Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lyons, NY, September 15, 2018

After leaving Seneca Falls, we got back onto the main Erie Canal and stopped at Lyons.  We stopped there mainly because of timing.  We had a late start out of Seneca Falls, and Dan needed to do some work on the internet at 4:00.  We are so glad we stopped there!
First of all, we tied up at a very high rough wall.  It was the highest we’ve every experienced.  To exit the boat, there was about 3.5 more feet of the wall to step up!  - not something easy for me.  I actually had to sit or get on my knees on a rug, then get to my feet.  I’m not as agile as I used to be.  In order to reboard the boat, it was easier for me to step from the wall onto the fly bridge and climb over the settee up there!  I’m so grateful that our boat has all those levels, something I never thought of when we bought her.  We have now used all four levels to get on/off!
The docking and electricity were free.  There is a fire house at the top of the stairs by the dock – boaters are free to use their bathrooms and showers.  Turns out, the city had gotten a grant from the Erie Canal promoters to redo their bathrooms.  All the fire house had to do in return was to make their facilities available to boaters!  Win-win. 
The first night there, we went to a restaurant I had found on Google, the Maitre D at Trombinos.  Delicious meal, delightful staff.  The restaurant has only been there for two years and occupies a former opera house.  The décor is rich wood with opulent fittings.
We wandered through the town after dinner – some beautiful old architecturally interesting buildings, including a county courthouse with a dome that looked silver but is actually wood.  There is a Central Park with a band stand decorated in red, white, and blue bunting – how American!  A man was working on restoring a building next door to the old County building.  He bought it for $10,000 just before it got torn down!  He is a master woodworker, and is restoring the entire building – not sure to what purpose the building will be put – some combination of commercial and residential.

Scenes from downtown:

bandstand in the park

the very rough wall - tough to get on/off!

view of the wall - to get back on, just climb onto the fly bridge!

One delightful feature in this town  is the variety and placement of large murals.  In Lyons there are quite a few and they are located all around town.

Mural and park
more cool murals!

We were met the next morning by Bob Stopper, who is the volunteer greeter for the town and the town’s unofficial historian.  He told us about the town – until about 10-15 years ago, the town was doing well.  Then, within the space of 5 years, two large employers left and took almost 4,000 jobs…this, in a town of only 3,500!  Now, Lyons is like many of the towns along the Canal, economically depressed, but trying hard to promote the town and improve the situation.  One way is to make boaters feel welcome and appreciated.  They are doing that for sure.
That morning, Saturday, there was a farmer’s market in the Central Park. We purchased some homemade jams and bread, and enjoyed the organ music of old songs. 
After the market, Bob offered to take us to some sites that are important historical places on the canal.  Lyons may be the only spot on the canal where all three versions of the Erie Canal can still be found.  The first, called Clinton’s Ditch, after the New York City mayor who managed to fund and get the first Erie Canal built.  It was an engineering marvel, 524 miles of canal linking New York’s rivers and lakes.  It was started in 1817 and finished in 1825.  We saw portions of the original ditch and remains of the original lock.  Alongside of the ditch is the mule track, where the mules pulled the canal barges up and down.  The ditch was very narrow, having only a few spots where two boats could pass.
The next version, called the Improved Erie, rerouted and enlarged the original ditch.  That version, started in 1862, deepened, widened and rerouted the original canal.  Now the canal was 7 feet deep and 70 feet wide (from the original 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide).  Now, two boats could pass all along the way.
The new modern canal, finished in 1918 (100 years ago) is what is being celebrated this year.  It was so interesting to actually see all three versions here in Lyons, with Bob’s vast knowledge freely given to us.  We would never have known all that was here without his carting us all around in his car!
On one stop in our tour, we met a couple who were traveling on their bikes.  They came from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and are taking advantage of the old mule path, now miles of bike paths, that go along the canal.  It was so interesting to talk to them – they will end their bike trip in Syracuse and take the train home.
Bob Stopper - took us all over to show us the previous versions of the Canal

This Michigan couple (didn't get their names) rode from Ann Arbor, Michigan!

"Clinton's Ditch", the first version of the Erie Canal

you can see where the old gates moved...

portion of the 'improved version'

We are so happy we stopped in Lyons – it hadn’t gotten rave reviews from some people we talked to nor from Waterway Guides. 

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