couple of nice looking Harleys. I’m not familiar with the models, but these are two fine looking bikest, V twins I think. We chat with them for a few minutes and learn they have gone to the summit in the gondola. They think the last ride was at 4:00. We look up and sure enough a gondola is ascending the mountain. We decide to check on it anyway, and it turns out the last ride up the mountain is at 4:30. We buy two tickets.
I return at 4:30 with my camera in hand. As we board the gondola a passel of kids scramble aboard. The gondola operator, Maxine, seems familiar with them and her greeting is kind. By their dress I take them to be a family of Hasidic Jews. Soon mom arrives with two girls. In all, there are eight rowdy kids and a very patient looking mom. Maxine is a friendly woman with short cropped gray hair and oval glasses perched on her nose. She answers their many questions and never once seems annoyed at their boisterous nature.
As we ascend to the summit, Maxine points out the landmarks we are looking at. Owl’s Head in Canada and Lake Memphremagog both to the northeast are the most prominent. The other stuff seems to be too hazy to make out clearly, including Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It takes ten minutes to reach the summit and we have until 5:00 to walk around and admire the view. I scramble up the rocks to the top. I spot the survey marker embedded in the stone. Cool!
From Jay Peak we head to Newport so we can put our feet in Lake Memphremagog. I’m glad we have stopped because I am very thirsty. The heat today has me wearing my summer perforated jacket and it’s hot even with that. Andy has been without a jacket all day, but I have standards I like to take for myself, so it’s the jacket and a little sweat for me. We don’t leave Newport until 6:20. I’m wondering where we will spend the night, because if he continues on 105 I don’t think there is much in the way of accommodations. 105 along this stretch is just about all ours. It’s has just the right amount of dips and twists to keep one happy and since it seems traffic free right now we can go as fast or slow as we choose. We choose fast.
Island Pond is right where 105 and 114 intersect and we find a motel right on the lake. The town is small and you can walk from one end to the other in five minutes. Island Pond is famous for being the home of the first International Railway connecting Canada with the United States. In its time, it facilitated bringing goods to an ice free harbor in Portland Maine during the long cold winters. There is a landmark just in front of Ali’s Restaurant where we had our evening meal.
We walked around the town to check out the eateries before deciding upon Ali’s. We step inside the establishment at 8:15. Krystal, our waitress, is pleasant and attentive. She bade us to sit where we wish and tells us the specials. We are served at 8:30, the time we learn that is typically their closing time. I feel a bit bad that we are keeping the staff late. You would never know by the quality of our dinner and service. We are not rushed and the food does not appear to be hastily prepared. In fact it’s delicious! I had the baked stuffed haddock and Andy has the all you can eat shrimp. I have a few of the shrimp and they are fantastic. I joke with Andy that because of the late hour, those shrimp will be all he can eat. When he reaches the end of the shrimp, Krystal checks to see if he would like more. The plate was full to begin with and he does not need any more. If he had, I’m sure the staff would have prepared more without complaint. We leave full and impressed at the friendly service for two late customers.There is no wireless at our motel and none I can hijack, so I content myself with typing the blog for posting later, viewing my day’s photos and downloading more maps into the GPS as I anticipate needing more coverage for Maine. I have a feeling this is our next destination.

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