Travel: April 2004 Archives

During my week-and-a-half trip to western New York, I had last Sunday afternoon off to roam a bit. I spotted a marked scenic route on the AAA map about an hour east of Buffalo -- Letchworth State Park, near Perry, New York. After a morning storm, the day was perfect. I headed east on US 20A, past countless dairy farms, over hills and through deep valleys. The terrain reminded me of the Ozarks. The approach into the town of Warsaw is so steep that heavy vehicles are required to exit the main road into an area that looks like a weigh station, but the only thing there is a large sign mapping the road ahead, showing where the steep grades and curves are, and reminding truckers to use low gear and conserve braking capacity.

Warsaw, the seat of Wyoming County, is a pretty little town. I spent some time walking around and admiring the neatly kept craftsman-style and late Victorian homes before grabbing a late lunch at the local Chinese buffet.

If I had known how amazing Letchworth State Park would be I would have headed straight there. The name doesn't do it justice. It really ought to be called "Amazingly Beautiful Gorges and Waterfalls State Park". But the name is a fitting tribute to the man who bought the land about 130 years ago, worked to restore it to native condition, then donated it to the state of New York in the early 20th century.

The park encompasses the gorge of the Genesee River. At places the walls are 500 feet high. The river goes down three waterfalls -- the Middle Falls has a 100 foot drop. Further down river, Wolf Creek drops from the western rim of the gorge through a narrow, twisting gorge of its own, down several stages of waterfalls to the river 200 feet below. Nearby viewing areas give you tantalizing glimpses of part of the Wolf Creek falls, but there is no place to stand to see all of it at once. Down below on the river I noticed some kayakers and rafters who had stopped for a few minutes to rest and look.

At the lower falls, you can take steps down to a viewing area only about 20 feet about the river. There's a footbridge to a walkway on the east bank of the river. The east bank path was treacherous. I had to walk around a three-foot high chunk of ice and snow -- protected from the sun -- and in the process slipped and fell. I thought I was walking on mud, but it was mud and slippery chips of shale on top of a nine-inch thick pad of ice which covered the entire walkway. I recovered and made it safely back to the car, thence to Inspiration Point and views of the middle and upper falls.

As I looked at the upper falls, I started thinking about the gospel chorus based on Revelation 4:11 -- "for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." What an amazing thing that God, who lacks nothing, nevertheless takes great enjoyment in creating and looking upon such beauty.

I drove off into the setting sun, listening and singing along with "Best Loved Hymns", an album by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, with beautiful arrangements that go from quiet a cappella to triumphant brass. A lovely Sabbath break from the grind.

Fallen flake


National Review's The Corner linked to the website of an idiosyncratic magazine called "The Believer". Not a religious website, I'm not sure how to characterize it. They have regular features on power tools, motels, and mammals.

The motel section included an article on the Snow Flake Motel in St. Joseph, Michigan, which was designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright by William Wesley Peters, Wright's son-in-law, and built in 1962. The motel is built in the shape of a snow flake and looks like no other motel you've ever seen, inside and out.

My friend Rick Koontz and I ended up spending the night there in the middle of our 1988 "Rust Belt" tour, a week-long swing through the Great Lakes states, taking in five major league baseball games in six days. (One of the motivations was to visit the old ballparks before they were gone forever. Funny to think that the newest one we visited -- Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati -- is gone too.)

After an early departure from a Chicago White Sox game in the original Comiskey Park (we were thrown out for complaining about drunken floozies spilling beer on us), we started out for Detroit. If I recall correctly, we were ready to find a place for the night, saw the sign advertising the motel and decided to stop. It was a bit down-at-the-heels then, but it seems that matters have gotten worse, and the owner, a Mr. Patel (really), despairs of attracting the investment needed for a first-class restoration.

Jet Set Modern has some good photos. So does the website of the motel, which has an aerial photo. If you're flying into Chicago from the northeast, look out the window as you approach Lake Michigan. It's easy to spot.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Travel category from April 2004.

Travel: March 2004 is the previous archive.

Travel: June 2004 is the next archive.

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