Monday, October 20, 2014

A bit "Spindletop"!

(meaning, forgive me if I gush a bit...)

We slipped away headed East after my last post. Originally we'd intended a fall trip to a cluster of museums around South Bend, IN. that were "on my list". But if we were traveling that far East we talked about extending a bit to see Niagara Falls (we'd driven by it for 36 years as we went to and fro on the Vermont trips). If we were going to get to western New York, there was another place on my bucket list in Eastern NY; getting there it would be a shame not to skip over the mountains into Vermont and see family again. The timing of all this hadn't even dawned on us until we started trying to book rooms (peak color season).

So South Bend went on hold, she changed the oil in my truck and we bought a portable oxygen concentrater of our own (because the O2 company lent me one last time cobbled from parts that didn't really provide enough to get me totally off of bottles, and this time said they didn't have one at all until late October and then only for a week).

We split the run to NY into two days because 8 is about all I can ride anymore and still have time to take my diuretics-the days of driving straight through to anywhere are long gone!

So our 3rd morning out we awoke a few minutes from Niagara Falls State Park. We went to the "Cave of the Winds", down an elevator shaft and along a shelf in the cliff face, then out onto a set of wooden walkways that lie alongside and partially under the Bridal Veil Falls.

(click on each photo to enlarge)

They gave us rain ponchos, sandals and plastic bags to put our shoes in. I was very glad we had bought a water resistant cover for my Nokia phone (the camera I'm using now, as I can't deal with the wheelchair, the oxygen and the Nikon). Though we didn't go up onto the "Hurricane Deck" we were as wet as we really wanted to get before we went back up to the main park!

We went back up (much work for Dottie, as my lungs don't allow me to do much to help propel my wheelchair) and ate some lunch as we dried out a bit, then she rolled me to the overlook of the American Falls. There is a new section of walkways they are completing that will get people much closer next year. I shot a few movies just to record the amazing sound of 150,000 gallons of water per second as it crashes onto the rocks below!

We made a loop around Goat Island on the Park Service trolley (equipped w/wheelchair lift, thankfully) then rode back past our intitial starting point to visit the overlook for the Horseshoe Falls, but it was much too long a "drop" to go down to actually see it (getting down would be easy enough, but there's no way Dottie could push me back up and it was much too far for me to walk, even with two bottles and cannula. I can do short distances that way, or flights of steps, but this would have been several footballs fields of long grade). My phone seems to do well until I zoom it past "medium" focal length, then it begins to distort, so I haven't included the photos of the Horseshoe Falls here. But if you ever get a chance to visit, it's sooooooo worth your time!

The next morning we were eastbound again for a little place south of Albany named Red Hook, NY-the home of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. I'd first heard of it years ago when I saw Neil Armstrong visit there on a PBS series he did called "First Flights". Only a few minutes south of the route we usually take into Vermont, I'd never wanted to give up the family time to visit; it was always too precious and hard to get to spend it selfishly. 

Up early on Saturday we visited their museum hangars and the gift shop that lie across the road and up the hill from the main aerodrome. We got back to the grounds in time to get some lunch and get seats as they started flying at 2PM. The Saturday air show was pre-WWI to pre-WW2 aviation. One of the first things up, as it was a calm day was them flying an original Bleriot monoplane with original motor!

They only take her up about knee-high off the ground, as they don't want to take a chance on anything happening to her, but to listen to her as she taxis and see the ease with which she does take off makes her seem much younger than her 100 years!

Other pre-war aircraft flew, one taxied and gave control demonstrations of some of the early "less intuitive" systems that were in use before everyone settled on one. (Remember Beta vs. VHS? Try it when your life is in your hands!)

Another bit of loveliness for me is to be so cold to lovely old motors like the Curtiss OX-5 in the pusher above. Notice that the valves and rockers are all out in the breeze? Meaning their oil is as well? Motorcycles and early cars were the same old Harley or Indian will waterproof you nicely from the waist down! The early pilots wore goggles as much to keep the oil from their eyes as other debris...

Many cars, a few motorcycles, a WWI Renault tank...all running are among the other vehicles on display. The airshow on Saturday closed with a lovely Stearman biplane "wringing it out" for the crowd. Before and after the airshow there is a biplane offering rides over the countryside. I begged Dottie to go so she could come back and tell me about it, but she wouldn't because she said it wouldn't be fair. 

We actually had a sit down dinner that night instead of "road food", then a good night's sleep (after we bought wire ties to fix my wheelchair as it didn't like its off road experience). The next day, up early and back to visit the buildings and displays at the lower end by the airfield and talk to one of the owner/builder/pilots who was kind enough to take me "under the rope" and give me a personal tour of his DeHavilland biplane. (Built in a 2nd story Manhattan apartment!)

The airshow the 2nd day was the last one of the season for their WWI dogfights. But before they got to the Fokker Triplanes and Spads, they rolled out another icon, an original 1917 Curtiss "Jenny" complete with the original 1917 motor!

A lovely fall afternoon; the color growing more intense in the background each day; vintage aircraft on the ground and in the air-it was a truly wonderful afternoon!

I can't imagine being able to make wood do what they did for the fuselage in this lovely work of art in the frame above and again below here!

I left with hundreds of photos and dozens of movies, though I'm still learning my new system. I've also seen some "add on" lenses for it, though they require leaving the armor cover off it and I'm not sure I want to risk that!

Monday found us headed over the mountains to Vermont. The run through Bennington was very close to peak color, then things were greener again as we headed north towards Northfield where Dottie grew up. We visited one sister on the way up and headed out to try and catch sunset at a favorite spot before we went the rest of the way to Williston to our room.

As we roamed the state over the next week we were in and out of color as elevation and distance from rivers and streams changed. Every day there was some new brilliance and a lovely view, even when the weather wasn't what some would call "good".

Around the corner from one of the sister's houses was a haybale sculpture that was too cute not to catch a photo of. The "please don't touch" signs are chest high!

Finally the time came to turn West again. We left on a route we'd never taken. We crossed into New York on a bridge below where Lake Champlain narrows and cut across New York through the Adirondack State Park-one of the most beautiful drives I've ever had the pleasure of!

As we approached Hammonsport, NY (our next destination) we saw a lot of New York that was new to us. We crossed and then drove alonside several of the Fingerlakes and both rather fell in love with some territory we'd never thought we would.

Our last stop for the trip was at the Glenn Curtiss Museum at Hammondsport, NY. I truly didn't know that much about Curtiss, other than his patent wars and lawsuits with the Wright Brothers until the last few months. I've come to a new appreciation of him, not just for his feats in aviation...

Built it, rode it and set the world speed record on 136 m.p.h.!!! 

The more I think I know, the more I find to learn!

I picked up a cold somewhere in my travels that set in that evening and has had me pretty miserable since. Deep hacking cough that goes on for so long I lose my oxygen and my ribs ache. It slowly seems to be getting better, but in a day or so if it's not markedly so I'm going to have to call someone and may end up having to turn myself in to get some IV antibiotics. The idea of setting foot in a hospital and catching something worse is more frightening than anything I've been through to this point!

I hope life is being kind to each of you!



robin andrea said...

This such a beautiful exuberant post! What a fantastic journey you and Dottie took. I love the photos of Niagara and the countryside, and the museums, and all the wonderful fall colors. Such a delight to see all of this. I think I see a hint of rainbows in your Niagara pics. Is that right?

I hope you are recovering from your cold. I do understand your hesitation about going to the hospital. Please take care.

Anji Knutsen said...

It's hard to imagine those early planes getting into the air and not falling apart. Thank you for sharing your trip. it's amazing how vast the US appears compared to little old Europe!