Monday, October 24, 2016

On Bridges and Beauty

Covered bridges are an American phenomenon and here was one in Historic Philippi, West Virginia.

A two-lane one, no less. The bridge, across the Tygart Valley River, was built in 1852. Both the northern and southern armies used it during the Civil War - that's according to the historical plaque. It doesn't tell us if they collided in the middle. Another historical sign told us that Philippi was the site of a speedy Confederate retreat called the "Philippi Races"

This must have been the old railway station, now a museum.

 We had brunch on the terrace of a historic mansion called "Graceland" (no, not that Graceland) on the university campus at Elkins, West Virginia. Here's the view..

And stop for petrol, aka fuel at one of the sweetest little garages I've ever seen.

Next door had some interesting things on offer

And the sort of sign you tend to see in rural parts.

 A typical peaceful scene

 The hills making a fabulous tapestry

We drove through the a town called,  Beverly "Little Town Big History",  which was where the unfortunate Confederates retreated to. Many of the roads we took were like this....

And the sweeping views were like this..

And this.

We couldn't get enough of it. If I had a thousand dollars for every time I said, "Wow! Look at that!"....
Below was not the Sydney Opera House but the Tamarack Arts Centre in Beckley, West Virginia, where we were told there was a good cafeteria for dinner. It was OK, though the fried chicken wasn't as good as my mother used to make.

It sold exquisite local handicrafts at enormous prices. They were lovely but I wonder who can afford them. Someone, obviously, or they wouldn't be in business.

to be continued.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Road Trip: All Along the River

Florida beckoned and sister-in-law and I hit the road through Pennsylvania. The day was gorgeous and the Allegheny River, which had followed us from Cattaraugus County was at its best. Apart from the little fence, this view probably hasn't changed much since pioneer days. We had to scramble down a steep bank by somebody's fishing cabin to get a photo. We assumed it was deserted - then saw it was decorated with Christmas lights.

Occasionally we'd see fishermen in tiny boats in the centre of the placid river. At a quaint little town called Tidioute, we fancied crossing this old-fashioned bridge.

The railings were a bit rusty but the view was good.

There are so many charming flat-fronts in these small towns.

 Sorry we missed it.....

 A sign pointed to the "Simpler Times Museum" but alas we never found it. Now I'm going to try not to get political here but along with signs for local election candidates (John Kluck was one name I liked) there were rather a lot these...

These are rural parts after all. Along the road brown cows grazed in a row, tails swishing and an Amish buggy clopped past. Even Oil City wasn't really a city in the British sense.

It must have been grand in the old oil days though. A splendid church with twin spires rose from the hillside. This trip we had remarkable luck finding good local cafes. Sometimes we search all day and there's not so much as a Dunkin' Donuts.

 But not this time. This place was called Spilling the Beans. That's a clever one.

 We stopped for the night in Morgantown, West Virginia. We seem to have remarkable luck getting good food in West Virginia. This place, Bartini, served steak and sushi.

It was noisy, the trendy waitresses all wearing black dresses and boots but the food was tasty. best of all was the macaroni cheese, (which Americans call "macaroni AND Cheese) with bacon bits in it. Yum.

to be continued.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Antidote Apples

     Tired of politics? There’s no better solution to getting away from it all than picking apples.
  When I pick apples I almost feel like a real, rural western New Yorker.  Apples are so much a part of American folklore.   New York apples – the Macintoshes,  the Empires, the Cortlands, which are hubby’s favourites,  can be unbeatable,  even in the supermarkets where they polish them up to look artificial. They’re even better at the farmers’ market or roadside stalls but best of all when they come free.

 The apple trees buried in the jungle that passes for our garden (I can never bring myself to say “yard” in the American way) like to surprise us. They hide, their white spring blossom  spied faintly through the trees. Now you see them, now you don’t. “Are there really any blossoms?” we ask each other each year.  To get to them in the autumn,   we have to hack through dense tangles of viciously thorny multiflora rose – that scourge of all western New York gardeners - that encircle them like the approach to Sleeping Beauty’s castle and lie in wait, gleefully ensnaring passers-by. 
       So hubby and I stood under an apple tree wrangling with the apple grabber,  which consisted of an extendable pole with a padded basket on the end and prongs to grab the apples. It made for a steep learning curve. In an ideal world, there would be no branches in the way and the biggest and best apples wouldn’t be at the very top of the tree. If we didn’t get the prongs at exactly the right angle,  the bigger apples would stay stubbornly put, while the smaller ones rained down, bouncing off our heads.
  After filling three huge baskets from just one tree,  we had reluctantly to call it a day, leaving the rest for the  deer, who are going to be very, very happy. Any hopes that they might gorge themselves on so many fallen apples that they ignore the rhododendrons are probably forlorn ones.
  Hubby and I worked tirelessly, peeling, chopping and  freezing. I felt like one of the old pioneers, just lacking a bonnet.  
  “Goodness”, I said, looking at the kitchen clock, “We’ve missed the Presidential debate.”
 “Well isn’t that too bad,” said hubby.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Autumn Marches On

We had our first real frost this week - sadly for the plucky Impatiens that finally gave up the ghost and shrivelled up. But the maple tree makes up for them.

So far it has just one patch of bright red.

With the sun shining and blue skies, it looks like a wonderful year for leaf-peeping.

We've seen the coaches on the roads. They've struck it lucky. For people who actually book leaf-peeping holidays from Britain, it can be very hit-and-miss. A bit of rain and wind and the leaves are gone before they even started and you've wasted a lot of money. Most people head for New England because they've been told it's the thing to do. They don't know how beautiful western New York is.

This one's just starting - it looks as if it will go that deep wine colour - my favourite.

Meanwhile it's Fairy Glen time again in our garden. Mummy, Daddy and two baby mushrooms all in a row..

The gold is pretty too

Especially next to the red

 And the hillside is coming along nicely.

Puzzled by the pungent scent of peppermint, I looked around and discovered some powerful mint growing wild in our jungle. We never knew it was there. It makes the most delicious tea, stronger than enything you buy in the shops.

But something's missing...

Chippy, Chipolata, Chipster and the gang have vanished. A couple of weeks ago they were scampering everywhere, one up the oak tree biting off the twigs with the acorns, the others catching them and doing relays back to the burrow, acorns stuffed in their cheeks. Have they already hunkered down for winter?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Verge-Mowing Monster

 Something odd is happening in our locality.  A crazed verge mower has escaped and is on the attack.

This is the tragedy wrought on the Allegheny River Trail, which used to be lined with bushes, blackberries and wildflowers. No, Hurricane Matthew didn't come anywhere near here.

Only the odd, brave survivor remains, "What harm were we doing?"

This massive purge of roadside greenery has spread to the edges of the Five Mile Road, which is a country road, lined with farms and occasional houses, so they're hardly likely to be preparing to plant an avenue of ornamental trees. This is America, so I doubt they're intending to install footpaths, so kids can walk to school and not have to take those wretched school buses, though that would be a wonderfully progressive step. Big machines have been holding up traffic, scraping up all the grass in chunks of turf and leaving ugly, wide strips of earth that will doubtless turn into a muddy morass.  Perhaps verge exterminating is a new 'elf and safety obsession, like gluten-free? Perhaps it's a top secret operation to rid the world of triffids or some other deadly poisonous plant that's been lurking in the hedgerows, ready to decimate civilisation.  Or else they've got taxpayers' money they need to use up on something and quick.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Marina Sound and Fury

 There are some wonderful things about sailing from Buffalo Marina. And there are some less wonderful things. Some people just aren't happy unless they're making a loud noise. The restaurant is bad enough, blaring out tuneless music all Sunday afternoon. And the other day, about half a dozen obnoxious power boats circled round and round by the launch ramp. They seemed all to be meeting up with their friends. These are powerboats of an exceptionally raucous kind - the marine equivalent of motorbikes without silencers, only much louder. Fine, if that's how some sad people get their kicks but why do they have to impose it on others?

 Here they are later on - evidently having some sort of race.

 Now this is far more my sort of thing.

 And just when we thought we are getting some peace and quiet (isn't that what sane people go out on the water for?) We heard another hideous din. Too far away to be the restaurant - no, it was the pleasure boat spewing out some of the loudest music I've ever heard. Keep it down will you!!!

 But no, they were oblivious of course. It's a wonder they didn't all come back stone deaf.

 Then, all of a sudden, along came this monster. But it was a silent monster, creeping up on us like a ghost, not bothering to sound its horn. We were lucky we weren't right in its path.. It's not often these days that you see a lake freighter coming out of Buffalo. Perhaps he was carrying Cheerios, which are manufactured there, among the hulking grain elevators. At least something still is, so good luck to them. You can smell them if the wind's in the right direction.

Judging by its name, this behemoth was American.

 It's amazing how fast they move - and how quiet they are. We were once nearly mown down by one - that one had a name in Cyrillic - Russian, possibly. Now the Great Lakes all connect up with each other and the sea, you never know. In the twinkling of an eye he was on his way.

 So at last we had the lake to ourselves.

Except for some fishermen. Now they are quiet, civilised neighbours and no  problem with them being  a nuisance except when they anchor right in the middle of the exit to the harbour. That happens frequently - perhaps it's a good spot for fish. And they can say with good reason that they were there first.

 It was a glorious afternoon and the lake shimmered as if covered in rhinestones.

 The noisemakers had long gone. They didn't know what they were missing.