Thursday, August 16, 2018

Not Your Average Rest Stop

Shoulda seen the spiders
on this one!
When we're traveling by boat we tie up for the night in all kids of places.

Serene remote anchorages. Precarious lock walls. Public docks in the middle of bustling cities. Charming marinas. Grungy marinas.

Sometimes there are loads of amenities. Dockhands to take your lines.  A restaurant on premises. Sometimes there are no amenities beyond the cleats on the wall, and the only way off the boat is a rusty vertical ladder.

Take a Break from Your Drive . . . or Cruise

Last night was a first, We stayed at rest stop on the New York State Throughway.

Seriously.  Here it is, seen as we are exiting the lock the next morning.
Let me explain! Lock 13 on the Erie Canal just happens to be RIGHT next to the recently enhanced "Mohawk Valley Welcome Center" (your tax dollars at work, New Yorkers!) on the thruway near Canajoharie. 

The lock wall was a free place to stay. We were out of solar power. So we tied up.

Erie Canal themed playground for the kiddies!
After dinner, Cap (ever the gentleman) brushed aside the dime-sized spiders on the steel ladder, and we clambered six feet up the wall, then sauntered over to the rest stop to check it out.

We were expecting maybe a clean bathroom and a candy machine. 

This Place Has Everything!

But this recently refurbished visitor center is a kind of fantasy land for Erie Canal enthusiasts.

I HAVE to list all the features for you, it's so great. (Loads more photos on FB.)
  • Bollards in the parking area, so you  can pretend to tie up your land yacht
  • Gardens decorated with navigational buoys
  • Another garden featuring antique propellers
  • A vintage buoy tender (a kind of boat), pretending to float inside its own model lock
  • A playground for kids with . . .   a canal boat you can climb around on, stacks of shipping containers you can climb around on, a swing hanging from a crane, and two mules

And That's Just on the Outside

This vessel puttered from lighted buoy to buoy, refilling the
kerosene lamps and lighting them.
We wandered around, exclaiming over each fresh discovery till dark settled in. Then we went inside, where the amazement continued. 

The place was made to look like a cross between a rustic barn and an 1880s factory—if barns and factories of that era had 21st century electronic kiosks with interactive displays of the delights of New York State. And fancy coffee.
  • One wall featured a mini-Erie canal museum
  • The coffee shop was closed, but self serve—just leave two bucks in the can
  • Did I mention the superfast free wifi? 
  • And the air conditioning?
  • And yes . . . clean bathrooms

Need Any Artisanal Salad Dressing?

You know you want some maple pepitas. Even more
than a Snickers bar,
Best of all were the vending machines.  Rows of gleaming machines, filled not with stale gum and mass-market candy bars, but with a crazy variety of Upstate New York local foods. For example:

  • Milk in tiny glass bottles from a nearby dairy 
  • Maple granola 
  • Artisanal teas
  • Wedges of gourmet cheese

Stuff you would never in a million years expect to see in a vending machine, and all mighty tempting looking. 

Something for Everyone

If all that weren’t enough, the place is politically correct: three electric-car charging stations, handicapped parking spaces stenciled with the ACTIVE racing wheelchair logo, and a fenced-in dog park.

If you’re on the New York State Throughway, you gotta stop.  

Although I can’t promise you’ll see what the folks who stopped for coffee this morning saw . . .  a solar-powered canal boat--that bizarre hybrid of 19th and 21st century technologies--sliding silently out of the lock.

(I put all the best pix on FB. Check it out!)

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