Friday, October 23, 2015

Niagara - Canadian style .... and Laundry Day with the Amish, Part 2

Following this post.

We diverted up to Niagara Falls, armed with the popular advice to view it from the Canada side.  The reason, which we quickly discovered, is because you can see it better.  Canada faces it. happily assisted us in booking a reasonably priced room in a hotel overlooking the roaring falls.   (Btw, we learned that, Expedia, Priceline, etc. are all owned by the same company.  "They're all the same", said one chatty hotel clerk.)  When we checked in, the cute little gal at the desk offered us a free upgrade.

"We're not very busy." she said.  Then upon learning where we live, she said she used to live in Oregon and named a small town within minutes of home.  With that, she then offered us another upgrade for a small added cost.  17th floor.  Overlooking the falls.   Um, okay.......

BAM!  The view from our room:

There are actually four falls, two are too small to remember their names, then American Falls on the left, and Horseshoe Falls on the right.

 Thus we spent two days and nights gawking from our window, just below the Vanderbilts, or whomever happened to be hobnobbing in the penthouse suites above.  There were even fireworks the second night .... the last of the season before they turn off the lights, shut off the falls, and everyone migrates to Florida ..... kidding.

That's me, in the light-colored top, waving, and Dear Friends are three windows to the right.
Niagara Falls (the city) is interesting.  In front and on both sides of us was scenery beyond description.  Behind us, was this:

And this .....


And we were serenaded by this .... for hours ...... but he was actually pretty good.

But redeeming features of this city, were a just a head-turn away:

We ate dinner in that tall Space Needle look-alike.  The view, as you can imagine, was spectacular.

But back to the falls.
These boats were constantly toting about loads of tourists, cowering under rain gear.  

As we walked the half mile, or so, along the shore from our hotel to the top of the falls, we went from comfortably dry weather to chilly drizzle.  The mist threatened to inflict some serious frizz, so I was glad I had a hood with a draw-string.

Husband and Dear Friends

Now from noisy glitz to quiet simplicity....

Pennsylvania was not on our route, but we managed to find some Amish communities in Ohio.

We stayed in a lovely historic hotel in Millersburg.

The lobby
The next day we found quilts, antiques, pie .... and I found puppies.

Take a moment ....
We drove around seeing neat-as-a-pin Amish farms.  It was a Monday, which we all decided MUST be Laundry Day because everyone had their clothes drying outside.

There was a tiny town called Charm.   (I'm not kidding.)

Interesting fact:  Amish men grow a beard (no mustache) after they are married.  
I visited a store where they don't sell their crafts to tourists, but where they shop for themselves.

The men's department.  Plain and dark.
Fabric.  Solid colors only.  
I thought these little boys' overalls were adorable.  
I honor any religion that worships God and is respectful to others.  I don't know much about their theology, but I respect their simple, modest, hard-working lifestyle.  Should the "Grid" fail ..... and we lose power, the web, and fuel sources, and find ourselves panicked and disconnected from our lives of convenience -- we should all (somehow) high-tail to the Amish where I can imagine them rolling their eyes at us, and then inviting us in for a warm home-cooked meal.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dear Oregon ..... Sorry to tell you .... Part One

Husband and I, along with Dear Friends Alan and Judy, recently returned from two weeks in New England where we went with the purpose of:   1. Seeing the famous autumn leaves and visiting places to which we've never been, and 2.  Connecting with our religious history.   This post is dedicated to my new love .... Maine.  Part two comes next.

And not just Maine, but Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and even New Jersey .... and every other state in the vicinity.  So I must confess to my home state of Oregon, about which I have bragged my entire adult life  .... I have been unfaithful to you.  I left my heart (to quote Tony Bennett) on the shores of the Atlantic in the small village of Camden, Maine.  But first .....


Our trip started out with one day in the Big Apple, New York City.

We did a tour of Ellis Island, crossing it off my bucket list.  Not as impactive as I had hoped, but definitely worth seeing.  It's accessible by a short boat ride that takes you right under her loveliness, the Statue of Liberty.

The tour led us through the process that thousands of our fore bearers walked as they entered our country legally.  The tour thoroughly impressed upon our minds, the fear and wonder of those brave people who left everything familiar to sail to a new land, and how terrified they were of being sent back to Europe.  (The truth is, only a small percentage were denied entrance.)

Where they waited in line.
 Interesting tidbit:    Some babies were born on this island as their parents processed through the immigration inspections.  But Ellis Island was not considered part of the U.S., therefore, those babies were not yet citizens.  It was encouraging to learn how, for the most part, the immigrants were treated humanely and even kindly.  Many charitable groups visited the island to bring food, play music, and to add to the immigrants' comfort.  If they were sick, they were hospitalized (all on the island) and nursed to health, if possible.  Some had to remain there for weeks before being released into their new home, America.

We also stopped by the tragic site of the former World Trade Center towers and the beautiful memorial fountains where the buildings once stood.

 The names of all the victims are imprinted along the wall, including the fact that unborn children also died that day.  (Side note:  I will never understand why some unborn children are considered victims when their lives are violently taken by terrorists and others, who are destroyed by abortions, are not.  Trust me, THAT will be another post.)

Then on to check one off Husband's bucket list -- the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Disclaimer:  I am not an art connoisseur.  I mean, I respect old stuff..... I do ..... because it's old and still around.  I get that.  But nothing there was familiar.  No Mona Lisa.  No Washington Crossing the Delaware.   There were, however, lots of naked people ..... meaning paintings and statues.  Sheesh.  Put some clothes on, please.    I much preferred the Smithsonian and so my opinion of the "Met" probably should be ignored.  But the building itself, was fabulous.

Times Square!  Central Park!  Oh yeah!  Visual overload to the max!  This was our second visit to this amazing city and someday we'll get there when it's not raining.  Someday.
Borrowed this pic off the web.
Finally, before we move on, Yours Truly has experienced a New York subway.  Yup.  It's a somewhat-grungy but necessary, people-moving wonder but I must say, I prefer traveling above ground.  However, I did appreciate the woman proclaiming to the captive, albeit tuned out, audience of commuters, of her faith in God and His Bible.  I gave her a smile and a thumbs up.  Good for her.

Then we headed north and the magic began, in spite of the semi-lack of abundant color.

"The leaves are late this year.  We had a really warm September."... we were told several times.

Nevertheless, we saw Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine including a host of towns and villages with names I can't remember.  We drove through Portland .... the other Portland, visiting a few of its historic light houses

 ..... and although the leaves were "late" -- the homes, the architecture, THE CHARM was overwhelming.  It seemed as if every home sprang off the pages of a story book.  The term "tract home" is probably an unknown entity there.  Nothing pre-fab.  Just clapboard and brick, gables and shutters, window boxes and brightly painted front doors.  And it went on and on.  Home after home, building after building, town after town.  Pride of ownership was everywhere.  Lawns were green and mowed.   Chrysanthemums and pumpkins celebrated the season on porches.

This one got a little carried away.  Try to ignore the Halloween spiders.
Then we happened upon Camden, Maine.  This was where I gave up the fight.

"It's no use, Oregon Dear.  You lose.  You can't compare to this."

The quintessential white church with the tall steeple.  Every town had one or two.

Husband and Dear Friends wandered off with their cameras, and I meandered along the main street marveling at the charm.  The shops weren't full of touristy trinkets.  They held lovely woolen blankets, linens, tasteful home decor, yarns, stationery, and leather goods, along with an occasional high-end sporting goods store (my kind of fashion).

And then there was Woodstock, Vermont.  Too much traffic clogging the streets, but the buildings ....
See what I'm talkin' about? (Caught a brief moment between trucks, cars, and tourist buses.)


Another favorite spot of mine was our room in Trenton, ME, just a few miles outside of Acadia National Park.  We stayed two nights at the Open Hearth Inn, in one of the large, newer (1970s) upper rooms.  The extra touches by the proprietors who truly cared, were noted and appreciated, including the home-made muffins each morning.

Me, Madame Proprietor, and the muffins.
Open Hearth Inn, built in 1830.  (We stayed in another building behind it.)  I happily gave them a generous review on Trip Advisor.
 It sat across the street from a campground overlooking a bay, and both mornings I (with my muffin) walked over there alone, to soak up some early Maine sunshine.

Next door was a three-generation-owned-and-run, cluttered but homey restaurant that featured, like every other eatery in this state -- lobster.  Oh yes.  Melted butter and all.  We ate there twice.

Acadia was a visual wonder, seeming to be entirely situated upon one mammoth granite slab.

  Another interesting fact:  Very few actual beaches there.  They don't have sand like we have on the west coast.

Their sand comes from ground shells and is more coarse.   
We also spent an afternoon in Bar Harbor visiting the endless shops while the guys tested out the local golf course.

Crossing the bar at Bar Harbor.  It leads to an island and is under water in high tide.  (The bar, not the island.)

We may have been early for the leaves, but not for this.  Sunset in Acadia.

The weather was perfect.  And by the time we hit Vermont, the leaves were strutting their colors.

Vermont.  Another borrowed picture.    
My Official Leaf Assessment:  New England leaves are stunning.  No question.  But compared to ours in the Pacific NW ..... I have decided that the naturally-growing foliage that covered the hills and valleys for miles and miles, meaning non-human-planted ..... was better in the East.  More variety of color.   The trees that are human-planted for landscaping and along streets, chosen specifically for their color, are better here.  However, this assessment is subject to change and definitely needs another trip east for further research.  I am here to serve..... and I am hankering for more lobster. 


As I said, Maine wins.  The whole state was one big post card.  Cold winters, you say?  Yeah, apparently so .... because many of the tourist-supported businesses were just days away from shutting down for the season, allowing their owners to escape to Florida till spring.   But I kept thinking ..... with a wood stove and plenty of firewood, and as long as I didn't have to actually GO anywhere ..... I could really do the whole boots and sweaters, soup, hot cocoa, and knitting thing.   I mean, they plow the roads, right?  We have a 4-wheel drive.   And Maine needs more Republicans.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Next post:  The Canadian version of Niagara Falls and laundry day with the Amish.  Scroll up or click here.

Monday, September 7, 2015

On the road again

We had to get another motorcycle trip in before we ran out of summer, so this time we pointed the bike south.

Again, I'm still surprised how much I like this whole biker-thing.  After a week of no riding, we both comment on how good it feels to get back in the saddle.  We shoot for back roads as much as possible, and so this time we rolled through some of Oregon's prettiest farmland.  It reminds me of jigsaw puzzle pictures.

Somewhere near Perrydale, OR.
Farmland is my favorite riding environment ..... until we're cruising along the coast, or past forested lakes ..... and then those are my favorites.  But you really can't beat sparsely-traveled country roads that divide pastures and fenced fields, dotted with picturesque farm houses and barns. And the occasional little towns that no one has ever heard of.

We made our way to Waldport ..... (Hello again, stunning Oregon coast!) ....

and then stopped in Yachats for lunch at the Luna Sea Fish House, our favorite hole-in-the-wall source for clam chowder.  (If you think you know of a better one, you haven't been here.)  Then we arrived in Bandon, which sits on a beach designed by Dr. Seuss.

In honor of friend Dave B., who probably would have made it to the top to do this:

There exist in this world some bad motel rooms and we found a gem in the "old" and probably original wing of the Sunset Oceanfront Hotel.

I knew it was going to be .... rustic.  I read the reviews.  We wanted cheap (under $100, please!) which is hard to find at the beach in the high season.  We estimated it was built in the 50s or early 60s, after which the builders and decorators quickly left the premises, never to return again.  But it had a view of the ocean, a great pool, and a hot tub.  And remember, t'is better than a tent.  The newer, main portion of the hotel was quite nice, by the way.

Then we headed east, away from the cool coastal air, into the hotter temps and the wildfires.  Oregon and Washington, after a much too dry year, have been besieged.  We passed through the town of Canyonville, OR, which sat precariously close to one of the fires.  Handmade signs were posted in yards and on fences, thanking the firefighters.  We passed by a large field filled with tents, where the firemen could catch some sleep before heading back out into the smoke.  It made me think of an army camp and that we were going straight into a war zone.

We saw a lot of smoke, but never enough to impede visibility or breathing.  One supervisor-fireman cautioned us to be careful because his men were exhausted, and might not see us on the road.  But I'm making it sound scary, when it wasn't.  There was quite a bit of smoke here and there, a lot of haze, but hardly any cars..... probably because most people who were not us, were wisely avoiding the area.   Actually, it was really just very interesting.
Orange sun.

The second night we stayed in the newer portion of the Prospect Hotel, a historic inn where Teddy Roosevelt slept back around the 1900s during his visit to Crater Lake.  Although it's a 45 minute drive away, they proudly claim it's the closest hotel to the very famous lake.

This was our second visit to Crater Lake, and we were disappointed that the haze in the air affected the color of the water.  Instead of the famous almost-turquoise-like-hair-gel color .....

 it was gray.

How it SHOULD look.

But the next morning it had regained much of its color and although it still wasn't quite hair-gel, it treated us to a deep shade of royal blue.  We rode the 30+ miles around the rim and climbed up Watchman's Hill where we bemoaned our lack of binoculars while watching the smoke pillars off in the distance.

See the smoke?  Try clicking on the picture.
I was taking pictures of the guy taking pictures.

Our route home took us up through more never-heard-of towns.  Now and then we skip the familiar fast food chains and instead choose a colorful, character-filled local cafe, with names like, "Burt's Burgers".   In one of the towns we stopped at an odd configuration of a gas station, small store and burger/sandwich (called "grub") joint.  The hamburger tasted like it was fresh off our backyard grill and the caramel milkshake was to.die.for.  It had my vote for the best food of the trip.

Chemult, OR.  Heard of it?  Me neither.

We spent the last night in a great little motel in Oakridge.  The Bluewolf Motel.  I recommend it.  Clean and basic and just over $50 for the two of us.  Can't beat that.

This is probably our last long motorcycle trip of the year.  But I'm determined that all we need is some relatively dry days before spring, that aren't too cold.  They're known to happen now and then in these parts.  And hopefully a few local day-rides during the winter will keep the withdrawals at bay, before we head off on our next adventure in the spring.

As to where it'll be .... we're open to suggestions.