Today we ride along the last 55 miles of the Erie Canal to Lockport NY. The ride is pleasant, the weather good and the riding company excellent. The boats had a little trouble at this spot though…
We arrive early at just after 1PM to a church I remember fondly. The people here were so generous to us 3 years ago and the same kindness greets us at the door with food already prepared, a dinner at 6PM, breakfast tomorrow, laundry facilities, and a ride to the YMCA for a hot shower with clean towels.
I have decided that with this free time I will make a tour of the locks 34 and 35 which still function to this day. I also drag along a “ young one” who while on the ride today asked me if the Canal was manmade?!!
This same person just this morning was teaching me about VENMO, an app on the phone for transferring money which I had never heard of…the “young ones” looked at me like I was a dinosaur…
Well I am…and the dinosaur hauled one of them for a history lesson to the beginning of the Erie Canal.
Down the street we walked to Lock 35 to watch boat traffic.
She stood beside me and asked what these locks were all about.
Between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are the massive falls of Niagara making passage by boat nearly impossible…you can always try going over in a barrel.
Somehow a drop of 600 feet needed to be conquered if water travel was ever allowed to proceed East/West.
In 1816 when no white settlers lived in this part of New York proposals were made for construction of this Canal. Land speculations went rampant and by 1820 15 Quaker families owned nearly all the land rights near what would become Lockport. Scottish and Irish immigrants flooded the area for work but even with that manpower a shortage of labor existed.
The Governor of New York decided to empty the prisons of non violent criminals, and sent them to work on construction of the Canal for Room and Board and 12$ a day…a fortune at that time.
With the opening of the Canal in 1825 most workers remained giving this area of New York a heavy immigrant influence.
Today as we stand over the locks 3 boats approach, two going towards Rochester and one towards Buffalo. Slowly each line up along the cement walls with dangling ropes to hold them fast. As the back gates are closed on each section, one upriver and one downriver, a massive steel gate holds back a 64 foot wall of water separating the two chambers.
Suddenly subterranean channels open and the water moves quickly from the upper chamber to the lower chamber and all three boats are now floating on the same level. Each moves forward to the next concrete box, two will be lowered to the Erie Canal going East and one raised by water pumped from below so that it now floats at the level heading towards Buffalo. The whole process takes maybe 30 minutes.
In times past rather than large electric turbines and pumps, mule power not only opened and closed the gates but gave power to the 5 massive pumps. Today two major locks accomplish the entire task but in times past mule power limited the wall of water to 14 feet requiring a series of 5 adjacent locks.
After our tour of history I was pleased to receive a genuine “ Thank you” from the young one…
Better yet…” You know I probably was taught about this in High School History but I never much liked that class or paid attention…maybe I should have”.
I just smiled to myself…
We returned to the Church fo a wonderful dinner prepared by even more wonderful people.
And the icing on the cake?
The house where my laundry was done next to the church…look at these pictures for yourself.
But perhaps the best few minutes of the day occurred just before dinner when a woman I met and remembered fondly from 3 years ago gave the meal’s blessing…
Heavenly Father, we thank You and celebrate this day with all our heart, rejoicing in the beauty of its light and warmth. We give thanks for the air and grass and birds, and let gratitude for others flow into our hearts, cherishing the chance to work and play, to think and speak knowing all simple pleasures are opportunities for praise.
We thank You for bringing our new friends safely to us as they ride to raise funds to continue in the fight against MS. As they continue on their journey across our country we pray.
God will go with you
May He go before you to show you the way
Behind you to encourage you
Beside you to befriend you
Above you to watch over
And within you to give peace.
At this I looked across the room to see Angel and an “ Amen” pass from smiling lips.
And Flossie? Always the practical one…she whispered “Better than Venmo…”