Gracie at the beach

Our labradoodle dog, Gracie, will turn 15 in September and that’s pretty old for any dog breed. She’s doing “okay” for her age, but is definitely slowing down. This summer, my wife has been after me to drive us all to the beach. Gracie used to love to play fetch in big water and swim, but it’s been awhile. My wife wanted to give her a “big thrill” as she nears the last chapter of her life.

Last week, we drove the twelve miles to Durand-Eastman Park beach on Lake Ontario. The beach has many narrow, sparsely-used stretches where people bring their dogs to swim. It was a sunny day and the water temperature was close to the comfortable 76F air temp. I found a suitable wooden stick and threw it into the water and Gracie, tail wagging, gingerly walked into the lake and retrieved it. The water was choppy so Gracie was skittish. She wasn’t interested in getting into water higher than her torso. In her younger days, she enthusiastically swam many yards out from shore, waves or no waves. But the old girl had a blast retrieving and re-retrieving the stick out of shallow water for about an hour. My wife said we need to visit the beach weekly for the rest of the summer. I think that’s a great idea! It’s strange how we have such a great resource, the Durand-Eastman Park beach, so close to us, yet we rarely take advantage of it.

Postscript: The day after our beach excursion, Grace was zonked-out on the floor. She was like me on a Monday after my three-day work weekend.

The Attack of the Gypsy Moth Caterpillars!

We moved into our house here in the suburbs of Rochester, New York way back in 2004. Wow! It certainly doesn’t seem that long ago. Our backyard has a lot of oak trees as many of you well know from my whiny annual “leaf campaign” posts each Fall. In addition to our own oaks, many of our adjoining neighbors’ oaks lean over our property. To say we’re inundated with leaves in the Fall would be a tremendous understatement. When we first looked at the property, we saw the trees as a very appealing asset. My opinion changed 180o immediately after we moved in and the leaves began to fall.

Most of the homes in our tract also have oak trees and we noticed many of the trees had dark rings painted around their trunks. After we moved in, we asked a neighbor what was up with the rings and they said it was a chemical paint that discouraged gypsy moth caterpillars (photo above) from climbing the trunks and proceeding to the branches to eat the leaves. Bands of plastic are also used (photo below). Years passed and we never had a problem with the caterpillars until last year. This year is even worse. When I look up at the leaves on the trees, I see they’ve been ravaged by the insects. Our backyard and even the street that winds through our neighborhood are littered with small scraps of leaves leftover from the insatious caterpillar eating machines. I’ve determined gypsy moth caterpillars aren’t too bright because many scale the house, thinking it’s a tree, only to get stranded on the roof eaves and die.

In regards to gypsy moth caterpillar infestation, Wikipedia states, “If a tree loses more than 50% of its leaves for more than two years in a row, it will certainly be weakened and may not survive.” I’m all for less leaves to clean up in the Fall, but dead trees cost a lot of $$$ to remove. We already have two oaks that have died and need to come down.

This gypsy moth caterpillar infestation brings to mind the locust plague mentioned in Exodus 10:1-18. Of course, our insect problem is nothing compared to what the defiant Egyptians had to deal with. I also think about how calamities come into our lives that we have no control over. For me, there was being laid-off by Kodak after working there for 43 years, the frustratingly-long job search and the daunting challenges at my new company, my wife’s ongoing disability problems, the pandemic, helping my sister with advancing dementia to relocate to a Florida seniors’ facility, and now we’re all headed into a recession with a rise in prices and interest rates and steep drops in our 401Ks, partially caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

We like to think we have a great deal of control over our lives with our digital planners and calendars, but it’s a mirage. Calamities come into our lives often very suddenly and unexpectedly in this fallen world. There’s also the inevitable decline of our health and energy as we age. How grateful I am for my Rock, my strong Foundation, Jesus Christ. Many believers have endured far greater challenges than my troubles, where it was all they could do just to “hang on” and trust in God (when it is actually He Who hangs on to us – John 10:29).

I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:1-3

Above: Some neighbors wrap plastic bands around their oak trees in an effort to prevent Gypsy Moth caterpillars from climbing the trunks.

The Erie Canal, the Rochester Subway, and Stop 22

I’m a bit of a local history buff and have a special interest in the two-hundred-year-old Erie Canal, which runs through our town, and the former Rochester Subway. The recent photo above is a picture of me standing in front of a former trolley waiting station, which has an interesting connection to both the Canal and Subway.

Back when I was a young child in the early-1960s, my father was driving the family through downtown Rochester and I noticed a decrepit little building on the corner of South Avenue and Court Street near the main library. I asked my father what the boarded-up structure was and he answered that it was one of the entrances to the former Rochester Subway. Huh? Rochester had a subway?!?!?! I knew that big metropolitan cities had subways, but little Rochester? That encounter led to a lifelong fascination with the Rochester Subway.

Allow me to fill in a few blanks. The old Erie Canal ran right through downtown Rochester, crossing the Genesee River over an aqueduct. But when New York State officials redesigned and enlarged the canal in 1918, it bypassed the city to the south, leaving behind a 7-mile-long abandoned canal ditch. City fathers got the bright idea of turning the ditch into a trolley route. The two-mile portion that ran through city center was roofed over by Broad Street creating a subway. Tracks were laid, rolling stock was acquired, and the Rochester Subway began operations in 1927. Several interurban commuter trolleys that connected Western New York’s cities and towns, including the Rochester, Syracuse, and Eastern Rapid Railroad (keep that one in mind), made their way into Rochester utilizing the newly-created Subway right-of-way. But trolley travel was already being eclipsed by automobiles and buses. By 1931, all of the interurbans had ceased operations. The Subway struggled on, even providing very valuable service during the World War II rationing years, but ridership was rapidly decreasing (the Subway route was several blocks from the main commercial and government districts) and the last trolley car plied the Subway rails on June 30, 1956. I noticed the abandoned Subway entranceway about six or seven years after that.

The memory of the Rochester Subway stuck with me and I ended up doing a lot of research back in the 70s and 80s. I traversed the abandoned underground tunnel many times with my powerful lantern. I also explored the former route of the Rochester, Syracuse, and Eastern interurban trolley. One day in the late 1970s, I was walking the trolley trail east of Perinton and came upon a former trolley waiting station that was…Ach!…being used as a storage shed. The interurban had built a number of these small waiting booths along its route for rural customers. I was disappointed that a valuable piece of local history was being used as someone’s backyard shed.

Forty years went by and the memory of that waiting station stuck with me. This past week, I was taking a break from house painting and reading a local newspaper. To my surprise was an article (see here) about the restored “Stop 22,” the Rochester, Syracuse, and Eastern waiting station that I had “discovered” forty years ago. I learned that a gentleman named Bill Matthews had been hiking along the same trolley trail and came upon RS&E Stop 22, just as I had. But unlike me, Bill had the resources to purchase and move the waiting station (he was the owner of Matthews House Moving Company). Following restoration, in 1992 Stop 22 was moved to its current site on the south bank of the Erie Canal in the Village of Fairport. It’s currently being used as the “dockmaster” office for canal tour boat excursions.

I just had to visit the old waiting station that I had “discovered” forty years ago. I took a break from house painting and my wife and I made the short drive to Fairport Village along the Canal. Yup, there it was. Stop 22. And in much better condition than I remember it. Nice job, Bill!

*Route 490 East follows the old Erie Canal/Subway right-of-way between the Genesee River and the “Can of Worms” interchange. Several remnants of the Subway and Canal can be viewed along the expressway route including Subway retaining walls and what’s left of Erie Canal Lock 66.

Above: An RS&E waiting station back in the 1920s
Above: A former Rochester, Syracuse, and Eastern power house located on Chestnut Street in East Rochester