Monday, August 30, 2010


I have not been able to upload photographs to my gallery for a while due to a Java problem. As a result I have set up an album on Picassa. You can click on the link below or in the list of "Other Links" on the right.


A Walk in the Woods

We arranged to meet Dale for a day of hiking in Letchworth State Park. We got up around 8 AM and left about 9:30. It was still somewhat foggy and in the low 60's so we both dressed warmly. We rode through Black Creek to Belfast where we met the Genesee River and followed it north. We stopped for a quick breakfast at a Subway in Houghton, and met Dale at the Portageville entrance to the park. Before we went in (at $8 per vehicle), Dale said there were some old locks he had been wanting to check out nearby, so we all drove about 7 miles to where they were located near Nunda.

While everyone has heard of the Eire Canal, not so many know about the Genesee Valley Canal. It was an amazing project for the times and ran from the Erie Canal near Rochester, all the way to Olean, joining the Genesee River which flows north into Lake Ontario, with the Allegheny River which flows west into the Ohio and eventually the Mississippi. Cuba Lake was originally built to supply water for the canal, and was the largest man-made lake in the country at its completion.

When we arrived at the ruins of the historic locks we pulled out Dale's map and discovered that there was a trail from there back to Portageville. Although it was longer than we had planned to hike, almost 6 miles, we decided to go for it. Dale and I took his pickup to the other end of the trail and rode back together on the scooter to the starting point where Dianna waited. I asked him if he felt like throwing newspapers as we did so many times on our paper route in high school.

The trail followed the locks for about half a mile as they climbed, and we marveled at the design and work that went into building them in the early 1800's. When we reached the top of the locks the trail joined the right of way for the old railroad that replaced the canal, so the hike for the next four miles or so was relatively level. Along the way we stopped at a couple geocaches that were right along the trail.

We eventually reached the Genesee Gorge,

and were treated to spectacular views of the middle

and upper falls.

Not many people see the falls from the side we were on because you have to hike to get to it. We could see all the cars and people on the other side.

Just above the upper falls is the Portage Railroad Bridge. The current steel bridge, still in use today, was built in 1875 to replace a wooden bridge that was built in 1852 but burned on May 5, 1875. It is another example of amazing construction from a bygone era.

The last mile or so was more difficult as we left the railroad right of way and climbed up, over and down a ridge to where we had left the truck. According to my GPS we walked 5.71 miles, and all of us were feeling it, although I'm sure Dale was feeling it much less than Dianna and I. It was just a short tune up for his hike next weekend with Karen for him.

We drove into Portageville for ice cream before returning to where we had parked the scooter. We loaded our gear into the scooter, said our goodbyes, and rode back to Cuba, arriving about 6 PM. It was a fun day filled with pretty scenery, good exercise and good times.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Riding Around Day 2

We took a short ride yesterday afternoon to check out a few things. First we rode up to the new High and Middle school north of town. Cuba and Rushford schools have combined. The school is new and modern looking, and is on a large tract of land. Apparently no one walks to school anymore since it is quite a ways from town.

We then visited Cuba Library. They added a new section in 2002 that more than doubled the size of the building. I went in and looked around. It is still a very small library and I am amazed at how small the original building was. Here is a photo of the outside.

We also took another look at the corner where Dad's service station used to be. It is now occupied by a large new fire station that takes up not only the corner but also the lot behind it.

It was a warm afternoon so we continued our ride. We rode over the hill to West Clarksville and took pictures of Aunt Ruth and Uncle Sy's house, as well as the school across the street where she taught.

We then continued south past the West Genessee Cemetery and into Portville. Just as we came into town we noticed a large and beautiful building on the left, surrounded by large lawns. It was Sprague's Maple Farm which is a working commercial maple syrup operation, as well as a very nice restaurant. We stopped in and bought half a gallon of syrup for less than we have found it elsewhere, including Costco, and made plans to come back for breakfast or dinner sometime.

I had no idea where Aunt Hattie and Uncle Ruben Hatch's house was, so we continued our ride through Portville and on to the outskirts of Olean where we turned north to Hinsdale. We stopped at Crosby's to see if they still have ice cream. They do, but it is now Hershey's Ice Cream. We have had that somewhere before and it is very good. Much of their business yesterday afternoon was people getting ice cream. It appears the tradition is still alive.

With that we returned home and spend a quiet evening. Today we have something fun to do as soon as the fog burns off. We'll tell you about it tomorrow.


Wandering around Cuba

I have done some wandering around the past couple days, seeing things from my childhood. On Thursday I rode to Olean to do a little shopping at the Super Wal-Mart there. I took the old road through Maplehurst and Hinsdale, then into downtown Olean. It pretty much parallels the interstate but is much slower and more scenic. In Hinsdale I noticed that the Crosby's Dairy place were we used to get ice cream was now Crosby's Mini-Mart. It looks like they still have a food place too, so we may stop in and check it out someday. Down town Olean looks pretty much like I remember it, but on the outskirts are all the new national chain stores you would find anywhere.

Yesterday we did some major riding around. First we rode up Friendship road to find Mom's old house. It took some doing since the road has been realigned in many places, and the interstate has run through the whole valley. I found her house on a spur road off the main road. The interstate is basically in the back yard. None of the outbuildings are there anymore, but the house looks pretty good. We talked with the current owner for a few minutes.

On the way back into town we pulled off the road on a snowmobile trail above Hidden Canyon , a place I used to play as a child. I hiked down into the canyon and discovered that someone had built and then abandoned a nice brick house there. It looks like it has not been lived in for may years. The valley floor is quite overgrown so it does not look like kids play there anymore. I also took a photo of where the creek flows under the railroad. When the creek was low we would sometimes walk through it to get to Hidden Canyon, but usually we went over the top and across the tracks.

We then rode up Spring St. to the end of the road. The elevation is about 2,000 feet there and the views of Cuba were very pretty. Then we rode back into town and past the city park where the Little League ballpark is located. I think the Trask family lived on the south side of the park. They are some distant cousins. We then rode out South St. and under the railroad overpass to look at the horse barn. It is still an impressive building and very much in use.

We rode back into town and down Orchard St. past the Briggs house again. I noticed that there is no longer a car bridge on Mill street to get across the creek. There is only a foot bridge. We drove up West Main past the old depot which no longer exists, although the track is still obviously in use, and past Cuba Memorial Hospital. It looks much different now with all the additions.

We came back into town via Prospect street where my piano teacher lived, and past the upper mill which is now a feed store. We also stopped at the house on West Main where Mom and Dad rented an apartment while building our house on Hill St. I also took a photo of the creek beside the apartment as well as a photo of the park across the street. It looks very much like it did. I think the slide is the same one that Dale and I used to wax up with waxed paper when we used it.

We then rode past the old high school which is now apparently just the elementary. The elementary school across the street that was built when I was a kid is now a private academy. There is a new high school north of town. We also rode up Medbury past where the old school used to be. It was no longer in use when I was a kid, and I think maybe even when Mom went to school. It has been torn down and there are now apartments in its place. As long as we were there we rode around the cemetery and past Millers house.

After a quick stop at the Cheese Shoppe for some curd we rode north out of town to Moonwinks, which is now a high priced restaurant, turned left onto the south shore road and took a ride all the way around the lake. On the way we made a short detour to Oil Springs, where oil was first discovered on the North American continent, and then a quick stop were the old Cuba Lake Pavilion was located. Everything is gone and replaced with houses except that the house where the Merry Go Round was located is built in the shape of the building that housed it. I don't know if they used the original octagonal shaped building or just recreated the shape.

We continued on to the Black Creek Road, past the house that someone won in a national contest (Hotpoint or something like that), and rode up to Black Creek. I was bussed to Black Creek for 5th grade. This looks like the building I remember. It looks like a private home or apartment building now.

All in all it was a fun afternoon of wandering around.

I will post pictures in my gallery when I figure out what is wrong with Java.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Goodbye New Hampshire, Hello Cuba!

The correct parts for the new trailer brakes finally arrived Monday and were installed and tested by about 1:30 Tuesday. Although it was raining we decided to head out for more scenic locales. We followed I-495 down around Boston, then took the Massachusetts Turnpike and a short section of the New York Thruway to Schenectady and stopped for the night in the town of Central Bridge where we stayed about three weeks earlier.

Although it rained most of the afternoon I was able to try out the new braking system in a few places. It works great. I have more stopping power than I have ever had towing a trailer. It's a good feeling, but he wallet does not feel so good. In addition to having the brakes done while in NH, we also had to have some suspension work done on the truck. With over 660,000 miles on it, it is not unexpected for some things to wear out.

We decided to spend some more time in Western New York, partly so we could spend a little more time with Dale's family and with Greg and Tina, but also because it is still too hot to head south toward Tennessee. Rather than traveling further north we decided to keep our expenses low and just find a place to hunker down. After making several phone calls and consulting multiple campground guides we discovered that there is an RV park (yes, an RV park -- not a campground) in Cuba that is about half as expensive as anything else we could find in Western New York. So, here we are, back where I started from.

We don't have any specific plans yet, but will probably be here a month. I talked to Dale a little while ago and I think he needs a social secretary. He is a busy guy but we will find times we can get together here, there, and in between. It's about 75 miles to his place and about 85 to Greg and Tina's from Cuba. We want to visit Letchworth, take a drive down to Potter County, and spend some more time wandering around.

In the meantime we will enjoy the cooler temps and the beautiful scenery while we wait for it to cool down. Mom has already sent an email telling us how jealous she is and giving us some picture taking assignments. I'm sure Don is also jealous because the Cuba Cheese Shop is only a couple hundred yards from our RV site. Can you say curds?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Kank

On Saturday we took the longest scooter ride we have ever taken. Let me assure you that 250 miles in 7 hours is tough on the behind!

Several people here told us about the scenery in the northern part of New Hampshire. In particular they suggested that we would enjoy the Kancamagus Scenic Byway between Conway and Lincoln. It is about a 30 mile highway that is best known as one of the premier drives for seeing fall foliage.

We left the Kingston area where we are staying and rode north on highway 125 to highway 16 that runs to Conway. The traffic was very heavy in places as it seems many people had the same idea. It turns out that the Conway/Lincoln area is very heavily visited all summer long, and Conway in particular is a major tourist destination.

The scenery on the way up was just about as good as the scenery on the Kank itself, except that there are some vistas as the highway rises to an elevation of over 2800 feet at the crest. For those of us westerners that sounds silly, but it is a big deal here. The road follows a pretty river for part of the route and there were several areas that had many visitors. Not only were the parking lots full but people were parking along the road. One particularly crowded area was near a waterfall that was a popular swimming and sunbathing area.

The return route brought us down I-93 but for an interstate highway, it was still a pretty ride. We arrived home with sore behinds but had a good time in spite of it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

That's the Brakes

No, it's not a misspelling, just a poor pun in the title, but you will understand why after reading this post.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we are having new brakes put on the trailer.  A little background is in order.  Most RV trailer brakes are electric.  It is a system that has been around for many, many years.  It consists of drum style brakes on each trailer wheel that are engaged when an electrical current activates an electromagnet that tries to grab the turning wheel drum.  This in turn causes the arm attached to the electromagnet to turn, thereby mechanically applying the brake shoes through a gear and cam system.  The electric current is supplied from a brake controller on the tow vehicle.  This controller can be of various types but is most commonly a mechanical or electronic pendulum that senses when the tow vehicle is slowing, and applies a proportionate current to the trailer brakes.

There are many problems with this type of system, but one benefit.  It is cheap.  That's why trailer manufacturers use them.   The drawbacks are that they need constant adjustment, do not work well when hot, are not proportionate to the brake pedal pressure, tend to rust when not used, rely on electrical signals and a lot of wire that is exposed to the elements and passes through fuses and connectors, including the notoriously unreliable trailer plug where the lights also connect.  Although there are better brake controllers for the tow vehicle, they do not address most of the issues.

All cars use hydraulic brakes, and have since the 30's or 40's.  Hydraulic brakes use a couple cylinders and brake fluid that presses the brake shoes or discs against the braking surface.  Starting in the 60's disc brakes also replaced drum brakes on the front wheels of most cars (where most of the braking occurs), and now many cars have disc brakes on front and rear.

RV manufacturers have continued to use electric brakes, and do to this day.  In recent years however, some aftermarket manufacturers as well as some axle manufacturers have begun offering hydraulic disc brakes for RV's.  It is rare for them to be offered on new trailers except as an option on the heaviest or custom rigs, but many owners are now upgrading their rigs with the newer systems.  The resulting improvement in braking performance is remarkable.

There is still the decision about how to apply the brakes.  Disc brakes need hydraulic pressure and use brake fluid.  It is not possible or practical to tie into the tow vehicles braking system, and of course it is impossible when the tow vehicle has air brakes like we do.  The two basic approaches are to use an electrically operated hydraulic pump that is controlled by the same old inertial brake controller, or if you have a tow vehicle with  air brakes, use the air system to operate a hydraulic master cylinder, very similar to the way it happens in your car.

The advantage of the air actuated system is obvious.  There are no electrical connections to corrode, short out or fail.  The system relies on the same air pressure from the truck to apply the trailer brakes as it uses to apply the truck brakes.  The brake response is instantaneous (unlike the electrical type that must wait for the hydraulic pump to spool up) and proportionate.  The system is installed in the trailer and consists of an air tank, a master cylinder and a few valves.  Air is provided through the use of the same "glad hands" that all commercial trucks use to supply air to their trailers.  Those are the red and blue coiled air hoses you see connecting the truck to the trailer.

All those who have had this system installed rave about it.  It is a tremendous improvement in safety and driveability.  We are looking forward to reporting on our experience with it as soon as we get it installed.   And therein lies the rub, so to speak.  Although the brake controller system arrived from the manufacturer as promised, and is already installed on the truck and trailer, the disc brake manufacturer had supply issues and did not ship them until last Friday.  They are expected to arrive on Wednesday and should be installed Thursday and maybe into Friday.

So here we sit, hiding behind a building in an industrial park.  We do have 50 amp electric and water hookups, and we have internet and TV, so other than the view it's not too bad.  We'll let you know how it all turns out.

Update --

The parts arrived on Wed as scheduled and today was install day. Well, almost. Some of the parts were the wrong ones, so the correct ones have been ordered but will not be here until Monday. So we get to spend another weekend in the industrial park. It could be worse. I could be paying to park here.

Maybe we will take a ride on the scooter this weekend to see some more of NH.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


As I said in the previous post, we arrived in Boston on Tuesday, the 3rd.  What I had not told you about was the fact that we brought Patricia's computer desk with us.  Patricia needed the desk in their new apartment and Greg and Tina did not have room for it in either of the two cars they were driving from Rochester to Boston, so we agreed to take it for them.  It was very heavy but separated into the desk part and the hutch part.  Greg and I managed to get it loaded into the trailer (there was no way it would fit inside the truck) and we were still just able to get the slides in.

Greg and Tina arrived on Wednesday and like most everyone else, stayed in hotels in downtown Boston or Cambridge.  After making a few phone calls we learned that Tina's parents, who are also RV'ers, were staying in the same campground we were, and arriving that afternoon.   Tina's Dad Arnie came over and helped me get the desk out of the trailer and onto the back of the truck.  We then set off on the 25 mile trip to MIT where Patricia and David's apartment is located.

Since I did not know how to get there, I followed my GPS's directions.  Wrong!  It took me directly into downtown Cambridge and onto Memorial Drive, the street that runs along the Charles River.  It is clearly marked as "No Trucks", but what was I going to do?  The only real issues were heavy traffic and the height restrictions.  I feel like I should send the City of Cambridge a bill for tree trimming as I certainly trimmed more than a few.  We soon came to a place where an overpass was too low for us to continue so we detoured on some nearby residential streets until we could get back on Memorial Drive and eventually to our destination.   The 25 mile trip took an hour an a half.  The trip back to our campground took even longer due to heavier traffic and construction detours that started at 8 PM.  Fortunately I was able to learn of a route with more height clearance from some moving van drivers who were unloading furniture in the same apartment.

Thursday we started our sightseeing.  Dianna, Dom and I drove to the nearest subway station where we could park the truck for the day ($11.50) and took the subway to downtown Boston and then out to Cambridge for a tour of Harvard University.  There we met up with Carrie, Julie, Marie, Michele and Kelli (Michele's friend).  After the tour and some lunch we all took the subway down Mass Avenue a couple miles to MIT where Patricia met us and gave us all a behind the scenes tour.  Both universities have a lot of history and interesting architecture.

After the tour it began to rain -- no, make that pour.  We all got soaked but that did not stop us from walking to a nearby ice cream shop for some sustenance that would keep us going on our way home.  We left MIT at 4 PM for our journey back to the campground, 25 miles away.  Carrie was with us as she was staying with us for the week.  It took almost 2 hours to get to the subway station where we had parked our truck, and another hour of driving to get back to the trailer.  Someone needs to explain to me how great public transportation is, and why anyone in their right mind would live in the Boston area.  Three hours to go 25 miles.

Friday Dianna, Carrie, Dom and I visited nearby Minuteman National Historic Park in Concord and Lexington.  We stood on the North Bridge where the "Shot heard round the world" was fired and watched a very good movie about what happened there.  On the road between Concord and Lexington we stopped at a couple places including the spot where Paul Revere was captured on his midnight ride.  We learned that much of what we know of his ride warning the patriots has been "spun", to put it mildly.  He was only one of many riders that night, although he was probably the best known in the leadership of the movement.  He did not make it to Concord since he was captured but Dr. Samuel Prescott, who was returning from Lexington to Concord and met up with Revere, did.

In fact, after spending some time here I am convinced that much of what we celebrate and teach about the Revolutionary War, and all other wars for that matter, is romanticized and embellished by writers and those who want to put the proper spin on things after the fact.   No one really knows what was said that is often quoted and enshrined on statues.  At that point in history the idea of breaking away from England was only held by a very few.  Many were unhappy about paying high taxes but the idea of independence was still a ways away.

Sorry about the editorial comments.

After visiting the Minuteman Park we drove to Walden Pond and did some hiking.  We visited the spot where Henry David Thoreau built and lived in his cabin in the woods, and then hiked all the way around the pond.  It was about a two hour hike and just what we all needed -- more walking.

Saturday was the wedding for which we all traveled to this side of the continent.  Being Saturday, we were able to drive the truck to a parking lot near the church in Cambridge where we could park for free on weekends.  Traffic was much lighter and it only took us 45 minutes to go the 25 miles.  The wedding was very nice. Patricia was a beautiful bride and she and David are off in Vermont on their honeymoon.  Tina decorated their gorgeous cake and the reception was catered by Boston Market.  We all helped clean up afterward and by the time that was done we were all ready to eat again.  We all took the subway to downtown Boston (across the Charles River) where we did a little sight seeing and then had dinner just off Boston Common.  We were quite a large group by then as Marie's husband Adam and Michele's boyfriend Robert had joined us.

Sunday we again drove in to Cambridge and parked at the school.  We then took the subway to Boston Common where everyone except Robert, Michele and Kelli met to do the Freedom Trail.  It is a two and a half mile walk through downtown Boston that takes you to many of the historic places in the city.  If you are interested in all the stops you can Google it.  Of course it included the Old North Church, Paul Revere's home and several meeting houses.  The last stop on the trail is the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides".  We took the tour and everyone enjoyed seeing the ship.  It is undergoing maintenance again, an almost continuous process, so we did not get to see the height of the masts nor the cross arms, but it is still an impressive ship.  They still sail it about six times a year.  We took the ferry from the Charleston Navy Yard where the Constitution is moored, back to downtown Boston where we all said our goodbyes and hopped on the subway for the ride back to the truck again.

Monday was spent mostly in the Concord area again, except for an early morning motorcycle ride I took to West Kingston, NH and back.  I went to make arrangements to have a new braking system installed on our trailer.  More about that later.

When I returned from NH I took Dianna, Carrie and Dom to Concord where they rented a canoe for a couple hours and paddled from the South Bridge to the Old North Bridge on the Concord River and back.  Along with swimming in the pool and making 'smores that evening, that pretty much filled our last day in the campground.

Tuesday we packed everything up, towed the trailer to a nearby truck stop where we could leave it for a couple hours, and drove Carrie to the subway station so she could make her way back to the airport and home.  We returned to get the trailer and then drove up to New Hampshire where we parked the trailer behind one of the building in the industrial park where we will have the brake work done.  We then drove the 20 miles or so to Rye Beach, New Hampshire so Dom and Nana could go for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.  Unfortunately, since we are above Cape Cod the Gulf Stream does not reach this coast and neither went in farther than their waist.  Oh well.  He's now been in both the Atlantic and Pacific, and of course Dianna has been in the Arctic as well.

Wednesday was Dom's last day with us this year.  The wife of the owner of the place we are having the brake work done offered to take us to the airport.  It is about a 40 mile trip each way and Dom's plane left at 5:30 so it was heavy commute traffic time.  She knew the best way to go to miss as much of it as possible, and all it cost was a tank of gas and dinner.

We had a good time with Dom this year.  He saw lots of the country, including eight new states, and was a joy to have along.  We look forward to having his spend time with us again next summer if he is so inclined.

So now you can see that we have been busy.  And, it's not over yet.  We're now trying to relax for a few days and get our sanity back. Come back soon for another installment of "The Summer of 2010 with Richard and Dianna".

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Western New York - Part 2

OK.  OK.  I know it's been a while since we posted, but we've been busy.  I'll try to remember everything but no guarantees.  I'll also break it up into more than one post.

Dale and Karen decided on an outing for the day.  We all met in Lockport near the Erie Canal locks and took a tour of some tunnels there.  They were dug and used for power in the early days of the industrial revolution.   They were built similar to hydro electric power systems of today, but they ran belts and pulleys that did work in the factory instead of generators.  It was interesting.

We met at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Lockport and had quite a group.  Jen and her three were there as well as Karen, Nate and Noah.  They had driven up from Pittsburgh the day before.  Dale had just finished his deliveries for the day and met us there too.  He was not officially off work yet, but he had a couple hours before he had to return to the warehouse.  After the tunnel tour and some hiking along the canal all of us except Dale had a very late lunch at a nearby restaurant.  We then all met at Jen and Dale's house in Buffalo for a while.  Dom showed Noah and the rest of us some tricks on his skateboard, then Jen and her family left for Franklinville.  We headed home soon thereafter.

The next day we drove to Rochester.  There were lots of low trees and repaving in Greg and Tina's development, but we made it with no damage.  They live in a pretty area on a large lot.  We were able to park the trailer and truck in the driveway with room left over.  After eating lunch we all (Me, Dianna, Dom, Greg, Tina and Michele) headed down to Lake Canandaigua where we met Dale, Karen, Nate, Noah, Dave and Lisa.  We had never met Lisa before and she is a real sweetheart.  Dave is a lucky guy.

We rented some kayaks and spent some time on and in the lake.  Well, everyone except for Dale and I.  We decided we were too old and didn't want to get wet.  Dom & Michele had a good water fight  with Karen and Noah out on the lake so they all got soaked.  We then headed back toward Rochester where we all had pizza for dinner.  It was a long day and we said our goodbyes to Dale and his clan.  It was great fun spending time with them.

Sunday we went to church and then puttered around the rest of the day.  I rotated tires on my trailer and did some work on the brakes.  I've been fighting some shorts in the electric brakes on the trailer and it is becoming more problematic all the time.  It's about time for a permanent fix.

Monday we left Rochester and began our trip to Boston.  It would cost over $70 to take the NY Thruway across the state so we stayed on US highways.  It took a lot longer but we saw some interesting small towns and beautiful scenery.   Unfortunately we also saw lots of ups and downs and gave the brakes on the truck quite a workout since the brakes on the trailer were cutting out much of the time.  It also reduced our MPG quite a lot as well. We stopped for the night in a campground near Albany.

Tuesday we continued our trek to the Minuteman Campground in Littleton, MA.  It was our home for the next week.  I mentioned in a previous post about the differences between RV parks in most of the country and what are called campgrounds here in the north east.  This campground is a perfect example.  It is in the dense woods with narrow, winding roads that make getting in and out with a rig of our size a challenge.  Most of the people there were on vacation and were from the local area.  Most were in small campers or just in tents.  Of course our satellite was useless but they did have wireless internet that worked pretty well.  They also had cable TV but that didn't do much good since we couldn't record on our DVRs.  Unfortunately, this park is one of the few options in the Boston area, but the closest to Boston & Cambridge, so we had to take what was available.  Did I mention that it was also the most expensive place we have ever stayed at over $50 per night? They do have a pool which got used a few times by Dom, Carrie and Dianna.

We will tell you about our week in Boston in the next post.