Monday, July 25, 2016

Corning and Rochester - Day 2

Our second day started with breakfast at a local family restaurant in town after we checked out. They served typical breakfast fare of eggs and bacon and such. Peter and I shared blueberry pancakes and a plate of eggs, toast, hash browns and sausage while Gabe and Justin had their own selections.

After eating we headed over to the George Eastman Museum. He's the founder of Eastman Kodak. Here's a short excerpt from their website:

The George Eastman Museum is located in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman (1854-1932), the pioneer of popular photography and motion picture film. Founded in 1947 as an independent nonprofit institution, it is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the oldest film archives. The museum holds unparalleled collections—encompassing several million objects—in the fields of photography, cinema, and photographic and cinematographic technology, and photographically illustrated books. The institution is also a longtime leader in film preservation and photographic conservation.

Upon arrival we joined a tour of the grounds around the museum. It was led by a well informed elderly gentleman whose name I did not catch. We all enjoyed his stories very much. Very educational that's for sure.

After that we rushed to a second tour that took us through the various galleries around the museum. The lady that led that one went quite fast. She wanted to give us an overview of the whole place and we could return later to the rooms we were most interested in.

We decided to join another tour right after that. This one was led by another gentleman and his son. They were giving a tour of the Eastman residence. But, after around 20 minutes, we had had enough of tours and walked around on our own. The fact that the last tour had a large contingent following the man and his son around meant the rooms they weren't in were empty. Perfect for shooting.

I have to say, the home and grounds were really cool. I also liked the old cameras and equipment they had on display. As well, there were galleries with different photographic themes. One of the temporary ones they had was of American National Parks. It was pretty big.

We left the museum at half past 3:00 and headed out to do some shopping. We found a Walmart where I bought some socks and a set of dry bags to put my camera equipment in if we ever happened to be out on the water again (like we were when we went kayaking on the St. Lawrence back in 2014).

After a stop at another mall closer to the border we stopped for dinner at a place called the Riverstone Grill on Grand Island (just west of Buffalo, New York). Peter found out about it when it was featured on the TV show Man vs. Food. There the host, Adam Richman, attempted to down their 68 oz "Bone in the Stone" steak @ $52 (or something like that).

While Gabe order the salmon and Justin had a 30 oz steak Peter and I decided to share the Bone in the Stone (for an extra $5 surcharge). The huge steak comes with two ribs sitting on a couple of pounds of fries (regular and sweet potato fries). It's probably 2"-3" thick. Since Peter likes his steak rare and I'm more of a medium guy, we compromised and had it done medium-rare.

When our order came (some 30-40 minutes later) Peter tried to carve it in half through the two bones. This proved to be futile since they were joined at one point. So he just sliced a bit off for each of us. Unfortunately our particular piece of beef had quite a bit of fat and, even worse, a lot of gristle. We could hardly cut through it, let alone chew it. We ended up eating only about half of it, the rest being inedible. A huge disappointment.

We finished eating at 8:30. When Justin checked the border crossing times and found out that the lines were massive we decided to stay on the American side to watch the fireworks at Niagara Falls.

We arrived at the Falls around quarter after 9:00 and staked out spots along the railing by the American Falls. From our spot we could see the Skylon Tower and casinos on the Canadian side. A nice backdrop to the fireworks we hoped.

Unfortunately I didn't know about potentially seeing fireworks beforehand and hadn't brung my tripod. It may have been useless anyway given the size of the crowds. So I just set my exposure anywhere from 1/8th and 1/10th of a second and hoped for the best. I was pleasantly surprised some of my shots were all right.

After the fireworks ended we attempted crossing the border again. Since it was right there, we decided to cross at the Rainbow Bridge. Big mistake. The line was incredibly long. And so, so slow. There was no way we'd be crossing there anytime soon.

Instead we hopped out of line and drove 10 kilometres north to the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and crossed there. The line up was less than 5-minutes. I'm guessing we saved at least an hour of waiting. After dropping the guys off, I got home after 2:00 in the morning.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Corning and Rochester - Day 1

My friends and I drove down to Corning and Rochester last weekend. We wanted to see the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning and the George Eastman Museum in Rochester.

It was my turn to drive this trip. To save some time I slept over at Peter's condo on Friday and we picked Justin and Gabe up Saturday morning. Originally we were aiming for 8:00 a.m., but were a little late.

We took the 401 west to the 427 and connected with the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) to Niagara Falls. The quickest way over at that time was at the Rainbow Bridge. We got through the border quickly which was nice.

Our first stop over the border was to a mail depot in Niagara Falls. Justin and Peter mail ordered some items there. So we went to pick them up. After that we headed towards Corning.

We made it about 100 kilometres past the border before we got hungry. By this time it was shortly after 1:00 in the afternoon. We had made it to Warsaw, New York. Time to eat.

We parked on Highway 20A (Buffalo Street) and walked over to Main Street where we found a BBQ restaurant called the Rock and Roll Bar BBQ. It looked all right, so we walked in.

For lunch we ordered the full rack of ribs for $23.99 as well as an order of their beef brisket for $15.99 to share. Each order came with with two sides. We had the coleslaw, corn bread, mac and cheese and fries. I have to say we thought the portions were a bit small for what we paid. But it was enough to satisfy our hunger for the time.

We hit the road again by 2:30. An hour and 45 minutes later we were in Corning. We walked around downtown briefly before heading over to the museum. Peter had bought advanced tickets that were good from 4:00 p.m. onwards. We got there shortly before 5:00.

Here's a description from their website:

Founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) as a gift to the nation for the company’s 100th anniversary, The Corning Museum of Glass is a not-for-profit museum dedicated to telling the story of a single material: glass.

The Corning Museum of Glass cares for and displays the world’s best collection of art and historical glass. When you visit, you’ll see more than 3,500 years of history displayed in the Glass Collection Galleries, from the glass portrait of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh to contemporary sculpture made in glass.You can learn about the science and technology behind innovations in glass through hands-on exhibits in our Innovation Center. There, you can explore the concepts behind optics, vessels, and windows, and meet the innovators who have changed our world using glass.

Glass is brought to life through live, narrated glassmaking demonstrations, offered all day, every day. If you can’t make it to Corning, watch our live Hot Glass Shows on three Celebrity Cruise ships, or on the road with our traveling hotshop. We also offer a traveling design program, GlassLab, aimed at helping designers explore glass as a material for their work.

It's a pretty cool place - both the building and the demonstrations and exhibits inside. I think we all really enjoyed the visit. Though, Justin did get a bit bored near the end when Peter and I ran around trying to take more photos. That's the problem when traveling with us. We can't put down our cameras.

We left around 7:30 and headed back up to Rochester where Peter had booked us rooms at the local Motel 6. After checking in we headed back out to grab a late bite. The girl at the front desk had directed us to a nearby Appleby's. That would suit us fine. We all ordered the 8 oz. steak. Not very original, but what can you do?

We got back to the motel by 11:30. Justin and I shared a room on the second floor, while Gabe and Peter took the one on first floor. They had noisy neighbours and Gabe found a bedbug on his bed. Needless to say, they weren't happy campers.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tom's Tree

Last Thursday (July 7th) was Tom's birthday. He would have been 51. But he passed away earlier this year after a trip to Jamaica. His partner, Florianne, gathered a group of us together to celebrate his life. We met at Brass Taps, a bar on the Danforth just east of Logan.

I got there at about 10:00. Most people had arrived by then. I think there were 20-25 of us scattered around the back section of the place. After greeting Florianne, I sat with Carrol, Cynthia and her partner, Jeff. I also saw Larry and Maria and Tom's brother, William, among others.

Florianne made the rounds showing us some videos people had taken of Tom over the years. He was always cheerful and clowning around. We watched one where he was singing Meatloaf while dressed in a funny wig at a Halloween party. It was a good time to reminisce.

At midnight those of us who were still left made their way to Riverdale Park. Since I took the subway down, Larry gave me a lift. Some of them had a plan which neither of us knew about beforehand.

When we arrived we walked down the slope to a tree part way down the hill. William, with shovel in hand, dug a hole. There was a police officer at the top of the hill (along Broadview Avenue), but he was occupied with some others. Still, I was feeling a bit nervous, all of us huddle around that tree in the dark.

After digging a sufficiently deep hole we got a bag out and poured some of its contents in. Tom would give this tree life and forever look out over the city he so dearly loved.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park - Day 2

After staying up late the first night of our trip we slept in the next day. Besides Cynara, no one else woke up until around 11:00 a.m. It was closer to noon by the time we started "breakfast". And we didn't start our hike until 1:30 in the afternoon.

There were a few options for hiking. We picked the Etienne Trail System which had four choices. Out of the four we opted for the Nature Loop at 8.5 kilometres. Though we tacked on an extra 2.5 kilometres each way because we had to walk to the trailhead from our campsite because of the limited parking space there.

The day was nice for the most part. It wasn't too hot which was good. At the beginning it was mostly sunny with a few clouds. Though as the hike progressed we did get a bit of rain. Not enough to soak us, but enough to make the ground slipperier.

The rain affected Jonathan the most. Or more precisely, his pants. He said it made them too tight and hard to walk in. So he and Cynara took the short cut (Geology-Loop Yellow Trail) back. We continued on the Blue/Green Trail before deciding on the slightly shorter Green Trail Nature-Loop at the final split.

We arrived back at our campsite by around 7:00 p.m. Much earlier than the day before. We had plenty of time to cook dinner. This time in daylight.

I have to say, the firewood here was amazing the first two days. It lit so easily, it was magical. It was such a big difference from the damp wood up at Awenda on our previous trip. We had so much trouble lighting it there.

Dinner tonight would be similar to the previous day - pork shoulder and pork belly with sweet potatoes and veggies. We used the fire to cook all our food. No camp stove for this meal.

After we ate a few of us decided to go on the guided night hike. Along with a pretty large group of people, we met a couple of park staff at the visitor centre by the park entrance. They gave us an introduction of what we might see or hear and we set off in the dark.

We weren't supposed to use flashlights instead relying on our night vision and our hearing to detect certain creatures. Still, one of the small children on the tour kept turning her light on and chattering all night long disturbing everyone. I'm not sure why her parents brought her out.

We did see fireflies and heard some frogs croaking. No bats or owls to be seen. And no wolves were heard in the area (though we tried howling to see if they would respond). I don't think Emily or Ken missed much by not tagging along.

On the way back Peter and I dragged Cynara and Jonathan out to a different campsite to go to their beach to take night shots. We wanted a different vantage point to shoot the stars and Milky Way. We also did some night writing with our flashlights spelling out the name of the park. Sort of a tradition for us now.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park - Day 1

Peter, Emily and Ken, Cynara and Jonathan and I went camping again over the Canada Day long weekend. This time we were at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. Just north of Algonquin Provincial Park, it's about a four hour drive from Toronto.

On Thursday night I met Peter and a bunch of the others for wings at Wild Wing across the street from his condo. While there I dropped off my pack and camp chair for him to take in his roof carrier.

The following morning I picked up Jonathan and Cynara at her place while Peter drove Emily and Ken from his place. We met at Yorkdale Mall and headed north together.

Traffic was slow going up the 400. Even though quite a few people left town for cottage country the day before, there still was a lot of traffic.

Our first stop of the day was at Big Chris BBQ Smokehouse for lunch in Barrie. We shared the sampler meal between the six of us. It was more than enough this early in the day.

We arrived at our campsite at around 6:00 p.m. All the sites in this particular park were small and jam packed together. There was barely enough room to turn around without bumping into your neighbour. A stark contrast from our previous camping trip at Awenda Provincial Park. At least the comfort station was relatively close by.

After quickly setting up in the rain we debated heading over to nearby North Bay to catch the Canada Day fireworks. Thankfully the rain stopped shortly after which made our decision easier.

Taking Highway 17 50-kilometres west, we got to North Bay shortly after 8:00. The fireworks weren't slated to start until 10:00 so we walked around taking photos on the beach and pier along the waterfront.

The fireworks started pretty much on time. Unfortunately we set up a bit far from the launch site, so my shots weren't that great. Peter's zoom compensated for that, but I only had my wide angle. As well, I mistakenly set my ISO too low which made my shots somewhat on the dark side. A big disappointment.

We returned to our campsite at around midnight. By then most of the other campers had called it a night. Not us... we started our campfire and cooked dinner.

The wood supplied by the park was great. The birch bark was dry and started with little kindling needed. It was amazing. We barbecued sausages, veggies and pork shoulder and belly. Slightly cooled beer helped wash it all down.

The skies had all but cleared by the time we finished eating. Time to find a spot by the lake to take star shots. Peter and I set up by a nearby boat launch and got some excellent shots of the Milky Way. After that we bundled up and headed for bed. By this time it was almost 2:00.