Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Ride on the Erie Canal and Moving Day (Youngstown, NY to Phelps, NY)

Location: Junius Ponds Cabins and Campground; Phelps, New York

Lockport, New York got its name from a series of five locks that were built on the Erie Canal in order to raise the canal over the Niagara escarpment. The Erie Canal is what first
following a small sailboat on the canal
connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean before the St. Lawrence Seaway was constructed 50 years later. It was originally a 363 mile long canal, 40 feet wide and 4 feet
approaching the lock
deep from Albany, NY to Buffalo, NY. The elevation difference from one end to the other was about 565 feet and required 36 locks to raise and lower the barges. Work began in 1817 and it was opened to traffic in 1825. Once it opened, it reduced the cost of transporting bulk cargo by a whopping 95%. The
closer to the lock
farmers on the western frontier (Ohio, Indiana, western New York and Pennsylvania) raised a lot of food products but didn't have a good way of transporting it to the major cities on the east coast. The only method available at the time was horse and wagon to cross several mountains. Grain, like wheat and corn, took up a lot of room in a wagon and was not cost effective. The
Inside the lock
farmers learned that if they converted the grain to alcohol, then it was easier to transport east across the mountains and it fetched a higher price. This whiskey making led to the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790's which was put down by George Washington and militias from several states.

The canal was dug by man and animal. The wheel and lever were about as high tech as it got in the early 1800's. The work was hard and dangerous. In one construction season, over 1,000 workers died from to Malaria. The highest paid
selfie for the grandkids
workers on the canals were skilled German stone masons who built the stone walls along the way. The second highest paid workers were called Powder Monkeys and were children in their early teens who were used to set off the explosives used to blast out sections of rock. The children were used because they were smaller and that allowed them to get into
Gates opened, we sail on
the small crevices where they could light the fuse and run.
The kids could run faster then men when "out-running the blasting fuse". Many of the powder monkeys didn't survive their teenage years. 

After the canal was opened to traffic, children were used again to drive the mules/horses that pulled the barges of cargo. A tow path had been built alongside the canal for this
low bridge
purpose. These people were called a Hoggee (HO-gee). The kids would walk all day behind the animals and then sleep with them in the evening. They would go from one end of
Old City Hall looking up from the canal
the canal, turn around and go back. Fifteen miles was the normal travel in a day and it would take about 25 days to travel the entire length.

In Lockport today, you can ride on the Erie Canal and go through two of the original five locks. You also pass under what is called the "upside down railroad bridge". The
Upside down Railroad bridge
railroad, which was competing against the canal for the transporting of goods, decided to put their steel trusses under their bridge instead of on top. They did this to limit the height of cargo that could be carried on the Erie Canal barges. Free enterprise at work.

The tour takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours and was very nice. You can just ride along as the captain tells you historical facts

and points out interesting things. On my way back to the
campground I stopped at a local restaurant. I don't know if it was just that I was hungry but the food was great. I ordered a local favorite called Steak in the Grass. It was a tenderloin
Steak in the Grass
beef steak with spinach on top and melted provolone cheese on top of the spinach. It sure was good.

I also got a couple nice pictures of the Niagara River from the bluff where I fueled up on the day before moving day. In one of the pictures you can see the Coast Guard station which is the same one that I took a picture of in the early post about Old Fort Niagara.
The Sunoco on the left is where Freedom is sitting

Niagara River with Lake Ontario in background
Niagara River/Lake Ontario, Coast Guard station

The last picture is of Lake Ontario. The road runs right along the bank for miles. This picture was taken out of the drivers window. Houses, with large picture windows, are on the
Lake Ontario on a beautiful day
passenger side on a little hill. If those cirrus clouds hang around, someone is going to get a beautiful sunset. How would you like to have that view every day? They would be able to see storms brewing on the lake with a beautiful light show during lightening storms over the lake.

Yesterday was Moving Day. I hitched up and moved to the middle of the state near the town of Geneva, New York. I traveled over another New York state toll road. I paid $6.25 to travel about 30 miles. To pay such a price, in addition to the federal and state fuel taxes, you would expect to ride on the smoothest of highways. Wrong, wrong, wrong. There were stretches of this road that I thought Liberty would be broken in half. You would think if you paid a premium price, you would get a premium road. New York has the worst "major" roads of any of the ten states I've gone through on this trip. Conversely though, their secondary roads are great. 

This part of the state is known as the Finger Lakes Region. If you look on a map of the central part of New York state you can see a series of long lakes, some as long as 35 miles. These lakes run north-south because they were created by the retreating glaciers during the last ice age, just like the Great Lakes. If you continue to look at most of the North East U.S. you will see many more such lakes, only smaller, that were created in the same way. 

I will be leaving here tomorrow heading south. I will stop in a town just across the border in Pennsylvania to get my prescription filled. There is a place I want to visit in that area of New York and should get there by Sunday evening. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.   

1 comment:

  1. Must be the origin of the song that went "15 miles on the Erie Canal". Looks like a lot of grey n that beard ole timer! Love the pics again