Millard Filmore, Niagra Falls & The Erie Canal

Trip Start Apr 05, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Holiday Inn Express, Rensselaer, NY

Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, May 20, 2013

Ok, anybody guess the President with the strangest name (in my opinion)?  Millard Filmore is buried in Buffalo, NY.  You just don't hear of people naming their children Millard anymore, do you?

Well, Millard Filmore was our 13th President.  His story is an interesting one.  Born in 1800 to an impoverished family, his father "apprenticed" him (an indentured servant) to a cloth maker at age 15.  He taught himself to read by stealing books!  He earned the $30 needed to free himself from his indentured servitude and entered school where he was encouraged by a fellow student to learn the law.  He later married her.  He became prosperous at his own law practice in Buffalo, NY. First a Congressman and then VP under Zachary Taylor, he became President upon Taylor's death in office.  He was President from 1850-1853 at the height of country's divisions about slavery.  He was a one-term president has generally been forgotten by much of history.  In later life (after his wife had died after developing pneumonia while watching the man who defeated him, Franklin Pierce, take the oath of office...and his subsequent remarriage) he became involved with animals, starting the first SPCA chapter in Buffalo, NY.  

His gravesite is in Forest Lawn Cemetery, a sprawling cemetery which seems like it has a million graves.  His grave is pretty commonplace.  It's fenced in and has a US Flag next to it with a plaque noting it is the burial site of the 13th President of the US along with both of his wives, and both children.

I was up at 8:00 and on the road by 9:00.  Stopped at Burger King for a quick free breakfast at HI.  Made it to the cemetery by 9:30.  Like most men, I didn't ask for directions.  But finally found a map notating Filmore's gravesite.  Could have been better marked!   

Then I made a command decision.  You absolutely can't come within 20 miles of Niagara Falls and not stop to see it.  So I drove the 20 miles to Niagara Falls, NY.  Having not thought ahead, I didn't bring my passport, so I couldn't go into Canada (eh?) to see the prettiest side of the falls.  I was content to see it from the American side.  

It sure has become more commercial since Sandy and I were here almost 39 years ago.  Yea, we stopped here on our way to visit friends (Jack and Pam Vetter).  Jack was in Law School at Syracuse and Sandy and I were on our way to spending the summer after we got married in 1974 exploring Europe.  Jack and Pam were going to take us to JFK and keep our car during our trip.

 Anyway, some guy was trying to get me to park for $5 a day at the Falls.  But I was fortunate enough to find a street parking spot right across the street from his $5 parking lot...2 hour parking.  I wasn't going to be that long!  I walked to the Visitor's Center and then to the falls.  If you have not been there, it is truly one of the Natural Wonders of the World.  And if you go...bring your Passport and view the falls from the Canadian side...90% of the water over the falls goes over the Canadian side.  Took some pictures...didn't want to ride the boat or anything else. Kevin wants to come here, so we'll do that when he's with us.  Great fun side visit.

Then I headed to Albany, NY.  Quick, what's the capital of New York?  Yep, Albany!  Tomorrow I plan to try another trifecta.  Chester A. Arthur, FDR and Martin VanBuren.  All within about 60 miles of Albany.  

As I drove down I-90 I couldn't escape the historical significance of going from Buffalo to Albany. Anybody know why?   Yep, the Erie Canal went from Albany (on the Hudson River) to Buffalo (Lake Erie).  Built in 1825, it meant goods could go much faster from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.  It cut transportation costs by 95%!  It was quite a feat of engineering for the early 19th Century.  There is even a lock visible from I-90.  Very cool.  

I drove through some of the Finger Lakes Region.  It's a group of long narrow lakes which look like fingers.  Native Americans believed the lakes were the fingerprints of the Great Spirit,  Very cool.  

Then I passed through the "Leatherstocking Region."  Say what?  I had never heard of it.  Turns out it's a region named after the unique leather leggings worn by frontiersmen and told about author James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohican's).  Yea, I had to look it up!

I passed by a place called Oneida.  I remember it well.  Sandy and I stopped there 39 years ago. It's where the Oneida flatware company is located.  We have that flatware at home and have since 1974...and we recently got more (as the years go by, you lose it, it gets caught in the garbage disposal or whatever!)   
And then my biggest temptation of the day.  I passed a sign that said, Cooperstown!   Now I already told you that I had now been to the big three halls of fame...Football (a couple day ago), basketball, and baseball.  But it wouldn't hurt to go to baseball's HOF again, would it?  You know I love baseball.  I even visited all the major league baseball parks a few years ago.  Only 30 miles! Nope, Kevin will want to go when we come see Niagara Falls.  Toughest thing I did all day!!!

Made it to Holiday Inn Express in Rensselaer, NY, just outside Albany.  Got an oil change and a car wash (my car is now happy with me!)...gotta keep 'em happy  you know.  

Contemplating either BBQ or Mexican for dinner....and I'll leave you with that!

Take care and be safe my friends and family!


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Kate Main on

Love the plans to share your passions with Kevin. What a thoughtful and cool grandpa!!

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