Sunday, July 21, 2019

Wrapping up in Rochester

We are docked at the Port of Rochester Marina, on the Genesee River in what was once called Charlotte but is now part of Rochester, New York (map). We arrived here shortly after my last post here, eleven days ago.

30-packs of Genesee stacked at the local grocery.

You might think that a week and a half seems like a pretty long stop in a place like Rochester, and you'd be right. The reason is simple: Vector has mostly been here without us, while we took a whirlwind trip back through New York, stopping in Saratoga Springs to see family, New York City for a night in town, and Long Beach, on Long Island, to visit friends.

While the marinas here are a little pricey for spending time away from the boat, they are secure and protected, and Rochester is a very convenient place to catch a train or plane to almost anywhere. In fact, we used both modes, taking Amtrak to Saratoga Springs and thence New York, the LIRR to Long Beach, and JetBlue back to Rochester this morning.

NYPD's cars are shrinking. We saw dozens of these.

We had a very calm and pleasant cruise last Wednesday from Sodus Bay, arriving at the Genesee River jetties by 1:30 or so, just in time to have to thread our way through a dozen sailing school Optis on our way upriver. We squeezed our way through the very narrow marina entrance into the basin, passed a few loopers on the transient face dock, and were fully secured in a slip before 2pm.

We opted to defer offloading the scooters until the morning, and so in the afternoon I took a nice walk around the port complex and the nearby Ontario Beach Park. There is a lovely antique carousel there, and while I was strolling through the park I noticed the band shell being set up for an orchestra -- the Rochester Philharmonic was to give a free concert at 7:30.

The Stinson Band Organ at the Dentzel Menagerie Carousel.

The marina basin, and everything in it, is brand new, having been excavated recently from what used to be the parking and staging area for the failed high-speed ferry to Toronto. The marina office and boaters' lounge facilities are in the three-story building constructed to load and unload passengers from the very high ferry deck. The old terminal building, whose shell pre-dates the ferry service, now houses a handful of restaurants, but still sports terrazzo floors and signage to direct ferry passengers.

We wandered over to one of those restaurants, Bill Gray's Tap Room, for a casual dinner, and then strolled over to the park where the concert was just getting started. We watched the orchestra for a couple of minutes and then retreated to Vector, where we could still hear the concert clearly on the aft deck, albeit without the view. They played an eclectic mix, starting with a patriotic medley and proceeding through such diverse items as Strauss' Die Fledermaus overture, Tchaiovsky's Symphony No. 4 finale, and Williams' Imperial March from Star Wars and even a Harry Potter piece, finishing with Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. I quite enjoyed it, cocktail in hand.

Vector in the Port of Rochester Marina. Old terminal building is at left, complete with "Welcome to the United States" signage, and ferry boarding structure is at right. In between is the baggage carousel, unused for a decade.

Thursday we offloaded the scooters and I spent some time getting them fired back up after a few weeks of sitting. Then I made a pilgrimage across town to the Petsmart to pick up more prescription food for Angel. We were almost out and did not have enough to leave with the kennel. That involved riding along the Genesee right through downtown, passing the falls, the historic Kodak plant, and RIT. It was a long ride but a necessary one. Including stops at Goodwill to drop off three large bags, and Walmart to restock some provisions, I was gone over three hours. We managed to dodge a rain shower and rode over to the Whiskey River Pub for a casual meal.

Lots of hotels in NYC sport this logo, including ours, shown here.

Friday was given over to packing and schlepping Angel to "Caring for Cats," a local cat-only veterinarian and boarding service. She's never quiet in the car on the way to such things; fortunately our Lyft driver was a cat owner herself. We were very pleased with the facility, but are also very much looking forward to having Angel back tomorrow when they open. We ended the day at Mr. Dominics, a short walk from the boat.

Saturday we had a quick Lyft downtown to the Amtrak station where, after about an hour delay, we boarded the Lake Shore Limited for the ride to Albany. Even though we had just a few hours on the train, all in daytime, we took a sleeper compartment for a more pleasant experience. Our assigned roomette was on the "wrong" (less scenic) side of the car, but our porter offered us one on the better side when we boarded.

The Flatiron Building in NYC on my stroll.

The train route more or less follows the Erie Canal all the way to Schenectady before turning toward Albany. We traveled along a section of canal that we can't traverse in Vector due to bridge clearance, before the canal and tracks diverged near Syracuse. But in Utica we came back to the canal and retraced our path to Schenectady, amusing ourselves by identifying all the spots where we had stopped for the night, places we had dinner, and other landmarks.

As a side note, the Lake Shore Limited, a storied train with a long history, is one of the first overnight trains I ever took, in the very early days of Amtrak. I was perhaps 14 or 15, and myself and a number of schoolmates in the Railroad Club had made a three-night circle trip to Chicago and back on two different overnight trains (the other being the Broadway Limited). Our faculty adviser, organizer, and lone chaperone was Karl Zimmerman, who had literally written books about rail travel and was a regular contributor on the subject to the New York Times. Back then, of course, I knew nothing of the present-day Erie Canal, and "The Great Loop" as it is typically cruised today did not exist, this being nearly a decade before completion of the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

A rare moment "alone" at the rooftop pool of the Allegria in Long Beach. It overlooks the Ambrose ship anchorage.

I've been riding overnight trains, mostly Amtrak, on and off ever since. Each successive year the system teeters on the brink of closure, and the service level ratchets down another notch. On this journey I was disappointed to find the dining car a pale shadow of its former self. The enormous kitchen, taking up more than half the length of the car, is now cold and dark, with the lone attendant using just the fridge, microwave, and one locker to serve up pre-packaged boxed meals, which you then eat with plastic utensils at bare tables that formerly sported tablecloths. Gone are the staff of cooks who prepared hot meals and waiters who served them on actual dishes.

The spectacular view from Mount McGregor, where Grant spent his last hours.

We finished the trip by crossing the Hudson on the same railroad bridge where we had to wait in Vector for an opening, and disembarking in Rensselaer. My cousin who lives nearby picked us up and whisked us to Gansevoort, near Saratoga Springs, where my aunt and uncle moved a little over a year ago. We had a very nice visit over three days with my aunt, uncle and cousins. We spent a little time in downtown Saratoga Springs, and had a nice tour of the cottage where Ulysses S. Grant spent his final days, where my uncle volunteers his time as a docent.

On Tuesday we boarded the Ethan Allen Express in Saratoga Springs, and retraced our steps back down the Hudson all the way to New York City. Again we amused ourselves by spotting all the places where we had docked or anchored, running over the Spuyten Duyvil on the swing bridge that gave me so much anxiety back when we were green, and then running through the series of tunnels under Riverside Park as we passed the anchorage off the Boat Basin.

Our view of the WTC and financial district from our hotel window.

We spent just a single night in NYC, and I booked the Doubletree in Chelsea using my Hilton points because it was a short walk from Penn Station. Consequently I spent my afternoon walking around Chelsea and the Flatiron district and down to Madison Square, and we had dinner near the Flatiron. From our 23rd floor window we could see the rooftop Greek restaurant in the boutique hotel on the next block, and behind it a sea of water towers leading to the financial district and the World Trade Center tower, which is nicely illuminated at night. Had we been off by one room in either direction we would not have had the view.

Somewhat less impressive in context. Restaurant patio at right is some 20 stories up, and across a courtyard from us.

In the morning, after the complimentary breakfast, we walked around the block. The hotel is on 29th, so that put us on 28th, which happens to be the flower market. Somehow I missed this treat in all the years I lived here; it is today a mere shadow of its former self, yet still spectacular to behold. My cell phone could not capture it. We're glad we stumbled into it.

We checked out of the hotel mid-day, made our way back to Penn Station, and took the LIRR out to Long Beach to spend time with friends. I booked a pre-paid room at the only hotel on the boardwalk which, despite its lofty price (complete with tacked-on "resort fee") turned out to be a classless operation just one notch above Motel 6. I won't bore you with the details here; I'm saving that for my reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Long Beach beach and boardwalk as seen from our hotel's rooftop deck.

We had a lovely three-day visit with our friends and their families. We mostly spent the time indoors, since the mercury had climbed into the 90s with heat indices in the high 100s. Passes for the beach were included with our room, but we did not use them. I did, however, make it to the rooftop pool a couple of times.

This morning we checked out and our friend drove us out to JFK. The trip from there back here to Rochester, which had taken us some three weeks by boat, and eight hours by train, took just 40 minutes at 450 knots. We were back aboard in the early afternoon, and spent a couple of hours getting the boat aired out and everything up and running again. We rode the scooters over to Hose 22, in an old firehouse, for dinner.

We departed behind this A380.

Our time here in Rochester has been spent mainly in the port area, which is quite vibrant. My only excursions into downtown, which is quite a ways from here, were on my way to Petsmart and when we boarded the train. But we'd spent a bit of time downtown during a scooter rally here several years ago, when we lived in the bus. We were disappointed to learn the scooter shop closed and the local club is much less active now. In any case, we feel like we've seen downtown Rochester, and we're ready to move on.

Tomorrow morning we will pick up Angel, and give her a couple of hours to settle back in while we finish some errands and deck the scooters. By mid-day we expect to be dropping lines and continuing westward through Lake Ontario. We'll need to find a spot to hunker down for a bit while the lake becomes less hospitable.

Our terminal was right across from the old TWA terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen and now repurposed into a TWA-themed hotel. This was as close as we got; I wished we had time to stop in to this memory from my childhood.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading about the train trip! I hope to someday do the journey from Toronto to New York on the Maple Leaf.


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