Here are a few personal thoughts about the Finger Lakes, Watkins Glen KOA campground and camping this side of the border.
The campground here is pretty busy, as you’d expect in August, especially as we’ve stayed over a weekend. There are golf carts to rent because it’s a long and narrow patch of land with all the exciting amenities at the southern end; I guess if you have a family to move around then it’s a fun alternative to taking your car from one end of the site to the other. It does take a bit of getting used to as the cavalcade of carts seemingly goes on all day and most of the night!
No one on this campground is towing their trailer with anything other than a big and noisy pickup truck. We noticed that driving down here, too; our US cousins really like a great big FO truck for their travel trailers. Each to their own, and we’ve not received any enquiries about our modest tow equipment, so fair play to all. Some of our neighbours like their trucks so much, though, that they like to leave them running, most likely to keep the AC working, but throbbing engines do not a peaceful holiday make. That said, next time I get some grief from an American about our tow vehicle, I will better understand that here, a big FO truck is your starting point and that they will never understand, or have a desire to understand, the qualities of any other kind of tow vehicle. My arguments will be far better informed from now on.
Those here not towing a trailer are housed in some mighty Class A motorhomes, another feature of camping this side of the border. These things are 45’ long, have three axles, are 8’6” wide and quite possibly 15’ high; highway coaches really. They are usually upwards of $250,000 to buy, some going for double or even triple that, and are seriously impressive. Most are towing cars, sometimes using a tow bar arrangement, or sometimes housed in a cargo trailer complete with its own air conditioning unit. If you have the money, you can buy one of these monsters and drive it right off the lot onto a public road on your regular car licence, without any training, all because it’s privately owned. Mind you, if you’ve paid half-a-million bucks for one, I’m guessing you’re going to drive it carefully. Yes, I’m probably just jealous, but I think I have better things to spend that kind of money on, even if I actually had that kind of money.
The Finger Lakes Region is really beautiful and, if you go slightly south of the lakes, the hills get higher, steeper and more wooded. We’ve been to Corning a couple of times, and through the hills to Ithaca, and the scenery is just wonderful. It’s like a smaller, more compact version of the Appalachians which shouldn’t really be a shock because it’s just on the western edge of that range. Watkins Glen is really the only place that’s been busy, but it’s a small town with a big road through the middle of it and is where all the Race fans end up staying when they’re not camping, so it’s going to be a hive of activity. Ithaca wasn’t as busy and is a place that we really like. The Satnav took us through some delightful tree-lined streets of neat and tidy weatherboard houses and we explored the downtown Commons, free of any traffic, but also a bit free of people; if you can’t drive right to it, then places here and in Canada do tend to lack foot traffic and die, which is sad. Ithaca is trying hard to keep its downtown core going and I hope that the City prevails.
We visited the Corning Glass Museum, which was a real treat. Corning is where the glass Corelle dinner sets are made and, and on the back of their glass heritage, Corning the company has setup this great museum. While it wasn’t cheap to get in, it was well worth the discounted price we paid (thank you CAA), and we could go back for a second day on the original ticket. Some of the contemporary glass art was amazing, and the Glass Through the Ages exhibition was complete and delightful. A tiring but excellent Sunday afternoon.
We did try eating out on Sunday night but, as the only place open was seriously packed with other people looking to dine out, we ended up with take out Pizza. Well, we are on our holidays.
We opted for a lazy day in on Monday but ventured into Watkins Glen to get some gasoline and to try out the vegan ice cream at the Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor. I decided on a scenic route so we dived down into the Catherine Valley before heading north again to Watkins Glen via Montour Falls. Catherine valley was beautiful, with a winding road following the creek, all hemmed in with steep, tree-covered hills.
I thought we might visit Clute Park to sample the southern end of Lake Seneca, so took a left out of Montour Falls, and another left that took us along the edge of Catherine Creek Wildlife Management Area. Well, on the map it looked like a regular road, but in reality, it was a narrow track, built from rough stone and sand; I almost turned back, but it was quite pretty with the marshland on one side and limestone cliffs on the other. DW thought we were going to end up in the wilderness and die through a lack of cell phone signal and a car terminally damaged by the rough road. She was thinking “Deliverance” and listening for the sound of banjos. Indeed, there a few dodgy looking shacks in the woods, but thankfully the map was good, and we emerged just a few hundred yards from the park, safe from our sojourn into the badlands.
Clute Park was really only a patch of grass and a small beach at the lakes’ end. It was nice enough but had clearly seen better days. In the parking lot, every other space was reserved for blue badge holders; that’s a lot of disabled folks descending on this small park. I wondered if they’d made a few too many signs and just wanted to do something useful with them. Hmmmm.
Gasoline purchased, we tried the ice cream shop. DW pronounced herself happy with her peanut butter chocolate ice cream made from almond milk, and I enjoyed the vanilla not made from almond milk. We both ordered the smallest size but they were still enormous; goodness knows what the large size was like. Portion sizes are in a league of their own in the US.
So, back at base we made some preparations for Tuesday, our travelling day. Thinking ahead; it kind of makes us look efficient!
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
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