Last evening Julie, the boys and I along with another couple traveled to Syracuse, NY to see the 30th anniversary of the classic film “Christmas Vacation”. This event was held at the beautiful Landmark Theater in downtown Syracuse and was followed by an hour long Q&A with none other than Clark W. Griswold himself.
The Landmark was completely sold out to the tune of 2,800 seats. I won’t lie the seating is cramped. I loved this event and to see Christmas Vacation on the big screen was just great. At the end of the movie where aunt Bethany sings the National Anthem the entire theater sang right along.
A few minutes after the movies end Chevy Chase came out for a Q&A about this movie and others along with some Saturday Night Live stuff as well. I didn’t realize until last night that Chevy Chase is 76 years old. I’ve always envisioned him as Clark Griswold.
For the past 20+ years Julie and I have amassed a very large collection of glass Christmas ornaments that hang from our four trees each year. Some are new and some very old.
When the boys were born we began the tradition of purchasing them each a Christmas ornament every year. As they got older we would all jump into the family truckster and head for the Hand of Man in Owego where we would pick our ornaments together. The thought was that Michael and Max would look forward to putting their ornaments on the trees every year all the while building a small collection of ornaments for themselves to take with them once they leave home.
Last evening we took our annual pilgrimage to Owego for our Christmas cheer one last time. Pat Hansen the owner will be retiring and Hand of Man will close their doors in April 2020.
We are truly sad but this evenings outing was wonderful family tradition complete with a few slices of pizza to finish it off.
Another piece of Roadside America thrives in the north country of New York’s Adirondack Park.
Having read all the rave reviews about Donelly’s Ice Cream in Saranac Lake, my wife and I stopped after paddling Moose pond. It was 3PM on a Monday and the line of cars coming and going was endless. Using the same machine since 1953 they only serve one flavor per day and on this day it was (Vanilla & Butter Pecan Twist).
If you are ever in the Saranac Lake area of New York I highly recommend a pit stop at Donnelly’s, It was delightful!
One of my favorite local places to canoe is the small Nanticoke lake. I simply love the fact that you have to walk/carry your canoe a quarter mile even before laying eyes on it. It gives you that extra sense of adventure and tranquility. Here is a short video I shot of sunrise back in October 2017, please feel free to share.
Michael had talked with us about taking a cruise as kind of a high school graduation present. To be honest I had no desire to take a cruise and I still don’t. However Julie being the voice of reason she usually is promptly stated how inexpensive it would be to feed Michael on a cruise as to a traditional vacation, she now had my attention.
Our trip to Florida began back on November 24th 2017 “Black Friday” as I booked our cruise online with Carnival Cruise Lines. We would fly into Tampa Bay the day before, relax at our resort by the pool with drinks and set sail to Cozumel Mexico the next day.
Fast forward to February 2018 as I received an email from Carnival stating that they had changed our port from Cozumel to Havana Cuba I re-read the email a dozen times to make sure I was reading it properly and each time I became more upset. I approached Julie about it and she was equally annoyed. We stewed on it for a few days and came to the conclusion that it might not be all that bad. So chatted with the boys and they seemed on board as well. Heck if there are palm trees Michael is all set.
Several days later Julie being the researcher she is began diving into the specifics of traveling to Cuba. First our enhanced drivers license would not work and we would need passports. There is an additional $500. Next she discovered due to the relationship with the United States, Cuba would require us to purchase additional visa’s to even get off the boat, another $300. Then once off the ship we would not be permitted to roam freely and would have to be with a tour group. Even with the tour group you couldn’t breakaway. For example if Tourist A wanted to visit a certain shop or restaurant everyone would have to visit the same place, another $600 for the tour.
So on top of the flights, Cruise, hotel cost we would add another $1,400 to our trip. We were not happy to say the least. So we talked about it and decided to cancel the cruise. We had put a $600 deposit down the day of booking and the remaining was due by June. I contacted Carnival and they returned $400 of the $600 and we decided to just visit Florida instead since we already had the flights paid for and at least the first nights hotel.
I’ve never personally used Air BnB, VRBO or Home Away so I jumped online and began to search places near Tampa to stay. Long story short I found a great condo in St. Pete’s Beach only a 5 minute walk to the beach, two bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, living room and a back patio. I contacted the owner and our dates were available since it would be August. Let me just say the the cost of the condo for 4 nights and a car rental was just under a $1,000. I didn’t know what to expected when we arrived at the condo since I only saw pictures of it online. We opened the door and the place was awesome, clean and comfortable. Definitely felt like a home away from home.
The goal for this vacation was to have fun and just relax and and not try to cram 4,000 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag running around here and there. This actually felt like a vacation. We visited the Tampa Aquarium, took a guided kayak tour of Florida’s Shell Key Preserve, enjoyed a lot of food, beer & ice cream, went to a Waterpark with my cousin whom I have not seen in several years and relaxed a bit on the beach. I even read two books. Heck I barely took any photos.
Julie the boys and I had a great time and Michael has expressed possible interest in living in St. Pete’s during next summer.
After a 25 year absence “Pops on the River” returned last evening to Binghamton, NY. You couldn’t have asked for better weather in order to celebrate a triumphant return. With low humidity, temperatures around 78 degrees under cloudless skies.
I have been living in Binghamton for 24 years and have not had the opportunity to witness this event. To be honest I was 23 when I moved here with my interests more in beer, women and Rock N’ Roll. So I probably wouldn’t have went anyway. Times and tastes change a bit. Don’t get me wrong I still love Rock N’ Roll!! When I heard “Pops on the River” was returning I was extremely excited and could not wait to attend. I had seen pictures, read stories from years past of crowds approaching 50,000. Last nights event didn’t come close to that number but I would say several thousand lined the riverwalk, the Court Street bridge and rooftops. However the images of past did show a very large crowd on the water in all sorts of watercraft.
My wife, son Max and I decided to paddle our kayaks and canoe a short distance down the Chenango river to take in the show from the water. Arriving at the launch there were about a dozen or so cars parked who had the same idea as us. The current was mild which made for a real nice paddle and we were setup right before showtime which was 8PM.
There were many kayaks, canoes and homemade watercraft as well. There was even a pirate ship. However the custom float complete with drunk guys right next to us the entire evening were very entertaining. They were fixated on pillaging a later from that pirate ship I mentioned. During the Binghamton Philharmonic’s final score of “Pirates of the Caribbean” one jumped in the water and swam over to try and acquire a lantern. It didn’t go so well, but again was extremely entertaining. As a matter of fact one of those drunk guys tried to help my son Max get his kayak unstuck from a rock once we were leaving, only to flip him over. It was hysterical!
The music was wonderful. My wife and I enjoyed it very much and Max I know he enjoyed it because he plays in his high school band and loves the music as well.
The evening was capped off with an amazing fireworks show and sitting in the river we had front row seats. Hopefully Pops on the River will return again in 2019!
The firework show was 10 minutes long and spectacular so please watch the video, cheers!
I can remember like it was yesterday! The last of our family had just driven away and Julie and I stood there starring at this infant sound asleep. We looked at each other and said “Now what do we do”. I was scared to death because Michael did not come with an owners manual.
Today nineteen years later Michael will graduate high school. He has been in the BOCES program the past two years working in video production and will continue this fall at Broome Community College.
To say I’m proud of him would be an understatement. As parents our goal has always been to raise our children to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful, respectful, hard working and most importantly good human beings. I’ve always said to the boys that mom and dad are guides in life and can take you only so far while you will have to do the rest. I think we are doing a good job.
So congratulations to you Michael, mom and dad are very proud of you!!!
For several years now my wife has wanted to try her hand at curling and with the excitement of the upcoming Winter Olympics we decided to give it a go.
I found a place about an hour from home that had a “Learn to Curl” session so I registered us along with our friends Bill and Jamie. Watching curling on TV made it look really easy. We quickly found out there was a little more to it. For me it was getting used to the feel of the ice at first. Then the slipperiness of your one foot that had the teflon under it so it would glide.
We had a really fun time with curling and plan to return for more lessons and hopefully get a little better at it each time.
Finished with exploring Henderson lake I reloaded all my gear into and onto my car and began the slow journey from New York to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Making a quick stop in Ticonderoga for fuel and food before crossing at Crown Point. There is no highway that runs west to east in Vermont so the 158 miles to my destination was slow but the scenery more than makes up for it. Leaving the Champlain Valley my favorite section of this adventure is on route 17 as you cross the Green Mountains and descend into the Mad River Valley. There are six hairpin turns I believe on this section of road.
I would spend the next several days visiting with friends and doing what I enjoy most. Roaming around Vermont and New Hampshire taking in their beauty. Over the past several years I have visited the town of Newport, VT and Newport has really grown on me. Nestled along the US/Canadian border, Newport sits at the southern end of Lake Memphremagog. Lake Memphremagog stretches 32 miles to the southeastern Quebec city of Magog. I hope to someday kayak parts of this lake which oddly enough is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. After a long day and as we were 200 hundred yards or so from the house my friends truck would lose its brakes to a ruptured brake line. All I can say is thank goodness it happened close to home.
On our way to Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park we are climbing route 112 which is also called the Kanc (Kancamagus Highway) cresting near Beaver Pond we noticed smoke along the Kinsman Range. It appeared that a small forest fire had started and personnel were on the scene. Continuing on to Cannon Mountain we would take the tram to the summit. As the tram car climbed the winds increased quite considerabley and the temperatures dropped as well. At the top we made our way to the tower, a viewing platform where on a clear day you can see for over one hundred miles. The fog and clouds were rolling over the mountain tops playing a game of hide and seek with the sun.
Afterwards we stopped to check out the “The Basin”. The Basin is a 20 foot diameter granite hole at the base of a beautiful waterfall. Some say it had been eroded 15,000 years ago while the North American ice sheet was melting. Over time The Basin has been smoothed small stones and sand, whirled around by the Pemigewasset River.
Stopping in North Woodstock, NH at the Woodstock Station Inn & Brewery for lunch it was so sunny and warm at this point we chose to sit outside. I sampled some of their beers with my favorite being the 4,000 footer IPA. For lunch I would knock down their adult grilled cheese sandwich with a side of chili.
Heading back west over the Kanc we noticed there was a lot more smoke than earlier this morning. A helicopter was also on he scene making water drops on the mountain side. We would spend the next 90 minutes watching and photographing the efforts of all involved. I’ve never witnessed a forest fire of this size about (5 acres) at the time up close. Looking at the sheer rock cliffs one could see the firefighters trying to advance. The aggressive sound of their chainsaws cutting timber in efforts to battle the blaze could be heard echoing down below. The heat from the fire was causing slides and I could see trees falling. According to news reports that I have read there is speculation the fire was caused by a meteor strike which is unconfirmed at this time. As a note this section of the White Mountain National Forest is also part of the Appalachian Trail.
The next afternoon I would begin my long trek back home taking me 6.5 hours. The traffic on route 4 across Vermont was horrible and slow going. I was glad to be home!