Friday, July 31, 2015

7/31 Who's Charley and Why Am I Traveling Without Him?

I posted this story a long time ago, but I keep getting asked questions, so here goes again:

Way back in 1960, when I was in high school, John Steinbeck published his final book, Travels With Charley: In Search of America.  He wrote the book about a 10,000 miles trip he took across the country, living in a truck camper, and accompanied by his wife's standard poodle, Charley.  Although we did not know it then, he knew he was dying.  I have read the book several times over the years and enjoyed it immensely.

Here is an explanation of why he took this trip and a review of his book published by The Atlantic Monthly in 1962:  http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/classrev/charley.htm

I had a travel bug even as a child, so this became one of my favorite books. I was disappointed to learn a few years ago that some of the incidents in the book were not exactly true. This lack of truth was also confirmed by his son. The New York Times published this article in 2011:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/04/books/steinbecks-travels-with-charley-gets-a-fact-checking.html?_r=0   (There is a picture of Steinbeck and Charley in this article.  There is also a picture of the camper, which now resides in The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.)


In reality, the truth does not matter to me in this case.  I enjoyed the book when I was young, and it was at least a partial inspiration for me to want to travel as I do now.  I began this blog to help my friends and family keep up with where I was and what I was doing.  A couple of months after I started it, I decided to honor Steinbeck's book by changing the name of the blog.  And I kind of like the double meaning--I do not travel with a Charley of any species and do not care to!  I like to live and travel alone because of the freedom it gives me.

I do recommend this book, even if it is more than 50 years old.  It comes in a lot of editions, even on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Travels-Charley-Search-America-Classics-ebook/dp/B008U45WIS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1438405225&sr=1-1&keywords=travels+with+charley+in+search+of+america&refinements=p_n_feature_browse-bin%3A618073011  

Beware: Several people have gone to much effort and written books focusing on proving that Steinbeck "lied" when he wrote this book. They miss the point entirely of Steinbeck's purpose in writing it.  It was a great book then and influenced a lot of people, including me.   

 

 


7/30 Niagara Falls, NY

I have vague memories of coming here as a child, and I certainly have been here several times as an adult, but it has been many years since my last visit.

I have to admit that I was more than a little disappointed.  I can remember when you just parked in a lot and walked over and looked at the falls. Now, there are hoards of tourists, which I guess are to be expected in July, but I really disliked going into this state park's visitor center and finding food vendors, ticket booths, and a 3D movie being hawked.  (Strange to pay to see a movie when you could just step outside and see the real falls.)  It had more of a Cedar- Point-on-a-hot-Sunday feel than one of our national treasures and a natural wonder.  (Did I mention it was 88 degrees outside?)

The worst part was the attempt to sell you a combination ticket for $38 per person that got you into six attractions, including an aquarium, the Maid of the Mist boat, the 3D movie, etc.  All I wanted to do was take the Maid of the Mist, so I searched around and found out how to buy a single ticket for that. 

Anyway, if I ever come back here, it will be off-season, and I will ride my bike around some of the quieter spots around Goat Island.

So here are some photos: 



Looking down at the Maid of the Mist from the observation tower.  Glad their was an elevator to get down.

It was hard to keep the water droplets off my camera lens, so please forgive the tiny spots.

Things were getting wetter here.  They give you a thin, blue "souvenir" raincoat to keep yourself relatively dry.

It was a very short trip, but you do get very close to the base of the falls and get to enjoy the spray.  Actually, it felt pretty good on this hot day.


There was so much spray, it was almost impossible to get a photo close to the Horseshoe or Canadian Falls.







This last photo was taken from the other side of the falls on Goat Island.  I was too tired and hot to walk around much, but it looks like there are bike trails here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

7/28 Fort Niagara, NY

I am back on the road and headed to New England.  My first stop was a campground just north of Niagara Falls, NY.  I have not been to the falls yet, but I did drive to Fort Niagara today, in spite of it being a very hot day!  (Looking forward to fall, I think.) 

Driving through Buffalo and Niagara Falls yesterday was not fun, especially with the traffic and this bridge.

In spite of the heat, I got out today and visited Fort Niagara.  It is located at the mouth of the Niagara River where it dumps water from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, so it was a pivotal fort during the French and Indian Wars, as well as in the War of 1812.  


Entrance to the fort....

Some of the defensive structures.

You can see a drawbridge just at the entrance to this building.


I could not resist taking a photo of the left and right weight mechanism to raise the drawbridge.



Need a few extra cannons?

The building at this far end is called the "French Castle."  It was built to look like a large house and referred to as the "peace house" because building a fort would have looked too aggressive.  It's walls are extremely thick, so it is obviously not an ordinary house.


Some of the fort out-buildings.


Here you could see how this "peace" house overlooked the river opening into Lake Ontario.  It's location was perfect not only for defense but as a fur-trading operation.
 
And some of the rooms inside the castle.

 
 This was a store where they bought furs and sold trade goods.




The third floor of the house was actually built to hold cannons.  When needed, the top windows could be opened and cannons rolled out and fired on the enemy.


A peaceful view of the river and lake from the castle.

 
 

7/26 Visiting Grandkids

While I am a full-time motorhome traveler, I don't travel or sightsee every day. That would be exhausting.  Some days I just sit around and watch television and other days I get caught up on chores and my part-time teaching.  Most of this is very unexciting, which is why I post only every few days.

This past couple of  months, I have been taken advantage of being in Michigan and Ohio to visit friends and family.  When I retired from my regular job, sold my condo and car, and took off for my life traveling in my new motorhome, I left a lot of memories and friends behind.  I try to get back to my "home" area at least once or twice each year, and this time I stayed longer than usual, so it was nice to see so many old friends and relatives.

For the past week, I have been spending time with three of my grandkids. I watched them for two days while their parents worked.  Among other things, I got to see a swim meet:



Mom was out of town, so we went to the natural history museum and hugged a dinosaur.

Got to dig up some fossil bones.

Saw a pretty little fox.

And some really old strange-looking animals.


Also got to see a new addition to the family.

And the last day before I had to leave my nearby campground, we had a daytime campfire and roasted some hot dogs right after it rained.  (Awning is at an angle so the rain can drain.)


And of course, finished up with some marshmallows and some-mores!