The B.A.R.B. at SongStar

What I Did on My Summer Vacation
by Kathie Lambert

Hammondsport, NY June 22 — June 29, 2002

Cast of Characters
Mom – she begat this mess
Aunt Bernice – Mom's eldest sister, who lives in Rochester, NY. It's not unusual for her to join us on these outings
Bec – CPA sister
Gina – Bec's 12 year old daughter, a little too much of a girl for me
Bill – only brother, the pool guy
Tracy – Bill's wife, the florist
Doodlepunk – Bill's Boston Terrier
Joyce – stay at home mom of 3
Dave – Joyce's husband, Census Bureau statistician type
Brett & Garrison – 5 + year old fraternal twin boys of Joyce & Dave
Summer – 4-month old daughter of Joyce & Dave

Saturday, June 22, 2002
The family embarked on another group vacation. This doesn't happen every year, as it's just too much logistics to deal with. We wanted something relatively close as Joyce is traveling with a 4-month old. We settled on the Finger Lakes region of NY. It's about a 6 hour drive from home and was manageable with a crew. Joyce, the master logician, found a house that would house all 12 of us. Would have been 13, but my hubby wussed out — "It's too far to drive," he said with a whine in his voice.

On the appointed day, I drove to Bec's house to meet up with her & Mom. We packed my stuff into Bec's & Mom's cars. Put my car in Bec's garage. Put 2 bikes on the back of Bec's car then headed to Joyce's house. This is where the chaos really starts. Joyce & Dave had the minivan packed with all their stuff, the baby, & the 5 + year old twins. Bill & Tracy showed up with their car packed to the rafters along with the dog. Mom piled in with Joyce, I piled in with Bec.

The trip was pretty uneventful. At first we tried to stay together, but Bec wasn't about to try to keep up with Lead Foot Dave. To pass the time we started playing word games with Gina. This proved to be very distracting, so much so that we missed one of the many turns I83 takes in Harrisburg, PA. It didn't take us long to get back on the right road. Eventually, we passed a rest stop and saw that Joyce & crew had stopped for lunch. Later we stopped for a potty stop. We nibbled in the car. We were the slowest moving car, so we figured we would be the last to arrive at the Hammondsport house. Imagine our surprise to find that we were the first to arrive.

The house is on the main drag up the west side of Lake Keuka. Most of the houses are right on the lake and there is a flight of steps from the road to the house. Parking for these houses is on both sides of the road. We lucked out in getting a house in a short section that is relatively flat. We're on the west side of the road, which means we must cross the road to get to the lake. It's quite a scenic area and there's lots of weekend traffic, including motorcycles. Unfortunately, most of the motorcycles are of the very noisy variety, many Harley's and Harley wannabes.

Sunday June 23
Eager to do some birding, Mom & I jumped into my brother's Lincoln Mark 8 as neither of us drove our cars and headed to the Montezuma NWR. Why it's named Montezuma is a mystery. We couldn't find a reason for the name in any of the literature at the visitor's center, which was closed on Sunday. As we left the house and drove north, we came upon a dead skunk. Even with the car closed and the AC on, it nearly choked us. Anyway, the drive to Montezuma took us through some quaint small towns that dot the region. Seneca Falls was particularly nice. I had no good directions to Montezuma, so I was hoping to find road signs. This can be risky, as these places are not always well marked. Much to my delight, the place was very well marked and we didn't have to go searching. We drove to the visitor's center and started up a conversation with a couple of other birders who told us how to get around the place.

The visitor's center has a small enclosed walk-through area. I noticed that lots of Barn Swallows were flying in and out of the place. I walked in and after my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw two nests above the door. I ran and got my camera (yes folks, I actually brought a camera with me this time). I managed to get a couple of decent pictures of the nests. We continued around the wildlife drive. We didn't see anything new or unusual. Most of the birds were being very quiet and we busy feeding babies. They all ignored pishing. Lots of baby Pied-billed Grebes & Coots. Lots of baby Canada Geese & Mallards. We did manage to find a Redheaded Duck. At Mays Pool we saw two very young Bald Eagles unsuccessfully fishing. Heard singing Black-throated Blue Warblers, Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, but didn't manage to see any of them. A trilling song perplexed us, but it wasn't a Chipping Sparrow. Eventually we found a Swamp Sparrow singing.

It was hot enough that we were driving with the windows down and the air conditioning on. In a drier field, we stopped when we heard unusual noises. Lots of Bobolinks in the fields along with Savannah Sparrows Lots of Marsh Wrens, but we only saw one, but boy did he put on a show. Popped up and sand while flying from one perch to the next. It quickly got too hot and humid for us to continue exploring the area, and the birds were quickly shutting up, so we went home. At one point, we were driving down a dusty gravel road and I cracked up. Here we are sitting in a Lincoln Mark 8 and very nearly taking it off road. Gee, I hope my brother won't mind.

The rest of the day was spent vegging out and trying to stay cool. Unfortunately, the rental house isn't air conditioned, so it was sitting in front of fans, drinking cold drinks, and taking cold showers. Curled up in front of a fan with The Mists of Avalon and dared anyone to move me.

Every now & again, I'd venture to the front porch or the dock. The kids were in the lake, which was almost too cold to swim in. Brett & Garrison were so cold they were shaking & turning blue, but we had a hard time getting them out of the water to warm up.

Lots of chirping birds in the neighborhood. Mostly young birds in nests begging for food. Very noisy, but hard to find. Another chirp that drove us nuts was the chipmunks. There's a ton of them running around and chirping.

Monday June 24
Slept in. This family does not get up early. So, I had the place to myself at 0730. Not long after, Mom got up. As we were sitting in the dining room trying to be quiet, my brother's dog gave us the watchdog bark from behind the door. I let her out and she went insane to find us.

Took her for a quick walk. Later, Dave, Mom & I ventured down to Bath. Mom's eldest sister from Rochester was joining us. She wasn't sure how to get to the house, so we agreed to me her in Bath and take her to Hammondsport. The day was much cooler and overcast, but still humid.

The gang of us ventured up to Bully Hill Vineyards for a tour and wine tasting. After driving along the roads at the top of the hill, you could see all the vineyards that dotted the hillsides. The roads further up the hillside provide magnificent views of the area. It's no wonder that people just like to drive around the area. This is obviously a very good place to grow grapes. Bully Hill is beautiful. They spend a great deal of time and money just on the flower gardens around the buildings. It was lovely. Mom & I especially enjoyed the antique roses — these are so hard to find, but are simply wonderful and more fragrant than most of the modern cultivars. The tour guide was hysterical, told all sorts of bad jokes while he told us of the history of the place. The wines were OK, but nothing to write home about.

At the house, we finally saw the bird that was singing only snippets of songs. I couldn't decide if it was an oriole or a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Once we saw the bright orange and black bird, it removed all doubt, it was a Baltimore Oriole. At the dock, we watched Barn Swallows & Purple Martins swoop & dive all over the place.

Aunt Bernice has lived in NY for over 50 years. When they lived in Seneca Falls, they would take weekend drives through the Finger Lakes country. She thought it was beautiful then and still loves it now. Even though she hasn't been in this area for quite a while, she still recognized much of it and told us tales of family adventures.

After a bar-b-que dinner, we spent the evening down on the dock drinking slushies (frozen fruit juice & vodka). This group often is pickled in the evenings. Before we got too out of hand, we got out the canoe and paddled up and down the shore. By this time, the boat traffic had disappeared and we didn't have to worry about wakes swamping the canoe. Dave beached the canoe to take on a new crew. Then he pulled it out to the dock to let new folks on. I really hate getting in a canoe at the dock, if Dave had let go of the dock, I'd have gone for a swim — it wasn't pretty. It's a real pleasure to canoe in water where you're not fighting a current. The water is extraordinarily clear — I'm not sure how deep the water was, but you could easily see the bottom.

Felt good to do something remotely physical. Everything about this trip is promoting the human C shape. I've got to start doing something other than sitting.

Our treat for the evening was watching Shrek. If you've never seen this movie, give it a try. We laughed ourselves silly.

The trip continues

B.A.R.B. at SongStar

SongStar home

Copyright  2002 by Kathie Lambert and Richard L. Becker