Monday, August 22, 2016

New York 2

Wednesday:   We spoke with the couple from the Roadtrek that parked next to us last night. They are traveling in company with family in a Class C. We spent some time at the office, Jean shopping and Gene getting directions to the road we wanted and where there was diesel. The diesel place they told us about only had big-boy nozzles, and since we still had three (of 10) bars on the fuel gauge, we pressed on.
There were five lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic at the border, so it took quite a while to get to the front. But once it was our turn it went quickly. The agent did look inside, but we think he was more interested in seeing our layout than looking for contraband.
The task now was to head for Saratoga Springs. We chose a route to bypass Niagara and Buffalo and their traffic. We spent the whole time on country roads. We ran into traffic near Buffalo even though we were quite a ways out.
We headed east on 20, a secondary road that parallels the interstate. Jean found a campground that has a laundry, since we were out of clean clothes. Thus we stopped earlier than we normally would have, which was quite nice. I spent a lot of time writing the blog entry for Canada and processing pictures while Jean tended to the laundry. Both tasks took more time than we would have preferred. I wasn’t able to upload the blog from our site. I decided to try from closer in in the morning.
Thursday:   After breakfast I took the computer down to the game room, where I was able to finish the blog and upload it. Jean spent quite a bit of time in the camp store (surprisingly long for such a small store), where she bought a couple of items.
The countryside in this area is pretty flat, which allows farmers to plant very large fields. At this time, it was mainly corn with some soybeans. We could see where there had been wheat fields earlier. After a while the land became rolling, then more and more hilly. We were definitely heading toward the Adirondacks (though they are still a good distance away).
Our route took us across the top of the finger lakes. We stopped briefly at Seneca Lake. 
Seneca Lake

There is a nice lakefront park there where we should have had lunch. We drove on without seeing any more water for quite a while. Finally, we took a chance on a side road and stopped for lunch in a park beside Owseco Lake.
Back on US 20, we finally saw water again at Skaneateles. We parked and walked back through the high-end shopping district to take some pictures of two old-looking lake boats.

Our All-stays app wasn’t working for some reason, but RV Parky was and we found a campground well off the beaten path. We parked (two degrees off level) in the woods next to a fast-running creek. We walked around the campground and found we were the only motorhome there. Everyone else had trailers. When we got back to the rig, the pump burped and then kept on running for a while. The water tank read two lights, low but not out. Still, I hooked up the hose and gear and put some more water into the tank (though I didn’t top it up). Then I dumped the holding tanks for good measure. That amounted to more work than I really wanted.
Friday:   We slept well though slightly downhill. On the way out, we drove up the hill to the bathrooms. There I found enough signal to call my doctor in Forest and reschedule my appointments which were for the following week. The next available time for a checkout was mid-October! We got back on 20 and headed east.
Shortly, we came to the tiny town of Bouckville. We saw a few tables set at the side of the road and thought, a community yard-sale, how clever. Wrong! We had wandered into what has to be the world’s biggest antique show. There were tables and booths and tents set up for over a mile on the highway; plus filling any empty lots, plus running down the side streets. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic and mobs of pedestrians. They were selling everything from rugs to antique toys. It totally blew us away.

Later on, Jean found us a campground about eight miles from Saratoga Springs. We almost gave up on the directions, but pressed on and finally found it. We checked in about 3:00 and also got advice about proceeding in Saratoga Springs. After checking out our site (also next to a creek), we drove in to town.
As advised, we parked at a big shopping center and walked downtown. We walked down a long hill and found the Visitor Center. Jean explained that she was starting to research material on her old friend, dancer Michael Steele. The city historian is out for several days, but they gave us her email address. They also gave us a map and marked several locations.
We walked downtown to see what they said was the building, now empty, where he had his first dance studio when he retired from the New York City Ballet. The studio was on the second floor (the first floor was a restaurant). We walked there and took a couple of pictures with the cell phone. After resting and consulting the map, we walked to the library to check out the parking (iffy).
Maple Street studio

It was getting late and we were getting tired, so we went back to the main drag and had some dinner (and a rest in the air conditioning). Finally, we had to face the long, uphill walk back the the Roadtrek. We (meaning Gene) rested for a while at the top of the hill, which allowed us to make it the rest of the way back to the van. Tomorrow we start at the library.

Saturday:   A quick breakfast and back to Saratoga. Our first goal was the library. There was no way we were going to park in the parking lot, but we had to look. We drove around to the various parking lots listed on the map, but by 11:00 they were all full. We finally found a small shopping center a couple of blocks from the main drag that had space, so we parked and walked down the hill to the library.
We were directed to the Saratoga Room, where we spent a fruitful couple of hours. There were some newspaper articles which we were able to have copied, and some other material. Jean took lots of notes and felt she had a good sense of the situation. We walked back to the van, and found a good-looking bus conversion parked nearby.

We had a good lunch at a Chinese restaurant, so we qualified as customers to make our parking legal. Then we went in to the CVS and Jean bought a notebook (the one she was using has lots of other material in it) and a file folder. We are getting serious.
Next we drove to the Saratoga Museum of Dance (ample parking). They were also having an art show there. The museum has some interesting displays, but there was no reception desk or any obvious way of connecting with museum staff. There is a Gift Shop, and Jean bought a book that included material on Michael that she had seen at the library. The clerk called someone in the museum to see if they had any material on Michael, but no one knew of anything, or even where to look. So we had to be content with buying the book. Then it turned out the clerk didn’t have change and we had to wait while someone brought her some. So the museum, on which we had pinned some hope, turned out to be a bust.
The last thing on our list was to drive by and look at his last studio. It is a large building, a two-story house in the front, a one-story extension, and a large studio at the back. It was empty and surrounded by trees and weeds. I took some pictures but they won’t show much. 

Third and last location

As we left, Jean noticed a neighbor down the block putting out his trash, and she went to talk to him. While she was talking, I noticed that there was a couple on their front porch across the street from the studio. I parked the rig and walked over to see if they might have known Michael. It turns out that they are long-term residents of the neighborhood and had quite a lot they could say about him. They invited us up onto the porch, and even brought in another neighbor. We stayed and talked for quite a while.
Michael had taken an old factory building and spent a lot of time and money fixing it up into a very nice place. There was a large space next to it that he (or more so his partner, Tommy) had made into a beautiful garden and courtyard. They had nothing but complimentary things to say about him. He was very popular and gave lots of parties. He was always cheerful and friendly --- except for the last year of his life which was sad and painful. They think he died of cancer.
We finally took our leave, very pleased with what Jean had accomplished that day. We had thoughts of ice cream on the way home but there was no place we could easily park and get some. We were back in the campground by 6:00, tired but happy. Time for Cuba Librés and a nap.

Sunday:   We didn’t expect anything to be open, so we slept in. After breakfast, Jean looked through her files and began to organize things. About mid-day her phone rang. It was a woman who was a friend of one of the contacts that the woman at the library had suggested. She heard that we were looking for information about Michael and said she would be glad to talk with us.
So an hour later we were sitting in Linda Bullock’s town house living room, talking about Michael Steele. She had been a friend of his and known him from when he first came to Saratoga Springs. She filled in many details beyond what the people had told us the day before. For some reason, the conversation seemed to center on his various problems and difficulties, rather than cheery tales about the good times (though some of that was included, too). It seems (according to her) that Michael had a harder life, especially in the latter years, than we had gathered yesterday.
We spent several pleasant hours with Linda. She told us where some of the houses he had lived in were located, and also where his second studio was, which was just a couple of blocks from her place. It was starting to sprinkle when we left her place, so we grabbed the umbrella and the camera and walked over there to take some pictures. His studio had been on the third floor of an interesting-looking building, which had since been converted to businesses with a very high-end apartment where the studio was. So now we had seen all three places where he had taught.

Second studio location
We drove downtown and located Hattie’s, a restaurant near his first studio, from which came one of the pictures of him in the book. Driving around, we found parking in a nearby city lot (only since it was Sunday). We hurried back because we thought they closed at 5:00, but it turns out they opened at five. We didn’t want to wait, so we looked around. We ended up at a nearby organic and vegan buffet where they charged by the pound. We tried it out, and the food was pretty good. In order to avoid being too healthy, we then went across the street and had hot fudge sundaes at Ben and Jerry’s.
Since it started raining, though lightly, we elected not to explore any more in Saratoga, and headed back to the campground. It rained harder the closer we got, and was coming down steadily when we got there. We waited for several minutes until it let up a bit, and I got out and plugged us in, etc. Of course, once everything was set up and I was dried out the rain stopped. Relaxed and read the rest of the night.

Monday:   We stayed over until Monday in order to go to the court house and get his death certificate and find out if he had been married. Gene hiked up the hill to the bath house, and then got into a conversation with the couple in a Sprinter by Airstream. When he got back down to our Sprinter, he hooked up the hose, etc. and filled the fresh water tank. Jean decided we should go into town for a hot breakfast. So, after driving back up the hill to dump the holding tanks, we headed back to town for the last time this trip. It took us a while to find a place in the downtown area that served breakfast, and then we had to wait for quite a while. We finally got a good breakfast about noon.
We stopped at the Visitor Center for directions to the court house. We got the directions but like everything else in town, they were a little confusing and in this case, not quite accurate. We finally found both parking and the City Hall. We also found that birth, death, and marriage records are not public; so that was a bust. It was time to leave town.
Jean found us a campground in late afternoon, but the directions we got from the woman there sent us the wrong way at first. Then the promised signs showing the way were either missing or almost unreadable. We missed another turn, and finally got good directions from a farmer. It seemed almost to be not worth it, since we were near a Walmart that we had stayed at (for free) a few years ago. However, when we finally found it, it turned out to be a pleasant and good-looking place, with operating wifi. I guess it was worth it.
So now we are on our way back home. We plan on avoiding the interstates as much as possible, so it will take us longer to get back. It looks like we will get home just as the hot weather hits again.

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