Monday, July 12, 2010

We're back

Well, we're back from vacation, none the worse for wear; except for Nancy, who broke a toe ten miles or so from home. We were joined by Mary and Ron on our sojourn, and we used Ron's trailer to haul the luggage and my electric wheelchair. When we stopped Sunday afternoon to drop off Ron and the trailer, one end of the trailer fell on Nancy's toe - the little piggy that had none on the right foot. Undeterred by several hours in the emergency room, a slight limp and some lingering pain, Nancy went off to work this morning.

Our first stop was Sackets Harbor, NY, in the 1,000 Islands area of the St. Lawrence River. There, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we took a cruise to the Singer and Boldt castles. The castles were the summer homes of the rich and famous of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, lasting testimonies to their wealth and egos. Still impressive after all these years, the castles were enchanting stops on a wonderfully relaxing cruise on the St. Lawrence.

There were quite a number of people in and around Sackets Harbor who appeared to be from India, Pakistan and other places in that part of the world. Many of the women wore saris, and the snippets of conversation I caught as they passed by were all in heavily accented English or in languages I didn't understand. But, as we were waiting to get off the boat at the end of the cruise, a family of four who looked like they might be there on holiday from the sub-continent, walked by us. As they made their way to the exit, the older sister, maybe 10 or 12, whispered something to her younger sister, who was maybe 7 or 8. The younger girl immediately turned around and told the older girl in perfect Valley Girl English, "I am so like not going to do that." Apparently, they were neither tourists from an exotic land nor recent immigrants.

Then it was on to Lake Placid. There, we toured parts of the Adirondacks by air. Of course, it took a concerted effort by Nancy and the pilot to get me into the one-engine airplane. But once they got me in, we soared. Soaring that was interrupted now and then with bumping around on the air currents, but the view was terrific; in addition to the mountains, the pilot pointed out some of the structures that were used in the 1980 Winter Olympics - ski trails, ski jumps, bobsled courses and the like.

Then we took to the water again and cruised Lake Placid. There are no castles along the shores of Lake Placid or on the islands in the lake. There are, however, camps. Each camp consists of one or more lavish homes, built at great expense by people who might occupy them for a week or two in the summer and then leave them in the hands of the hired help for the other 50 or 51 weeks of the year.

We also made the trek to the top of Whiteface Mountain, the tallest peak in the Adirondacks. We drove part way up the mountain, where Mary and I transferred to an elevator to the peak, and Nancy and Ron walked to the top. If I recall correctly, the man at the controls said the elevator rose the equivalent of 28 or 29 stories. The elevator was located at the end of a dank, damp, dark tunnel, but the view at the top was magnificent.

On the Fourth, we went into the town of Lake Placid to watch the fireworks over Mirror Lake. Why the municipality of Lake Placid is located on the banks of Mirror Lake is beyond me, but it was a wonderful spot from which to watch the pyrotechnics. As we waited for the sun to go down, a local radio station was broadcasting live from the scene. Part of the radio station's build up to the main event was a quiz, and Nancy won a prize for knowing that 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence.

From Lake Placid, we headed to New Hampshire. New Hampshire and much of upstate New York, at least in the areas we visited, look a lot like West Virginia without the obvious signs of poverty. And while we were there, it felt like Alabama, with highs near 100 and relative humidity readings near 100 percent. New Hampshire abounds in railroad lines that once hauled freight and passengers and now only haul tourists. We took two train rides; one from North Conway and the other around Lake Winnipesaukee. Both rides were very enjoyable. On the trip from North Conway went through the woods and there were several clearings that opened up to great views. The other trip skirted the edge of the lake and we could see the vacationers frolicking in the water or on the beaches. No matter how hard I try, though, I can't think of Lake Winnepesaukee without thinking of What About Bob. I spent much of that trip trying to stop myself from laughing.

We drove to the top of Mt. Washington, the highest mountain on the East Coach and said to have the world's worst weather and the place where the world's highest recorded winds were recorded. The narrow, winding road to the top provided a few thrills of its own. There was cold, wind and fog at the top. But several times the wind blew the fog out of the way, momentarily revealing beautiful vistas.

The other scenic highlight in New Hampshire was Sabbaday Falls. The name has something to do with workers in the area not wishing to work on the Sabbath. It was the only time during my trip that the electric wheelchair was pressed into service - most of buildings in the areas we visited are older and wheelchair accessibility is far from universal. Anyway, as we made our way up to the falls, a woman stopped and said what a blessing it was that I was able to be out in such a beautiful place. The power wheelchair is a blessing, of course, but it's a bigger blessing that Nancy is willing to push me around in the manual wheelchair and struggle to get me into, out of and around places that weren't designed with wheelchairs in mind. I am a fortunate person.

While we were in New Hampshire, Nancy and Ron climbed Mt. Washington, and we stopped in New York on our way back, where they spent a day whitewater rafting in the Hudson. So you see, a good time was had by all, at least until the trailer met the toe.

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