Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday at the Hut - 9/17/11

It's been five weeks since I've updated the blog, but I have some good excuses. Last Saturday, Lou and Dotty were on a gambling trip to Tunica, Mississippi and the store was closed. The two Saturdays before, Sept 3 and Aug 27, Paula and I were on the Mother of All Road Trips, traveling from Florida to Tennessee to Ohio to New York and back. More on the trip in a moment. And the Saturday before, Aug 20...well, The Tobacco Hut was open and I was there. I guess I just didn't feel like writing a blog post that week. In any case, I'll try to catch up on what's been going on the last several weeks, starting with our 3,313 mile vacation.

Paula and I arrived in Coker Creek, Tennessee the afternoon of Fri, Aug 26 and were able to find Mike & Diane G's place with no problem. We'd been there before - about six years prior - and the GPS certainly helped. Mike and Diane have a wonderful piece of property in the mountains of southeast Tennessee and Mike has a new friend - his dog Shya (not sure of the spelling). She showed up on the front porch one day and they've been inseparable ever since. See pictures below of Mike, he and Diane's home, and his dog Shya.

Shya, on the banks of Coker Creek
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Mike & Diane's home
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Mike, in his element, spinning some yarn
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Thanks for putting us up for the night, Mike & Diane! Diane's cooking is fantastic and enjoying a cigar on the front porch was a perfect way to end the evening. We'd love to pay you an extended visit in the spring perhaps. Nothing too long, just three or four weeks!

The next day found us pulling into Columbus, Ohio to visit my son Ryan, just entering his junior year at Ohio State. He took us to a wonderful Thai restaurant in the Short North district and the next day he gave us the grand tour of the campus. I have to admit, it was a little surreal having my son show me around the buildings and grounds of where I went to school almost thirty years ago. Below are some pictures from our stop in Columbus.
Ryan, Paula, and I at Nida's on High, a fabulous Thai
restaurant in Columbus.
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Paula and I clowning with Brutus at Ohio State
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We arrived in Cleveland the evening of Sun, Aug 28, staying at my friend Mike and his wife's house. It was great to see Mike, who I first met in 4th grade and we've been best friends ever since. This was Paula's first trip to Cleveland so I enjoyed showing her where I grew up, went to school, hung out, etc. We also had lunch one day at Mr. Hero's where I enjoyed a Romanburger - a sandwich I had at least once a week when I lived in Cleveland. It still tasted as good as I remembered, but my 47-year-old digestive system had a little trouble handling the grease.

Mike had gathered some old friends at his house our first night there and it was great to spend time with them. I did embarrass myself thoroughly when I went out to the car later in the evening to get a cigar. It was dark and I didn't see a landscape paver, and did a full header into their flower bed. In addition to scraping over a rock with my ankle, I took out a landscape light of theirs, crushing it as I landed on it. Fortunately, no one saw me, but there were some questions when I returned to the party as to why I had a big rip in my shirt.'s hell getting old.

The "Bob Harrison Reality Tour" continued as we headed off to the Rochester, New York area to visit with various cousins. Paula fell in love with the Finger Lakes region, especially the little village of Honeoye Falls. We spent a day driving entirely around Seneca Lake, and visiting eight or ten of the wineries that dot the shores of the lake. We had lunch at the southern end of the lake in Watkins Glen at the marina - with a beautiful view of the lake.
Paula and my cousins tasting some wine at the
Damiani Winery on Seneca Lake.
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 The next day was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We spent the day at Letchworth State Park, a 17-mile park on both sides of the mighty Genesee River as it travels northward to Lake Ontario (The Genesee River is one of the few rivers in North America that flows northward). Over the millennia, the river has cut a deep gorge (in some places over 500 feet high) through the bedrock, earning the park the name of "Grand Canyon of the East".
Glen Iris Inn at Letchworth State Park, NY
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Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, NY. This is the view
from the front porch of the Glen Iris Inn above.
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I shot this just for Peter. A US Food Service truck
making a delivery at the Glen Iris Inn.
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Railroad trestle and Upper Falls at Letchworth State Park, NY.
The Erie Railroad built the 820' long 240' iron and steel
bridge in 1875 and it is still in use today. My late Uncle Roger
actually flew under the bridge in his private plane once or
twice in the 1970s. Probably illegal. Equally as illegally,
I have swum at the base of the Upper Falls, careful to not
swim too far downriver and over the Middle Falls.
(Click to enlarge)
I made sure to enjoy a Hollywood Burger at Tom Wahl's in Avon. I have very fond childhood memories of Tom Wahl's and even once made a 14-hour roundtrip excursion while in college so I could have one of their burgers. See pictures below of what you're missing if you haven't been to Tom Wahl's.
The famous Hollywood Burger at Tom Wahl's, Avon, NY.
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After a few days in the Rochester area, we headed off to the Thousand Islands area of New York. We originally planned on meeting up with Scott R for breakfast in Palmyra at the Acropolis restaurant, but he had to cancel as he and his wife were headed to New England for the holiday weekend. Note to Scott - maybe it was for the best, my cousins who live in Victor referred to it as the "Acrapolis" restaurant!

The Thousand Islands is where Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence River. An island is officially counted as an island if it has at least one tree on it, and the area boasts exactly 1,864 islands. We took an hour-long boat tour from Alexandria Bay, and then spent several hours touring Heart Island and Boldt Castle.
Boldt Castle, built at the turn of the century by George Boldt,
owner of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, for his wife Louise. When
George received word that his wife had died, he halted
construction and abandoned the project. The Thousand
Island Bridge Authority purchased the castle in 1977
and restored it to the point where it had been abandoned.
It remains unfinished.
(Click to enlarge)

Pump house for Boldt Castle, Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY.
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Smallest inhabited island in the Thousand Islands.
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 We had dinner in Clayton, NY, at the Thousand Island Inn, and the home of the original Thousand Island dressing. Paula ordered it on her salad; I had ranch. Interesting side note...I didn't know until we returned that the Thousand Island Inn is where my mother and father stayed for their first wedding anniversary in 1951.

The motel in which we spent the night at Alexandria Bay was a little, well, creepy. We affectionately call it the Bates Motel and it didn't help that the proprietor looked remarkably similar to Norman Bates. I think the place was built in 1961 and hasn't been updated since. See pictures below.
The "Bates Motel" we stayed at in the Thousand Islands.
It was more than a little creepy.
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Interior of our room at the "Bates Motel". Note the original
orange shag carpet, rickety furniture, hideous bedspread,
and strange white patch on wall where we presumed
the owners tried to clean up the blood splatter.
(Click to enlarge)

Paula had never been to upstate New York and we are seriously considering moving up there at some point. If we could get out from under our house, we'd be up there in a heartbeat. Of course, she might think differently if we visit the area in the wintertime. That being said, she's originally from Boston and I'm from Cleveland, so winters are not unknown to us.

Our return trip involved driving 1,420 miles in two days. I was never so happy to get off the road. The last little bit from about Ocala to home was the toughest. But all in all, we had a fantastic trip, saw some great people, the weather was perfect, and I ended up shooting almost 1,000 pictures.

I was sooo looking forward to re-joining my smoking friends at the Hut after my return, but Lou had the shop closed that next Saturday, so I had to wait until this weekend. It was worth the wait, not only for the first pipe I'd had in several weeks, but for the fun and hijinks that ensued, especially with Tom L and Adrian in attendance.

Also in attendance were Peter G and Bobby M, Mike G's son-in-law who paid a visit back in August when Mike was in town.

There was extensive discussion about the state of our economy and who's to blame. Most of us agreed it was largely the fault of the bankers and, thank you to Tom for recommending a documentary titled "Inside Job" from filmmaker Charles Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon. It's a look at the outrages that occurred leading up to the 2008 economic meltdown, with plenty of blame for the Republicans and Democrats alike.

Bobby talked a lot about the Dave Ramsey personal finance course, which Peter was familiar with as well. There are some great ideas for achieving "financial peace" including eliminating debt, building up emergency reserves and even paying off mortgages early.

The talk turned a little edgier, and a whole lot funnier, when Adrian arrived. Somehow I got painted as some sort of racist though. Maybe it had something to do with saying that when playing chess with Adrian, I always won with the white pieces. Or when I came out of the restroom with a "White's Only" sign. It's all in fun though, right Adrian? Seriously, Adrian dishes out as much as he takes and there's plenty to pile on about white culture.

Even Peter and his Greek heritage took a bit of ribbing. No one is immune at The Tobacco Hut; everyone has their day in the barrel as Lou and Joe like to say. Speaking of Joe, I was sorry to hear that Joe was feeling under the weather with an ear infection and couldn't make it in on Saturday. Hopefully he'll make it in next week.

Until then...
 - Bob



  2. 1. I want one of those burgers now! Looks amazing!

    2. You were not kidding about the "Bates Motel." ::shudders::

  3. This is Mike G's daughter- why limit your visit in the spring to 3 or 4 weeks in the spring? Just bring your extended family, pitch some tents, and stay for at least 2 months! Don't worry, they'll try to say no, but persevere- they really do love for company to stay for a really long time!