Monday, September 24, 2012


I tried to copy and paste all the word-processing definitions for “pinnacle,” but my computer just wouldn't cooperate. It doesn't matter anyway, the definitions are woefully inadequate. I'm trying to describe the experience of visiting our neighbors from Florida, Turk and Beth, at their traditional home in New York at the culmination of our three month trip up the east coast of the United States.
Glenora, New York

Our friends and next door neighbors in Port Charlotte, Florida, invited us to visit them at their beautiful home at Glenora, New York, on Seneca Lake. Never heard of Glenora? It's actually more than a label on your bottle of Riesling.  It is a small, tightly-knit, almost familial community on a point of land that inconspicuously protrudes from the shear cliffs of the west bank of Seneca Lake about eight miles north of Watkins Glen. We were thrilled to be invited to spend time with them, and planned to make Seneca Lake the northernmost destination of our adventure. There simply couldn't have been a better way to wrap up our camping trip.

They met us unexpectedly just as we finished setting up our trailer at beautiful Watkins Glen State Park, right in the heart of the village of Watkins Glen. They drove into the State Park campground and found us just to say hello and welcome us to New York. We carefully wrote down directions to their place and we made plans to drop by the following day. They even insisted we bring our dogs.

Their driveway, we found, is as unique as their house. The narrow, tree lined road down to the lake is beautifully rustic, but as you pass their mailbox on one side of the road and the driveway on the other, you realize their driveway cannot be entered while going down hill. One must first drive to the bottom of the hill, where a cluster of ten or fifteen houses  compromise the community of Glenora, turn around and drive back up the hill to their driveway. Driving over the crest of a small rise, turning down into their driveway the first time is an experience. Puckering, we used to call it. Someone coming out the driveway would be impossible to see until you collided with them by dropping on to their hood.

We can see beautiful Seneca Lake beyond the trees as we park on the grassy left side of their parking area, but no house. Instead, there is a walkway that leads to the edge of the cliff where a strange contraption with handrails ominously descends a hundred feet or so to the lake below. A set of steel steps runs alongside the primer-colored rails ending far below on a beautiful deck, which amazingly has a house attached to it. 

And there stand Turk and Beth, welcoming us for a wonderful visit that can only be described as the pinnacle of our trip. The device is a wooden seat elevator that is worth the price of admission. The descent to the house takes a little over a minute and is just plain jaw-dropping as the lake comes fully into sight as you descend below the overhanging trees.

The house, it turns out, is more than just a beautiful, updated three bedroom home with a sun-room over the lake itself, it also serves as a boathouse for the queen of Seneca Lake, the iconic, 37 foot long, Mary Nan II, Turk's wooden 1929 Matthews. The boathouse also protects a couple of Whalers, a dinghy, and the most remarkable, fully restored boat lift system I have ever seen. Before long, we are all on the Mary Nan II cruising Seneca Lake in a style long forgotten by many, and simply unknown to most. Turk has restored and refurbished the Mary Nan II, she is currently on its fourth power-plant! He recently finished re-decking part of her aft deck, and had stringers in her hull replaced last winter.

After we dock, Turk demonstrates the amazing boat lift system to me. He has restored not only the beautiful, classic Mary Nan II, but the original double drive belt boat lift system of the boat house itself, complete with the manual clutch used to raise and lower the boats in and out of the water. He uses it to raise and lower the two Boston Whalers which share the boat house with the Mary Nan. The boat lift original drive shaft still protrudes outside the boathouse, but the actual lift motor is now an electric motor that drives the huge open belt system that looks like it should be in the Smithsonian Science building. It works flawlessly.

The boat house, dating from the 1920's was converted as a house in 1943, and Turk has been faithfully maintaining and upgrading the house for many years. It is an on going project and a work of love as shown by the faithfully restored boat lift, and the attention to detail in rebuilding and refurbishing the classic wooden boat Turk has always known.

Beth serves another classic dinner and we get to meet Mary, Turk's sister, and Ann, Beth's sister and her husband, Fred. A marvelous evening that caps off our wonderful journey, but wait! If we come back tomorrow, we are invited to stay overnight and, weather permitting, try our hand at sailing. We are all scheduled to get together on Friday and tour Watkins Glen as the town shuts down for the reenactment of the first U.S. Grand Prix. Vintage, veteran race cars from all over the country are already converging on this tiny, enthusiastic community for the final big weekend event of the summer season.

Even though I am an avid sports car enthusiast, a road-racing fanatic, it doesn't matter. Even without the racing or the classic cars, this week has been the pinnacle of the trip. It will be hard to top sailing on the Mary Nan II, or even the elevator ride down to her.

NEXT: How much better can it get? The Watkins Glen Grand Prix Weekend, at:

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