Robert Moses SP, NY, Pt. 1

Arrived late Monday the 29 after a lovely drive along back roads west and north, north, north. We could see Canada during much of the end of our drive, but no way to get there. Saw the bridge across the border and waved goodbye for at least another year. 

We were in a relaxing, shady spot (site 72) with our utility side to the road and our “front yard” being very pretty woods. We set up the Clam for our toy barn and storage shed. Although the site was far away from the bathhouse and offered no services, it was a nice and secluded spot near the end of the sites along Road A. In this site, however, spiders abound and we were constantly running into and through webs—even 5 minutes after we’d passed the same way. Also, the underside of the awning became gradually covered with the long-legged insects I’ve always called “mosquito hawks,” or “mosquito eaters” (actually a type of crane fly) all paired in reproductive bliss. It was a very creepy sight, but they’re good insects, so we left them to their six-legged-sex.

The BH is nice and clean and offers one single toilet/shower room (primarily) for the nearby handicapped site. In addition, the gang facilities reside on each side: women’s has 3 toilets (with the handicapped one having its own sink inside the stall) and two sinks; and a separated shower/dressing area with two showers. Water is hot, but delivered with a push-button system that offers merely a short burst of water for each push.

On Tuesday, June 30 we rode around all the park’s paved roads, ~21 miles, at a (mostly) gentle pace. Since the day was totally overcast, we took raincoats on the ride but it never rained. The wind off the water (St. Lawrence River or St. Lawrence Seaway—can’t learn the difference, if there is a difference, because all the visitor centers are closed) was significant, making for a good, strenuous pedal when we headed toward the water out Barnhart Island Road toward the Frank S. McCullough Jr. and Hawkins Point Visitors Center and Boat Launch (open). We rode further down the road to Hawkins “point” hoping to see water, but the end is taken up with un-accessible government property.

One possible theory about the Seaway vs. River breakpoint is that there is a lock system that converts the water levels from low (maybe the River side?) to high (maybe the Seaway side, dammed by the Long Sault Dam and part of the FDR Hydro project system?). More on the lock system later. Of course, the main visitor center for the Long Sault Dam is also closed.

The nature center we rode past (Eugene L. Nicandri Nature Ctr.) on Robinson Bay Rd. was closed, and while the hiking/footpaths to overviews, observation areas, and storyboards are open, they looked to be swarming with mosquitoes and well protected from any cooling wind.

As we checked out the northern-most picnic grounds (close to a CA/US border crossing checkpoint marked “road closed” with a tent in the middle of the road) we noted that the picnic area had an enormous pile of firewood cut, split, and piled randomly. There was no personnel around, and many newly-built picnic tables, so we thought it odd that the gate was open.

During our return to the Barnhart Island bridge at about 2 PM, we watched a UPS truck cross the border from Canada, and pass us headed toward the office/beach road. Even though it was a day early for our bike rack part to be delivered, we hoped the UPS guy was going to drop it off at the office as the tracking info had predicted for tomorrow. 

The UPS truck passed us again as we took photos on the Barnhart Island Bridge, so presumably, it had made a stop somewhere behind us. Sure enough, Jack checked the tracking info, and it was marked as “delivered at 2:02 PM.”

Once back at camp, Jack hopped into the truck and drove back to get the package, some firewood, and ice, and returned ready to roll on fixing the bike rack. As a further omen of good luck, he saw a bald eagle flying over the water near the bridge.

Our celebratory dinner was foil-wrapped pork chops with potato, onion, carrots, and celery cooked to perfection on the grill, with GnTs and a lovely fire to accompany—that is, until about 9 when the mosquitoes chased us inside.

Wednesday, July 1 (Happy Canada Day)

We enjoyed watching a resident turkey hen with poults hanging around. I saw her and the brood two times on Wednesday, and several additional times during our stay, including deep in our “front yard” woods. Also, there are multitudes of black squirrels (as well as chipmunks and small, quick red squirrels) all over the place—including one black squirrel with a blonde/red tail whom I was unable to photograph despite many efforts to do so.

We didn’t take a ride on Wednesday but went instead to Massena for a laundromat, groceries, and fuel for the generator. Generator hours at Rbt Moses are from 9 to 11 AM and 5 to 9 PM, and we’ve been taking full advantage since our site is very shady and we are enjoying little solar gain on the panels. Which, of course, is just as well since it’s been so hot.

We asked the nice laundromat lady if there was a local library with wifi—btw, it’s a beautiful, clean laundromat, with fans blowing, doors open for air, 24/7 opening hours, and offers good machines that run well and get things clean—so it was well worth the effort. But she reported the library is closed. 

She suggested a nearby Tim Hortons and so we went there for a bite to eat and the upload of my Sugar Ridge blog post. Unfortunately, we had a marginal meal and a long, tedious, frustrating blog upload. 

Back at camp, Jack worked on rebuilding the bike rack and I started readying the groceries for staged storage and a Dutch Oven fennel and chicken thighs dinner—one of our favorite camping creations. We took notice as people began to fill the empty spaces in the campground, preparatory to the holiday weekend.

Thursday, July 2 was forecast to be in the low 90s, so we rode early after a light breakfast to get a hoped-for 20 miles in before the swelter began. Got waylaid on the ride as we watched a small tug-like boat go through the Eisenhower Lock headed south (low water/river direction). It was so small we were unable to even see it for the majority of the water-lowering process while it was in the lock itself, and only knew it was done when it left the lock.

We began to ride out toward Hawkins Point again to (possibly) see some good birds (we din’t). Not even halfway there, I caught sight of the tugboat motoring along the nearby river headed southwest. Motoring upriver was an enormous freighter that appeared to be carrying aluminum slabs from the Alcoa plant down the way, and we figured it was headed for the lock. (When we were able to see it more closely, those long lumps of aluminum turned out to be huge wind turbine propellers.)

So we turned around and rode back to the large parking lot for the public to view the workings of the lock, and dismounted the bikes to watch the long process of the ship—entering the low end of the lock (as below);

. . . rising as the water was introduced to the lock (as below);

. . . and exit again at the high water side, headed north to Canada. 

The ship was called the Volga, run by BBC Chartering, flying the US flag, a Canadian flag, and one additional we couldn’t see nor identify. It blew its deep-throated horn as it left the lock, and the kids watching with us waved.

While we missed it when watching the tugboat’s traverse of the lock, we noticed a newly-erected (thin) osprey nest atop a tower across the way from the lock infrastructure. The resident osprey atop (I managed to forget my binoculars this ride) made some typical osprey noises, and took off when the big ship entered the lock, but we were unable to see if there was anything additional in the nest. 

As we watched, the sky began to darken significantly. Since we’d left Roomba open due to the prediction of no rain and high temps, we hastened back to button up our site. By then it was lunchtime, really hot (although not the 90+ predicted degrees) and terribly humid, so we called off the remainder of our ride, logging almost 9 miles. Instead, I lubed the bike chains and then made some potato salad out of leftovers, while Jack got more ice, and we read and lazed about for the rest of the day, eating the potato salad with the leftover chicken and fennel for dinner. During the day, we also watched lots and lots more people arrive.

This travelogue has been broken into two parts for upload ease. Please click here to see Part 2.

July/August Adventure Post One

We arrived at Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia after a 4-ish hour drive from home, leaving there around 10A on Thursday, July 5. Since it was a one-nighter, we did not unhitch (except to level Roomba, but the hitch was hovering over the ball since we didn’t move the car) nor do our usual set-up routine inside.

Think minimalist.

The day was hotter than 40 hells outside, and inside Roomba, it was in the high 90s as we set up camp. We used the ceiling fan to vent some of the hot air, turned on the air conditioning, and hoped to have temps in the 80s by nightfall. 

I’d prepped some ground lamb for a shepherd’s pie and put that together once the air was breathable inside, and heated it for a while in the Omnia. Since everything was cooked already it didn’t heat up the inside too terribly much, and we ate outside. Lordy it was hot.

The downside of Shenandoah River SP is that it’s a young campground, and there are few shady spots anywhere in the grounds. But we survived and slept okay.

Rolled out of there early Friday en route to Bald Eagle State Park (PA) for a two-night stay. Tried to find ice and a grocery store, but ended up doing without until the “Roomba Landed” at Bald Eagle. Conducted the whole set up routine, then ran out to find a cold dinner to bring back, ice for the cooler, and dinner for Saturday night also.

Found the absolute best butcher up the road (toward Lock Haven) in a burgh called Beech Creek. It was easy to miss, and even with the sign directing us, it was way way down a residential road and past an Elks Park (or some such) and we almost gave it up a second time, when we finally found Pete’s Meats. 

Great stop. Got chicken salad for the night’s dinner (unfortunately, it had sweet pickles in it—not anywhere near my fave thing) but was good and edible; and a Delmonico steak for our Saturday dinner.

Watched the entire place fill up with campers into the evening. Next door at 9PM, the loop’s final slot was filled by the arrival of a pop-up. Felt sorry for those folks, just starting their setup as I waltzed off to brush my teeth, and the sun finished setting below the horizon.

Got up moderately early (after sleeping without the air conditioner, in 50-degree breezy weather under our blanket and with the ceiling vent on low) had sausage rolls for brekkie and then got on our bikes for a “reminder tour” of the entire park complex, which is rather huge. We’d done such a “take every left-hand turn” ride here a couple of years ago, but it was during the off season, and we were virtually alone. This time, everyone and his aunt with all the kids were headed to the lakefront beach, the marina, the canoe/kayak livery, the fishing spots, or the dog-walking areas. 

In the end, we logged nearly sixteen and a half beautiful, cool, breezy miles by riding every paved left-hand road we met along the way, plus a few gravel parking loops as well. There might have been one or two right-hand turns in there, but that was only so we didn’t miss any lefts.

This truly is a beautiful park with tons and tons of stuff to do on the huge lake and off of it. Walking/trekking paths, bird-watching (we saw a juvenile bald eagle during our ride), shady lanes, an enormous Inn overlooking the lake, and all the water sports anyone could ask for. 

Some of the scenes from our ride:

Returned to the campsite for lunch, and lounged for a while as the southwest-facing awning’s shade diminished steadily in the bright sun. Still, it stayed in the 70s to the low 80s outside, and we’d turned on the air conditioner early enough in Roomba to keep that temp in the 70s (even though the camper is not in any shade at all). There are sites that have larger trees than ours does, and all the sites are well separated from their neighbors by hedges and growth-left-tall between them. AND we had forgotten that not all the sites have water hookups (ours didn’t) and not realizing we’d be waterless, we did not fill our tank. 

Still, for two nights water was not any kind of a problem because there’s a nice dish-washing station right at the bathhouse, which is near our site (Sycamore loop #87). Next time, however, we will try to get a site with more shade (although the breeze continued to be cool and refreshing).

This trip had commenced a couple of days after we picked up the “Beta Version” of the replacement awning made locally by our yurt-making friend. Many Alto owners want the older and now-discontinued version of the awning Safari Condo had offered as an option with their Altos. So we are testing a replica to see if folks like it, and if they’ll buy it from our source. 

The one we’re testing has a couple of “warts” that will definitely need fixing if/when the awning goes into production. But overall we’re quite pleased with the Beta Retro-Awning. Next week, more of the folks who’d expressed early interest in our results will be able to see it “up close and personal.” So we’ll see how that goes.

We’re also testing a solar light string that we picked up to use when we won’t have power (or be able to erect an awning) at the Safari Condo Anniversary Celebration next weekend. Neat little “blue moons” charged with their dedicated solar charger. They’re kind of cool, although the blue light doesn’t provide the true lighting we like from our rope lights we normally string on the awning. But the blue moons are pretty.

BlueMoons1161

Later, after showers and packing up and racking up the gear (decided against a later-evening bike ride) we re-heated some macaroni and cheese from our freezer, roasted some fresh corn purchased yesterday from an Amish family’s roadside veggie stand, and the Delmonico steak we purchased from Pete’s Meats. What a delicious meal! We even topped the perfectly-cooked meat with Jim Gauvreau’s “compound.” What a treat.

DelmonicoDinner1154

With the Solo Fireplace roaring and the sun setting, we began to enjoy the heat of the fire, and watched the birds go to roost in the “wild areas” of this marvelous park. Definitely a high recommendation to anyone passing through this part of Pennsylvania (Howard PA, near Lock Haven, PA).

SoloFire1153