The Beauty Around Us

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Posts tagged ‘Empire Passport’

Labor Day Weekend 2015: Seneca Lake Circle Tour

**Republished August 3, 2021**

This is Day 3 of our Labor Day weekend vacation.


The sleeping conditions at our hotel were great for a good night’s sleep. We went to bed with the AC on; it was quiet; and I didn’t get awakened with acid reflux. My back feels much improved this morning, as does my knee.

We got a little later start to the day today. We slept in until shortly before 7:00 am. Even with a later start to the day we were showered and dressed, had visited Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls and were seated at Classic Chef’s in Montour Falls by 8:00 am. We did attempt to go to Curly’s Family Restaurant, just a short distance from Classic Chef’s, for breakfast, but it was closed. It is just as well, I believe, that the restaurant was closed. I checked out the restaurant reviews this afternoon, and the reviews weren’t all that great. Breakfast at Classic Chef’s has always been good. Why change breakfast venues, when we have found a good place!

Montour Falls, NY – Shequaga Falls

You can ride up to the base of Shequaga Falls.  It is located right at the foot of Main Street in Montour Falls, NY.


Breakfast at Classic Chef’s is always good.
Bob’s breakfast is shown in the photograph displayed above.
My breakfast is shown in the photograph displayed above.


After breakfast, we drove into Watkins Glen. The Empire Passport is a nice convenience. For $65, the Empire Passport provides unlimited day use vehicle entry into most of New York parks.  I only wanted to hike a short distance of Watkins Glen Gorge.  We would not have stopped at the gorge, if we would have had to pay the $8.00 entry fee into the park.  The expense would not have been justified for such a short stay.

Entrance to Watkins Glen Gorge

Sentry Bridge

We hiked just past Sentry Bridge to the gorge view that I wished to photograph.

This is the gorge view that I wished to photograph today.

Close-up picture of the waterfall seen in the gorge view.

From Watkins Glen, we  departed for a drive around Seneca Lake.

Our first stop, while driving around Seneca Lake, was at Hector Falls.

Hector Falls (upper portion)

Hector Falls is best seen from Seneca Lake, however the upper portion of the waterfall is easily viewed from the NY 414 bridge that travels right next to the falls.

We made two more stops on our way around Seneca Falls. We pulled off for a photo opportunity of Seneca Lake, and we visited Sampson State Park in Romulus.

Seneca Lake and vineyard

Sampson State Park

I will share details and photographs from our visit to Sampson State Park in my next blog post.

Up to this point we had planned to drive to Geneva and then drive on the western side of Seneca Lake south back to Watkins Glen. We changed our minds. We decided to turn around at Sampson State Park and go back the way we came. We didn’t go back quite the same route. GPS took us a different route, which was fine. We got to see more of the Finger Lakes countryside.

Back on NY 414 we stopped at the Finger Lakes Distillery in Burdett.

Finger Lakes Distillery

Don’t those grapes look good!

Whiskey tasting

Bob tasted three whiskeys that cost $1.00 for each shot. The three whiskeys Bob tried were: Pot Still, which is an Irish style whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye. He purchased a bottle of Bourbon. The distillery offers tours on Saturdays. Bob would like to go on a tour sometime, when we come back to this area.

From the Finger Lakes Distillery we drove to Big Flats, where we ate lunch at the Outback Steakhouse. Service was slow, but the food was good.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel for a few hours of rest and relaxation.

We ate dinner at Arby’s in Watkins Glen. It was the first time this weekend that we ate out all three meals. Friday and Saturday nights we snacked in our hotel room.

After dinner, we went to Clute Memorial Park in Watkins Glen.

The blue dot shows our location, while at Clute Memorial Park.

We spent more than an hour at Clute Memorial Park enjoying the lake sounds and smells … …the waves, the breeze, the boats bobbing up and down in the water, the music from the boats, the darkening sky, children playing, people wading in the water, and BBQ smells (good thing we had already eaten!).  What a nice way to end a day!

Boats bobbing in Seneca Lake

This dog likes to ride the surf board.

We had hoped to see a spectacular sunset from Clute Memorial Park.  The clouds rolled in and the spectacular sunset didn’t happen.

This was as close to a spectacular sunset as we got, while at Clute Memorial Park.

Labor Day Weekend 2015: Cayuga Lake Circle Tour

**Republished August 3, 2021**

This is Day 2 of our 4-day Labor Day weekend vacation.


Our hotel room was quiet and I slept well last night, but not without discomfort. I awakened around 1:30 am, with acid reflux. The room felt stuffy, and I was a bit warm. My back hurt, but the pain had lessened. The bed is soft. I prefer a more firm mattress. Bob put on the AC, which removed the stuffiness and warmth. I drank some coca-cola, which relieved some of the acid reflux symptoms. I was able to go back to sleep, awakening again at 6:00 am. I still had acid reflux. I am taking PriLOSEC again, the first one this morning. I found about a week’s supply in my toiletry bag. I took a shower and got dressed. My back still hurts. I am able to move more freely, so that is an improvement. Bob got up, when I did. He showered and got dressed.

A complimentary breakfast is included in the cost of our room. We decided we wanted a full, hot breakfast, not the continental breakfast provided by the hotel. We ate breakfast at Classic Chef’s in Montour Falls. We ate at this restaurant in June 2014. It isn’t a fancy place.

Bob took this picture of me at Classic Chef’s.

As was the case last year, breakfast at Classic Chef’s was great and reasonably priced. Service was quick too.


After breakfast we drove to Ithaca, via NY 79. Our plan for the day was to drive around Cayuga Lake, traveling north on the eastern side of the lake and traveling south on the western side of the lake.

Our first stop was at Ithaca Falls. This was Bob and my first visit to Ithaca Falls. It is a picturesque waterfall; well worth the visit.

We saw Ithaca Falls first from the Lake Street bridge.

We, then, took a short walk through the woods to the base of the falls.

Ithaca Falls is over 100 feet tall and stretches nearly 175 ft across at its base.

There were signs along the wooded trail leading to the waterfall warning visitors not to swim, as well as alerting visitors that lead contaminated soils have been detected in the area. The warnings did not stop people from visiting the falls, and we saw two young men swimming at the base of the falls.

Before taking the wooded trail to the waterfall, we noticed on the right a concrete structure.

This is the remains of the Ithaca Gun Factory’s raceway.

Ithaca Gun Factory began large-scale manufacturing of sporting shotguns and rifles in 1880.  Additional information about the Ithaca Gun Factory, Ithaca and Ithaca Falls may be found by clicking here.


From Ithaca Falls we took NY 34 north. We stopped a short distance north of Ithaca in the village of Lansing. We were trying to find a road down to Cayuga Lake. On the map it looked like a road off of Blackchin Blvd would provide access. We turned left onto Blackchin Blvd and discovered that the road down to Cayuga Lake (Bolton Point Road) was blocked and designated as a Greenway trail.

Bolton Point Road is a Greenway trail.

We parked in a small parking lot along Blackchin Blvd at the top of Bolton Point Road. We walked down Bolton Point Road, which was long and steep, to the lake front.


Soon after beginning our descent, we met another couple making their way up the road. I remarked that it appears to be a quick trip down to the lake but a slow, tiring climb back up the road. The couple didn’t respond to my comment, asking instead if we had seen the lake shore from the railroad tracks. I said “no”. They said the views were beautiful and that you could go into the water as well.

Bob and I walking down Bolton Point Road

The Bolton Point Water Commission pump station is at the bottom of Bolton Point Road. To reach the lake shore, railroad tracks had to be crossed and you had to walk past the pumping station. A man, who worked for the water commission and who was getting into his car to leave, said hello to us. I asked if it was okay to cross the pumping station grounds to get to the lake shore. This man postponed his departure and walked with us to the lake shore. He told us about Poison Ivy Point, reached by following the railroad tracks for about ¼ mile. He didn’t name the area Poison Ivy Point, only cautioned us to stay off the peninsula owing to the large amount of poison ivy present on the peninsula. He pointed out some landmarks not to miss (Myers Park, Salt Point, Montezuma Wildlife and Taughannock State Park), north of where we stood on the lake shore.

Cayuga Lake

After admiring the lake shore, we climbed back up Bolton Point Road to our car. It was a half mile down and another half mile back up. Whew! What a climb that was! When I posted on Facebook about the climb back to the car, a friend named Tim left the following comment on Facebook: “From “in bed with bad back and heating pad” to “that was quite a climb”! Nice recovery!“.  I replied that I was not going to let a back ache stop me from enjoying our weekend getaway!

Continuing our drive around Cayuga Lake, via NY 34 and NY 34B, we stopped at Lansing Park marina. Myers Park, which the man from the Bolton Point Water Commission mentioned, charged $4.00 admission. As we intended only to make use of the bathroom facilities and to check out the park lighthouse at the point, we didn’t feel justified paying admission. We turned around at the gate and pulled into the adjacent marina. The bathroom facilities were locked, accessible by keypad. I asked at the marina office if we could use the bathroom. I was told yes and provided the password for the keypad. I had hoped to get a picture of the Myers Point Lighthouse from the marina. The place from where we would be able to see the lighthouse was marked as private property, so I didn’t get a picture of the lighthouse. I did, however, capture some nice pictures of the marina.

Lansing Park marina

Lansing Park Marina

We drove to Salt Point, too, as recommended by the Bolton Point Water Commission pump station worker, but we didn’t see anything that caught our attention.

At King Ferry to continue our drive around Cayuga Lake, we had to turn onto NY 90. We checked the John Harris Park in Cayuga.

The John Harris Park is a waterfront park and is also the location of the village offices,
in a former NY Central Railroad Station.


While at John Harris Park, I took a walk on this boardwalk.


Cayuga Lake, as seen from John Harris Park

Just north of Cayuga we turned left onto US 20 and ate lunch at the Nice N Easy grocery shop. The food counter reminded me of a Subway. Bob ordered a chicken chipotle wrap; I ordered a Philly Steak sub. Service was very slow; our sandwiches, though, were good.

Cool-looking car at the Nice N Easy grocery shop


After lunch, we visited the nearby Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. We followed the 3.5-mile Wildlife Drive, which is a one-way auto tour that provided many opportunities to observe and photograph wildlife. The main feature of the drive is the 1,600-acre wetland which hosts a rich diversity of waterfowl, waterbirds and other wildlife.  I took the following pictures from the comfort of our car.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron in a Tree

Great Egret




Great Egret

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret and Great Blue Heron



The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge would be a great place to return to again and again!


From Montezuma we followed NY 89 to Cayuga Lake State Park, our first stop on the western side of Cayuga Lake.  The NY Empire Passport provided free day use vehicle entry into the park.

Cayuga Lake State Park


Cayuga Lake State Park has a very nice beach.


Cayuga Lake State Park playground

Before our granddaughters arrived, I rarely noticed playgrounds.  I notice them all the time now.  Harper and June would have enjoyed playing in this playground.


From Cayuga Lake State Park, we continued our drive south. We followed Lower Lake Road back to NY 89.  We stopped on the road to Thirsty Owl, where I took a photograph of the vineyard, with Cayuga Lake in the background.

Thirsty Owl vineyard

We made an ice cream stop at Cayuga Lake Creamery in Interlaken.  We ate our ice cream sitting at a picnic table, located in front of a wooden train.

The Creamery Express train play structure

Our last stop along Route 89 was at Taughannock Falls State Park.  The NY Empire Passport provided free day use vehicle entrance into the park.

We walked the Gorge Trail, which was a very pleasant ¾ mile mile walk on a flat, wide trail that ended near the base of the falls.

Lower Taughannock Creek 

The gorge trail follows alongside the creek bed.

Taughannock Falls


There wasn’t much water falling at Taughannock Falls. Still, it is a picturesque place.

From Taughannock Falls we drove back to our hotel, using the GPS as our guide (we didn’t go through Ithaca).

It has been a long day. We did see lots of beautiful sights and even checked out a distillery (didn’t buy anything). I was ready for a good rest, when we returned to the hotel. I really gave my arthritic knee and my back a workout today. I did well, though. I have a lot more freedom of movement in my back than I did this morning. My knee is causing the most grief right now. The knee will be OK, with rest.

Independence Day Ride

After watching Warren’s Independence Day parade, we rode to Erie and enjoyed our 4th of July meal at Quaker Steak & Lube.

From Quaker Steak & Lube we began our ride back home. We made a couple photo stops along the way. Our first stop was in Findley Lake, NY.

Findley Lake

Soon after we had parked, a man and woman rode in on a motorcycle.  We said hello, and I was reminded what a small world we live in. The man and woman are from Butler, PA and know Cadogan, the town that I grew up in.

Our second photo stop was at Long Point State Park on Chautauqua Lake.  This state park is located less than 35 miles from our house, but we had never stepped foot inside the park.  Earlier this year we purchased a New York State Empire Passport, which provides free admission to state parks in the state of New York.  We decided to check out this park.  Long Point State Park is a very nice park! There is a beautiful marina, very nice trails and a beach.

The tiger lilies provided a pretty foreground for the boats and lake.

the Marina

We walked a trail to the point. There were lovely views of the lake all along the trail.

This is the trail leading to the point. I was almost at the point, when I took this picture.


The Point

We returned to the marina, walking on the trail on the left.  We enjoyed the lovely views of the lake from this side of the point as well.

If you look closely, you will see a fishing dock.

The beach and beach house are visible in this photograph.

the beach

One last picture of the boats moored at the marina

We are really getting use out of the Empire Passport.  I am happy that we purchased the passport this year!

Five NY State Parks in One Weekend: Watkins Glen State Park

We spent two nights at the Best Western Grand Victorian Inn in Sayre, PA during the weekend of June 26th.  We decided to go on our planned weekend getaway to the Finger Lakes region, regardless of the weather.  The weather forecast called for a very soggy weekend. Rain amounts of 1-2 inches (or more) was expected to fall.

We departed home at 12:45 pm on Friday, June 26th, en route Watkins Glen, NY.  We arrived in Watkins Glen around 4:00 pm and entered Watkins Glen State Park, using the New York State Empire Passport that we purchased earlier in the year. Within the park, Glen Creek descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge.  We caught a shuttle bus ($5.00 each) to the upper entrance to the gorge and hiked the 1 1/2 miles down to the main entrance. Our hike took us about 1 ½ hours, with lots of photo stops.

Jacob’s Ladder has 180 steps!

Mile Point Bridge

The gorge

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Central Cascade

Cavern Cascade

Bob and I at the bottom of the gorge

Sentry Bridge

It was a perfect afternoon for a hike. It was a warm, not a hot and humid day.

After hiking the gorge, we drove to Sayre and ate dinner at the Original Italian Grille.  This restaurant was recommended to us by one of Bob’s coworkers.  I ordered lasagna and a side salad.  The lasagna was generous enough that two people could have eaten it easily.  Bob ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna Salad (Chilled Sashimi-style tuna, rubbed and seared, served rare, with tomatoes, red onion, wonton crisps and sesame seeds paired with our Wasabi vinaigrette).  In addition to the tuna salad, Bob helped me eat the lasagna.  Our meals also were served with homemade bread.  Dinner was delicious, and the service was okay. The waitress made a couple mistakes with our order. She brought me water instead of unsweetened tea, and she forgot to bring me a salad. The mistakes were quickly corrected.

After dinner, we drove the short distance to our hotel. Our accommodation at Best Western Grand Victorian Inn was a generously-sized room with king bed, two night stands, dresser and flat screen TV, desk with chair, arm chair with ottoman and small refrigerator and microwave. The closet was large enough to walk inside. The bathroom was large as well.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Best Western Grand Victorian Inn was home for us for 2 nights.



Lake Erie State Park

On Saturday, June 6th, Bob and I went for a motorcycle ride that added 190 miles to our odometer.  We left home around 11:00 am and didn’t return home until after 7:00 pm. We rode to Lake Erie State Park via County Route 380. The park is located in Chautauqua County, a short distance northeast of the village of Brocton, NY.   Our New York State Empire Passport gained us free admission to the park. Without the passport, it would have cost us $6.00 to enter the park.

We parked on the day-use side of the park, as opposed to the campground side of the park.

From the parking lot you can see the bathhouse, which is available for wedding and party rentals.  To the right of the bathhouse is a small bridge.

We crossed over the bridge.


discovered a beautiful On the other side of the bridge we discovered a private picnic area atop a high bluff overlooking Lake Erie.

Even though it was windy and a little bit chilly on the bluff, we enjoyed a picnic lunch with a wonderful view.


After lunch we took a short walk along the beach.

We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the beach that day.

Here’s a closer look at the bathhouse.

The bathhouse is available for wedding and party rentals.  It was a beautiful beach area.  Lake Erie State Park’s website, however, mentions that swimming is not permitted.

From Lake Erie State Park we rode west along Lake Erie, via Route 5, en route Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA.  I will share photographs from stops along the way in my next blog post.

Memorial Day Weekend: Saturday

On Saturday, May 23, we spent the day riding. We left home at 8:30 am. I had put the liner back in my leather jacket and dressed in layers, as it was only 36 degrees when we left home en route Niagara Falls.

Approaching Peace Bridge

We crossed into Canada via the Peace Bridge. We had no delay crossing into Canada; however, the border crossing guard was a bit brusque. After we (and others) had entered the lane to his booth, he closed the lane.  I believe his brusqueness was due to his desire to take a break or to end his work shift.  The guard had us remove our helmets, not an easy task when one hand is holding passports. He could see I was having a little trouble handling my helmet and handing over the passports to him. He made no effort to help ( e.g. he did not step closer to reach the passports). I had trouble putting my helmet back on.  I was wearing a dew rag that came off, as I removed my helmet.  I needed two hands to put the dew rag back on, so I just put on my helmet.  I stuffed our passports in my jacket pocket.  We stopped soon after getting on Niagara Parkway so that I could put on my helmet properly, with dew rag underneath it. Bob placed our passports in a locked cubicle on the dashboard.

We drove along Niagara Parkway to Niagara Falls, enjoying the beautiful views of Niagara River along the way.  We drove through Niagara Falls to Rainbow Bridge.

The crossing into the United States was more hectic than the crossing into Canada. There were cars and people EVERYWHERE! Niagara Falls State Park’s parking Lot 1, located near the Niagara Falls Visitor Center, was full. Niagara Falls State Park’s parking Lot 2, located on Goat Island near the entrance to the Cave of the Winds tour and Top of the Falls Restaurant, was full as well.  We were directed to another parking lot somewhere on Goat Island, but the line was very long entering that parking lot.  We decided not to go for a walk in Niagara Falls this trip.  I much prefer visiting Niagara Falls off season, or at least not on a holiday weekend!

We began our ride back home.  We traveled by way of Route 219.  We made a fuel stop in Springville, NY and ate lunch at the nearby Ponderosa Steakhouse.

Prior to arriving in Ellicottville, NY we stopped at Griffis Sculpture Park–the largest outdoor sculpture park in the United States. For over 42 years, the steel sculptures of Larry Griffis, Jr. and other international artists have been residing in the woods, fields, and even ponds of Griffis Sculpture Park. The 400 acre park is located eight miles outside of Ellicottville near Ashford Hollow, NY (Cattaraugus County). Griffis Sculpture Park is split into two sections, the Rohr Hill Road Site and the Mill Valley Road Site. We visited the Rohr Hill Road Site, where a majority of the sculptures are visible from the road.

We wandered about the meadow and the woods of the Rohr Hill section of the park, while I snapped pictures of some of the sculptures.

Griffis Sculpture Park

Griffis Sculpture Park

Griffis Sculpture Park

Griffis Sculpture Park

Who would have thought that you could find something so beautiful in a meadow in the middle of nowhere!

Rather than take Interstate 86 home, we drove through the Allegany State Park via ASP Route 1.  Our NY State Empire Passport provided free entry to the park.  We made two brief stops, while in the park.

We stopped at the Red House Administration Building, where we purchased a bottle of water at the Gift Shop.

We stopped alongside Quaker Lake.

From Allegany State Park we took Routes 280, 321 and 59 home.

We returned home at 5:45 pm. Our trip odometer indicated that we put approximately 280 miles on the motorcycle.  By the way, it began to reach a comfortable temperature around 3:30 pm!

Niagara Falls Day Trip

It was much easier for me to get up at 6:00 am this past Sunday morning than it was a week ago.

We departed home shortly before 7 am en route Niagara Falls. This time we remembered our passports. We made two stops on our way to Niagara Falls.  Our first stop was in Jamestown at Tim Horton’s for breakfast for Bob.  I ate breakfast at home, before we left.  Bob ordered coffee and bacon wraps for breakfast. Our second stop was also at Tim Horton’s.  We stopped at the Tim Horton’s along Route 60 in Fredonia, NY. I bought steeped tea for me and donuts for Bob and me. I could have done without the apple fritter, and Bob could have done without the maple-dipped donut. Both of us are putting on weight and neither of us like it!

Upon arriving at Niagara Falls State Park, we parked our car and went to the Visitor Center to go to bathroom. After our bathroom run, we walked across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada.

Entry to Canada Turnstile

Walking across Rainbow Bridge to Canada

We walked all the way to the brink of Horseshoe Falls. I didn’t take many pictures, while walking to Horseshoe Falls. In fact my first waterfall picture was taken at the brink of Horseshoe Falls.

At this point, we are nearing the brink of the falls. 
Our hotel of choice, when we overnight in Canada, is the Embassy Suites..


I love the sunburst in this photograph of Horseshoe Falls!

Horseshoe Falls

I took lots of pictures, as we made our way back to New York.

American Falls

Horseshoe Falls

American Falls

Seagull flying across American Falls

Canadian Geese



I never tire of seeing Niagara Falls!

One of our last stops before returning to New York was a bathroom break.  This Red Hat Society display was inside the ladies’ restroom.

Before crossing the Rainbow Bridge back into the US, we stopped at the duty free shop and purchased 2 liters of whiskey. A similar purchase was made the weekend of February 22.

I will say it again.  I never tire of seeing Niagara Falls!

We departed Niagara Falls around 11:30 am and stopped for lunch at Aunt Millie’s in Irving, NY. Bob ordered steak and eggs with home fries and rye toast. He really liked the Smoked Chipotle Tabasco Sauce that was on the table. (I purchased a bottle of that Tabasco Sauce for Bob at Walmart yesterday.)  My lunch was Chicken Parmesan with a side order of spaghetti. A tossed salad and garlic toast accompanied my meal. We should have stopped there, eaten only our main entrees. But, no, we had to order dessert. Bob got a cinnamon roll for dessert. I got a Reese’s brownie/cookie.

20150329_174503498_iOSMy Reese’s Brownie/Cookie

After a couple bites, we boxed our desserts to be savored later.  I paid dearly for that brownie/cookie, after savoring it later.  I experienced an upset stomach and the worse heartburn.

With the exception of our sugary indulgences, it was a very good day. Even though it was a chilly Spring day, we enjoyed the sunshine and our walk in Canada.


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