Thursday, August 09, 2012

Interesting Times in New York

Hi from Dundee, Michigan. We stopped here at a Cabela’s store for 2 nights in order to use their free RV parking, dump, and get water, as well as catch up on laundry. Tomorrow we will head up to Lansing for a visit with Elaine and George Lewter. Elaine and Elaine moved out to California together when they were 21, so they have been good friends for a LONG time. As we have been driving across from Maine, we have been stopping occasionally to see some of the sights. Usually we stop at the Visitor’s Center as we cross into a new state to get a map and information book and pamphlets, then read about upcoming things and decide what to see. Seneca Falls, NY had a nice Elks Lodge and is the location of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, as well as the Women’s Hall of Fame, so we stayed there three nights.
The original falls were rapids which fell over 40 feet in a mile, and were dammed by early European settlers to create 3 falls in order to concentrate the power of the water for industrial uses. They also dug a canal for boats which went around the falls. A century later the falls were destroyed by improvements in the river and canal system in order to provide more stable water levels for larger and better boats, and to prevent floods. So Seneca Falls sits on the Seneca-Cayuga Canal but there are no falls there anymore.
It is a nice little town with some beautifully restored buildings, including the Visitor’s Center which has a nice museum. There was a building next door which had these signs on the front:
We knew right away that we were going to like this town! On one of the nearby corners was this sign:
In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Quaker abolitionists Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Lucretia Mott, and Martha Wright held the first convention calling for equal rights for women. It was held in Wesleyan Chapel, which we visited on a tour, and which is located right next to the Women’s Rights Museum. The museum, tours, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home tour, are all free. When we entered the museum, there were lots of exhibits which helped us understand the situation much better. At that time, women were not only denied the vote, but they also didn’t have a lot of other rights which women have today, thank goodness. If they were married, they couldn’t own property, they had no divorce rights (although their husbands could divorce them), they had no right to custody over their children, and a husband could beat his wife with a branch no thicker than his thumb. Women were also denied entry into colleges and universities. So the first convention demanded these rights as well as the vote. After the first convention, which was attended by men as well as women, there were other conventions in other cities. In the entry hall of the museum, there are lots of sculptures of the people who took part in the first convention:
There are lots of wall decorations such as this:
On the side of the building there is a waterfall over a green marble wall engraved with the first declaration and also the names of all the signers.
Here is the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which is located across the canal and over a few blocks:
The city museum in the Visitor’s Center showed lots of artifacts and information about Seneca Falls and also canal boats and life on the water. It also gave information which helped us understand why the women’s rights movement started there and at that time. During the industrial revolution, in the factories, women routinely faced discrimination. They were paid much less than men doing the same job, and the wages were pitiful. In 1850 a woman factory worker in New York made about $104 a year. Factories were not heated or air conditioned, and they had terrible light and ventilation. Women worked under these conditions for 12-14 hours a day, six days a week; then they had to go home and feed their families and do all the housework. If she was injured on the job, there was no compensation and usually she was just fired. Despite all this, women welcomed the opportunity to work because it gave them an alternative to marriage or life in a religious order. If they were married and their husbands left or died, it have them a way to support their families. It also empowered women because they learned they could take care of themselves, if given the chance. So it helped foster the women’s rights movement. There were lots of factories in Seneca Falls, such as Gould Pump Co, one of the major producers of pumps and 25% of the pumps still in use today were made here. This factory, the Seneca Knitting Mill:
was also a big employer here and this building will be renovated soon to become the new Women’s Hall of Fame. We visited the current Hall of Fame and it has in-depth information about all of the inductees, women who have made incredible accomplishments with important contributions to our society, often despite hardship and blatant discrimination. The biographies are arranged according to field of accomplishment:
Another factor in the women’s rights movement was the abolitionist movement. The people who worked to free the slaves were some of the same people who worked to help women achieve the same rights. It also made women more aware that while people were fighting and dying in order to enfranchise Negro men, women of every color were still without basic rights. Some of the infrastructure in place to help the Blacks, such as small newspapers, were then used in the crusade for women’s rights. Another faction was the group of women who worked for prohibition. Once they accomplished that, many then mobilized for women’s rights. The Seneca-Cayuga Canal which runs through Seneca Falls is an offshoot of the Erie Canal. At one time it was very important in the movement of people and goods, but with the advent of railroads, this canal became unimportant and today is mostly used for recreation. The Elks Lodge was near it so we went for an evening walk along the canal-side path.
Surprisingly, there were several large, modern sculptures along the way:
Seneca Falls is at the far north end of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. These lakes were created by glaciers many thousands of years ago and today are a major recreational and wine producing area. It was an enjoyable drive south to a state park called Watkins Glen.
Here there is a gorgeous, and popular walk, through a river gorge which has 19 waterfalls, and where the river has eroded the rocky bed into swirling patterns. This is Elaine at the entry:
Almost immediately you start seeing waterfalls, which were small at this time of the year:
The walk has been beautifully engineered so that you are on a firm and fairly flat stone walkway right alongside the river and occasionally with rock walls too:
To get past a couple of the falls you have to walk behind them:
These pictures show some of the artistic rock erosion in the riverbed:
This picture shows that although everything seems to be solid rock, there are plenty of trees and bushes which have made a home here too:
Occasionally you have to go up steps and across bridges to the other side of the river:
The entire gorge hike involves going up more than 800 steps to the upper parking area. It is possible to take a shuttle bus up and walk down, or park up there and walk down to take the shuttle bus back ($3 each way). We hiked up and then took a different trail back down to the lower parking area. Since we walk everyday and also do leg exercises about 3 times a week, we were pretty sure that we wouldn’t be sore after all those stairs. Wrong – we did feel it slightly for the next few days! On the way drive along Seneca Lake, there were LOTS of wineries, but we stopped at the only distillery we saw, which was the Finger Lakes Distillery. This was the view from their property:
They make all kind of spirits, such as vodka, gin, whisky, bourbon, etc.
and for $2 you can taste 3 of them. So I tasted 3 of their whiskeys.
They were just OK, and rather expensive, so I didn’t buy any. As we proceeded towards the Buffalo area, we took a little side trip to Le Roy, which is the home town of Jello. There is a small museum there
and for $4.50 you can immerse yourself in Jello memorabilia and nostalgia. If I told you that the most interesting feature was this artfully decorated cow on the porch of the museum,
would you agree that the side trip was a waste of time, gas, and money? Bill Cosby was the Jello spokesman for more than 30 years, currently the longest period any brand name has had one person in that role.
We saw this display
and wondered why we had never tasted this particular flavor, which we might have liked, but then learned that it was only test marketed in the East and quickly discarded as one they might produce. Also, if you read the box, how can coffee be a “pure fruit flavor”? Another long lasting advertising campaign used the Jello Girl.
We took a picture of her because on our last cruise we met twins Marcia Albritton & Lisa Romine, and this Jello Girl no doubt looks like they did when they were young girls. Cruise friends, do you agree? Near Buffalo we stayed at the Lancaster Elks, a very friendly place, and with a HUGE lodge, complete with a space they rent to a rock and roll church on Sundays, and a space with old Nautilus exercise equipment for the use of members. One of the guys in charge there, Lou, showed us around and said they have the most active and “fit” group of alcoholics of any Elks Lodge in the system! We wanted to visit Lockport, one of the places where there the Erie Canal has locks, and also where there are some informative museums and signboards, and Lancaster was the closest lodge. The Erie Canal, 524 miles long, was completed in 1824, and one of the biggest obstacles was the Niagara Escarpment, which was surmounted by the creation of a double set of 5 locks built in Lockport. The first locks were fairly small, by today’s standards, and eventually the locks were modified and enlarged twice, enabling the use of much bigger barges to transport much larger payloads. Today only one set of locks is functional, and mostly used by recreational boats and tour boats. Here is a picture of the old locks.
The lock gates have been removed. This is the view downriver from the locks, and you can see the towpath on the left:
This is the path where the canal barges were towed by mules, and where we did a 2 mile walk, even though it was very hot the day we were there. At first the barges could use only one horse or mule because they were smaller. But as the canal enlarged and bigger boats used it, they used entire teams to pull the barges. Boats would carry 2 teams and 2 workers who drove them, they worked 2- 6 hour shifts each day enabling 24 hour travel. No guard rails were possible because of the tow lines. Sometimes a mule, or team would slip and fall into the canal and drown if they could not scramble up the bank. Strong winds could hold a boat up against the canal walls, making towing difficult or impossible. Sometimes boats would tip and spill their cargo into the canal, or sink and clog up the canal. Occasionally they had to resort to dynamite to clear up blockages, and dredging was needed often. Commercial enterprises grew up adjacent to the canal to provide services for the people on the boats, and townships also resulted. Today the canal has modern bridges over it to allow traffic to cross, and they can be raised or lowered, depending on the boat traffic.
There are an estimated 55,000 recreational boats that use the canal each year, and the canal offers lots of recreational opportunities for hikers and bicyclists, plus parks on the banks, and boat turn-around areas have been converted into marinas. While we were there a tour boat went through the locks. Here it is in the lock with the water level low:
After the lock door is closed, they pump water into it to raise the boat:
Then the large lock doors open and the boat moves forward into the next lock:
Here the doors are all the way open and you can see that the water level is the same:
When we went through the Panama Canal in 2004, we were in a small boat like this. The locks there are huge, so they tied our boat to a much larger one and we went through the lock together. But the doors looked just like this and the locks functioned exactly the same. Earlier this year we went through the Suez Canal, where there are no locks! Moving on, we stopped at Pennsylvania’s only port city on Lake Erie, that being Erie, PA. There is a large and friendly Elks Lodge there where they have 4 RV hookups (30 Amp) and charge no fees. We went in to check in at the bar and they also bought us a drink. Now that is hospitality! Just 2 miles from the lodge is Presque Isle State Park, totally open to the public for free, and a delightful place to bike or walk.
It is a peninsula about 6 miles long which arches out into Lake Erie, and has a bay on one side and ocean-type beaches with fairly large waves on the other side.
There are many picnic areas, lagoons, rentals of bikes and beach buggies, tourist excursion boats, fishing areas, and also a large monument to Admiral Hazard Perry.
In the War of 1812 against Britain, Perry supervised the building of a fleet at Erie, Pennsylvania, at the age of 27. He earned the title "Hero of Lake Erie" for leading American forces in a decisive naval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie. His leadership materially aided the successful outcomes of all nine Lake Erie military campaign victories, and the fleet victory was a turning point in the battle for the west in the War of 1812.

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.