Thursday, September 23, 2010

Musings on Cuba Lake

Since we will be leaving here on Saturday, this will likely be the last of the posts about my interest in the Genesee Valley Canal. Those of you who are tired of it can skip this one.

As noted in some of the old documents related to the canal, Cuba Lake was one of the most important structures on the canal, as it provided water at the highest level the canal reached. When it was built it was the largest man made lake in the US and perhaps in the world. It was originally called Oil Creek Reservoir because it dammed Oil Creek.

In my wanderings around, I realized that the only exit from the lake today is over the spillway which is located near the site of the Oil Spring in the southwest corner. The dam where the creek used to flow is located along the eastern side of the lake. The spillway is located is about 2 to 3 miles from the natural exit of Oil Creek. Prior to building the lake, the stream where the spillway was built contained only a very small amount of water that drained minor springs in the hilsides. It was no where near as big as it is now. Oil creek used to drain not only the small valleys around where the lake is today, but also the entire Rawson Valley and all its streams. When driving around the lake today it is apparent that the majority of the water flowing into the lake is from the Rawson Valley, and that the other tributaries were quite small in comparison. Apparently when the small creeks merged with Rawson Creek in the area where the lake now sits, they renamed the stream Oil Creek.

The spillway is located just a mile or so up the valley from the Cuba/Maplehurst road. By building the dam and locating the spillway here they eliminated water from Oil Creek from joining with Black Creek north of Cuba, and flowing south through the town. Only Black Creek and the creeks from the Friendship and Clarksville Hill areas continued to flow into town. There they all met and flowed west out of town toward Maplehurst, where they met the water flowing over the Cuba Lake spillway before making their way west to join with Olean Creek. I find it fascinating how much engineering and planning went into designing and building the lake, and also surprised as how much it changed the geography of the area.

As many know, the Maple Summit Farm was located at the highest point in the Rawson Valley. Water flows both north and south at that point. The small stream on the east side of the valley in the area flowed north toward Hardy's Corners and Rushford, eventually reaching the Genesee River, but the streams on the west side of the valley flowed south toward Cuba Lake, eventually reaching the Allegheny River. The small stream behind the hemlocks on the farm flowed toward north, but the stream behind Norman's barn flowed south. Dale says they used to say that water landing on the north side of the barn roof ended up in the North Atlantic, but the water landing on the south side ended up in the Caribbean. Probably so.

Enough geography and history of the Cuba area. It has been fun. Saturday we leave for points south. Our first major destination is TN to visit Darin, but there will be stops along the way. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prescriptions and more canal stuff

We have had our prescriptions on file with Wal-Mart for the past several years. They are just about everywhere and transferring prescriptions from one store to another is easily done online. We just sign on to Wal-Mart's site and order a refill, specifying that we will pick them up at a nearby store. We have had no problems with this process anywhere we have been, even in Alaska, but New York State is another story. Luckily we found out before we made a big mistake.

When I tried to order refills for our prescriptions yesterday, and have them filled at the Olean Wal-Mart, the computer said we had to call the store. The pharmacist explained that New York State has a really goofy law regarding transferring prescriptions. You can have a prescription transferred from another store and refilled one time at the store you transfer it to, but any remaining refills are automatically canceled and you must get a new prescription from your Dr. It does not make a difference how many refills you have left on your prescription. It does not make a difference whether the original pharmacy is in another state or within New York.

How dumb is that? As far as we can tell, NY is the only state that does this. I posted a question about this on an RV forum I participate in heavily, and learned that others have run into this same problem. No one is aware of any other state with similar laws. One person said they transferred 25 prescriptions (Wow!) to a local pharmacy (in person at the store, not online) when they were traveling in NY, and the pharmacist was happy to oblige. But he did not tell them that they could not be refilled or transferred again. When they tried to have them refilled again a month later in another state they learned the hard way about this stupid state law. Imagine their difficulty in obtaining new prescriptions from all their various Dr.'s.

Since we learned of the ramifications before we ordered them yesterday, we instead ordered the refills at the Wal-Mart in Bradford, PA. It's only about 15 miles south of Olean so it was no big deal to go get them. In fact, it was a nice ride on the scooter.

On the way back we stopped in Hinsdale to look at the remains of Lock 102 on the Genesee Valley Canal. It is next to the American Legion. When we got home I was doing some more research and finally found a better map of where the canal went. It was then that I discovered that I was wrong in my post yesterday about where the sluice line fed the canal. It turns out that the canal was indeed further down in the valley to the east. It turns out that when the railroad was built, they did not follow the canal exactly. They wanted to keep the railroad as straight as possible and it was not difficult for them to build up a railroad bed in many areas. The canal builders on the other hand, had to follow the terrain exactly so they could maintain a ditch that did not change in level. It was not nearly so straight as the railroad which was built after the canal was abandoned in 1878.

If you look at the map I included with the previous post you can follow the canal north for about 1 1/2 miles until you will see where it joins the railroad bed. If you continue to follow it you can see where it often deviates from the old railroad as it continues north past Black Creek. In fact, by looking at the aerial views it is apparent that when we took the hike on Sunday with Dale, there were many times when we were not walking along the old canal tow path. We were walking on the old railroad bed instead. Many times they did run together but sometimes they were as much as a few hundred feet apart. That explains why we sometimes could not see evidence of the canal. We hypothesized that perhaps some of it had been filled in as the railroad bed crossed from one side to the other, or that some farmer had filled it in. Now I know better. I am willing to bet that this is the situation along most of the old canal.

The thing that adds to the confusion about this is the fact that the Genesee Valley Canal Greenway, the trail that has been developed along most of the route, follows the old railroad bed and not the canal. I wonder how many people are even aware of that?

I am going to put up all the photos of canal stuff in the next couple days. Isn't this fun?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Garlic and More Canal Stuff Than Most People Want To Know

Saturday morning Dale arrived to spend the weekend with us. We talked, got propane and hung out until Greg and Tina arrived from Rochester about 1 PM. After giving them a tour of Cuba we all went to the Garlic Festival. It is a community event that is only about 10 years old and we were not expecting much after Rushford and Pittsford, but we were very pleasantly surprised. It is held on the grounds of the McKinney Stables, or Empire Farms as it is also known; the concrete horse barn on the south end of Cuba that I mentioned in an earlier post.

The Garlic Festival had many booths where unique garlic items were being sold, as well as many with local specialty items (jams and maple stuff, etc.), some craft things, food booths, music, cooking demonstrations and much more. There were many free samples and we all tried many good things. It was a very nice event and there were a ton of people there. Traffic was backed up all the way through Cuba to Water Street and beyond.

At 4 PM we all took a tour of the horse barn itself. The tour lasted for an hour and was conducted by the current owner who bought it in 1996 at a tax sale. She has been working to restore it and is making slow progress. It is a very interesting building that is constructed completely of concrete or concrete blocks, including the floors. The concrete blocks were made one at a time on site. Quite an undertaking for any time, but it was really something in the 1906-1909 time frame when it was built. The man who built it was named Simpson. They had made their money in New York City. They owned and operated the first pawn shop there. That's right. Their pawn shop generated millions of dollars in profits. He built it to house his world champion trotting horses after a tragic fire in another stable that killed many of his prize horses. This stable is fireproof. The great granddaughter of the Simpson who built the barn was also there to add to the history. It was quite educational and informative.

After the festival we drove to Portville to have dinner at Spragues Farm. They are a very large commercial maple syrup operation and have opened a very nice restaurant. We had to wait for over half an hour for a seat as it is very busy. Almost every item on the menu has maple syrup in it in one form or another. Three people had breakfasts but I had salmon in maple glaze. Tina had something turkey which also included maple syrup somehow. It was quite good.

We drove back to Cuba where we said goodbye to Greg and Tina who drove back to Rochester. Dale, Dianna and I watched a movie and then went to bed.

Sunday we decided to take a hike and do some geocaching. We drove to Black Creek and found the Genesee Valley Canal Greenway about a quarter mile to the east. We hiked norths about 2 1/2 miles along the old canal and found 5 caches. Much of the canal in that area is now filled with beaver ponds. We only saw one beaver, and only his tail at that, as he quickly dove into his lodge, but their work was very evident.

As we hiked we talked about the Genesee Valley Canal. Dale has been interested in the Erie Canal for some time, and our recent hikes along the Genesee Valley Canal have been educational and fun for both of us. We knew that Cuba Lake was a feeder to the Genesee Valley Canal, and we tried to figure out where and how. We knew the highest spot on the lake was near here because Cuba Lake fed the canal at its highest point, but we were not sure where that was. It was obvious where we were hiking that it must be between Black Creek and Cuba because the streams in the Black Creek area flowed to the north.

After our hike we made a stop at the Cuba Cheese Store to stock up, then drove through McDonalds to pick up dinner. I know, I know. We were tired from 5 miles of hiking. Dale headed back to Buffalo after dinner. It was really nice having him with us for the weekend. We are looking forward to seeing him again in a couple months or so in Arizona.

I did some more research on the Genesee Valley Canal today. I found the Chronological History of the Genesee Valley Canal and History of the Genesee Valley Canal parts of the Canals of New York document, where I learned the Cuba Lake was originally called Oil Creek Reservoir. From another source I was also finally able to answer a question that Dale and I had about where the water left the lake to feed the canal at its highest point between Black Creek and Cuba. It said there were valves and a sluice box built into the base of Cuba Dam near the south end. I rode up there today to see if I could find it.

There is a cemetery located at the base of the dam which I learned is the oldest cemetery in Allegheny County. It was relocated there when the lake was filled as the original site was flooded. There are headstones of Revolutionary War soldiers as well as Civil War soldiers. Most of the headstones are badly deteriorated so it was almost impossible to read them.

I hiked down a trail from the cemetery and located the outlet to the canal. It is about 200 feet from the south end of the canal and can be seen on Google Maps. A new roof has been built to protect the old valve structure, but the sluice itself is built of concrete or blocks and is still in pretty good shape. I then decided to follow the sluice to see where it went. I found where it crossed the Cuba/Black Creek road just south of Moonwinks, at the intersection of Jackson Hill road to the east and the South Lake Shore road to the west. I rode east northeast on Jackson Hill road about 1/4 of a mile to what I thought was the canal. I parked the scooter and walked south along the old railroad bed until I found the structure where the sluice feeder passed underneath. What I have since discovered is that the railroad split off from the canal just about 1/2 mile north of that location. Therefore the canal was further east. Following the sluice in a straight line will lead to it. From the documents listed above I also learned that this was within a 12 mile long level section, known as the summit level, that ran from near Black Creek to near Hinsdale. There were locks going down in both of those locations.

As long as I was following things, I continued to follow the route of the old railroad bed and realized that Dianna and I had been walking on it during our evening walks. It runs directly behind our RV park. The canal is somewhat further east of us at a lower part of the valley.

While I was at the cemetery I met a man who lived there and was into history as well. We chatted a while and he gave me some good information. His name was Hatch and he was from Portville. He knew who Reuben Hatch was but said he was not a close relative. Undoubtedly he was somehow connected though.

The reason I mention him is that he told me there are still remnants of some locks in Hinsdale, just behind the VFW there. I may ride down and take a look tomorrow.

Who knew canal history could be so much fun?

This is a view on Google Maps of the location where the sluice comes out of the dam. You can follow it across the road and to the first north/south line that looks like a road or trail. It is the canal. It bisects the farmers field. Further east it joins the creek that flows toward Cuba.

View Larger Map

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Weekend in Rochester

Saturday morning we rode the scooter up to Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester where Greg and Tina live. We waited until about 10 AM to leave because it had been in the low 40's overnight and the fog didn't burn off until then. It was still only in the low 50's when we left, but our cold weather gear kept us comfortable. The trip was 88 miles by blue roads, and we arrived shortly after noon. After a quick sandwich we all went to a community fair in downtown Pittsford Village. It made Rushford Labor Day seem like the world's fair by comparison so we didn't stay long, but since we were there we took a long walk along the Eire Canal which flows through town. We returned to Greg and Tina's for Tina's yummy homemade pizza dinner and lots of football on TV.

After church on Sunday morning we went to a Lumberjack Festival in Macedon, a community not far from Pittsford. We had a lumberjack breakfast and then watched all kinds of lumberjack competitions. We had seen such competitions on TV but never in person before. It was fun. We then drove to the University of Rochester and parked in a nearby park at the point where the Erie Canal crosses the Genesee River. We hiked along the canal and then up the river to the university where we explored the chapel and library. Both were interesting buildings and the campus is also very attractive.

We returned to Greg and Tina's where we ate Greg's delicious Dublin Chicken. For those of you who don't care about calories it's a great entre. They both went to bed early as Tina had to get up at 4 AM to go to work. I watched football and Dianna read until bedtime.

We awoke Monday morning to a steady rain. Greg and Tina were long gone to work. I checked the radar and it looked like the rain would clear long enough for us to get south of it by about 9:30 AM, so we were ready to go as soon as it let up. We did have to ride through some light sprinkles for a few minutes at one point, but by the time we got to Geneseo it was fine. The rest of the ride home was uneventful.

Since Monday it has been cooler and wetter. The temperatures at night have been getting down to the low 40's and the highs have not been out of the 60's. It has rained most of the day today. Fall is definitely just around the corner.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rock City

Tuesday we rode the scooter to Rock City. It is located just 5 miles south of Olean, almost on the PA border, and is the largest formation of exposed pudding stone, or quartz conglomerate, in the world. I know I have heard it mentioned but I don't ever remember going there as a child. That seems strange considering how many interesting geologic formations we visited after we moved to Arizona. Perhaps we did and I just don't remember it.

Rock City used to be a really big deal. There were trolleys that ran there from Olean, a dance and concert pavilion, a hotel, a merry-go-round and other rides, as well as the Rock City geologic formations themselves. All is gone now except for the rocks.

The formations remind me a lot of places like Cochise Stronghold near Willcox. There are cracks and crevices, balanced rocks and named formations that resemble things. It is only 22 acres and takes less than an hour to explore completely, but it was worthwhile to visit in that it is really unusual for the area.

After we explored the formation we talked with the current owner. We discovered that the chandelier hanging in the visitor center hung in the Castle Restaurant near Portville before it closed. I remember that Grandma and Grandpa Briggs used to go there.

We did not leave the trailer yesterday as the weather turned cold and wet. It rained all day and the temperature did not get above 60. It looks like today will be the same so we will not likely do much until this weekend when it is supposed to be cool but dry. Then we are planning to ride the scooter to Rochester and spend the weekend with Greg and Tina.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day in Rushford

I remember going to Rushford almost every Labor Day for the parade and festivities. Although there were things going on Saturday and Sunday, it was cold and rainy both days so we did not go. I really wanted to see the antique tractor pull Sunday, but I couldn't bring myself to head out on the scooter in the rain at 50 degrees.

Today was much warmer yet still cloudy, and it did sprinkle a little this afternoon. It was still quite cool in the morning so I didn't head out until about 1 PM. I would have liked to have been there for the parade at 10 AM, but neither of us though that would be much fun in the cold and fog. As it turned out, Dianna was not feeling well so I went alone.

As I rode into town I saw cars parked everywhere. Although the parade was long over there were obviously many picnics, parties, and family gatherings going on. I rode to the Labor Day Park and easily found a place to park the scooter. It looked as I remembered it except that it seemed much smaller. I remember sitting on the grassy slope where many people were sitting.

There was a car show going on, and I looked at the 30 or so cars twice. I then walked through the craft and concession area two or three times. There were maybe 10 craft stands and maybe 8 food stands. I listened to the entertainment for as long as I could stand their off key singing. I also walked through the carnival ride area. There were maybe six rides, but they were not of any interest if you were older than 8.

The place was packed, but I really don't know what everyone was doing. I guess it was just the thing to do. There was a horse pull going on with a couple hundred in the stands, but there were several hundred just wandering around the rest of the grounds. I guess this is another example of community. There was absolutely nothing going on that would interest anyone who didn't live in the area.

I left after a little more than an hour. I felt funny about doing so, but I had seen everything two or three times. There just wasn't anything else to see or do. It struck me again that it was about community. This is a community get-together, and I'm no longer part of it.

On the way back to Cuba I rode around Rushford Lake. I saw the public beach where we used to swim. Both Cuba and Rushford lakes do not have an inch of land surrounding them without houses. It is so different from the lakes I am accustomed to in the west.

I did stop and take one photo on the way back. See if you can figure out whose house it is.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Sense of Community

Things are surely different in a small town. One thing that stands out is the local fire department. As far as I know, Cuba has always had a volunteer fire department. I seem to remember that Dad joined at one time. I think there was a small sign and a blue light on the front of one of our cars.

Every night at 6:01 PM the siren is tested here in Cuba. It is almost like the whistle that signifies the end of the day. It only lasts about 10 seconds but it is clearly heard all over town. It would be impossible not to hear it. It takes a couple seconds to spool up to a steady pitch, then it holds that pitch for a few seconds, then it spools down.

The pattern is different when the siren is sounded to call the volunteers. It spools up, holds the pitch for a few seconds, spools down somewhat but then spools back up again. It repeats this pattern for a minute or two. The rising and lowering pitch makes it unmistakable and impossible not to hear.

The siren has sounded three or four times since we have been here. A few evenings ago it went off about 7 PM and in just a couple minutes we saw fire trucks heading north out of town past our RV park. Most likely they were responding to a traffic accident or medical emergency because ambulances soon followed. At 1:55 this morning we had the first night time sounding of the siren since we have been here. It woke both of us and probably everyone else in town. Apparently not enough volunteers responded though, because five minutes later it sounded again.

As I lay in bed, trying to go back to sleep, I thought about the difference between living in the city and living in a small community. I realized that the difference is just that.... community.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where is the Merry-Go-Round?

I may have mentioned in a previous blog post that the Merry-Go-Round that used to be at the Cuba Lake Pavilion is no longer there. In fact the entire pavilion area is now homes. I did see what appears to be an 8 sided house in the shape and in the location of the old carousel. I wondered what happened to the carousel and now I know. It's here!