August 2006 Page 2
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Step Right This Way ...

As a heat wave descended on the Northeast we set off for Upstate New York ... the Magical History Tour* was underway! John and Lori had arrived from Houston. Kurt, Tina, Erin, Kelsey and Joe were ready to go — though the kids were a bit skeptical about the type of "fun" we were promising. Mom was meeting us in Geneva, driving north from Tennessee after spending a week with Krisanne (who unfortunately couldn't make the trip). Then there was Peter and me ... Ten of us on a family vacation: nostalgia, laughs, arguments (minor) and adventures ahead!

The first stop of note was in Little Falls, NY. We took a tour of the pretty town along the Mohawk River and Erie Canal as we searched for a place to have lunch. We wound up at the Ann Street Restaurant's screened-in porch. After, we walked down the street for a view of the river from the bridge. An old mill building formed a wall along one side of the Mohawk, which barely covered large granite outcroppings along its bottom.

The Erie Canal was just beyond, running parallel to the river. Little Falls has an annual Canal Celebration, this year's was the following week — called "Stirring the Melting Pot: A Salute to our Ethnic Heritage." A who's who of immigrants, was Little Falls: Germans, Irish (who were the backbone of the Erie Canal construction), eastern Europeans (Poles, Russians, Czechs, etc.) and Italians, all of whom worked on the railroads, and in the manufacturing plants and mills along the river.

There were several nicely done signs near the Canal with historic info, pictures and maps. Little Falls has its act together ... it's a special place and the people there know it. Photo-taking in earnest had begun ... here's Little Falls.

Little Falls, NY by the Erie Canal

Sweet Home, Geneva

We were all happy to be back in Geneva for different reasons: it was a fix for John and me after several years without visiting, and it meant a swim in the hotel pool for the kids.

Seneca Lake was across the street from our hotel, so John, Lori, Peter & I took a walk along the waterfront, where willow trees line the path. (The most beautiful willows are in upstate NY!) It was a very hot afternoon and soon we were back at the hotel and found Mom, who had just arrived via East Aurora in western NY, her girlhood hometown. (Once again, she had made the long drive north from Florida by herself.)

Soon we were off again, to revisit some favorite places in Geneva. We went along the lake south on 14, by beautiful homes and fraternities that are part of Hobart & William Smith College(s), where Mom & Dad met. We took the road to Houghton House, where Mom lived as a college freshman, 62 years ago. It's an elegant brick building, and as luck would have it, was open and being spruced up. The crew inside kindly let us in and Mom led us down her memory lane. Beautiful bannisters, staircases, stained-glass windows, and high ceilings: not a dorm with which the rest of us were familiar. Upstairs, Mom quickly found the bedroom that she shared with three other girls; it's now an A/V room. The house itself is no longer a dorm but is rented out for events/parties.

It was fun for all of us, and I think the kids were able to visualize Grandma Ruth as a young college girl for the first time, riding her bike around campus.

Mom on her bike in front of Houghton House, 1944
(picture used in our logo)



Mom leads us on a tour of Houghton House —›  



* Over a year ago, we asked Mom what she wanted for her 80th birthday. Rather than anything tangible, she wanted to take a trip with her family to upstate New York, to see places and things that meant something to her (and us). That sounded like a great idea, so we started planning. In February 2006 Mom turned 80, and this summer, we did the Tour.

Our group (Mom is second from left) at Houghton House, 2006

Just a bit further down the road is the Glenwood Cemetery where Dad is buried. We were not happy to see that the grass was very long and had overgrown Dad's WWII service plaque. Kurt and the kids got to work cleaning up, so we could read it again. We also paid respects to some of Dad's buddies nearby. Dad would have been happy to see us all there together ... more Geneva pictures.

Joe & Kurt clean up around Dad's plaque.


Kurt, ever the role model for his kids, drinks a cup of wine in the pool.

Heading into Pronti's for dinner

12 Avenue B

We visited the Avenue B homestead (where Dad was born), which I barely recognized because the signature porch had been redone since I'd last seen the house. Then, whew, we were hungry, and Pronti's (a Geneva institution since 1933) was nearby, so that was that. Lots of laughs over dinner as we told Dad stories, some "R" rated such as:

Dad and some buddies had been swimming in Seneca Lake. On the way home, they picked up a hitchhiker, who was happy for the ride until he opened the door and found the passengers were all naked.

Dad, with his Italian coloring, would get very dark in the summer. He would say that in the event of a race riot, he would join whichever side was winning.

Mom especially was in hysterics and got us going as usual! It was a good Day One.

Mom & Dad: "Picnic at Seneca Lake," 1948. (What's up with those shoes, Dad?)
Mom loved Coke back then too, and John carries on Dad's beer tradition religiously.


Tina and I walk while John, Erin, Joe, Kurt and Peter run ahead, along Seneca Lake.

To the Glen and Beyond

On Day Two (shirt day), we made the scenic drive along Seneca Lake to Watkins Glen on the lake's southern tip. Along the way were many vineyards and wineries. We stopped at one, Glenora, where Lori picked up some Chardonnay.

Watkins Glen is a beautiful, quaint town, known for its state park and auto racing. We were going to the park, which was celebrating its centennial this year. The Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen is amazing — water has sculpted chasms, some hundreds of feet deep, with layer upon layer of textured sedimentary rock. It's a dramatic, alive place with water running and falling freely everywhere. We were all wowed, especially Joe. He spotted a suspension bridge early on and was on a quest to get to it.

After going about halfway into the gorge, we turned back. Joe found a different trail that went up: he thought it might lead to the bridge. And the kid had good instincts ... we got to the bridge and cautiously walked to the center and peered over the railing. It was a daunting view down: 85 feet to the creek below. More Watkins Glen pictures.

On the Gorge trail in the Narrows, a very moist "microclimate" there.

I'm about to go under the Cavern Cascade.

To see a video clip of the Cascade, Click Here.

How do we get to that bridge?

Planning our next move in a park gazebo.

Finger Lakes grapes.

It was another hot (upper 90s), steamy day and we were good & sweaty as we finished the hike. Kelsey asked me if she could change her shirt — she wanted to wear something cooler, and cooler. Well, O-KAY. Erin and Joe followed suit, regaining their individual identities.

We had lunch in town, at a restaurant overlooking the southern end of Seneca Lake and a long pier where tour boats head out. Then we swung around and went back up the eastern shore of Seneca Lake. More beautiful country and lake views. We crossed over to the Cayuga Lake shore, hit the Hungry Owl winery (another purchase for Lori who was enjoying the Finger Lakes wines), then it was back to Geneva. The day was still young ...

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