#1 thing campers do in the winter – dream about RV’s and camping gear!

By Jelane A. Kennedy

The new way to tent! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Each winter as the snow falls and piles into beautiful drifts it is not unusual for even those of us who love winter to dream about our next camping adventure, especially when winter is taking a long time to shake loose. This year has been one of those years when winter still has a hold on us here in the north. March brought three weekly big storms and April has been one of the coldest in a while; just last week as I drove between Connecticut and upstate New York I saw ice on lakes and snow still on the ground. This weekend brought temperatures in the 70’s and again at the beginning of the week there was a drop into the 30’s.

It is the dreaming about camping and the change in seasons that helps when the weather of spring is on its wacky ride. Thinking about those nights out under the stars, hanging out in front of the campfire, listening to the frogs and crickets as night falls, hiking the next mountain peak, or heading out to the latest waterfall. All things that make me think of camping.

I look forward to each March my KOA directory arriving via snail mail. All shiny and new with thoughts of where we might go and what we might see. Lately they ask if I would prefer the digital version but I always say “no”. I love getting the paper version that I can dog-ear and come back to. I always put the new directory in Abbey our van and take the year old one into the house for a reference copy, recycling the two-year-old one.

This year Eileen and I decided we would try going to an RV show again. In the Albany area when we went to one, we discovered that instead of multiple dealers sharing a show space it was usually just one dealer making a show. So this time we wanted to find a “real” RV show with a bunch of dealers and lots of products so we could roam and look, oh and ah. And we found just that at the Springfield RV camping and outdoor show.

We arrived after lunch and found out there were three buildings filled with every imaginable RV, information about campgrounds and gadgets galore. Since we were only there for the afternoon we concentrated on looking at RV’s, primarily small travel trailers and Class B (vans and small motorhomes). Here are some that we found:

The Compass – bigger than Abbey but not real stealth!

Falcon Trailer – Big red and lots of storage!

TAB 400 trailer – so cute and retro!

Airstream – a classic!

Travato camper van – the next generation of Abbey!

We know at some point we will need to move to our next van. Who knows what it will be, we love Abbey and all the adventures we have been on since she became ours in 2007. But we both know that we need to start to consider what is next, so we will continue to dream about our next camping adventure!

Riding the Essex Car Ferry to Vermont on a lovely Spring Day. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy

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Spring Photo Essay 2018

By Jelane A. Kennedy

After four Wednesdays of Nor’easter’s here in the Northeast Spring is finally taking hold. Now that doesn’t mean we won’t maybe have some more little snow showers but maybe, just maybe the cold weather will break free to warmer days. It has been a winter of snow and thaw, snow and thaw this year making it difficult to really enjoy my favorite winter sports. But thank goodness for micro-spikes, we have been on quite a few adventures where they have been the favored foot gear accessory.

A look back over the time since Winter Solstice:

Christmas lights shining at the Schroon Lake Bandstand Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

 

First Hike, Saratoga Springs:

When it is so cold hard to believe a Geyser can still spray! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

 

My favorite winter drink – Hot Chocolate, learning where chocolate comes from:

Who would have thought Cocoa comes from such a cool pod! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

 

Loving a winter Parade, Mardi Gras by Magic Hat in Burlington, VT

And the band played on! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

 

Icicle art by Mother Nature, Pyramid Life Center, Paradox, New York:

Wavey Icicles from the thaw freeze cycle. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

 

Hike at Rush Pond, Queensbury, New York.

 

Sculpture from Burlington, VT waterfront park – Bond between Quebec & Vermont

Dramatic Burlington Waterfront highlighted by Adirondack Mountains. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Travel On!

(c) 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy

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Winter blues break – Krazy Downhill Derby, Town of Chester, New York

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Firetruck sled Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It’s a sunny winter day in the Adirondacks and what better thing to do than head over to Dynamite Hill in Chester, New York to see the Krazy Downhill Derby! We have been exploring the little towns near Schroon Lake to learn what they have going on. Dynamite Hill is part of the Recreation Area for the Town of Chester. It is very easy to find off of Exit 25 on the Northway (I-87). The first thing you notice is a log cabin building that is the Visitor Center, we have yet to go in the last time we stopped it was not open and when we went to Krazy Day we were too busy enjoying the fun.

Jelane and Snoopy. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

As you go up the driveway on the right is a tow for skiing and a hill used both for skiing and sledding. At the top of the driveway are parking and a covered ice rink and a building that houses a snack bar with a great porch overlooking the ski/sledding area. They also have a solar panel to help supply electricity, which I think is great.

Just to the right of the panel is a kiosk with information on the trails. There is a hiking trail integrated into the area, which is part of the Chester Challenge created in 2015 to encourage hiking in the area. As you look down below you can also see the set-up of a baseball diamond. The first time we visited they had a snow making machinate out staring to lay a base layer on the hill.

Derby sleds at the top of the hill Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The area reminds me of where I grew up in Michigan. We had a small ski area in town too. It was not real big but a rope tow and a hill that we could ski down, not too difficult but just fun. It was a free and open to the town residents. It was great to come after school to play.

Krazy Downhill Derby had several local sponsors and was a family fun day for all, something we all need during the winter to help with the winter blues. The day started off with a Continental Breakfast, a Hockey shoot off and then broomball. Then there was a cardboard sled race for the little ones. The YMCA earlier in the week had sponsored a sled building night to get the ball rolling. (Yes there is a YMCA facility near by in Brant Lake just off Exit 25, Suzy Q restaurant was donated in 2016 to the YMCA of Glens Falls and they have been in the process of developing programing).

Yum yum Eileen having a marshmallow Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

While all the activities were going on there was also a bonfire set up with marshmallow roasting and ice cream from Stewarts. In the snack bar they had hot dogs for sale along with a 50/50 and basket raffle with what look like some fun prizes. But the highlight of the day was the Derby!

There were 10-12 derby sleds. The sleds had to be homemade and non-motorized. Each sled could have a maximum of 4 riders. There had to be good steering and brakes. It cost $5.00 to enter a sled. What a great selection of fun rides, there was a long roadster, mailbox, little house, Noah’s ark, Pac man, outhouse, a sled that looked like a race car just to name a few. But our favorite was Orca! Each sled had to make it down the hill. Each one went down one at a time. Orca made it all the way down to the bottom of the hill and just at the end tipped over. It was so fun to watch all the derby sleds make the journey down! Great day, fun in the sun and it was nice to roast a marshmallow in the dead of winter outside on a bonfire – who knew!

Go Orca Go! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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One year in Connecticut- 6 things I’ve learned.

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Map of Connecticut

I have now been commuting and/or living in Connecticut about a year. I thought I would share some of what I have learned.

First Connecticut is a small State. It can still take a while to get from one place to another but in relative terms for me it is small. In comparison, I grew up in Michigan, which is 96,716 square miles in size, and there are a lot of lakes besides the Great Lakes (which look like oceans). There are also multiple national parks or national lakeshore to visit.

I have also lived in Ohio, which was 44,825 square miles and there was not much water around. I lived in Ohio two years and what I remember most is farmland. I also remember camping and it did not smell like camping because I was missing evergreen trees and lakes!

My next State was Virginia, which was about the same size as Ohio at 44,775 square miles, and Virginia had water with the ocean along one edge (Atlantic) and some great mountains (Shenandoah) along the other side. Virginia because it was one of the 13 original colonies had a lot of colonial history, American Revolution history and civil war history. Which meant several national parks to visit.

Jelane winter hike at Gull Pond, Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

And the State, which I still live in when I am not in Connecticut, is New York, which is 54,555 square miles. A little bigger than both Ohio and Virginia. There are lots of lakes and the Adirondack Mountains.

So when you look at Connecticut it is a bit small coming in at 5,567 square feet in size.

Second, I’ve been a bit surprise actually by how hilly it is and how much rural area there is. I use to think of Connecticut as just one big metropolitan area. I am also surprised since it was one of the 13 original colonies that I have yet to really stumble across much about that, it seems like Massachusetts takes on most of that history. In looking for a National Park or Historic site, I found several trails (Appalachian Trail and New England trail) but really only one place to visit that might feel like a park and that is Weir Farm National Historic Site, which celebrates American painting and art. I am very intrigued to go visit the studio and house which is said be a “…significant portion of the landscape remain largely intact as one of the nation’s finest remaining landscapes of American art”.

Third, I have found the folks pretty friendly and willing to say hi, and look you in the eye. I have a feeling that there are many transplanted people in Connecticut so at this point I have not run into the bias I feel in New York about not having been born a New Yorker.

Fourth, but with all the friendliness I have also found that they are terrors on the road. For instance the speed limit is just a suggestion, stop signs are usually just to slow down, swerving within the lane of traffic is common practice (maybe aided by cell phone … I’ve missed being side swiped multiple times) it is a bit unnerving since I’m never sure how close they may get to me as I drive, needing to always be on alert.

Fifth, I’ve also noticed that there are condos everywhere so that the density of the population can be a bit overwhelming for me, Connecticut comes in fifth after DC in population density, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts take the first three spots. (Michigan – 19th, Ohio – 11th, Virginia – 15th, New York – 8th by comparison.)

Pat and Jelane, Chihuly sculpture Meijer Gardens in Michigan. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

Last but not least, at this point I have yet to really see much of Connecticut other than by car. Prior to working here Eileen and I had spent some time in Mystic, Connecticut and really enjoyed the small town quaintness. My friend Linda always talks about this in relation to what we will find as we get to know Connecticut more. I also have a feeling that it may be the state with the most quirky little museums as I keep seeing signs every where when I have been driving here and there visiting colleges for my job (American Clock and Watch Museum, American Museum of Tort Law-started by Ralph Nader, Antique Radio Museum, Trolley Museum, etc.). I have told Eileen that we will have to check them out since we both love a great little museum. We went to the New Britain Museum of American Art and saw a Chihuly glass sculpture on permanent display. I’ll have to in another post discuss visiting this great gem of a museum.

I’m looking forward to exploring more and finding out about this little State. There are at least fourteen lighthouses for me to check out!

Truro, MA lighthouse Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran

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Winter Solstice Photo Essay 2017

By Jelane A. Kennedy

As I consider the time between September and now, it is hard to believe all that has taken place. 2017 has been a packed year; fast charging non-stop it feels like.

We have had a year of selling a home like no other, and buying a home. There has been changing jobs and starting anew with people, places and things. This has led to remodeling, packing, unpacking, upheaval and settling in.

When I think about the pictures taken in this time period it is reflective of how much we have been traveling between many places. The photos have been taken in those many spaces we have traveled.

As we begin the move through the dark times of winter we look forward to some down time to catch our breath.

Albany, New York

Jelane and Snoopy will always be pals. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

Burlington, Vermont

Changing Light, Burlington Waterfront. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Hartford, Connecticut

Gingerbread Lane, Children’s Museum West Hartford, CT Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Eileen enjoying an indoor campfire – West Hartford, CT. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Moody pond, Wild Acres, Pittsfield, MA. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Chestertown, New York

Gingerbread village, Chestertown, NY Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Rocky Hill, Connecticut

Spiral Log Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

Safe travels into the New Year!

© Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Two little nature trails in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Sign into Wild Acres. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

In our most recent visit to the Berkshires Eileen and I decided we want to try to find a couple of new hiking trails in the area of Pittsfield. We have our old standbys that we enjoy visiting near Lenox and Stockbridge but this time we want to add to what we knew, mix it up a bit. One of the best ways that I have found to do that is to pull out my phone and use my “Oh, Ranger” app. The app gives great information about each park and offers sometimes pictures that people have taken along with directions. At times I have found the mapping to the trailhead a bit dicey but once I have the address I can always play with the GPS app to check out directions.

Our first new hike was at Wild Acres Conservation Area. It sits next to the Pittsfield municipal airport. It is identified as a conservation area. We parked at the gate, which was closed and walked into the main park area that had accessible bathrooms, a very nice picnic pavilion and a small building used for educational field trips. The area was redesigned back in 2014 after the local airport had finished a major construction process, which had previously closed the area. Unfortunately though the parking area near the pavilion is access for wheelchairs the trail is not.

Little snow at pavilion area. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

We found a trailhead off the side of the picnic pavilion area. We got the impression that it was a place that locals know, so they know the trail because the markings were sparse for us. Luckily it was well trampled so we just followed along. We had hoped for at least a kiosk that showed the general plan of the trails but that was not to be. Luckily after walking out to the pond we ran into some folks walking their dog. They told us that the trail was really set up as a figure eight and encouraged us to walk over to the observation tower. The pond was a great little space with benches and picnic tables and I read later they have fishing derby’s there. Extending our walk to the tower was nice added bonus. We climbed up to enjoy the view. On one side we observed the airport (the tower would be fun to watch planes from) and the other view spread out looking over the local area. It was a great little hike and as we headed back we found a sign that designated the area as F. H. Controy Nature Trail. All and all it was a nice trail even though it was lacking good marking, but we would come back again. We thought it might be fun to snowshoe through the woods out to the pond and tower.

Canoe Meadows information sign. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

For our second new hike we went again to the Pittsfield area and this time we went to a Massachusetts Audubon area. Using the “Oh, Ranger” app again we went to Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. It is located near the Housatonic River. We almost missed it as we were driving in what seemed like a suburban area and then it just popped up with a little sign and parking area. At the end of the parking area we found a great kiosk that gave a basic map of the trails and some information about the birds and other wildlife.

The Sanctuary is 253 acres and has 3 miles of trail. While we were there we saw multiple runners, besides a few walkers like us. They do not allow dogs so it is quiet and dog poop free. The area is a bird sanctuary. While there we did two loops, the first was the Sacred Way Trail, it was a bit wet in spots but overall an easy hike in and out of woods and wetlands. The second hike we took was along the old carriage road that runs through the middle of the looping trails. We looked for the Wildlife Observation Building that was listed on a trail marking post but there was no building so we figured it was an old sign. The walk was peaceful and a great jaunt. We did not see much in wild life but it was nice to be out among the trees. We both decided we would like to come back and snowshoe the trails.

What was amazing about both new trails areas was that they were tucked into an unexpected region that provided wooded green space and seemed like quiet reprieves from the hustle and bustle of Pittsfield. We felt like we had really found truly local haunts that provided a break from city life.

Eileen near the ponds edge enjoying the view of the mountains. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© Jelane A. Kennedy 2017

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Fighting Falcon Museum, Greenville, Michigan – finding family history.

By Jelane A. Kennedy

On our last visit to Michigan I talked my Mom and Eileen into going to visit The Fighting Falcon Military Museum in Greenville, Michigan about 40 minutes from Rockford where my Mom lives. I had done a little research a head of time to find out when they were open so that we could make a visit. The hours of operation were on Sundays from 2- 4:30 pm from May through Veterans Day and by special appointment.

For me the main attraction of the museum was to see a replica of The Fighting Falcon glider. The glider was known during WWII as the Waco CG-4A. It was made to carry a pilot, co-pilot and up to 13 infantrymen or small Howitzer or bulldozer. The idea for the glider was that it would be towed up into the air and released behind enemy lines and was one of the first stealth aircraft to be used.

Glider with canvas Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It is considered a replica because it is not one that was built in one of the factories but was made of surplus parts found through out Michigan and even Germany. After the war the surplus gliders in their boxes were sold at auction. Many of the gliders were discarded in farm fields and barns as the wood from the boxes were used as building materials. Some gliders were also purchased and then built into homes and even travel trailers. 50 years after “Glider Day in Greenville” in 1993 a group of individuals began the process of collecting the parts and building a glider from start to finish.

One of the things that amaze me about the glider is that it was a one-way ticket. The pilot and co-pilot took on this job knowing that they would only once fiy this plane on a mission. It is hard to think about how the pilots would practice with their glider, get to know all it could do and all the creaks and funny sounds (like we do with our cars) and then know that once they left for a mission their beloved glider would be at the end of it’s life span. My guess it that the greater purpose that they felt for their work took over, it was the price they paid to do business.

Skelton of the glider. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Seeing the glider in person was unbelievable. It had over 70,000 individual parts. It was made of mostly wood and canvas. The height was 12’7” and it is 48’4” long with a wingspan of 83’8”. In many ways it look like a huge model airplane kit like the one’s you might buy at a hobby shop. The replica at the museum sits in a special room built onto the old Cass Street, Board of Education building, to hold the glider and it does not have a complete set of wings, the wings are clipped to fit in the room. Standing next to the glider and peering around inside you can see the intricacies of the plane. The number of hours it took to assemble one on the shop room floor itself was a feat to be imagined. One of the amazing things to see were pictures on the wall of the cockpit area hinged open to drive in a jeep or other big equipment and then think about it actually flying around with all that weight inside!

So how did a museum about The Fighting Falcon come to be in Greenville, Michigan? Well there are two stories to tell. The first was the story of the wartime contract. Gibson Electric Refrigerator Company was headquartered in Greenville, Michigan. The company was the merging of two companies one that built cabinets for ice blocks in Belding, Michigan and another competing company that built ice refrigerators. This all started in 1877 and the merger took place in the early 1900’s. Gibson’s as it was known in Greenville was a mainstay of manufacturing for the town (meaning jobs) until about 2004 when the headquarters and manufacturing plant was closed in Greenville after being bought and sold multiple times over the years (my sister’s husband has worked for this company his entire career). During WWII Gibson’s took on a couple of war contracts and one of those was for building the Waco CG-4 glider.

The US Army Air Force, US Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force (among others) used the Waco CG-4 during WWII. There were 16 companies that built gliders across the country. The two Michigan contracts were Ford Motor Company and Gibson’s. Out of the two Gibson’s was able get up to speed faster, building the gliders because of their history of working with wood. They still had at that time men in the shop with the wood working experience. The company that built the most gliders was Ford Motor with 4,190 gliders. Most of the other companies built less than that and Gibson’s was one of the top 6 manufactures with 1,078 built. 13,900 were delivered by wars end. The factories were open 24 hours a day during that time. The gliders were used in WWII and as late as 1950 for artic exploration.

The museum also has a small section upstairs discussing more of the war contracts Gibson serviced and other military artifacts through the museum. One of the upcoming exhibits will be about the war efforts on the home front. It would be great to hear more about the women and their jobs working in the factories. What it was like and the transition to factory work. I hope they are able to gather those stories before that oral history is lost.

The second part of the story is that in 1943, the students at Greenville Public Schools made the decision that they would see if they could fund raise enough money to pay for one of the Gibson made gliders. The students raised $72,000 in two-months time, which meant instead of one glider they had enough to purchase four gliders! May 19, 1943 was named “Glider Day in Greenville” and there was a big parade out to the football field and a glider was towed over head during the day.

At Black field a ceremony took place honoring the students with the Distinguished Service award from the US Treasury Department. The award is the third highest honor that is bestowed by the Secretary of the Treasury and is not presented very often. This was the first time it was given to school students.

Where my family history mergers is that my father was his class president all four years of high school at Greenville Public Schools and it was his senior year that this all took place. He was one of the students honored for collecting the most funds. My Dad joined and served in the Navy after high school as WWII was ending.

Dad’s class photo.

A long time ago when my Mom and I stopped at the Greenville Historical Society I remember one of the volunteers showing me an article about Glider Day, all I remembered is that he was in so way involved with the glider. My Mom didn’t remember this so when I suggested going to the museum she was not sure what I was up to but she was game. So she was very surprised when we arrived and at the door happened to be our former family eye doctor and his son (who plays the organ at Mom’s church in Rockford). I don’t know a lot about my Dad since he passed away when I was 7 and we moved to Greenville about that time. My Mom has been able to tell me bits and pieces that she knew of him. Before we moved to Greenville we had lived primarily in the Upper Peninsula in the Escanaba area.

While Eileen and I wandered the museum Mom got caught up with Dr. Dibble and his son. She later caught up with us. She did not know this history about my Dad and she got a kick out of see the old high school class photo, one we also had hanging around the house. Reading all the news clips and seeing the pictures added a new context to my father. My mom recognized some of the names in the article and was able to tell me more about what she knew of the connections. The slogan on the sign out front of the museum says “… whispers in the shadows” in many ways this sums up how I feel about my Dad.

In May 2018 the museum is planning an event to celebrate “Glider Day”, I am planning on attending. The question I still have unanswered is why did the student’s name one of the gliders “The Fighting Falcon” since the school mascot was the Yellow Jackets?

Sign out front of The Fighting Falcon Museum. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2017 Jelane A. Kennedy

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