Bethlehem MusikFest Aug. 1-4, 2008

Visiting Erie Canal, JELL-O Museum, Bethlehem, PA, Nicholson Bridge and more

by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz

 

August 1, 2008: Instead of heading back to Kentucky this weekend, I had the opportunity to go to Bethlehem, PA and join Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours for their two performances at the Bethlehem MusikFest.  I decided to make a weekend of it and visit more places along the way that I had yet to get to.  It would be a fun weekend indeed!!

 

I headed out early and headed southeast towards Buffalo.  My adventures for the first day would take me to the Erie Canal and the Jell-O Museum, among other places.  The map of the entire trip is below.

 

Woodstock to Lockport, LeRoy and Penn Yan, NY then to Bethlehem and back

 

My first "tourist stop" along the way was Lockport, New York.  Lockport derived its name from the locks that were built on the Erie Canal through here.  It is only about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls.  Like many towns in NW New York and SW Ontario, the town was initially settled by Quakers.  In the 1820s construction on the Erie Canal was well underway and part of the route would go through Lockport.  The locks were the idea of Nathan Roberts. A sixty foot drop existed at Lockport and a way had to be devised to raise and lower the packet boats to complete the journey to Buffalo. Roberts's idea was a twin flight of locks with five locks each. In 1823, work began on the lock construction. These locks were crucial to the completion of the canal.

 

(click on link above to learn more about the canal)

 

 

Portions of a large painting in the museum depicting the construction of the locks on the Erie Canal

 

Another depiction by Robert E. Hager

 

Another image from 1839 by W.H. Bartlett

 

Today the town of Lockport welcomes many visitors who come to see the historic locks, which have since been improved upon considerably as technology has allowed.  When I got to Lockport I visited the Erie Locks & Canal Museum, where there was a small video about the building of the canal and locks in the area.  I then walked over to the locks.

 

Welcome to Lockport, NY

 

Museum on the left; a couple of girls who act as guides; the Old City Hall and Lockport Cave

 

There are tours down and through the canal from here as well as a boat tour down in the Lockport Cave. Due to time and money constraints I chose not to take them.  But I would love to have the time to take a whole day here to see the sights and history.

 

 

(Animated gif by Terry Pepper)

 

There are basically two locks in Lockport, as the sign above shows.  The Erie Canal reached Lockport in 1824, but the locks were completed on Oct. 26, 1825. The complex was built as two sets of five flights of locks (one east-bound, one west-bound) and was considered to be an engineering triumph.  These would help traverse the Niagara escarpment which dropped 60 feet in the Lockport area. Lots of early photos can be seen here.

 

 

 

Some views of the locks in Lockport

 

From Lockport, I headed east along the Erie Canal and made my way into Middleport, a quaint little town with an interesting restaurant and bridge.  The Original Basket Factory was begun around 1893 to make baskets for fruit farmers along the canal.  It later became a nice little restaurant.  I wish I would have had a chance to stop there.

 

 

Middleport Bridge over the Erie Canal

 

The Original Basket Factory Restaurant overlooks the Erie Canal

 

From Middleport I continued east to Medina, NY (pronounced Ma-DIE-nah as I later found out) on NY Highway 31.  Another nice little town along the Erie Canal, Medina is the home to the Medina Railroad Museum (which I did not visit) and is also home to a very large sculpted apple along the Erie Canal. 

 

Large apple in Medina, NY dedicated to the W. NY Fruit Growers who have added to the economy of the area.

The apple was sculpted by Richard D. Bannister between Jan. 99 to Sept. 2000.  It is Lion's Park.

 

I went further east of Medina on NY 31 to find the only place along the canal with a tunnel going under it.  Just down the road on the left was Culvert Rd.  Take a left and it takes you directly to the tunnel. Known as the Culvert Road tunnel (or something like that), it was the only one ever on the Erie Canal and has existed here since Clintonís Ditch, another name for the Erie Canal. The original road culvert, on a slightly different alignment, was removed about 1854-1855 as part of the Erieís enlargement.  The contract for the Enlarged Erie road culvert is dated October 24, 1854 and lists Conway and Slater as the contractors. The 1854/1855 Enlarged Erie culvert was substantially rebuilt or replaced as part of the Nine Million Dollar Improvement of 1895. The contract for the new structure was given to Charles A. Gorman and is dated December 7, 1896. The current road culvert represents an attempt during the Barge Canalís construction to preserve, if unknowingly, the historic significance of the structure. The facade of the south end was dismantled and the stones numbered. It was then reinstalled at a new location to allow for the wider Barge Canal channel.

 

This tunnel is in Ripley's Believe It or Not

 

Another view of the tunnel and the canal just above the tunnel.  The rail fence across the canal

is the same one above the tunnel photograph in the upper left.

 

After my drive along NY 31, I headed south on NY 98 towards Batavia and then east on NY 5 into the historical town of Le Roy, NY. My main objective in visiting Le Roy was the JELL-O Museum.  This delectable bouncy treat was first developed in Le Roy in 1897 by Pearle Wait.  He was working with some cough syrup and laxative tea and then added some gelatin.  His wife called it Jell-O. The recipe was bought by a man named Orator F. Woodward in Sept. 1899. There is a lot of history about Jello, but perhaps the one thing that many people my age think of is Bill Cosby.

 

The JELL-O Museum, in Le Roy, New York

 

JELL-O Museum Stuff

 

Bill Cosby memorabilia at the JELL-O Museum, including brick on the "JELL-O Brick Road"

 

Most popular flavors - Strawberry is #1

San Francisco is largest consumer, though

Salt Lake City is the largest consumer of Lime JELL-O

 

JELL-O molds and lots of spoons!!

 

A cow adorns the porch--with JELL-O on its forehead

 

After Le Roy I headed east on I-90 to highway 14 South.  I then went south through Finger Lake country along Seneca Lake to Geneva, then on 14A to the small town of Penn Yan, which sits on the north end of Keuka Lake.  This is beautiful country.  Penn Yan is also home of Birkett Mills, known for its famous Buckwheat flour, but also known to have the largest griddle in the world.

 

Two shots of the World Record Pancake Griddle.  People walk by so you an see the size.

 

I continued south to Corning, NY and then to Elmira and then eventually wended my way to Clarks Summit, PA (near Scranton), where I spent the night. Scranton is the home of Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate (with Barrack Obama).  I spent the night in the Ramada Inn, which is right next to an extremely high bridge called the Freedom Bridge.  It towers 163 feet high above the town and is 1627 feet long. At one time was known as the "Suicide Bridge" due to the more than 20 suicides that took place from the 1980s to the present.

 

The Freedom Bridge over Clark's Summit, PA

 

August 2, 2008: I was off to Bethlehem this morning.  No plans to stop along the way, so I headed south on I-380 and then down US 209.  I got into Bethlehem around 10 AM and had a great time driving around the town while waiting for Antsy McClain and the band to arrive in town later in the afternoon.

 

Bethlehem is in Eastern Pennsylvania and is a city of about 72,000.  It was the home of Bethlehem Steel, which began in Bethlehem in  1857 but succumbed to bankruptcy in 2003.  At one time it was the second largest steel producer in the United States.  The buildings look rusty and the factory is like an old sore.  But, there is now construction of a new casino on the site.  As I drove around the city I was taken by the cultural diversity.  There is a large Puerto Rican community, the beautiful old Lehigh University and the old steel mill. 

The old Bethlehem Steel Plant - now defunct

 

More pictures of the old buildings

 

Old gears dot the properties

 

Large crane on the site of the new casino;

a dichotomy of new homes with the rusted steel plant in their backyards

 

A couple of views of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley from Lehigh University

 

I drove up and down the streets near the steel plant and imagined how this area must have thrived in the heyday of steel production.  Homes were tightly built in rows, with little or no yards.  Nowadays most of the neighborhoods I drove through appeared to be Puerto Rican. 

 

 

Homes of Bethlehem

 

Lehigh University is a beautiful old campus and has some wonderful old buildings.

 

Some scenes from Lehigh University

 

I also drove around the outskirts of town and there was nice farmland and even some geese....

 

 

A nice stone house, some farmland and a lovely old barn

 

Goosey goosey gander

 

Of course, the highlight of the visit to Bethlehem was the MusikFest and most especially, the performance of the fabulous music group known as Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours!!  The Troubs were scheduled for two nights here.  They were just a small part of dozens of performances on a number of stages.  The first night we played at 9 PM on the Liederplatz Stage.

 

MusikFest 2008, Bethlehem, PA

 

Antsy and the Troubs rock the band on the Liederplatz Stage

(Troubs photos courtesy of "Argosy Bob" Fowler...a true pink flamingohead)

 

The show was a blast and all had fun.  After the show we all crashed at the hotel.

 

August 3, 2008: This morning was a great time to sleep in, which I did.  The hotel was comfy, had a huge TV in the room and I just lounged until late in the morning.  Antsy and I then took a small ride around town and then back to the hotel to get ready for the second night's show.  We played the larger Americaplatz stage at 7:30 PM and had a crowd of nearly 500 watching the show.

 

Antsy rocks the crowd

 

The band had a blast...

 

Antsy and the Troubs play their hearts out...

(band member photos by Sumoflam Productions)

 

...while Sumoflam works...

 

...and plays to the crowd (notice that "I Married Up!")

 

But more than the band, the crowds had a blast (including a number of die-hard Flamingoheads from PA and NJ!!!):

 

Antsy dances with and wows the crowds!!

(crowd and fan photos by Sumoflam Productions)

 

And the crowd goes wild....

 

Flamingoheads dance and frolic in front of the stage

 

Flamingoheads show their happiness in seeing Antsy live...and yes, he Married Up too!!

 

August 4, 2008: Well, as with everything else, the good things eventually go away and are done.  The two days of fun with the Troubs were done and I had to be back on the road to Woodstock again.  I chose my route home carefully so I could see one spectacular sight on the way.  So, from Bethlehem I drove north on PA 33 then to I-80.  I then drove wet to I-380 and headed north towards Scranton and eventually back to Clark's Summit.  I exited there and headed north on US 11 towards Factoryville, which took me north along the Lackawanna Trail into Nicholson, PA.  As I drove into town I was awestruck by the amazing sight in front me.  Towering high above the town was this humongous cement train bridge.  This is the Nicholson Bridge (actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct).  It is 2375 feet long ( 724 meters ) , 240 feet tall ( 73 meters ) and 34 feet wide.   Yes, 24 stories tall !!!!!  The bridge was built as part of the Clark's Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet (42 m) below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.

 

The bridge towers over the small town of Nicholson

 

Considering the immensity of this bridge, it is amazing that it was built nearly 100 years ago.  A detailed history of the bridge is here.   Following are more pictures.  I drove all around the town to get these photos and found that the best place to get photos of the length of the bridge was at the cemetery, which is up on a hill overlooking the town.  This is by far one of the greatest places I have "discovered" on my trips thus far.

 

More shots of the bridge's expanse over the town

 

Some great views of the bridge

 

Looking up at the bridge from underneath was dizzying

 

More views, including a train going over the bridge.  I found a place on a hill near the edge as a train approached.

 

After the magnificence of the viaduct, I then had to head north.  I went through a town called Hop Bottom and then on the way up to New Milford.  Hop Bottom got its name from the hops that are grown in the area.  New Milford had an interesting library...

 

Here are some scenes from places I drove through: Hop Bottom, Great Bend, New Milford (Pratt Library)

 

I also made my way through the Finger Lakes of New York.  Along the road north of Ithaca I saw a sign about Taughannock Falls.  I knew nothing about this waterfall, but the viewpoint was just off the road, so I took a little jaunt to catch a peek.  The falls has a drop of 215 feet (66 meters) and is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern U.S.   It was an amazing sight, but unfortunately the light was not at the best angle for a good photo.

 

The bridge on the left is the one seen at the bottom of the middle photo. 

Check out the people in the bottom right of the photo on the right.  This gives an idea of how high the falls are.

 

More views of Taughannock Falls

 

Beautiful scenery, but no time to stop along the way...

 

I ran into this pink elephant along the way

 

Corn fields and a big lake

 

And finally, beautiful sunflowers

Some roadside guidance provided by......

 

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