Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Musings on the Erie Canal



Now that I am stationed in Castleton-on-the-Hudson for a few days I can post a couple of musings from our days on the Oswego/Erie Canal. The trip itself will continue on Friday when Sue returns from a conference in Chicago.

The Erie Canal
Scott is hot and bothered

Way back in the winter I ordered and received a very nice publication from the State of New York with all the charts and info you need to navigate the New York Canal system.

The State publication version: (shortened by the author)

The Erie Canal – The historic inland waterway winding through scenic central New York State and passing through quaint towns along the way where you can tie up to the city wall. The water way is now home to many happy pleasure boaters traveling both East and West.

Scott’s Version:

The Erie Canal- An old ditch passing through the same damn bushes and sticks mile after stinking mile. You can stop at one trailer infested, depressed and dirty town after another. You’ll meet the occasional power boat along the way who will refuse to slow down and thereby nearly throw your mast over the side.

This little cruise through the Erie Canal has turned into the Bataan Death March. Large hunks of the canal are straight as an arrow mile after mile and there is NOTHING to look at unless you are fascinated by shrubbery and sticks. At least it is really hot with no wind and plenty of flies.

I’m sorry maybe the tourist information was written with powerboaters in mind. They can go up to the legal speed of 10 mph while we are maxed out at about 6. Powerboats probably also have air conditioning. Maybe we were unlucky as to what towns we chose to tie up to. The State’s version is that all the towns are quaint and you just tie up at any wall. It’s true that you can tie up anywhere but I guess you’d have to think that trailers and carnivals are quaint. Take Rome for example. There was a little new pier to tie up to and a long dilapidated one. After getting stuck on the bottom once, we got tied up ok. We could tell it was a bit of a walk to town but we hadn’t really walked anywhere in a couple of days so that was ok. As we made our way into and around the downtown area we were presented with…nothing. No shops. No little eaterys. Nothing. We finally found a little hotel with a lunch menu and some air conditioning. Quaint my ass. This is Gary Indiana!

Back at the boat it was about 95 degrees with no shade and no breeze. We set up our anchor shade and that helped a little. We also covered the front hatch to try to keep the v-berth cooler. As we sat and read we were visited by a couple of local characters. This is supposed to be part of the quaintness. One was a homeless drunk who seemed pretty harmless. We nodded and smiled to his various mumblings. Best of all though was Bill. Bill looked to be about 19 years old. He had no shirt, underwear pulled way up and giant black bell bottoms slung down about a foot below his underwear. The giant bottoms had long ago frayed away. There was probably room for a couple of sacks of potatoes under those bells. Although he had no shirt on it looked like this was the first time for that this year as he was as white as the belly of a dead fish with about the same muscle definition. The main feature of his musculature would be the two nipple rings he was sporting. Ironically, here we are in the Mohawk valley and sure enough Bill was proudly wearing his orange Mohawk. Bill was as friendly as could be though and he talked with us…on and on. And on and on. He was accompanied by his 4 year old son and his brand new pit bull puppy. He seemed a lot more interested in the puppy but the son did get a hollering at on occasion as he fished off the pier we were tied to. As we listened to Bill we gleaned that he really, really liked video games. He and his ‘fiance’ had an apartment and weren’t really supposed to have a dog. Soon they were getting into a trailer and that was going to be better. Bill said his brother joined the Marines but that he could never work for a guy he couldn’t talk to and he didn’t care for Bush in any case.

Why has Bill stayed with me? You might think Bill is some sort of aberrant American but I think the clothes and Mohawk not withstanding he probably represents the attitudes and thinking or lack thereof of much of middle America. Not much going on. Thinking a trailer is a step up. Thinking $500 is a lot a money. Bill was mildly entertaining and just a little depressing.

So travel the Erie Canal! See sites! Meet interesting People!

Or leave Chicago 3 months earlier and go up the St. Lawrence!

OK, this was written on the fly...literally! I was not so crabby later as the canal turned into the Mohawk River and things cooled off a little. Still...


4 comments:

Rich P said...

Funny stuff, but it appears that it pretty much writes itself! That earlier comment by Andrea about it rivaling Tom Clancy is probably a stretch, though. Not enough mystery and intrique. Include some of that next time, Mr. Science. Maybe you should shoot someone like Bill, then let Andy and Barney of Rome try to find out who did it!

Dept. of Homeland Security said...

Threat level orange. We have actionable intelligence that a plan is afoot to kidnap one Susan Budde on her scheduled trip to Chicago and hold her hostage in exchange for a domestic feline. Take appropriate caution and measures

Anonymous said...

If you went to the Oswego Canal and didn't go to Rochester and Buffalo, you DID miss all the nice little towns. Trust me, the canal towns in WEstern NY are really sweet and very boater oriented, tie ups, restaurants and shops galore. That is because the canal is older in that western section.

Andrea said...

I'm not certain (nor am I especially proud of this)but I'm pretty sure I used to date Bill.