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Friday, June 27, 2014

Eddie & George Wake Up in the Berkshires - Again - and Get a Shock!

Well, what do you know?  Here are Eddie and George, again, in Westhampton, Massachusetts!  It's been...what?...about 20 months since the last time.  Today it was hot and sunny.  Last time it was chilly and the leaves were turning.

It also turns out that they woke up in the swings, just when the power company guys were replacing one of the campground transformers.  We kept losing our power yesterday after we arrived.  This was supposed to fix it.  It didn't, but at least it was one constructive step toward a solution.  We don't want the boys to be without their air conditioning.

Here's what the boys were caught doing the last time they woke up here in October 2012.  Seems hard to believe they've been at this whole RV thing for nearly two and a half years.  But they have, and the boys are still swinging.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mount Baxter and Other Oddities

Hanging around an RV campground, you can see the oddest things.

For example, out of nowhere a group of people passed by on a hayride.

This irked the campers in our area, who fought back against the interlopers.  Note the fellow, our dear friend Francois, in the background with the bucket, getting ready to hurl French Canadian epithets at the intruders:

But, normally, campgrounds are peaceful.  Here's a bucolic view of our campground in Mallorytown, from the adjoining meadow:

The meadows, however, are full of dangerous wildlife.  Today, as we explored the fringes of the campground, we surprised a giant frog, who almost charged us:

However, Baxter the cat is well aware of the dangers that lurk out there just beyond our campsite.  Here he is, beyond the boulder field, patrolling for rogue frogs, birds and chipmunks:

He has been quite successful protecting the campground - to the extent that the campground owners have named a hill near our rig as "Mount Baxter."  Baxter the cat is seen here surveying his eponymous domain:

Like we say, you never can tell what will be found in an RV campground.  Baxter reminds us of this every day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cycling to Rockport

Today, we decided to bicycle another third of the 1000 Islands Waterfront Trail, this time from Mallorytown upriver to Rockport, a little village with shops, restaurants and small boat tours.

The Waterfront Trail is 50 km long, and travels the length of the 1000 Islands Parkway through the entire 1000 Islands region, from Gananoque upstream, to the west, to Brockville downstream, to the east.  Our village, Mallorytown, is set almost in the middle, which makes it the perfect hopping-off point for bicycle trips both directions.

Saturday, we cycled up toward Brockville, and were introduced to the beauty of the St. Lawrence in this 1000 Islands region.  Today we were hoping to get more of the same, and to look more closely at the communities along this stretch of the river.

Today's trip takes us from one township with a unique name - Front of Yonge - into the neighboring township - which has an equally unusual name:  Leeds and the Thousand Islands:

No sooner did we set on our way, then we spotted the first denizen who was out walking about. This little turtle decided to stroll across the Parkway toward the river.  Only she (or he) knew the reason.  We hoped that he would survive this little asphalt adventure:

As throughout the 1000 Islands region, this section of the St. Lawrence shore is dotted with islands both large and small, and there is clearly no island too small for a cottage:

Many families like to summer in the 1000 Islands, including this huge family.  I guess they need one of the bigger mansions on one of the islands to hold their entire brood:

As we say, there is no island too small for a cottage.  This small cottage added a boathouse on the bank and connected to solid land by a small pedestrian bridge:

Eventually, we arrived at the village of Rockport, which is quite picturesque and advertises its touristic importance with this welcoming gateway banner:

Our destination was Cornwall's Pub, advertised to serve the tastiest fare west of the City of Quebec - not to mention its beer.  Well, we can't attest to whether its cuisine is especially unique, but it was tasty -

- and we did have a chance to sample a wonderful local ale brewed by Beau's All Natural Brewing Co., based in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, near Ottawa.  Beau's makes a very interesting flight of tasty beers, and we look forward to trying many of them.  Here's Kathy embarking on this wonderful journey, hoisting a coup of the blonde ales:

From the veranda at Cornwall's Pub, we had an excellent view of the river, with various boats pottering around among the small islands nearby:

The village is cute, and we could have given you photos of several houses and churches that are historic and quaint.  However, this garage of a local boatwright caught our eye with its tromp l'oeil mural on the front:

It's always a little depressing to start the trip home, even when it's a bicycle trip and you have over an hour's peddling left to enjoy.  However, we did happen to see some things on our way home that we had not lingered to enjoy in our eagerness to get to lunch.

One was this homemade observatory:

Another was this exquisite wildflower garden nestled at the base of one of the many sandstone-and-limestone cliffs sprinkled along this shore of the river:

We'll be back in the 1000 Islands area again at least two more times, so we expect to complete the last third of the Waterfront Trail on a future stay.  We'll be sure to invite you along.

Gananoque River Cruise

Dear Blog. We plan to spend this summer traveling back and forth between Toronto and New Haven. We just finished up a very busy four week stay in the Toronto area and are working our way south.  The halfway point between the two cities is the Thousand Islands Region on the St. Lawrence River, which separates New York and Canada.  Our first stop - Mallorytown, Ontario.

Much of the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River in this area is part of the Canadian Thousand Islands National Park. The islands, over 1,850 of them, are actually the worn-down tops of ancient mountains. Since much of the park is in the middle of the river, we decided a boat tour was in order.

We started our adventure on Sunday, June 22, 2014, with a drive down to the port town of Gananoque (pronounced gan-ə-nok-way by the Anglos in the area, but the traditional French way - gan-a-NOKE - by the French Canadians). We couldn't have asked for better weather. Here is the view from the boat dock looking over to the Gananoque Inn.

We had about an hour to walk around town before the boat was scheduled to depart.  We stopped at the Heritage Museum to learn a little about the area. During the War of 1812, U.S. troops crossed the St. Lawrence and attacked British troops just outside Gananoque. The War didn't last long and, before you know it, Canada and the U.S. were best buds again. We still share the longest undefended boarder in the world. Here is the outside of the museum.

We also walked down to the marina and watched as the kids played on the beach. The St. Lawrence River is one of the largest fresh water rivers in the world.  The river runs 1,900 miles from the farthest headwater to the mouth.  The farthest headwater is the North River in the Mesabi Range at Hibbing, Minnesota.

After a very nutritious lunch of ice cream (for Dave) and hot sausage (for Kathy), we boarded the boat for our three hour tour.  (Mind you the tickets said 2.5 hours, but when questioned about it, the ticket lady admitted they don't like to call it a three hour tour because they are superstitious.  (I can't imagine what they mean, Little Buddy.) We realized that we didn't actually get a picture of our boat, so we found one on the Internet. (I love Google image search.)

Once we had gotten underway, an audio program played in both English and French talking about the islands as we passed them.  There was also a video of the various shipwrecks we passed over.  However, we didn't get to see the video, as we chose to sit on the top deck and soak up the sun, just like these cormorants.

We loved the dozens of little lighthouses.

Many of the first settlers in the area built houses on the small islands in the river. We learned that in order to be counted as an island (not a shoal), you must have two trees.  It is obvious that this homeowner wanted island status, so they planted a second tree in front of their house.

This lighthouse has a great story.  Pirate Bill Johnston was one of the ring leaders of the Canadian Rebellion of 1838. He and his so called patriots plundered a British Steamer and burned it near this lighthouse on this island that once was called Rock Island. A large reward was offered for his capture. After the rebellion, Pirate Bill went to Washington to seek a pardon. President Van Buren said no, but a few months latter President Harrison agreed. In 1853, Johnston was appointed keeper of the Rock Island Lighthouse.  Ironically, the same government that offered a $1,000 reward for this pirate, was now paying him $350 a year to take charge of one of its most important lighthouses, in the exact spot where he pirated the British boat.

We also learned the story of Boldt Castle.  George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, and his family enjoyed summers in a cottage on Hart Island (the Boldts renamed the island from "Hart" - meaning male deer or stag - to "Heart").

 In 1900, the Boldts launched an ambitious construction campaign to build a huge masonry structure, one of the largest private homes in America. They engaged the architectural firm G. W. & W. D. Hewitt and hundreds of workers for a six-story "castle", a major international landmark. In addition, four other masonry structures on the island are architecturally notable. The Alster Tower, in the fore ground, was purposely constructed with slanting and uneven walls, ceilings, and roofs. This was the kids' play house:

The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt's wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals. 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, so that the island would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. In the two decades after acquiring the property, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority spent some fifteen million dollars for restoration and improvements here, and work continues annually. We decided not to take the tour this trip, as Kathy still has her boot.  We'll wait until another trip after the boot comes off.

This is a view of the island's Power House:

Equally distinctive is a huge yacht house on a neighboring Wellesley Island where the Boldts had another summer home and a vast estate, incorporating farms, canals, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, and a polo field. The huge Yacht House is unique, warranting a visit by means of another small fee and a shuttle boat connecting it to Heart Island. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The 1969 children's novel Secret Castle by Anne Colver is about the castle and Alexandria Bay. Pictured below is part of the original entrance gate. You can just make out the three stags, or harts, on top. If you look closely, you may also be able to see a heart carved over the archway. Boldt Castle was to be a valentine gift to his beloved wife.  Hearts of all all sizes were included in the woodwork, masonry and gardens.

Over the course of the three hour tour, we saw a number of houses, both great and small. We look forward to doing a little more exploring.  Of the thousands of islands that we saw today, we think this is the one for us.

Tomorrow, we have another bike ride planned.  Chat at you later.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Powered by Poutine

On Saturday, June 21, we bicycled north along the St. Lawrence River toward Brockville.  Our path took us from Mallorytown, down to the 1000 Islands National Park Visitor Center, and then along the 1000 Islands Waterfront Trail.

Here's Kathy showing off her power-cycling form across from the red sandstone/limestone/granite rocks that are characteristic of the geology of this area:

Along the St. Lawrence River, we could see numerous fishermen trying for muskie from their bateaux:

The area is replete with small farms.  Here is one of the picturesque barns along the river:

In one of the parks, goose families searched for food on the banks of the river:

Jones Creek is one of the many tributaries of the St. Lawrence River.  While the main river is too large to have held factories and mills, the side tributaries were the sites of many industries.  Here, Kathy stands on a bridge overlooking Jones Creek:

While the streams were home to mills and factories in prior centuries, now they are bucolic locations for cottages, boathouses and fishermen:

Some barns are perhaps older and a little more used than others:

When we reached Brockville, we found a food truck serving some scrumptious local cuisine, including poutine, an artery-clogging concoction of french fries, cheese and gravy.  We decided that our long bike ride earned us small portions of this scrumptious dish, which we hadn't sampled yet.  Here, David is showing how much he enjoys the local delicacy:

Pedaling back along the river, we passed Chimney Island, the site of former Fort Levis, originally a French fort.  When the fort was built on the island, it was named Isle Royale rather than Chimney Island:

Along the river are a number of small islands on which small (or sometimes very large) cottages rest:

Small docks stretch out from the shore, even through marshland, to give property owners access to the river:

While most docks probably are meant to give access for boating, some docks appear to be merely for the purpose of setting out an old Adirondack chair and sitting to watch the fish rise or the sun set:

Our bicycle ride was a grand preview of the 1000 Islands region and, as we cycled home, we looked forrward to our upcoming boat tour of most of the islands.

Eddie & George Wake Up in Mallorytown, Ontario

Dear Readers, as you know, Eddie and George usually "wake up" when we arrive at a new campground. However, when we checked into the KOA in Mallorytown, Ontario, we were given a list of activities. Saturday night was Susan's Family Bingo.  It has been a while since we've been in a campground that held bingo games. We'll have to go check it out.  Now, Eddie and George have heard all our bingo stories, but have never actually played. We felt it was high time to expand their horizons. Here we are getting set up.  Since this was their first time, Eddie and George each only bought one card.

Now this was not your ordinary run-of-the-mill garden variety bingo.  Oh, no. This was sit down, stand up, turn around, stomp up and down bingo. Did I mention there was a lot of ducking going on. Apparently, the owner, Susan, likes to ask questions of the players before each game. If you get the answer correct, she throws a quarter at you.  Literally, chucks it across the room. Her aim is terrible, which leads to a lot of ducking under the tables.

We played 11 games, not one of them was classic bingo.  We made the letters - T, L, X, the number 7, outside box and inside box and coverall. The next to the last game was dragging on and on and no one was winning. It wasn't until almost all the balls were called that someone realized there were no "N" numbers called. That's because Susan stuffed all the Ns in her pocket before the game and no one noticed. Did I mention the winner of the coverall at the end of the night had to sing a song before collecting the winnings.

Dave got two quarters, while Kathy only got one.  However, Kathy did win one of the bingo games and pocked $5.50, less the .50 for a tip to two really cute kids helping draw the balls. Eddie and George enjoyed their outing and hope to get out more.

Father's Day in Toronto

June 15 was Father's Day, and we had a chance to spend it in Toronto with Matt, Weina and William.  So, really, it was DOUBLE Father's Day!

We went out for a long walk.  Here's Matt wheeling William into the apartment after the walk:

No Father's Day is complete without a house made of pillows, blankets and table and chairs.  This was a masterwork, and William claimed victory as architect:

Baba inspected the result:

Mama joined William in the house:

After the exhausting, house-building, the three generations joined for a photo at Katie's request:  Ye Ye, Ba Ba, and Hao Hao:

The festivities were topped off with David's Father's Day card!