I bet you have never thought how ships get up and over Niagara Falls. I never had either. On the Niagara River, from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario (or visa versa), there is about 170 feet of elevation to negotiate over the thundering water. And, to make matters worse, there is an elevation difference of about 325 between the two lakes. Not to worry, the problem was solved back in 1829 with the opening of the WELLAND CANAL in Canada, construction having begun in 1824, just before the opening of the Erie Canal. Not only do you now know how ships can get from the Atlantic Ocean through to Lake Superior, but here probably for the first time ever you will get to see a sailing – MINE – from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. And it happened in about seven hours Tuesday, September 10, 2019.

You will be able to sail (pun intended) through my next posts. Mainly locking and sailing, and few words. If something piques your interest, I trust you will research more, as I often do. Even when reading a well written mystery, set in a historical period or specific area, I will find myself googling as I pour over things I need to learn more about. So, feel free to stop, research, learn, and share with me, to even share here with others.

Here is a map of the Welland Canal. We left Buffalo at 5AM to head back west to the entrance of the canal on the Canadian side of Lake Erie.

the elevation view below shows you what we did, sailing from right to left, going “down hill.” Note the flight of locks (6, 5, 4) for a quick high descent. Lock 8 is considered a “control lock” for water flow. Lock 7 is the southern most lift on the Niagara Escarpment. Locks 5, 6 and 4 are twin “flight locks.” There is an information center, and observation platform at Lock 3.

we arrived at the entrance to the canal at about 7AM.

and, on the way

just one of the many bridges that open up along the canal

a close-up of the old lock you may be able to see above

about to enter Lock 8

Welland Canal – Lock 8

finally this “puppy” exited, and it was our turn to enter

our turn for Lock 8 – the first lock on the Welland Canal when heading north to Lake Ontario.

Welland Canal – Lock 8

I am going to “lock you through” Lock 8 more than other locks so you can an idea of the process and progress. Image below is looking back north.

Welland Canal – Lock 8

and then exiting

Welland Canal – Lock 8

one of the many “lift bridges” (remember you can open my galleries for larger images)

arriving at Lock 7

and more “heavier” traffic as we approach the lock — NOTE the horizon. It appears the earth is flat, we are at the edge, and will fall off.

There are wires across the locks – “guard gates” –  that these yellow booms pick up. The idea is to protect the lock doors from being rammed by a run away vessel. I really wonder if they could stop a ship with its inertia. Well, they have to be raised.

exiting Lock 7, looking to Lock 6

Welland Canal – Lock 7

Leaving Lock 7

Welland Canal – Lock 7

and, now for Lock 6, a double lock

our “friend” is leaving the other side

Loosing track? I am, and it was really hard selecting images from the two cameras I was using to document these seven hours. but, now opening to Lock 5.

Welland Canal – Lock 6 to Lock 5

Welland Canal – Lock 5 to Lock 4


now we can pass through Lock 4 to get to Lock 3

and, then exit

Welland Canal – Lock 3

now approaching Lock 2 – a single, so we had to wait for this big guy to get out of our way


Welland Canal – Lock 2

and, leaving Lock 2 on the Welland Canal

Welland Canal – Lock 2

Welland Canal – Lock 2

Approaching Lock 1

where there is a car bridge

and to be safe, a guard gate

Welland Canal – Lock 1

and looking back north while in Lock 1 with the car bridge lowered back down

and the Pilot House of the GRANDE MARINER

exiting Lock 1

Welland Canal – Lock 1

where a pilot boat met us to take off the pilot. We had one pilot from Lake Erie to Lock 8. Then he left, and another boarded to take us through the locks.

bye Welland Canal

and, onto Lake Ontario

and, on the Lake

On Lake Ontario around 2PM it will not be until after midnight that we will dock in Rochester, New York. So, until then, enjoy, and do come back. Yours, RAY


PPart 1 – Genesis
Part 2 – Chicago – arriving aboard the Grande Mariner
Part 3 – Underway to Wisconsin and Mackinac Island
Part 4 – Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan
Part 5 – Port visits – Cleveland and Buffalo
Part 6 – Welland Canal – Canada
Part 7 – Rochester, NY and The Oswego Canal
Part 8 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 22 to 11 – Heading East
Part 9 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 11 to 1 – Heading East
Part 10 – The Hudson River – Troy South to NYC
Part 11 – NYC – and, Amtrak along the Hudson to Albany


Posted in LAKES - LOCKS - LONG RIVER -- 1-18 SEPTEMBER 2019 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments


We are close, very close, to LOCKS, LOCKS and more LOCKS – just two more days. But first there were port visits in Cleveland and Buffalo on Lake Erie. Leaving Wyandotte, Michigan about midnight on 7 September, the GRANDE MARINER headed east across Lake Erie, and began entry down the Cuyahoga River for our Cleveland stop about 7:30 AM on 8 September.

then into the river with many of the crossing bridges

and the “skyway” over the river. Believe below to be Routes 6 and 2 into downtown.

coming down the Hudson River I will share many “under the bridge” images, but first “under the Cuyahoga River bridges.”

above looking south with the Terminal Tower the left hand building, and then looking back towards the lake.

In Cleveland until about 5PM there was an optional city tour that I booked, but first I had time to catch the free water ferry across the river. I got to see the local train transit system…

and chat with these nearby tailgaters. It was opening day for the Cleveland Browns. It was walking distance to the stadium (for legs younger and abler than mine), but many folks rent a parking spot and just party and play games. Arriving at 7AM for their spot, this group had their generator going and were watching pre-game festivities, planning to stay here all day.

It was then board a bus for the tour. It was nice to have a mixed flavor of the City of Cleveland, and here is some of it I can share with you. At several spots there are signs welcoming you and providing photo ops.

and, what do you do on Christmas for 24 hours? Watch CHRISTMAS STORY I hope. Here is Ralphie’s house – yes for real, and I just got the LEG LAMP in the window for you as we cruised by in this small neighborhood.

across the street is now a CHRISTMAS STORY Museum, gift shop, and the Bumpus House. A Christmas Story House & The Bumpus House are available for overnight stays.

Cruising to the center of town it was disheartening to see the classic downtown department stores – Higbees, Mays, etc. – closed, but at least buildings are still there and being repurposed. Higbees is a casino (Jack). and adjoins the Terminal Tower, the deco old train center and early “mall.”

how often do you see this anymore?

and then it was a drive to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and about 15 minutes to run inside.

outside is Johnnie Cash’s bus

and, next door to the west, also almost on the water, is the stadium, packed with sad Brown’s fans. Yes, it was an overcast day also.

We then were driving along the water, through a park to the art museum, again having about 25 minutes. From what I ran through to see, definitely worth some time in the future.

not quite “Cinderella Liberty” in Cleveland, but we were underway at 5PM heading back to Lake Erie to head east to Buffalo.

Due to arrive in Buffalo at 9 AM, I did not want to miss the approach. Up early, here is sunrise over Buffalo, New York, at 7:03 AM on Monday, 9 September. Feel free to click for a larger view.

and, to put things into perspective, here is the nautical map (with my ship in green) at this point in time. Take a look at Welland, Canada, for future reference.

by 9:30 – 10AM we were approaching the skyline of Buffalo – you can click for full screen view.

I hope you remember my week in Buffalo in May – if not, check out my three posts of that grand time – especially CITY OF LIGHT. There is so much I told you that I still want to do here, but the one day we had in port would still not be enough. The optional tour for the passengers was the day at Niagara Falls. You know how I feel. The 19th century tourist attraction beauty has been spoiled, and I had no desire to go back. So, off I went on my own, doing something I had not gotten to in May. By 11:30 I was walking towards the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park and eventually to my destination at Canalside.

Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park

I had some time to look inside at the museum again. Lots of information, but I thought I would share these two panels with you. You may click to enlarge for easier reading if you would like.

But my mission for the afternoon was to catch the 1PM Buffalo River History Tour, Here is an early map of the area. Much is filled in now, but the Erie Canal begins at commercial slip, and the river tour dock is on Prime Street now filled in, as is much of the area, but you see the entrance to the Buffalo River (Harbor) also.


I wanted to see “the largest grain port in the world and experience the nation’s largest collection of standing grain elevators from just a few feet away” – quoted from the company’s website. Leaving the dock we swung right past the original start of the Erie Canal. To the left you see the stern of the USS Little Rock CLG-4, and then to its right the nautical museum and the outside seating for the restaurant.

and, then it was down the Buffalo River.

great bridges

and, make sure to open up this gallery of silos – just amazing to see, and fascinating area. I need to learn more.

Hope you see the SS COLUMBIA, built in 1902 directly above. It is the last remaining excursion steamer of that period – hopefully to someday be restored.

coming back out of the river, the tour headed out past the nautical museum and Little ROCK and submarine, past the lighthouse at the entrance to Buffalo, and then swung back into dock.

I then walked back to the restaurant at the museum, but loved finding this

and, turning around here is the original Erie Canal entrance (warehouse sites to the left) looking to the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park

may I recommend having lunch at the restaurant there

Having been on the USS SULLIVANS DD 537, and many submarines, I decided to conclude the day touring the USS LITTLE ROCK CLG4 – the third ship docked at the museum. I was disappointed. It was interesting seeing the missile house (one space I never saw on my last ship the USS LUCE DDG-38 due to security), but the remaining part of the tour the various spaces had been stripped of their original uses and now serve as a number of memorials and displays. Nice, probably good memories and fundraising, but not ship spaces as originally outfitted.

I walked back to the GRANDE MARINER, for dinner and the evening, and early turn in. I was not going to miss the early departure from Buffalo and the 7 AM arrival for the Welland Canal.  Now leaving the LAKES, it is finally time for LOCKS, LOCKS, more LOCKS, and BRIDGES. Hope you continue to “sail with me.” As always, yours, RAY


Part 1 – Genesis
Part 2 – Chicago – arriving aboard the Grande Mariner
Part 3 – Underway to Wisconsin and Mackinac Island
Part 4 – Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan
Part 5 – Port visits – Cleveland and Buffalo
Part 6 – Welland Canal – Canada
Part 7 – Rochester, NY and The Oswego Canal
Part 8 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 22 to 11 – Heading East
Part 9 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 11 to 1 – Heading East

Part 10 – The Hudson River – Troy South to NYC
Part 11 – NYC – and, Amtrak along the Hudson to Albany

Posted in LAKES - LOCKS - LONG RIVER -- 1-18 SEPTEMBER 2019 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments


If you have been “traveling with me” on these posts, you know the Grande Mariner left Mackinac Island at 5AM on 6 September. The sixth was devoted to cruising down Lake Huron towards Detroit. Lots of blue scenery that became broken with high white caps for much of the day – a rough five hours dancing between those white caps. I was up very early on the 7th (as I did many days) so as to not miss much. Here is the map of where we were at about 6:30 AM on 7 September – approaching Detroit.

See the large dark blue to the right of Detroit and Windsor, Canada? HOMES, five Great Lakes, right? Wrong, there is a small sixth Great Lake – Lake St. Clair – and that is the dark blue you see. Lake Huron flows into the Detroit River, which then opens up into Lake St. Clair, appropriately enough at Walpole Island, Canada. The lake then becomes the river again ultimately passing into Lake Erie to the south. So, now you can win more drinks proving there are really six Great Lakes.

We passed the city of Detroit about 7 AM, 7 September.

On schedule we docked at Wyandotte at 9 AM. The optional tour was a visit to the Ford Rouge Plant, The Henry Ford, and Greenfield Village – all in one day. From experience, I knew that was only a fast overview of the three places. I spent a full day at The Henry Ford 22 February 2015, and the next day at the Rouge River Plant and museum. Today my plan was to go off on my own and spend the full day at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, also created by Henry Ford. Ends up the cab company I had talked with 10 days earlier does not run on weekends, but fortunately I eventually found someone to come out and get me, and I only lost about an hour. My entrance ticket reads 10:30 AM, and I did not depart until 4:30.

Based upon my previous visits in 1957 and 1967 I somehow thought I would have a day peacefully strolling by myself – was I wrong. Not only has the village expanded, and with activities to attract younger families, but I was there for the “69th Annual Old Car Festival at The Henry Ford”  – the longest running car show in America. The place was packed, but a nice packed with cars (nothing newer than 1930 fortunately, antique bicycles, and costumed visitors). Reading of all the activities throughout the year, if I lived close I would become a member.

So, here goes with mainly images so you may spend the 7th of September with me in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. I encourage you to learn more about Ford moving historic buildings here (and recreating others), especially places with meaning to him. I recommend getting a copy of TELLING AMERICA’S STORY: A HISTORY OF THE HENRY FORD.

The entrance to Greenfield Village.

Henry Ford’s birthplace.

In 1896, Ford built his quadricycle at 58 Bagley Avenue in Detroit. With bricks from that street he recreated that shop in the cluster of Ford related buildings in the village.

In 1945, Henry Ford added one last building before his death, a 1/4 scale reproduction of his first Ford plant that was on Mack Avenue in Detroit.

housed inside is:

Ford held many mechanical geniuses and inventors in high esteem, and moved symbols of their lives to Greenfield Village. Orville and Wilbur Wright’s bicycle shop and home are together here.

Wright Cycle Shop at Greenfield Village

one room for bicycle repair

the first plane was built in the back, then disassembled with the parts sent to North Carolina for the famous flight.

Constructing the Wright Plane

Along with the car show, an antique bicycle club was in attendance exhibiting, performing and competing. And all in costume.

The day before the village opened in October, 1929, Ford decided he wanted to have an operating tintype studio. He had an accurate one built in a day, and it still stands.

Ford hired the last traveling tin-typist, who took up residence here producing over 400,000 tintypes. He could even have taken this one of me in 1957, when I was a guest of the museum. The backdrop is a painting of Henry Ford’s birthplace. Another tidbit to win you a drink, a tintype image comes out in reverse, thus the backdrop was painted in reverse to appear correct in the image.

Today the studio is set up for those selfies that people take.

what’s a tintype? Here you go (click to read easier).

Just down the way is the rural post office. I had “free rein” during my 1957 visit, and was allowed to stand behind the counter and play postmaster. Then and there I decided I wanted to be Postmaster General of the US. Did not work out, but my interest in US commemorative stamps led to my interest in history, and probably everything else. I kindly asked the docent if I could step behind, and explained why. When other guests left, she said, “let’s hurry,” and I gave her my camera.

can you tell I was having fun? Besides cars everywhere, they were driving on all the streets. Coming to the corner, there was LADY RAB’s sister, another 1929 Model A Ford roadster.

As a young man, Henry Ford, had worked for Thomas A. Edison in one of the Detroit electric plants. Edison showed interest in Ford’s inventiveness and encouraged him. Later becoming close friends, Ford originally named his museum The Edison Institute, and it was dedicated October 29, 1929, the 50th anniversary of the invention of the Edison light bulb. Supposedly the first light bulb, but I know you know better to win more drinks. Ford recreated much of Edison’s Menlo Park.

Enjoying the cars lined up along all the streets, this Model A caught me stopping, and I crawled underneath to see the how the drive-train was done. Actually two rear ends, with gears on the rear of the first one with another drive shaft to the back rear end. I took a picture and sent it to Dr. Dewey to starting building me one.

Many buildings with many stories abound. Luther Burbank, Daniel Webster’s home where he finished his dictionary, McGuffey’s home (his readers impacted on Ford greatly), and on and on. Money was no expense, particularly with the few recreations. Ford bought Steven Foster’s home. Years later it was learned that the home had actually been destroyed, and this one was next door.

a slave plantation home

and the Common – packed with more car show.

Here is the Edison Generating plant where Ford had worked, albeit a recreated scaled down version.

And, you should also know that Edison was almost totally deaf. As a newsboy peddling papers on trains, he also did experiments in the baggage car. One not so successful experiment caught the car on fire, and the conductor, holding young Edison by his ears, tossed him off the train at this station.

When Ford brought Edison up to this station by train to surprise him of the move, Edison refused to get off to see it. No hard feelings, I guess.

You know I like to shoot images out of windows and similar framing opportunities. Any guess why I captured this award winner?

In recent years the railroad and industrial areas have been expanding, including this “new” roundhouse with an original turntable.

and, again if you know me, you know I love old diners. You cannot get much older than the original lunch wagons. Ford used to have his meals at this wagon when working for Edison. Back in the early days of the village this was the only spot to get a bite to eat.

And, a group of “tin-can tourists” set up camp, complete with all the accoutrements of roadside camping in the 1920s. Another fun thing I like to learn about, and yes, I have my collection of vintage camping baskets.

Sadly the village was about to close – I could have spent another day. I was able to hitch a ride on the tour bus back to the ship. Before I re-boarded, I walked downtown Wyandotte, then over to the river to walk back north to the ship. And, here I found this sign – another “first” we all need to know about.

Back underway about midnight (I did not get up as it was dark), and we began crossing Lake Erie next with port visits at Cleveland and Buffalo. Then it will be locks, locks, more locks, and bridges. I can’t wait, hope you continue to join me to see what many do not get to see.


Part 1 – Genesis
Part 2 – Chicago –Part 1 – Genesis
art 2 – Chicago – arriving aboard the Grande Mariner
Part 3 – Underway to Wisconsin and Mackinac Island
Part 4 – Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan
Part 5 – Port visits – Cleveland and Buffalo
Part 6 – Welland Canal – Canada
Part 7 – Rochester, NY and The Oswego Canal
Part 8 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 22 to 11 – Heading East
Part 9 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 11 to 1 – Heading East
Part 10 – The Hudson River – Troy South to NYC
Part 11 – NYC – and, Amtrak along the Hudson to Albany

Posted in LAKES - LOCKS - LONG RIVER -- 1-18 SEPTEMBER 2019 | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments


Tuesday, September 3, everyone on-board and 6PM underway from Burnham Harbor in Chicago.

past Chicago, heading north on Lake Michigan

good night Chicago, time to settle into a routine for the next fifteen days aboard Blount Small Ship Adventure’s  Grande Mariner.

First stop, arriving by 9 AM on 4 September, was Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Why you ask? I wondered also, but now you will learn the importance of this town. There is a shipyard there, where World War II submarines were built. A relatively small town, we tied up on the pier right next to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. A fascinating first stop, even though departure was scheduled at 1 PM.

When I crossed the gangplank there was a fellow passenger looking at a page he printed out from on-line. “Which way do you think I should walk to see this?” he was asking the crew member. I stopped to chat, checked Google Maps, and found the spot to be about 3/4 of a mile, and showed him the way. Google did not say it was uphill all the way, but the benefit is it was downhill all the way back to the museum. Since I always want to share with you something unique that you have not seen, or know about, off I went on my own. And – I FOUND THE SPOT he told me about.

It was in the middle of Eighth Street, across from the local museum.

and, in the sidewalk is this marker.

Here I was, 2 days shy of the event 57 years ago. You will want to read more, either on Roadside Americana, or on Wikipedia, and from Atlas Obscura – “perhaps Manitowoc’s biggest claim to fame, and it has even been the inspiration for the annual Sputnikfest, a space-themed festival featuring the Ms. Space Debris Pageant, the Cosmic Cake competition, the Alien Drop raffle, and various other extraterrestrial oddities.” Now you can win another round of drinks somewhere with your superior knowledge of trivia. I then walked (downhill) to the museum, which may be a better claim to fame for Manitowoc, and here is why. (you can click for a larger image to read easier)


At the museum I started off on the tour of the USS Cobia (SS 245) which was launched November 28, 1943 in Groton, CT. My tour guide was on his second day, not too good, but it is not that I do not know the basics of submarines. Boarding…

and, looking aft.

crew of the Grande Mariner decided to surrender.

How do you flush while under water? Carefully, but with potentially explosive and messy results if directions are not precisely followed. You may wish to wait for the next port visit. Click images to enlarge to make sure you get the directions right.

I could have used some more time in the museum. Exhibits covered Great Lakes shipwrecks, shipbuilding, tour boats, immigration to the area, and much more. Here are a few panels I wanted to share.

Walking back to my ship, the SS Badger was pulling in. An amazing site backing into its pier without any tug assist. The Grande Mariner’s Capt. Ray explained to me how they dropped anchor for positioning and steadiness, and then back down into the slip. A ferry boat, Badger is the last coal-fired passenger vessel operating on the Great Lakes, and shuttles across Lake Michigan between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin,  It connects US 10 running between those two cities. Driving is not allowed on this 62 mile section of the lake. It was an overcast day.

Departure times for this trip were scheduled for decent arrival times for the next port visit.  We were next due in Mackinac Island at noon on 5 September. A trip up Lake Michigan, and then through the straits under the Mackinac Bridge, which was completed in 1957, you should read about. Below, the bridge as seen from the pilot house.

here are bridge views you seldom get to take – you will see many more once I take you down the Hudson River (no locks there to share)

and, looking back

before pulling into the island, we stopped at Pt. St. Ignace to take on fuel, and offload other liquids and solids. We are the green spot on the track below.

and, then it was onto Mackinac Island, and the Grand Hotel.

Ever since seeing the movie, Somewhere in Time, I have been reading and learning and yearning to visit relatively hard to get to Mackinac Island. (permanent population less than 500). It is 300 miles (and a boat trip) from Dearborn, and Greenfield Village, which I have also wanted to get back to not having had time to complete my visit when last there in February, 2015. We would be here overnight, until about 5 AM.

The small downtown, began at the foot of the pier. I had signed up for the carriage tour of the island, and off we went. I trust you know that there are no automobiles allowed on the island. There is a fire truck, ambulance, and emergency vehicle however.

here is the old fort around the bend.

and, up past the Grand Hotel

the tour stopped at the butterfly museum, and the hotel’s carriage barn and museum.

on the back side of the island, and in the park is Arch Rock bridge rising 149 feet above the Straits of Mackinac.

and then after touring through the park and past the top side of the old fort it was back to the hotel where I had booked the formal afternoon tea.

I toured the lower lever, and then headed to the lobby area for tea time, I did not want to be late, and “miss the tea.” The hostess was ready to seat me.

my tea was set, a glass of sherry, and a multi-tiered tray of dainty goodies. I wanted to dig in, but knew I should be polite and let whoever else was seated with me have an opportunity to see the tray and make a selection first.

was I shocked. Others were seated with me, and identical treat trays were brought for all attendees.

Yes, I dress for myself, and was the only one in sight wearing a jacket. Fortunately there is still a dress code here, but it starts at 6PM. Here is a gallery around the hotel you can open.

And, in its majesty, here is the 660 foot front porch, the world’s largest, impressive, and more “rocking chair studies.”

and another award winner for my “favorite foto” page that I have to get back to assembling after years.

back in town, here are some history plaques you can click to enlarge and learn from

walking back to town, here is the other end of the Main Street – tourist shops mainly.

and, back to the ship.

I am so glad I got the opportunity to easily get to Mackinac Island. A trip to here and Dearborn probably would have cost me a third of what my 15 day cruise cost. So well worth it to me. If I had come here on a separate trip I would have felt compelled to spend 2-3 nights, and, since overrun with tourists, I would have not really enjoyed my time. BUT, I MADE HERE, and can now talk about it.

Leaving at 5 AM on on 6 September, it would be all day on Lake Huron, arriving next at Wyandotte, Michigan, south of Detroit, and ten miles from Dearborn. More coming, catch you soon, yours, RAY


Part 1 – Genesis
Part 2 – Chicago – arriving aboard the Grande Mariner
Part 3 – Underway to Wisconsin and Mackinac Island
Part 4 – Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan
Part 5 – Port visits – Cleveland and Buffalo
Part 6 – Welland Canal – Canada
Part 7 – Rochester, NY and The Oswego Canal
Part 8 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 22 to 11 – Heading East
Part 9 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 11 to 1 – Heading East

Part 10 – The Hudson River – Troy South to NYC
Part 11 – NYC – and, Amtrak along the Hudson to Albany

Posted in LAKES - LOCKS - LONG RIVER -- 1-18 SEPTEMBER 2019 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Moving right along on my “epic journey” (complete menu at end of post). I arrived at Union Station in Chicago around 11AM on Monday 2 September (Labor Day) not much more than an hour behind schedule. I scurried out to catch a cab to Burnham Harbor where Blount Small Ship Adventure’s  Grande Mariner was docked.

I booked the early arrival ($150 for the overnight including meals), which is a bargain for being in downtown Chicago, but most important, I wanted to be there, and not pull it close to departure time on the 3rd. The early arrival package allows you to board at 5PM, but, I asked, and it was possible to drop luggage off earlier. That is what I did, and then my cabbie dropped me off at nearby Field Museum. The time on my ticket to the museum states 12:18 PM

Entrance area – Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois


My great-grandfather, Franz Boas, was head of the Department of Ethnology and Archeology for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (it opened a year late for the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery). Following the Columbian Exposition, the ethnographic material he collected formed the basis of the newly created Field Museum, and he became the curator of anthropology at the museum. I had visited during my undergraduate work at Northwestern, in the mid 1960s, but did not remember the collections.


Both on my visit here for the afternoon, and my visit to the Museum of Science and Industry the next day, I was surprised, and pleased to see how museum exhibits have evolved. The same has happened at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. No longer does the visitor simply pass collections with identifying labels. Stores of culture, and developmental history are related. More can be learned, and I would imagine there is greater appeal to the ‘new generations.” This panel may help explain.

Here is a gallery of society development. Just part, you get a flavor. I wish I could remember all I try to absorb. For easier reading you can click to open a gallery.

Gone are references to Indians and Native Americans.

Many halls exhibit items from the cultures of British Columbia where my great-grandfather worked to learn about and document the peoples. I am sure that much of what I saw he collected for The Field Museum and previously the Columbian Exposition, but no longer do exhibit labels provide that information as to when, where and who. Instead the cultural stories are developed.

I enjoyed the geology exhibit (still have to tell you about my week of learning Connecticut River Valley geology at Historic Deerfield the summer of 2018). This exhibit on the Benld Meterorite was fun. The four pound meteorite crashed through a garage September 29, 1938 in Benld, Illinois. It went through a garage roof and the 1928 Pontiac Coupe parked in the garage, missing people by 50 feet. The Meteorite went through the roof of the car, the seat, the floorboards and struck the muffler of the vehicle bouncing back into
the seat springs where it was found. Bet this exhibit makes an impression on more people than just me.

and, then there is SUE. Named for the lady who discovered her, Sue is the largest and most complete T. Rex ever found, and arrived at the museum in 1997. Because of this specimen, we know more about this dinosaur than ever known before.

If “the shoe fits” — NOT

It was close to closing time at the museum, but more importantly close to boarding time for my early arrival. I began my hike south along the park and marina to the Grande Mariner, tied up just north of the McCormick Center.

and, looking back to “town.”

Jasmine, the cruise director, graciously greeted me and showed me around, and then to my cabin. My cabin location would be in the lower right of the image above, the deck below the port holes. In my phone discussions about cabin selection with Sandi at Blount she said, “well, I can give you 20A which is $1400 less, but has no window.” A cabin, a room, is for sleeping. I live in the common areas at inns, hotels, and B&Bs, and have done the same thing on the Queen Mary 2. “I will take it,” I told Sandi, “a room is for sleeping, I do not need a window.” Actually, I had more space than some of the other cabins, and was in a very quiet spot. You can open this gallery to see 20A – my cabin – lots of storage space, comfy bath and separate shower.

and, back on deck before dinner. Good I knew I was in Chicago, as it is not the skyline I remember from the 60s, and did not recognize – too much change.

My original thought for 3 September prior to departure on Lake Michigan was to catch the train to Evanston, just as I did during college, and traipse around Evanston. But with my “tired legs” and with memories enough in my mind, I decided I really had to revisit the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park in the one permanent building built for the 1893 World’s Fair.

I walked over to a nearby METRA stop, and caught the local train.

Down to about 52nd street, and then walked over to the museum

I first walked into the massive entrance in the summer of 1963. I was a Naval Reservist on my way to Boot Camp at Great Lakes. I felt enlisting during high school would improve my chances for acceptance to the officer program in college – it worked. I was in charge of a group of fellows, and we flew to Chicago, and went to the train station, but had many hours before catching the train. Always needing to explore and “shunpike” (I really do not know where it came from) I headed to the museum that I had heard about (how I learned things before the internet, I cannot recall – it has been that long ago). When I walked, in uniform, into the grand hall with another fellow, the organist broke into ANCHORS AWAY. But entrance through the columns had been taken away.

You now enter out near the street, and head underground. It all had been changed. In reading a book I bought there on THE PIONEER ZEPHYR, I learned that in the 1990s a massive project was undertaken to create underground parking and exhibit space extending out from the entrance. Here the world’s first Stainless Steel Streamliner train was to be housed. A building was also built for the captured German U-505 submarine. The restored 1934 train was my plan rather than Evanston.

Again, the exhibits changed from static labeling to many interactive learning experiences. But, the Main Street was still there, and I enjoyed strolling through.

In the museum since 1949, and always a favorite, is Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle  dollhouse. Do click the link above to read about it.

one of the most fascinating exhibits, and not something you would have seen decades ago, was FARM TECH. There was so much to learn, I wish I could go back and study for days.

an impressive transportation hall.

Engine 999 set a record breaking 82.50 MPH on May 10, 1893, when on its way to be exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The locomotive returned to Chicago to be exhibited at the 1933-34 Century of Progress exposition.

There are small tours given of THE PIONEER ZEPHYR, and only two on the day of my visit. I made sure to be on line to not miss out, even though our group ended up only being five. This is the new grand underground hall. Parking areas are on either side of the Zephyr’s display.

how can you not be overwhelmed with this Art Deco beauty???

As introduced in 1934, this 110 MPH streamliner is 197 feet long, and has seats for 72 passengers in its three cars attached with articulating trucks. It was not designed for night travel.  In its initial non-stop run from Denver to Chicago, Saturday, May 26, 1934, it used 418 gallons of diesel fuel (then called “furnace oil”). It burned a gallon to cover 2.43 miles, but at 4 cents per gallon the fuel cost of 1017.6 miles was $16.72.

Below is a gallery of the interior which was restored for the first time. Previously one could only walk around the outside of the train when displayed outdoors next to the U-505. The lead power car also contains the Railway Post Office, and Mail Storage. The middle car is for Baggage and Express shipments, a small, buffet and grill, and a compartment for 20 passengers – the smoking area. The rear car had 40 passenger seats followed by the observation lounge with 12 more seats.

Also innovative were the articulated trucks connecting the cars. Great idea for speed and savings, but became impractical because a problem with one car will pull the entire train out of service.

How can you not love this stainless steel? I showed you similar Budd Company built cars on my Via Rail cross Canada trip years ago. So sleek and full of motion, even when sitting still. I bought a book about the train and it is fascinating all the new procedures developed in the train’s and stainless steel manufacture.

And, finally the Diesel engine (newly developed) and the “operator’s cab”

An extra plus for you here. About 15 years ago I bought a massive early railroad collection for resale, but kept a few items. Here is my original booklet given out at the 1934 Century of Progress in Chicago for the introduction of the BURLINGTON ZEPHYR – THE WEST WIND.

here is an interior view showing some original photos and part of the train’s plan.

I did not want to play it close, so left the museum around 3PM and caught a cab back to the GRANDE MARINER – again, did not want to “miss the boat”

In my next post I will get you underway and sail north on Lake Michigan – yours, RAY


Part 1 – Genesis
Part 2 – Chicago – arriving aboard the Grande Mariner
Part 3 – Underway to Wisconsin and Mackinac Island
Part 4 – Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan
Part 5 – Port visits – Cleveland and Buffalo
Part 6 – Welland Canal – Canada
Part 7 – Rochester, NY and The Oswego Canal
Part 8 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 22 to 11 – Heading East
Part 9 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 11 to 1 – Heading East

Part 10 – The Hudson River – Troy South to NYC
Part 11 – NYC – and, Amtrak along the Hudson to Albany

Posted in LAKES - LOCKS - LONG RIVER -- 1-18 SEPTEMBER 2019 | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments


You may think this adventure impulsive since from learning of this trip to taking this trip was just weeks. It was a perfect fit for adventures “on my lists” and fit my time schedule. It is all the previous thought and research I do that makes a final decision an easy and rapid one.

Do you remember my most recent Eastern Erie Canal Explorations this July? It was at Herkimer, NY, at  GEMS ALONG THE MOHAWK that the visitor center hostess, Melody Milewski, chatted with me for over an hour about the Erie Canal. She had run a canal museum, and told me of Blount Small Ship Adventures in Warren, RI, that she had worked for. They had trips on the Erie Canal she told me. When I got home I looked at the website and dreamed. About the 6th of August I looked at Blount’s website again, and noted a discount on a September voyage – GREAT AMERICAN WATERWAYS – that fit in between my CLARION publishing schedule. I was on the phone on 8 August with Sandi at Blount, and called her back on the 9th booking my September adventure, just three weeks away. The voyage follows the route below, making stops (you can click on the map to enlarge). I was, in one easy trip, finally getting to Mackinac Island, back to Greenfield Village and Buffalo, and see the Oswego Canal for the first time. And, so much more including the entire Hudson River – just try and find a trip the entire length – I dare you.

The voyage began the evening of 3 September from Chicago, and I did not want to “miss the boat.” I booked the optional early arrival (a bargain) on board for 2 September. But how to easily get to Chicago? Not much thought needed to catch Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Based upon my cross country and back experiences in June, I realized it best to depart from the Albany-Rensselaer station, just two hours and ten minutes from home, and parking only $30 a week. Then upon return I could ride the train up the Hudson River to get the car – something else everyone needs to do.

The early arrival at the ship gave me a cushion for time, but you know I still left for the train on 1 September with about 8 hours to spare for the two hour drive. What to do along the way? No problem, you know I love Vermont back roads, and I had not yet visited the Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury – perfect plan.

check out the website, but the importance of visiting here is:

and, here is the dining room

below you can click for larger views of the entrance from the rear, and the impressive stone work of the house, built circa 1769.

Robert Frost – pensively writing, or possibly jealous of my trip.



Checking my “paper maps” I found some backroads from the New York State border to Rensselaer I had not previously explored, and do not have to go back on. Arriving at the station, I parked the car in the long term lot, and settled in the station for the 7:05 PM departure of the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago.




The Lake Shore Limited departs from both Boston and New York City, combining cars at the Albany-Rensselaer station for the balance of the trip. In June there was track work on the Boston track, so instead passengers were bussed to and from Boston to the Albany-Rensselaer station – wish I had been told that ahead of time. The Boston train arrived before the New York City train, but with the arrival of the train from New York, the all-aboard announcement was made.

Lake Shore Limited arriving from NYC in Albany, 1 September 2019

and, here are both sections of the Lake Shore Limited, Boston on the left and NYC on the right.

then the locomotive was disconnected from the Boston train

so the New York train with its cars could back into the Boston section, and connect

I settled into my coach seat. I could not justify the additional “roomette” cost for the almost 15 hour overnight trip, and I wanted to experience overnight in coach – $81 for the one way. I survived, but am too tall to really get comfortable across two seats, which fortunately I had all to myself the entire trip.

and then it was off across the Hudson with Albany in the background.

and, this Water Wandering adventure got underway, heading west to Chicago. Eighteen days? Yes, which means lots to document for my memory, and much to share. I will break the almost 1400 underway miles into logical segments, and the posts will mainly be a photo-journal. Whew!!! you exclaim. In sixteen days I dropped about 600 feet in elevation to sea level, passing through 38 locks – and you will see them all. Here, tentatively, is how I will have you travel with me.


Part 1 – Genesis
Part 2 – Chicago – arriving aboard the Grande Mariner
Part 3 – Underway to Wisconsin and Mackinac Island
Part 4 – Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan
Part 5 – Port visits – Cleveland and Buffalo
Part 6 – Welland Canal – Canada
Part 7 – Rochester, NY and The Oswego Canal
Part 8 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 22 to 11 – Heading East
Part 9 – The Erie Canal – LOCKS 11 to 1 – Heading East

Part 10 – The Hudson River – Troy South to NYC
Part 11 – NYC – and, Amtrak along the Hudson to Albany

If you have not before “signed up” to get notifications of my new posts, now is the time. And, I really promise to eventually finish up my Coast to Coast to Coast Amtrak Train Trek from June 2019. Yours, RAY


Posted in LAKES - LOCKS - LONG RIVER -- 1-18 SEPTEMBER 2019 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


Remember IN SEARCH OF THREE PINES, QC, CANADA – 14-16 AUGUST 2018? Well, repeat, albeit different, explorations took place a year and a day later. Same conspirators, different routes, different adventures, but same Auberge with the most inviting porch with a parade of semi-tractor trucks and construction vehicles – too much fun, too many laughs. Much of this post relies upon your memory of last year’s adventures, but at any time please click on the link above to view Knowlton, QC, the town, images of the inn, restaurants, meals, and Inspector Gamache points of interest. This adventure evolved from my desire to ride the Orford Express tourist train out of Magog, QC.

You know my preference. If I have not been on a road before – that is my preference. And, that is how I routed this adventure across the border, and back. To help you plan a great outing, click on the map below and see the route I highly recommend to cross (legally) our border to the north. Get off I-89 and head north on VT-100 towards Stowe. AVOID STOWE (so disappointing as I told you in May 2019), and  turn west through Moscow to get to Route 108 north. You will approach the ski slopes, and Smugglers Notch, and then the most amazing road as you climb through the notch, a mountain pass in the Mount Mansfield State Forest – NOTE – Closed in the winter. I had to watch the road, but found this image on line showing you the road winding through many great rocks – glacially placed erratics (and you can click to enlarge to full screen).

This map to the left may be enlarged by clicking. I have highlighted my route north in pink except for the area through Smuggler’s Notch that is marked on the map – Road Closed Winter. An amazing route, one you must take. Following VT-108 through Enosburg Falls, it ends at VT-118 where you turn left (north) to Canada. Quickly you reach the border at the West Berkshire–Frelighsburg Border Crossing. Crossing, the route becomes Canada 237. Of course we were the only car to cross. Frelighsburg was but five minutes away – WOW, perfect spot, and many opportunities for a meal. By the way, food in the Eastern Townships of Quebec is amazing, and with 75 cents buying a Canadian dollar, a bargain (even with the hefty taxes added). The lunch choice was at Aux 2 Clochers.

Inside seating, or on the elevated patio above the small river.

So many wonderful choices. I choose the Grilled baguette with ham, pears, pecans, and Farnham Vigerons cheese. Flavors “to die for”

Crossing the street after lunch, we visited the 1850s Town Hall, and the old Academy building, now a visitor center and art gallery (worth the stop)

BUT – in front of the car are these massive THREE PINES

These three mature pines are at the main cross road in Frelighsburg. During the American Revolution, Loyalists, who would not swear allegiance to the colonies, would escape and cross the border to Canada. No concrete written evidence, but oral history, and some written journals, state that Canadians, to welcome those with allegiance to the crown crossing the border, would plant THREE PINES in their yards to signify that they were welcome at that home. Louise Penny named her fictional town for her mystery series – Three Pines.

The Eastern Townships is wine country, with many opportunities for vineyard tours, so off we went through the countryside.

Ms. T selected Le Vignoble du Russeau in Dunham for a visit. Ended up being the best possible choice.

We arrived, and purchased our tickets for the 3 PM tour. Shortly after the appointed hour we were told no 3PM tour on Friday, the host coming in on a week day was used to the weekend schedules. We were offered a full refund, a glass of wine, and a 45 minute abbreviated tour (for free) – it could not have been better. Started in 2007, an obviously wealthy man wanted to take care of his daughter. She likes wine, so why not develop a winery for her. Everything is “top drawer” including the shop.

We crossed the road for the vineyard. They have developed techniques (soon to be patented) for using geothermal energy to keep soil and roots warm, and facilitate the growing season.

You can see the tubing at the bottom of the vines. I asked about the grapes only growing at the bottom of the vine – that is it. After each season they cut the new growth back, the grapes grow and mature at the bottom, and new growth (to be cut back at the end of the season) continues upwards. We were there before the grapes maturity and tastiness for birds and other critters, but eventually they will be protected once the grapes are tasty to those hungry enemies. The hectares are so well landscaped.

Then we headed to Knowlton and the Auberge Knowlton (images available in the last post), but in the image below, my room is the window on the second floor in the middle of the image. You can see the massive second floor porch on the left, and that is were we planted ourselves each evening making new friends. Dinner the first night was at the Auberge – Thursday is special night – $14 Canadian entrees – $10.50 US, plus taxes and tip.

Breakfast, as last year, was taken at the Star Cafe. Built as a tannery in 1843, a fire in 1903 left only the stone walls. Restoration in 2009 created this wonderful place to eat with a nice atmosphere and servers.

It was then time to head to Magog to the east, and the Orford Express tourist train . Magog is at the northern end of glacial Lac Memphremagog which extends south across the border for a total distance of 31 miles to Newport, Vermont. A beautiful park lines the northern shore with both boating and a boat tour of the lake, and the station for the train. Parking is at a public lot $10C ($7.50 US) for all day, and little jitneys run people back and forth.

soon the train arrived

and it was time to board. There were two coaches and the observation car. A locomotive was at each end.

the coaches were restored and outfitted with comfortable facing seats with a table inbetween

I am sure that the interior of the 1956 Budd Company observation car was outfitted to replicate the ambience of the Orient Express. Wood, appointments, eye candy everywhere.

and, a gallery of two of the appointments – the sculpture at the bottom of the stairway to the observation dome.

and, the dome

and, looking back at the station and lake from the dome.

and, then the 2 1/2 hour luncheon journey began – my friends were impressed. Of course, lunch began with a bottle of wine. The previous day at the winery, posted was a sign asking, “What is a meal without wine? Breakfast!” The wine passed all tests.

and, lunch – stuffed chicken.

The train arrives in Sherbrooke for a half hour layover before the return.

the vintage station has been restored with impressive food stalls

and a farmer’s market and other activities and food venues were outside

remember the image I shared last year, “why you visit the Eastern Townships?” Well, here is a reminder from the park opposite the station – please do click to enlarge.


Desert was served on the way back, along with excellent live entertainment. This young lady serenaded this couple celebrating their anniversary.

all great trips come to an end, and I wandered a tad out onto the dock as the tour boat (owned by the same company) was returning.

and then, back on the jitney to the parking lot. I must mention that Canadians are proud, and their properties impeccable, both private and public. Tacky, colorful plastic yard and children’s toys (seen once we crossed back into the USA) are not to be seen, only colorful flower beds.

I think this a good point to give you a marked up map of the three days’ routes. I encourage you to click on the map for a full screen view. The pink to the west is the route up over the border, side trip to the winery, and then main roads to Knowlton. In yellow to get to Magog quickly I headed up to “interstate” 10, but heading back to Knowlton had to travel back roads – of course. Saturday’s route home headed first down Route 243 to Mansonville (not been in that area before), then back up through Austin to Magog, and then over to North Hatley for lunch. From there back roads through Waterville to Route 147, and south to the border – another “new” route for me.

Friday the 17th was a four-hour repast on the porch. Big lunch, no need for a big dinner. Wine purchased already from the winery with our tour savings, and a stop at the Knowlton IGA for cheese, meats and a baguette was perfect to satisfy all. As usual, I never did open the book I brought to read. Bill and Cheryl from way above Toronto joined us while they ate their picnic on the porch. We all chatted, shared, and learned from each other subjects from agriculture to geology, to local history, some politics, and Canadian medical care. What more could you ask for?

In the morning it was back to Star Cafe for coffee and breakfast shortly after 7. One of our party, to avoid acute crankiness, requires coffee by 7AM. We entered to learn they open at 8, but wait, this is Canada, and we were graciously welcomed to sit, have coffee and wait for the kitchen to open. I went light this morning with French Toast, and the most amazing pulled ham.

Some shopping followed (for the females in the group) before we sadly departed. On the way out of town we stopped at Lac Brome Ducks (essentially correct). Last year a fire had consumed the visitor shop, so we had to see the new facility.

I had worked out some roads before not taken to North Hatley, and then from there south. See the eastern pink markings on the map above. Off south to Mansonville (no not him), to Vale Perkins, Knowlton Landing, through Magog to North Hatley, for this view of the lake from my parking spot.

and, sitting on the sidewalk, for me it was MEXICAN SALAD REDUX.


With this trip, and these two border crossings I have now covered all crossings to and from Canada from Vermont and New Hampshire. RAY RECOMMENDS avoid I-91 and I-89 crossings. It is much more fun waking up sleeping guards at remote spots, but alas, there were three vehicles ahead of us. Did I say this was isolated? Well, the Duty Free shop did not make it as you can see in the gallery below.


Not having been there before, I had to follow Vermont 114 south to Island Pond and below. It follows railroad tracks. Island Pond is isolated, but at least had a gas station. The train station below is lovely, but the commercial block reminded me of some of the remote western towns I saw from my cross-country train trip.

Eventually intersecting with I-91 it was a straight shot home, full of more Canadian memories.

the following is adapted and reiterated from IN SEARCH OF THREE PINES:


1 – Learn all you can about the Eastern Townships, and visit, and visit often
2 – You do not even have to get Canadian money. You can use a credit card for everything, and I did again – have not yet totaled it, but at 75 cents US for $1 Canadian, another bargain trip.
3 – Travel Vermont Route 108 from outside Stowe to the border, BUT particularly through Smuggles’ Notch
4 – Start reading Louise Penny mysteries
5 – AND, travel NOW to the Eastern Townships

I will head back soon (I said it before, and say it again), thanks for traveling with me, yours, RAY


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For awhile my cousins and I had planned to visit, and it finally worked out on Thursday, 25 July, I headed to my aunt’s home in Mystic, Connecticut, Steve arrived from Colorado, and Debbie came by ferry from Block Island. A quick trip for us all, it was a nostalgic four hour visit. My aunt, now in her late 90s, is failing mentally, but it was obvious she had some idea of our visit and conversation. The most touching moment was when I was leaving, her care-giver had helped her outside, where I saw her smile and wave. Touching and tearful.

A long, but not impossible day, I decided at the last moment to stop on the way home (backroads, of course). I was finally in the “quiet corner” of Connecticut at the right time of year to visit the Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, it made sense. I found Henrietta House Bed & Breakfast on US Route 44 in Ashford, an area I had not reached previously. The B&B, a 300 year survivor, fascinating features, owned by only five families in those three centuries.

Knocked off my feet, you know I love original, and was born in the wrong century. The right (above) part of the home was built c1722. The “new” deck on the right was off my room. The addition to the left was added about 1740 with a massive central fireplace. Actually, not totally centered in the resulting structure because the rear half with its fireplace (see below) opens up to the original structure – fascinating, and must be seen. Remember, you may click on an image to open the gallery.

The owner wishes to maximize her sustainable life, and maintains a small farm of pigs, goats, and gardens. She does this well because you barely can see that her solar panel system is atop the 19th century barn, seen here from my deck.

It was feeding time, before breakfast feeding time for Ray, so I meandered out to the barn. There were two mama pigs, the lucky daddy, and 15 little ones running around. Yes, I asked, the little ones are but three days old, and they come out running. Yes, again I asked the gestation period being told three months, three weeks, and three days (give or take three minutes I must add). Sorry, forget the breed of this pig/hog, but someday they will make it to the house (on a plate).

Walking back to the home I stopped at the door handle seeing something I have only seen once before – a marking on the handle.  I knew what it was

My hostess knew it was there, and also the similar one on the rear door. But she had no idea of the significance. In October 2017 I had a fantastic trip to Historic Deerfield, and then had great experiences at Old Sturbridge Village. That first evening the plan was for dinner at Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, MA.  The large 18th century inn is named for the almost exact Hexmark on its front door handle. From the Salem Cross Inn’s blog, “at first sight, the hexmark appears as a Roman numeral 10, or two triangles, with a line across the center of it. There were many symbols that related to the witch trials, many symbolized whether you believed in the actual Puritan ways. The hexmark was meant to ward off “ye evil spirits of deviltry” that the supposed Salem Witches “carried” with them. If you had this on your door, it was to show others you believed in the superstitions that came with wanting the good spirits. Those who did not believe in the accusations of the witchcraft put themselves at risk if they did not show they stood behind the Puritans, therefore making themselves targets.” – so, now you know.

Sharing the above with my hostesses, I could then eat, knowing I was safe.

I have mentioned before that Connecticut Route 169 must be driven. So before picking up that route north, I crossed on US 44 through Pomfret (beautiful) to Putnam for antique shops I frequent when in the area. Bought two books in one shop —  priced such that they will be a big score once sold, another trip paid for.

It was then up to Woodstock, Connecticut to the green with the Woodstock Academy at the head.

and then across the street for Roseland Cottage, the Bowen House.

I have been a member, supporting Historic New England and its properties for a number of years, but never visited a property. I have only been in this area the wrong time of year, or day to visit. Today was the day, and with “Ray luck,” I arrived just minutes to show my membership card before the noon tour began.

here is a gallery of a few images to whet your appetite.

Built in 1846 as a summer cottage, the property was in the family until 1970 when acquired by Historic New England. A time capsule of originality with its 1880’s improvements. And its builder, Henry C. Bowen, was a successful merchant and well-connected. His parties and events included grand Fourth of July parties, begun in 1870 to promote patriotism. The Independence Day celebrations continued for twenty-five years. Hundreds were invited, and thousands gathered for the festivities. Well-heeled did I say? Three United States presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Rutherford B. Hayes, and three past and future presidential candidates, John C. Fremont, James G. Blaine, and William McKinley attended the celebrations.

Here is the Presidential bedroom. If I remember correctly, Grant only spent the day, and did not sleep here (but wait until you read further).

This new carriage was purchased to meet President Grant at his train,

and can be see in the oldest existing bowling alley in the country. President Grant rolled a strike, and wanted to celebrate smoking a cigar. Bowen, opposed to all vices, invited the President to smoke across the street.

And, finally (but there is so much more to see and learn here), below on the left is the outhouse attached to the woodshed (center) and icehouse (right). This improved necessary convenience was built for President Grant. The right hand image is the “President’s Throne” (my clever term for it) – remember to click to enlarge.

Only a half hour away, and on the way home (and if not directly I would still do it) you know what I did – OSV – Old Sturbridge Village – for a short visit (easy and painless when a member). Here is a panorama you can click for full screen looking down the common from the meeting house.

Walking in, these 1834 gentlemen were harvesting rye. The seeds will be thrashed for grain, middle part of the stalks can be woven into straw hats and the like, and the thicker bases used in broom making – I love learning, up-close and first hand.

I have become cognizant of 19th century small one or two room attorney’s offices (wrote a story for the August issue of the Walpole Clarion – page 16). So, before sitting on a bench on the common watching and enjoying everyone strolling around, I took another look at the 1796 Law Office originally from Woodstock, Connecticut.

next door at the Parsonage (c1748 from East Brookfield, Mass.) there was a gardening demonstration.

and, I stay awhile in one of my favorite buildings – Isaiah Thomas’ c1780 Printing Shop from Worcester, Massachusetts. I always learn something new about 19th century printing.

a stop in the gift shop, bought another book, and then backroading home on basically the most direct route, but about 20 minutes longer than fast slabs – well worth it. So follow US 20 west from Sturbridge; 148 north to the Brookfields; turn left on Massachusetts 9 (pass the Salem-Cross Inn); north on 32; bear left on 32A (more direct) then when it ends, follow 32 into wonderful Petersham (I last stopped here 7 April 2019, and if you forget why, click on this link), where you will find another Law Office.

Brooks Law Office, circa 1830 is all I have learned so far. Interior has been restored.

and, then it was an easy trip home

1 – Visit Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut
2 – Visit Old Sturbridge Village
3 – Become a member of Old Sturbridge Village and take advantage of their special events
4 – Become a member of, and support Historic New England
5 – get out and explore and shunpike

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After my return from Buffalo in May I knew I had to get back to Erie Canal explorations sooner rather than later. I need more of Buffalo, and having now spent three more days on the eastern portion of the Erie Canal I know I need more time there also. In fact, I envision three more trips, hopefully this year, to see what I missed and learned about.

Completed in 1825, the canal was immediately popular and full. Enlargement began, completing in 1862. The final route change was with the Barge Canal completed in 1918. At that time packed with traffic, but the interstates and trains now get most of the cargo. The Erie Canal is being reinvented for recreation. Below is a chart of the developments. I want to see where all three routes were. Some places the original and enlarged remains can be seen. My frustration is finding a good map(s) showing the actual original routes with overlays. The quest will continue, and maybe I will have to create such a map to help others.

Both the Champlain and Erie Canals begin in the Hudson River. In fact, Lock 1 of the Erie is in the Hudson. The Barge Canal begins in Waterford with Lock 2 at a lovely facility. Below is from that dock looking at Lock 2.

and, turning around looking west to the Hudson. The bridge is an old railroad, now one-way car, bridge over to Peebles Island (which I also explored).

a close up of Lock 2, its lift is 33.6 feet.

After a quick look at Peebles Island and the state park, I crossed the Mohawk River heading up to Cohoes on the southwest side of the River – an industrial city being restored that I must tour. Besides the Niagara Escarpment, the Cohoes Falls were the biggest obstacle to the Erie Canal construction efforts. Falling a height of 90 feet, the Cohoes Falls comes close to Niagara Falls 167 feet.

there is a park and overlook. The chart below finally filled in my blanks of the routes in this area. At this point, the first two canals were south of the Mohawk River, and the Barge Canal cut in from Waterford north of the river. Cohoes became quite an industrial area, now restored, and part of my next explorations.

and a panorama that you can enlarge to full screen

It was then back across the river to follow the barge canal, stopping first at Lock 3.

Locks 2 and 3 above are the beginning of the Waterford Flight of Locks 2 through 6 of the 1918 Barge Canal. These five locks have a lift of 169 feet in just over 1.5 miles. Until recently these locks were the highest lift in the shortest span in the world. The five lock’s lifts range from 32.5 to 34.5 feet, and accomplish what the 18 original locks accomplished in Cohoes, and 16 pairs of double locks with the enlarged canal in the 1860s. Here is Lock 4 looking back to Waterford

and, now looking west you can barely see Lock 5

This panorama (which, again, you can click to full screen) gives a feeling of this wonder of multiple locks. You can see in my images, that the Locks, on back roads, are not tourist areas. I had the beautiful areas to myself.

After Lock 6, and before the canal enters the Mohawk River are these guard gates.

Guard gates can be found along the canal, and are used to close off the flow of water. This enables draining of sections for repair work, or flood control. I am just overwhelmed with the engineering that has gone into this marvel.

You may have noticed this adventure started on a Sunday – not my usual departure day, but the museum I wanted to see at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Of course I had already explored this short stretch for longer than planned, and the historic site still an hour away. And, within that drive were many more canal sites I wanted to experience. But, trying to follow the river, I got lost, not having carefully researched the back roads. I asked WAZE to get me to there quickly, and arrived about 2:30. What I missed along the way, well “on the list” for the next trip to the area.

The historic site is spread out over 245 acres with locks, canal buildings and an old canal store, and remains of an aqueduct. All three canal periods in one place. Starting first in the museum, the young docent was a wealth of canal history. We shared notes, and comments on canal history books.

Museum – Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site

turning around looking across the Schoharie River are the remains of the aqueduct from the Enlarged Canal period.

just south of the museum is the original canal. Until the enlargement and the aqueduct, canal traffic was towed across the Schoharie River entering at this point. When the canal was routed a tad to the north with the aqueduct, this section became a feeder canal (with water) for the enlarged canal. Now filled in at this point.

this model in the museum shows where the original and enlarged canals were co-located, and can still be seen. Seen that is, if you remember. I was so excited to get from the Barge Canal to the old Canal store I forgot the short hike to this spot – well, next time.

If you leave the museum in Fort Hunter, and head north towards Tribes Hill, in moments you cross the Mohawk on a movable dam. Just a few road crossings go across the moveable dams whose sections (below the fixed road bed) can be raised or lowered to control the river’s flow. Lock E12, Tribes Hill, is in the foreground

Another proud young lock keeper going off duty, wanted to show off the old power plant. Instead of water driven turbines, this internal combustion engine (with a back up) drove the electric motor in the middle.

Then I headed down to a set of locks with an old canal store – totally forgetting about the set of locks I mentioned above. That is the Mohawk River (and Barge Canal) behind the old store.

and, some history you can click to enlarge and read

Finishing up this spot, and enjoying it, there was just the right amount of time left to drive to the Victorian B&B in Little Falls, New York, for the 5PM arrival I promised. Little Falls is interesting, the B&B not well marked, and it took awhile for Oscar to answer the door. After I took a nap, Oscar and Linda offered a tour of the town prior to heading to get a bite to eat. Nice town, nice architecture, few eating options, historic, clean B&B, etc. But, buy me dinner and I will keep you in stitches with stories of Oscar and Linda.

The plan for Monday was to see the inside of Union Station in Utica, deadheading there, and then working back to Little Falls. After my cross-country train trip I discovered the impressiveness of the interior of the station which I had not been able to see when traveling through.

Backroading to Utica, first this old railroad bridge caught my eye (originally thinking it another canal aqueduct, I learned the right story in Herkimer)

First stop heading to Utica was to be GEMS ALONG THE MOHAWK. It is the building below and to the right, along the dock. Inside is the tourist information area, a shop, and restaurant., The building is sandwiched between the River and the NY State Thruway.

When I traveled the canal about 10 years ago this was an evening stop, with lodging at a nearby motel. The real “gem” inside is Melody Milewski, the hostess. She needs to write several books. Canal history galore as she was a previous director (and her husband the last hoggee on the canal) of the now closed Erie Canal Village in Rome – a real sad story, and in no way her fault. She also worked for a small private cruise line – BLOUNT SMALL SHIP ADVENTURES – and looking at their website they have just what I want touring the Great Lakes, Erie Canal and Hudson River. I learned so much from her. You may have heard of the Herkimer Diamond Mines – another trip someday. The owner of the mine (the only lady owned mine in the US) is a friend of Melody’s, and when the village closed she begged Melody to come work for her at GEMS, which she also owns. Well, “gem Melody” provided me with a wealth of travel information – thank you.

Next stop

Here is a real gem, and to whet your appetite, here is but one quote from Wikipedia – “Inside is a restaurant and a barber shop, one of the few barber shops in a train station today. The 15,000-square-foot waiting room’s 47-foot-high vaulted ceiling is supported by 34 marble columns. The station’s blueprints called for the importing of columns that originally adorned Grand Central Station in New York City. Eight large benches are heated with steam pipes and vents.” Below is my first stop in Utica on 8 June this year, and almost the same view on this trip, 15 July (but from the station platform, and not car vestibule).

how can you not want to visit here?

also based from the Utica station is the Adirondack Scenic Railroad – obviously another planned trip.

people were coming onto the platform – then the announcement came, a train heading to NYC was due in. Yes, I waited. Again, perfect Ray timing.

I was tempted

but this was a canal adventure trip, so it was back to find Lock 19. Again, Ray’s perfect timing as the Tug – Governor Roosevelt (circa 1928) – was just about to lock through.

Deja Vu? Yes — see the railroad bridge? Amtrak’s route to Chicago. I remembered looking out the lounge car of the Lake Shore Limited while on the bridge, seeing the lock, but zooming by too fast to take a picture. But, now I could watch this historic Tug lock through. Here are two galleries you can open up to view larger.


bye Governor Roosevelt

now heading back east – quick lunch, even though well after 1 PM – on the canal of course at the Ilion (NY) Marina.

In Ilion (yes, Ilion, New York) is the Remington Museum and Country Store at the Remington Arms factory. Had to stop there. Eliphalet Remington built his first hand forged rifle in 1816, and when he founded the Remington Arms Company he moved it to Ilion on the Erie Canal in 1828. This could be the oldest US manufacturer still making its original product in the same location. Guess what, “Staffing Problems – Museum Closed.” Well, maybe next time.

Continuing east on 5S south of the Mohawk River now (NY5 is north of the river – the route I took out to Utica) there was not much until looping back into Little Falls. Well, there is Lock 18, with signs hard to find. Tied up is the tour boat that runs from Herkimer.

Then there is the Herkimer Home State Historic Site on NY 169. On the canal trip I took years ago we had a side trip here. Built about 1764, this is the home of Revolutionary War hero, General Nicholas Herkimer who in 1777, while en route to help defend Fort Stanwix was ambushed by British-allied Loyalists and Iroquois at Oriskany. This was an important battle that essentially stopped the western pronged attack of the British attempt to cut New England off from the rest of the colonies. I visited and reported on Oriskany in October 2011. I am learning I do not know enough (or much of anything) about the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley – yes, I have a pile of information to plan that learning trip.

Here is the General’s home.

I distinctly remember looking out over the garden when I was there before – I wanted to replicate the garden. The monument marks the spot from which he led his troops west.

and, his grave in the family cemetery and large obelisk the state of New York erected.

Swinging back into Little Falls, here is Lock 17. With a lift height of 40.5 feet it was once the highest single lift lock in the world (think one on the St. Lawrence Seaway is now higher). It is hard to get an image of this lock.

but, climbing up the ladder to the lock, catch these views, which you can click to enlarge.

how about a panorama from atop the lock? Click on the below for a full screen view looking back at the Route 169 bridge over the Mohawk River.

Next a look at the antique shops in the preserved mills in Little Falls, and then an iced tea along side the canal at the park.

and, looking west is Guard Gate 4 in Little Falls with some evening fishermen.

Back to Herkimer for dinner at the restaurant at  GEMS ALONG THE MOHAWK.. Returning to the B&B I had some business to catch up on, and “enjoyed” conversations with Oscar and Linda.

Tuesday I had many options for the journey home – three ideas in fact, leaving things open to see “how the spirit moves.” I am that flexible – yes true, and an “inside joke.” But, I did want to travel up the west side of Otsego Lake from Cooperstown – it was the rest of the day that was uncertain – a great way to be, follow the hood ornament (well, there used to be hood ornaments – there I go “dating myself”again).

Beautiful backcountry from Little Falls down NY 167 to Richfield Springs (an old summer resort area) and then onto Cooperstown. Packed with tourists, it was nice to see, but I passed through once before and visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame buying my ticket at 3PM on September 28, 2013 – yes, my ticket in front of me now. Following Route 80 on the west side of the lake (last trip I was on the east side of the lake), I passed the old historic hotel (expensive) and then came to the Farmer’s Museum. No need to see more farms and print shops – remember I am a member of Old Sturbridge Village and Historic Deerfield, but while here, might as well look at the entrance and gift shop.

I went into the entrance in the stone barn above (restrooms in the stone silos) to get a map of the farm to make a decision. There was a sign – Cardiff Giant. I could not believe it, was the GIANT really here (historian that I am)? Yes, and the young lady at the counter (unlike the ticket seller at classic The Stanley Theater in Utica) said, “he is just around the corner if you would like to take a look.” Of course !!!

click to open gallery and read and learn

how many people can say (in the 21st century) that they saw (let alone knew who he is) THE CARDIFF GIANT

how do you top this? Drive up the lake, of course.

and then find the Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park, where you learn how little you know about the American Revolution and the crucial confrontations in this area. More explorations in order.

Back towards the river, heading west, there was the sign to Lock 15.

Still a tad uncertain what do see next, a brochure in my box fell out – Howe Caverns – and that was it. Plug Howe Caverns into WAZE, and head a tad south away from the canal cruising, skipping eating to maximize touring time.

I was surprised to find that this attraction is off by itself, away from the rush of the world and other attractions or amusements. As it is today, it was opened in 1929 (although tours date back into the 19th century).

Ticket purchased, a short wait in the queue for the next tour, and fortunately a small group of less than 20 – their maximum group is about 43. One starts with this animated history of discovery.

That is Mr. Howe, recounting how (I could not resist) he discovered the cave. I have advised our local veterinary to educate everyone to carefully listen to bovines. In May 1842, Howe was looking for his cattle one hot day. He found them up on a hill huddled around some bushes. As he approached he felt a blast of cool refreshing air. Pushing the bushes back he discovered an opening into the ground. He soon entered with the owner of the land. They made many explorations deep underground, and in February 1843, Howe bought the land for $100 – soon making improvements to give tours.

I will let you learn more about the limestone caverns and how (there I go again) they were formed on your own. (I am not the only one, their ticket stub reads YOU NEVER FORGET HOWE). The various formations have been named and described during the tour, and I cannot remember it all. So, here in some galleries is a flavor of what to see almost 200 feet underground. If in the area, do stop by for the 1 1/2 hours cave adventure, which includes a boat ride.


It was then I-88 to Albany, crossing the Hudson to Troy, and Route 7 to Vermont and Route 9. Dinner in Bennington, and back home to “work.” Too much fun.

1 – Explore the Erie Canal in sections. Start with the eastern section from the Hudson River to Schenectady.
2- Expand those explorations further out in the Mohawk Valley.
3- See American Revolution history first hand in this area – crucial to the existence of the United States.
4 – Discover Cherry Valley and the old US Route 20.
5 – Have fun Shunpiking.


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Now onto Part Two of Leg Two of this journey, on the California Zephyr. In part one I am acquainted you with the Superliner and its cars, and completed crossing the Mississippi River on Sunday, 10 June. It is now time to awake, and continue on Monday and Tuesday 10-11 June heading to Sacramento, California

Leg One – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Boston to Chicago – 8-9 June

Leg Two – CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR – Chicago to Sacramento
Part One – Sunday, 9 June

Part Two – Monday and Tuesday, 10-11 June
Leg Three – COAST STARLIGHT – Sacramento to Portland – 11-12 June
and, 24 plus hours in Portland, Oregon
Leg Four – EMPIRE BUILDER – Portland to Chicago – 13-15 June
Leg – Five – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Chicago to Boston – 15-16 June

It has taken awhile for me to continue documenting this journey – sorry, life (and the heat) got in the way. When working on a post I select the images I want to use, and then weave my tale, “filling in the blanks” with my observations, experiences. For this trip I wish to share history along the routes using the detailed guide I carried – USA BY RAIL by John Pitt. I have the 8th edition (towns and their history stay the same), but the 9th edition is now out. Both are available on Amazon in paperback and there is a Kindle version for the new 9th edition. Ray highly recommends getting a copy to study and carry.

I awoke Monday in my roomette to this view out my window. For hours, this became the typical view.

Shortly after 5 AM (remember I do not want to miss anything) I headed down to the shower, which was nice, and then back up to my roomette to dress. More room (relatively speaking) than on the Viewliner, but still with my not so bendable joints it was easier to dress with my feet out the door into the passageway (curtain drawn, not to worry). I bothered no one – the sleeper cars are a quiet oasis.

Here is a typical town – Fort Morgan, Colorado. Most towns have very wide streets between the 1920s storefronts – somewhere I read the why of the wide streets – have to find it to tell you. One thing to remember is that we are traveling by train, seeing towns that came about because of the railroad, probably in the west and mid-west are agricultural or industrial. Small towns, and often with a railroad museum or relic on display. After Fort Morgan you can see Pike’s Peak far off in the horizon to the left. FAST FACT – it was the top of Pike’s Peak that inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write her poem “American the Beautiful.” Combined with music, Bates’ poem was first published as a patriotic song in 1910, and still  titled “America the Beautiful”.

Yes, agriculture and livestock. This stockyard is enough to get you to “swear off meat.” The hides blended together as far as the eye can see – even at 79 MPH.

The observation car was almost packed by 6AM – my guess is because most people were thinking it was 7AM not having set their clocks and bodies back an hour. The schedule called for arrival in Denver at 7:15AM. I checked WAZE at 7:15, and we still had 170 miles to go. According to my notes, we arrived at 10:30AM.

BACK AGAIN Writing – 11 July
When we slowed down once to a walk, I of course asked what was up adding to our delay. To detect problems with the rails (which are connected thankfully), they are connected also with wires carrying a low electric current. If a sensor indicates a break in the current, there could be a break with the rails – not something you wish to find speeding along. So, when near that section where a problem is indicated, the train stops, and someone starts “walking the rails” to see what the problem may be. We soon stopped again, and then picked up speed having retrieved the inspector. I guess nothing serious was wrong, but a “fix” scheduled. Running late into Denver the layover time was shortened a tad. We had also been sidelined for a late running freight, and again for a crew change just miles from the station, the mandatory crew time limit was over. But I did get to “run” down the Denver platform, cross over into the station, and look inside briefly, and back – I did not want to miss the departing train.

In my studies for this journey, I had learned that the best scenery heading west on the California Zephyr is once you leave Denver, and the observation car fills up early. I had to get a good spot, so I scurried back aboard walking around the queueing line for boarding passengers. In the queue were the new Denver passengers, and no one was watching the flanks on either side of the lines. I did not want to wait on line. And, as before, I boarded without showing my paper printout – I do not remember anyone at the door I entered, there may have been and I was recognized. But, if you act like you know what you are doing with confidence – all is usually well.

Re-boarding the California Zephyr in Denver

Finally at 11:51 (almost 4 hours late, but not to worry) we began west out of Denver, amazing – starting with a long climb up the impressive S-Curve to gain height in the foothills. So hard to properly show from a moving train – rail bed coming through the center, to the right and out of image, and looping back left (you can see the road bed).

S-Curve pulling out of Denver

The winding climb continues before entering the first of 29 tunnels (some sources say 28 – I did not count) before approaching the Continental Divide.

not night all of a sudden, just one of the longer tunnels

and the climb continued with some views up, and others back to the barren Colorado plains. In his book, Kinsor states it takes eleven minutes to thread through seventeen tunnels. Also, in my reading, and this is important and correct, heading west you want to be on the right side of the train (looking to the front) for the best views to the side of the Rockies, valleys, just the wow overall views.

Almost two hours out of Denver you enter the Moffat Tunnel for 6.2 miles. Opened in 1928, the tunnel reduced the distance to Salt Lake City by 65 miles, and it is the highest point on Amtrak’s network. You are in the dark for about ten minutes.

Shortly after Moffat Tunnel heading west is Winter Park (Amtrak station actually in Fraser). Temperatures in this area sometimes reach 50 below. There is a massive Ski Resort in the area with look-alike condos for miles – in my opinion, totally ruining the area. Below, in Tabernash, is a coal train, with 100s of gondolas, sidelined. Days ago it had the main track blocked when the engines quit and could not pull the load.

we rolled by Granby with another different Amtrak station. Nearby is the Trail Ridge Road – the world’s highest car road – which travels through the Rocky Mountain National Park. Sorry, my notes say “unimpressed with Granby and area.”

these are the true colors, it does not get much better than this (note dirty window in upper left – they cleaned the windows while we were on the platform in Denver, obviously not well.)

Sidelined again to allow #6 (eastbound Zephyr) to pass – it was also late.

and some more Rockies

and, finally no glare

Some time after Granby the train joined the Colorado River near its source, and we followed it for over 200 miles (I read that, sorry was not counting clickity clacks).

an elevated road on the other side of the Colorado

and after 5 PM (almost 4 hours behind) we arrived in Glenwood Springs, and another classic looking station.

At 5:50 PM we left Glenwood Springs – about 4 hours behind. I made a note at 7PM “open undulating western plains – not flat like flats in Iowa and Illinois — these plains remind me of the scenery in a ‘B’ Western of old.” Not like I just described, but here is a view part way to Grand Junction.

It was almost 8PM arriving in Grand Junction. Enough of a stop to hop off, take a few pictures, and run through the gift shop in the temporary train station – of course, it was arranged to stay open.

Grand Junction station under renovation

I did not see much in Helper, Utah, since we were late, and night darkness had set in (it was after 11 instead of 7:20 as scheduled). I have a note “like an old western town.” The name of the town comes from the need for extra locomotives to be added to westbound freights to climb the mountains.

I turned in, the train continued on, and I slept through Provo Utah; Salt Lake City – hey it was late, dark, and I should get a few hours rest.

I awoke Tuesday the 11th somewhere in Nevada, and by 6 AM was in the observation car, possibly in or past Elko, Nevada. I began to wonder why people live out here – it is just wide open spaces, interspersed by some industrials areas. Of course, I had to remind myself that the train is going to pass through industrial areas, so that is primarily what will be seen for communities.

The next stop for stretching legs was Winnemucca, Nevada.

Railroad travel used to be gentile and accommodations class segregated – first class – coach, etc. There were great distinctions, and totally separate train sections. Kinsor states that the great railroad writer, Lucius Beebe, would find “Amtrak’s democratic homogeneity appalling.” Riding the train (and planes) today is just everyday, nothing to dress up for, take slowly, and without clear class distinction. I guess both sides could be argued – it is just the way the world has changed (I remember wearing a coat and tie to board a plane in the 60s, and even to ride the trains as a pre-teen to New York City for the day). It still is “the experience,” and in one conversation later with a former Amtrak executive, I learned Amtrak is struggling to appeal to millennials who want “the experience.” Again, pick up a copy of Henry Kisor’s ZEPHYR: TRACKING A DREAM ACROSS AMERICA – great stories, history and anecdotes throughout.

Another safety tidbit, and I don’t think I captured an image for you. But, imagine along the side of the tracks a run of small poles 10-15 feet in height with wires strung horizontally every couple feet up the poles. To hold back a rock slide? No. To warn that there has been a slide that broke the wires, and something is now on the tracks. Breaking a wire sends a signal along to warn of the danger.

This image below is somewhere between Sparks and Reno Nevada — again, my “note to self,” I was not impressed with either Sparks or Reno. We arrived in Reno about 3 hours late. In 2007 the trackway was enlarged by digging down through the city in what is now known as “the trench.” Even with the Harrah’s Automobile Collection there (now The National Automobile Museum) I probably do not need to return to see the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the 1908 Round the World Race. In the mid-1950s this car was in its original unrestored state at the Long Island Automotive Museum owned by, Henry Austin Clark,  a friend of my Dad’s. Mr. Clark actually salvaged the winning car from a junkyard. On a visit there I was allowed to sit at the wheel and steer this iconic winning car. The museum closed in 1980. So, now you know another Ray secret that no one else knew.

I had a question about some structures in the middle of a desert area, and stopped a conductor – his great name, “Ray.”  He had a flat hat on indicating he was a conductor. The first car attendant I asked said to ask a conductor because unlike the car attendants they stay local on their 12 hour runs for many, many years – thus they get to know every turn, noise on the tracks, or strange structure I need to know about. Ray told this Ray, “those are isolated mines tunneling way down.” I did not write down what they were mining. So, look for the “flat hat” for a “local area question.” Another slow down, and Ray was still with me. “Why now?” I asked. “We are having trouble with the Positive Train Control, and need to slow to 15 MPH until we can get all systems back in synch.”

Truckee, California, is an inviting town. Having burned to the ground six times between 1871 to 1882, the architecture is for the most part late nineteenth-century western, and with a typical train station.

Truckee, California Amtrak Station.

Next comes the ascent into the Donner Pass. You should know the story of the party of 87 trapped here in 1846 for the winter. By the time of their rescue, nearly half had frozen or starved to death. Some survived succumbing to cannibalism. This is the worst natural disaster of our western expansion.

in time we traveled along glacial Donner Lake for some time. The tunnel after Donner is unique changing direction several times heading back east and then again back west.

I chatted for awhile with a couple from New Zealand – the observation car was almost empty – go figure – am I one of the only one interested in watching the scenery? I listened in on some train enthusiast’s conversations, and settling in to talk was a docent from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento who boarded in Reno to give talks. I just continued to be mesmerized by it all scenery outside, and conversation within. I do have to remember to stop carrying books with me to read as I never get to them.

The schedule called for arrival in Sacramento (where I was to transfer to the Coast Starlight) at 2:13 PM – great, would give me almost 3 hours to explore and get to the railroad museum before it closed at 5. Arriving over 2 hours late, there went those plans. But, I still had almost 7 hours before we left at midnight.

So, I headed off on foot, leaving the Sacramento station (above) behind, and went to explore Old Sacramento, which will come in the next segment of this tale.

Thanks for following and staying “on track” with me, as always, yours, RAY

Posted in 2019-b COAST to COAST to COAST TRAIN TREK - JUNE 2019 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments