Thursday, July 31, 2008

Budgeting for the RV Lifestyle

With the cost of fuel skyrocketing and the housing market plummeting there is almost everyday on national TV some expert giving us the three best things to do in order to survive the financial crisis. Last week on one particular program there were three experts giving their three best things to do to survive. That was a total of nine best things to do to go along with all the other best things to do. So I thought I’d just jump on this band wagon and offer up a few of my own “best things” to consider when budgeting for the RV lifestyle during these desperate times.

Actually, I think I have jumped the gun already. Although fulltime RVing can occur at any time in life, you encounter it most among the retired. Perhaps I should have called this “budgeting for retirement”, because that was really what it was in the beginning. It is when you are young that retirement planning should take place in order to give yourself enough time to save for the day of your dreams.

The great question to be answered is “How much money will I need when I am retired”? Gene went about answering that question by determining what we needed to live on right now. For two years he kept a record of every expenditure—every cent for every thing. That data gave him a fairly accurate indication of how much we actually spent. It was shocking to realize just how much was spent for things like afternoon coffee, or ice cream, or Girl Scout Cookies (oh my goodness). We then took the data and created a budget that realistically portrayed our spending habits.

The next step was to convert this present time budget into a budget of a time 10, 15 or 20 years in the future. By adjusting the budget for inflation by a rate of 3.5%, Gene was able to determine how much money we would need in any given year in the future. It was a guess, of course, but at least an educated one. He subtracted the amount we expected to get from Social Security and my retirement pension, but the amount we still needed to save was staggering.

But we had a dream and my mama had read to me over and over about the “little engine that could”. There was no stopping us. We lived by the budget and saved every dime we could. Gene found in a magazine a picture of a man in a scuba diving suit climbing out of a fountain with a bucket of change. The caption read, “how will you fund your retirement?” We never did that, of course, but the picture hung on the refrigerator and kept us inspired.

Our dream, of course, was to retire early, while we were still young enough to enjoy traveling and still healthy and fit enough to hike. We had read some about fulltime RVing (living exclusively in an RV) and although that concept may have existed in our subconscious, it was certainly not in the forefront of our planning. Stay tuned to see how these first steps evolved into fulltime RVing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hiking in the Adirondacks

We went for another hike again today. This time we took a short 2 mile one way hike which passed two ponds and ended at a third. At the first, Owen Pond, we saw a loon. He was so far away you can hardly tell what it is in the picture. I was so excited. That is the first loon we’ve seen since our trip to Maine a couple years ago. He was quite a surprise and my favorite part of the entire day. We stopped at the second and largest pond, Copperas, for a long break. I again sat on a rock at the waters edge to soak up the beauty of it all. We were somewhat disappointed with Winch Pond, where the short side trail ended. All the trees around the edge of the pond were dead. Many had fallen over into the water.
Moss covered log
A loon on Owen Pond
Lean to on Copperas Pond

The trail was typical of what we are going to find in this area. There was ample parking at the trailhead and it was well marked at the road. There was a register at the trailhead for hikers to sign in and out. The trail was well marked with blue metal disc nailed to trees. These markers are higher on the tree than the blazes of most trails in the south. Many of these trails are used by for cross country skiing and snowmobiling; therefore, the trail marker must be higher to be above the snow pack. This is a wet environment and again we crossed bogs. If we were lucky there had been a foot bridge of sorts to cross on. More often, though, we just tried to find a rock to step on to stay out of the mud as much as possible. To avoid spreading the size of the bog, hikers are encouraged to walk through the bog rather than going around on the edge. Because of the dampness, rocks, roots, and fallen tree trunks are covered in moss. It is a lush, rain forest kind of place. The ground is kind of spongy, sort of like walking on peat, and there is always the smell of pine in the air. I just love it.
Beaver dam

This is a very popular trail and we saw several people today. This could easily be made a loop hike of 3 miles if you used the road as a connector. There is parking at both trailhead locations. We chose not to do that because we wanted to go to the upper pond. However, if you started at the northern end you could be at Copperas Pond in just a half mile of very easy trail—great for families with children.
A frog
Blue bead lily
Copperas Pond

The park is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). I am assuming they, along with the help of the Adirondack Mountain Club, and hundreds of volunteers maintain the trails. Whoever is responsible, they are doing an outstanding job. Hats off to the trail maintainers! Thank you.
View of Whiteface Mountain from Copperas Pond

Monday, July 28, 2008

Adirondack Park

The word “Adirondack” is a Native American word meaning “bark eaters”. It refers to the Native Americans who, in the 1700s, survived the winters on buds and tree bark. Later, the first white scouts to explored this area made their way along the many waterways in long cedar boats which became known as Adirondack Guide Boats. As word got out about the pristine wilderness area, people began hiring these backwoodsmen as hunting and fishing guides. Even today, for the right amount of money, licensed guides will take you wherever you want to go.

Adirondack Park is a huge expanse of land, mostly wilderness, in Northeastern New York. Bounded on the east by Lake Champlain and Lake George it stretches westward to cover 6 million acres making it the largest park in the lower 48 states. That is roughly the size of Vermont. The park is not all public lands. There are numerous villages within it borders, perhaps the most famous being Lake Placid—the site of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympic Games.

Winter Olympic Games should give you an idea of the availability for winter sports in this area—downhill and cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing. Whiteface Mountain soars above our campground at 4867 feet and has the distinction of having the finest alpine skiing east of the Rockies.

This is a Mecca for fishermen, canoeist, and kayakers with 30,000 miles of rivers and streams and some 2,500 ponds and lakes. They say the Ausable River offers some of the best fly fishing in the nation.

We will be concentrating our efforts in the High Peaks Region which is home to the highest mountains in the state with Mount Marcy being the highest at 5,344 feet. At this elevation we will encounter an Arctic type environment with moss, lichen, and low shrubs above tree line. Near the summit of Mt Marcy the Lake Tear of the Clouds is the origin of the Hudson River.

We plan to spend as many days as possible on the trails, as well as explore the small hamlets, seek out a waterfall or two, tour the Olympic Training Center, and do a little shopping in Lake Placid. Let the fun begin.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Our First Hike

Contributed by Gene

We took the Cooper Kiln Trail to the pond of the same name from Franklin Falls Road and then retraced our route to the truck. It was great to be in the North Woods again. We only climbed to about 3000 feet, yet the vegetation was similar to 5000 feet in the Smokies. We walked through what seemed like miles of wet bog resulting in muddy legs and muddier boots. We saw some old friends along the way—three kinds of club moss, a viburnum, a trillium gone to seed, Solomon seal gone to seed, and some bluebead lily. We had not seen so much paper birch in maybe ever.
Cooper Kiln Pond

The best was the pond. I would have called it a tarn, but that is semantics. It reminded Judi and I of the High Sierra lakes or perhaps Colorado. The hillside above the pond was low and forested, but this was definitely a mountain pond with frogs, dragonflies, and yellow water lily. And big white rocks by the shore to sit upon. We could only sing praises to the creator for such a place as this. It was a great first outing in the Adirondacks.
Indian Pipe
Paper birch

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mount Rainier National Park

We pulled out onto the highway from our campground at 9 AM this morning.  We had a very pleasant drive north on I-5 to US 12 which we took east to Randle.  We are now settled in at Cascade Peaks RV Resort.  This is a 5-star Coast-to-Coast park, but I will have a more complete description later in the week after I’ve had an opportunity to look around some.
Crystal Clear Water in Panther Creek
After setting up and a quick lunch, we  got back in the truck for the 30 minute drive to the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center just inside Mount Rainier National Park.  This entrance is on the southeast side and is the closest entrance to our campground.  After spending several minutes with the volunteer manning the information desk, we came away with several park maps, the seasonal park newspaper, and a Trail Illustrated map which we purchased.
Looking up toward Chinook Pass
The volunteer recommended we not waste the remainder of this afternoon and suggested we drive up to Chinook Pass.  We did and it was beautiful.  Mount Rainier itself came in and out of view along the drive, but was either shrouded in clouds and/or in a bad sun angle for a descent picture.  Morning would be a better time for great views of the mountain from this side of the park.
Tipsoo Lake
This evening we will spread out the maps and make a plan for what we want to do tomorrow as well as the 2 weeks we’ll be in the area.

North Pole Campground and Wilmington, New York

We are all set up and settled in for our stay at North Pole Campground. We had a couple issues yesterday afternoon, but we solved one of them (at least for the short term) and decided to adjust to the other. Our first problem and definitely the more serious of the two, is electrical in nature. We have inside our Montana a voltage indicator. It will alarm if the voltage coming in is either too high or too low. Either way, it is not good on the appliances, especially the air conditioner. When I turned the air conditioner on, the alarm sounded—showing a voltage reading of 102. Gene called the office and they sent out the campground “electrician”. I don’t really know what all went on out there at the electrical post, but the conclusion was that there was 120 volts coming out of the post so it’s our problem. It is a little better today, so we have decided not to move to a different site. Our other problem involves those $298 digital converter boxes. We have cable here and they don’t support cable. The only thing we could do to have any TV reception at all was to disconnect the boxes.
Ausable River at campground

Today we strolled about the campground and about town to get ourselves oriented to the immediate area. This campground advertises as having the “best rating in the Adirondacks”. If it doesn’t, it should. It is a wonderful campground. It is fairly large as campgrounds go, but there are not so many sites. The reason—because all the sites are huge with lots of trees all around. The campground is spread out on both sides of the road with RVs and tent sites in both areas. The tent sites are the best we’ve seen in a long time. We are on the side which has hiking trails at the back of the campground. One of these trails connects to the trail up Whiteface Mountain—a popular Ski Resort named best in the East 3 years in a row and the site of Olympic Ski competition in the past. At the back of the campground on the other side of the road is the Ausable River. About a half mile away the river has been dammed to create a small lake right here. The campground has canoe and paddleboat rental and there is a small public beach on property adjacent to the campground.
Ausable River below the dam

The campground office opens at 8 AM with freshly brewed Green Mountain coffee. I think sitting by the lake drinking a cup of Vermont’s finest should become my regular morning routine.
Fisherman on the Ausable

We continued our stroll to “downtown” Wilmington. It’s really not much of a town at all, just a crossroad, not even a traffic light. We can actually walk from our campground to anywhere we want to be in the village of Wilmington. At the crossroads, a mere half mile from our campsite, is the Whiteface Mountain Veteran’s Memorial Highway. With the smell of hot brakes in the air, it conjured up memories of the road to the summit of Mt. Washington. As we crossed the bridge we could see the Ausable as whitewater beyond the dam. We found the small grocery and the public library. We’ll have to go to Lake Placid (13 miles) for a large grocery and fuel. It is a charming little community nestled in the mountains with a river running through it. This is wonderful.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wilmington, New York

It was a long day, but we are finally set up in our new campsite which will be our home for the next 4 weeks. This is a beautiful campground right in the heart of the high peaks region of the Adirondacks. Whiteface Mountain is just behind us. In fact, there is a trail at the back of the campground which connects to the main trail to the summit of the mountain. I guess I know where I’ll be getting my exercise. We came here to hike. This is so perfect.
Our first glimpse of the high peaks region

After we got off the interstate this afternoon, we followed the Ausable River to Wilmington. I was delighted to see that it runs right by the campground. That ought to be a great place to practice my photography. We also saw a few people on bicycles, but this area is far too hilly for me to ride.

This is all for today—I’m just too tired. The exploring begins tomorrow.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Was it just yesterday that I made the comment that if laundry was my greatest worry, then life was good indeed? Today laundry has turned into more of a bother than I care to deal with. I tried to go early, but with fresh blueberry pancakes for breakfast I got a late start. At this campground I have tried to limit myself to just 1 load, white or darks, at a time. But today the basket was full. Even though the washers are old and one of the dryers doesn’t work, it is cheap. Cheap is for me. So off I go with 2 loads of laundry.

When I got there both washers had completed their cycles, but the cloths were still in them. That is a little pet peeve of mine, but I won’t jump on that band wagon today. At least the owner showed up in about 5 minutes. After emptying the washers she informed me that “the washers are free” like I was too whatever to see that, but “the dryers will take some time”. Well, I’ve been here long enough to know that, too. Anyway, I had planned to take my cloths back to my campsite and hang them on the line. I figured mine would be dry before hers with a little light breeze and some sunshine.

My cloths hadn’t been on the line 30 minutes before I heard that first clap of thunder. Only Gene’s handkerchiefs got dry on the line. Everything else we brought inside. Just before lunch we tried the dryers again. Still busy. You’re really not supposed to dry things inside an RV. Drying creates moisture and moisture creates condensation under the roof and in the corners and everywhere you don’t want condensation to be. We cranked the air conditioner down to 70 to help take some of the moisture out of the air, but it was so cool outside (only about 60) that it didn’t run much. The best we could do was turn fans on to keep the air moving.

Gene decided he would help the drying along by ironing. This was great because now I wouldn’t have to iron those shirts. But I had to laugh when he started ironing his underwear. I use to laugh when my mother ironed her bed sheets “so they would look neat in the closet”, but underwear takes the prize. We laughed and I made this picture and then we got to talking about laundry in the early years of our traveling.

Our friends and family were quite curious about our traveling for an extended period of time and one of the questions that came up was “how are you going to do laundry?” Well, most of those friends and family had, at one time in their lives, been to a Laundromat, but I guess they had outgrown their upbringing and forgotten about such tasks. Anyway, we told them we would hand wash our clothes. And indeed we did. For the first 3 summers traveling, we had to carry almost nothing because our space was so limited. We only had light weight, nylon, fast drying things and it was easy to hand wash. Besides, I would have spent my entire vacation in the Laundromat if I hadn’t washed out a couple things each day.

Now don’t think we didn’t have a washing machine—we most certainly did. It was a 5 gallon paint bucket from Home Depot. We cut a hole in the lid large enough for a toilet plunger handle to fit through. That plunger was the agitator. I had had lots of practice churning milk at my grandparent’s house. I knew how to churn. It worked pretty good, but when we told our family and friends they all laughed. They laughed out loud. They had all kinds of suggestions—one of the more notable being to put that 5 gallon bucket, with clothes, water and soap, in the back of the van to ride for the day. When we got to our destination, the cloths would be clean and I wouldn’t have to do the churning. Aren’t family and friends great? I just love um.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Junius Ponds Campground and Cabins

We have made Junius Ponds in Phelps, NY our home for a month. We have been pleased with the campground, facilities and location. We wanted to tour the Finger Lakes, visit Niagara Falls, and do some biking along the Erie Canal. This campground is located at the northern end just about halfway between the two largest finger lakes. That gives us good access to our primary goal for being here. We are about 125 miles from Niagara Falls, but just a mile from I-90 which takes us there with little time and effort. We are a little farther from the Erie Canalway than I would have liked to be in order to bike there more often. However, we have access to other bike trails close by. There are several other campgrounds within a 30 to 50 mile radius of our location, but for what we wanted to do in the area, we think this worked out well.

Junius Ponds is a large campground with about 150 sites. At least half of those sites are rented to folks staying for the season. They have a more permanent look with flower gardens, yard art, and even a few fences.

The sites are nice. They have both back-ins and pull thrus—all large sites with lots of grass. Some sites have trees and some don’t. All are very well maintained.

The facilities are great. There is a very nice pool, a small store with your basic “camping” foods—mayo, hotdogs and a few canned foods as well as a basic supply of hardware—water hoses, sewer hoses, and campground t-shirts, 4 small cabins similar to KOA Kamping Kabins, a pond for fishing, and a playground for small children.

The campground has several organized activities each week—bingo on Tuesdays, breakfast on Saturday, and dinner a couple nights a week. There is a pavilion for these large activities and it is a great way to meet your neighbors.

There are a couple areas where there could be some improvement. With so many campsites and the number of people here, especially on the weekend, there is not enough bathroom/shower capacity. There are only 8 showers (4 each for men and women) and only 12 toilets (6 each). Even though most people use their own facilities in their campers, there are still a large number of tents and pop-ups on the weekends that warrant more bathhouse space. There is only one shower house located roughly in the center of the campground, but it is a long walk for the tenters who are on the perimeter of the park.

My chief complaint has been the laundry facilities. For this large number of seasonals, there are only 2 washers and 2 dryers and one of the dryers does not work. I finally figured out that the best time to do laundry is very early in the morning and only one load a day. I wait for a sunny day and hang my clothes on a line to dry.

There are always some negatives about any place and there are a lot more positives about Junius Ponds than negatives. If my greatest worry is laundry, then life is good indeed. I would recommend this campground for anyone visiting this area.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cayuga Lake

Today we drove along the western side of Cayuga Lake. This is the second largest of the Finger Lakes, however, it is the longest at 40 miles. Seneca Lake is just 2 miles shorter. There are, of course, wineries along Cayuga Lake, but not nearly the number that are along Seneca Lake.

We drove state route 89 which is designated a “scenic byway”. Beautiful it was, but we did not feel it was more scenic than other highways along the lakeshores. It was a bit more hilly and with less wineries it had more corn fields and hardwood growth. The lake was not as visible, especially at the southern end, as Seneca Lake.
Cayuga Ridge Vineyards

We stopped at a couple wineries just to take photos. We didn’t do any tasting today. We did, however, stop at the Cayuga Lake Creamery for an ice cream break.
Thirsty Owl Vineyards

This ends our touring around in the Finger Lakes Region. It is certainly beautiful and we have enjoyed every minute of our time here.

Friday we leave for the Adirondacks near Lake Placid.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Taughannock Falls State Park

We have been very impressed with the New York State Parks we have visited. Most of the ones we have been to, of course, have been on one of the Finger Lakes. That is a pretty small sampling compared to the total number in the state, but I am sure they are representative of state parks across the New York. Some have entrance fees, other do not. We suspect this is more a vehicle parking fee rather than a use fee.

We were amazed at the unmaintained Chimney Bluffs Park which had a wonderful picnic area and nice, clean restrooms. The maintained parks are really exceptional with paved bike trails, life guards on duty at sandy, lakeside swimming areas, very nice campgrounds, snack bars, rec rooms, and play areas. We were once again impressed at Taughannock Falls State Park.

We have had some very heavy rain for the past couple of days, so there was plenty of water in the falls which was our reason for going there. This park has it all with several miles of hiking trails, a great campground including cabins for rent, and right on Cayuga Lake. We took our picnic lunch and enjoyed the falls.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Niagara Falls, The Rest Of The Story

As with most places we go or things we do, there are different levels to the adventure. That is true of our trip to Niagara Falls. Everything I said yesterday was true—we got up early, we drove to Ontario, we got went on the Maid of the Mist, the falls were gorgeous, we had a picnic lunch, and we made many, many pictures. But we were bombarded with other stuff, things we didn’t expect or even want, which, all rolled into one, made it a truly international, summer vacation experience.
Flowers in Victoria Park

We are from the south where there are very few toll booths. We are not opposed to the practice, we just don’t have that personal relationship with toll booths that the folks in the north, especially in New York, have. The one thing we did more than anything else yesterday was pull up to a booth and hand over money. I am confused as to why it costs $7.10 to drive on the New York Thruway from our campground exit to Syracuse (about 30 miles) but only $4.00 to go all the way to Buffalo--a distance of 100 miles. My personal favorite was the little fellow who wanted $20 at the park and ride lot. Then we found out it costs extra if you wanted to ride. We decided to walk and leave the riding to souls richer than us.

We have crossed the border between the US and Canada many times, most often on our trip to Alaska. When we went to Hyder, Alaska, we crossed the border 4 times in one day. Always, without exception, the Canadian Border Guards are much more thorough in their questioning than the Americans. They are all business. They want to know who you are, where you are from, where you are going, how long are you going to stay, why are you here anyway, when are you going to leave, and just what have you got in that truck with you. When we came back into the US yesterday afternoon, the young guard wanted to know if we were citizens and all about our “See all of America the Beautiful” map which rides on the driver’s door of the truck.

Time of day has a lot to do with our enjoyment level of what we are doing. Saturday morning was great. There was very little traffic on the freeway and we could usually pull up to the toll booth without waiting. There were plenty of places in the park and ride lot to choose from which is critical with an F250 extended cab, long bed with tow mirrors that reach to the next county. We marched ourselves right up to the ticket booth at Maid of the Mist and had tickets within 5 minutes. After our picnic lunch, things changed dramatically. The crowds came out. It has been a long time since I have seen so many people in one place and it seemed nobody spoke English. All countries were represented in every imaginable dress. When we drove back by Maid of the Mist ticket booth as we were leaving, it was a mass of humanity—like one of those popular water rides at Disney Land. The line of cars to get across the bridge to the US was backed up three blocks from the river. We were shocked to find 14 lines open at the border and still have that kind of back up. Where did these people come from anyway—everybody in the world was standing in line at Maid of the Mist.

The sun came out along with the crowds and brought with it a sauna. I was not surprised that it was 10 degrees warmer than normal. That is always the story of where ever we are.
My man in a blue poncho

Our nerves were somewhat frayed from the crowds and the heat. I was pushed right over the edge by the young girls trying to lure folks to see the “Fury of Niagara”. In their enthusiasm they were going through the masses, one with a bull horn and the other shoving a brochure in your face. We were walking along dodging strollers and Hagan Das carts when out of the blue up comes a bull horn about 3 feet from my left ear while at the same instant a hand with a brochure flies up in my face. I informed the girl that her style of salesmanship would not win me over as a customer. Well, I may not have said it quite that nicely.
Twin bridges over Niagara River

We really did enjoy our trip to Niagara Falls. The falls were beautiful. The crowds and heat are things we expect at any major tourist attraction. We prefer the solitude and quite of a backwoods trail. However, there is more to our great land than trails, and we want to see it all. It makes us proud that everybody else in the world wants to see it, too.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a huge waterfall on the Niagara River between Ontario, Canada and New York. There are really two separate waterfalls—Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the widest at about 2,600 feet across and the American Falls. Bridal Veil Falls is also on the American side separated from the main American falls by Goat Island. Today was our day to see Niagara Falls.

We left very early for the 125 plus mile trip to the Niagara Falls, Ontario. Traffic was light so we made it in good time. Our first order of business was to get tickets for the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour. We walked right up to the ticket booth without much of a wait even though a tour bus had just deposited its group. We had initially planned to get our tickets for an afternoon tour; however, we seemed to be swept along with the throng of people heading to the boat.
American Falls

The Maid of the Mist had been highly recommended to us and we both enjoyed the ride even though we got pretty wet. Being below the falls “in the mist” was awesome. The mist was so thick we really couldn’t get a complete view of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side anywhere we were, but the view of the American Falls from the boat was the best.

After our picnic lunch we walked along the edge of the falls trying to get that “perfect photo”. The boat tour was good, but I think my favorite part was just walking along and seeing the falls from different viewpoints. I am awestruck at the amount of water that goes over the falls every minute of every day and it never runs out.
Old Power Plant

There is more of this story to tell, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Preparing for a Border Crossing

Tomorrow we are planning to go to Niagara Falls. Of course, everybody we talk to says “be sure to go to the Canadian side”. Actually, they say two things—go to the Canadian side and do the Maid of the Mist boat tour. We are all excited, but there was some prep work for this trip. We needed an insurance card for Canada.

Gene called our insurance company last week and they got it out to us right away at our campground location; even sent it overnight delivery. That was pretty special. The campground office had promised to call when we got any mail and after several days and no call, Gene decided the insurance company probably sent it to our Nashville address. He called his office and sure enough they had received a package from our insurance company. A couple days later, we stopped by the office (not having received a call) to see if we had gotten any mail. We had indeed received the package from Nashville, but to our surprise, we also had a FedEx package from our insurance company. Who knows how many days it had been there.

Back at the Montana, Gene discovered that the insurance card had already expired. Actually, probably what happened was just a typo, entering 2008 instead of 2009 for the expiration date. For whatever reason, the card was still expired by the time we got it. The insurance company was very apologetic and was happy to get another card out to us right away. We finally got our card in hand on Wednesday. The card is not required to enter the country. You only need it if you have an accident. We just were not willing to risk going without it.

We have been on the go quite a bit in the past several days. With this big trip tomorrow, we decided to take a couple days to stay at home and relax, do a few chores, and save some fuel. Each afternoon we have had the proverbial afternoon thunderstorms. They usually pass on by and give the sun a chance to peak around the clouds before setting. The sunsets have been pretty awesome. I climbed upon the roof of the Montana and caught this one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On The Wine Trail

Today was our day to explore the Finger Lakes Wine Trail. We had read great reviews for Dr. Franks Winery so we headed to Keuka Lake, the next lake west of Seneca Lake. Keuka Lake, meaning “canoe landing”, is the 4th largest of the Finger Lakes and is unique in its “Y” shape.

Our first stop was at Dr. Franks Winery. This was our first ever wine tasting and we really didn’t know what we were doing. It turned out to be pretty easy. The server (she may have a special title, but we didn’t learn that much today) gave us a list of the wines available for tasting. We could have selected the ones we wanted to try, however, we are not very serious or knowledgeable wine drinkers, so we didn’t know enough to know what we wanted to try. She was gracious and didn’t roll her eyes or laugh or do any other gesture that would have indicated her amusement at our lack of experience. Instead, she was very helpful in making suggestions about what we might like to taste.

Now we were on our way again, feeling much more confident in our ability to act like we know what we were doing. Our next stop was for lunch at Bully Hill Winery. We didn’t go to the tasting room here, but to the restaurant. We still selected a wine we wanted to sample before ordering a glass to accompany our lunch. Gene really ventured out and ordered a hamburger for his lunch. I wanted something I couldn’t get just anywhere. One of the appetizer specials was banana peppers stuffed with a variety of cheese then baked and served with toasted bread rounds. It was outstanding, but the peppers were very hot.
Heron Hill Winery

We made our way on down the western side of the lake. Our final stop was at Pleasant Valley Winery for the tour. Pleasant Valley is a very old winery, dating back to 1890. We enjoyed the tour which included getting to see the caves in which the wine barrels were stored for aging.
Old Pleasant Valley Winery
Huge redwood barrel of sherry

We drove home along the eastern side of the lake. We both agreed that, although the wine tasting was a new experience and the winery tour was interesting, we enjoyed the scenery as much as anything we did today.
Keuka Lake