I am reading an old book about a man who was determined to take a boat across the United States from east to west mostly following existing rivers. William Least Heat-Moon figured that he could be on water all but about 75 miles to achieve his dream. I don’t know yet if he realized that dream because I’m only half way through his adventure. However, I was pleased to find that, early on, he followed what was left of the Erie Canal. I was pleased because the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, NY was one of a pair of 2 excellent attractions in this upstate New York city that Ruth and I visited in April, 2019. The rest of this town was fairly closed to tourism because it was still April.
Warning. Syracuse is a town that is best visited only in the summer. If we hadn’t spent more than 2 hours in the Erie Canal Museum, which was worth every minute, we wouldn’t have had much to do there. Teacher Ruth was enthusiastic about seeing the International Mask and Puppet Museum, but it was not findable, the Everson Museum was not worth seeing except for that its design brilliance, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was awful, and Lake Onondaga was still not ready for the coming summer season. Even the Lake’s visitor center was not in operation.
Flying into Syracuse the night before, the woman who was my seat mate recommended Dinosaur. In fact, she raved about it. She was on her way back to visit family in Syracuse after being away for some time, so perhaps it has deteriorated over time. The only thing the waitress in Dinosaur told me that was interesting was that Lake Onondaga had become one of the most polluted big lakes in the country before being restored. William Least Heat-Moon in his old book River Horse crossed nearby Lake Oneida while trying to sail across the country and feared that he and his shipmate would run out of fuel before they made it from one end to the other. He too was seeing Oneida in the spring. I wrote in my travel log that evening, “Syracuse is kind of a bust”. The staircase in the Everson seen below, by the way, was designed by I.M. PEI, the eminent Chinese-American architect who died last year in New York City at the age of 101. This was his first created art museum and the staircase is innovative, a concrete spiral wonder.
The other cities we visited on this 2019 spring trip were far livelier. I marveled at the painting in the Erie Canal Museum that showed downtown Syracuse during its Erie Canal years. It went through downtown. I learned from this book that Erie Canal engineers, like Interstate highway developers, quickly learned to bypass city centers. More tomorrow about Heat-Moon’s canal experience and how to see what’s left of this historic waterway now.