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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.


Spiffer said...

3 things:

Happy Anniversary!

What a great trip idea!!

Don't forget Sal.

Anonymous said...

Hey, some of us travel with our bears . . . but don't tell my husband i think of him that way! Not.