African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Erie Experience

Here I sit, in the hotel in Rochester, NY getting ready to leave for the airport and our flight home, already reminiscing about the 3 1/2 days we spent cruising on the Erie canal. It was quite an experience. Cruising displaced bicycling this week and with that connection clarified, I'll document the canal trip here in my blog. Here is a brief introduction. I'll wait to get into the details when I get home and have access to my pictures.

Six years ago, while flying out to Palm Springs, CA to visit my mother, Shirley came across an article in the American Way inflight magazine about Erie Canal vacations. She's wanted to try it ever since. And, after several years of being pushed back in favor of long cycling tours, we decided that this, the year of our 40th anniversary, would be a good time to try it out. I did a little research and found out that Mid-Lakes Navigation Co. offered a self-piloted canal boat rental. So, I arranged a mid-week cruise on one of their Lockmaster boats.

When the paperwork for the boat rental came several months ago, one of the questions was about my boating experience. I had a canoe for several years, but that was ages ago and not, in my opinion, particularly relevant. So, I selected the none option. They let me loose on the canal in a 34 foot, single-engine, tiller-steered packet boat named Onandaga anyway.

We arrived at the landing in Macedon Monday morning and found a crew of busy workers, scraping and painting some of the boats that had been hoisted up onto support structures on shore. Several others, including "our" Onandaga, were tied up in slips. Near as I could tell, this was at once a professional operation and one that was very laid back. We arrived early so we could shop for provisions. There had been some reference to using a car from the marina. Turns out, Libby, who was in charge (her father started Mid-Lakes and it is still a family run business) gave us keys to her car. Or maybe it was someone else's. No matter. It got us to the local Super WalMart and back, loaded down with, as we would discover at the end of the week, more than we would use.

The Onandaga was pretty much ready to go, so we loaded our bags and the newly-acquired provisions on board and familiarized ourselves with the layout. Not a long trip.
Layout of the 34 foot Onandaga

Everything appeared, as we seafaring men like to say, ship-shape (means really neat and tidy). It was clean and outfitted with bath and bed linens, a full compliment of cooking utensils and a lot of storage. There was a head (that would be the toilet), shower, electric lights, a propane two-burner stove with oven AND an air-conditioner. Before you say anything, know this: If I had wanted to go camping, I'd have rented a tent, not a packet boat!

We enjoyed poking around as we waited for Libby and Steve to come give us our formal orientation. We were ready to go and I was eager to begin, but a little apprehensive as well. Remember that "none" response. What would this week hold for us and the other boaters on the canal? Keep a weather eye on this blog to find out...

Speaking of Amenities, I found this in the men's room at the Rochester airport:

Koala Care Center

Seriously, how many Koalas are going to come through here in a year? Now that's pretty E(e)rie.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


The hotel here in Rochester, NY has some fancy amenities. No soap, but they do provide a Soothing Massage Bar. I'm not too impressed. Then there is the Clarifying Shampoo. That one really worked; I washed my hair and afterwards, I could see all the way to my scalp. Amazing. But, disappointment reared up again as I discovered that the Renewing Lotion didn't. Oh well, I guess it was not given much to work with.

It's interesting, in a sort of expensive way, that the higher the price one pays for a hotel room, the more one has to pay for the little "extras." Three dollars for the bottles of water in the room. Two dollars for a not-too-large cup of coffee in the lobby. Some years ago now, I was in Stockholm on a business trip. The moderately (a relative term when Stockholm is involved) priced Sj√∂fartshotellet where we normally stayed was fully booked. It was suggested by the company we were visiting that we get rooms at a new hotel in the same general area. Upon arrival, we were informed that the rate was around $225. Now this was about 20 years ago when $225 was REAL money. My traveling companion asked, in all seriousness, "Is that for the week?" Nooooo…. We pondered what it was you got for such a princely sum and came to this conclusion: You get to stay in a hotel that people like us do not frequent. So, I guess I should apologize to my fellow guests here at this very nice hotel in Rochester. You know, for being here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Going South

I was born and raised in The South - New Orleans, Louisiana; Jacksonville, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia. So I take a certain offense to the use of the phrase "going south" to convey the message that things are getting worse. Just thought I should get that straightened out, as I am, in just a few hours, going south. To Atlanta today, visiting with family. Then, on Sunday afternoon, I meet up with several co-workers at the Atlanta airport from which we will drive to Augusta, Georgia. Monday and Tuesday will be working at an office in Louisville, Georgia.

Several years ago, I made this same trip. A few things stand out in my memory, but the most vivid image is one of chickens. To get to Louisville from Augusta, you have to drive on US Highway 1. It was on this drive, as we got out into rural east-central Georgia, that we went by a white chicken in the road. Now that would not have been so noteworthy had we not, at pretty regular intervals, encountered more white chickens in the road... one every mile or so. Eventually, we caught up with a truck. A poultry truck. Leaking chickens. Ahh, the south.

So things were going south for the chickens. But not so for one enterprising gentleman (we're all gentlemen in the south. In case you didn't know). We went by a lone house, set back from the road and connected to it by a red dirt driveway. Quintessential rural Georgia. And there, walking back towards the house, was this man. Carrying a white chicken. Lunch. Sometimes things just work out right.

Some ramblings...
The offer letters (see To My Would Be Benefactors...) just keep coming. The latest had a twist I haven't seen before. For the most part, it was pretty typical. Some heretofore unknown-to-me relative in Africa has died and left me a bunch of money - $3.5 million this time (note to this would be benefactor: $3.5 million is a pretty paltry sum; I'm regularly offered amounts in the range of $20 to $50 million). But, instead of asking me for my contact or bank account information, I was to write them and let them know if I was dead or alive.

Alive, I'm glad to report. I might be headed south, but not that far. Yet.

"What about riding?" you ask. Well, I rode 46 miles last Sunday, but winter-like (OK, late fall) weather kept me in this week. And now that we are getting perfect conditions for biking, I'm leaving town. I know, a pretty lame excuse. REAL riders always find a way. Consider this determined young man in Uganda:

Guess that takes care of any excuses I may have for not getting in a ride. Oh well. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm heading south...

Monday, May 10, 2010

To My Would Be Benefactors...

There has been this remarkable run of good luck in the past few months: I've won several European lotteries - some multiple times - and have been told I am heir to untold millions of dollars from the estates of people I never knew I knew. So overwhelmed am I that I've had to resort to posting replies to the most recent notifications here on my blog. If you recognize any of the names in my correspondence below, be sure to have them check out this post. It could save them a lot of time and trouble. Thanks.

Dear Mrs. Cassie Langridge,
It must be difficult, being an ageing widow afflicted as you are with a long time illness and having to be in a privet hospital in Abdijan cote d'ivoire. I guess I can see why you need my urgent reply. And in your distress, you still seek a way to disperse the 6.8 milllion to help others. Now, would that be CFA Francs or US dollars? In any event, I would be reluctant to accept the 20% commission you offered for my assistance. Let me suggest that you and your Nurse Angela find someone in the Ivory Coast who could use a little help and make arrangements accordingly.

Dear Sgt. James Riebe,
Of course, I would be happy to help out a member of our armed forces overseas. However, I must confess, I am a bit uncertain as to what you need help with. As you wrote to me, you have already put away the US50 Million(Fifty Million USD) in a better secured place in the United States of America (Atlanta Georgia). As you might expect, I am more than a little curious as to how you came to be in sole possession of this part of Saddam Hussein's funds. Let me suggest that you and the diplomat that cannot be disclose for security reason put your heads together and find a way to take care of this by yourselves. I would hate to have to take a share of these funds from someone who has given so much to his country.

Dear Ms. Patricia Knewl,
First, let me say that I have never, until now, received a correspondence that started with the salutation Calvary Greetings. I am sorry to hear that you are widowed, but must say that I am impressed that you want to do donation of 5.Million to help orphans and widows, and charity. And in my home country, no less. How kind of you. You offer that I can get this fund and use it to your [that would be me] wishes to the needs of your [me again] country. Let me suggest that you might find many needs in your [that would be you] own country; perhaps that should be your focus.

Dear Barrister Gibson Ryan,
Right off, I see you are confused. Your note started out I am Barrister Gibson Ryan. An introduction stated straight away, with what appears to be a high degree of confidence. But when you signed the note, you wrote Faithfully yours, Barr. Peter James. Perhaps it is this confused state you find yourself in that caused you to ask me if I have contacted the western union money transfer payment headquarter Benin Republic as I instructed you and recieved your fund? Well I can tell you for sure that I have not. Contacted the western union money transfer payment headquarter Benin Republic, that is. Let me suggest that you sort out who you are. Then, when this issue is all in order and you still want to transfer some funds to me, write me again. But next time, don’t call me dear.

Dear Corporal Mary Ann MacCombie (E-4),
You have written that you have a very desperate need for assistance. I guess we'd better get right on it. I'm glad that you have summed up courage to contact you [that would be me again]. But really, I'm a nice guy - you didn’t have to be so concerned. So, you have some funds that were discovered in barrels at a farmhouse near one of Saddam's old palaces in Tikrit-Iraq. A tidy sum of ($ 3.2 million u.s.dollars )three million, two hundred united states dollars and you would like to transfer it to me. I feel like I need to ask you this: Do you know Sgt. James Riebe? Seems he stumbled onto $50 million in Iraq. Let me suggest that you two straighten things out first. You know, I think he may be holding out on you. Then, when this issue is all in order and you still want to transfer some funds to me, write me again. But next time, don’t call me Beloved.

Dear Barrister Jere Dende,
You aren't Barrister Gibson Ryan - Peter James, are you? How awful that your client, Dr. Eric Morgan, his wife and their only daughter died in event of terrorist attack on 11th September 2001 world trade centre. I'd be glad to help in whatever way I can, although I wonder how your proposal would accomplish anything. At least for you and perhaps surviving members of the family. That would NOT be me, as far as I know. Anyway, instead of transferring the sum of Thirty Million Five Hundred thousand united state dollars ($30.5m USD) into my account, let me suggest you try and find some of our dearly departed Dr. Morgan's surviving family. I'm sure they would appreciate it. If this doesn't work out, get back to me. But next time, don’t call me Sir/Madam.

Dear Sgt. Jeff Frawley, An American Soldier in Iraq,
I know this is an important message, but I'm detecting a pattern here. Let me suggest you contact Sgt. James Riebe and Corporal Mary Ann MacCombie (E-4). If you guys pool your resources, then you'll really have something to offer. Although I must admit, I liked your assurances that the transaction you proposed is 100% risk free. You don't find many of those these days.

To all of you who have made these generous offers,
You’ve provided me generous opportunities to profit from your situations. I am touched and would like to help. So, to simplify the ongoing process and reduce your workloads, let me suggest the following: just drop me an email with your bank account information, including your login ID and password, and I will make all of the arrangements to have the funds transferred. No sense in you all having to bother yourselves with this administrivia. I am sure you have more important things to do. No need to thank me. It’s the least I can do.

In addition, I would be glad to provide each of you with a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and Strunk's The Elements of Style. You understand, I'm sure.

P.S. Don’t forget to include your mailing address, driver’s license, passport and, if applicable, social security numbers.