Tuesday, February 28, 2006

06-21 Erie Canal to Whitehall New York




I decided to stop in the beach town of Sylvan and stay at Treasure Isle, another Passport America campground. $14.00 a night. A sleepy little beach town along the eastern end of Onieda Lake. A couple restaurants, small amusement park, the beach and a liquor store with grocery store. Oh and one gift shop. Just a line of small beach cottages and motels.

I was surprised to find out that the Erie Canal dumps into Onieda Lake. Well ok, not exactly dumps, but is becomes a part of the waterway.

My excursion in the area brought me to a part of the original Erie canal, completed in 1825. The original canal is no longer in use, but has a number of historical towns along it’s path, and the new Erie canal which parallels the older canal was completed in the early 1900’s. It now consists of 5 canals crossing the state of New York, the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, Cayuga and Seneca.

I stopped to watch a new catamaran with 3 bedrooms, large top deck lounge with dark tinted wrap around windows go through lock #21. The couple told me they just retired and the wife assured me, this was not going to be a full time endeavor. They were coming from New York and were heading to the Great Lakes and onto Wisconsin. Now that’s traveling. They both agreed it was a relaxing and peaceful way of traveling (slowly) across much of the country. Can you imagine, stopping along the 524 miles of canals and spending a night looking up at the stars, far away from homes, towns, roads, civilization. Or pulling up to the dock in a small town along the canal, having dinner and stretching your sea legs with an evening walk before a peaceful night on board your boat.

Another couple were on bicycles and were biking the path along the canal over the summer. They had to double back each day to pick up their car. And me, traveling in my 5th wheel camper. Just another way to experience the Adirondacks.

Whitehall NY. Now isn’t this interesting. Another town that I’ve been to this summer, with the same name. I was in Whitehall Michigan just a month ago. But this Whitehall has tons of history behind it. It’s on the southern end of Lake Champlain in the Adirondacks and is the Birthplace of the U.S. Navy!

Benedict Arnold, before he was disgraced, was a very patriotic Captain of Militia who with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys fought back the British. He took control of the schooner from Skenesborough (later known as Whitehall) later he was put in charge of building of about 5 small ships used to hold back the British on Lake Champlain. They lost the battle but held back the British.

Through some political maneuverings against Benedict Arnold, he was not promoted and many of the men that served under him were. Along with not getting paid or reimbursed for many of the expeditions that he financed, Arnold became resentful and disillusioned with Congress. Having also fallen in love with a young British gal, and marrying her, his feelings of being treated unjustly by the U.S. made him turn to the other side. Just another side of history. He was both a hero and a villain.

People I’ve met. A retired couple living in their travel trailer full-time. I was able to help them get set up using wi-fi. Wireless Internet. They’ve had it for a couple of years and didn’t even know it was available on their computer. Now they will be able to cancel their lan-line service and save over $120 a year.

A young boy riding his bike in Whitehall. I was taking pictures of some of the old building, and he told me he used to live in the older one (4 stories) with his mom and dad and sister. That is, until the roof caved in. He told me his sister had fallen through one of the stairs earlier. He couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old.

The woman who owns The Captains restaurant, who described living in Whitehall most of her life and how she remembered it as a thriving town, having a dime store, two grocery stores and lots of other shops. Now, most of them closed. Tourism with the boating and Champlain canal and a local metal factory that makes things like the newspaper stands for dispensing papers are about the only businesses in town.

The couple, Faylene and Karl, who own The Good News Griddle. They met while in college. She, having raised 3 kids and decided to get an education. He was going to culinary school and working in Saratoga Springs. They served up an Italian Porchetta Sandwich, made with an herb and garlic Pork that had marinated in red wine for 3 days. A Big Yum! Along with a cumber and onion salad in a dill and vanilla yogurt dressing. Double Yum. Hope their new business takes off. During the winter, they stay on their farm and make maple syrup. I sat in their dining room lined with windows overlooking the waterway and bridge.

Or the customer at Bruno’s Repair shop (I was getting an Oil change) in Vermont. He told me of a friend of his who had an apple orchard a couple of years back. The farmer had hired a 727 along with a couple other farmers to bring Jamaican’s to NY to pick the apples. It became so difficult to get help, that he finally had his entire orchard cut down and transformed it into a Christmas tree farm.

A number of older buildings in Whitehall are being restored with Government grants. There’s still a chance for this small town at the end of Lake Champlain.

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