Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Morning in Watkins Glen


I spent the first five days of November in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.  This is the story of one morning walk when we were in Watkins Glen


The day before, the rain turned to a mixture of snow and sleet before stopping and the wind had ruined many kids plans for Halloween had died, having blown the clouds away.   It was 19 degrees at 6 AM.  Two days earlier it would have been 7 AM, but daylight saving time had ended and it felt like I’d slept in.  I crawled out from the plush covers at the Harbor Hotel, a four star hotel that must cater to lowlifes for everywhere I turn in the room are signs and notes about not stealing.  They seem concerned for their fluffy towels, terrycloth robes, the pen set on the desk, the corkscrew and the wine glasses on the cadenza…  The signs inform would be thieves that such items are available in the gift shop (or was that shoppe, as this is one of those kind of hotels that likes things to sound fancy).  If just take them, they threaten to charge you even more when they tack it to your bill.  I figured I didn’t have a need for any of the items.
True Love in dry dock
There’s coffee by the elevators and I pour myself a cup before heading out into the cold.  Crossing the old Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, now Finger Lake Rails, which run down the west side of Seneca Lake, I head to the town’s pier.  Things are quiet and a mist is rising from the water that’s warmer than the air.   There seems to be no one around. There is a sign by the empty berth indicating where “True Love” is moored in summer.  The old schooner has been featured in a number of movies.  The pier itself is a little slippery from the frozen frost.  Only a couple boats remain in the boat slips, most having been pulled from the water for the season.  At the end of the pier, along the rock break wall and behind the shack, I’m surprised to find a lone man fishing the deep water.  Wearing heavy insulated clothes, he drinks coffee from an oversized insulated mug.  We talk for a few minutes and I realize he has had some luck when a couple of perch in a bucket flop around.  I’m surprised there’s no ice on the lake and he tells me that the lake has only frozen over a few times in recorded history, the last being in the 1940s.   

The boat in front is Hagar (the hotel is to the back)
As I head over to the marina, the 7 AM horn blows at the mill on the east end of town.  At the marina, there are three boats are still in the water.  At the end of the marina pier a classic 63 foot schooner named “When and If” is tied up.  I later learn from the morning paper that the boat, which was once owned by General George Patton, had just sailed in a few days earlier and would winter in Watkins Glen.  The owner, who runs a vineyard, plans to sail it out through the canals in the fall (he’ll have to take the mast off to do this) and out to the ocean where he’ll sail along the northeast coast before taking the boat south for the winter of 2014-15.  The boat was launched in 1939.  Patton and his wife had plans to sail it around the world after the war, but his death in an accident just after the European War ended kept him from enjoying the boat.   There are two other classic wooden sailboats still in the water at the marine; both more to the size I prefer.  One is named Hagar and I wonder if the owner’s name is Abraham.  If not, I’m sure she’s named Hagar because she’s his other love. 

One of the plaques in the sidewalk

Waterfront bathed in sunlight
As the sun rises over the hills to the east, bringing a bright red glow to the trees that still have leaves.  I walk back across the waterfront and into town, looking at some of the older buildings.  In the sidewalks are marble plaques honoring race car drivers that have won at Watkins Glen, a quaint town that has a long history with auto racing.  As I come back to the hotel to pack up, I stop at a wonder bakery and deli, the Glen Mountain Market for a wrap with spinach and egg along with some pastries for breakfast.  We eat in the hotel room and soon are back on the road, heading south to Corning where we plan to once again tour the Glass Museum before heading west and visiting friends for the night in Ellicottville.  

20 comments:

  1. Used to live across the state line in northern Pennsylvania and came to know the Finger Lakes in their various seasons. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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    1. It is a beautiful place, isn't it. I can't believe how much the wine industry has taken off.

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  2. The boat was launched in 1939 and it still going? That's so awesome! I really want to sail someday.

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    1. I was impressed that it was built for Patton--even though the war kept him for enjoying it like he planned as he was killed in an jeep accident not long after Germany surrendered.

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  3. Looks like a lovely place. Cornell right next door ?.
    How are they going to get a out of that lake. And will they go north to the Ontario thence out and around the Gaspé. Or take it by road to, I suppose, Long Island Sound. A bit of a ship in a bottle type of situation eh.

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    1. Vince, leaving the mast off, they can motor it through the New York Canal system to either Lake Ontario and out the St. Lawrence Seaway, or up to the Erie Canal and then to the Hudson and down to the Atlantic. Either way, they'll not be able to sail the boat until they get to where there are drawbridges or higher bridges, which are not a part of the canal system.

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  4. ha. hagar. smiles. yes there might be some biblical connections there....better than a viking eh? i think that is 2 g's though....interesting on patton's boat as well..been a while since i sailed...would be very cool....

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  5. We just don't see that kind of cold weather here hardly ever. Today it is considered very cold and it apparently did drop just below freezing last night. But to me it's quite nice

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  6. Why is it we have been to so many of the same places and you saw so much difference than what I saw?

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  7. Wow, a few years ago when we spent our Thanksgiving visiting, relative's graves for our TG we were up in that area! Lovely. I also ran into that same sad discovery about those that steal when we stayed at a 4 or even 5 star place in Jackson, Mi. and they had a refrigerator and microwave but no coffee pot in the room! What! I know that coffee isn't always the best but seriously! Thanks for this side trip for me this morning, I always enjoy your little jaunts when you share them with us. That photo is dreamy. ALSO, thanks for bringing the story about Marta Becket to life for me. Wow, what an amazing woman and I can't believe I haven't been to that very theater yet! You are the greatest Sage!

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  8. I've known Watkins Glen for many years due to my love of racing but never knew it was situated on a system of lakes and had such a presence in sailing. Because I love boats, I'll have to pay more attention. It looks beautiful.

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  9. What a nice trip! I think the boat in the film The Philadelphia Story was called the True Love, but I don't remember them showing it on film.

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  10. What a beautiful name for a ship: "When and If". It sounds full of determination and conditions. :) And owned by General Patton! Full of history, I'd say as well! I am amazed at how many details you find in the places you visit during walks, Sage. It's great to be back here! :)

    Leni

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  11. I like the name, True Love, for a boat. Obviously whoever named it, enjoyed spending a lot of time on it!

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  12. Looks like a gorgeous area. I recognized the name from the races they have there. Did you see the race track? I would imagine it's probably out from the town a little bit?

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  13. Beautiful images and reflections. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my blog. :)

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  14. Great post! It sounds and looks like a very interesting area. The sailboat that was owned by Patton would be great to see.

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  15. A great story, Sage. I am familiar with the connection between car racing and Watkins Glen, but this was especially nice!

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  16. I have been to visit the area in my youth.. not too far from my native Montreal. Lovely area for sure. You've captured some of its beauty with both words and images.

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