Tuesday, January 18, 2011

AUGUST 5 - 6

As usual we got up later than planned, and had distractions we hadn't anticipated.

We posted our suite for no service during our 3 1/2 days there, but there was a Tibetan housekeeper/maid assigned to it.  Earlier when I mentioned the Potala and the Dalai Lama to her, her eyes got big, she beamed, and she clasped her hands in prayer.  So on this departure morning I tried to print a colored picture of the Dalai Lama for her.   For that I had to use the house printer, which meant using the house computer too.  Since it was not an Apple, I had great difficulty.  Lela, a beautiful and charismatic desk clerk handling the needs of other guests like a circus juggler, worked to help me, and finally produced the colored photo.   I presented this and several inadvertent sepia copies and $5 to the Tibetan, and she was ecstatic.

Driving through Toronto's extended sprawl to the distant countryside reminded me that the city has 5 1/2 million people.   Beyond that, the divided turnpike along the north shore of Lake Ontario was quite like the USA interstate highways, but the service centers seemed to us superior in cleanliness, appearance, efficiency and food quality.

By the time we returned to the USA, where Lake Ontario drains through the Thousand Islands into the St. Lawrence River, it was clear we were going to end the day far short of our original goal of Burlington, Vermont.   The USA customs officer was as friendly as a Fuller Brush salesman, contrary to the stereotype.   At the Welcome Center, the ladies made phone calls and found that all motels/hotels before the scenic Adirondack Mountains were full, and there were none of them anyway along scenic Route 3 through those mountains.   We had no choice but to drive onwards, hoping to somehow find a  spare room enroute, or reach Burlington before midnight.  Suddenly we spied a Microtel, a chain we've found inexpensive and adequate.  So that's where we stopped, gratefully.   Apparently only establishments that pay a fee get listed at Welcome Centers, as with Yellow Pages.  We ate a "breakfast" for supper at the local diner, where the portions were gargantuan, so all the staff and the majority of customers looked at least 100 pounds overweight.

That was in the town of "Calcium".   Now there's a story, but I haven't found it yet.

August 6 we drove 411 miles home, mostly shunpiking through the mountains of NY, VT and NH, via Lake Placid,  a Lake Champlain ferry, Burlington, Montpelier, the Kankamagus Highway.

Enroute in the New York Adirondack Mountains I spied the remains of a strange-looking complex nearly hidden behind a fence and trees, so Marge waited while I squeezed through a fence and investigated on foot.  There were the skeletons of several big steel and concrete buildings, and trees growing up through acres of pavement.   It was spooky, especially the interiors.   Later Google told me it was the corpse of the Benson Mine, which in 1950 was the largest open pit magnetite iron mine in the world, closed in 1978.   I was very surprised to learn there had been such a mine in the east, certainly not in a New York forest.   A policeman in the next town told me the site would probably be levelled and compacted, except for the huge open mine hole, because it's surrounded by a National Forest, and some underground shafts are apt to collapse.   It was just as well that I went no further.

I've ordered a book on this fascinating story:
 Gem of the Adirondacks: Star Lake, Benson Mines, and the Global Economyby Russell J. Hall         



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