10.31.2014

Wine Country, FALL 2014

    While we up in New York State, as son Dan continued to recuperate, and whenever our daughter-in-law, Jen, was off work and home with the kids, Peg and I had quality time together and took several drives in the countryside enjoying the  beautiful Autumn weather.
     One weekend, just as the leaves began turning to their Fall colors, we rode down into the Finger Lake Region to spend the day just looking around and sampling the local fare.

 
 
 
 
 I'd never actually been in upstate New York before when the leaves were in 'full bloom' to see their Fall colors, so it was almost jaw-dropping to see such amazing vistas wherever we looked. It seemed as though almost every tree was trying to outdo the others, almost shouting, "See how gorgeous I am! Tah dah!"
   Initially, Peg kept mentioning a "Fall feeling", almost like what she called, "an electricity in the air"; invigorating, but at first I didn't 'get it'. After a month of seeing the changes in the landscapes and everything, I began to understand what she meant about the harvest season up north. With a chill in the air, people were bustling around outside in their yards, at roadside stands,  fields were being harvested. Pumpkins were everywhere; in the fields, on peoples porches, at festivals, or the afore mentioned roadside stands by the hundreds. 
 
 
It seemed everywhere we looked was worthy of a photo or too many to show here.
 
 
The farms and fields were all being prepared for winter. 
   We drove down the western side of Seneca Lake almost to the town of Naples to get my 'fix' of Monica's grape pie, to which I've been addicted to, since my first unsuspecting trip to grape/wine country years ago.  It was their Grape Festival weekend, so we had to brave the crowds to get to Monica's pies.  They make such a wonderful Concord grape pie that they've had to expand the business to an outside tent, and still, as you can tell from the traffic jam, it was a nightmare getting into the parking lot and out, as well. And this takes place on a very rural, twisty, turny, hilly, two-lane road.
 
Since Peggy couldn't have any of the grape delicacy because of her wheat/gluten problem, I didn't want to get a whole pie, so I got a few small grape tarts. As you also see, I didn't even wait till we finally got out of that jammed parking lot before I started in on 'em.
These lil pies are amazing and if you ever find yourself in the area ya gotta try them! If you have a mind to, there are also, on the same road, grape pie stands that are also wonderful. Sadly, we left before I got to try three different types; I guess I left Granny's Grape Pies for next visit. I hope she don't mind.
Seneca Lake was beautiful and made for a wonderful drive.
The leaves were just beginning to take on their Fall color the first drive down early in our stay, but every once in a while you could see some 'early bird' tree that seemed to be shouting,   "Me, Look At Me!!
From Seneca lake we moved over to
Canandaigua Lake a couple of weeks later.  I hafta confess, I loaded the picture first to see how to spell it. It's pronounced, "canon day gwah". 
The drive to the lake was  beautiful and the fields of grapes were every where. 



When we got to the lake we stopped to watch the local tour paddle-wheel boat pass by.
The lake was so beautiful I told Peg I should see if they wanted to hire a Cajun Cappy to drive the thing, but she brought me back to earth reminding me that in a couple short months it would be Winter.
We couldn't come to the Finger Lakes Region with out stopping at one of our favorite local wineries. Actually, it is very refined and upscale, but they also cater to folks with a whimsical sense of humor. Folks like us.
 Maybe a lil too much like us.
We picked up a couple cases of our favorite "Red Neck" wines for ourselves to enjoy and to also give as gifts.
The friendly gals behind the counter were only too happy to let me sample to my heart's content before I selected 3 wines to bring home. We were surprised to learn that two of the three beautiful young ladies were "local" to our 'red' neck of the woods. Cloe, to the left, is from Slidell, Louisiana, and Taylor, on the right, is from Lafayette, Louisiana. The gal in the middle is Gabby, whose family is from Mexico, and always had raw sugar cane as part of their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays until recently we think. Since we live in a neighborhood that is literally surrounded by sugar cane fields, we said we'd see what we could do to send her a "Cajun sugar cane care package".
   Since, in our part of the world, sugar cane stalks are harvested green, Peg had to explain to me that the corn stalks pictured here are harvested almost dry, to be ground up and stored in barns to feed the farm animals in the winter. I think she called it, silage.

 
Those drives through rural western New York State were truly breathtaking.
   A lot of times when ya mention ya been to New York, this is not the New York they think about, but it's the one I remember.
 

10.25.2014

Base Camp 2, Dan's House

   Peg and I have always loved the idea of camping in private, overgrown woods and with thickets all around making for a cozy private campground, such as the one we found in Webster, New York, but an extensive stay began to mount up financially, then too, Peggy had been getting up at five thirty in the morning to make a somewhat long drive to help out with family, etc. Although we longed to stay where we were, we knew it was a reasonable idea to park our camper right in Dan's yard, where he invited us to do so in the first place.   He came out to welcome us and to help us park alongside his back patio under some huge, shady ancient trees.
The sling his arm is in was the reason we were up there. He was actually in a good amount of pain, and with the Mom of the family away all day, working to support everybody, he was having a near impossible time of taking care of their four month old infant. Even lifting her was a daunting task, not to even mention diapers.

Bo and Dan got us directed into a good parking space and it didn't take Bo long to find a good spot to observe the kittys from a safe location.

He loves cats. The problem is most cats misinterpret his happy bouncing galloping advances towards them and invariably hiss arch and swat him away on his approach.  He learned early on it was much safer to observe them from the safety of the camper window.

   This is Dan's beautiful wife, Jen. (Peggy typing now) She is a hard worker, and how she manages to juggle a job and kids the way she does is beyond me. I was NEVER as organized or as outgoing as she is. She is amazing.
   Next are grandkids starting with college student, Melinda, (shown here with boyfriend Gabe), and Melinda's baby sister, little Summer Rae.
Next comes Manny, our guitar-picking grandson, who is a junior in high school.  Manny is a very bright young man, even taking some college courses already and great help (Peg says, "huge, tremendous help") with the younger kids when he gets home from school.
Next comes our 7 year old artistically talented, autistic grandson, Chase, shown here in a rare quiet moment. To say this little guy is a handful is a drastic understatement. Peg, being an artist, says Chasie is a gifted artist, and thinks he will have a career as one when he is grown.
  Next is Emillie, four years old,  who was almost impossible to get a picture without her "Beaux Bear", (somehow while we were in Western,NY...having called our veterinarian and groomer for minor information, we learned that his named had gotten changed to the South Louisiana spelling from "Bo" to "Beaux", which sounds the same. So, from henceforth, he is Beaux Bear.) Emillie loves animals, and Beaux Bear loves sweet, cuddly little girls, to which Emillie's cousin, Kaitlyn will attest. (see base camp cookout)
Peggy took the only "dog-less" picture of her as I waited with her for her ride to pre-school.
Last, but far from least, is the baby, Summer Rae. She seemed to have a real crush on her Grandpop or maybe it was the other way around.

Here is Peggy and me with the baby in a restaurant. Summer Rae spent the whole time watching me. She's a sweet, sweet little girl.
While Peggy (loved) worked, cooking and cleaning, changing diapers and feeding the baby, helping getting the kids off to school and fed when they got back home, and supper ready for the family,  I helped as I could and spent time with Dan as I drove him to shoulder therapy and around town for errands.  If you know me however; you know it wasn't all work.  I still found time to fire up our little BBQ pit and have fun visiting.

Dan's backyard is wooded, and the back slopes down to a creek. It is full of maple and walnut trees and all manner of wildlife.  It was a far nicer camping spot than several parks we have stayed in over the years. We decided that even if you are staying in somebody's backyard you can still have a ball camping, cuz we sure did.

9.16.2014

Base Camp New York

We pulled into Webster park at 8:30 PM and since it was after dark we decided to set up camp tomorrow.  We just had a quick snack and called it a night.  Bo and I had Castle burgers we had scored on the road and Peg had a sandwich with her celiac safe bread.
The next morning we got started with...you guessed it breakfast.  In the old black iron pot I sauteed down some onions in a spoon of bacon drippings from breakfast past.
As the onions browned and the coffee perked I chopped some peppers.
I added the peppers and some left over rice from our gumbo night.
While that heated through Peg beat up 6 eggs and we poured that in and stirred it up.
Turn off the fire slam on the lid 10 minutes later waa-laa:
WE just call it rice and eggs, but call it what you will we called it breakfast, lunch and delicious.
After breakfast with Bo buddy looking on, I set up the awning, strung out party lights, ran an extension cord and put up "pinky" our flamingo mascot.

Peggy laced up her hiking boots and helped me tacky the place up a bit.

We finally got it looking like "Our camp site" and settled down to enjoy a nice afternoon of camping and cooking.  Tacky you may say and you would be right but that's the way we roll.
Sadly internet service sux and it took all morning to post this, but I'll try to keep up and share our adventure when I can.
Till then the happy camping adventure continues.
Later that afternoon I fired up the ole black iron pot, and in a spoon fill of bacon drippings I seared half a dozen chicken thighs seasoned with our Cajun seasoning.
When I took the chicken out I dumped some onion into the now well seasoned pot.
Once that cooked down some, I added some finely diced potato.



The potato cooks down and breaks up thickening the stew.  Once cooked I put the chicken back in with some bell pepper and green onion and left it on a low simmer for a while.
Son, Joe came by for supper and bonded with his new fuzzy brother Bo.
 I was having so much fun visiting, I forgot to take a "plated" picture of the bbq'd chicken, Cajun potatoes, and Peg's gumbo, so you just gonna hafta take my word on it.  It was so good you would swear it was cooked in the woods.
    Yes, we are still camping. Only thing is; I did a really silly thing....after taking many pictures, my camera battery finally pooped out and I discovered I had not packed the charger for the thing.  Finally, we went in for supplies and I found a Radio Shack and bought a charger that almost cost as much as the camera.  I now have the ability to charge almost any rechargeable with house voltage 12 volt or even usb.  All the geeks at Radio "Shaft" owned was this "Swiss army knife" of chargers.  At any rate, we are still camping and are still just as 'tacky' as ever.

Bo, our bratty Bichon camping buddy keeping "Pinky" our 4 foot tall lighted flamingo company while chillin' on the picnic table.
In keeping with Pinky for a theme, we set up our party lights to match.



We are having a ball at the wonderful Webster Park Campground, bringing our New Orleans "Saint's Pride" with us, and smelling up the whole neighborhood with Cajun cookin'.  
 I set up a slow-cooking crock of  beans to simmer away while Bo and I walked the park enjoying all the wildlife.  Geese could be heard circling around in preparation for their trip south, squirrels scurryied around with walnuts, acorns and such, stocking up for winter.  We spotted several almost tame deer walking around stretching their necks up to snack on crab apples; lots of wonderful wildlife sights and me with my camera in my pocket enjoying the walk so much, that I forgot to snap any photos, or if I did manage to get the camera out of my pocket,  Bo would suddenly jerk on his leash,  thinking he is a hunting dog or something, ruining the shot.  All in all, though, it was fun.
I did remember to take a few picture of the beans as I prepared them, no danger of Bo attacking them...until they were finished cooking anyway.




Of course by the time Bo and I returned from our walking trip around the park collecting chigger bites, Peg came back from her babysitting the grand-kids "gig", but once again
 the camera was forgotten as we ate beans around the campfire on blue granite (or what Peggy calls) "cowboy plates".  Oh well, Sorry it took so long for an update, but the adventure continues; 1500 miles of road trip and 2 weeks at base camp.  More later.
LATER:

We had a hot time around the ole campfire that night.
Bo perked right up when the family started arriving.
Son, Joe brought the kids over.

Kaitlyn,  
Zachary and 
Ashley, our consumate artist.

 Joe played his guitar for us; he's self-taught, so you know it was really good and so appropriate around a campfire, too. You aughta hear him play some of Clapton's songs; very nice...very nice!
No matter how hard Grandpop tries to teach these Yankees how to slow roast marshmallows to a golden yumminess , they insist on burning them to a crisp, eating off the burnt part and burning them again and again. Here, Zach laments that he just may have taken it a little too far. Maybe not...he ate them off the prongs anyhow. And no matter how many demerits are given out for burnt weinies, it's the same thing...blackened till they are unrecognizable as anything looking like a hot dog anymore. But they all eat em anyway and seem to like em that way. Go figger.  

Grandson Robbie John, "RJ" and granddaughter, Destiny showed up with "RJ's" girlfriend, Georgia (on the left).

Destiny ("Desi") and her Uncle Joe got to catch up on how things are going.

"RJ" and Georgia on their second bowl of gumbo that Peg, his grandmother made. (All her grandchildren call her "Bubbie".)

Our beautiful Desi, who just graduated from high school plans on a career in fashion.

We had a ball around the camp fire with some picking and smore snacking. Would ya believe this was the first smore Peg had ever eaten in her life? I think she's hooked; only thing she didn't like it that her marshmallow wasn't burnt to a faretheewell. Next time she can make her own darned smore and burn the thing like she likes it. Personally, I'm not a sweet kinda guy...my dessert was another bowl of her gumbo.



Everybody seems to have had plenty enough to eat, but the gumbo was the first thing gone. What a wonderful night it was; me tryin' to teach them my slow roastin' techniques for hot dogs and marshmallows, but I don't think any of it "took", and everybody just havin' an  old-fashioned good time around a smokey campfire at night.
And as for Bo, he got a lot of pieces of fallen weinies, marshmallows, a lot of lovin' and I am convinced that he, too now has a new girl friend.

On our last day at the beautiful Webster park campground Mr. Ed and his friend Carl came to spend the day with me.  We had a wonderful time sitting around the camp fire and cooking and picking and grinning and enjoying another beautiful day.  That morning I took some pork steaks.
Rubbed them with some Worcester sauce and crystal hot sauce and let them sit and think about it as we sat around visiting.
Once they had drank up the hot sauce I rubbed them with cane syrup and sprinkled on some of our Cajun spice. 
Then I parked them on a smokey pit for an hour or so.
While they cooked we visited.
When they were done I took them up sat them on a plate and went for my camera.
By the time I turned back around with my camera they were already half gone.
I guess that meant they were pretty good I hurried and scored me a half of a chop and  Just in time too cause this is what was left when I grabbed it.
Later that evening we threw some chicken on the pit and I cooked a pot of smothered taters.



Right at dark that evening Peggy, Mrs. Jean and Mrs. Kathy showed up bearing trays of goodies to go with what we had cooked and we had a wonderful evening; the girls sitting inside in the  warm camper and the guys sitting around the campfire.  Us guys tried not to get too rowdy, but I guess we did.  I quit taking pictures and the next morning the campers across the campground said they really enjoyed our picking and singing and such.  It was a fine way to end this wonderful stage of our extended camping trip.
   It was with a heavy heart indeed, that we packed up the next day to depart this wonderful park.

As always, we left our camp site a little better than we found it.

We passed by the campground office, and its friendly inviting feel, looking for our wonderful camp host, "Miss. Dee" to tell good-bye.



We thought we had missed her and were sad about it, but just as we were pulling out, she drove up.  I guess we made a good impression, 'cause as we said our good-byes, she offered us a job working at the campground.  
We actually thought about it; the place being so beautiful and all, but we are Cajuns and were a very long ways from home.
We both agreed however, that when I officially retire we would love that kind of job.  Just maybe closer to home.
  As we drove for the last time out of the campground, we stopped for awhile to enjoy the view that we saw every time we came out of the campground, of this beautiful home on Lake Ontario, with a direct view of the lake through the house with the huge ornate chandelier and the grand piano to the left on the bottom level. It felt like the owners had created this view for folks like us who were pulling out of the campground to enjoy, but Peg says she doubts those people had "folks like us" in mind when they had it built.  

If you ever find yourself in upstate New York you could do far worse than this wonderful park.  The sites are well laid out and tucked comfy into the woods.  $25 a day is very reasonable and hard to beat.  We are sorry it took so long to finish this long post but we were very busy and had limited internet access and mostly no internet service.    
On the way out of the park, deer looked up as we drove off for the last time as we were onto the next leg of our Road Trip adventure. They looked either sad to see us leave or glad we didn't take them with us in the freezer.