A Travellerspoint blog

October 2007

Day 33 (10.4.07) - We Make it to Boston

But we're not really visiting Boston yet, just the Fairbanks House in Dedham, MA

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Miles Driven: 213
Ending Mileage: 115199
Weather: Sunny, Some haze, Very Warm (86 F)

Yesterday, Mom absolutely did not want to take the Interstate. This morning, she said "Take the Interstate" - so today there are few photo's. We did see some lovely fall colors (they are starting in Massachusetts) and some interesting ponds, but the Turnpike had many signs saying "No stopping except for emergencies". Unfortunately, taking pictures isn't an emergency - so we'll have to share the pretty colors later.

We did actually make it out of New York finally and drove across Massachusetts in about a half day (most of you could do it in two or three hours). Spending a day or so on the Interstate in this RV is quite tiring, it is noisy, easily blown around, and we can't do much sightseeing - but we did finally make some time.


I'm not sure why Mom had the change of heart about taking the interestate, but we are both watching the calendar so we can make it out of New England before winter hits, so maybe she got a little worried after we didn't even get out of New York yesterday? We will go up to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine next - which we originally planned to visit first. However, the web site for the Fairbanks House said it closed by October 15th (now it says Oct. 31st, who knew?), and it was a "Must See" objective on our trip - so I decided to high tail it here first, then go back to our original route. So far, the weather has been unusually warm for this time of year in New England - if this continues we may have a little more time here then we anticipated (of course, all the campgrounds close by the end of the month).

I have heard stories about the "Fairbanks House" since I was a kid. It is the oldest frame built house (or "Timber-Frame" house according to their brochure) in North America. Mom's grandmother, Maude Cumming's mother was Marianne Houghton Fairbanks, seventh generation after Jonathan & Grace Fairbanks who had the house built (if I read the family tree correctly). My uncle Bob was kind enough to print out the family tree before we left Berrien Springs, MI - and Mom proudly took this section with her when we toured the house. The volunteer, Paul, was glad to show the house to somebody related to the family.

Eight generations of Fairbanks actually lived in the house, the last being Rebecca Fairbanks, who remaind there until 1902! The family came together in the early 1900's to preserve the house to hold as a historic structure. Family lore had thought the house was built in 1636, however recent tree ring dating shows it was probably built between 1637 and 1641 - either way, it is VERY OLD! Considering that the Pilgrams landed at Plymouth, MA (reputed to be Plymouth Rock) in 1620, the Fairbanks House was built only about 20 years after this. A Timber-Frame house would require considerably more skill and better tools than a simple log cabin or the other types of structures built by the Pilgrams.

Johathan Fairbanks was born in 1854 in Yorkshire, England. He and his wife Grace had six children in England. They were farmers and raised primarily sheep and swine, but were also Puritans. The King of England at the time, Charles I, was an Anglican and wasn't particularly fond of Puritans. However he also wanted to encourage settlement of New England (in North America) and offered a Land Grant to anyone who willing to pay their own passage to America.

Sometime probably around 1633, Jonathan and Grace brought their children to America and received this land grant in Dedham, MA for 12 tillable acres and four acres of marsh (used for grazing goats & sheep and for firewood). Just like the Homesteader's later on the Prairie, not all immigrants were successful, and at some point the Fairbanks were able to purchase additional land for a total of 32 acres.

Here are some views of the exterior of the house. The well is at the far left. The original portion is in the center, rooms at the ends and behind the house were added over the years for varioius reasons, most before 1812 however.


The original house had four rooms, a combination living room/sleeping room (lower floor on the right), a combination kitchen/dining room with a beehive oven in the front on the left (called a 'hall' at the time), and two rooms upstairs. The kitchen also had a flat harth (level with the floor). This was so hot coals could be brought out from the fire and kettles placed on iron trivits above the coals for cooking.

The house was built on a wood foundation. People in England stored their vegetables above ground during the winter, which worked just fine back home in England, so they assumed they could do the same thing in America. They didn't realize how much colder the winters were in New England and that above ground storage wouldn't work here. So one of the reasons the bedroom was added on the left was to build a workable cellar for storing winter vegetables All future additions had cellars as well.


By the "Federal Period" (after the Revolutionary War), Ebenezer Fairbanks added a building that was moved from another location and added to the original house so it could have a proper parlor (in about 1812). The fireplace was added after the building was added to the house. The parlor contains an 1815 square piano made by Chickering in Boston.


We loved the tour and all the great information, but were not allowed to take pictures inside the house. There are some photo's at the web site however:


We were pretty tired at this point, so located the nearest state park and have bedded down there for the night. We'll be heading North tomorrow, probably on the Interstate as far as Concord, then who knows? We'll be back to see the rest of Boston after we come down the Maine coast.

Posted by jl98584 17:29 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Day 32 - Blog Housekeeping

Travel Map Update and Question for Readers

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Travellerspoint helped me with my map problems, so I am finally updating it. I am a couple of days behind (what else is new), and there is still some fine tuning I could add - but it gives you some idea where we've been. (Looks like I've got a couple of extra dots to correct as well.)

(Caution - if you have a slow connection, this will not load very well)

Anytime you want to see the latest iteration of the map, you can click on the Author (jl98584), select Travellerspoint Provile, then select the Trip (Re) Discovering America.

I would appreciate your feedback (via Comment or email):

I have been adding some details about the photo's to the photo's themselves. I assumed that when you clicked on the thumbnail, it would not only show the photo - but also the descriptive information about the photo. It doesn't (I'll make a suggestion to change this in the systems forum). In the meantime, do you prefer to get Photo descriptive Info in the Photo Albums or in the Blog entry directly?

Am I uploading too many photo's? If I add the description for each photo in the blog entries themselves, they will get much longer (I won't be able to stack the thumbnails as I have been).

Any other suggestions you have for making this better would be appreciated (am seriously lacking much free time, but will do the best I can).

Posted by jl98584 19:25 Tagged preparation Comments (5)

Day 32 (10.3.07) - Mom Veto's the Turnpike

We find a beautiful waterfalls and a great Old Erie Canal Museum

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Starting Mileage: 114850
Ending Mileage: 114986
Weather: Sunny, some clouds, warm (78 F)

Mom wasn't very happy staying at Wal-mart last night, probably because she couldn't take a hot shower. Actually she could have, but she doesn't like the one in the RV very much as it's a bit small. There was a pond next to where we'd parked and it was full of ducks & geese - quite a noisy bunch (in a fun sort of way). I threw them some bread in the morning, but the seagulls were so aggressive I couldn't get any to the ducks.

We drove across the parking lot to the Toyota dealership and they fit us in for a lube & oil change (LOF). They didn't look at my battery problem since it was in the living unit, but they checked everything else and said things looked good. I will try not to panic at every little noise. I did go to a car parts store and put a new battery in the living unit - so far I have plenty of juice (unlike most night's when I can't plug in), so we'll see.

While we were at Toyota, I took advantage of their free wi-fi to update the blog a bit, including a video on Day 29! Last night, I found the software I need to install so that I can edit video's (not just upload simple shots). Given time, I might even become reasonably competent at this (ha, ha).

After we completed our RV maintenance, my plan was to jump onto the Interstate and drive hard towards Boston - we had decided to go to the Fairbanks House first since it closes October 15th, then go back up and visit Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. So I figured the quicker we got there, the quicker we could get back to our original route. However, Mom really objected to the Interstate. It is true that we've seen much more interesting things by taking back roads, so she wanted to continue travelling in this fashion. I relented and we headed off into parts unknown.

The first thing we bumped into was a section of the old (original) Erie Canal - that still had water in it. NY has made a number of these sections into state parks with walking/riding trails alongside, which is really nice. Mom is acting silly here, but it was a good picture of her acting silly, so I decided to include it anyway (reminds me of my son).


We continued East on Hwy 5 and passed several neat looking things without stopping (and historical signs without photographing). Maybe Mom was thinking I'd pass everything cool, so when we drove through a small town that had a sign saying "Chittenango Falls State Park", she asked me to turn. Later when the drive turned out a bit longer then we'd expected, she said I didn't really need to turn there - but we were both glad we did. Chittenango Falls are very beautiful. They are 167 feet tall, not as much water as Niagara Falls of course, but interesting in their own right. The top half lands on a flat rock platform, then cascades again in many riverlets over the bottom half. I hiked down a steep, rocky path to the bottem where I met some very nice people from New York who shared digital camera stories with me.


This is again from the digital still camera, I'll replace it later with a better quality video if I can:

Eight miles later, we almost got back to the village of Chittenango and I remembered seeing an unusual barn on the way up - so stopped to get a picture. Maybe this isn't all that unusual, but I thought it was very well done.


I was looking for a gas station before continuing on when I noticed a brown Historical Marker for "Chittenango Landing". Since we'd passed so many of these by, I suggested we check it out thinking that this would just take a few minutes. It turns out that "Chittenango Landing" was a stop on the Old Erie Canal. In about 1855, someone built a drydock for repairing canal boats and a boat construction facility. After the canal was rerouted to the Barge Canal, the old landing was obsolete and forgotten about. People farming the land filled the repair bays in with junk and the place was pretty much forgotten about. In 1985, the townsfolk rediscovered the site and began excavating, studying it's history, and have reconstructed most of it using historical photos. They have also built a nice museum, put up informational signs throughout the site and help visitors (like ourselves) find their way around and learn about the place.

Landings like this were an important part of the Erie Canal. In addition to being able to purchase a canal barge from the boatworks there (for about $2,500 - $3,000), boat people could have their boats repaired and buy supplies at a general store. Industry formed along the canal since the boats could be used to shop goods to markets on the east coast. In Chittenango, a Cannery was built at the landing which produced mostly canned peas and corn grown by local farmers.


The general store was also reconstructed from old photo's and contained a lot of interesting things.


Well, so much for making tracks today - between the waterfalls and the canal museum, it was already 4 PM! We continued East, but it was so late I thought once we got to Utica, we'd for sure jump on the turnpike (I90) and try to make time. Mom however was as insistant as ever that we stay on Hwy 5. I'm not sure it cost us much time however, other then the stops - it was quite windy today and my RV goes just fine in the wind - as long as I keep it under 50 mph!

So we passed more historical markers, interesting and old buildings. Here is an old mill that has been converted to a shopping mall. Mom liked the rusty truck in front of us - they must salt the roads here in winter. In Buffalo, a lot of old factories are still standing, but they are empty and kind of any eyesore.


We were stopped at a light when I noticed the sign for this house. It was the home of one Webster Wagner, the inventor of the Sleeping Car (on a train) in 1858 - so I assume the house is of a similar vintage? (And I didn't even have to pull over this time).


A little later, we passed a sign for Fort Klock, which was built as a fortified house in 1750. The house & gift shops were closed (my wallet is greatful) since it was after 5 PM, but we enjoyed touring the grounds. I tried a shot of the home's interior through the glass, it gives you some idea how the people would have lived in the mid 1700's.


We passed more interesting and historical homes, but it was getting darker and we were getting tired, so we didn't stop for these. (I think we are also realizing that we will NOT be able to stop for every bit of history in New England - no more than we have been able to stop for everything of interest in any other state!)

There might be RV campgrounds in this neck of the woods, but they don't seem to be on Hwy 5 or aren't very well marked. Finally we stopped in a small city park off the road. We may not be allowed to stay here, but we are tired and it's nice and quiet so we'll see. If someone knocks on the RV and tells us to leave during the night, we will - otherwise, it's lights out.

Posted by jl98584 18:28 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Day 31 (10.2.07) - From Buffalo to Syracuse

Finally got back on the road, but took the scenic route part of the way of course

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Starting Mileage: 114665
Ending Mileage: 114850
Weather: Rain & Overcast, Mid 60's

Having spent so much time in the Buffalo area, we really needed to make some tracks today. However, we still had to spend some time on the 'scenic' route, so stayed along the Lake Onterio shore until we got to Rochester. Along that route, we saw another NY State Park called "Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse", which sounded interesting. We didn't spend very much time there, but it was interesting. The lighthouse was closed, but the park is open year round and you can stay in the Lighthouse if you have a mind to:


We also continued to pass agricultural areas, especially apple orchards. At one point, we finally gave in and stopped at one of the fruit stands that often crop up in farm areas with tourist appeal - The Brown Family Farm. The family patriarch died after purchasing 100 acres here in 1804 - but his widow and 7 sons and 5 daughters kept the farm and their decendants still own/run it. A plaque states that in 1813, the widow Brown organized local farmers to run a British Captain & troups out of the area.


I pulled over in a small town just west of Rochester to mail some postcards and packages home and saw these two homes across the street. They are pretty good examples of some of the architecture we were seeing in New York - a good mixture of wood homes and brick or stone homes. The houses are generally larger than I would have expected, given the difficulty and cost of heating in the winter.


In Rochester, I had to take care of some business for Dad's estate - so looked up "Office Depot" on the laptop. Then Mom & I started getting lost a little bit trying to navigate - so I finally broke down and tried to use the GPS navigation software. This is really cool - you just type in an address and the program talks to you - "Turn Left just ahead", etc. It got us back on the road and to the store without hitch. "Office Depot" not only was able to print the document I needed to sign, they took care of the overnight package. I was also able to pick up a new printer cable (which I had lost), so I can start printing stuff for Mom's non internet friends.

Then I thought I'd try the GPS software to find the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, NY - about 90 miles further. Unfortunately, I failed to note that the 1st museum I was looking for was in Lockport, not Syracuse. The software worked great and guided us to the address I typed in - since I used the wrong city however, the location wasn't what I was expecting. Fortunately there is a second Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, so I typed in that address and it turned out to be just around the corner.

The Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse is on Erie Boulevard - which used to be the Canal. The Canal was rebuilt twice after it was initially dug - the second rebuild ending in 1918 also rerouted major portions. At that point, the Syracuse leg was filled in, so Erie Canal became Erie Boulevard.


The Museum building is the old "WeighLock", built in 1850. It had a Lock to isolate a barge, drain the water, and weigh it in order to assess tolls. This is the only surviving weighlock building in the world


The Museum is pretty nice however, it has a full size replica of a canal barge an a lot of useful information about the canal.


Boys called "Hoggee's" drove the mule teams the pulled the barges along "Towroads" that paralleled the canal. Some of the exhibits were being redone while we visited, but we enjoyed the ones that were open.


After the Museum, we were a little too tired to get back on the turnpike so I decide to lookup a Wal-mart and save a little on camping fee's (might have been due to spending too much at the Museum gift shop, as usual). The GPS software, CoPilot, got us there without a problem (it helps if you type in the correct city name). Right next to Wal-mart is a Toyota dealership - so I'll have the rig serviced before we head out in the morning.

Posted by jl98584 20:41 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 30 (10.1.07) - Still Bustling around Buffalo

We visited Fort Niagara & Niagara Falls, which left no time to leave town

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When we left the campground in the morning, I asked where a beach was on Lake Onterio since I didn't think we'd be back to the lake again. We found out there was another State Park about 7 miles east of us, so off we went to get a little closer to the lake. Mom collected sand (of course). I found a pay phone to call Sprint and put my nightmares about international calling charges on my data usage to bed.


It was still reasonably early, so I was fairly confident we could visit Niagara Falls and maybe get to Syracuse, NY. However, as we headed back (west) towards the Falls, I noticed a sign to "Fort Niagara State Park". We debated whether to stop or not, not knowing what to find there - and I decided to take the exit (if it wasn't anything interesting, we could always get back on the highway). Well, it was quite interesting.

Fort Niagara was built by the French in 1726 - about the oldest thing we've come across yet! The first building is commonly referred to as "The Castle", but it's just a misnomer based on the way the building looks. The French wanted to build a Fort, but were afraid the local Indians would object - so told the Indians they wanted to build a House. So they built a fortified military building, but tried to make it look like a house. While the living conditions look kind of rough to us today, it was probably a fairly decent post for a French soldier back in the 1700's.


While we were still in the visitors center, Mom noticed a tour guide talking to a bunch of young folks. She asked if we could join their group, which they graciously allowed us to do. They were students from Niagara College studying to be teachers.


Anyway, we joined this group on their tour and started up the Entrance to the main gate with a Drawbridge! This was added to the Fort later by the British after they captured it in 1759 (by siege).


Behind the entrance gate was the South Parapet, one of two built by the British. One way you can tell this is to look at the Insignia above the main door of a building - French Insignia, French built building, British Insignia, British built building (but I think I forgot to take a picture of the French Insignia).


We spent quite a bit of time in the "Castle". It was very interesting to see how the French Soldiers lived in the 1700's. One thing we learned was that the two main staples in their diet were Peas and Salt Pork. They would cook the peas at least in a kettle over the fire to make "Porridge", like a soup. They weren't much into washing dishes back then (no running water for one thing), so some of the porridge would stick to the kettle. After a couple of weeks of this, a thick layer of porrige would be built up and could be cut or peeled off and eaten cold (like a pea tasting, heavy bread?) Since this process of building up a layer of porridge thick enough to peel and eat cold could take about 9 days - you have the phrase, "Peas Porridge Hot" (when first cooked in the kettle), "Peas Porridge Cold" (after peeling off the dried porridge that stuck to the kettle), and "Peas Porridge In the Pot, Nine Days Old" (stuck on, but not peeled off yet). So there is a real meaning behind the nursery rhyme!

Here are some of the shots from inside the "Castle". Keep in mind that there were no builders supply stores or machined hinges, door or window clasps, etc.


One more interesting point about the "Castle": the Well inside the main door has been rumered to be haunted. The French built the well inside since the building was designed to withstand a siege. The story was that two soldiers got into a sword fight over a native women and one beheaded the other. Worried that his crime would be discovered, he through the head into Lake Onterio. However before he could do the same with the body, he thought he heard other soldiers coming to investigate, so he through the body into the well which was right there. So every October 1st (or which ever date the tour is being given on), the body rises out of the well to look for it's head.


Well, it makes a good ghost store but it's not true and our guide pointed out several reasons why. It turns out that in the early1900's, a fellow made up the story to promote tourism (sorry ghost hunters). One interesting tidbit that is true about the well is that when the English captured the Fort in 1759, they were afraid the French might have poisened it, so they covered it and dug their own well outside of the building.

Around the grounds of the Fort are displayed several types of large guns. Fort Niagara is thought to hold one of the largest collections of 1700's canon in the US! There are actually three types of large guns that were used at the fort: canon, mortar, and howitzer.


In addition, each soldier would have a smooth bore black powder rifle (I have a video to add of one being fired...)

Finally, a few more shots of the grounds and North Parapet.


The Fort was used by the British as a base of warfare during the American Revolution. After the Revolution, the Americans took control of the Fort, but the British recaptured it during the War of 1812. When that war ended, it was turned over to the Americans (peacefully) and has remained in American hands since. The Fort's cannons and fortifications were obsolete by 1865, but the facility continued to be used as a recruitement and training base during the Civil War and later. In World War II, it was used as a German Prisoner of War (POW) camp.

So Fort Niagara did turn out to be a very interesting place to stop and of course we spent much more time there than we had expected, so by the time we headed on to Niagara Falls, it was mid afternoon. We made a couple of short stops on the way to the Falls at two State Parks for Devil's Hole and the Whirlpool.

Devil's Hole is a natural geological formation that is a wider spot in the Niagara River Gorge, which covers much of the distance from the Falls to Lake Onterio. It played a role during the British occupation of Fort Niagra during Pontiac's revolt against the British. A supply wagon train was attacked by Indians at this point and the attackers pushed the wagons (and their drivers) over the steep cliff at Devil's Hole. Only 3 people survived. This frightened the British considerably, which is why they built the North and South Parapet's at the Fort.

The Whirlpool SP is just that - a giant Whirlpool in the Niagara River that forms about 3 miles below the Falls. It really is something to see. (My still shot doesn't do it justice, will try to upload a video if that works).

Finally, we got to Niagra Falls (about 3 PM I think). We went to the American side, because it was so late and we were already there. It amazed us both. From the Parking Lot, we went through a Visitors Center to a nicely landscaped park with paths, benches, tree's, seagulls and squirrels. Not very far (and quite visible from the Visitors Center), you can see the Niagara River cascading over a series of steps, then disappear into a great roar & mist. As we walked along the edge (you really are very close to the edge of the river, one of the fence posts was already starting to collapse into the eroding river bank) - you can watch the water go over the edge right up close, then from the front of the edge, etc.

For $1.00 - you can walk out onto an observation platform maybe 100' (30 meters) and view the falls from the front. Mom seems to hate heights, so she elected to stay at the side of the falls while I walked out. Finally, after much debate (and a little food), we decided to take the "Maid of the Mist" boat to the base of the falls. I wasn't sure it would be worth the bother - but this is a 'once in a lifetime' trip, so if I didn't do this on this trip, I'd probably never do it. It was quite worth it! However I couldn't take pictures of the Canadian side because it was too wet to risk taking the camera out of our plastic rain cover.


I was really trying to only spend one day in the Buffalo, New York area (as we have most places), however we kept finding places we really wanted to stop, so ended up going back to Four Mile Creek SP at the end of the day!

Posted by jl98584 19:15 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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