Help Puerto Rico restart their engines

I wish I could take my Mobil-gas-station-owning-car-repair-shop-companion everywhere I go. Nobody wants to be friends faster than with a mechanic!

Earlier this spring, while vacationing on the vulnerable island nation of Puerto Rico, George and I braved a zipline adventure in the Toro Negro with ACAMPA. Our guide, Ludgardo took a liking to “Jorge” – who doesn’t it?

This video is but a distance memory of the jungle fun we had, thanks to Ludgardo.

As you all know, Hurricane Maria flattened this tropical paradise Wednesday night. Biblical rains and destructive winds knocked out electricity and much of the water supply to millions of people in San Juan and surrounding communities.

Jorge’s friend, like all Puerto Ricans, jumped into action. He and his van bombed through the flooded streets of San Juan looking to rescue people clinging to debris. No surprise then that his vehicle alternator went haywire from the unrelenting rain.

Ludgardo’s cell was luckily operational so he reached out to his gringo connection. Jorge walked him through the complicated fix. Minutes later he was back in his truck searching for victims that continues today.

Should anybody know of anyone in Puerto Rico that can help Ludgardo with his efforts to save lives, here is what he needs:

1. A school bus.

2. A team of rock climbers, tour guides and experts in rappelling – especially in close spaces. All need to be trained in search and rescue with equipment, ropes, carabiners, GPS, radios, etc…

3. People willing to lend their fishing boats.

To reach Ludgardo: carlos.aleman@gmail.com
Cell Phone: 239-205-5450
#PUERTORICOSOS
#PUERTORICOSELEVANTA!

Our thoughts and hearts are with you, Ludgardo!

Trails of consciousness at Thousand Island Park

Swami Vivekananda travelled to many places outside India but only a handful of devotees know that he also traveled to Thousand Island Park or TI Park, for short. The divine location is credited for being the epicenter of Hindu thought and philosophy in the U.S.

Specifically, TI Park is located on Wellesley Island on the St. Lawrence River, near the Canadian border. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and akin to a late nineteenth century Chautauqua-like community. There are hundreds of colorful ginger bread cottages and fancy recreational boat houses.

It’s said that the young yogi, Vivekananda, achieved the highest stage of enlightenment or sotāpanna on August 7th, 1895 on the rocks that overlook the beautiful blue river valley.

Our friends Marie and Mark, who own a summer home at TI Park, invited us on a stroll around the Swami retreat. A pilgrimage of interfaith devotees return here every August to worship when the cottage is open.

We let our boundless dogs lead the way on the winding trails behind the cottage. A mindful feeling of calm, grace and happiness overcame me. I’d almost call it transcendental.

Birds sang, a golden light dappled between tree branches and a warm breeze blew over the prairie grass. Nature, or perhaps more, evoked a sense of holy presence and bliss.

Special geological features like glacial potholes and unique habitats unfolded on eight miles of trails at this landmark location. The pathway also bordered a watery channel called the Narrows that Marie and Mark would later escort us through on a sunset boat cruise.

Soon we reached the spot where the Swami is said to have reached his spiritual fulfillment. A rock memorial stood near the site of a low-branded tree (called a Bo-tree) where he meditated through a blinding rainstorm.

We didn’t stay long enough at this existential location for my liking but odds are always good I’ll be back! For more information on how you can visit this special granite outcropping, check out the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center website.

Hold onto that hat when you boat with Marie. Thank you for the tour of TI Park by land and by river.

Mark navigated the Narrows, a channel between islands on the St. Lawrence River, that borders one of the largest nature centers in the New York State park system.

Musings from a day of tubing with friends

The adrenaline rush of whitewater tubing in the spring is like no other. And, rivers throughout the Adirondacks are great at providing moments of peril and uncertainty. But, when the water levels are low, like in summer, the experience takes on a different temperament. It’s called pure bliss, relaxation and enjoyment.

Last month, my friends, Debbie, Stacy, Karen and their rambunctious lot, splashed down on the banks of the Hudson river. Karen had made reservations for us with an outfit in Lake Luzerne called Adirondack Tubing Adventures. It was finally my turn to join in on their annual adventure!

After signing in, a whopping 76 of us were escorted to the starting point of the river by our ace bus driver Franny and her precocious granddaughter. Alongside Lori and another guide, all helped to educate our wet heads on the beauty of the environment.

Rocks needed dodging and our butts occasionally scraped bottom but the current remained swift. We carefully passed around bags of sandwiches and chips from one tube to another, trying not to drop our precious loot into an eddy. The kids gorged on my Mom’s homemade zucchini bread as if it were their last supper.

My thirst, appetite and need for drama surfaced only near the end…

That’s when Debbie’s boy Ben lost his shoe while swimming outside his tube. The Hudson river is notorious for a rocky bottom gravel surface and quite painful on tender toes. Without a moment of hesitation, Debbie sprang into action. She hurled her little helpless bundle onto her back and fought her way to the safety of the tubes.

Okay, admittedly, there was no real imminent danger, however the waterproof rubber soles were long gone.

If you too want to experience one of the most effortless adventures to find in the ‘daks, this is it!

Working hard but playing harder in Cape Cod

George made a big splash in Cape Cod last month. Here, he shows off his best side for the camera!

It didn’t take much to entice the Mobil Man to bag the gas station for a day and assist with a fun commercial shoot at the Ship’s Knees Inn in Orleans. The fruits of our labor are proudly displayed on their website. Check it out and while you’re at, book a night or two. Don’t forget to bring your bikes.

After a day of shooting, I gave the old man a day of rest – that is my version of ‘rest’. From early morning to late afternoon, we biked 50 miles of the 114 miles of bike paths (some in progress, some planned) on Cape Cod. Our route took us past five mid-to-lower-Cape towns all worthy places to break for briny seaports, sandy beaches and delectable seafood hotspots.

We detoured briefly from the Rail Trail to visit the 1838Nauset (or Nawsett) Bay Lighthouse not far from the Cape Cod National Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center. The popular stop afforded us shade and seating to share our pre-made gourmet sandwiches. Thank you to Friend’s Marketplace in downtown Orleans.

For dinner, at the suggestion of the owner of the Ship’s Knees Inn, we dined on oysters, standing-style, on the porch of The Beachcomber. The busy waterfront bar are celebrating their 40th year. They’re one of the few restaurants bordering the Atlantic on the Cape. It’s accolades include being voted “One of the Best Seaside Dining Spots in New England” by Yankee Magazine, one of the “Best Bars in America” by Esquire and #10 on the Travel Channel’s “Twenty-One Sexiest Beach Bars in the World.”

This fall, a long-awaited extension of the Rail Trail will open in Yarmouth. Long-range plans call for extending the trail farther westward to Barnstable. You can bet that my biking buddy and I will be back for that.

The Electric City has always been Grrreat!

The Electric City has something old and something new and both with the same name: Great Flats.

The Great Flats, or the Schenectady Aquifer, is a “unique groundwater resource and is one of the most productive aquifers in New York State” so says the Schenectady County website.

Living up to its name, Mom, sis and myself found the Great Flats Nature Trail a perfectly horizontal trail cushioned by a bed of grass. Ideal for slower pokes like my sister who has a hard time walking over rocks, roots or up hills.

The trailhead is, technically, in Rotterdam and not far from the commercial hubbub of a beleaguered mall, now partly an Aquarium. A few short minutes into the hike the din of traffic faded replaced by nesting robins and croaking amphibians.

And now the new: the Great Flats Brewery. In keeping with our “Great” theme, Mom and I quenched our thirst with a fleet of craft picks and 1 pint of cask-aged stout with a hint of cherries. Delish.

Once a fitness gym, the brewery has been opened since March 2017. There are 8 clear garage doors flooding plenty of light onto the tanks, fermentors and home-made milling station on one end. On the other are colorful boxes of flowers dressing up the front parking lot.

We sat at a hightop table with trendy metallic chairs that spill onto the outside allowing just enough space for our toy poodle to loiter with us.

Because we were hungry, the head brew master suggested we order sandwiches from the cafe around the corner: Puzzles. Some of the proceeds go to help children with autism. That works for us.

Schroon Lake with my favorite meterologist

Does this tanned beauty look familiar? No, not the driver. The face on the right!

On-camera meteorologist for The Weather Channel Kelly Cass and her family were in the Capital Region vacationing at Schroon Lake last week. Kelly and I used to work together at local CBS affiliate WRGB (Channel 6) eons ago. Ever summer, we attempt to reunite at her rustic family camp active with generations of really extraordinary swimmers.

Kelly’s refuge in the Adirondacks, like most lake home owners, is burdened with rising water levels this year due to heavy rains. However, the temperature in shallower spots is mostly in the high 70s and perfect for swimming.

Schroon Lake changes as quickly as those who live around her beautiful shoreline. I took note of dozens more homes on the east shore during a guided boat excursion with Kelly’s husband Kevin. He waxed nostalgically about his early days on this lake, learning how to waterski and fish.

“And over there,” points Kevin, “is an old summer camp where the movie Marjorie Morningstar was filmed with Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly.”

All that’s left of the famous 1958 hollywood hit is a NY State campground. Beware you’ll pay a small fee to park your craft to tour the grounds.

While my friend got ready to “do-si-do” the annual Schroon Lake Square Dance, a tradition held every Wednesday evening in the summer since the 1930s, I unfortunately had to head back down the Northway.

If I ever win the lottery, this is the kind of lake community I’d make memories at more than once a year.

I’ve been visiting the Cass Camp since her teenagers were teeny tiny fish, like this one!