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July 1 - Aug 1 - Boy did we see some new stuff!

Sometimes we arrive someplace with no really good idea of what we're gonna do when we get there. Sometimes we wind up not doing much. Sometimes we hit the jackpot. July was that last kind of month.

On July 1, we hooked up and left Port Clinton OH (16) for the 1000 Trails Kenisee Lake Preserve near Jefferson OH (17). We had no specific plans for our week at Kenisee Lake other than just to be someplace over the 4th of July, when everybody else is out camping and recreating. So we didn't do much that first week other than a couple of shopping trips into nearby Ashtabula and watching the RV park's July 4th parade. The weather wasn't particularly conducive to doing things anyway. After a week, we hooked up again and headed northeast to the Niagara Lazy Lakes RV Campground near Lockport NY (18). We'd booked a two-week stay with the intent of revisiting Niagara Falls, one of the more spectacular places we've been. But then we found stuff.

We thought we'd be pretty close to some part of the fabled Erie Canal, and that it might be fun to find it. And on our first day as we were scouting out the local Curves for Judy, we crossed a bridge over the canal! Took us a few hours to find and book a ride on the canal. Lockport is a town that grew up around the westernmost lock complex on the original canal. There were five locks at Lockport that changed the canal elevation by 50 feet. Those locks are still there, and are being restored. The two "modern" locks, put in when the canal was rebuilt around 1903, each raise or lower 25ft. The canal ride took us through those "new" locks twice - once up and once down

We'd assumed that the Erie Canal had pretty much gone away once the railroads became functional. Not so. First opened in 1825, the canal was deepened and widened in a series of projects between 1834 and 1862. And then in 1903, the canal was once again remodeled into its current configuration, which abandoned some parts of the original canal. Today, the canal serves as a water route around Niagara Falls, and extensions and branches will get you into Lake Ontario, the finger lakes, and several other bodies of water between Albany and Buffalo. The canal today runs 535 miles, is at least 120 ft wide and 25 ft deep, and mostly handles a steady stream of recreational boats, including a sizable number of tour boats. Today there are 35 locks to handle the 525 ft elevation difference between the Hudson River and Lake Erie. The original canal had 85 locks. History lives. We didn't ride "fifteen miles on the Erie Canal", like the song says, and never saw a mule or have to duck for a low bridge, but they did play the song on the tour boat sound system.

We saw a brochure for the "Lockport Cave and Water Ride", and took that tour. The "cave" turned out to be an old water pipe used to feed water to some factories along the canal, and the "ride" was about a 15min float on some of that water. But it was fun anyway, especially the boat ride - the boat was overloaded and quite unstable, resulting in a lot of water splashing over the sides. We learned to lean one way or the other depending on where the water was sloshing from.

We'd seen a brief segment on TV about the National Museum of Play in Rochester NY, and we drove the 70 miles to visit it one day. We might not have been the oldest people in the museum that day, but we're pretty sure we're the only folks who didn't bring kids. The National Museum of Play is dedicated to the proposition that play can be educational, and is essential in developing character and life skills. If you're between the ages of about 2 and 12, this place is the most wonderful playground imaginable. And for us bigger kids, there are many memories. Even though the International Toy Hall of Fame was closed for renovation, we found lots of things to see. We even got to Sesame Street! The pictures in our slideshow tell it better.

Not all early automobiles were made in Detroit - quite a few recognizable marques were manufactured in the Buffalo NY area. The best known is probably the Pierce Arrow, and we went to the National Pierce Arrow Museum in downtown Buffalo. It's not the biggest car museum, but in addition to several Pierce Arrows and a bunch of other stuff, it has the only gas station ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright designed it in the 1920's, but it was never built. A few years ago, the Buffalo museum acquired the plans from the Wright Foundation and built it - inside the museum. It never would have worked as a gas station in real life - for one thing, the main gasoline supplies were stored in the roof, right above the fireplaces. But it's a spiffy building, none the less. There are pictures in the slideshow, of course. Also pictures of the only Hippomobile ever built, and of the Buffalo-built car that gave its name to a magazine created by one Hugh Hefner.

At the mouth of the Niagara River, where it enters Lake Ontario, stands Old Fort Niagara. Dating from as far back as 1648, the fort was originally built by the French, subsequently captured by the British, and eventually by the fledgling United States. Back when this was the far reaches of the west, it controlled access to the portage routes around Niagara Falls. The fort has been maintained and restored over the years, and was actually an active military installation as late as 1929. Today it mostly stands guard against potential intrusions by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, located a hundred yards away, just across the river. It's a fascinating place to visit if you're at all interested in US history. Appropriately uniformed re-enactors shoot off muskets from time to time, and even a cannon once a day. And the views of Lake Ontario are spectacular. On a clear day you can see Toronto.

Did we get to Niagara Falls? Not really. We drove into Canada one day, took some pictures at the Niagara River Whirlpool Overlook, and drove to the falls area, but couldn't find a parking place for under $20. So we drove home again. Fortunately, we've been to the falls a couple of times before, both the US and Canadian sides, so we don't feel deprived. Much.

We also found out that Lockport is the birthplace of William G Morgan, who invented the game of Volleyball while working as the director of physical education at a YMCA in Massachusetts. He had befriended the guy who invented basketball, and figured he could also do something like that. Add that to your trivia bank.

After two weeks, on July 22 we hooked up and headed south. With a one-night stop outside Corning NY (19), we arrived at the 1000 Trails Hershey Resort (20) on Thurs July 23 for  a two week stay. Hershey is one of those towns where we instantly feel at home. We like the Derry Presbyterian Church very much, and were remembered from our last visit last year. We like that there's a Fuddruckers Burger place. We like that there are a couple of nearby Curves that Judy can use. We didn't have any particular plans for our two weeks. We did buy some plywood and build a new desk for our computer. As we no longer use it to navigate, it didn't have to be where it could be used from the driver's seat. The project was a success. Pictures at the end of the slideshow.

As you can imagine, we took a ton of pictures in July. Those that survived a rigorous culling are in our slideshow - and there are still 119 of them. Check them out here if you choose.

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