Syracuse Nationals: Better bring a compass to this car show

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Trailer queen, torpedo back, bumperettes, tri-five – this is the insider lingo that only a bonafide car aficionado uses, understands and appreciates. Regardless, many took their chances and braved New York State’s most imposing and overwhelming of all car shows: the PPG Syracuse Nationals. With 8000 cars on display, the show ranks as the largest in the Northeast and the fifth largest in the country.

Let me put that into perspective. Motor heads would be wise to carry a compass and timer to this three-day extravaganza because, from the minute the gates open to the second that they close, I’ve calculated that a visitor has no more than 20 seconds to spend with each car. That’s not a whole lot of time to admire every rusted bumper, hood ornament and camshaft. In fact, that’s less than three cars per minute.

“This experience is dizzying. I’ve never seen anything like this!” gasped my wingman, George. His head was spinning like a top seeing one rare breed after another amid the 375 acres.

He wasn’t the only one. Nearly 90,000 people, young and old, men and women, families and couples, converged on the fairgrounds to wax nostalgically over sentimental favorites and restored beauties.

As a result of our lack of an organized plan, we missed the Swap Meet and Car Corral, the tech seminars and the featured events. It was most upsetting for George, more over coming to the realization that his days of driving all the way to Pennsylvania to attend Carlisle are over – replaced indefinitely by this show.

Here are some of the countless vintage cruisers on display:

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George admires a 1946 Ford not unlike his own but without tools sitting on the front bumper and a car engine that runs.

1979_Pinto
Pinto boy would like to know if the owner is willing to swap a t-shirt for his (or her) car.

1968_Firebird
This 1968 Pontiac Firebird 4.1 liter overhead cam straight six is more impressive that the 400 that Jerry Seinfeld drove on an episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.

1964_Chevy_Corvair
Scrutinized by Ralph Nader in his book, Unsafe at Any Speed, the 1964 Chevy Corvair was vindicated when thorough highway testing proved that it was not prone to roll-overs or dangerous to drive.

1967_Chevelle_SS
Amid record attendance, the 1967 Chevy Chevelle SS is a muscle car that George can easily pass up for a 1967 Chevy Impala four door, hardtop.

1971_Plymouth_Barracuda The Syracuse Nationals allows only cars built prior to 1980. With a limited production, this 1971 Plymouth Barracuda convertible is quite the find.

Biking the Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Harlem Valley Rail trail

Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Harlem Valley Rail Trail

The ominous cloud cover kept most other bikers away but not us. George and I explored the paved sections of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, through cow country of rural Dutchess and Columbia County, breaking for pizza in Millerton, a history lesson in Armenia and photos of the MetroNorth station in Wassaic.

Since the mid-1980’s, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association has dreamed of a 46-mile rail trail in the Harlem Valley and Taconic Hills of eastern New York. The first segment of the trail opened in 1996.

Since then, the trail has grown in 1997, 2000, 2005 and 2014. Another 13 miles of abandoned rail bed are in different development stages, and most of another 18 miles have been acquired to take the Trail north into the Village of Chatham.

For more information, visit their website: Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Harlem Valley Bike Rail

Millerton NY

Opposites attract at the Best Little Car Show in the Northeast

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Not unlike a preference for blonds or brunettes, the prevailing view is that car show enthusiasts prefer Chevys or Fords, but rarely both. And, not unlike a preference for organic or modified food, car show enthusiasts are purists or modifiers (mods for short). Purists like their vintage classics restored with original parts while modifiers use whatever custom-built “johnson rod” does the trick.

George, who has spent the last four years failing to get his ’46 Ford out of my garage, obviously falls into the first category.

For most of my readers, my guy needs no introduction. He’s owned a rowdy Mobil gas station/repair shop for nearly 35 years, he debuts at the end of the WNYT noon newscast once a month and, years ago, before Chartock booted him off WAMC for pornographic punning, he and his brother tag-teamed a Car-Talk-like-radio-show.

Not withstanding his bawdy motor skills, anyone who knows cars can attest that he possesses savant-like abilities for old jalopies. (He owes me dinner after this blog.)

So, come Sunday, we geared up to attend the 13th annual Sawyer Motors Car Show in Saugerties, NY, popularly called the Best Little Car Show in the Northeast, if not the best on the East Coast.

What makes this car show “the best” is that even an unsophisticated Pinto like me, someone with virtually nothing in common with the 10,000 car attendees, can find something to enjoy walking up and down Partition and Main. Revel in the early dutch history of the town, dance to the six bands performing on every corner, go full-throttle on a greasy churro from a street vendor – washed down quickly with a freshly-squeezed lemonade, or, then again, find yourself appreciating this colorful hobby with a photo of a prize Chevy or two.

Here are a few photos that prove my point.

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Falling for the Grasse River in the northwest Adirondacks

Basford Falls

Twin Falls

Sinclair Falls

Sinclair Falls from bridge

One of the greatest natural attractions in St. Lawrence County is the many majestic waterfalls throughout the area. Tooley Pond Road runs parallel with the south branch of the Grasse River where a tract of as many as 12 named waterfalls beckon visitors to enjoy.

We stood mesmerized by the first three: Basford, Sinclair and Twin – each with its own unique personality and temperament.

Surrounded by sweet-smelling pines, Basford Falls proves inviting for hikers looking to meditate in the shade on soft ground. The dark tea-colored water reveals deep circulating eddies perfect for anglers looking to drop line for brown trout.

Sinclair Falls is a 40-foot slide that appears kayak-able in the late spring by a skilled navigator. It’s history includes iron mining until the 1950s and relics of the mill can be found at the base.

And the two cascades at Twin Falls are anything but identical. The smaller of the two is called Twin and gurgles softly, like a baby with a pacifier. The other is Stewart’s Rapids that roars with a deafening thunder and plunges a whopping 40-feet. Rock hop across the small stream at the crown of Twin onto a small island to get this churning titan.

Every waterfall is quickly accessible from the road along well-trodden footpaths. For invaluable ideas on visiting St. Lawrence County, visit the North Country Travel and Tourism website.

Dad enjoys a moment of quiet, err, I mean noisy contemplation overlooking Stewart's Rapid at Twin Falls along the Grasse River.

Dad enjoys a moment of quiet, err, I mean noisy contemplation overlooking Stewart’s Rapid at Twin Falls along the Grasse River.

Berkshire Botanical Garden: A living museum of diversity

Berkshire Botanical Garden

Berkshire Botanical Garden

Berkshire Botanical Garden

At just under 15 acres in size, the eye-catching environment is perfectly balanced with a number of habitats: a small pond seeded with diverse wetland plants, a meandering trail under ancient conifers, a slope side bedecked with the bright hues of sun-loving collections.

Mutti was impressed with this West Stockbridge treasure once called “a glistening community gem” by a famous horticultural author. And when we got tired of admiring thousands of beautiful perennials, all we had to do was plunk ourselves down on one of 25 custom-built benches on display in the Garden.

Concrete, cast-iron, carved stone, aluminum, cedar, the bench artists who build these relaxing pieces of art spared no expense in detail and design. The creative seats almost look too nice to flop a backside onto. Some are even for sale – albeit, for a small fortune.

Mutti was impressed. So much so that she literally ‘fell for’ a Big Leaf Magnolia tree, skinning her knee and bruising her ego. She’s fine, as you can plainly see in these photos of her smiling self.

Berkshire Botanical Garden

Berkshire Botanical Garden

Berkshire Botanical Garden

Berkshire Botanical Garden

To enjoy more photos (sorry about the iphone), visit FLICKR.

A mooarvalous day at a local dairy farm

Dairy Farm

Ouch! At least buy a girl a drink before you do that to her!

Poor Bessie the bovine didn’t object to the long, warm rod inserted into her…ummmm…and within seconds, she was artificially inseminated. She winced only a little as the plunger from the semen gun released the only chance at her giving birth.

Today, I’m on assignment with the happy herds of Welcome Stock Farm in Schuylerville, NY. The seventh generation dairy farmers breed champion cows, bulls and embryos to buyers around the world.

Co-owners, Bill Peck and his brother Neil, operate the quality genetics program that yields healthy herds with high milk production. The family are one of several hundreds that contribute to the Cabot Creamery Cooperative that produce world class cheddar and other cheeses.

Our on-camera host instructor used to work at this Washington County farm so he knows everything there is to know about Holsteins. He provides us with a tour of the milking parlor, feeding barns and calf housing.

The young stock are no more than a day or two old and already friendly and curious. Their long, slippery tongues slap at my wide angle lens as they try to nuzzle my tripod.

Yes, I’m lactose-intolerant and just recorded a squeamish reproductive procedure, but it’s off to Stewarts for an ice cream milkshake!

(Photo courtesy of Cengage Learning and Michael Gallitelli of Metroland Photo)