Monday, June 30, 2008

Prescription Refills on the Road

We, like most folks of a “certain age”, take prescription drugs. With the wide network of large pharmacies like Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and supermarket chains with pharmacies, getting refills while on the road has not been an issue. Wal-Mart’s chain of stores is available far and wide, so that is where we have been going for the past several years.

When a prescription has expired, our doctors in Nashville are happy to call in a new one (usually with 12 months of refills) to whichever Wal-Mart we are near. When we leave that state, we simply go to the nearest Wal-Mart in our new location when we need a refill. The pharmacy there transfers the prescription, with the remaining refills, to this new location and we have our medication in about 30 minutes. This system has worked beautifully for the past 5 years. Worked at least until we hit New York.

Two of our prescriptions needed to be refilled last week. As we’ve always done, we got our empty bottles and struck out for Wal-Mart. There wasn’t even a line at the pharmacy so we had the undivided attention of the pharmacy tech. We stated what we wanted, “we’d like to get these prescriptions refilled. The prescription is on file in Virginia.” The tech asked for our birth dates and home address and checked the computer file to be sure everything matched. She said it would be about 20 minutes and almost as an afterthought she added, “by the way, you will loose all your refills.” What? You can imagine our surprise. She tried to explain. Since we are of a “certain age” we have been dealing with doctors, prescriptions, pharmacies, and refills for quite some time and between us we have several college degrees, I don’t think it was entirely our stupidity that kept us from understanding what this 20 year old tech was saying. We finally figured out that she was using one word to describe two different things. No wonder it took a while for us to make since of what she was saying.

Apparently, New York state law dictates that only 1 refill can be issued from a prescription written in another state. Our only reasonable option was to take the one refill and have our doctors call in new prescriptions. The pharmacy tech was helpful enough to also tell us “by the way, we can only send out one prescription (what she really meant was “refill”) at a time to another state. Well, thanks. We are getting new prescriptions with 12 months of refills so for the next year the pharmacy in whatever state we happen to be will have to call Wal-Mart in Geneva, NY to get a refill. Why can New York send out a refill one at a time to another state and Virginia is required to send out the whole prescription? How cumbersome!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Women's Rights in Seneca Falls, New York

Seneca Falls, New York is a small village along the Erie Canal. In the early 19th century it was a mill town. The falls of Seneca Falls provided waterpower to run the factories. The Erie Canal, linked to Seneca Falls in 1828, eliminated the falls but still provided waterpower for the factories. Seneca Falls was a prospering little town.
Along Erie Canal in Seneca Falls
An old mill on the canal

Today, Seneca Falls may be best known as the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. Congress established the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in 1980. We were very impressed with the facility. Inside the Visitor’s Center was a near life size sculpture of the organizers and supporters of the first Women’s Rights Convention. Included in the sculpture are Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, the M’Clintocks, Motts, and Hunts.
Statue of Convention organizers

Only a portion of the walls and roof are left of the Wesleyan Chapel were the Convention took place with some 300 people in attendance, both men and women. It was in the Wesleyan Chapel that Stanton read the Declaration of Sentiments demanding equal rights for women. Between the Chapel and the Visitor’s Center is a small park in which a granite wall has been erected. The Declaration of Sentiments has been etched into the granite along with the names of the people who signed it at the convention in 1848.
What's left of Wesleyan Chapel
Wall with Declaration of Sentiments

Across the canal, down the street, and around the corner is the Stanton House. It wasn’t furnished like so many of the homes of the famous operated by the National Park Service. However, there was a very knowledgeable Ranger who explained in detail all you ever want to know about Elizabeth Cady Stanton. We were the only ones there so we got a private tour. It was great.
Stanton House
M'Clintock House

In the next village over, Waterloo, is the restored home of the M’Clintocks. It was in this home that the draft of the Declaration of Sentiments was written.

We enjoyed our day. Gene especially had fun clowning around at the statue depicting the meeting of Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Gene meets Susan Anthony

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sodus Point Lighthouse

In our wandering around on Friday, quite to our surprise, we stumbled across Sodus Point Lighthouse. I enjoy lighthouses. There is something majestic and a little romantic about them that piques my imagination.

The “Big Sodus Light” was built in 1870 and served as a beacon to seaman on Lake Ontario until 1901. This was the second light on this site; the first having been erected in 1825. Now, as is the case with so many lighthouses, it is a maritime museum.

The lighthouse, as well as the grounds, are immaculately maintained by the Historical Society of Sodus Bay. We strolled around enjoying the flower gardens, the view of the lake, and the serenity of this peaceful place. By the time we got there, the sky had darkened further from when we were at Chimney Bluffs so the delineation between lake and sky was almost impossible. But, here that seemed to add to the light’s romantic appeal—perhaps a mysterious dimension.
Flower garden on the lighthouse lawn

Our quiet time of meditation was interrupted by the wedding party coming for rehearsal. What a beautiful place for a wedding—if only the sun will shine.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Chimney Bluffs on Lake Ontario

The shore of Lake Ontario is just 25 miles from our campsite. So today we went exploring. On our state map we noticed a state park located on Lake Ontario, but included a notation that it was undeveloped. However, one of the brochures indicated that it was a great place to view the lake and the Chimney Bluffs. The brochure also mentioned trails so we went to take a look.

Apparently, the Chimney Bluffs, or more specifically the “drumlin” on which the bluffs originated, was a hill created by the movement of glacial ice dumping sand, clay, stone and whatever it picked up. There are thousands of the hills near Lake Ontario in New York. After the glacial ice melted the waves of Lake Ontario have beat against the hill eroding away the soil and the stones are left along the shore. Rain and wind have also played their part resulting in the “chimneys” along the bluff.

For an undeveloped park, we were very impressed. I expected to turn off the main road onto a gravel or dirt road into the park, then wade through knee high grass to the lake shore. Not so at this park. There was a nice sign welcoming visitors, a large paved parking lot, a very nice and very clean restroom facility, a kiosk with maps and information and that was just at the entrance. The grass had been mowed and there was a paved path leading to the picnic area which overlooked the lake. There are several trails in the park. We wanted to see the “chimney bluffs” so we took the trail leading above the bluffs. We could have walked along the shoreline for a view from down under. From the picnic area along the trail to the bluffs was about a mile hike.

We decided to return to the picnic area by way of two other trails which created a loop. That proved to be a mistake. Once we left the edge of the bluff we got into the habitat of some kind of viscous flies. They were about the size of ordinary house flies (not the huge black flies) and had wings that were slightly brown and translucent. There were hundreds of them. It was like we were being swarmed by tiny fighter jets in for the kill. We would swat at them with our hands, but they were undeterred. I could not get out of there fast enough. Along with the flies were the mosquitoes. Ah, the joys of the north woods. We’re getting head nets before our next hike.
Erosion of the Bluff

We had set out to find a vantage point to see the lake. This is a perfect spot, but unfortunately it was a very overcast day and the lake and sky seemed to blend together into a great big pool of gray nothingness. Enjoy the photos of the Chimney Bluffs. We’ll try to go back on a sunny day to get some pictures of the lake.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Finger Lakes Region

We tried to get ourselves oriented to the area this morning. We needed groceries and fuel. Finding those two things usually gets us pretty familiar with driving around the local community. Our campground is located about 5 miles north of Geneva were the closest grocery is located. I always like shopping at new grocery stores and this one (Wegman’s) was very fine, indeed. It looked like it had just opened for the first time—everything was clean, the shelves were fully stocked, and the produce and meats were artfully displayed. They had a coffee bar with a variety of coffee beverages to choose from. The bakery was pretty remarkable all by itself. We knew we were in New York by the variety of bagels. I was also impressed with the deli which offered everything from sushi to Thanksgiving turkey. I was pleasantly surprised that the prices did not seem to be as outrageous as I had expected. In fact, my grocery bill was about what it always is wherever I shop.

I wanted to make a list of a few things to see while we are in this area. That is easier said than done. When I spread the brochures before me on the dining table, I was amazed at the number of things to do. We could spend every waking moment touring the wineries and not see them all. I knew this was wine country, but who could have imagined what that really meant. The Cayuga Wine Trail follows Route 89, a designated scenic byway, along the western shore of Cayuga Lake. That sounds like a good place to start.

Very high on our “must do” list is Niagara Falls. That will be a long day trip or we may choose to stay overnight. Either way, it is a priority and we will be watching the weather forecast for an ideal time to go. Not far from our campground is Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the women’s rights movement. Women’s Rights National Historical Park is another “must do” for this trip. We enjoy bicycling and we have already noticed that there are bike lanes on the roads we have driven. The Erie Canalway Heritage Trail is nearby as well. There are several state parks which offer hiking trails. I am particularly interested in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. There are swamps and wetlands in this area which will be great places for bird watching and photography.

Rochester is not so far away where there are several art museums (including the Eastman International Museum of Photography) as well as historic sites.

This campground wants to keep its campers happy and occupied, I guess. They have activities planned for a couple days every week throughout the summer as well as several potluck dinners. I don’t think we’ll get bored.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Planning for New York

We arrived today at the campground that will be our home for the next month or so. In 2003 we began taking “extended trips” which were 6 months in length (May to November). We quickly realized that this was something we liked to do and could visualize ourselves living in an RV and traveling fulltime. It wasn’t until this year that that dream has become a reality. Even though we have been living in our Montana for almost 3 years, we were only traveling 6 months of the year. The other 6 months we were in Nashville at our jobs. We think we will finally be able to put into practice what has been our goal since we began RVing. We want to see America but we also want to have fun doing it.

In those early years our trips were almost more stressful than our jobs. We approached that time off as if we were on a 2-week vacation. We ran ourselves ragged trying to see and do everything there was to see and do. After a couple of years we finally shed the “vacation mode” and began to relax more—sip coffee, sit in a lawn chair, read a book. But our type “A” personalities continued to nag at us to get out there and do stuff. It is been an ongoing struggle, but we try to focus more on relaxing and enjoying ourselves and less on “area attractions”.

Many RVers plan their trips around a particular theme—Route 66, Revolutionary or Civil war battlefields, the Lewis and Clark Trail. We haven’t done that. Our goal is to visit every state and, if the opportunity arises, as many Canadian provinces as possible. That leaves the area wide open for exploring (and perhaps is the pitfall that leads us to try to do more than is humanly possible). In more recent years, when we pick a place to visit there is some feature that has drawn us to that area and we focus our attention on that.

We have 4 months to be in New York State before we return to Nashville for the holiday season. There are only two areas we will be concentrating on—first the Finger Lakes in western New York and then the Adirondacks in north eastern New York. You could probably spend years in each area and not do or see it all. It will be difficult to choose.

Gene picked up some brochures today when we stopped at the rest area. I stayed in the car with Peanut while he went in. Many minutes later when I saw him walking across the parking lot, I thought he had gone shopping. He was carrying a shopping bag which turned out to be full of brochures. My goal for tomorrow is to come up with a rough plan of what we will do while here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leaving Pennsylvania

Today we hitched up and headed to New York. Usually I am anxious to move on to the next destination. But today I was a little sad to leave. I have really enjoyed being at Strasburg. I think it is the farmland—that sense of being back to the earth, to a time gone by. Some folks might not find the farm life appealing, but I have always been intrigued by the ability to be so independent. I have wonderful memories of the many, many months I spent as a child on my grandparents farm—feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, picking tomatoes and gathering potatoes, driving the tractor, running in between the field rows, fishing in the creek—all good memories. But alas, I wax nostalgic. Getting back to the present—
View East along Lakeshore

We left the Amish country behind this morning and have arrived in New York. We stopped for the night in a small campground just across the state line. Since we are here only for the night and plan to leave early tomorrow, we didn’t even unhitch the Montana from the truck. That’s one thing we really enjoy about the Montana—not having to unhitch. When we were in the pop-up camper, no matter how short our stay we always had to unhitch. With the Montana (or any Motor home or trailer other than pop-ups and hi-lows) we have the use of almost everything without unhitching. Even with the slide rooms in, I can get to the refrigerator, most of my pantry items, dishes, table and bathroom. So when we stop at interstate rest areas we come inside our Montana and fix our lunch and use our own bathroom.

Before we left Pennsylvania we added that state to our map. We have some sort of vague rule about when we add a state. We want to at least have seen a few sites and stayed there a few nights. When we add a state to our map we want to feel like we have really visited that state. That is, of course, not to say that we have seen everything. Most places we’ve been we want to go back to see the rest (or at least some of the rest). There are no rules about these maps; everybody does their own thing. Our map represents the states we have visited not just driven through.

On to New York—Finger Lakes Region. Tomorrow we arrive at our destination.

By the way, I have decided to post at the end of each day, rather than at the beginning. Early mornings are a special time for me and my cat and we have been missing that time together.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Search for the Perfect Piece of Pie

Gene loves baked goods. The farm foods of Lancaster County have a reputation for being outstanding. So what better place to find that perfect piece of pie. Let me say at the onset that my mother can bake an excellent pie. These folks will have a tough standard to meet.
Gene at Good 'N Plenty

Shoofly Pie is pretty popular around here and been baked by the Amish for generations. In the early days before a refrigerator was a standard appliance in most kitchens, fresh foods had to be eaten quickly or spoil. Shoofly pie, which is made with molasses and brown sugar, would keep several days without refrigeration. The pie got its name because the flies had to be continually “shooed” away as the pie cooled in the window sill. We hadn’t had this pie before so it was Gene’s first choice. In my limited experience with pie, I think it is most like a Southern Pecan Pie but without the pecans and not as sweet. The pecan pie has a layer of pecans over the butter, corn syrup and egg filling. The Shoofly pie has what seems like a crumb topping, but without enough butter to make it crumbly. Our opinion: It is good, but would not be our first choice.
Shoofly Pie at Bird-In-Hand

We got our first piece of shoofly pie from the Bird-In-Hand Bakery booth at the Bird-In-Hand Farmer’s Market. Another day we ate lunch at Good ‘n Plenty Restaurant proclaimed to have the “best Pennsylvania Dutch food” according to the Lancaster County Magazine. We thought Good ‘n Plenty’s shoofly pie was better than Bird-In-Hand because the filling had a creamier texture. We also had a slice of Apple Crumb Pie. It was very good, but not outstanding.
Apply pie from Hershey Farm

Time is running out and since we hadn’t found perfect yet we decided to give it one last shot at the bakery on the corner in Strasburg. The sign in the window thanks folks for voting them the “best ice cream in Lancaster County” (we may have been on the wrong quest) but pie they did not have. Their baked goods consisted of apple dumplings and a few cookies. However, the lady behind the counter suggested we try Hershey Farm just down the street. They had a couple shoofly pies on the shelf, but we had been there and done that. We wanted something else, apple maybe. Just because they didn’t have one on the shelf didn’t mean that didn’t have one in the kitchen. No pie by the slice; we had to buy the whole thing still warm from the oven. This pie was very good. The apples were still just a little crisp. It was a double crust pie, not a crumb pie and the crust was very good. I think the crumb topping on the pie at Good ‘n Plenty was just too much. It overpowered the apples. The pie from Hershey Farm was much better.
Pumpkin Whoopie

We have been seeing Whoopie Pies everywhere. While we were waiting for our pie to come from the kitchen, I thumbed through an Amish cookbook. Apparently, Whoopie Pies are traditional Amish fare. We’ve had them in Maine, so Gene did a Google search this afternoon. They’ve been around since about the 1930s and they are very popular among the Amish and in New England, but no one seems to know where they originated. They are really like a large cupcake split in half with frosting in the middle. We got 2 in the interest of being complete in our pie quest. Gene got the traditional chocolate. It had a very intense chocolate flavor and the consistency of devil’s food cake. I chose pumpkin and it also had an intense flavor and consistency much like a pumpkin muffin. The filling is very similar to a cream cheese frosting. These were much better than the one we had in Maine. Which was better—chocolate or pumpkin? I’m gonna have to go with the chocolate, but it was a close call.
Gene and his Whoopie

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Sunday we visited Valley Forge, the site of George Washington’s winter encampment in 1777. The park is very large and offers several ways to see the buildings and memorials scattered over 3,500 acres. We chose the 10-mile driving tour which makes a loop beginning at the Visitor’s Center. There is a walking tour which is about 6 miles in length along a paved walkway. Bicyclist may use either the road or the paved path. For a fee there is a guided trolley tour. There are also horse and walking trails which meander through the park, but don’t connect directly to the sites.

Replicas of the huts used by the soldiers.
There are also various ways to know what you are seeing. We watched the short film at the visitor center before our tour. That gave us a good overview of what was happening here in the winter of 1777. We could have purchased a CD in the gift shop to play as we drove the loop. However, we used our cell phone to dial into recorded messages which explained each site in detail. This was free for us since we have unlimited minutes on weekends and no roaming charges. Know your calling plan before selecting this option. There are, of course, interpretive panels all along the way. At some of the stops there were living history interpreters dressed in period dress, answering questions. On this particular day, there were also storytellers at some of the sites. They are not here everyday. We got lucky.

Gen. Von Stueben

Inside Gen. Varnum's headquarters.

Washington's Headquarters
Along the tour we saw replicas of the huts the soldiers built for their living quarters, Washington’s Headquarters, Quarters of General James Varnum, statues and memorials to various soldiers, generals, and companies. Perhaps the most impressive was the National Memorial Arch in honor of the soldiers who wintered at Valley Forge. Also included in the tour, but not actually part of the park, was Washington Memorial Chapel.
Inside Gen Washington's Headquarters
Re-enactors gave demonstrations of how things were.
National Memorial Arch
Washington Memorial Chapel

We took our picnic, of course, and found a table under a shade tree for lunch. Gene commented that he would have liked to see many, many huts so that it would look more like it did in 1777. There were several huts scattered about, but certainly not the thousands which would have been required to house the army of 12,000 to 20,000. I liked it being a mostly open space. I could imagine the huts, the mud, the snow, but the open space somehow commanded more reverence for the men who fought for our country.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shopping in Lancaster County

We always enjoy visiting new towns and we especially like to see the historical downtown areas. So naturally, we wanted to see historic downtown Lancaster and had read that they had a self-guided walking tour. Just our thing. So off we went on Friday afternoon in our big Ford F-250 diesel long bed. We were equipped with a free map that was stapled inside one of those free brochures we got at the Welcome Center on the interstate. It looked like we could just zip right into the downtown area on the main road from Strasburg and be right were we wanted to be. The Visitor Center would have plenty of parking where we could leave the truck while we did the walking tour. Our plan began to unravel when the main road we were so confident about suddenly became a one-way in the wrong direction. We went with the flow of traffic turning first right and then left. Well, okay, we’ll just parallel the main road until we get to Prince Street then hang a left. The closer into downtown we got the narrower the road became. And the traffic was unreal. Lancaster has a population of only 56,000. There must have been twice that many cars on the road. The free map we had failed to list all the streets resulting in a real struggle to keep up with where we were. Finally, we saw a sign for Visitor Center Parking. We, of course, were on the wrong side of the road and had to beat our way over only to see that the Visitor Center Parking was a garage with a 6’5” clearance. We wouldn’t fit! We were still hopeful that the Visitor Center would have a parking lot, so around the block we go. After two circuits we saw the Visitor Center. Not only was there no parking lot, there was road construction forcing us to turn yet again where we didn’t want to go. This time we took it as a sign from above that we were not meant to be there.

We decided to head east to the tiny village of Bird-In-Hand. The drawing feature for us was the Farmer’s Market. It was easy enough to find and there was a huge parking lot. Yea! Gene hadn’t even gotten a cart before he spotted the Bird-In-Hand Bakery counter. The lady who sold him the Shoofly Pie pointed us to the snack counter where we could get a cup of coffee. She gave us napkins and plastic forks and we were on our way. In the market we also found some dried spices and a harvest soup mix we are anxious to try.

I purchased a star as a remembrance of our visit here. There are several “legends” of the star, but generally they are used either as a sign of love and respect for God and family, a symbol of our American heritage, or as a sign of good luck.

Gene spotted hats at one end of the market. He found one he liked in his size, but the brim was bent. The cashier sent us to their main store in the Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse—just 4 miles east. We found the place easily enough but so did all the rest of the people in the county. It is obviously the place to shop. There were so many cars, they had a gentleman directing traffic in the parking lot. He sent us to park in the grass under a tree. Sometimes we miss having a small car.

Gene found a hat he liked and I got a souvenir for myself and a start on my Christmas shopping. I think we’re done with shopping for now. Well, we’re still looking for that perfect piece of pie.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mennonites and Amish

In our quest to determine the difference between the Mennonites and Amish we went over to the Mennonite Information Center in Lancaster. They were very helpful in trying to explain to us, but there was also a small museum which outlined the origin of both groups as well as two short films which we watched. I’ll try to explain what I think I learned.

During the time of Martin Luther and the Reformation in Northern Europe, a small group felt that church membership could not be forced upon a person, but rather a person’s faith should be voluntary. This group was known as the Anabaptist because they “re-baptized” adults wishing to commit their lives to Christ who had been baptized as infants. This struggling group of believers soon came under the leadership of Menno Simons, thus the name Mennonites. In the late 1600s, a division occurred in the Mennonite church because some felt the Mennonites were drifting away from their original strict teachings. This group was led by Jakob Ammann, thus the name Amish. Both groups suffered persecution in Europe for their religious beliefs. William Penn invited them to come to what became Pennsylvania where they would be free to worship as they wished.

Today, the Mennonites have embraced modern technology and blend in with the communities in which they live. They drive cars, wear modest, but modern dress, and are educated in community schools, even colleges. The Amish still live a life close to the earth, working large farms, using propane instead of electricity, using horses and mules for transportation as well as pulling farm equipment, and dressing in their traditional clothing. Both groups lead lives of faith in Christ and service to others.
Laundry Day

As we drive about this community this simple life of the Amish is evident everywhere. We see laundry which seems to stretch for a mile drying in the sun. We see the women out there in the yards mowing or raking. They are even in the fields driving the mule team. I think the thing that is the most awesome to me is how a family can work a farm as large as these are without the aid of a tractor. I admire them for their dedication to their faith which requires them to be so different from the world about them.
Hitching post at the Post Office
Two horse garage

I am impressed by these people, but I haven’t the words to express adequately what I am experiencing. Look at the photos. I think you will be a little awestruck as well.