Our Summer Vacation in the East
Aug 1, 2017
|Pennsylvania and New York State
We were scheduled to meet friends Carson and Diane at Gettysburg. They were bringing their motorcoach from North Carolina, and we planned to spend a few weeks touring through Pennsylvania and New York State in concert with them. We left Indianapolis, and as we entered The Keystone State, we were closing in on an attraction that has been on our list for a long time. Tucked away in the sleepy forests of southwestern Pennsylvania sits one of the world’s most famous buildings: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. The home’s cantilevered tiers hang suspended atop a mountain stream and waterfall. Each bedroom of this 5300 square foot home has its own terrace, and cornerless windows that open outward so windowpanes don’t interrupt the view. A glass hatchway in the living room contains a staircase that leads to the stream below. We had seen photos for years, and were excited to finally be here to tour this iconic Frank Lloyd Wright design. This home is a stunning example of Wright’s concept of Organic Architecture (meaning the structure is integrated into its environment). Our tour of Fallingwater did not disappoint! Photography is not allowed inside, but if you click on this link, you can see photos of the interior.
We discovered a few miles down the road from Fallingwater was another FLW designed home, Kentuck Knob. While Fallingwater is an extravagant example of Wright’s design with little concern for cost, Kentuck Knob is a small one-story Usonian home intended to be affordable for the average American. It still had the magic of Wright’s design principles: an open floor plan, cantilevered overhangs, and great expanses of glass effortlessly integrating the inside with the outside.
We met Carson and Diane at Gettysburg, and spent a day touring the Gettysburg National Military Park. We began our self-guided tour in the Visitors Center with the movie. We have been very impressed with the quality of the introductory movies we’ve seen at various National Parks, and Gettysburg was no exception. It was highly informational, and the quality of the videography was equal to any commercial movie we’ve seen. Our next stop was the Cyclorama, the massive oil painting that encircles the viewer, resulting in a three-dimensional view. It depicts what happened at the Battle of Gettysburg, which is believed to be the turning point of the war. We spent the rest of the day driving and walking through portions of the battlefield. This was our second visit, but we suspect no matter how many times we step on the sacred ground where such important events in our nation’s history took place, it will always be a powerful experience.
We also spent a day touring the Pennsylvania Amish Countryside. We drove through Lancaster County, considered to be the home of the Amish; past rolling hills, lush grasses, small farms, and covered bridges. We saw the Amish going about their activities in horse-drawn buggies as we passed bakeries, quilt shops, furniture stores, restaurants and ice cream shops. After some tasty treats, we returned to our RV park, the Elizabethtown KOA. It also was a lovely natural setting, with some of the most spacious sites we’ve enjoyed anywhere.
Our next stop was the Finger Lakes area of New York State. We followed Pennsylvania State Route 19 which runs along the scenic Susquehanna River and through Tioga Forest to the Watkins Glen / Corning KOA Resort, where we set up for a few days. The Finger Lakes are 11 glacial lakes in New York State; they all tend to be long and narrow and run roughly north to south. Seneca and Cayuga Lakes are the largest, both being roughly 40 miles long, and over 400 feet deep. This is premiere wine country. The glaciers that carved out the lakes also left behind hanging valleys resulting in many waterfalls. There are dozens, if not hundreds of glens around the lakes, most of which feature a waterfall or two. Many of these waterfalls are on private property but many are on public land or accessible to the public. One of the most impressive is Taughannock Falls, which has an incredible drop of 215 feet and is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains.
With over 3,500 years of history housed in a building designed to mimic the flow of glass, the Corning Museum of Glass is home to the largest collection of art glass in the world. Visitors can travel through centuries of glassmaking, from the early glassworks of the Mesopotamians, to the beautiful stained glass windows of Tiffany. It’s not a static museum, by any means. Glass is brought alive through more than 30 glass shows and interactivities that entertain as well as educate. Visitors can watch master gaffers create glass artwork at continuously running Hot Glass Shows. We watched a demonstration of how glass can be strengthened to make it hard to break. Our day finished at a tasty dinner at a local Italian restaurant, and the next day we were ready to move on……to Niagara Falls.
It was a fairly short trip of 170 miles to the Niagara Falls / Grand Island KOA, our base for the next week. We purchased the tour of the falls that was offered by the KOA. It’s a pricey, but effective and efficient way to experience the falls. They picked us up right at the RV park, and took care of everything. Best of all, they moved us to the front of the long lines for the different attractions, so it saved us a lot of time. First we got on the Maid of the Mist, donned the blue plastic ponchos they provided to keep us somewhat dry, and the boat took us to the base of the falls. Then on to Hurricane Deck – this time with yellow plastic ponchos that had no hope of keeping us dry, at least those of us who chose to stand right IN the falls. It’s an experience that overloads the senses, so that you think of nothing else but what you are experiencing at that moment. Lots of laughter, hoots and hollers were coming from Hurricane Deck, and we soon realized that some of them were coming from us!
The Martin House is a Frank Lloyd Wright design that was built in 1905. It is considered to be one of the most important projects from Wright’s “Prairie School” era, and is ranked equal to Fallingwater in its importance to his body of work. We toured the home. Our favorite part was the conservatory. Photos were allowed there, so I have included a couple. If you would like to see photos of the interior of this home, click here.
It was time for Carson and Diane to return to their other life; we said good-bye, and settled in for another few days. Looking for something else to amuse us, we discovered the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The structure itself is elegant. Made up of three glass domes and nine greenhouses, the design was based on the famous Crystal Palace in England. Frederick Law Olmsted (the designer of Central Park in NYC) helped create the gardens themselves with a mixture of plants native to the Buffalo region, but also included exotic horticulture treasures native to tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.
Our friends were gone, we enjoyed our travels with them through Pennsylvania and New York State……..it was time for us to get back on the road!