Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Door County to Onieda, American Tourism at its finest

"See the USA from your Chevrolet". Remember that tune? That's us. We're so quick we only point at the sites as they roll by. "See Lena, der it is. Get back in da car." Actually, we did stop at Niagra Falls enough for me to do a watercolor sketch and take a gazillion pictures. Niagra has been a tourist carnival since the first Jesuit priest fell on his knees an shouted "Hallelua", "I can see the honeymoon capital of the world." Boy was he right. Like 'Old Faithfull' a case of loving something to death.

There used to be eagles nesting, osprey fishing and bear snagging fish but all that is gone. Lunar Island, situated in the falls, used to have a 'moonbow' but it went away due to the urban lights. Bolts have been drilled into the face of the falls to hold the soft limestone from eroding, otherwise the falls would move upriver as it has over the millenia. Talk about moving real estate. The Hilton at Niagra and all the other honeymoon suites would be out of business.

Curiously, there is a lot of electrictiy produced here. They can make a million megawatts of power but they only do so at night to allow some/half, of the water to spill over the falls during the day for the tourists. What with all the demand for power and brownouts here in the east, I can feature where there may be a time in the future when they won't be able to afford the luxury of spilling water for tourists.

We passed miles and miles of coal plants along the Great Lakes. Coal for steel and coal for electricity. Pretty dirty. Funky too. Makes me wonder how the fishery is holding up. We met a couple fishermen that went out almost daily and caught their limit of Brown trout and Salmon. That was impressive. 5 to 25 lb'ers! So it must be OK?

One of the things that has impressed Betts and I is the amount of rural America. We think of the east as an urban landscape but that is hardly so as there are miles and miles of farms tucked away in the country. I was going to say hills but I have yet to see one for the last 2000 miles. The highest thing around are the bridges. As an ex-Ironworker I have been impressed with some of the bridges we've crossed coming through the Great Lakes. Hundreds of feet in the air and miles long they are impressive. But Gawd! this is flat country. We're definitely westerners. We've got mts., and valleys, rivers and canyons in our blood. I'm glad to have traveled the flat lands so I can appreciate the west better.

This quick sketch shows 'Horseshoe Falls' from the U.S side looking at the many storied hotels of Niagra Falls, C.A. Water from Lake Erie, dashes down cataracts falling 187' over the falls. Horseshoe Falls is 2200' wide. Altogether, Horseshoe, Bridal Veil and American Falls is almost a mile wide. A great mist from the falls drenches everything for miles including the tourists.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Door County Dairy Farms

Oh well, didn't get into the Penninsula Art School show this year. I'll try again next year. Can't imagine a better way than to paint my way across America. This trip will pave the way and I'll know where the spots I want to paint are. Maybe take a little extra time upfront so I can get more painting done. Get back to Door County and paint some of the farms before they disappear to developers.

After the reception at PAS. Betts and I went out to Bleys Tavern and got to know the locals. Met Tony Palezsh (don't think I got that right). Tony was born and raised here on one of the dairy farms. He operates an excavation business. I learned all about installing septic systems. Great stuff, sounds like they have as many or more regulations here as we do out west. Curious thing out here is that the Penninsula has very little topsoil and alot of sand stone base rock so quite a few septic systems have to be 'heap leach' systems.

The tavern was something out of a Walt Whitman poem, one room, pool table and juke box at the crossroads, with a baseball field in a corn patch stretching to the horizon. Could have been right out of the movie, Field of Dreams. Folks still suck cigarettes inside the tavern. Wonder how long that will hold out. Washington passed a law you can't smoke in public buildings or private establishments and smokers can't be nearer than 25' from the entrance of a building.
Drinks were incredibly cheap. 1$ beer on tap and $3 shots. Been a long time since I had a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Needless to say, Tony and I got to talking about personal stuff. He was an orphan raised by a Penninsula farm family. "Got to tinkin' dat I might just well write da Catlic sisters down Green Bay, ta see if de ol dame would have me. Turns out I went from da youngest to the oldest of de fambly." says Tony drawing off a filtered camel. Now he's got brothers and sisters. "Days plumbers too. Must be in de blood. Go figure." Bout that time, pool cues start clattering on the floor and the big Swede bartender, about 289 lbs of nice guy yells cross the counter, "Don't mind ye hevin some good time but ye better keep dem sticks at attention ya yayhoos." He's got a T shirt says he's a volunteer fireman. We share with him that the fire alarm went off the other night in our room and he says, " O det right, heard about dat, must have been over to Hanks place. I just rolled over when I got the call and went back to sleep. Figured it was jest one of dem dam new alarms. Dey go off from the humidity all the time. " I could tell he was a bit perturbed by these faulty systems. Gotta say though, I'd welcome a volunteer outfit like his what with the big shoulders and his friendly red cheeked mug he could pack a whole family out of a burning building, no problem.t

It was about sundown and the full moon was coming up across the corn fields. Took about 100 pictures with my digital picture machine. Drove around taking snaps of some of the best looking farms I've ever seen. Land O' Lakes farms. Serious milkers. Tidy as a pin. I'm impressed with the crops they grow on this thin soil. Gotta be some hardy souls. Dairy is about the hardest most dedicated work on the planet and these folks have been doing it for generations. Hope they can hold out. What with the developers paying big bucks for the land and most farms gobbled up by corporate interests I imagine the lifestyle is in jepordy like so many other natural resourced based lifestyles. Tony has a nephew that's going organic, hoping that nich market can keep the lifestyle going.