Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dulcimers, Guitars, Fiddles and Banjoes

     When I purchased tickets for a Memorial Day weekend of folk music at the Saratoga County Fairground which is north of Albany, New York, my main interest was to see and hear Brooks Williams in person. He's a great guitar picker. I've been listening to him on Pandora for the past couple of years. Here he is re-stringing his guitar.

     Little did I realize however, that this festival was primarily "folkies" who met every year to jam and eulogize Lena Spencer. I was instantly recognized as a newbie, and when I admitted ignorance of Caffe Lena, I was somewhat useless as a fellow devotee.  I had never heard of Lorraine and Bennett Hammond, but I enjoyed listening to her dulcimer and his guitar.

     The crowd of about 200 folkies included Mike, a young man from North Carolina who attended every year with old friends from Boston. His guitar was pasted with alot of folkie music tickets, and he had a collection of harmonicas in almost every key.

          Folkies were jamming everywhere, and I could stop and listen and appreciate as I strolled the fairgrounds.

      My campground site included water and a connection to 30amp electricity which were luxuries for me. It got cold at night, so I had a chance to test the heat strip on the roof AC unit. It works perfectly for nights in the low 40s. And since I was staying in one spot for three days, I took the time to set up the propane tank and burners. Here is my set-up; note the tarp tied down at the front of La Lair as a windbreaker. The weather that weekend was blustery with 30 mph wind and the burner flames were flickering alot.

     These folks brought their sailboat to camp in . . . .

     One day I took a bike ride around the countryside and admired all the horse farms  . . . . 

     My only complaint about the entire weekend was the acoustics. All the events were held in bare metal buildings, both walls and roofs, with concrete floors. They are good buildings for livestock and craft shows, but not for musical events.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stamford Village is a delightful surprise!

     Sometimes in life, the un-expected events bring the most pleasure.  Stamford Village is one of those pleasures. I was on my way to another town but since I needed to check my email at a library before closing time, I queried my GPS for "library" and Stamford Village Public Library popped up. Only nine miles away on Main Street, how convenient!

     The library's parking required parallel parking on Main Street and if you've ever tried to parallel park a Ram ProMaster, you'll understand why I opted for the hilly little alley next to the library, hoping and praying for a better place to park behind the library. Down the hilly alley was a nearly empty huge parking lot which was hidden from view by the many trees on Main Street. Doubling my luck was a major grocery store at the other side of the almost empty parking lot (to the left side of parking lot, not in view in photo). You can see my van in this photo.

     At the library were old photos of huge old resorts (most had burned down) right there on Main Street from the turn of the 19th Century. The librarian told me a quick story of the town's history, which I found fascinating, who would have thought!!?? After checking my email, I walked to the grocery store and got a bag of hot fried chicken, bananas and yogurt for only $6 and change. Eating well means "nap time" so I laid down in La Lair, but was awaken by kids outside. There was a Little League baseball game going on right next to me! College and professional sports bore me, but this game brought smiles and chuckles and a couple of wow's when the ball almost went over the fence. Those kids, skinny ones, fat ones, short and tall ones, mostly boys but about four or five girls, kept me entertained with their antics! None were terribly athletic, and the coaches in my opinion, get a gold medal for being supportive, good-hearted and non-competitive. Didn't seem to matter if they lost or won, everyone was having a great time. It was a treat to watch these kids with a handful of parents. I decided to spend the night in the parking lot, and explore this town more the next day.

Lots of historic homes and old tree-lined streets in Stamford Village.

          Behind one of the homes on Main Street, I saw this wetlands area full of blackbirds with red and yellow-striped wings.

There was a little trail with a stream on the other side . . .

     Then, I saw this sign announcing I was on the Catskills Scenic Trail, the very same path the former railroads used 100 years ago to bring New York City residents to resorts in Stamford and other places in the Catskills. A few hundred feet later, I came upon the old railroad station converted to a Chamber of Commerce. Info there explained that the wetlands and streams in Stamford and other Delaware County villages are the headwaters of the Delaware River.

     I stopped by La Lair to eat a left-over chicken breakfast and get my hiking poles and mittens. It was about 42 degrees at 9 AM. I began hiking to Hobart, three miles further, a round trip hike of six miles. Below are photos of my hike.

On top of a pile of old railroad ties was a woodchuck or groundhog.

The tales this old tree could tell . . . . .

Many homesteads apparently still use wood stoves and chop their own trees and firewood. This man is obviously a pro, he's wearing a hard-hat, ear-muffs, and leather chaps.

The tales this old barn could tell . . . .

Symbiotic relationship between beavers and wetlands that provide a home for many birds and fish . . .

Uh oh! a couple of fence jumpers. I reported them to the authorities.

Stamford Village was worthy of a second night in this wonderful little town's parking lot.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bucolic Pennsylvania and upstate New York

     While driving through the bucolic farmland of Quarryville, Pennsylvania this week, there were many Amish and Old Order Mennonite farms on the Robert Fulton Highway to admire. I'm no stranger to farms, having been raised on a nearby Lancaster County poultry farm myself, but at age 63 I'm a lot wiser now than when I was thirteen years old.  Since owning a horse in Texas during the last decade, I now realize that horses require alot of training, care, attention, and respect. So when I saw this thirteenish year old boy maneuvering two large horses forward, backward, sideways, plus the manual mower controls, on a pasture with a medium high-banked creek that he couldn't cross, I watched with total admiration.

     From late in life personal experience, I now realize that a horse resting and happily eating grass in the pasture doesn't want to work too hard. It will resist being caught. Once caught, the laborious haltering, saddling and harnessing work begins. The Amish often use two, three, and four horses together, backing them up to a piece of machinery or a buggy, and then they put their life in the hands of herd-instinctive animals trained to be bomb-proof. It's a lifestyle most of us can't begin to grasp anymore. But only 150 years ago, this was the norm for Americans.

     From southeastern Pennsylvania, I was on my way to the border town of Columbia, New Jersey to fill up my diesel fuel tank for fifty-cents per gallon cheaper than Pennsylvania. I stopped at an Appalachian Trailhead along the highway at the PA/NJ border to walk and stretch my legs.

     From there, I drove the scenic and narrow Old Mine Road for the rest of the afternoon. I found an Appalachian Trail head parking lot near Buttermilk Falls to pull over for a pleasant night of sleep.

     The next morning I drove on secondary roads in New York that offered wonderful views of a winery and farms with "Land O'Lakes supplier" signs at their long driveways . . . . 

and stopped at Port Jervis, a cute little mountainous town where I had a good breakfast for $2.50 and skipped the tour of the old fire station across the street.

Monticello, New York, has a race track for trotters, known as harness racing. It was difficult to get a non-blurry photo of these fast trotters!

     And at the end of the day, I found myself on peaceful Frost Valley Road which is named after a German native and entrepreneur from the turn of the 19th Century Julius Forstmann.

     Mr. Forstmann's mansion now belongs to the Frost Valley YMCA. At each stop in a little village in The Catskills area, I could begin to understand its "rich" history. Not only the millionaires who made their mark during the turn of the 19th Century, but also its proximity to inhabitants of New York City who were looking for natural resources, outdoor recreation and rural culture. The very same things I seek!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The USA Capitol's Congestions

     I'm a Yankee transplanted to the Piney Woods of East Texas 23 years ago. Only rarely do I visit my sister in the greater DC area, but when I do, I look forward to returning to the rural simplicity of East Texas. For the past week at my sister's place, she, her hubby and I have biked many multi-purpose trails, including the noisey Baltimore-Washington International Airport Loop. We load our bikes and drive to a trailhead. It's an adventure in patience!

     Once on the bike trail, the scenery is usually a green one, lots of flowering bulbs and bushes, with trees and grass that are well-groomed. But, even on bike trails, there are busy streets to stop and cross at stop signs. One day we biked to the historic Fort Lincoln Cemetery and even there, I had to stop at busy streets.

     But the piece de resistance of my patience went to this trailhead in Berwyn Heights, Maryland.  Just ahead of my parked van is a left-hand turn to the parking lot to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, and when I saw this foolhardy deer crossing area, I had to document it or no one would believe me.

     Yep, looking forward to upstate rural New York! But might stop by New Jersey to fill up the diesel fuel tank.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Yeehaw! Finally left Texas for an eight-month road-trip adventure in the USA and Canada

     Day two into my adventure, I passed a lady standing on the Natchez Trace in Mississippi with a two-foot long zoom lens. I parked off-road and walked back to ask her what was so interesting. She is a commercial wildlife photographer who exuberantly explained all the extremely noisey activity in this boggy area of the normally quiet bucolic forested Trace.

     Judy showed me the tree-top heron nests as well as the ducks and many different kinds of woodpeckers that were noisely fighting over home territories. I was amazed; so much to see when there's a knowledgeable guide. Just then, a pair of Canada Geese flew low into this busy boggy area, and the neighborhood became even more noisey with protests, hoots and hollers.

     Stopped at this overlook at the Ross Barnett Reservoir known as the Rez to take a quick bike ride on one of the Rez’ two multi-purpose trails. The pet ramp made this little excursion very pleasant and easy.

     A local I had met on the multi-purpose trail told me to visit the nearby Pearl River Water Management area. I found myself on a dirt road that paralleled the Natchez Trace and the Rez. It was a pleasant drive.

      Mississippi’s forest is beautiful and the weather was perfect that day.

      At Cherokee, NC is the very southern end of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway and ends in Virginia where the Skyline Drive begins. It’s a scenic and colorful road in the Spring and Fall. 

Buds and flowers galore!

     I can understand why trailers and motorhomes don’t attempt the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to boulders, there are a couple dozen tunnels that are under 12 feet high. Motorcyclists and sports car drivers probably enjoy the parkway the most, and local folks who park at a trailhead for a day of hiking. I hiked one trail with Heinz an immigrant from Switzerland; he says he hikes there every year in the Spring or Fall.


     After driving almost six hours completing only 150 miles or so, I decided not to finish the entire Parkway because it was too grueling. Hairpin turns and switchbacks rule this parkway, with up and down-shifting constantly and lots of braking. I didn’t get beyond 35 mph in over six hours of driving. By the end of the day I could hear La Lair’s discontent. The next morning after a night at a Parkway Campground, the CEL (check engine light) came on which concerned me. There were no engine or driving difficulties, so I continued onward to Maryland to my sister’s place. I visited a friendly authorized ProMaster service technician found at a dealership in Catonville, Maryland. He explained that the emissions filter was throwing a code related to the filter not being cleaned. I suspect six hours of under 35 mph driving on the Parkway was the culprit. He reset the CEL; no parts were necessary.