Erie Schmerie (Season 2)

For a great many Loopers—including us—the New York Canal System is the first exposure to locks on narrow waterways.  And the concept seems cool.  The Erie Canal is all historical and romantic, for example, in an Industrial Revolution sort of way, and there’s even a song about it.   Then you hit the Chambly, or Rideau, or Trent-Severn, and you realize that the New York locks aren’t that fun.

Then after three hundred or so locks you’re over them completely.  Just hard work.  If we want to get to Alaska, however, we gotta get through Oswego and Erie one more time.  At least the Oswego River is full of beauty and interesting stuff.

Remember the weird Canadians who put that huge ugly dog statue in their yard?  We found where their cousins live.

Uncle Joe, on the other hand, has a trading post.

Here’s an old stone bridge.  Not to be confused with The Old Stone Bridge.  We have no information about presidential visits or honorary salutes at this one, but it’s pretty anyway.

Here’s the place where old canal workboats go to die.

Just before leaving the Oswego, we passed Phoenix.  Jarring every time.  This Phoenix literally did rise from the ashes, after a fire in 1916 destroyed virtually the entire town.  The blaze started with a spark at the Sinclair Chair Factory and quickly spread to the Duffy Silk Mill, which sound like fictitious places where Curly, Moe, and Larry might work.*  Unfortunately for the New York version of Phoenicians, the silk mill also housed the water pumps, which not surprisingly stopped working pretty early on.

About that fancy mural.  First, as mottos go, “A Community on the River” is, um, not good.  Sing Sing Correctional Facility also is a community on a New York river.  Why advertise that you’re no better than a maximum-security prison?  Second, why include information that almost immediately is obsolete?  That’s nearly as foolish as putting all your water pumps in a flammable building loaded with the finest combustible fabrics.

We thought about stopping in Phoenix, but didn’t.  Instead we made the turn on the Oneida River towards the opposite of Buffalo.  Seven locks behind us.

Pirate’s Cove is a small family-run marina that had exactly one spot into which we could fit, so we stopped for the night.  Quirky joint.  Justin is an awesome dockhand though.

After tying up we headed to the restaurant for the live music.  The Scoundrels won’t be mistaken for The Beatles, but their amp does go to 11.

Since leaving the Oswego River, we’ve been on the Erie Canal, which more accurately is not a singular canal but instead is a waterway of rivers with some canals and a bunch of locks thrown in with them.  One list we found in a trade publication for construction managers says the Erie project was the ninth deadliest in the history of mankind.**  We’re not sure what OSHA documentation is available from, say, the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Egypt jobs, but no doubt many good people died just so we can complain about locking through.

“The early bird gets the smooth water,” as the old saying goes.  Up and out before 7.

Gorgeous Monday for boating.  Only one lock.  Nice.

“Never pass up the chance to get diesel for under $4,” as another old saying goes.  The stop at Winter Harbor took almost an hour, but we last topped off in Grand Marais and now can make it to Ft. Lauderdale.

Most of the day was spent crossing Oneida Lake, which is strangely not tricky for something so big and yet so shallow.  Just point towards the lighthouse—which really is just a light on top of a tower—and twenty miles later you’re at Sylvan Beach.  Easy.

Easy for us, but probably not so easy for the solo sailor who appeared to be heading twenty miles across to the shipyards at Brewerton while affixed to the stern of TowBoatUS.

Sylvan Beach was a convenient stop, with TripAdvisor reporting a nice list of well-regarded restaurants.  All of which are closed on Mondays.  Grrrr.  You’d expect one guy in town to think to himself “Monday crowds are small, but if I have the only open joint in town I’ll get everybody,” wouldn’t you?  Nope.  But no worries, Monday was a great day for some backyard grilling.  Not in our backyard, of course.  Our backyard is in Scottsdale and it’s still one million degrees there.  So we grilled brats in someone else’s backyard.  Yum.

Upon closer inspection, Sylvan Beach leans a tad to the tacky side.  Not that there’s anything wrong with tacky.  But the amusement park with tilty whirly coastery rides that were built from a Tinkertoy Construction Set?  No way.  If we wanted headaches and vomiting and quite possibly an agonizing death, we’d go back to Tin Pan Galley.

Today, more of the slog.  All the way to Little Falls.  The cute Canadian locks weren’t too bad in the rain, although maybe that’s because we sent Brad and Kate out.  We definitely could’ve done without rain in the bigger Erie locks or done with someone else to get wet.

We’re not certain that any of the maritime museums around here have an exhibit entitled “Mysteries of Lock 22,” but if one does we’re confident it includes the prominent display of a cleat attached to a good-size chunk of Mainship fiberglass.  Lock 22 was our first one of the morning.

Mostly drizzly and cold, but with a few dry opportunities to poke a camera out along the way.

During one of the many long straight stretches of isolation, one of us suggested getting some action shots from the drone while underway.  Responsive silence from the other one of us, however, quickly resolved the matter.

Along the way we passed Rome.  Rome claims to be the “Copper City,” which (1) being from Arizona and (2) having just visited Copper Island, was a surprise.

We looked it up.  At one point Rome in fact was a major producer.  Paul Revere started a copper foundry that still is operating here, although he likely wouldn’t be pleased by Revere Copper Products’ 2.8 Google stars.  We only saw a bit of the town from the canal, but we feel confident it wasn’t built in a day.

Next along the route was Utica.  Utica is famous as the home of Willie’s Bagel Cafe.  Willie and his 4.7 stars put Paul Revere to shame, but more importantly Willie opens early.  As we learned when we were in Utica with Second Wave five years ago, when you need a bagel shop, you need a bagel shop, and Willie’s is the place to go.  Doug had to get up on the flybridge in the rain to take a photo as we cruised by, but it’s worth it.

Eliphalet Remington of Ilion started making firearms in 1816, probably to keep people from making fun of his first name.  Although Remington Arms ultimately became an iconic piece of Americana, the company went under a few years ago.  We don’t know if the country store still is around.

Then a run of barges.  Someone repurposed these abandoned ruins into delightful planters.

The little fella in this one looks scared to leave the nest.  The sign on the side says the micro-tug is part of the “Green Propulsion Project,” which sounds about right.  It will burn zero fossil fuels while being pushed around in a barge.

This barge is loaded with some of the prop-dinging detritus left in the canal by the recent storms.  The smiling dude on the tug radioed us with warnings as we approached the lock he was cleaning out.  Some close calls, but no damage.

These are guard gates.  Essentially they slam down when the water gets too high.  Odd.

A photogenic egret welcomed us to Little Falls.

We love Little Falls, but are too tired to give it much blog attention.


*The world’s entire population of intelligent and civilized peoples of every race, color, and creed, agree that Curly, Moe, and Larry are the only Stooges that matter.  Alabama fans, of course, prefer Shemp.

**With a 40% casualty rate, the Panama Canal topped the list.  Who the hell takes a job where survival is only a slight probability?

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